April 17, 2006

Trust But Verify

From Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor's must-read Cobra II--The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq:

In late May [of 2002], Bush sought to repair ties with Europe and promised a deliberate response to the terrorist threat, one that would not be purely military and would enlist the help of the U.S. allies. In a May 23 press conference in Berlin, Bush asserted that Iraq's WMD programs were a serious threat but that he had not prepared an invasion strategy. "I told the Chancellor that I have no war plans on my desk, which is the truth, and that we've got to use all means at our disposal to deal with Saddam Hussein." The president made a similar comment in Paris three days later. [Ed. note: See here too for a third example of the 'no attack plans on my desk' stump response. Clearly this was language the President had decided to go with purposefully, in other words, it was not a slip of the tongue at a single press conference].

[Tommy] Franks went further. In late May, a radio reporter asked him how many troops he would need for an invasion of Iraq. "That's a great question and one for which I don't have an answer because my boss has not yet asked me to put together a plan to do that," Franks said. "They have not asked me for these kinds of numbers. And I guess I would tell you, if there comes a time when my boss asks me that, that I'd rather provide those sorts of assessments to him. But thanks for your question.

The president's statement was true in only the most literal but trivial sense. Bush had ordered the development of a new CENTCOM war plan, repeately met with Franks to hear its details, offered his own views on the schedule for deploying troops and on the military's effort to couch the invasion as a liberation, and sent his vice president halfway around the world to secure allies for the war. And as for Franks, even the cleverest hair-splitting could not reconcile his remarks with the activity of CENTCOM during the previous six months. (Cobra II, p. 51-52)

More:

On August 21, Rumsfeld visited Bush at his Crawford ranch to discuss a range of military issues. In a brief appearance before the press afterward, the president complained that the media seemed to be focusing on the possibility of military action in Iraq. There was, he said, too much "churning" about the subject. Rumsfeld agreed. There seemed to be some kind of media "frenzy". All the activity at CENTCOM, Bush said, merely involved contingency planning, and no decision to go to war had been made. Eight days later, Bush signed the classified statement of objectives for the Iraq mission. (Cobra II p. 73)

Fast-forward to the present, re: Iran.

Rumsfeld, at a Pentagon press gaggle on April 11th, pouring cold water on Iran attack talk post-Sy Hersh piece:

Q That may be. What planning, if any has the Pentagon been undertaking for the possibility of military action involving Iran? And has the nuclear strike option been ruled out?

SEC. RUMSFELD: You know, someone comes up with an idea, runs it in a magazine or a paper; other papers pick it up and reprint it; editorialists then say, oh, Henny Penny, the sky is falling, and isn't -- opine on this and opine on that. And to the extent anyone starts responding to the kinds of things that have been circulated, it's endless.

And I think the president handled it properly. The United States of America is on a diplomatic track. That is the president's decision. That's where our European allies are. There is obviously concern about Iran. It's a country that is -- supports terrorists. It's a country that has indicated an interest in having weapons of mass destruction. So obviously the president has indicated his concern about the country, but it is just simply not useful to get into fantasy land.

And here's President Bush last week as well:

Q Mr. President, thanks very much for your visit today. We're honored by your visit. You mentioned the confluence of terror and weapons of mass destruction as the greatest threat to American security. Will the United States allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons?

THE PRESIDENT: Ah. (Laughter.) We do not want the Iranians to have a nuclear weapon, the capacity to make a nuclear weapon, or the knowledge as to how to make a nuclear weapon. That's our stated goal. It's also the goal, fortunately, of other -- of friends and allies, starting with Great Britain, Germany, and France...

..But our objective is to prevent them from having a nuclear weapon. And the good news is, is that many in the world have come to that conclusion. I got out a little early on the issue by saying, axis of evil. (Laughter.) But I meant it. I saw it as a problem. And now, many others have -- have come to the conclusion that the Iranians should not have a nuclear weapon.

The doctrine of prevention is to work together to prevent the Iranians from having a nuclear weapon. I know -- I know here in Washington prevention means force. It doesn't mean force, necessarily. In this case, it means diplomacy. And by the way, I read the articles in the newspapers this weekend. It was just wild speculation, by the way. What you're reading is wild speculation, which is -- it's kind of a -- happens quite frequently here in the nation's capital. [my emphasis throughout]

Wild speculation, huh? Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me! You'll forgive me given, shall we say, rather disingenuous remarks made about the chances of war in Iraq back in the day, that I take protestations that an attack on Iran are "fantasy land" or "wild speculation" with a tad more skepticism than I might have in yesteryear. Not to mention the media climate generally! The New Republic is featuring a cover illustration of a demonic Ahmadi-Nejad as gruesome apparition complete with monstrous fangs made of nuclear missiles, the Weekly Standard has turned over its current issue to something of a 'Target-Iran!' extravaganza, the National Review recently editorialized that Something Be Done, Mark Steyn is busily planning the Great Persian Campaign (no occupation, this time, mind you!), and bloggers are leaping on this story to shorten the time frame for Iran to get nukes from the National Intelligence Estimate of approximately 10 years to, don seatbelts please, some 16 days! [ed. note: the 16 days crapola aside, note there is some legitimate concern that the Iranian nuclear program could be on a faster-track than the initial NIE anticipated.]

Yeah, methinks it could all happen again, even with so much unfinished business on the Administration's plate. Iraq is in a hugely perilous state and the situation in Afghanistan (and parts of Pakistan) is very problematic (by the way, where are Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri?). So please be patient with me, over the coming weeks, as I seek to bring the temperature down on Iran policy musings a degree or two. Look, a military strike on Iran might ultimately prove necessary, especially if Ahmadi-Nejad is in power at the time Iran is actually about to get a nuclear weapon. His aggressive rhetoric must be taken seriously, and we very likely cannot risk a nuclear Iran led by such an unstable leader. But an Iran led by another less radical regime could be a different story, especially given positive demographic trends that point to a more moderate generation in the wings.

The bottom line is that military action against Iran, if it comes, must be pursued only after the situation in neighboring countries is more stable (Iraq, Afghanistan), only after diplomatic avenues (and non-military punitive actions like freezing the assets of regime leaders and blocking key regime figures travel) have been pursued to the utmost, only when we have unimpeachable intelligence that Iran is truly on the cusp of wielding a nuclear weapon, and always, with all due consideration being given to the nature of the regime that is actually in power at the time the country is about to go nuclear. Until then, look for this blog to be concerned about the chances of another ill-considered, overly precipitous action in the region, especially given the incompetent civilian leadership currently in place at the Pentagon. And, no, I don't derive too much comfort from the Administration's protests that such an attack is not in the offing. Better to monitor going-ons rather closely, I'd think. As the old saying goes, trust but verify...with emphasis on the verification prong.

UPDATE: More nettlesome realities courtesy of Zvi Bar'el:

The military option may be very exciting; and in some places, there are already people stroking the buttons that launch the ICBMs - but Ahmadinejad can relax. A military assault on Iran, they worry in Washington, could instigate an Iranian double-pronged attack on Iraq - one, a missile attack against military targets, and the other, an attack by activists - terrorists or political agents - aimed at turning Iraq into adjunct Iranian territory. An attack on Iran would unite the Iranian people, including those opposed to the ayatollahs, and thus even further strengthen their regime; and the vision of regime change there would evaporate.

An attack would also portray Iran as the victim, trampled by the United States - and it's a very short hop from there to Arab solidarity with Iran, a Russian embrace, as is conventional, and the intensification of anti-U.S. sentiments not only in the Middle East. And all this even before it becomes clear which targets should be attacked and if Western intelligence is familiar with all the targets...

...These dilemmas are seemingly the result of two colossal failures - the feeble international supervision, and the illusion that is being torn to shreds that the theoretical creature known as the international community can dictate a global anti-nuclear policy.

More on Iran policy soon.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Let's not forget the below-quoted snippet from an interview, if we can call it that, with US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton: "whatever happens at the State Department, the President knows what he needs to do."



Posted by Gregory at April 17, 2006 04:33 AM | TrackBack (1)
Comments

There are several sane ways to tackle the Iranian nuclear program but the current US leadership isn't going to exercise any of them. My gut feeling on Iran now, as it was on Iraq then, is that the administration is going to take military action.

They've got far too much invested in a militaristic foreign policy to wimp out with diplomacy now. Iraq has been an abject failure at cowing the world to meek obidence in the face of American conventional military force. The administration has one more chance before 2008 to assert absolute dominance over the planet, and that one chance is to nuke Iran regardless of the consequences, or what anyone else thinks. They're going to go for it unless Congress votes to impeach or the military revolts.

Posted by: anon at April 17, 2006 07:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Trust? At least the Soviets had some reason to fear being proven dishonest, and so some incentive to be honest. This crowd doesn't care a whit what anyone thinks, and counts this as one of its great strengths. They're as likely to lie, even when it's not necessary, just to show that they can do it.

Posted by: CharleyCarp at April 17, 2006 12:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

what if Bush decides to attack Iran during the 2008 elections?

Posted by: post pc at April 17, 2006 12:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Some say boots are on the ground already, have been for a while. Certainly drones have been shot down. Who can stop these people?

Posted by: No Blood for Hubris at April 17, 2006 02:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My extra-strength, multi-layer tinfoil hat makes me wonder if he'll attack Iran in time for the 2006 elections, and make use of the consequences (which are bound to be really, really awful) to start WWIII in time for the 2008 elections, in the belief that WWIII is a pretty good excuse for cancelling them.

At some point between now and then, his corporate sponsors will realize that plutocracy was only one part of Bush's agenda, and that the Apocalypse was the other. Because Bush wants to be a major historical figure, and war is his only shot at it.

Posted by: CaseyL at April 17, 2006 02:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

OK, so what method do you suggest for verification?

If Bush says that he's considering invasion as a last choice, how do you verify that? He said that about iraq too. But whatever evidence there is, is classified.

Look at the track record. These people are liars who will say anything that helps them in the short run. bayesian analysis suggests that when things they say turn out to be true, it's coincidence.

This has been verified about past concerns like iraq and social security. Why should we assume anything has changed.

Don't trust them at all. "Fool me once...."

Posted by: J Thomas at April 17, 2006 03:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

AFP has put out a wire story on preparations and planning for an attack on Iran. It seems this has been in the works, in earnest, not just as a contingency, since May 2003.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/usirannuclearmilitary

Ignore what the administration says. Trust only the direction their feet are moving.

