For the past few years, we’ve heard that Iran was going to obtain S-300 air defense systems from Russia in order to defend against potential Israeli airstrikes on its suspected nuclear weapons program. But after the latest round of UN Security Council sanctions on Wednesday, it appears that’s no longer a concern—for now.
Though Russian officials initially denied it, today Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told French President Nicolas Sarkozy that the new restrictions on arms exports to Iran imposed by Security Council Resolution 1929 outlaw S-300 sales to Tehran.
Geopolitics is a field ripe with narrative. The dream of stumbling upon an enduring insight that summarizes something hopelessly complex into something beautifully simple is, in large part, what keeps political science classes filled to the brim. With fresh violence in Gaza last month, observers scrambled to explain the larger context of Israel’s invasion and the Arab reaction. Some argued that it should be viewed as part of a larger battle for regional dominance by Tehran. Robert Kaplan, for example, had a short piece in The Atlantic Monthly describing “the postmodern beast that the Iranian empire represents.” In a similar vein, former CIA officer Reuel Marc Gerecht wrote in The Wall Street Journal of “a ‘Shiite arc’ of power forming in the Near East.” John Arquilla, noted futurist and professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, was kind enough to explain to Bellum why he disagrees with this analysis, as well as share his broader thoughts about the Iranian nuclear crisis.
Jeffrey Record, a researcher at the Strategic Studies Institute and professor at the Air War College, has written a new monograph concluding that “the Japanese decision for war against the United States in 1941 was dictated by Japanese pride and the threatened economic destruction of Japan by the United States.” (Download and read the report here.) Careful to point out that he is excusing neither Japanese war crimes nor the attack itself–in fact, he assails “the stupidity of Tokyo’s statecraft” as an utter failure–he nonetheless argues that there are lessons to be learned about deterrence, economic sanctions, understanding foreign cultures, and much else. Dr. Record agreed to some Q&A as we place his monograph within the context of the resurgent debate on the origins of the Pacific War and the ongoing debate over the Iranian nuclear program.
The debate swirling around Iran’s nuclear program has produced no shortage of curious things. We will be analyzing some of these in the coming weeks, but let’s start with the fact that Israeli officials no longer use the term “point of no return” to describe how far along Tehran is in the process. This, of course, is after years of warning us that Tehran would be crossing the Rubicon imminently.