September 29, 2012

Benjamin Netanyahu Draws a Red Line at the United Nations

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu gave a powerful speech before the United Nations yesterday, one that should, but probably won't be, heeded by most nations of the world.

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"At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs. That's by placing a clear red line on Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Red lines don't lead to war; red lines prevent war."

Exactly right. And, as the Prime Minister went on to say, we must draw a clear red line with regards to the Iranian nuclear program.

Here is the section of the speech where he draws the red line on the bomb diagram.

Look at NATO's charter: it made clear that an attack on one member country would be considered an attack on all. NATO's red line helped keep the peace in Europe for nearly half a century.

President Kennedy set a red line during the Cuban Missile Crisis. That red line also prevented war and helped preserve the peace for decades.

In fact, it's the failure to place red lines that has often invited aggression.

If the Western powers had drawn clear red lines during the 1930s, I believe they would have stopped Nazi aggression and World War II might have been avoided.

In 1990, if Saddam Hussein had been clearly told that his conquest of Kuwait would cross a red line, the first Gulf War might have been avoided.

Clear red lines have also worked with Iran.

Earlier this year, Iran threatened to close the Straits of Hormouz. The United States drew a clear red line and Iran backed off.

Quite correct. The "strategic ambiguity" favored by some only encourages troublemakers to continually test the limits, to push the more peaceful nations farther and farther. And in when they do so they usually go too far and war is the result. So how does this apply to the current situation with Iran?

...in fact the only way that you can credibly prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, is to prevent Iran from amassing enough enriched uranium for a bomb.

So, how much enriched uranium do you need for a bomb? And how close is Iran to getting it? Let me show you. I brought a diagram for you. Here's the diagram. This is a bomb; this is a fuse

In the case of Iran's nuclear plans to build a bomb, this bomb has to be filled with enough enriched uranium. And Iran has to go through three stages.

The first stage: they have to enrich enough of low enriched uranium.

The second stage: they have to enrich enough medium enriched uranium.

And the third stage and final stage: they have to enrich enough high enriched uranium for the first bomb.

Where's Iran? Iran's completed the first stage. It took them many years, but they completed it and they're 70% of the way there.

Now they are well into the second stage. By next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage. From there, it's only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

What I told you now is not based on secret information. It's not based on military intelligence. It's based on public reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Anybody can read them. They're online.

So if these are the facts, and they are, where should the red line be drawn?

The red line should be drawn right here.

Before Iran completes the second stage of nuclear enrichment necessary to make a bomb. Before Iran gets to a point where it's a few months away or a few weeks away from amassing enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon. Each day, that point is getting closer.

That's why I speak today with such a sense of urgency. And that's why everyone should have a sense of urgency.

Here is the entire speech

Where is the United States?

Two weeks ago Charles Krauthammer explained, as best anyone can, the position of the Obama Administration:


There are two positions one can take regarding the Iranian nuclear program: (a) it doesn't matter, we can deter them, or (b) it does matter, we must stop them.

In my view, the first position -- that we can contain Iran as we did the Soviet Union -- is totally wrong, a product of wishful thinking and misread history. But at least it's internally coherent.

What is incoherent is President Obama's position. He declares the Iranian program intolerable -- "I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon" -- yet stands by as Iran rapidly approaches nuclearization.

A policy so incoherent, so knowingly and obviously contradictory, is a declaration of weakness and passivity. And this, as Anthony Cordesman, James Phillips and others have argued, can increase the chance of war. It creates, writes Cordesman, "the same conditions that helped trigger World War II -- years of negotiations and threats, where the threats failed to be taken seriously until war became all too real."

This has precipitated the current U.S.-Israeli crisis, sharpened by the president's rebuff of the Israeli prime minister's request for a meeting during his upcoming U.S. visit. Ominous new developments; no Obama response. Alarm bells going off everywhere; Obama plays deaf.

The old arguments, old excuses, old pretensions have become ridiculous:

1) Sanctions. The director of national intelligence testified to Congress at the beginning of the year that they had zero effect in slowing the nuclear program. Now the International Atomic Energy Agency reports (Aug. 30) that the Iranian nuclear program, far from slowing, is actually accelerating. Iran has doubled the number of high-speed centrifuges at Fordow, the facility outside Qom built into a mountain to make it impregnable to air attack.

This week, the IAEA reported Iranian advances in calculating the explosive power of an atomic warhead. It noted once again Iran's refusal to allow inspection of its weapons testing facility at Parchin and cited satellite evidence of Iranian attempts to clean up and hide what's gone on there.

The administration's ritual response is that it has imposed the toughest sanctions ever. So what? They're a means, not an end. And they've had no effect on the nuclear program.

2) Negotiations. The latest, supposedly last-ditch round of talks in Istanbul, Baghdad, then Moscow has completely collapsed. The West even conceded to Iran the right to enrich -- shattering a decade-long consensus and six Security Council resolutions demanding its cessation.

Iran's response? Contemptuous rejection.

Why not? The mullahs have strung Obama along for more than three years and still see no credible threat emanating from the one country that could disarm them.

3) Diplomatic isolation. The administration boasts that Iran is becoming increasingly isolated. Really? Just two weeks ago, 120 nations showed up in Tehran for a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement -- against U.S. entreaties not to attend. Even the U.N. secretary-general attended -- after the administration implored him not to.

Which shows you what American entreaties are worth today. And the farcical nature of Iran's alleged isolation.

The Obama policy is in shambles. Which is why Cordesman argues that the only way to prevent a nuclear Iran without war is to establish a credible military threat to make Iran recalculate and reconsider. That means U.S. red lines: deadlines beyond which Washington will not allow itself to be strung, as well as benchmark actions that would trigger a response, such as the further hardening of Iran's nuclear facilities to the point of invulnerability and, therefore, irreversibility.

Which made all the more shocking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's dismissal last Sunday of the very notion of any U.S. red lines. No deadlines. No bright-line action beyond which Iran must not go. The sleeping giant continues to slumber. And to wait. As the administration likes to put it, "for Iran to live up to its international obligations."

Seen in this light, it seems clear that Netanyahu's speech was an attempt to reverse the current policy of the Obama Administration, which as Krauthammer explained is to talk loud but carry a small stick.

As Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismark (supposedly) said, "diplomacy without credible threat of force is like music without instruments."

Will the United States get with the program and draw a clear red line that the Iranians can clearly understand? If so, will our threat of force be credible? If not, will Israel feel compelled to attack Iran on it's own, and, if so, will the United States support her or complain and stand on the sidelines?