Posted by: anon at April 17, 2006 04:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Look, a military strike on Iran might ultimately prove necessary, especially if Ahmadi-Nejad is in power at the time Iran is actually about to get a nuclear weapon. His aggressive rhetoric must be taken seriously, and we very likely cannot risk a nuclear Iran led by such an unstable leader. But an Iran led by another less radical regime could be a different story, especially given positive demographic trends that point to a more moderate generation in the wings."

Greg, my impression is that Ahmadinejad is not actually the leader in Iran, Khamenei is. As for a "less radical regime" we need only look to the very recent example of Khatami. He couldn't accomplish anything because? ...Correct! Because Khamenei was really in charge!

Posted by: farmgirl at April 17, 2006 05:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Is there a point at which the Left stops pretending that Bush Is Hitler and starts being concerned with Ahmadhi-Nejad's possession of atomic weapons and the means to deliver them?

Greg aside, most of the posters here apparently believe that Ahmadhi-Nejad is stupid enough to do the Long Hard Slog towards the Fat Man Plutonium Bomb. What if he's not? What if he just wants to build the Paul Tibbets "Works Every Time" Uranium Shotgun Bomb: Little Boy. Little Boy is a simple design. Oh sure, he eventually wants Fat Man. You can't get Hydrogen Devices without plutonium triggers. But in the meantime, why not take a shortcut? I would if I were Ahmadhi-Dinner Jacket.

Yes, the yield was only 12.5 kilotons, but if you'll recall, it was a very bad day at Hiroshima. And after sixty years to perfect the technology and miniaturization, we don't need to send a suicidal Deak Parsons along to arm the bomb in flight, now do we?

If it worked at Hiroshima, you can be damned sure it will work at Haifa.

In EVERYONE'S calculus, including Greg's apparently, Bush is the Bad Guy.

Bush HAS NOT threatened to wipe Israel off the map.

Bush HAS NOT denied the existence of the Holocaust.

Bush HAS NOT said that Zionism is a cancer that must be removed.

Bush HAS NOT said that Israel will be removed "soon".

Ahamdhi-Nejad has said all these things. He has said all things things while, at the same time, been engaged in the pursuit of atomic weapons.

When will the Democrats who post here give the Persian Fascists CREDIT FOR BELIEVING IN WHAT THEY CLAIM!!!

There is a reason, gentlemen, that even after Bush's blunders in Iraq, the Democrats will not be given responsibility for the national security of our country. Nor should they be. The comments from Democrats here are most revealing. Their first instinct is to mistrust Bush and his Administration, and to place blame squarely at his address. Instead, they should be addressing their anger at the Persian Fuhrer who speaks the language of atomic genocide of the Jews of Israel.

That they do not, that the Democrats would still prefer to talk of censure and impeachment of the President shows how unserious, how angry, and how childish their party has become.

Now Greg is right to sound the notion of caution and disdain for those who sound the war tocsin while our troops are in the midst of a hard transition in Iraq. But there comes a point at which even he must address the nature of the regime, of the man in question. There comes a point at which he has to stop blaming Bush and Rumsfeld, and start looking at Ahmadhi-Nejad and to ask Lenin's proper question: "What is to be done?"

Posted by: section9 at April 17, 2006 06:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"When will the Democrats who post here give the Persian Fascists CREDIT FOR BELIEVING IN WHAT THEY CLAIM!!!"

Perhaps because they have as much credibility as Bush's "you're either with us or against us" talk. It's all rhetoric flowing not from substative policy but with the design to influence one's constituency or one's enemies. It's Saddam all over again and some people just never learn.

Tell me, in what universe does a person who derives all his power from a very large state such as Iran then give that all up for some ridiculous suicidal first strike nuclear attack against a superior armed neighbor backed by the most powerful country in the world?

Repeat after me. Iran is acting rationally. They want deterrence as any rational state would when its neighbor gets invaded and its mortal enemies possess nuclear weapons. Using any weapons they create will result in the destruction of their country at the most and at least the political and/or real death of the leaders who initiated the attack.

So what is to be done? First off quit pissing your pants in fear. That would be a start. Then figure out a way to ensure Iran of its security when it is surrounded by nuclear states that don't really like it. If you can't do that with diplomacy, bribes, and assurances, then let them have the stupid bomb and try to learn to love it by watching the greatest movie of all time, Dr. Strangelove. They won't use it anyway, but it'll unfortunately give them more negotiating power, which of course is not the end of the world.

And you'd be angry too if you understood that a bunch of childish morons who can't contemplate what is going on and instead are planning another disasterous war are running the show. History will not be kind to this war-mongering and as much as conservatives want to accuse liberals of childishness, their hopping from boogeyman to boogeyman detonating their explosive toys displays the infantile, fear driven children that they are. Again, watch Dr. Strangelove for some further insight.

And read Glenn Greenwald who says it better than I: http://glenngreenwald.blogspot.com/2006/04/fighting-all-hitlers_17.html#links

Posted by: kj at April 17, 2006 07:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Section9 decides to have an attack of the vapors:

"Ahamdhi-Nejad has said all these things. He has said all things things while, at the same time, been engaged in the pursuit of atomic weapons."

Show me where he also says, "I welcome the day when Tehran becomes the world's largest glass-paved parking lot!" When he says that, then we can start worrying. For now, my hunch is that the "crazed Iranian mullahs" are just as worried about maintaining their power and prestige as their "sane and moderate" American and European counterparts.

How is it that the nation that defeated Hitlerism and Japanese imperialism, and then stared down Soviet Communism, is now supposed to quiver over a nation whose economic output is about half of Spain's? Our current crop of war enthusiasts have awfully poor bladder control....

Posted by: sglover at April 17, 2006 07:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Section8, I'm not a democrat but I'll answer you.

When will the Democrats who post here give the Persian Fascists CREDIT FOR BELIEVING IN WHAT THEY CLAIM!!!

I've learned not to give Bush credit for believing what he claims. "Fool me once...."

Bush is a habitual liar. He says things he knows are not true. And he is dishonest. He doesn't keep his promises, to anybody I know of. He cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons.

I don't particularly like democrats, but given what the republicans have turned into I'm stuck with them. If the GOP and the democrats both fell apart and we had to choose between Libertarians and Greens I wouldn't mind at all. But that hasn't happened yet.

It isn't just democrats who've learned to distrust Bush.

http://www.pollkatz.homestead.com/files/pollkatzmainGRAPHICS_8911_image001.gif

It's everybody but republicans. "Fool me once...."

The country isn't in any shape for a war of choice just now. If it was somebody invading us then we'd unite and do whatever was necessary. The russians united under Stalin despite everything he'd done to them, when the alternative was Hitler. But before we back a war of aggression we need a trustworthy president.

So sure, we're going to pull israel's chestnuts out of the fire again, but we aren't in any shape to do it this year. Not just the trillions in deficit. Not just the tired army. Not just the oil shortage. We don't have anybody who cah lead the country.

Sure, you want to come up with an external enemy who's so horrible we have to band together behind Bush. It worked for Stalin, with the right enemy it would work for Bush too. But iran isn't it. They can't make a credible attack on the USA during Bush's term. And trusting Bush/Cheney to run an aggressive war -- after Katrina....

Sorry, it does not compute. When you repeat this garbage it damages your credibility, it doesn't give Bush any. We might get a leader in 2009 who could get the nation's support for a surprise attack against iran. We might get a leader in 2007 who could get that support.

But it won't be Bush.

Fool me once....

Posted by: J Thomas at April 17, 2006 08:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Section9 decides to have an attack of the vapors:

"Ahamdhi-Nejad has said all these things. He has said all things things while, at the same time, been engaged in the pursuit of atomic weapons."

Show me where he also says, "I welcome the day when Tehran becomes the world's largest glass-paved parking lot!" When he says that, then we can start worrying. For now, my hunch is that the "crazed Iranian mullahs" are just as worried about maintaining their power and prestige as their "sane and moderate" American and European counterparts.

How is it that the nation that defeated Hitlerism and Japanese imperialism, and then stared down Soviet Communism, is now supposed to quiver over a nation whose economic output is about half of Spain's? Our current crop of war enthusiasts have awfully poor bladder control....

Posted by: sglover at April 17, 2006 08:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"(and non-military punitive actions like freezing the assets of regime leaders and blocking key regime figures traveL"

Well Greg, Im glad to see youre looking at some alternvatives to war that involve something other than looking the other way, or imagining that waving carrots at the mullahs will work.

Im curious though, do you expect that asset and travel freezes that target the leaders only will get them to give up the pursuit of weapons? I think more all encompassing sanctions would have more effect, since they would actually endanger the stability of the regime. You seem very reluctant to put the stabilty of the regime in play, even by sanctions. Yet I dont know exactly what you think light sanctions would accomplish.

Do you really think Khamanei and Rafsanji are moderates who accept the existence of Israel? I think nukes in the hands of a regime led by Khameni would still be so dangerous as to demand action. I think a genuinely moderate regime might be trusted with nukes, but getting such a regime will require a revolution, in all probability. Yet you seem, lately, to dislike revolution, and all who support it.

Gerecht said some interesting things in the WS about the political effect inside Iran of an attack . Im skeptical of what hes says, but wonder if youve seen it.

Thanks for letting me know about TNR, Ill have to take a look at it.

Posted by: liberalhawk at April 17, 2006 08:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

All superheated rhetoric aside (and there is a great volume of hot air flowing through this blog these days), we should be looking for scalps if the military is NOT planning options for the President--that's a significant part of what we pay them to do. Similarly, State is working diplomatic options and other agencies are considering their potential roles in light of the likely Courses of Action for the Tehran regime. This isn't a political thing--it's what the professionals in the various departments do as a matter of course, and happens no matter who lives in the big house on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Breathe, people. None of this is going to be resolved in the next couple weeks, so you have time to educate yourselves--if you're willing to learn--about options and the folks who will carry out whatever policy is decided. And also about what other interested parties might choose to do (or not) regarding this matter.

Either way, relying on the MSM to do your thinking for you (as many evidently are doing) isn't the best recipe for cogent and effective policy making. Looking cute on TV and/or successfully stringing a few sentences together are not enough to do the job properly.

Posted by: Jem at April 17, 2006 08:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I welcome the day when Tehran becomes the world's largest glass-paved parking lot"

that wont happen, cause the 12th Imam will save Teheran.

