Missile Shields, Sanctions, and Drones, O My!

The erosion of US-Iran relations rapidly picked up speed this week. A new round of sanctions is under discussion after the Iranian government incited a riot against the British Embassy on Tuesday, on Friday the US Nato Ambassador declared the missile defense shield in Europe was back on, and Sunday the Iranian armed forces reported shooting down a US drone violating Iranian airspace.

It sounds like a bowling ball rolling down a flight of glass stairs. For the President and his potential successors, the Iranian dilemma will continue to remain a salient issue well into the next term. Calls from the current Republican front-runners, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, for a preemptive unilateral military strike are beyond dangerous and will only further agitate relations.

President Obama’s approach towards Iran has been to engage the regime through diplomatic talks. Yet by all measures diplomacy has failed. It may be we need to sweeten the deal more for Iran. Instead the administration has been struggling to convince its allies to put pressure on the regime by pushing through increasingly biting rounds of sanctions.

The success of sanctions are mixed. However, in an authoritarian state with a history of uprisings, and a significant democratic movement, sanctions have shown to be a political catalyst.

Skyrocketing prices and falling availability of products is supposed to generate a popular backlash, culminating in an uprising against those in power. Yet the Iranian security forces have shown themselves more than capable of squashing rebellion, just see the popular uprising following President Admadenajad’s phony reelection in 2009.

Still, sanctions have their limits.

While President Obama has declared military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities is not off the table, his rhetoric is significantly less abrasive than Gingrich, who believes not just in sanctions, but in bombing strategic facilities above and beyond those suspected of being involved in nuclear activities. Romney too has stated he wants the Iranians to know there will be no hesitation to use military force.

Them’s fightin’ words – and right now it is not a good idea.

By all accounts, tensions are growing inside Iran and the regime has a dwindling number of resources at its disposal to maintain order, unless it wants to enrage the populous further. Also, political and business leaders are showing signs of frustration with isolation from the world economy.

Hypothetically lets say they do get a bomb. Even so, the only way military force can be used to our benefit and with any degree of legitimacy is through a multilateral engagement involving the UN, or minus that an agreement with NATO and the Arab League.

The last thing we need is a President over eager to draw this countries many shiny guns – again. Especially when we are preparing to wind down involvement in the Middle East, even more so because we have lost all legitimacy in the region and seem just a military strike away from confirming everybody’s beliefs that we really are belligerent imperialists.

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