Paul Lachine

Return to the Arc of Crisis

Thirty-three years ago, then-US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski spoke of “an arc of crisis” coursing through the Middle East and into Central Asia. Today, events from Syria to Pakistan suggest that Brzezinski’s arc is more salient than ever.

NEW DELHI – Thirty-three years ago, then-US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski spoke of an “arc of crisis” coursing through the Middle East and into Central Asia. Today, events in Syria and Pakistan, as well as the recent bombings in Bangkok and New Delhi, which some are linking to Iran, suggest that Brzezinski’s arc is more salient than ever.

Among the many dangers lurking along it today, the most ominous concerns the response of Israel and the United States to the question of when Iran’s nuclear facilities will become impregnable, creating, in Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s phrase, a “zone of immunity.” Some think that this point has already been reached, with Iran placing its enriched uranium underground, near the holy city of Qom, beneath many layers of granite – and thus beyond the destructive power of anything short of a nuclear bomb.

Israeli hawks argue that the time to strike is now, before Iran is able to make a fully operational nuclear weapon. Not so fast, warns the US: sanctions may still achieve their aim. Such differences are real, with US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta expressing concern that Israel might launch an attack on Iran in the spring.

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