Zakaria: Another war in the Middle East?
March 8th, 2012
02:41 PM ET

Zakaria: Another war in the Middle East?

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

The pressure is building on Iran, but there are no serious discussions of negotiated outcomes. Israel has been ever more explicit in saying it may launch an attack by summer. Obama has amped up his threats of military strikes too, limiting his room to maneuver. And Republican presidential candidates will instantly denounce any negotiated solution - no matter how comprehensive the inspections it requires - as a sellout....

Before we set out on a path to another Middle East war, let's remember some facts. First, Iran does not have nuclear weapons. And the evidence is ambiguous as to whether it has decided to make them....

What if Iran does manage to develop a couple of crude nukes in several years? Obama says a nuclear Iran would set off an arms race in the Middle East. But a nuclear North Korea has not led the two countries directly threatened by its weapons - South Korea and Japan - to go nuclear. Saudi Arabia and Egypt did not go nuclear in response to Israel's developing a large and robust arsenal of nuclear weapons....

Obama has explained that a nuclear Iran would be a problem like India and Pakistan with their nuclear weapons. But India and Pakistan went to war three times in 30 years before they had nuclear weapons. Since they went nuclear, they have been restrained and have not fought a war in 40 years. That case shows the stabilizing, not destabilizing, effects of deterrence. If Israel genuinely believes that deterrence doesn't work in the Middle East, why does it have a large nuclear arsenal if not to deter its enemies?

Iran's weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists, says the President. But would a country that has labored for decades to pursue a nuclear program and suffered huge sanctions and costs to do so then turn around and give the fruits of its efforts to a gang of militants?

This kind of reasoning is part of the view that the Iranians are mad, messianic people bent on committing mass suicide. When General Martin Dempsey explained on my CNN program last month that he viewed Iran as a "rational actor," he drew howls of protest.

Dempsey was making a good point. A rational actor is not necessarily a reasonable actor or one who has the same goals or values that you or I do. A rational actor is someone who is concerned about his survival....

In an essay in the Washington Monthly, former senior U.S. intelligence official Paul Pillar writes, "More than three decades of history demonstrate that the Islamic Republic's rulers, like most rulers elsewhere, are overwhelmingly concerned with preserving their regime and their power - in this life, not some future one."

In fact, the entire punitive strategy against Iran is premised on the notion that Iran is calculating the costs of these pressures and will change its policies as a result. The question right now is not whether Iran can be rational but whether the U.S. and Israel can carefully evaluate the consequences of a preventive war - inside Iran and beyond - and weigh them against its limited and temporary benefits.

For the full article (behind a pay wall), visit TIME.com.

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Topics: Iran • Military

soundoff (86 Responses)
  1. iraq=iran-syria= russia=hizboallah=terrorists=evil

    fk iran fk syria fk the shiia

    March 9, 2012 at 10:34 am | Reply
  2. iraq=iran-syria= russia=hizboallah=terrorists=evil

    fk iraq fk nori al maleki fk sestani and hizboallah fk al jalabi and ja3fari fk all shiia eshroog fk doctor dhorgham who live in niagra falls

    March 9, 2012 at 10:35 am | Reply
  3. FK MARTY, FK THE SHIIA FK ALI AND FK ALL IRANIANS EMMAM

    MARTY YOU ARE THE VILLAGE IDIOT HERE, SADDAM KILLED 40 STUPID IRANIANS SPIES SHIIA THUGS WELD AL MOT3A AND NOW THE SHIIA THUG BASHAR AL KALB KILLED MORE THAN 17,000 WOMEN AND CHILDREN, IRAN IS SUPPORTING TERRORISTS LIKE HIZBOALLAH AND SENDING WEAPONS AND MONEY ALONG WITH TERRORISTST MEN FROM IRAN AND IRAQ TO KILL SUNNI IN SYRIA. SHIIA ARE THUGS KILLERS IDIOTS THERE FAITH IS A CULT ALLOWE THEM TO KILL and kill....DONT FORGET THE USA HOSTAGES, DONT FORGET IRAN KILLING THE USA OLD MAN ON A WHEEL CHAIR....IRAN ALLOWED USA TO ENTER IRAQ, IRAN ARE SENDING MONEY AND ARMS TO ALQAYEDA IN IRAQ AND AFGANESTAN AND ALL ARE PROVEN. IRAN THREAATENED ON TV AND IN THE UN THAT THEY WILL DESTROY ISRAEL AND AHMEDI NEJAD SAID THAT AND IT IS ON U TUBE , CNN AND OTHER MEDIA....SADDAM IS AN ANGEL COMPARE TO IRANIANS THUGS AND SYRIANS SHIIA KILLERS, SADDAM HATE HIZBOALLAH AND THE TERRORISTS LIKE YOU...USA AND CANADA SHOULD KIK YOUR ASS OUT AND SEND YOU BACK TO IRAN. WE MUST ATTACK IRAN NOW BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE, FK YOU AND FK ALL THE SHIIA

