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April 30, 2006

When are we going to bomb Iran?

One of the most important reasons I had for voting for GWB over John Kerry in 2004 (though there were many reasons for my decision) was my confidence that Bush -- unlike Kerry -- could be relied upon to step up to the plate and actually do something to prevent the Iranian government from obtaining nuclear weapons. As you probably recall, John Kerry, and every other major Democratic pol I can think of, repeatedly stated that it was "unacceptable" for Iran to be allowed to have nukes. This continues to be their stated position, but other than calling for energetic diplomacy and international sanctions, it is unclear how -- or if -- they would intend to enforce the lack of acceptance.

Many advocates of taking our time with regard to Iran are comforted by the findings of the latest National Intelligence Estimate that Iran is five to ten years away from having a bomb. (Of course, these estimates were prepared by the same guys who told us that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons.) Unfortunately, news emerged over the past weeks suggesting that Iran's enrichment technology may be far more advanced than had been commonly supposed: Iran's openly acknowledged enrichment program (for "peaceful energy purposes only") is based upon cascades of "P1" type Pakistani gas centrifuges. Unfortunately, it now appears that Iran may have built or acqured more advanced "P2" model centrifuges from Pakistan's A.Q. Khan arms trading ring, which would drastically reduce the number of centrifuges and time required to produce weapons grade material. Also, the IAEA has no information on the location or number of P2 devices Iran has deployed, since Iran denies having made use of this technology at all.

From a tactical point of view, the sooner we attack and destroy Iran's nuclear enrichment facilities, the better. For one thing, each passing day allows Iran to create more enriched uranium. When their nuclear installations are ultimately destroyed, this material will be released into the environment, potentially exposing thousands (millions?) of people to dangerous levels of radiation. For another, Iran is expected to soon begin receiving 29 Tor-M1 air-defense missile systems, Russia's latest and most advanced low and medium altitude air defense system. When Iran deploys these systems around its nuclear facilities, the cost of any attack will increase, both in terms of lives and dollars.

From a political point of view, the Bush administration would like to delay any attack on Iran. At a minumum, it would be very costly for the Republicans if an attack were to take place before November's mid-term elections. In addition, the administration would like to "give diplomacy a chance to work" and cobble together an international coalition that would support military action against Iran. Finally, it would dangerous to attack Iran before a new Iraqi government is formed and, hopefully, stabilized the political and military situation in that country.

Barring a miracle (like Russia and China agreeing to impose strict economic sanctions against Iran, or the Mullahs deciding to back down from their effort to build a bomb), I expect that Iran will be attacked during the middle of 2007. If the US were unwilling to act, Israel would have no choice but to remove this existential threat to their society. Unfortunately, given the heaviliy fortified and dispersed targets in Iran, a single, long range raid (like the 1981 attack on Saddam's Osirak facility) would not be sufficient. That is, unless Israel were willing to use its own nuclear weapons to prevent Iran from developing ones of its own. This may be the choice that George Bush will face: an Israeli ultimatum that the US help Israel destroy Iran's nuclear facilities using conventional weapons, or else step aside while Israel handles the threat on its own.

April 30, 2006 at 09:58 AM | Permalink


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Dear Spart:

After what we've been through in Iraq, how can you possibly be so facile and quick to conclude that attacking or endorsing (even a nuclear(!)) attack against Iran is the best foreign policy course? Time out. Calm down.

Are you really one of those trigger happy cowboys who say "shoot first ask questions later"?

Believe it or not, there is indeed a community of interests among those in the civilized world about nuclear armaments, and they don't want to see proliferation, and they don't want to see further volatility and upheaval in the middle east. But that community of interests is also scared as hell of the xenophobic, jingoistic, saber rattling of George Bush and his ilk. Those folks by the way, were aghast at Bush's deal with New Delhi about their nuclear arms, trashing the NNPT. Talk about a double standard.

Before backing the doubling up our bets in that region yet again, let's review. Afghanistan outside of greater Kabul has reverted to a poppy growing seedbed for the Taliban. Their border with (already nuclear)Pakistan is an open thoroughfare for whomever. Iraq is simply spinning out of control, and we're trapped there. And now you want to throw a Molotov cocktail into Iran?

Has anyone asked what our allies Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, and Turkey might think of this? Well take a look. They're scared shitless - but not of Iran. They're scared of Bush and his zealots. I imagine they're wondering how they're going to hold onto power once Bush's overreaching crusade comes out of the closet. Heard Musharref talk recently? Or Mubarek? Or how about our friend Tony Blair? Even he has no appetite for this.

Read my lips: There.Is.No.Immediate.Threat.from.Iran. I saw no hyperlinks with your citation of news about the imminance of Iran's nuclear bomb development. The only near term threat I see is to the Republican hegemony in congress this fall. But in response to this the neo-con tail is threatening to wag a big big global dog. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail this time.

PS: Don't mean to troll your blog, but this post got me going...


Posted by: facethemusic | Apr 30, 2006 10:17:56 PM

Dear FTM:

Troll away... But I didn't post links because they are so numerous that I'm sure you know them as well as I do. The difference between Iran and India is that the Indian government does not go around threatening to use nuclear weapons to destroy "fake" regimes in their regions. (As Iran has and continues to do.)

India also has free elections, with no "supreme leader" vetting candidates before they are allowed to appear on the ballot.

