The political logic for a major US strike at Iran

November 9, 2011

 Yesterday, I blogged on Alexander Wilner’s analysis of the balance of forces in the Persian Gulf and the US and Israeli options for dealing with Iran’s imminent nuclear power status.  As I continue to mull over the implications of that piece, I am coming to the conclusion that the US will launch a serious attack on Iran in the upcoming months.  When you look at the options, they basically fall into two categories – Playing for Time and Going on the Offensive.   In a normal political environment,  I would lean toward the Playing for Time options.  However, given that we are now less than a year from a presidential election and that President Obama’s domestic agenda is foundering, I think the more likely path is to Go on the Offensive sooner rather than later.  A major US attack that destroys much of Iran’s nuclear and missile infrastructure would allow Obama to run as America’s most effective Warrior President since FDR.  He could then campaign on the facts that he:

  • ended the war in Iraq and is winding down the war in Afghanistan
  • drove long-time US nemesis Muamar Gaddafi from power
  • killed Osama bin Laden
  • smashed the Iranian nuclear program

And, if the action vs. Iran is decisive enough, it might provide the final impetus for toppling Iran’s man in Damascus, which would be another feather in Obama’s cap.

Personally, I believe that Obama already has the inside track to reelection in 2012 – the Democrats begin with a structural advantage in the race to 270 electoral votes, while the GOP is on the verge of nominating either a deeply flawed national candidate or one who, while theoretically “more electable” does not fire up their base and risks losing the turnout battle in swing states.  But, even if a narrow Obama victory is the most likely outcome at the moment, it is likely that a convincing victory in Iran would be enough to seal the deal.

That is not to say, however, that a strike on Iran purely would be a cynical and politically driven decision.  The fact of the matter is that the destruction of Iran’s nuclear and missile capabilities is a highly desirable strategic outcome for the US.



  1. […] shipped via tanker to Chinese markets rather than to US markets.  I wrote yesterday that Obama is poised to run as a Warrior President; however, for all those victories, it is difficult to paint any of them as beneficial to US energy […]

  2. […] the past, I wrote that Obama would be able to campaign in 2012 on his foreign policy successes, but this one decision undercuts that entire theme.  His GOP opponent, whomever that turns out to […]

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