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Listen to Kanye

September 30th, 2010

President Obama better think twice the next time he thinks about calling Kanye West a jackass.

In the remix of his earth-shaking summer jam “Power,” the abomination of Obama’s nation drops a quick little line of epic diplomatic proportions: “Keep our troops out of Iran.”

But will Obeezy listen to Yeezy?

Obama has made it clear that a nuclear Iran is “unacceptable” and continually insists that “all options are on the table” – which is diplomatic speak for “we’ll kick your ass if we have to.” And as Iran inches closer to having the capability to produce a nuclear weapon – which most experts say could happen in about a year – the drumbeat for a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities is getting louder.

However, a military strike on Iran would cause more violence and instability than would simply allowing Iran to have a nuclear weapon. So Obama should explicitly take the military option off the table and focus solely on diplomacy. Even if diplomacy fails and Iran eventually gets a nuke, deterrence – or the notion that the U.S. nuclear arsenal could obliterate any state – will prevent Iran from ever using it on us or any of our allies.

That isn’t to say that a nuclear Iran wouldn’t be dangerous. With the cover of a nuclear arsenal, Iran’s proxies, which it uses to protect its interests and promote its influence throughout the Middle East, could become more aggressive. Hezbollah and Hamas could attack Israel, undermine peace negotiations with Palestine, and destabilize the fragile political situation in Lebanon. Shiite militias in Iraq could plunge the country back into the same sectarian violence that almost led to civil war in 2007. Shiites from Bahrain to Yemen could cause political instability with Iranian backing. And Iran might even try to challenge U.S. naval power in the Persian Gulf, which would affect global oil markets.

However, while the failure of diplomacy may bring about these tragic consequences, a successful military strike would undoubtedly do so. Not to mention that another U.S. attack on a Muslim country would embolden support for Islamic extremists. And, of course, the problem still wouldn’t be solved. In fact, it would probably only take about three to five years before Iran would resume its nuclear program with a renewed vigor and increased domestic – and possibly international – support. At that point, you can forget about diplomacy.

But even if Obama takes the military option off the table and diplomacy still fails in the short run, it could still work in the long run. When the United States acts threateningly towards Iran, it increases Iranian support for hard liners like President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. For example, in 2005, Iranians ousted reformist President Mohammad Khatami in favor of Ahmadinejad after President George W. Bush labeled Iran an “axis of evil” and threatened to invade. But if Obama took a less confrontational approach towards Iran, it would decrease support for hard liners and possibly open up an opportunity for a more moderate leader to come to power who would be more willing to negotiate. 

At the same time, a less confrontational approach towards Iran would also eliminate many of the reasons why Iran would want nuclear weapons in the first place. Surrounded by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s understandable why Iran would want nuclear weapons – especially during the Bush years. But if Obama took the military option off the table, Iran might feel more secure and be more willing to give up its suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons. Obama could also amend the Nuclear Posture Review to ensure that the United States would never use a nuclear weapon against a non-nuclear Iran – a possibility that the current NPR leaves open.

The only way to achieve peace with Iran is through diplomacy. Obama will likely try to restart negotiations with Iran sometime next month. If he takes Kanye’s (and my) advice, he could have this whole problem solved before November 16 – which, incidentally, also happens to be the day Kanye drops his new CD.