I don't know the answer to any of these for certain, but here is what I do know:


  1. Iranian is getting closer every day to getting the bomb
  2. Sanctions and diplomacy are not working
  3. The Iranian regime with the bomb is totally unacceptable
  4. Israeli military action alone cannot do the job
  5. Short of war, only a clear red line and credible use of force stands a chance of working
  6. A war would be extremely messy, but much better than a nuclear Iran
  7. The Obama Administration is not at all inclined to draw a red line
  8. Obama has not made a credible threat of force against Iran
  9. The way things are going now, Israel will attack Iran on her own, Iran will retaliate by trying to bloc the Strait of Hormuz, and we will become involved whether we like it or not

Iran is not Libya, and everyone knows it, so Obama's actions in that latter country don't scare anyone. I hope that our president wakes up before it's too late, but the similarities to our current situation and 1938 in Europe are too strong to be ignored. The clock is ticking, and we draw ever closer to midnight in the Middle East.

Update

Incredibly, our own ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, skipped Netanyahu's speech. Her excuse is so lame I have to think it was intentional.

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September 25, 2012

Obama at the United Nations: The Apology Tour Continues

This morning President Obama addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations. Here is one excerpt from his remarks that I found

While there were many fine words and phrases in his speech, in general it was a disgrace. Following is some of what he said, full text here:

That is what we saw play out in the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity.

I know a liberal who insists that Obama has never apologized for the U.S., that it's all a fiction of the right. He might not use the word apology, but if you can't see this for the apology it is you need a lesson in English comprehension.

Worse, he's still pushing the fiction that it was the video that sparked the attack that killed our ambassador and the three others. This is incredible. It's also clearly meant to intimidate Americans into not criticizing Islam. As I said the other day, if this isn't an attempt to suppress the First Amendment, nothing is.

In less than two years, we have seen largely peaceful protests bring more change to Muslim-majority countries than a decade of violence. And extremists understand this. Because they have nothing to offer to improve the lives of people, violence is their only way to stay relevant. They don't build; they only destroy.

And these "peaceful protests" have lead to a jihad-totalitarian government in Egypt, something no doubt similar in Libya, and most likely something similar in Syria. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are the extremists, Mr. President

The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt -- it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted, "Muslims, Christians, we are one." The future must not belong to those who bully women -- it must be shaped by girls who go to school, and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons.

And he's an idiot if he thinks that this represents anything more than a minority opinion in the Muslim Middle East.

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. But to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated, or churches that are destroyed, or the Holocaust that is denied.

The second sentence is a throw-away line, as it's become painfully clear that Obama only cares when Muslims are the target. As my congressman, Frank Wolf (R-VA-10) says, this administration has the worst human--rights record of any he's seen in his 30 years in the House. When anyone else is persecuted, this administration is silent.

Bottom line is that Obama only cares when Muslims are insulted.

For that matter, Obama has never spoken up about the "art" workPiss Christ, or the Broadway musical Book of Mormon, both of which are horribly offensive. Secretary of State Clinton even went and saw the latter, and stood with the rest of the audience and cheered it. Charming.

I'd say it's all unreal but it's become all too real from this president.

It's all enough to confuse any normal person as to why our president is acting this way, but David French helps out with "The three rules of (leftist) Middle East morality:"

Rule 1: Nations who attempt genocide against Israel shall not suffer any lasting consequences.

Rule 2: Ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity -- unless Jews are purged from Muslim lands.

Rule 3: Religious fundamentalism is a relic of the dark ages and should be condemned -- unless it's Muslim fundamentalism.

Finally, lest you have any doubt as to what the people of Egypt want, take a look at the results of this 2010 Pew Research Opinion poll of Egyptians:

• 82% of Egyptians dislike the U.S. -- the highest unfavorable rating of the 19 Muslim nations surveyed.

• 49% of Egyptians said Islam had played only a "small role" in public affairs under President Hosni Mubarak, while 95% preferred the religion play a "large role in politics."

• 77% think thieves should have their hands cut off.

• 54% support a law segregating women from men in the workplace.
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• 54% believe suicide bombings that kill civilians can be justified.

• Nearly half support the terrorists Hamas, 30% have a favorable opinion of Hezbollah and one in five have positive views of al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.

Scary. And we have a president who is totally clueless about it all.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 31, 2012

Iran Cannot Be Allowed To Go Nuclear

One more from Powerline:

On Israel and a Nuclear Iran
by Scott Johnson
January 31, 2012

Finding the video of Douglas Murray at the Cambridge Union debating the question of a nuclear Iran, apparently last year, I looked around for some background on the debate. I haven't found the background, but I have found a handy summary at Seraphic Secret:

This is an incredibly powerful video of the brilliant and erudite British Conservative Douglas Murray speaking at Cambridge about a nuclear Iran. It's eleven minutes long and builds to an incredible pitch of logic and emotion. Stay with it.

Allow me to underline several of Murray's most important points:
1. Murray expresses gratitude that this debate is purely theoretical because England is a third rate power who could not stop Iran even if she wanted to--which she doesn't because England and Europe cannot be trusted to get it right.

2. Murray quotes a Holocaust survivor whose life lesson is something Seraphic Secret has repeated over the years: "When someone says they are going to kill you, believe them."

3. Israel knows not to trust the Europeans who care more about their Arab oil than Jewish blood. Murray doesn't come out and say it, but the implication is clear: Europe is a boiling cauldron of Jew-hatred.

Posted by Tom at 8:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 12, 2012

Unexplained Killings and Bombings in Iran

From the print edition of the Washington Times (details added through various other Internet sources):

October 2010 - Explosion at Iranian missile base housing Shahab missiles

January 11, 2012 - Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a supervisor at a uranium enrichment facility in Nantaz, isd killed by a bomb attached to his car in Tehran

July 23, 2011 - Darioush Rezai Nejad, a nuclear scientist, is fatally shot outside his home in Tehran

June 2010 - Iranian scientists discover the Stuxnet virus, which has infected and destroyed various parts of Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities

November 12, 2010 - An explosion at the Moddares garrison missile base (also referred to as Shahid Modarres missile base. 17 members of the Revolutionary Guards are killed, including Major General Hassan Moqaddam.

November 28, 2011 - Explosion in the Iranian city of Isfahan, where a uranium enrichment facility is located.

November 29, 2010 - Majid Shahriari, a nuclear engineer for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, is killed in a car-bomb attack. Fereydoun Abbasi, a nuclear scientist at Shahid Beheshti Univesity and now head of the AEO, is wounded in a similar attack.