Posted by: liberalhawk at April 17, 2006 08:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"When will the Democrats who post here give the Persian Fascists CREDIT FOR BELIEVING IN WHAT THEY CLAIM!!!

There is a reason, gentlemen, that even after Bush's blunders in Iraq, the Democrats will not be given responsibility for the national security of our country. Nor should they be. The comments from Democrats here are most revealing"


Section 9

Unlike J Thomas, i am a lifelong democrat, so let me respond. Many Democrats do believe that Iran is a menace. That is why we support Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Evan Bayh who are very concerned about the threat from Iran. We believe that to stop Iran we need a country united behind the WOT, and that the WOT not be a partisan plaything. That we fully mobilize, including taking seriously the economics of fighting a global war. That when we invade someplace, we do so with enough troops and resources.

Posted by: liberalhawk at April 17, 2006 09:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"But an Iran led by another less radical regime could be a different story, especially given positive demographic trends that point to a more moderate generation in the wings. The bottom line is that military action against Iran, if it comes, must be pursued only after the situation in neighboring countries is more stable (Iraq, Afghanistan), only after diplomatic avenues (and non-military punitive actions like freezing the assets of regime leaders and blocking key regime figures travel) have been pursued to the utmost, only when we have unimpeachable intelligence that Iran is truly on the cusp of wielding a nuclear weapon."

Demographic trends toward a more moderate populace that doesn't share the same mindset as the '79 fanatics is encouraging news, but one must remember, as an earlier poster pointed out, that the levers of power are wielded by members of the '79 Generation that thwarted Khatami's efforts at reform and prevented scores of moderates and others who did not toe the party line from running in the recent elections. My belief is Ahmadinejad and his faction of hardliners will, eventually, either follow China's path and allow economic reform w/o ceding political control hoping that prosperity distracts the people or lose their grip on power in a slow slide to civil war between the hardliners and the minorities that have been brutally mistreated in the days since the Embassy Crisis.

I don't think we have any other choice than to find some way to destabilize Ahmadinjead's regime by all means short of invasion. If the hardliners succeed in developing rudimentary nuclear weapons, then the security situation in the Middle East goes to double hell in a handbasket, even with the chaos swirling around it now. I doubt Israel will stand for having a neighboring country controlled by religious fanatics possessing nuclear weapons and we would have no leverage with them to prevent them from using airstrikes to attempt to destroy Iran's nuclear infrastructure.

Sanctions as outlined by Greg might have an effect towards modifying Iran's behavior, but like the sanctions against Saddam showed, its likely that Iran's leadership will shield themselves against the effects of sanctions and have some outside help in thwarting efforts to interdict military and nuclear supplies. Who's to say that Russia and China won't turn a blind eye to Iran building up their weapons grade enrichment effort and know-how in order to have access to Iranian oil and supply them with conventional weapons? I doubt they would acquiese to actual underground testing and stockpiling, but one must remember the Soviets essentially supplied the Chinese with the ability and know-how in the late 40's/early 50's with the view of managing the whole process from Moscow and learning of their mistake after China tested below ground at Lop Nur in 1964.

My view is that diplomatic sanctions on the leadership of Iran, such as a ban on world travel, sanctions on their personal finances and tracking military expenditures and interdicting those that seem nuclear in nature would slow Iran's ability to develop nuclear weapons. However, given the unpredicability of the beast, it would be foolhardy not to wargame other options, be in conventional or black ops.

Posted by: Chris at April 17, 2006 09:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

An observation: Saying that a given story is "wild speculation" is NOT a denial, or rather it's a non-denial denial. Speculation is sometimes accurate and true, and if they DO decide to bomb Iran, and the press corps were to take W. to task for this little speech, he could (rightly) claim "I was very careful to never deny it."

Posted by: Mark W at April 17, 2006 09:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


I think a genuinely moderate regime might be trusted with nukes, but getting such a regime will require a revolution, in all probability. Yet you seem, lately, to dislike revolution, and all who support it.

A revolution that worked would be great. However our experience in Iraq should have taught us how nasty and messy reality is and grandiose plans for remaking the ME are likely to run awry.

The election of Ahmedianjiad should have shown us our poor understanding of Iran on the ground. Yes, the educated urban class probably will support the US (although not to the extent of supporting a US invasion). But the urban and rural poor are the big wild card.

Posted by: erg at April 17, 2006 09:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
Either way, relying on the MSM to do your thinking for you (as many evidently are doing) isn't the best recipe for cogent and effective policy making.

So what do you think about Mark Steyn's latests articles on the subject?

In other words, do you prefer to rely on a former film critic?

you have time to educate yourselves--if you're willing to learn--about options and the folks who will carry out whatever policy is decided

I believe Web 2.0 supports tags.

Posted by: Davebo at April 17, 2006 10:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jeez - the volume of all the war-cries in support of an attack on North Korea sure are deafening around here these days. Oh, wait - there are none.

I think Iran may have noticed this. Only if Ahmadi-Nejad were dumber and more apocalyptic than Bush would he actually undertake a pre-emptive nuclear strike.

Chest-beating and saber rattling sure make ya feel great and rile up yer base, but actually carrying out such nonsense generally ends badly. Seems the Bush administration is oblivious to this.

I'm fairly sure the mullahs who actually run Iran are happy to let Ahmadi-Nejad kick up a rhetorical storm, and would probably love to let him procure or develop a nuclear deterrent but I'm sure his leash is waay to short to allow him to think of using one.

The other bothersome thing about all this is that Congress is supposed to be the body declaring war. Seems (if Hersh and others are right) that this war already has boots on the ground inside Iran.

-J

Posted by: John I at April 17, 2006 10:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"All superheated rhetoric aside (and there is a great volume of hot air flowing through this blog these days), we should be looking for scalps if the military is NOT planning options for the President--that's a significant part of what we pay them to do. Similarly, State is working diplomatic options and other agencies are considering their potential roles in light of the likely Courses of Action for the Tehran regime. This isn't a political thing--it's what the professionals in the various departments do as a matter of course, and happens no matter who lives in the big house on Pennsylvania Avenue."

I don't think anyone disputes that, nor do I think that many people argue that wargaming and contingency planning is a bad thing. The real worry is that the people at the very top of the bureaucracies you mention haven't established a very good track record in the sound judgement department.

Posted by: sglover at April 17, 2006 10:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We stared down a heavily nuclear-armed Soviets (Russia) for more than 50 years. China for more than 40 years. We're now supposed to be so worried about Iran that hasn't yet proved capable of producing one solitary nuclear weapon.

And why are we ignoring N. Korea, who has been shouting about their nuclear capability for 3 years?

All this is such nonsense i can't even decide whether to laugh or cry.

If Iran wasn't a Middle-East country with extensive oil reserves, we wouldn't even be wasting any time or money, or blood on this issue.

If Bush is allowed to do this by a supine congress, this will rank as the low-point in American history. Yes, below even the traitorous actions of certain southern states a while back.

Posted by: meade at April 17, 2006 10:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

@section9:

When, oh when, will the right wing loons stop being mortally terified of pissant third world countries that have the nerve not to ask 'how high?' when washington says 'jump?' Do you people really have so little faith in your own military to actually believe that the likes of Saddam Hussain or Ahmadi-Nejad pose a credible threat to American security? We're all lucky we didn't need the hard right to fight WWI, WWII or the Cold War because, since they're so petrified of Iran now, they'd be far too frozen with fear then to deal with Hitler or the USSR. Get a spine and stop acting like a coward.

Posted by: anon at April 17, 2006 10:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Liberalhawk,

So I am assuming that your argument rests on your fear of the religious fanaticism of the IRanian leadership. You appear to conflate the radical action of a typical suicide bomber with that of a political leadership that has each personally schemed to get to the powerful post they now hold. You think they will all decide to give up their positions because of their religious fanaticism and launch a nuclear strike. Is this really what you believe?

If not please explain to me why you are so afraid of Iran and why you think we are safe enough from North Korea not to invade them since they actually have Nuclear weapons instead of being 10 years away.

And then explain to me why I am engaging people on this ridiculous argument that we should perhaps invade Iran? Why do we let the frightened children control the conversation? I can't wait until the grown-ups are back in charge.

Posted by: kj at April 17, 2006 10:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Chest-beating and saber rattling sure make ya feel great and rile up yer base, but actually carrying out such nonsense generally ends badly. Seems the Bush administration is oblivious to this.

OK, how about this possibility. Bush needs to do some chest-beating and saber rattling to rile up his base. He hasn't got anybody else on his side, and he has to do something to satisfy them, and there aren't a lot of other options. (Gasoline is up to $2.79 where I am.)

So maybe he's faking all this so his base will keep supporting him, and that might work for a year or more before he actually has to do something or back down. And by then he might have some other spectacle ready to pacify them.

I'd hate to depend on that, but it's a possibility. These guys aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer, and they might last a good long time with a fantasy about invading iraq, and then switch smoothly to some other fantasy without even noticing they didn't actually get much. Like switching away from north korea.

Posted by: J Thomas at April 17, 2006 10:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The criticism about "plans on the desk" has always struck me as extremely odd. The government should have ready-made, frequently-updated plans that can be activated at short notice for bombing or invading any potentially hostile country. Any tense diplomatic situation should always be accompanied by extensive military planning, simply as a matter of prudence.

With respect to Iraq--particularly given the criticism of the lack of sufficient planning--such a criticism strikes me as nothing short of absurd. Should the Bush Administration have waited even longer before before beginning the planning it did accomplish? Given that you fairly vigorously supported the war in Iraq at the time, how exactly can you say that you were "fooled"? As events have turned out, the Administration should have been doing more planning sooner. And that is exactly what they should be doing with Iran--with the simultaneous goal of making sure that those plans never need to see the light of day.

Posted by: Dan Larsen at April 17, 2006 11:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"When, oh when, will the right wing loons stop being mortally terified of pissant third world countries that have the nerve not to ask 'how high?' when washington says 'jump?' Do you people really have so little faith in your own military to actually believe that the likes of Saddam Hussain or Ahmadi-Nejad pose a credible threat to American security? We're all lucky we didn't need the hard right to fight WWI, WWII or the Cold War because, since they're so petrified of Iran now, they'd be far too frozen with fear then to deal with Hitler or the USSR. Get a spine and stop acting like a coward."

