The Greater Threat

Monday, October 13, 2008

During the Vice-Presidential debates a question was asked about Iran and Pakistan—which country poses a greater threat to the new administration? Putting aside the vice-presidential candidate’s answers (since CSI is a non-partisan organization) I wanted to discuss this question since it’s been on my mind now for a few weeks.

First of all, can we compare the two? If we’re talking about Iran, I’m assuming the threat would be coming from their possible development of nuclear technology for WMDs (though they need the nuclear technology for Iranian citizens, and are entitled to it under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, if and only if they allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to enter the country and inspect at will. So far they have not cooperated with inspectors, so they don’t get help with nuclear technology). In Pakistan, it is assumed that the threat comes from multiple sources—the Taliban fighting and growing stronger in the tribal regions, al-Qaeda also finding safe-houses, a new President that hasn’t established a strong rule yet and all of the terrifying instability that emanates from a fragmented government with nuclear capabilities. I recently heard Pakistan called “not a country, but an army”—they are unstable and difficult to handle.

So now which produces the greater threat? In Pakistan, this new unbalanced administration is in charge of a country full of terrorist safe-houses. This poses a major short-term threat not only to the people of Pakistan, but to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan—most all U.S. supplies to troops in Afghanistan go through Pakistan. Recently the U.S. decided to cross the borders of Pakistan without permission from Islamabad so Special Forces could carry out attacks on known terrorist hiding areas. Who knows how this will affect the way the new president is seen to his people, or the actions that the Pakistani military or intelligence organizations choose to take?

But Iran poses a greater long-term threat if something isn’t done now. I don’t mean the military option. Let me repeat that—we should NOT, can NOT invade Iran. We need to increase our diplomatic relations with the country and do whatever we can to foster the growing youth democratic movement there—whether that is done by involving ourselves in local Iranian politics or simply staying away, whatever works. True, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is relatively nuts and frequently spouts off something-or-other about destroying Israel, but he technically has no decision making power in the country—he is more a spokesman than anything else. But whoever has the decision making power is enjoying a healthy growing relative power in the region. It is dangerous to ignore this.

So I’m curious. What do you think? Which poses a greater threat to U.S. interests, if a threat at all?


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