January 12, 2010 - Massoud Ali Mohammadi, a physics professor at Tehran University, is killed by a bomb attached ot a morobike near his car.

I'm sure I've missed some, so if you know of more please leave them in the comments preferably backed up by links. I just don't have time for a more detailed search right now.

The MO is the similar in the targeted assassinations; two men on a motorcycle drive up next to the car while in traffic, the man on the back of the bike attaches a magnetic bomb to the car, they speed off, and a few seconds later the bomb explodes and the man inside is killed.

Some of the explosions are probably simple accidents; these things happen and happened in developed countries as well. But there are too many for this to explain everything.

We can speculate, but no one has any hard evidence of any involvement by any specific state actor. Secretary of State Clinton denied U.S. involvement, but this is more a matter of routine than anything else.

I do hope the United States is involved, though, and if so my hat is off to President Obama. I have been recommending these types of actions for years (see "Iran" under "categories" at right).

Between these attacks and the new stringent sanctions we might be able to stop Iran from getting the bomb. We'll know sometime this year. If this strategy works, so much the better. If not, our only option is direct military action. It really is just about that simple.

Posted by Tom at 8:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 14, 2011

Good News About the Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program

Finally, some good news to report about the Iranian nuclear weapons program; it's behind schedule and it will be several more years before they get the bomb. Some better news too; we're probably involved in sabotaging it.

Israel, U.S. push back estimates of nuclear Iran: Technical difficulties cited for new timeline The Washington Times by Eli Lake Sunday, January 9, 2011

Israel and the United States recently revised their estimates of when Iran will field a nuclear weapon, reflecting difficulties inside Tehran's program of building large numbers of centrifuges to enrich uranium.

Israel's former civilian intelligence chief, Meir Dagan, told Israeli newspapers last weekend that he thought Iran will not be able to produce an atomic bomb until 2015. The interview is significant in part because Mr. Dagan, who recently left the post, has made Iran a major focus for the Mossad intelligence service since he took over in 2002.

Mr. Dagan's estimates also coincide with recent U.S. intelligence community analysis that states Iran has run into difficulties in acquiring the refined equipment it needs to produce more centrifuges and to run the machines properly.

A new U.S. national intelligence estimate for Iran has been stalled for nearly a year, but U.S. officials familiar with the estimate say they expect a new classified estimate to be released as soon as this month.

Iran's difficulties also are likely to be the result of a covert Israeli program of sabotage and U.S. efforts against the country's nuclear program.

A powerful computer virus known as Stuxnet reportedly attacked Iran's nuclear facilities earlier this year. Since then, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has spoken publicly about computer problems the nuclear program has experienced.

In November, Iran's president said, "they succeeded in creating problems for a limited number of our centrifuges with the software they had installed in electronic parts."

No country has claimed credit for launching the sophisticated Stuxnet computer virus that reportedly varies the speeds of the delicate high-speed centrifuges, speeding them up and slowing them down so they are rendered useless.

The Internet site WikiLeaks disclosed last month a State Department cable confirming that Israel has waged a covert war against Iran's nuclear program under Mr. Dagan.

The cable, which recounted a Aug. 17, 2007, meeting between Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns and Mr. Dagan said the Israeli spy chief outlined Israel's five-pillar strategy for preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

Those five pillars included both something the memo called "covert measures" and "force regime change," or support for elements of Iran's opposition.

In the meeting, Mr. Dagan said, the United States and Israel had different estimated timelines for when Iran would acquire a nuclear weapon. "The threat is obvious, even if we have a different timetable," the cable quotes Mr. Dagan as saying.

A recent analysis of the Stuxnet virus by the U.S.-based Institute for Science and International Security estimated that the virus had been sent as early as 2009.

The paper noted that Iran replaced 1,000 centrifuges at the Natanz facility in late 2009 or early 2010. The paper also quoted Ali Akbar Salehi, then the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization and currently the country's foreign minister, as saying in a November interview that Westerners had sent a computer virus to Iran's nuclear program "one year and several months ago."

Patrick Clawson, a specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said: "Certainly, the IAEA reports and what we hear from people knowledgeable about the nuclear program is that Iran is encountering significant technical problems."

"The great worry is that Iran has clandestine facilities that will allow it to overcome these technical problems," he said.

Mr. Clawson noted that he was also worried that Iran could still gain nuclear fuel because of its ties to North Korea, which has tested a nuclear device already.

Stuxnet was obviously planted by a foreign intelligence service. It's a very complex and sophisticated virus, and from what I've read just isn't the type of thing a team of basement hackers can come up with. Only a few countries have the capability of coming up with this; the U.S., Japan, Israel, China, the larger Western European countries, maybe Russia. Most have financial or political (read "weak knees") reasons for not doing it.

As the article insinuates, Israel was probably in on it. But my guess is this was a team effort, and that we helped them in some way. Certainly (I hope!) we share intelligence on this sort of thing and Obama knew and approved.

Or the article could be wrong and it could have been a U.S effort.

Good News with Cautionary Flags

Surely for the most part this is all very good news. Time works in our favor.

The danger is that we become complacent.

The closer the Iranians get to completing a bomb that harder it will be for military action to stop them. This of course because by that point their facilities will be all the more larger and sophisticated. And unless you get lucky and kill key scientists you can't wipe out the all-important knowledge base.

DEBKAfile also raises some cautionary flags (h/t Dreams into Lightning)

1. Not all Iran's concealed nuclear facilities have been discovered by Western intelligence - not even Mossad. Given Iran's record of concealment, it would be foolish, for instance, to ignore the possibility of a secret plant enriching uranium at full speed somewhere underground out of range of the UN nuclear watchdog's cameras recording every centrifuge spinning at Natanz. They may still be undetected by spy satellites and unbeknownst even to the defectors and double agents willing to collaborate with the West.

A single secret facility of this kind would invalidate the current Western estimate of Iran's stock of low-grade enriched uranium as standing at 3,000 kilos. The real amount could be 20 times or even 100 times as much, enough for three or four bombs.

2. The same applies to the "malfunctions" undoubtedly holding up the program. No competent agency would risk guaranteeing that every last Iranian facility has been crippled or exposed to cyber invasion. The publicity surrounding Stuxnet and the deaths or defections of Iranian nuclear scientists has conveyed the impression of a nation on the point of collapse, whose every nook and cranny is wide open to the long arm of Western and Israeli spy agencies.

But who knows what really goes on in the top-secret laboratories of Shahid Beheshti University in northern Tehran, which employed the two nuclear scientists targeted for attack last month? It is there that much of the research is conducted from Iran's nuclear and missile programs. But there is no certainty that a parallel research institution is not operating in some other dark place.