To me, this sounds like an echo from the 1930's complacency. Sure, we have alot of faith in the quality of our military, but had we actually done something when Hitler took back the Rhineland, Sudetenland or any of the other territory that they annexed as part of "lebensraum", quite possibly there wouldnt have been a need for WWII. Nazi Germany wasn't considered a big threat until it was too late and the Europeans (again) diddled and dawdled till Poland was invaded. And, it is a lot easier and less costly in blood and money to deal with a threat to national security by black ops means or by politically destabilizing a hostile country rather than face the possible necessity of invading a nuclear armed country.

Posted by: Chris at April 18, 2006 12:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

End of the World...every second of our lives. That's the reality and we do a pretty good job of getting on with our lives just the same, thanks very much. Younger souls can be forgiven their current fears. But for those of us born in an age when our robust arch-rivals, the communists retained possession of nukes know better what the consequences of nuclear war must be. India and Pakistan learned their lesson the hard way. For all North Korea's bluster, Kim will never launch a nuclear attack because he is secure in the knowledge that he and all the other inhabitants of the Korean peninsula will disappear along with countless others in the region.

The atomic bomb, not 9/11, changed everything. Nukes are weapons that have hitherto been too powerful to use safely. A keen sense of self-preservation, not compassion, kept the Soviets from using theirs.

A nuclear conflict in the Middle East is not inevitable, whether Iran has nukes or not. There is certainly no need to attack any country in the region, now or in the future.

We lived and continue to live with much more dangerous, equally irrational and self-destructive enemies. The only consequence of an attack on Iran will be much higher oil prices and more turmoil in Iraq. That will seem like a very bad thing to some people and less bad to others. As for the blood and loss of life, 30 million souls, mostly black, mostly poor, and mostly women and children will likely disappear in raging AIDs Holocaust. Our response?

We worry about longer line-ups at the gas pump. Now, that's a problem.

Posted by: kidneystones at April 18, 2006 12:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's safe to say that the debt structure of this country poses a far far greater danger to our collective lives and livelihood than do the possibility that the Iranians might commit suicide sometime in the next twenty years, but it doesn't provide a coherent plot line for everyone to get their knickers in twist about about.

As Forest Gumps mother would say, "Stupid is as stupid does."

Posted by: brodix at April 18, 2006 01:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's safe to say that the debt structure of this country poses a far far greater danger to our collective lives and livelihood than do the possibility that the Iranians might commit suicide sometime in the next twenty years, but it doesn't provide a coherent plot line for everyone to get their knickers in twist about about.

As Forest Gump's mother would say, "Stupid is as stupid does."

Posted by: brodix at April 18, 2006 01:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

just want to make sure everyone remembers that Gordon was one of those who lied us into war...

Posted by: Peter at April 18, 2006 01:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> However our experience in Iraq should have taught us how nasty and messy reality

Um, not to mention our experience of removing democracy from Iran itself not long ago, when we didn't like its democratically elected leaders then either... How quickly we forget that our critics, who say that the US is the enemy of democracy, actually have some (most unfortunately) factual evidence, which many of them remember seeing with their own eyes.

Posted by: darth_vader at April 18, 2006 01:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Bush HAS NOT threatened to wipe Israel off the map."

Bush failed to WRITE A SINGLE ORDER to guard the munitions dumps or the nuclear dumps in Iraq on invasion. As a result, cesium and strontium cannisters were left wide open to looting by hostiles, and the U.S. prevented the IAEA from inventorying them -- they may well be missing.

At Al Qa-qa, 380 tons of high-explosives were looted by hostiles.

Put the cesium container in the back of a pickup truck with a few pounds of that Semtek®, drive it up on a hill upwind from Tel Aviv, and have a nice day!

Bush has SPECIFICALLY given hostiles the weapons they need to destroy Israel.

"Bush HAS NOT denied the existence of the Holocaust."

"I bet a lot of people dispute what you present here." -- Bush to the curator of Auschwitz. Cheney showed up for a formal event there in hunting clothes with a beanie that said: "STAFF." Ha-ha-ha, that's funny, Dick.

"Bush HAS NOT said that Zionism is a cancer that must be removed."

Bush, has attacked a disarmed country to install airbases, and killed 100,000s of people, including through POGROM. His invasion has led to (and committed) the destruction of the National Library, the Koran-Torah Repository, the Golden Mosque, most of the archaelogical digs in the country, along with the looting of the National Museum, by forklift.

Failing to protect cultural property in an invasion is a violation of the Hague Conventions. Pogroms and destruction of water and power supplies are violations of the Geneva Conventions.

While he isn't yet Hitler, Bush is certainly a Nazi and a warcriminal. If killing innocent Arabs in ghettos doesn't disturb Jews, that's only because they have forgotten Never Again, turning into 'Not Us Ever Again,' which is not at all the same thing.

"Bush HAS NOT said that Israel will be removed "soon"."

Bush has started the ball rolling for attacking Iran, which could easily result in Israel disappearing in a cloud of conventional missiles from Iran, or even a WWIII engagement that leaves 50 million people in the region dead. The Union of Concerned Scientists, I believe, has released an animation showing that a nuclear bunker-buster would kill 3-4 million outright, and 35 million downstream in the plume, which would reach all the way into India.

A shift in the wind could easily put Israel right in the crosshairs. As well, the utter instability of Iraq, on its way to dismantlement under Bush's war of aggression in the guise of national security, is a direct threat to Israel on multiple counts.

"There is NO MORE IRAQ. There will be three territories." -- H. Kissinger, briefing his Saudi clients in early 2004.

Partition by genocide, to install airbases, and oil pipelines, is such a vile warcrime that there is no way to predict what will occur as a result, other than massive deathtolls in ALL countries in the ME, ESPECIALLY ISRAEL.

As a lifelong friend of Jews, and a supporter of a SECULAR, fully-democratic Israel, I think your case, section 9, is YET ANOTHER EXAMPLE of how the rightwing is willing to put everyone else in grave danger for the PROFIT.

You don't support the troops -- you support the policy, and the policy is ILLEGAL.

Posted by: Paul in LA at April 18, 2006 01:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh, I also left out the FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY STINGERS which the Pentagon admits have gone walking in Iraq.

450 shoulder-fired missiles can kill a LOT of Israelis, not to mention destroy government offices from a distance, sink ships, and blow up oil refineries.

Bush has put Israel in the crosshairs of HIS ambitions. He doesn't give a hot damn what happens to the Jews.

Posted by: Paul in LA at April 18, 2006 01:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"ut for those of us born in an age when our robust arch-rivals, the communists retained possession of nukes know better what the consequences of nuclear war must be. India and Pakistan learned their lesson the hard way." --kidney stones

India and Pakistan could still easily have a nuclear conflict break out. The idea that walking up to the edge of a cliff has deterent force is correct. But Pakistan DOES NOT HAVE A LEGAL GOVERNMENT OR A CONSTITUTION that holds together for ten minutes. It is run by a military dictator. It is the current home of Al Qaeda. It trafficks in nuclear materiel and technology. It is aligned to the imperialist Bushovik US, and is the outlet for Dick Cheney's Pipelinestan. Afghanistan is a shambles, a failed state as a direct result of Russian and US destruction.

The seams on the fragile repair to Indian-Pak relations could EASILY come right apart if Bush nukes Iran.

An attack on Iran could draw both the Russians and the Chinese into a global conflict. There is a very large chance that WWIII can break out, and indeed this may be Bush's intention -- he is a liar, a warcriminal, a vote-fraud, a traitor, and a fool. Not the sort of credentials for walking us to the edge of the cliff, and the profit motive has rarely proven a deterrent to war.

Posted by: Paul in LA at April 18, 2006 01:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Iran isn't yet a threat to us, and left alone, probably can't threaten the continental US for another 5 or 6 years. Khaddaffi was talked out a nuclear program because some smart person figured out what Khaddaffi wanted MORE than nukes. I guess it's too much effort to dial down the testosterone and ask ourselves "What would Iran exchange for its nuclear program?"

First on the list would be an Israel without nukes. Probably not achievable. Israel pulling back to the 1967 borders would not be sufficient.

I'm out of ideas. Just one question: what if Iran already has the bomb, courtesy of Dr. A Q Khan and some black-market materiel from the Soviet arsenal? What if this loud chest-thumping about enriched uranium is just Iran tweaking America's nose, bear-baiting for the Islamic masses? What if Iran is trying to provoke America into attacking, or trying to provoke Israel into attacking? That would be an opportunity to lob a nuke or two into the area just south of Lebanon.

Has anyone in the White House considered the idea that we're getting played? Surely a president who majored in history would look at this situation with a critical eye?

Posted by: dopey-o at April 18, 2006 02:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wow. Last time I checked in here, this was a Republican blog. :)

Posted by: Nancy Irving at April 18, 2006 03:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I have no war plans on my desk"...

Key phrase is "on my desk" - they were in the filing cabinet next to his desk.

See??

Posted by: RedDan at April 18, 2006 03:25 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Random thoughts generated by this post:

1) One of the few coups this administration can point to was the effective ground attack - not air strikes - that secured the oil fields before Saddam could fire them up as in Kuwait. Today all the focus is again on air operations. Might selected ground, [i.e. large scale Delta type operations] knock out critical components without all the bunker buster complications. Maybe I've watched too many James Bond movies but I know we've spent a lot of time and money on these capabilities since Carter was humiliated in the desert.

2) One unmentioned asset we have now is Condi Rice - I have a lot more faith in her willingness to explain facts to Bush, and resign if he doesn't listen, than I did with Powell, who is looking more and more like an empty suit as facts come out.

Posted by: wks at April 18, 2006 04:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

First off, Bush doesn't give a good goddamn about his "base," much less about the 65% of Americans who don't support him. Bush isn't going to run for office again. What Bush is doing, what Bush will do, is whatever Bush wants to do.

Secondly, Bush is an ignorant, arrogant, egotist who wants to be a Big Man, a Leader, Destiny's Chosen One. And the people who might be correcting influences - his Cabinet, his advisors, his Party which controls both houses of Congress - are unwilling or incapable of restraining him.

Third, Bush likes war. He really, really likes it. Not the actual fighting part, or the planning part; just the part where he gets to talk tough and strut his stuff and act like a real hombre - from the safety of the podium, or aircraft carrier, or whatever stage he's on.

And Bush has never had to face any consequences of anything he's done. He has no concept of consequences, no concept of losing anything that matters to him, no empathy for loss.