    March 9, 2012 at 10:45 am | Reply
    • Kadijah

      so much pain, so much ignorance, so loud.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Reply
  4. Adnan Khan

    One thing is sure. Obama is handling this situation way better than any of those conservative whoo-has will ever handle it. Let's hope we have Obama for another 4 years.

    March 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Reply
    • Kadijah

      Inshallah this will happen. Obama, with all his faults, is the best leader for the USA right now.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Reply
  5. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    THIS IS WHAT I POSTED Y'DAY ON Mr.Zakaria's column "IRan is a rational actor"

    And it fits in neatly here!!

    TO UNDERSTAND MR.ZAKARIA:

    a) Don’t get carried away by reading just one article

    b) Read his sequence of articles to get a clear picture where he is leading you.

    c) On Iran just 2 days ago he said that we are pressurizing Iran just too much, now he says they are a rational actor and points to other countries in the area which possessing Nukes, disregarding the fact that none of them have threatened Iran, next will be his call for nuke free zone in the ME asking Israel to come clean (knowing too well it’s a non-starter and a huge impediment to peace in the region), next he calls for solving the Israel-Palestine problem in line with Hamas demands (ultimately aimed at destroying the Jewish nation).

    March 9, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Reply
  6. Luke

    CNN has become a mouthpiece for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by employing Fareed Zakaria in its payroll. Either Fareed Zakaria is a twin brother of Ahmadinajad or they shared a bed in their past lives. One who thinks Iran is a rational actor needs to have their head examined. US has been dealing with Iran from the late 70s like a thorn in the butt. This is the time to pluck it off before the infection gets worse.

    Just read all the headlines about the middle east that Fareed has written. It will make one think that his salary basically comes from the Iranian regime.

    In his article "South Korea's derring-do", he starts off by asking "What do you get when you put 40 heads of state 30 miles away from a rogue nuclear nation?". He refers to North Korea as a "rogue nuclear nation". But when it comes to Iran and its nuclear ambition, he calls Iran a "rational actor". If only Kim Jong Il was an Islamist, he would have called North Korea a rational actor too.

    March 10, 2012 at 3:19 am | Reply
    • Amit-Atlanta-USA

      You are absolutely right.

      Many people have come to DECIPHER my former countryman (from India) Mr. Zakaria's writings.

      I have tried to analyze his writings logically, but as these columns are heavily censored often times you can't get your responses across.

      Check out my responses here and elsewhere.

      March 10, 2012 at 9:47 am | Reply
  7. FK MARTY, FK THE SHIIA FK ALI AND FK ALL IRANIANS EMMAM

    fk u khadija

    March 10, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Reply
    • Kadijah

      hehehe...

      March 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Reply
  8. iran and the shiiazim are evil attack iran now and we will get red of syria and all the terrorists

    dont allow iran to enter the immunity zone in any price.................Imagine if hitler did that you , your mothers and sisters and all your family will be slaves to the nazzies...iran muslims evil thugs of shiia cults are worse than hitler , make no mistake iran will use any thing because they want to start a war as this is will bring what so called AL MAHDI AL MONTADHAR....it is like the shiia massaiua to them , and the only way the MAHDI WILL COME BACK IS BY WAR, KILLING ZENA MOTAA ADULTERY AND CAIOUS thats what the sick shiia doctorine says in the books...fk all shiia and remove them from this earth and send them to the 4o vergins that they are waiting for...even some are dreaming to sleep with vergin mary in heaven cause she is vergin , so they pray extra prayers to see who is the one will be the lucky one to sleep with her in heaven that what they teach.

    March 10, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Reply
  9. iran and the shiiazim are evil attack iran now and we will get red of syria and all the terrorists

    u muslims thugs here ali and aziz and all of you live here in usa are terrorists peace of shi....t go back home you paki, fk iranians shiia thugs go home terrorists

    March 10, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Reply
  10. attack russian interests now

    the muslims and arabs should attack russian interests any where every where inbcluding all embassies as russia veto on syria allow the killing of 17,000 women and children on the hands of the terrorists regieme of bashar al kalb of syria and hizboallah those evil getting weapons from evil russia and money from the great evil iran to kill daily backed by the evil iraqi shiia who provide men and shiia thugs to cross to syria and kill sunni...syria must be attacked if i was a leader in the middleast i wage war aganist russia and now in every mean possible until i get red of those communists puten and his followers...