3. Iran has been known in the past to have established or transferred sensitive nuclear facilities outside the country to remove them from the sight of alien intelligence agencies and safeguard them against sabotage, like the audacious attack of Oct. 12, 2010 against a hidden Shehab-3 missile store at the Revolutionary Guards Imam Ali base in northwest Iran. The consequences of this attack were as destructive as the Stuxnet invasion.

It will be recalled that only when the Israeli Air Force struck the North Korean-built plutonium reactor at A-Zur in northern Syria in Sept. 2007 was this vital external link in Iran's nuclear program revealed.

This is a dangerous business with Iran, and if our experience with Saddam Hussein's WMD program told us anything it's that all the world's intelligence services working together don't even always get it right.

Posted by Tom at 5:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 9, 2010

More Useless Santions on Iran

Haven't we been down this path before? Here we go again:

After nearly half a year of tough negotiations, the United Nations Security Council has endorsed a U.S. sponsored sanctions resolution against Iran over its suspect nuclear program, which the West believes is aimed at developing atomic weapons. ...

The resolution imposes an arms embargo against Iran, blacklists entities controlled by the Islamic Republic Shipping Lines, and freezes the assets of certain individuals and organizations tied to Iran's nuclear program and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. It also calls for tighter restrictions on Iranian banks, asking countries to avoid transactions that could be connected to Iran's nuclear and missile programs.

yada yada yada.

resolution here

Even the Washington Post seems to know it's an exercise in futility:

A resilient Iran shields itself from pressure by building alliances
By Thomas Erdbrink and Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 9, 2010; A01

TEHRAN -- A year ago Iran was on its way to becoming a pariah state. Dozens of governments accused Iranian leaders of stealing the presidential election and condemned the brutal crackdown on protesters that followed. The country faced sanctions and international scorn over its controversial nuclear program.

Now, even as the U.N. Security Council prepares to impose its fourth round of sanctions on Iran with a vote slated for Wednesday, Tehran is demonstrating remarkable resilience, insulating some of its most crucial industries from U.S.-backed financial restrictions and building a formidable diplomatic network that should help it withstand some of the pressure from the West. Iranian leaders are meeting politicians in world capitals from Tokyo to Brussels. They are also signing game-changing energy deals, increasing their economic self-sufficiency and even gaining seats on international bodies.

Iran's ability to navigate such a perilous diplomatic course, analysts say, reflects both Iranian savvy and U.S. shortcomings as up-and-coming global players attempt to challenge U.S. supremacy, and look to Iran as a useful instrument.

I've no time to write my own analysis, but Michael Rubin gets it right and asks the salient question at the end:

Many supporters of Obama's approach to diplomacy are applauding the president for the careful diplomacy that got China and Russia on board for the latest U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Iran. Rather than show the strength of Obama's diplomacy, however, it appears to show its weakness. In order to win Russia's support, for instance, Obama gave the Kremlin concessions involving Georgia, Poland, and the Czech Republic, and also gave Tehran months more to enrich; the Islamic Republic now has enough low-enriched uranium to make sufficient high-enriched uranium for two bombs.

While George W. Bush is lambasted in many quarters for his allegedly Manichean attitudes toward diplomacy, the fact of the matter is that Bush achieved unanimity several times on the Security Council on the Iran issue at far less cost.

Sure, all of the previous U.N. Security Council resolutions were weak: It is near impossible to get a strong, biting resolution out of the Security Council. But it is also clear that this latest resolution won't be enough. So, with Obama already giving up so many U.S. chits, what do we have left to bargain with as we move forward?

The answer is that we have nothing except a preemptive military strike, and it's hard to imagine Obama ordering that. Israel can strike, but they don't have the capabilities to do the damage that needs to be done in order to seriously set back or destroy Iran's nuclear program.

It might not be 1939 yet ,but it's getting close.

Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 20, 2010

05/20/10 News and Headlines Update

Sorry, sorry, not much blogging as I've been so involved in local projects I haven't had time. When I do get to this thing I've been spending my time working on a book review of Kimberley Kagan's The Surge: A Military History. Unfortunately it's going to take another week or so to finish it but if you are interested in that sort of thing make sure to check back.

In the meantime, there are quite a few stories of diverse nature below the fold, so comment away!

Second Amendment

First up is this

Mexican President Felipe Calderon called on Congress Thursday to reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons that he said are ending up in the hands of violent drug cartels south of the border, using a highly contentious estimate of U.S. guns seized in Mexico when addressing Capitol Hill lawmakers.

Mr. Calderon said he respects the Second Amendment but argued that violence south of the border spiked in 2004 after the expiration of a U.S. ban on semiautomatic weapons. Echoing statements made by President Obama Wednesday, Mr. Calderon said the U.S. bears some responsibility in propping up the drug trade with its demand for narcotics and supply of guns.

Of course, they don't have a Second Amendment in Mexico, and although the Mexican Constitution allegedly guarantees the right to own firearms, legislation has made it nearly impossible to do so. So it's all a lot of nonsense for him to say he respects it.

But there are a few larger points.

One, liberals are always telling us that we can't sacrifice our civil liberties for the sake of reducing crime. In this case they are mostly right. Once those gun-control freaks an inch and they'll take a mile.

More, the problem has little to do with guns per se. The problems are demand for drugs in the U.S. and the fact that Mexico is just about a failed state. It's run by an oligarchy that has rigged the system to keep the rich people rich and give no one else a chance. They callously boot their poor over the border and then complain when we object.

The simple fact is that any gun ban won't make the slightest dent in the drug trade. Calderon is using it to cover up the corruption of his own government, and liberals in the U.S. will use it as cover for their anti-Second Amendment agenda.

Illegal Immigration

You just can't talk about Mexico without talking about illegal immigration and the story of CNN's Wolf Blitzer's interview with Mexican President Felipe Calderon has just about gone viral

Ouch!

Here's a summary of some of the interview:

Citing a Washington Times article explaining Mexican immigration laws that incriminated those who willfully participated in illegal immigration or helped illegal immigrants, Blitzer asked President Calderón to contrast those laws with Arizona's. Calderón replied that, while the Times assessment used to be true, it is no longer, and immigration cannot be illegal in Mexico. "Of course, on the border, we are asking people 'Who are you?'" explained Calderón, and "Once they are inside the country, what the Mexican police do is, of course, enforce the law, but any means immigration is a crime anymore in Mexico... if someone does that, we find them and sending [sic] them back."