He wants war with Iran. His Veep wants war with Iran. His Secretary of Defense wants war with Iran. These are the people he listens to, insomuch as he listens to anyone. These are the people whose scenarios and plans he'll pay attention to. They're the same people who assured him the war in Iraq would be a cakewalk; and who still think the war in Iraq is going quite well. What do you think they're telling him about a war with Iran? I'll tell you: the same things they said about Iraq. Cakewalk, flower petals, people rising up against their leaders and doing all the hard lifting so the US won't have to.

We're going to have a war with Iran. The only way we won't have a war with Iran is if the military refuses to follow orders - and that's so faint a hope that relying on it is grasping at straws. Even if there are generals who will refuse the orders, Bush can bust them, go around them, find someone like Boykin who'll do what he's told and love doing it.

We are going to have a war with Iran. Because Bush wants a war with Iran. And no one can stop him.

Posted by: CaseyL at April 18, 2006 04:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The criticism about "plans on the desk" has always struck me as extremely odd. The government should have ready-made, frequently-updated plans that can be activated at short notice for bombing or invading any potentially hostile country.

Well, we don't.

We make a start at it. But there are so many countries, and so much variation in goals....

So, guess what happens if you put an army of Pentagon planners to work preparing detailed invasion plans that each have less than 0.01% chance of being carried out? What's their morale going to be like? When it doesn't make any difference whether the plan is any good or not....

And the goals. This time year before last we'd have been interested in border incursions. How can we defend iraq, how can we stop iranian probes, is it worth adjusting the border in small ways? And then there's the invasion and occupation plan, with the variation of handing off control to a pro-western government and getting out pretty quick. These are things where all the details change around quick. Detailed plans have a short half-life. Better to make the occasional general plan. Look at a strategy, note what sort of forces would be needed, look for gotchas. Get a general framework and you can fill in the details later if there's a reason to.

But then the Commander in Chief asks for a plan. You dust off the old plan, look for things that have changed in the two years since you made it, and start filling in the details. What units will you use? Where are the enemy forces now, and where will they likely be when you attack? Once you have a sense of the logistic needs you're ready to start prepositioning equipment that isn't already prepositioned, and get ready for a resupply effort. Lots and lots of detailed specific planning. A great big effort. Nothing like the plans for invading france or the ukraine.

And there's a rational reason people worry about that level of planning. It isn't something you can just turn off and then turn back on. Stop it in midstream and you get a lot of confusion. Which stuff has actually gone and which stayed behind? Things that probably wouldn't have gotten lost if the plan kept its momentum get lost. So, for example, after we spent a year preparing for Gulf War I, Saddam threatened to back down. If we let him delay the attack it would have disrupted our logistics. And what if he withdrew from kuwait and waited for us to go home and then invaded kuwait again? His own logistics were so primitive he might possibly have managed it. We'd be caught flatfooted. So our diplomacy had to be carefully designed to let him know he had nothing to gain by trying for a negotiated settlement. Our attack was going to run on schedule.

Similarly with the iraq invasion. At the last minute there were signs that Saddam might agree to our terms and avoid the invasion. We had to quick add a bunch more terms to make sure he knew surrender was not an option, so the attack could go on schedule.

Maybe there's no hope of a negotiated settlement with iran. Some of us don't want one -- there's no substitute for Victory.

If our invasion plans get too much momentum they might be unstoppable. People who don't want that, get upset to hear the planning is getting too far along. And what if the intention is to try conventional airstrikes first, and only use nukes in the unlikelyi case that the regular bombing fails? What if the technical experts think the conventional bombing is very likely to fail? Is it better to accept a temporary failure, or use nukes? If the plan calls for using them in the unlikely case, the choice will already be made. And who's responsible for looking at the big picture about a nuclear first strike? Is it Rice? Has that part of the planning been done well, or is it like the iraq occupation or the Katrina rescue?

Posted by: J Thomas at April 18, 2006 04:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

People are getting very excited around here about this subject. They are going to feel foolish in another three months when nothing has happened.

Posted by: ZAthras at April 18, 2006 05:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Zathras, I won't. I will be very happy if nothing has happened in 3 months, particularly if it's stopped looking like something will happen.

We live in interesting times.

Posted by: J Thomas at April 18, 2006 05:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Liberalhawk,

I'm quite tired of you speaking for the entire Democratic party while you hold opinions that a mainstream democrat, not to mention a mainstream american (judging by the comment ratios here) finds unpleasant and demagogic.

The Democratic Party is not in favor of a military strike on Iran. Hell, I think half of the Republican party is not in favor of a military strike on Iran. There's a good reason: no matter how hard they spin, they can't entirely block out the idiocy and unneccesary suffering of the past three years. They can block out maybe 80-90%, but some has gotten through to just about everyone.

Get this message: you're not running this party. Democratic senators with your sentiments are in the process of being driven from office, and I applaud that. I'm tired of my party sucking up and kissing *** to George Bush's tactically incompetent and strategically disasterous, miltarist and dangerous, excuse for a foreign policy strategy. Empires that reach our level of constant aggression decline and wither.

Folks, any serious student of Iranian behavior knows full well that the people with the power are a) not very nice by the standards of Western Democracies but only about a 5 out of 10 on the world comparison index of Ruthless, and operate in a political system that is far from unconstrained. North Korea represents a dangerous and unconstrained political system and decision-making process (consisting of one guy treated as a god.) Burma represents it. Zimbabwe represents it. Iran, kind of like Russia, is a stunted semi-democracy, autocratic at heart but with its own system of checks and balances. They are interested in power and survival, not suicide. And using nuclear weapons = suicide. So does making them available to anyone else who uses them.

I don't really like the idea of sanctions either, although I'd support them politically. As J Thomas outlines, sanctions create a standard and an audience looking for success or failure, and narrows choices to war, passive failure of sanctions, or revolution.

I'd be okay if Tehran's nuclear program mysteriously failed to work or suffered from inexplicable accidents. It's not like I consider their acquisition of the bomb to be a good thing. It's more like I consider Teheran's acquisition of the bomb after a series of ruinous airstrikes and violent confrontation in the middle-east for a half-decade will set the stage for fifty more years of anti-american terrorism. Whereas a bomb obtained without war will probably be voluntarily surrendered when Teheran's regime gradually moderates over the next two generations. Which is what would happen, if us and Israel could just leave the situation as bad as it is, and stop making it worse.

Greg, your position shows that you've tried to learn from the Iraq adventure, but you haven't succeded. You still don't understand how the current global environment since the end of the Cold War makes military action against lightweights just a lousy cost-benefit.

If you want an endless, unwinnable crusade with casualties against as your war on terror, bomb Iran, and support George Bush. If you want the war to gradually fade away without any satisfying ultimate victory, but with a steady reduction in lives lost and hatred, for the love of god, get off the train.

Greg, isn't your father a diplomat? Do you remember what the word 'diplomacy' means? Don't you know enough about it to know that no one in this Administration has made any serious attempt at it with Teheran? Don't you know that they're not even capable of it, of even seriously considering the option? There are people out there
who are really interested in talking to Teheran.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/HD01Ak02.html

Before we all jump to conclusions and get our flight suits on for another shot in the foot to no gain, maybe the next- democratic - adminstration can try something like this without you, Greg, kicking them in the teeth.


Posted by: glasnost at April 18, 2006 05:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Reading the above thread with the profound superficiality repeatedly expressed, I am struck by the almost complete absence of factual development, reasoned thinking, and responsible commentary. Did you hear that? I said responsible commentary. This situation with Iran isn't just a playground spat and yet one cannot help but come to the conclusion that most of the posters are simply parroting their respective party lines and talking points. I would like to offer for the edification of all, what appears to me to be a very reasoned and well informed factual discussion of this situation and the options that we face. Did you hear that folks, factual - yes that is what I said. Contrast that to what proceeds above. Follow this link and think a bit and we will all learn something, I hope:

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/Production/files/luttwak0506.html

And before you jump to conclusions as to where it is published, read it.

Michael

Posted by: Michael Pecherer at April 18, 2006 05:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Luttwak's article is well written, but I'm unpersuaded by it. For one, I think Ahmedianjiad's election should have told us that we don't really understand Iran very well, especially the rural and urban poor.

Posted by: erg at April 18, 2006 05:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Three months?

I won't feel we're out of danger until Bush is out of office.

Posted by: CaseyL at April 18, 2006 05:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Luttwak's article is well written, but may be mistaken in a number of respects

1) He may be correct about the state of Iran's nuclear program, but his arguments are not all that convincing. We know that Pakistan, without much of an industrial base to speak of, developed nukes. Ditto for North Korea. One doesn't need a vast industrial base to produce nukes, one just needs solid focus and some talented scientists, and some smuggling. It would be a mistake to assume Iran's capability by looking at other parts of the industrial base.

2) In particular his comments about Iran's problem getting spare parts for old US aircraft is quite weak. Many countries very often have trouble building spare parts for older weaponry. India has problems with a lot of its old Soviet weaponry and aircraft, and despite its fine air force and training often has crashes of older Soviet aircraft.

3) His comments about Iran being unable to produce anything like a nuclear program after 30 years is misleading and inaccurate at best. Iran's nuclear program actually started under the Shah. However, it went into a long hiatus after the revolution. The Iran-Iraq war also essentially stopped the program till at least 1990-1991. Whether this makes Luttwak's point stronger or weaker is unclear, but he should at least stick to the facts.

4) His assertion that we know a lot about Iran's nuclear program and his attribution of this to the fact that Iranian nuclear scientists probably despise the regime out of a higher nationalism to the world is bizarre. Most of what we know about Iran's nuclear program comes from the MEK. While the MEK almost certainly has good intelligence sources in Iran, it is most odd to consider thase who supply intelligence to this odd, semi-terroristic, semi-Marxist cult as some sort of great benefactors of humanity. Even more importantly, we still don't know how much of Iran's program is hidden.

5) His bold assertions about the regime may be correct, but the election of Ahmedianjiad showed us how little we understand some of the political dynamics of Iran, especially the views of the urban and rural poor.

Posted by: erg at April 18, 2006 06:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Michael, you levelled insults at lots of people (not me, I guess, as I do not adhere to a party any longer, after my party became the petro-fascist party, and I found myself without a party), and then said we should go read your web site for intelligence. The arrogance and insulting nature of your address do not lead me to follow you to your web site, as what I know so far, is that you seem to jump in eager to insult all and assert that you are the icon of intelligence -- not a good sign, 't all.

To anyone else, is his web site full of the same arrogance and insulting tirades, or is there any actual intelligence there, or both?

