Zheng Hao: United States’
Next Target Is Iran
By Zheng Hao
Translated By Peixin Lin
6 May 2011
Edited by Mark DeLucas
Singapore - Zaobao - Original Article (Chinese)
U.S. President Obama announced on the night of May 1 2011 that the United States has killed Osama bin Laden, head of al-Qaida, within the borders of Pakistan, and that justice has been served. This is the greatest victory for Obama’s non-stop efforts at combating al-Qaida in the two years he has been president and is also a victory at this stage in diplomacy for the Obama administration’s international push towards anti-terrorism and nuclear non-proliferation.
Bin Laden’s assassination has avenged the victims of 9/11 and has not only greatly revitalized American prestige but also increased Obama’s political reputation. From the day Obama entered the White House, he has vowed to bring bin Laden to justice and today he has finally gotten what he has wished. To the United States, even though anti-terrorism is not a done task, even though U.S. intelligence service has already reminded the country that the United States could once again suffer from a retaliatory attack, what cannot be doubted is that bin Laden’s death at least allows the United States to come up with a new strategy for defending national security interests. In other words, the United States has to make a new decision between the tasks of continuing to fight terrorism and preventing nuclear proliferation. From the present view, it seems that preventing nuclear proliferation, especially in effectively preventing Iran and North Korea from developing nuclear weapons, is now on the table, and time has already began counting down.
The two major nuclear threats — which should be the priority?
The question now is that in the face of two major so-called “nuclear threats” — Iran and North Korea — which should the United States deal with first?
This writer thinks that if North Korea stops deliberately provoking South Korea or stops testing nuclear weapons, the probability of the United States starting a war against North Korea is lower than that of against Iran, because North Korea has China and Russia at its back. In the past two years, the Obama administration’s strategy toward North Korea has been “to ignore,” avoiding dialogues, ignoring or not supporting six-party talks that lead to no real results, and not extending any humanitarian aid, letting the two U.N. Security Council resolutions on sanctions and the United States' unilaterally imposed sanctions do the work. Even though this strategy may not necessarily work, it at least traps North Korea economically, restricts its strategies, and slows down the progress in nuclear weapons development.
In the case of Iran, the implementation of any strategy or policy is relatively much harder. Iran keeps expanding nuclear facilities, with the intention of using the strategy of “negotiations, development, negotiations again, development again” to deal with the West. According to Israeli and U.S. intelligence, Iran will master the production of nuclear bombs at the quickest by 2015 and could own nuclear weapons before 2018. According to analysis in the U.S. media, if this is true, it would be the worst nightmare of the United States and Israel — Iran would become an absolute threat to Israel’s security and U.S. and European interests in the Middle East. Clearly, the United States and Israel will definitely not be sitting and waiting for this threat to fall upon them.
Thus, the scales are tipping towards preventing nuclear proliferation between the two tasks (fighting terrorism being the other one), and Iran will be the next target the United States attempts to hit.
The second question is if Obama is determined to fight Iran
There is no doubt that Obama’s determination in preventing nuclear proliferation is as strong as that which he had toward bringing bin Laden to justice. He is merely looking for the exact opportunity. He first wants to address and solve problems that will comfort the American public; in other words, first solve his own issue of the 2012 presidential election. What Obama, the U.S. military and intelligence community, the economy, and the public wanted most was the death of bin Laden, and not to declare war against Iran. However, after having dealt with bin Laden, Obama needs to make a new mark, to once again declare to the world and achieve so-called “justice,” and there also needs to be continued motivation for the U.S. military and intelligence community and the economy. Iran has naturally become the best target. Furthermore, the United States and Israel have already crafted detailed attack plans against Iran — all is ready, and only a direct presidential command is missing.
Perhaps the reader may ask: If Obama does not get re-elected, will the next President solve the Iran problem? This writer thinks that the answer is affirmative, unless al-Qaida once again manages to successfully stage a large-scale attack on U.S. soil. If not, whether the President is a Republican or a Democrat, addressing the problem of nuclear proliferation seems to be the only opportunity to be remembered in history. Obama will not give up this opportunity, and a Republican president would have to exceed Obama’s performance on this same issue to seem even more outstanding and more meaningful.
The writer is a political commentator at Phoenix TV and a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institute (based in Washington D.C.)
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