In response to that, Blitzer noted that many in the US do not know that Mexico does not criminalize illegal immigration, and reference the older, harsher laws to argue that border states are only trying to do what Mexico does in its lower half, as well.

Blitzer later asks if Mexico checks papers at the border, and Calderon says yes, but when then asked if Mexican police do not go around asking for papers to prove residency, Calderon of course answers no. The coup de grace is when Blitzer follows up by asking him if a Guatemalan who is illegally in Mexico can just go and get a job, and Calderon is forced to answer no.

Yet he demands that we allow Mexicans to come illegally into the U.S. and get jobs.

Illegal Immigration II

Here's a headline good for a laugh Obama urges passage of immigration law
Fears racial profiling by states

Who are all these people kidding who claim that they object to Arizona's law because it allegedly profiles? We all know they're just in favor of illegal immigration.

Here, I'll prove it. My challenge to anyone who claims that they object to Arizona's SB1070 over civil rights issues is this; write your own law that enforces our immigration laws and gets reduces the number of illegals in the country. They never do it.

Leftist Intolerance

Here's a story that struck me today, Scientist booted off oil panel over writing

The Energy Department removed a St. Louis scientist from a select group picked by the Obama administration to pursue a solution to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico because of writings on his website about homosexuality and race relations.

Washington University physics professor Jonathan Katz was one of five top scientists chosen by the Department of Energy and attended meetings in Houston last week.

Mr. Katz is a leading scientist, but his website postings often touch on social issues. Some of those writings include defenses of "homophobia" and doubts about the value of racial preferences and similar diversity efforts.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu was not aware of Mr. Katz's writings before selecting him for the panel, spokeswoman Stephanie Mueller told the Associated Press. It was not immediately clear how the department became aware of the writings.

"Dr. Chu has spoken with dozens of scientists and engineers as part of his work to help find solutions to stop the oil spill," a statement from the Energy Department said. "Some of Professor Katz's controversial writings have become a distraction from the critical work of addressing the oil spill. Professor Katz will no longer be involved in the Department's efforts."

Mr. Katz, reached by phone by The Washington Times, said he had no comment and referred a reporter to official statements.

"There's enough mud being thrown around. I think it would be better if I just referred you to the public record," he said.

The extent of work he performed on the oil-spill recovery effort was not immediately known.

In a website posting titled "In Defense of Homophobia," Mr. Katz wrote that "the human body was not designed to share hypodermic needles, it was not designed to be promiscuous, and it was not designed to engage in homosexual acts."

"Engaging in such behavior is like riding a motorcycle on an icy road without a helmet. It may be possible to get away with it for a while, and a few misguided souls may get a thrill out of doing so, but sooner or later (probably sooner) the consequences will be catastrophic. Lethal diseases spread rapidly among people who do such things," he said.

In another posting, Mr. Katz questioned the value of universities' diversity efforts, saying they show no intellectual diversity and merely ingrain race-based thinking.

"The diversity movement is racist at its core," he writes. "When dealing with people, we should be concerned with intellect, talent, character and accomplishment. People aren't dogs or cattle; race matters only to racists."

When I read the things that Mr Katz wrote I thought "yeah, I believe most of that too."

Just remember, the left loves diversity! And don't you dare say otherwise.

Elena Kagan

We're supposed to believe that Elena Kagan is a moderate, that she's oh-so-smart, yada yada. Well, I don't know about the second part but anyone who believes the former needs to let me know because I've got a nice bridge to sell you.

She'll turn into another proponent of the "living constitution" theory which basically says make it up as you go along to fit your political agenda. Yep, it's Queen of Hearts time, folks, conclusion first, Constitution second. Want to take bets on how may penumbras she'll find over the course of her time on the bench?

Don't believe me? From her masters thesis: "Judges will often try to mold and steer the law in order to promote certain ethical values and achieve certain social ends.... Such activity is not necessarily wrong or invalid."

"Anti-Incumbent? Try Anti-Obama"

Fred Barnes says it's nonsense to think that the mood in this country is anti-incumbent:

The idea that anti-incumbent fever, striking equally at Democrats and Republicans, is the defining feature of the 2010 election is as misguided as last year's notion that President Obama's oratory would tilt the nation in favor of his ambitious agenda. Yet the media, echoing the Obama White House, has adopted anti-incumbency as the all-purpose explanation of this year's political developments...

What demolishes the notion of anti-incumbency as a scourge on both parties are the calculations of credible political analysts--Democrats and Republicans from Charles Cook to Jay Cost to Nathan Silver to James Carville--about the outcome of November's general election. They believe dozens of congressional Democrats either trail Republican challengers or face toss-up races, while fewer than a handful of Republicans are in serious re-election trouble...

If there's a Republican wave in November, Republicans will capture the Senate seats in Kentucky and Arkansas and probably in Pennsylvania as well. The most important political event of the week may have been the revelation that the Democratic Senate candidate in Connecticut, the state's Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, had falsely claimed to be a Vietnam veteran. That gives a Republican a chance to win in Connecticut, too--and maybe even a Senate majority.

We'll see. I'm not taking anything for granted. We've got a very good Republican congressman where I live in Frank Wolf (VA-10) , but he did vote for TARP which won't play well. I'm going all out to support him this year.

A Bomb South of the Border

Not in Mexico, thank heavens. But Brazil? Who do they have to worry about?

Turns out they've "extending over $1 billion in credit to Iran, in order to boost Brazilian exports to the country" . There goes the sanctions regime.

Above all, there is reason for doubt because of numerous signs that Brazil is working on its own secret nuclear program. The evidence is discussed in a recent paper by German nuclear security expert Hans Rühle. The paper is available in English from the German Council on Foreign Relations here. One point in Rühle's paper is of particular interest in connection with the policies of the current American administration. Rühle notes that in its December 2008 National Defense Strategy, Brazil confirmed its status as a member of the NPT, but also stated that "Brazil will not agree to any additional NPT restrictions until the nuclear weapons states make more progress toward nuclear disarmament." Concretely, Rühle points out, this meant that Brazil would not sign on to the 1997 additional protocol to the NPT allowing for expanded IAEA inspections and, in particular, would refuse to be more forthcoming about its suspect nuclear submarine program.

Brazil's conditioning of NPT cooperation upon the progress made by the existing nuclear powers toward nuclear disarmament reveals how the global "nuclear zero" campaign, of which Barack Obama has made himself the spokesperson, plays into the hands of would-be proliferators. After all, Iran itself has used similar arguments. Moreover, the stated condition for cooperation is entirely vague and flexible. How much "progress" is enough progress?

Another story with additional details here.