Posted by: hackunworth at April 18, 2006 08:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To anyone else, is his web site full of the same arrogance and insulting tirades, or is there any actual intelligence there, or both?

the website to which Michael linked was not his, but that of Commentary magazine -- which is (for all intents and purposes) the house organ of AIPAC. In other words, when Luttwak writes that its not time to bomb Iran yet, you are pretty much reading the thinking of the government of Israel.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at April 18, 2006 02:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The USA has 6000+ nuclear weapons, cutting edge military technologies, largest military budget in the world, and even though our military is stretched dangerously thin, we have the finest troops (except those who have forgotten their humanity).
America is a huge country, nobody can invade and hold this country, too many pissed-off residents!!!

Israel has 200+ nuclear weapons, cutting edge military technologies (mainly American made), well funded military budget
(mainly American tax dollars), well equipped well trained (mandatory national service, lots of dead enemies, etc) military.

Iran has no nuclear weapons, second hand military technologies.

Iran is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-prolification Treaty and is allowed to have a nuclear enrichment program. Iran has followed the treaty, allowing international monitors to inspect / monitor progress and facilities.

Israel is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-prolification Treaty Israel does not allow international inspections or any form of monitoring.
Israel has had over 100 motions brought before the UN and Security Council, regarding Israel's continueing aggression against the Palastinian people, invading neighbouring countries etc.
Israel refuses to recognize and abide by international law. Israel has stated that 'if the international community does not address the 'Iranian threat', Israel will.'

So tell me again, 'Why is Iran such a threat, and to whom?'
Jackie

Posted by: jackie at April 18, 2006 02:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jackie, when you insist on injecting verifiable quantitative information like that, it really gets in the way of the "Hitler! Munich!" analogies that our right wing strategic geniuses like to make. Please stop being such a killjoy, OK?

Posted by: sglover at April 18, 2006 03:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lively stuff.

Unlike some here, I've never felt safer.

I personally couldn't care less if Bush attacks Iran. Many sensible nations choose not to have nuclear weapons. In a saner part of the world, Iran might make the same choice. Unfortunately, Iran has four nuclear neighbours (five, if you count China) and a large part of the world's remaining oil reserves. WW III? China and Russia would both be perfectly content to watch Pakistan and India hurl nukes at one another. And that just might happen. Whose fault will that be? Mine? Yours?

As others have pointed out, our time might be better spent rather than fretting about what might happen if some nut bar on the other side of the world decides to do something daft. You could decide to start smoking. People make crazy decisions every day. I prefer to light candles where I can one at a time.

We're living in the best of times, despite the real challenges we face in some areas.

I thank the Lord for my good fortune every day.

Posted by: kidneystones at April 18, 2006 03:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Too funny :) and,
Thankyou.. :)


'Jackie, when you insist on injecting verifiable quantitative information like that, it really gets in the way of the "Hitler! Munich!" analogies that our right wing strategic geniuses like to make. Please stop being such a killjoy, OK?

Posted by: sglover at April 18, 2006 03:29 PM'

Posted by: jackie at April 18, 2006 03:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"And there's a rational reason people worry about that level of planning. It isn't something you can just turn off and then turn back on. Stop it in midstream and you get a lot of confusion."

This is always the frightening thing about mobilization: It creates its own avalanche, as in August 1914. One mobilized, to demobilize is to be vulnerable -- or, in the case of the United States currently, to be strategically paralyzed for a period of time, maybe a long period of time.

If Bush orders the wheels set in motion for a war against Iran, even if it's "just" an air strike, things could begin happening on the ground -- particularly in Iraq -- that will be difficult or impossible to reverse later. U.S. forces, for example, would need to concentrate in more defensible positions, ceding territory and the initiative to the insurgents and the militias. Shi'a cooperation with the Americans, such as it is, would dry up completely. The country could completely fall apart.

This might leave Bush feeling like he's facing a pretty stark choice: complete failure in Iraq (and in the Middle East) or regime change in Iran, by whatever means necessary.

In other words, once the Pentagon starts down the road of seriously preparing for war with Iran, the process could very quickly become unstoppable. And we may already be moving down that road.


"We're living in the best of times, despite the real challenges we face in some areas. I thank the Lord for my good fortune every day."

Then you should go tend to your garden, Candide, and not waste time fooling around with blogs.

Posted by: billmon at April 18, 2006 04:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thanks for the history lesson!

It's 1914. Yes, I see it now; the parallels are striking.

The world has rarely been so at peace. Thanks, though, for reminding us how angry that makes some people. I would thought have that wasting time and fooling around with blogs would be fine given the sunny circumstances we live in.

Think good thoughts about me, please.

Oh yeah, and have a nice day!

Posted by: kidneystones at April 18, 2006 04:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Liberalhawk,

I'm quite tired of you speaking for the entire Democratic party while you hold opinions that a mainstream democrat, not to mention a mainstream american (judging by the comment ratios here) finds unpleasant and demagogic. "


I did not say I speak for the entire democratic party, but for many democrats. I did not say that Hilary Clinton supports an attack on Iran at this time. I do not think she does. I do not support an attack at this time, based on what i currently know. I did say she and others were concerned about Iran, which I think is factually correct. I do not know of any instance where she or other mainstream leaders of the part have ruled out an attack on Iran.

However the way you twisted or even flat out mischarecterized my words is all too typical of a FEW members of my party. I will not give up my party or its heritage however.

Posted by: liberalhawk at April 18, 2006 04:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hackenworth, Mr. Pecherer did not link to some screed at his own website. He linked to a polished essay at a commercial site. The work is very high quality, it's like something the old, competent CIA might have done.

The emphasis is entirely on what's happening in iran, with many assertions that few americans would know how to check. By claiming to understand iran they claim a special authority.

They weave a story that has many points in common with both the primary stories which are in opposition to each other. To agree with them, you only have to change your opinion about minor points.

First, they say the iranian government is run by a small minority that doesn't have much support. They stress a narrow interpretation of persian shia islam. Nearly half the country is not persian, a small but significant minority is not shia, and they tend to disapprove of persian culture except when it's being specifically shia. They stay in power due to thugs who are themselves getting soft and corrupt. They aren't likely to stay in power and they desperately need a foreign enemy to get iranians to tolerate them.

Second, they say iran is not particularly competent to do advanced engineering projects. They have let a whole lot of good engineers leave the country. (And incidentally a lot of the scientists and engineers they have left don't particularly support the mullahs, so we get lots of info about their nuclear program -- far more than korea or iraq. We are good at monitoring their progress.) It will take them a long time to get nukes because they're trying to do something that's hard and that they aren't very good at.

Third, we could make a successful conventional attack easily. We don't have to get every site, we just need to knock out a few critical ones. And their facilities aren't buried very well. We could easily stop the nuclear program cold, with no civilian damage whatsoever. However, they could also rebuild quite quickly. To stop them this way might take many repeated strikes over a period of years.

Fourth, it's a race between the fall of the government and the production of nukes. But they might win that race. The current iranian government would be hard to deal with, if it had nukes. The next government is likely to agree to dismantle even a working nuclear program, given rewards for doing so.

Conclusion: Don't attack now, that strengthens them. (Though it would delay their current nuclear program, which is not well buried. But they can recover quickly from bombing, and we'd have to bomb them repeatedly, and it helps keep the mullahs in power.) So don't attack now, but be ready to attack later if it turns out we need to then.


The story holds together very well. It has a weak point in claiming that the government is weak and might fall any time, and that an external attack would strengthen it. Some people might prefer to believe that our airstrikes would persuade iranians it was time to revolt. There are lots of examples from history where it didn't work out that way. Hitler's airstrikes on britain didn't result in much defeatism among the british, while allied airstrikes on germany strengthened german resolve. Etc. But jpeople might want to believe in attacking now anyway.

One point that follows from this story that the story didn't mention -- they said we get great intelligence from iranian nuclear technicians who don't want the mullahs to have nukes. Once we do airstrikes that data will tend to stop coming. It's one thing to work against a bad government because you feel patriotic or you want extra spending money or whatever. It's something completely different to give classified information to a foreign power when they're using it to bomb your position.

Posted by: J Thomas at April 18, 2006 04:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Someone asked why im not concerned about North Korea.

Answer - I am concerned about North Korea. However a strike on North Korea would in all likelihood mean the destruction of Seoul by North Korea artillery. We are already deterred. The best approach to North Korea is pressure from its neighbors, in particular China. China is clearly reluctant as it fears North Korea might collapse as a state, and that they would be stuck with large numbers of refugees. This is a problem that needs to be worked on. However this thread is not about North Korea, its about Iran.

Its very odd whenever someone raises a concern with country X, its always suggested that theres either hypocrisy or strategic misdirection involved, cause we're "not concerned enough about country Y" Yet when we turn to country Y, theres always another Country Z to show we're hypocrites. I wonder if the folks now claiming North Korea is a bigger threat than Iran, would be happy discussing plans to deal firmly with North Korea?

Posted by: liberalhawk at April 18, 2006 04:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Israel has 200+ nuclear weapons, cutting edge military technologies (mainly American made), well funded military budget
(mainly American tax dollars), well equipped well trained (mandatory national service, lots of dead enemies, etc) military.

Iran has no nuclear weapons, second hand military technologies.

Iran is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-prolification Treaty and is allowed to have a nuclear enrichment program. Iran has followed the treaty, allowing international monitors to inspect / monitor progress and facilities.

Israel is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-prolification Treaty Israel does not allow international inspections or any form of monitoring.
Israel has had over 100 motions brought before the UN and Security Council, regarding Israel's continueing aggression against the Palastinian people, invading neighbouring countries etc.
Israel refuses to recognize and abide by international law. Israel has stated that 'if the international community does not address the 'Iranian threat', Israel will.'

So tell me again, 'Why is Iran such a threat, and to whom?'
Jackie"

israel has a nuclear arsenal, which it did not use, even when under attack in 1973 by a coalition of enemies, who threatened its existence. Israel is not a signatory to the NPT, is clearly not bound by it. The members of the general Assembly, including such fine advocates of human liberty as the USSR and its satellites, repeatedly passed biased resolutions against Israel.

Israel accepts the existence of every state in the middle east, including Iran. Israel invited Yasser Arafat to lead the Palestinian authority, despite his history of terrorism. Israel has withdrawn from the Gaza strip, and even after Hamas yesterday endorsed the murder of Israeli civilians, has acted with restraint. Iran, OTOH, has called for the elimination of Israel. They propagate antisemitism and antiamericanism.

