Iran has become a focal point for the US for many reasons, known or just not spoken. The politics of the region has little to do with the peaceful co existence of the countries of the region, simply because there are no conflict zones between the Arab and non-Arab world, with the only exception of Israel.
The threat cannot be denied, and is almost mutual. I remember Yitzhak Rabin, former Israeli PM saying that in the world everybody can go nuclear. Technology is available off the shelf. He made this statement in the 90’s. He was assassinated for being right-wing. (see pic above Rabin with Clinton and Arafat).
Israelis expect retaliation of any preemptive strike such as the one on Syrian Nuclear facilities. These will mainly be rocket attacks through the terrorists believed proxies of Iran. Israeli public dreads these attacks and the Knesset is divided on how they tackle their security. Any nuclear target in Israel will have to consider collateral damage to neighbouring Arab states and areas, unless tactical nuclear weapons are used which do need better launchers of a minimum calibre of 155 mm, which Israel can easily detect and neutralise. So the Israel factor in the Iran equation may be a detente. Strangely at the time of writing this President Obama has warned Israel against making any preemptive strike. If the aim is to delay Iran’s programme, then a strike of sorts has already occurred by the assassination of some five scientists in two years.
Iran has developed ICBM technology and their Shabab -3 missile can go 1300 to 2000 kms. They are in the process of acquiring developing Shabab-3B which will give ranges upto 2500-4000 km, that will reach European cities. As of now they can reach Israel with conventional payloads, but how long will it be before they are nuclear tipped? This is what worries the world. Technology and acquisition is all from North Korea who have developed if not tested the Taepo Dong-2, which can go upto 10,000 kms and reach US cities. The nuclear nexus between North Korea, Iran and Pakistan is evident. Looking at this on a larger canvas, will the Six Party Talks (US, China, S Korea, N Korea, Russia and Japan) which aims at engaging North Korea and which were suspended and may resume in the near future. A military engagement with Iran will necessarily send a strong message to North Korea and its ally China. The repercussions however have to be understood.
The issue is not entirely the annihilation of Israel but of a larger threat from a regime that is headed by fundamentalist protagonists. Then there are Sunni and Shiite equations. Iran is predominantly Shiite. Despite US efforts in Iraq, the ruling majority is all pro Iran being Shiite. In a way US intervention in Iraq has worked for Iran. Iran is also a stake holder in Afghanistan and sits comfortably with Pakistan.
The US has to manage the situation in Afghanistan, which is under the risk of being ‘abandoned’ by the west when the troop withdrawal takes place in 2013. This will expose the region to Soviet influence and history will repeat itself. Dominating Iran has advantages for US interests in many ways. The economic sanctions will have their toll on Iran mainly because of oil exports. The rise in price of oil will affect the US economy which is struggling. I strongly feel a rapprochement with Iran will help in restoring US image (anti US sentiment exists in the region and has to be recognised) and guaranteeing some peace to the region.
The beauty or irony of geo politics is that there are no friends or enemies. It is the economic gain that can come out of a relationship or domination. The friend and foe equation can change rapidly, only leaving many many innocents dead in its wake.
The US is powerful militarily, but needs to change its approach in developing goodwill across the globe. Then there is the unfortunate question of terrorism which can dominate the approach.