Lamest Mascots Ever

We end on a lighter note. Recently unveiled are Wenlock and Mandeville, the mascots for the 2012 Olympics in London

Wenlock and Mandeville

Video and story at The Guardian:

In the end they were neither animal, vegetable nor mineral. Nor, as some cynics had predicted, did they resemble white elephants.

Instead, Wenlock and Mandeville, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic mascots, elicited mostly baffled reactions as to just what they were at their unveiling today.

With a metallic finish, a single large eye made out of a camera lens, a London taxi light on their heads and the Olympic rings represented as friendship bracelets on their wrists, they resemble characters dreamed up for a Pixar animation.

Perfectly androgynous, they represent what the UK has become. No wonder the British Empire fell.

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April 29, 2010

Obama to Water Down Iran Sanctions: What a Surprise

A month ago I told you this was going to happen and got nothing but grief for it in the comments:

White House seeks to soften Iran sanctions: Wants exemption for firms based in China and Russia The Washington Times by Eli Lake April 29, 2010

The Obama administration is pressing Congress to provide an exemption from Iran sanctions to companies based in "cooperating countries," a move that likely would exempt Chinese and Russian concerns from penalties meant to discourage investment in Iran.

The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act is in a House-Senate conference committee and is expected to reach President Obama's desk by Memorial Day.

"It's incredible the administration is asking for exemptions, under the table and winking and nodding, before the legislation is signed into law," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and a conference committee member, said in an interview. A White House official confirmed Wednesday that the administration was pushing the conference committee to adopt the exemption of "cooperating countries" in the legislation.

The mullahs' are licking their chops! If you haven't been to Israel, go quickly before it's too late.

Via NRO, a new group called "Keep Israel Safe" summarizes the danger to Israel:

But it's not just Israel that's in danger. Liz Cheney's and Bill Kristol's Keep America Safe:

A new estimate sent from the Defense Department to Capitol Hill puts the date at which Iran could threaten the U.S. homeland with a ballistic missile at 2015. That replaces the May 2009 National Intelligence Estimate (which Obama officials cited as the reason for cancelling the Eastern European sites) timeframe of 2015-2020. Actually, "replace" is the wrong word. "Revert" is better, since an earlier estimate placed the range at 2012-2015. (The Weekly Standard)

This whole thing is headed nowhere good.

Yes yes, Bush didn't solve the problem either, yada yada yada. One, all conservatives and I criticized him for it ( I wrote time and again that our best course of action would be to use one means or another to overthrow the Iranian regime), and two, I thought Obama would usher in a new era of world cooperation and all that. If so he'd better get a move on.

What's Obama's plan for Iran? There isn't one

(yeah the video is a few months old but nothing's changed). We're coming down to either an Iranian nuke or military action by the U.S. or Israel. Either way, it's going to be ugly.

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April 10, 2010

Forget About Useful Sanctions on Iran

All of you hoping that Obama would somehow usher in a new glorious era of international relations have been played for fools. Russia, for example, isn't about to agree to serious sanctions on Iran. From Friday's Washington Post:

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told President Obama privately Thursday that there remain limits to his country's support for sanctions on Iran, even as the move for united action to restrain Iran's nuclear ambition accelerates. ...

In his remarks, Medvedev said he agrees that nations cannot "turn a blind eye" to Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and said he "cannot disagree" with what Obama said. But he made clear that Russian support for sanctions will be conditioned on their intent to change Iran's behavior, not to punish its people.

"Let me put it straightforward," Medvedev said of his discussions with Obama at the meeting at Prague Castle. "I have outlined our limits for such sanctions."

Officials from both countries said later that Medvedev privately offered a broad range of objections to sanctions, including actions that would create economic hardship for Iran, foment financial chaos or lead to regime change.

Translation: We're going to let Iran get nukes because we don't care.

If Obama thought that signing a new START treaty with Russia was going to get him anything he's dumber than I thought. The Russians don't care about Iranian nukes because everyone knows they'd blow any country that nuked them to kingdom come. Everyone also knows that with this president, and may potential Republican ones, we'd dither and agonize of this or that moral question until the cows came home.

Bush punted the problem to Obama, who has fumbled the ball. Once again, so much for hope and change. The bottom line to those who still obsess over what Bush should or should not have done is that we are where we are. I've long advocated a policy of regime change, but that option is probably past us as well. We're not going to get useful sanctions, so a U.S. military strike is the only thing left.

Israel does not have the capability to do the damage needed. They'll only get one strike, then international "outrage" will prevent further action. Their F-15s and F-16s are limited in the ordinance they can carry, and they don't have that many aircraft to begin with. Finally, we've refused to sell them the newer bunker busters that are really needed to get the job done.

Only the USAF and USN in a sustained weeks long campaign can get the job done, and I don't see the political will for a strike. Given that the Obama Administration isn't serious about pushing Russia or China for meaningful sanctions, and doesn't have the stomach for a fight, it looks like they have accepted the inevitability of Iranian nuclear weapons.

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March 28, 2010

Obama Insults Our Ally and is Weak Towards our Enemy

If this story is even half true it's enough to set your teeth on edge. The Telegraph reports on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit to the White House:

The Israeli prime minister arrived at the White House on Tuesday evening brimming with confidence that the worst of the crisis in his country's relationship with the United States was over.....

But Mr Obama was less inclined to be so conciliatory. He immediately presented Mr Netanyahu with a list of 13 demands designed both to the end the feud with his administration and to build Palestinian confidence ahead of the resumption of peace talks. Key among those demands was a previously-made call to halt all new settlement construction in east Jerusalem.

When the Israeli prime minister stalled, Mr Obama rose from his seat declaring: "I'm going to the residential wing to have dinner with Michelle and the girls."

As he left, Mr Netanyahu was told to consider the error of his ways. "I'm still around," Mr Obama is quoted by Israel's Yediot Ahronot newspaper as having said. "Let me know if there is anything new."

For over an hour, Mr Netanyahu and his aides closeted themselves in the Roosevelt Room on the first floor of the White House to map out a response to the president's demands.

Although the two men then met again, at 8.20 pm, for a brief second meeting, it appeared that they failed to break the impasse. White House officials were quoted as saying that disagreements remained. Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, added: "Apparently they did not reach an understanding with the United States."

Meanwhile, Obama is softening his sanction plan against Iran. But of course.

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February 18, 2010

IAEA: Iran is Probably Working on a Nuclear Warhead

Reuters has the story:

In unusually blunt language, an International Atomic Energy Agency report for the first time suggested Iran was actively pursuing nuclear weapons capability, throwing independent weight behind similar Western suspicions.

