Shadow Government

Iran’s clenched fist to Obama

By Aaron Friedberg Iran has joined the list of terrorist groups, rogue states and authoritarian regimes that have chosen in recent weeks to shake a metaphorical fist at the United States and, by implication, at President Obama.   I speculated last week that Tehran might adopt a more accommodating posture in the hopes of drawing ...

By Aaron Friedberg

Iran has joined the list of terrorist groups, rogue states and authoritarian regimes that have chosen in recent weeks to shake a metaphorical fist at the United States and, by implication, at President Obama.  

I speculated last week that Tehran might adopt a more accommodating posture in the hopes of drawing the new administration into protracted negotiations while it completes work on a nuclear weapon. Apparently the Iranians have decided that the United States is now so committed to talking that polite gestures are unnecessary. On Monday, they launched their first Earth-orbiting satellite. This is not a trivial feat from a technical standpoint; as the Times points out, only eight other countries have done it to date. Although the satellite is small and, in itself, unthreatening, its successful launch suggests that Iran is continuing to perfect the technologies it will need to someday deliver a nuclear warhead against targets in Europe and eventually the United States. (They can already hit Israel.)

The reason for developing such a capability would presumably be to deter other nations from attacking Iran and perhaps to dissuade outside powers from intervening in the Persian Gulf. Secure behind its nuclear shield Tehran might also believe that it could be more open in its support of terrorism and more aggressive in dealing with its neighbors and pursuing its regional ambitions. Such confidence could easily lead to miscalculation and perhaps to war. All the more reason to make one more push to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear programs, but also to begin to think seriously about what we should do if — or, as seems increasingly likely, when — we fail.

Aaron L. Friedberg is Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, where he has taught since 1987, and co-director of the Woodrow Wilson School’s Center for International Security Studies.
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