Posted by: liberalhawk at April 18, 2006 05:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Israelis are supported and egged on in their expansionism and intransigence by the "Armageddon Lobby," thirty million "Christian Zionists" who believe Israel must expand to its Biblical borders in order to bring on Armageddon and the return of Jesus Christ. Many believe they will be "taken" to heaven before they have to suffer in the nuclear apocalypse that follows, some that they will be among the select few raised from the dead. Of course, all believe that all Jews who do not convert to Jesus will perish. Some believe that two-thirds of Jews must die for prophecy to be fulfilled. Those right wing expansionist Jews who recognize the Biblical reasons for Christian Zionist's real fervor ignore the obvious anti-semitism of their religious views as long as it serves Israel's purposes.
For an extensive list of articles about the Armageddon Lobby see the web page "Armageddon Lobby -- trying to hurry up God - Sharon's 'Christian' Muscle" Some article titles include: “Some Fundamentalists Ache for Armageddon,” "War as the Will of God,” “The Unannounced Reason Behind American Fundamentalism's Support for the State of Israel." Most unsettling are a series of articles under the title “Is Bush One of Them?” such as “Bush's Armageddon Obsession" and “Bush's Messiah Complex.”
Michael Ortiz Hill in Counterpunch describes Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's book Bush at War: Woodward writes: "Most presidents have high hopes. Some have grandiose visions of what they will achieve, and he was firmly in that camp... 'To answer these attacks and rid the world of evil,'" says Bush. And again, '"'We will export death and violence to the four corners of the earth in defense of this great nation.' Grandiose visions." Woodward comments, "The president was casting his mission and that of the country in the grand vision of God's Master Plan."

http://www.carolmoore.net/nuclearwar/israelithreats.html

The Mullahs in the US and Israel are as crazy as the Mullahs in Iran AND Iraq!!!

Posted by: rs at April 18, 2006 05:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

the words of the woman who is currently the front runner in the polls for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States of America

"And of course, one of the areas I am deeply concerned about is Iran, and its pursuit of nuclear weapons, because a nuclear-armed Iran would shake the foundation of global security to its very core. Israel would be most immediately and profoundly threatened by this development, but Israel would not be alone. Knowing of Iran's historic and present ties to terrorist networks, how would we feel, here in America, if the Iranians could start producing nuclear weapons at will? How would the Europeans feel if Iran could start nuclear weapons at will?

So let us be unequivocally clear. A nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable, but it is not just unacceptable to Israel and to the United States. It must be unacceptable to the entire world, starting with the European governments and people.

I know that during your conference and in the lobbying that you will be doing on Capitol Hill, you're trying to draw attention to the threat that is posed by a nuclear Iran. And I commend you for these efforts; this is one of our most serious security and foreign policy priorities. And we need to make working with our allies to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon a top priority.

Now one of the terrorist groups that Iran supports is Hezbollah. And we know that Hezbollah poses a direct and dire risk to the stability of the Middle East. Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon -- which is very good news for the Lebanese people -- also creates an opportunity for Hezbollah to wreak havoc.

So we need to remain vigilant about the terrorist threat and work to stop the flow of support to Hezbollah from Syria and Iran. And we need to convince our European allies of Hezbollah's threat to order in the region and to the civilized world, and convince them to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. "

Posted by: liberalhawk at April 18, 2006 05:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The Israelis are supported and egged on in their expansionism and intransigence "

the israelis have recently withdrawn from Gaza. The new PM, Mr Olmert, is forming a govt commited to negotiating with the pals if possible, but if that is not possible, withdrawing unilaterally from most of the West Bank.

Greg,

In addition to taking on the wild websites on the right, do you think you might take on those on the left who dont seem to be dealing with the real world? Since it is those that your commentators are actually linking to?

Posted by: liberalhawk at April 18, 2006 05:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Israel has a nuclear arsenal, which it did not use, even when under attack in 1973 by a coalition of enemies, who threatened its existence

Israel was ready to use its nuclear arsenal when it felt that its existence was at stake. It turned out to be unnecessary.


Israel accepts the existence of every state in the middle east, including Iran. Israel invited Yasser Arafat to lead the Palestinian authority, despite his history of terrorism. Israel has withdrawn from the Gaza strip, and even after Hamas yesterday endorsed the murder of Israeli civilians, has acted with restraint. Iran, OTOH, has called for the elimination of Israel. They propagate antisemitism and antiamericanism.

Iran has not initiated an invasiona against another country in recent memory. Israel has invaded Lebanon. Iran has never used WMDs against another country except when itself attacked with WMDs. Iran's rhetoric is inflammatory and despicable, but its actions have not in general been expansionist. As recently as 2-3 years back, the PResident of Iran was a moderate, Khatami.

Posted by: erg at April 18, 2006 05:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thank you Mr. Thomas. I don't always agree with you and, in fact, often strongly disagree, but you do generally focus on the facts and work to keep the higher standard here. I don't offer gratuitous insults to anyone and nothing I ever post is intended to insult or disparage any person or their ideas. This blog has always sought to maintain a high standard of discourse. This particular thread has departed from that standard more so than any I remember. We are unfortunately in an era where political discussion is driven more by anger and hatred than by rational discourse. As an example, we all take it for granted that No. Korea has nuclear bombs and the administration (which I am not defending) is attacked time and again for singling out Iran as the threat and ignoring No. Korea. The fact is that there is no intelligence that I know of that confirms that No. Korea has a bomb. We have only the ravings of its illustrious leader, who has been shown time and again to be full of bluff and bluster. So No. Korea is set up as a straw man and knocked down in the hysterical attacks on the administration. I suspect, although I do not have evidence, that if No. Korea does have the bomb, China would know about it and would be far more aggressive in shortening that leash. I would also point out that the technical barriers to enriching Uranium to weapons grade are an equal or greater obstacle for No. Korea than they were for Iran.

Regarding the Luttwak article, while there are certainly elements that warrant further consideration, he is basically counseling a wait and see attitude and confronting the factual ambiguities directly. At the very least the article should be a departure point for further thought. We clearly have far more intelligence about the Iranian program than we do for No. Korea. Further, there is a very large Iranian expatriate population here in the US (particularly in California) and Luttwak is correct that they travel back and forth to Iran and bring back a lot of information.

And Luka, you and I have had our differences, but I have generally respected your commentary. I know it is fashionable these days to believe that AIPAC and the American Jews control everything, drive every international crisis, control every major newspaper, television outlet, etc. I had thought that with your Liberal credentials you would refrain from jumping on that bandwagon. Commentary is hardly a propagandistic organ and treating a well written and researched article dismissively on that basis is not up to my standard, and I dare say yours as well. However, we all have bad days.

Michael

Posted by: Michael Pecherer at April 18, 2006 05:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Its very odd whenever someone raises a concern with country X, its always suggested that theres either hypocrisy or strategic misdirection involved, cause we're "not concerned enough about country Y" Yet when we turn to country Y, theres always another Country Z to show we're hypocrites.

The hypocrisy argument cuts every which way. I'm not sure it's useful very often.

Here's one way it can make sense. If the little boy is about to stick his finger in the dyke to save the town, and you show him eleven holes in the dyke where any one of them results in failure, then it doesn't help much for him to put his finger in one of them. Or even two. Better to run home and tell people they have to evacuate. Or come back with a big team, if there's a big team available.

It doesn't help much to stop one nuclear proliferator if there are too many of them. Just like it doesn't help much to kill one hornet. Either run away or kill them all.

Then there's the other side. "You're being hypocritical to invade iraq and not ethiopia and darfur and all."

"You want us to invade darfur too?"

"Well, no."

"Then if not iraq and not darfur, who do you want us to invade? We have to invade somebody!?"

So anyway, once you establish to your own satisfaction that somebody is hypocritical, what then? It doesn't lead anywhere particularly useful for getting a consensus.

Posted by: J Thomas at April 18, 2006 06:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Iran has not initiated an invasiona against another country in recent memory."

Iran has however sponsored terrorism, in Israel, in Lebanon, and even in Argentina.


"Israel has invaded Lebanon."

After that countrys territory was used for repeated attacks on Israeli border towns.

"Iran has never used WMDs against another country except when itself attacked with WMDs. Iran's rhetoric is inflammatory and despicable, but its actions have not in general been expansionist. "


In fact Iran has attempted to export its revolution more or less steadily since 1979.

Posted by: liberalhawk at April 18, 2006 06:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


The fact is that there is no intelligence that I know of that confirms that No. Korea has a bomb. We have only the ravings of its illustrious leader, who has been shown time and again to be full of bluff and bluster. So No. Korea is set up as a straw man and knocked down in the hysterical attacks on the administration. I suspect, although I do not have evidence, that if No. Korea does have the bomb, China would know about it and would be far more aggressive in shortening that leash. I would also point out that the technical barriers to enriching Uranium to weapons grade are an equal or greater obstacle for No. Korea than they were for Iran.

Totally irrelevant. North Korea has gone the route of processing nuclear rods to obtain Plutonium. And by all accounts they have done that.

Posted by: erg at April 18, 2006 06:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Iran has however sponsored terrorism, in Israel, in Lebanon, and even in Argentina.

Its not clear how much Iran was involved in Argentina. And that is the only example that I know of Iran being linked with terror outside of the Middle East. Obviously any terror attack is revolting, but some of the apocalyptic scenarios involving Iran are vastly exaggerated.


In fact Iran has attempted to export its revolution more or less steadily since 1979.

Examples, please ? When has Iran initiated an invasion against another country ? Iran did dabble in the huge mess that was Lebanon, but many other countries (including Israel did). Iran has supported Shiite groups, but given that its a majority Shiite country and that most Shiites in neighboring countries are indeed oppressed, that doesn't strike me as "exporting revolution". Iran has undoubtedly supported terrorism against Israel, but if we wanted to respond to that t, we could very well attack Hezbollah and Hamas directly. Iran is no boy scout country, but its record does show that it can be deterred .

And then in the other corner we have pakistan, which was a sponsor of the Taliban (an enemy of Iran), supports terrorists in India, actually invaded India in 1999 (said invasion being planned by the current President).

Posted by: erg at April 18, 2006 06:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Further, there is a very large Iranian expatriate population here in the US (particularly in California) and Luttwak is correct that they travel back and forth to Iran and bring back a lot of information.