The IAEA seemed to be cautiously going public with concerns arising from a classified agency analysis leaked in part last year which concluded that Iran has already honed explosives expertise relevant to a workable nuclear weapon.

The report also confirmed Iran had produced its first small batch of uranium enriched to a higher purity -- 20 percent.

Both developments will intensify pressure on Iran to prove it is not covertly bent on "weaponizing" enrichment by allowing unfettered access for IAEA inspectors and investigators, something it rejects in protest at U.N. sanctions.

The United States is already leading a push for the U.N. Security Council to impose a fourth round of sanctions on Iran because of suspicions it may be developing nuclear weapons and has received declarations of support from Russia, which has until now been reluctant to expand sanctions.

"We always said that if Iran failed to live up to those international obligations, that there would be consequences," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters aboard Air Force One as President Barack Obama flew to a political event.

What consequences? Conveniently, Gibbs doesn't say.

Speaking of "consequences" without the threat of military force is useless with this regime. They've proven they're not intimidated by sanctions. Russia and China have said time and again they're not interested in serious sanctions.

There are, of course, two parts to a nuclear bomb; the warhead and the nuclear fuel. It's relatively easy to design "a bomb" if you don't care about size or how it's packaged. In other words, it's one thing to make something that will explode in a static test, quite another to make it so that it can be carried by an airplane or put atop a missile and still explode after going through the stresses of being blasted off, carried to altitude, dropped, etc.

The Warhead

In November of 2009, the Guardian published an explosive report that suggested that Iran was testing warheads:

The UN's nuclear watchdog has asked Iran to explain evidence suggesting that Iranian scientists have experimented with an advanced nuclear warhead design, the Guardian has learned.

The very existence of the technology, known as a "two-point implosion" device, is officially secret in both the US and Britain, but according to previously unpublished documentation in a dossier compiled by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iranian scientists may have tested high-explosive components of the design. The development was today described by nuclear experts as "breathtaking" and has added urgency to the effort to find a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis.

The sophisticated technology, once mastered, allows for the production of smaller and simpler warheads than older models. It reduces the diameter of a warhead and makes it easier to put a nuclear warhead on a missile.

Documentation referring to experiments testing a two-point detonation design are part of the evidence of nuclear weaponisation gathered by the IAEA and presented to Iran for its response.

So today's IAEA report did not come out of the blue.

The Fuel

Back to the Reuters story. Let's refresh ourselves with where Iran is on enriching uranium:

Last week, Iran announced a start to higher-scale enrichment, saying it was frustrated at the collapse of an IAEA-backed plan for big powers to provide it with fuel rods for nuclear medicine made from uranium refined to 20 percent purity.

The IAEA report complained that Iran had begun feeding low-enriched uranium (LEU) into centrifuges for higher refinement before inspectors could get to the scene in the Natanz pilot enrichment facility.
...

The big powers accused Iran of reneging on an agreement to ship out two-thirds of its LEU reserve to be turned into fuel rods for the medical reactor. This would have prevented Iran retaining enough of the material to fuel a nuclear weapon, if it were refined to about 90 percent purity.

Only France, one party to the U.N. draft deal, and Argentina are known to possess the technology. So analysts ask why Iran would enrich uranium well above its needs, except to lay the groundwork for producing bomb-grade uranium.

The report further said that Iran had increased its LEU stockpile by some 300 kg (660 pounds) to 2.06 tons since November -- enough for one or two nuclear bombs if enriched to 90 percent purity.

The IAEA said over nine-tenths of the LEU stockpile had been earmarked for enrichment up to 20 percent, a significant mark as further enrichment up to 90 percent may need only a few months.

"...only a few months" Let that sink in.

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February 5, 2010

Obama's Nuclear Free Fantasy World Part II

In Obama's Nuclear Free Fantasy World I wrote that The honest truth is that a "nuclear free world" has always meant a nuclear-free United States, because as I said earlier there is no way the other nuclear armed countries of this world would be so stupid as to follow suit, and yes that includes France."

I didn't know how right I was.

Charles Krauthammer relates this amazing story in a lecture he gave at the Heritage Foundation on Monday:

The depths of Obama's naïve universalism can be seen in his pursuit of this deeply unserious goal, the most dramatic instance of which, as Nicolas Sarkozy will not easily forget, occurred on September 24, one day after Obama's speech to the General Assembly, when he ostentatiously presided over the Security Council, the first time an American President had ever done so.

At the time, unknown to the world, Obama had knowledge that the Iranians had built a secret uranium enrichment facility near Qom. France and Britain were urging him to use that dramatic setting to stun the world with that revelation and thus be in a position to call for powerful immediate action. Not only did Obama refuse, but Sarkozy was forced to scrap any mention of Qom in his speech. Obama only revealed the news a day later in Pittsburgh.

Why did he forgo the opportunity? Because, explained White House officials, Obama did not want anything at that Security Council meeting to get in the way of his dream of a nuclear-free world. He did not want to "dilute" his disarmament resolution by "diverting to Iran."

Iran as a diversion? It's the most important security issue on the planet. A diversion from the fantasy of universal nuclear disarmament?

Sarkozy was sitting at that same Council table and could hardly contain himself. With Obama at the chair, Sarkozy pointedly observed: "President Obama has even said 'I dream of a world without [nuclear weapons].' Yet before our very eyes, two countries are currently doing the exact opposite." Sarkozy also informed the President that "we live in a real world, not a virtual world."

What have we come to when the President of France thinks our leader is a wimp?

Former Ambassador to the UN John Bolton explains the problem:

More Mr. Nice Guy
While nukes proliferate, Obama fiddles.
By John Bolton

(During his State of the Union Address) the president found time to opine more explicitly than ever before that reducing America's nuclear weapons and delivery systems will temper the global threat of proliferation. Obama boasted that "the United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades" and that he is trying to secure "all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years, so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists."

Then came Obama's critical linkage: "These diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in dealing with those nations that insist on violating international agreements in pursuit of nuclear weapons." Obama described the increasing "isolation" of both North Korea and Iran, the two most conspicuous--but far from the only--nuclear proliferators. He also mentioned the increased sanctions imposed on Pyongyang after its second nuclear test in 2009 and the "growing consequences" he says Iran will face because of his policies.

In fact, reducing our nuclear -arsenal will not somehow persuade Iran and North Korea to alter their behavior or encourage others to apply more pressure on them to do so. Obama's remarks reflect a complete misreading of strategic realities.
...

