Recently, I reported the comments made by retired Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, while speaking at the University of Central Oklahoma. Colonel Wilkerson sounded the warning that America’s current posture in dealing with Iran could lead to war. At this point, America enforces an embargo on Iran’s oil shipments that has slashed the country’s oil revenues by 45%. No small impact there!
With the colonels warning in mind, how do we gain reliable insight into where Iran actually is going? Not an easy task.
Interesting comments came out of Tehran this past Saturday that bare examination. The supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated that Iran was not seeking nuclear weapons, but should they decide to build them, no “global power” could stop them. An interesting but contradictory message! The comments appeared to be aimed at the United States and Israel. Several years ago, the imam declared that building such weapons would be a horrendous sin, but now leaves this judgement behind. Sounds contradictory and certainly signals why the Iranians are not trusted around the world. You can’t speak out of both sides of your mouth and be credible.
The supreme leader told a group of visitors in his home that Iran held the conviction that all nuclear weapons around the world should be eliminated. He further stated that direct talks with the United States would not be possible because the USA was “pointing a gun at Iran.” He called on the USA to show logic in talking with Iran but didn’t spell out what he meant. In the past, the Iranian government has stated that talks are not possible as long as sanctions are in place. Under current conditions, the process remains stalled.
Equally intriguing was the Ayatollah’s criticisms of President Ahmadinejab for quarrelling with the speaker of Iran’s Parliament. What is going on behind the scenes? These combined episodes suggest that a power struggle continues in Iran with Khamenei insisting that he is still on the top of the heap. However, recent evidence suggests that the Revolutionary Guard are not small contenders in such a struggle.
One of the key problems the West faces with Iran is who should we really be talking with. Possibly Khamenei isn’t the man who actually controls the weapon making process. Moreover, President Ahmadinejad may not be in the driver’s seat either. If the actual power brokers are the military, then all bets are off on predicting where the struggle is actually going. One possible interpretation of the Ayatollah’s pronouncements was that he was actually talking to the Revolutionary Guard and reassuring them that he might not attempt to block further development of The Bomb. We know that Iran has sent military personnel into the civil war to save the Assad regime in Syria. Recent history appears to support the contention that the Iranian leadership love conflict and a good old fashioned war.
The bottom line? Iran continues to lack stability and is economically hurting. The man on the street is not happy with their national plight. The waiting game that been played by the Obama administration may prove to have more wisdom that meetss the eye.
Waiting could allow the Iranians to do themselves in.