Except that all the intelligence breakthroughs (Natanz etc.) seem to have come from the MEK -- that rather peculiar marxist/terrorist/personality cult group. They seem to have been right about Natanz, but I would be wary of investing them with too much credibility.


And Luka, you and I have had our differences, but I have generally respected your commentary. I know it is fashionable these days to believe that AIPAC and the American Jews control everything, drive every international crisis, control every major newspaper, television outlet, etc. I had thought that with your Liberal credentials you would refrain from jumping on that bandwagon.

Theres no need for widespread conspiracy paranoia here. Commentary magazine clearly indicates who publishes it, so it is reasonable to question their biases.

Posted by: erg at April 18, 2006 06:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Iran

1. Lebanon - israel intervened because Leb was being used as a basis for regular attacks on Israel. Iran, OTOH, has used Hezbollah to attempt to exercise political dominance over Lebanon.

2. Israel/Palestine - Iran has supported radical terrorist groups, which is not only an act of aggression against Israel, but which seems to be an attempt to derail the mideast peace process, in order to spread Iranian influence.

3. Syria - Iran has not attempted to destablize Syria, as Syria is an ally of Iran. It has supported the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, and Syrian acts of hostility against Israel.

4, Iran has promoted its radical Khomeinist ideology around the muslim world. It was largely in reaction to this that KSA started exporting Wahabism.

Posted by: liberalhawk at April 18, 2006 07:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Elimination Of Opposition Activists

Since the Islamic regime came into power in 1979, it has consistently acted to eliminate Iranian opposition activists outside the country and has invested considerable intelligence efforts in surveillance and tracking-down of anyone conceived as a threat to the regime. Examples of this activity became glaringly obvious in the wake of the following trials in which Iran was implicated:

The liquidation of Iran's former Prime Minister, Shahpur Bakhtiar, an opposition activist (6 Aug. 91) in France. The investigation of this incident led to the arrest of three Iranians (including a diplomat), who probably belonged to the Iranian Intelligence Department. The trial exposed the involvement of various Iranian bodies (the Ministry of Communication, Diplomatic representatives, commercial companies, “Iran Air”) - all of which assisted in the liquidation. One of the accused was sentenced to life imprisonment, another was given a 10-year prison sentence, and the diplomat was acquitted owing to lack of evidence and returned to Iran.
The Liquidation of high ranking activists belonging to Iran’s Democratic Kurdish Party (17 Sept. 92) at the Mikonos restaurant in Berlin. This operation was carried out by a squad composed of Hizballah and Iranian intelligence operatives, headed by a member of the Islamic Students Association in Germany Khat'm Dara'abi, who apparently was employed by the Iranian Intelligence Department as the liaison between the Iranian Consulate in Berlin and the hit team. Dara'abi and four other Shi’ite activists were arrested by the German police. German security officials stressed the involvement of Iranian Intelligence and the Guards of the Islamic Revolution in the affair.
The latter affair has resurfaced recently due to the German Federal Prosecution’s decision to issue a warrant for the arrest of the Minister of Iranian Intelligence, Falahian, as the official who ordered the liquidation of the opposition members. It would appear that the grounds for this far-reaching decision (which has significant implications for the relations between the two countries) was the testimony given at the trial, which revealed the depth of Falahian’s involvement.
Since Rasfanjani rise to power in 1989, scores of Iranian opposition members have been liquidated worldwide, among them:

Abed al-Rahman Kadmalo, General Secretary of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (13 July 89);
Khat'm Rajui Hamjahdin Hilek (in Switzerland, 24 April 90);
Mahmad Hassin Nakadi, the Italian representative of the National Opposition Council - the umbrella organization of the Iranian regime’s Opposition (16 March 93).
Liquidation of Opposition members in 1994 includes the killing in Turkey of a Section Head of Iran’s Democratic Kurdish Party (on 4 January) and another assassination in Rumania (15 Nov.)

....

As a rule, Iran, in an effort to improve its relations with the West and to appear in a more positive light, refrains from carrying out terror attacks in Western Europe. However, should an occasion presents itself, Iran does not hesitate to rise to the occasion - mostly through deniable emissaries, to prevent the attacks being traced directly to Iraq(sic). For proof one need look no farther than the explosive device intercepted on an Iranian vessel on its way from Iran to Antwerp port (14 March ’96). This explosive charge, addressed to a shop with Iranian intelligence connections in Germany, and ready for activation, was probably intended for a future terror attack against Iranian opposition members or Israeli/Jewish targets in Europe. "

Posted by: liberalhawk at April 18, 2006 07:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

wrt Commentary

Commentary is published by the American Jewish Committee, not by AIPAC. AFAIK the AJC has not intervened in editorial matters in decades. However the magazine is quite well known for being not only stronly pro-Israel, but (in recent decades) generally pro conservative, esp neo conservative. However Mr Luttwak is a prominent figure in his own right, and any search for bias should look at Mr Luttwak himself, not at Commentary magazine.

Posted by: liberalhawk at April 18, 2006 07:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> So anyway, once you establish to your own satisfaction that somebody is hypocritical, what then? It doesn't lead anywhere particularly useful for getting a consensus.

Entertainingly put.


> Iran has however sponsored terrorism, in Israel, in Lebanon, and even in Argentina.

The sponsorship of terrorism is fairly popular, I'd say. Russia, the US, Israel, Libya, India, Pakistan, Israel, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon -- it's a regular club. How interesting a club it is, I'm not so sure.


> Israel is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-prolification Treaty

Well, let's be fair -- the US is not signatory to most human rights treaties, and has recently disavowed much of the Geneva Conventions. But that doesn't prove that the US is the largest (or even a large) threat to human rights. Frankly it goes more to the fact that the US doesn't like to sign treaties without getting some economic benefit. Now, if we cut the US some slack here, and we do, (after all, isn't that an expected outlook?), surely we should cut Israel some slack too.

Frankly, I'd guess most everyone wants nuclear weapons, for fairly obvious reasons (am I right about that?) Perhaps Israel chose not to sign because that helped them get nuclear weapons more quickly.


Posted by: frank wallace at April 18, 2006 08:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The bottom line is that military action against Iran, if it comes, must be pursued only after the situation in neighboring countries is more stable (Iraq, Afghanistan), only after diplomatic avenues (and non-military punitive actions like freezing the assets of regime leaders and blocking key regime figures travel) have been pursued to the utmost, only when we have unimpeachable intelligence that Iran is truly on the cusp of wielding a nuclear weapon, and always, with all due consideration being given to the nature of the regime that is actually in power at the time the country is about to go nuclear."

You are too reasonable, sir. If we were this circumspect as we educate our children, provide pensions for our elderly, respond to natural disasters or cope with a tide of immigrants, we could rely on ourselves to follow such rigorous logic in dealing with Iran. This is the United States. We have a nose only for rumor and we act only in panic. Unfortunately, you joust in another arena. I would prefer that the country's reality were played out in your arena, but it is not likely.

Sidebar on your favorite topic, if Rummy is, as David Brooks editorialized today (4-18-06), constitutionally unfit for the cautious and chaotic work of war, what is the likely direction of post-Rusmsfeld DOD policy? Are we more or less likely to "stay the course" with our valiant 138,000? Is there any political hay to be made by doing what Rumsfeld failed to do, that is, send in the "several hundred thousand" General Shinsheki suggested? Would we be closer to "cut and run" or closer to accepting the hard realities that establishing security in the region involve?

Posted by: Bill B. at April 18, 2006 08:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What was the point of the "Elimination Of Opposition Activists" essay?

My naive guess would be that it is implicitly suggesting that the US should attack all the countries which subdue dissent? However, that sounds quite implausible (or at least, quite infeasible, and fiscally, um, insane). So I'm surely missing the true point.

Posted by: frank wallace at April 18, 2006 08:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


israel intervened because Leb was being used as a basis for regular attacks on Israel. Iran, OTOH, has used Hezbollah to attempt to exercise political dominance over Lebanon

Not correct at all. Iran has supported Hezbollah, but a lot of people dabbled in Lebanon's civil wars and its endless alliances and battles. Israel did so as well, and it has some pretty unsavory allies as well. Heck, the CIA used car bombs to try and assasinate Hezbollah's leader. It seems strange to single out Iran and to tout this as an example of expansionism,.


Iran has promoted its radical Khomeinist ideology around the muslim world. It was largely in reaction to this that KSA started exporting Wahabism.

This is definitely false. Wahabbism and the Shia have been at odds for decades before 1979. Iran has tried to convert Shiites, but in fairness most other Arab countries have been oppressing them and Iran has much right to reach out to oppressed Shiites in other countries as Israel has to reach out to oppressed Jews in other countries.

Posted by: erg at April 18, 2006 09:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Elimination Of Opposition Activists

liberalhawk writes this, about Iran, without a hint of irony.

I suppose liberalhawk would give an old fashion Roman salute to, "May the jackboot of democracy and the iron fist of liberty kill all enemies of freedom, without mercy!"

Posted by: rs at April 19, 2006 12:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Liberalhawk,

By not aggressively discrediting the idea of attacking Iran, in general,
you are enabling those who will attack Iran whenever it is expedient to their domestic political careers, and those who will attack whenever world events grant their burning sun of hysteria the opportunity.

This is the point the millions of angry Democratic leaders are trying to drive home to their leaders - and _are_ driving home. With the current US regime in power, disagreement like yours amounts for exactly nothing. That was the kind of disagreement democrats offered about Iraq - "this isn't the right time, we don't have enough international support, yada yada yada" and the American people read it as follows:

"We think the Republicans are doing the right thing, really, but we're scared."

At no time and in no way do statements like yours and Hillary Clinton get across the clear and unambiguous principle that attacking Iran is just wrong. It's wrong now, and it will be wrong next year, and it will be wrong after the next terrorist attack by Hamas, and so on, and so forth.

Are you listening to yourself "argue against a strike on Iran" ? Is that really even what you think you're doing? You've spent this entire thread talking about how dangerous and warped and criminal the Iranian regime is. Listening to you, the conclusion is that we should bomb Iran, whatever pointless disclaimer you stick on the end. You're arguing against your own conclusions with far more convictions than you argue for it.

Why, exactly, do you think we shouldn't bomb Iran, liberalhawk, given how Ahmedijad is the reincarnation of Hitler and all?

Posted by: glasnost at April 19, 2006 01:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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Gregory Djerejian, an international lawyer and business executive, comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.


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