David Aaronovich’s column in The Times today warns that we might be sleepwalking towards a nuclear Iran. Stuck in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan, we don’t have the political stomach to seriously engage with the threat.
We almost lack the spare mental capacity to consider how to deal with the difficult “other”. We have intervened in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia and Sierra Leone. We have agonised over Gaza and Lebanon. We have debated Darfur and Zimbabwe. It is all so difficult, so intractable, that the easiest answer seems to be to withdraw, to let things alone, to hope that they will go away.
It is in this kind of ennui that we see the real, long-term damage of our reckless rush to war (now being exposed in a handy serialised form, thanks to the new Iraq inquiry). A mistake of such magnitude has had horrible knock-on effects for our foreign policy elsewhere. Not only was Iran emboldened by the 2003 conflict, but it looks like we have lost the political will (and capital) to appropriately deal with this latest nuclear threat. Aaronovitch advocates UN sanctions against the regime (specifically the Revolutionary Guard) but this requires the support of China and Russia. Do we have the political credibility to push them into agreement with such sanctions? If we do not, then we know where that credibility went: spilled into the sands of Iraq.