    March 10, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Reply
    • Ala

      Why you little instigator you.
      I bet you were always in trouble at school. Did you have any friends?

      March 10, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Reply
  11. iraqi shiia and iran shiia making fatwa to allow the killing of syrian sunni!!!as shiia islam allow killing

    منذ بدأت مريم رجوي, الرئيسة المنتخبة من قبل المقاومة الايرانية عملها الديبلوماسي الدؤوب من أجل كسر جدار العزلة والاقصاء الذي فرضه النظام الايراني على المجلس الوطني للمقاومة الايرانية, شهد العالم كله تحولات نوعية في الموقف الدولي تجاه هذا التيار المعارض الذي يخوض نضالا مستمرا منذ أكثر من ثلاثين عاما ضد النظام الايراني وقد نجحت مريم في اقناع الدول الأوروبية باخراج منظمة مجاهدي خلق من لائحة الارهاب تقود الان حملة غير مسبوقة لاقناع الادارة الأميركية بتصحيح موقفها من المقاومة والشعب الايراني عبر اخراج منظمة مجاهدي خلق من تلك اللائحة السوداء.

    «السياسة» التقتها عن قرب وأجرت معها اول لقاء تتحدث فيه مريم للصحافة الخليجية :

    *كيف ستتعاملون مع الاصرار العراقي – الايراني على نقل سكان أشرف الى خارج العراق ؟

    – أشرف بالنسبة للشعب الايراني بمثابة منار للأمل ونموذج لا نظير له في مجتمع ديمقراطي والذي يمنحهم العزم لكي يقفوا بوجه الدكتاتورية السوداء المختبئة خلف ستار الدين , وأود القول هنا ان النظام الايراني قلق من التحولات السورية فاذا سقطت الدكتاتورية في سورية , فان واحداً من أهم أركان نفوذه في المنطقة سيتلاشى.

    لهذا السبب يريد النظام قبل سقوط النظام السوري أن يتأكد من أمرين : الاول القضاء على أشرف وسكانه , والاخر الحصول على القنبلة النووية , لكي يتمكن من خلال هذين المكسبين التغلب على مشكلاته .

    March 10, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Reply
  12. fahad

    ah hell let's attack everybody everywhere.
    war mongers are different from genuine concern for safety by Israel

    March 10, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Reply
  13. Jon Frisby

    Two things come to my mind in with this situation . 1/ Where have we heard the quote "They are building weapons of mass destruction" . (C.Powells , UN address on Iraq ). I think we need clearer evidence of nuclear weaponizing intent then the "cuz I said so " statements from the same storytellers.
    2/ I think nothing would generate more sympathy in the area than a Israeli/ USA preemptive on Iran. I would be worried about who else would get involved , in an already volatile area of the world . OIl prices ? If war happens expect prices to skyrocket at the pump from what we pay now. I think we need more action diplomatically and indirect action behind the scenes. Begin with treating Iran as a legitimate government and increase respectful dialogue on all sides...including Israel.
    Thank you Mr Zakaria for presenting an educated, objective view on your show and in your articles. I look forward to many many more in the future.

    March 10, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Reply
    • Aziz

      Well hamduliallah, 2 things did come to your little mind. Do not worry, maybe tomorrow, 3 things will come to your mind. 🙂

      March 10, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Reply
  14. shiia are evil

    FK ALA FK IRAN FK BASHAR AL KALB FK FAHAD SHIIA TERRORISTS THUGS GO BACK TO IRAN weld al motaa

    March 10, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Reply
  15. Novazun

    What is the reverse psychology in ISRAEL intentions as well IRANS intentions?As most of the world are OBSERVERS in this latest RHETORIC including NORTH KOREA at this moment in there intentions ...comes the time to realize how well lubricated the IMPERIALEST and SO CALLED Communist regimes are interacting with each other in there PROPAGANDA mode. Convincing all who are effected in defending there accusations as being THE TOTAL TRUTH so help me "TO WHICH GOD"?. The question is to all of this......IS THERE A GOD that would want THIS escalating to A POINT insane existence? What kind of WORLD BALANCED ORDER will it" BE" that is the ULTIMATE question!

    April 10, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Reply
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