It’s become kind of a cliche to point out that the greatest beneficiary of the Iraq war was Iran. It’s a cliche because it’s true. But, as conservatives begin to ramp up their “engagement was a nice idea but now because Iran didn’t immediately give up everything we must bomb Iran” campaign, it’s worth considering who bombing Iran would really help.
First, Iran’s hardliners. Yes, we helped them by invading Iraq, but there’s so much more we can do for them by bombing Iran. As Karim Sadjadpour said here, he thinks that “Khamenei and Ahmadinejad would actually welcome a military strike,” which “may be their only hope to silence popular dissent and heal internal political rifts.” As I wrote the other day, it’s hard to think of a more efficient way to extinguish Iran’s reform movement than by either an Israeli or U.S. strike.
Second, Russia. Bombing Iran would effectively do for Russia what the Iraq invasion did for Iran: Vastly improve its strategic situation and bolster its influence in the region. While the international community is preoccupied with frantic efforts to stamp out the conflagration that would surely ensue after such strikes, Russia will see an opportunity to further expand its hegemony over its near abroad. And of course Russia will be very pleased to have oil shoot up to $200 a barrel, or more, as it very likely will.
Now look at the people who advocate strikes on Iran, and see if they aren’t the same people who are always railing against Russian and Iranian “thugs” — that is, the very people who will most benefit from bombing Iran. I’m sure there are other conservative betes noires who would be helped by conservative warmaking, I will share when I think of them.