The problem with allowing a government controlled by religious fanatics who believe that the end of time is near (or that the return of the "occluded Imam" is imminent) to have nuclear weapons is that conventional approaches to deterrence are irrelevent. How can you deter people who believe that they are doing god's will here on earth?

(I suspect you believe that GWB subscribes to this same worldview, but that is another issue altogether.)

Anyway, the point is that the Iranian government organizes mass demonstrations to chant "death to America" and "death to Israel." I merely suggest that we take them at their word, and act preemptively to prevent them from following through with rhetoric.

Of course, we can wait until a terrorist nuke blows up a Western city and kills, say, 50,000 people. I prefer to send the message that if you threaten to destroy us, we will destroy you first. Crude, I know. But often effective.

Posted by: Spartacus | Apr 30, 2006 11:33:34 PM

Fukuyama wrote that democracies don't make war upon one another. This is just the extension of the fact that democracies are extremely reluctant to make war, period. If Israel attacks Iran, we could very well be dragged in, but I think it is not likely that Congress will support this eventuality. They've abdicated their responsibilites in war for far too many years. The country, at large, has no faith in Bush, and will demand accountability from members of congress who support broadening hostilities sans immediate threats to CONUS. We would certainly play a support role, though. Hell, with all the aid we give Israel, they're our servant, and must act as our proxy when we want them to. And if we didn't want them too, they wouldn't.

Regarding Iran, Seymore Hersh recently reported on a silent rebellion within the Pentagon against Bush and Rumsfeld. There's no appetite among much of the brass for more ludicrous mismanagement and strategic blundery. They've seen what comes from Bush's teams taking years of careful Pentagon defense planning and just crumpling it all up so they can "wing it."

As far as nuking the US, how do you think terrorists, who can barely shoot straight, will deliver such a devastating payload? A dirty bomb is their most credible weapon, and its damage will be more psychological than lethal. There'd be no 50,000 dead.

Moreover, when Iraq is going so poorly how will we be able to take on Iran, which is a much tougher foe? We'll need a draft, for sure, and that will will further alienate the skeptical majority. And how about those tax cuts? Or will we put this war on the The People's Bank of China Mastercard, too?

But I can certainly see how a frantic Bush, ever desperate to change the course of his legacy from "blundering bungles" will try to fulfill his own prophecies, and further embroil us in yet another "Expedition to Syracuse." After all, he only has history to answer to now, and he'll be dead before the final verdict is in.

Now here's the real question: why not use the hundreds of billions of Iraq War dollars, reaching for the trillions, into developing a new energy economy? Is this is in some way out of the question? If we reduce global petroleum demand, charges of isolationism have little sting when the most bitterly contested region on the planet loses its western raison d'etre. Iran's petrol revenue would wither with their regional significance. We are spending so much loot on Iraq, this kind of Manhattan Project has got to be at, or past, the optimum point on the feasibility curve. Here's why it is currently unfeasible: politics. It would require strategic central planning and authority by the federal government, as does NASA, and the conservative mentality which controls two branches of government regards such an empowered government program with abhorence. They (and maybe you, if you adhere to this view)) are weakening the country.

Another possible reason, of course, is the influence of the petroleum industry among elected leadership.

Yet another reason may be a concensus that there are no possible energy sources to even potentially equal the value that petroleum brings. I'm no scientist.

I think the reason, "why not?", is political will over the purely technical though.

"Manhattan Project for energy, yeah! Manhattan Project for energy, yeah! Manhattan Project for energy, yeah! Manhattan Project for energy, yeah! Manhattan Project for energy, yeah!"

So look, We have lived for a while with the threat of irrational actors: India and the Hindu bomb vs. the Islamic bomb of Pakistan (thankfully led by a rational dictator - when's Bush gonna push Pakistan to democratize? Not any time soon, I'll betcha). We are living with the threat of the Zionist bomb. Soon a Sunni bomb will be counterpoised by a Shiite bomb. So much for The Age of Reason. Pervez Musharraf is quite likely to be assassinated and replaced with a Pakistani ally of the Taliban, for all we know. There is no way for us to unilaterally disarm the globe with violence. Pandora's box has been opened, and it once contained the keys to the gates of Hell. They're now on a fob, tucked in Bush's watch(out) pocket.

Hey, I know, let's call ourselves The United Nations and force the rest of the world to join at the point of a gun. The Athenians did this and called it The Delian League. It made Athens very rich. Promised contributions became demanded tribute. But the Athenians eventually lost their war against Sparta from the disorganization and chaos of factional democracy and incompetent leadership. Read Thucydides.

The only thing preventing us from prevailing in Iraq is political will (democracy), but also blinkered ideology, a la Bush's disdain for nation building and Rumsfeld's "nimble force" transformationalism mindset. These last two have, perhaps, made it now too late. I see Rumsfeld's vision as an extension of small government/privatization ideology. Small military = small government, with the tax revenue that is saved on military force personnel to go to extra defense spending on augmentation/automization technology. Robotroop, here we come. I wonder when it will start working. "Nimble force" destruction capacity is only one side of the war coin, as we are now witnessing.

"Blog troll" Now who does that remind me of? Hmmmm... I like it! Especially being one of scandinavian descent. Trolls are only cute for the tourists, but the vikings knew better.

Posted by: dirty kuffar | Jul 21, 2006 5:11:17 AM

You are a young soul, with many things to learn.

Most of all, you must see that what you see as menace (or ally) is a reflection of your internal state.

Growth to your righteous butt.

Posted by: Jonny | Oct 4, 2006 2:51:16 PM

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