The premise underlying (Obama's) assertions may well be found in Obama's smug earlier comment that we should "put aside the schoolyard taunts about who is tough.  .  .  .  Let's leave behind the fear and division." By reducing to the level of wayward boys the debates over whether his policies are making us more or less secure, Obama reveals a deep disdain for the decades of strategic thinking that kept America safe during the Cold War and afterwards. Even more pertinent, Obama's indifference and scorn for real threats are chilling auguries of what the next three years may hold.

Obama has now explicitly rejected the idea that U.S. weakness is provocative, arguing instead that weakness will convince Tehran and Pyongyang to do the opposite of what they have been resolutely doing for decades--vigorously pursuing their nuclear and missile programs. Obama's first year amply demonstrates that his approach will do nothing even to retard, let alone stop, Iran and North Korea.

Neither Bush nor Obama administration efforts toward international sanctions have had any measurable impact....

For years I've been saying that there can be no successful negotiating with the revolutionary government of Iran. They are bound and determined to get nuclear weapons because they see them as the key to their goal of achieving regional hegemony. As such, the best solution is regime change, and failing that, military action.

Whether we've been clandestinely engaged in trying to change the government is unknown, but out public actions have certainly not been calibrated to achieving that goal.

I've written at length about this,but long story short we could and should have been overtly supporting a change of government, dissidents, and making a huge issue out of Iran's terrible record on human rights. That Iran is the world's leading state sponsor of terror is also something we should have been screaming to the high heavens, but instead our leaders have been silent.

For the most part George W Bush let the EU3 (France, the UK, and Germany) handle negotiations with Iran. As Bolton explains above, it didn't work. Those who continue to talk about sanctions as the answer aren't reading the papers:

Talk of Iran sanctions hinders diplomacy, says China Friday, February 05, 2010 Reuters

China told other world powers on Thursday that discussing broader sanctions against Iran was counter-productive, striking a blow to a Western push to rein in Tehran's nuclear program. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told a conference during a visit to France that Tehran's negotiating position was evolving and he wanted to see more direct talks with Iran.

"To talk about sanctions at the moment will complicate the situation and might stand in the way of finding a diplomatic solution," Yang said.

France is among Western powers seeking to have the UN Security Council approve a fourth batch of sanctions against Iran by the end of March to prod Tehran into freezing uranium enrichment, which can have peaceful or military purposes.

Russia, like China, has extensive trade ties with Iran and both acted to weaken previous rounds of Security Council sanctions.

But a Russian lawmaker said on Thursday that Moscow and Western powers had already moved closer to agreement on the need for farther-reaching punitive measures.

We've been through this so often that I've no faith whatsoever that there is any hope of enforcing the level of sanctions that would stand a chance of getting the mullahs to stop their nuclear program.

And why should China or Russia agree to sanctions? They've got good trade going with Iran which they see no reason to spoil. Iranian nukes wouldn't be pointed at them, and if and everyone knows that Chinese or Russian leaders wouldn't hesitate to erase Iran from the map if necessary. Everyone does doubt U.S. resolve however, and with good reason: Barack Obama is seen as a wimp.

Israel may strike Iran, but they have very limited resources, and the best they can do is set their nuclear program back for awhile. At the rate things are going, Iran will eventually get nuclear weapons, whatever type of world Obama is dreaming of. Can you imagine a situation where their nuclear weapons are more modern than ours? It would be the case. Our most recent warhead is the W88, designed in the 1970s.

Whatever, one can argue that we have better delivery systems. True enough. What seems inarguable, however, is that severely reducing our arsenal will not persuade Iran, North Korea, or any of the other bad actors to give up their programs, and indeed will reduce our options in striking back if that's what it comes down to.

As I said at the beginning, it's a sad day when the President of France things out leader is a wimp.

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January 3, 2010

Taking the Wrong Side in Iran

The other day I was speaking to a young man who was on leave from Iraq about the situation there. He's in intelligence, so much of the conservation was interrupted with "I'd love to tell you more, but..." and things like that. One thing he did stress that is hardly classified is that Iran is an absolute cancer on the region, and that 80 percent of our troubles in Iraq would go away if we could replace the government there with a friendly or neutral one.

Even since the ruling mullahs stole the election from Mir-Hossein Mousavi and gave it to incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad , a significant number of Iranians have reacted by staging some of the largest protests the country has ever seen.

I realize that there are risks involved in an open declaration of support for the resistance movement by a U.S. president. And certainly one can go too far too often in open proclamations of support for the protesters or in denunciation of the government. But our president gives the impression that the protesters are a distraction from the main business of negotiations over nuclear materials. Rachel Abrams says it much better than I could:

President Obama and his players have spent six months praying for the nascent revolution in Iran to go away, pursuing what Fouad Ajami describes today as a cold-blooded foreign policy. Some of them who should know better have likely admitted the truth to themselves during 2 AM night-sweat sessions: there is nothing worthy about the behavior of the U.S. government they represent in this matter. The jettisoning of human rights, the accusation against predecessors, the willful blindness to reality, the active undermining of pro-democracy activist groups, all constitute a dangerous slouch toward the obscene cowardice that blighted Europe in the face of the Nazis. But the uprising that has proved so disadvantageous to the Obamic foreign policy enterprise is refusing to die, and the quavering has got to stop. There are only two positions here--the right side and the wrong side. With rare exceptions, this president's willful blindness to the great moral weight of America has stood us on the wrong side wherever the lives of subjugated peoples have been at stake. But it's not too late to make things right with those Iranians bleeding in the streets for their freedom. They need us. They need to hear our voices raised full-throat in support of them and against their oppressors and murderers just as do those terrorized souls living at the mercy of the sadistic Burmese junta, or subsisting on acorns and pine cones in the North Korean gulag, or dying every day with the assistance of the Sudanese tyranny.

Knowing we're with them, really with them, even if only in spirit, could save them, as every survivor of Soviet domination will attest; and in telling them so we could rediscover the moral center in our great fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Far from being a distraction, the protesters are the main issue. As long as the theocratic government remains in power, Iran will be a cancer, stirring up trouble from Iraq to Lebanon.

I've kind of lost track of events in Iran these past few days, being consumed with other matters. They seem to have died down, perhaps because of the wave of arrests it made following the large protests on Ashura, December 27. Indeed, the government brought out it's own supporters on Dec 30. Billed as a "million man march," it's unclear how many actually showed up.

It's a bit old now, but Michael Ledeen gave a good update of the situation last Thursday, December 28:

Here are the key points from Iran over the last 3-4 days: First, in line with my basic sermon these many years, if you study the videos you will see many many women in the front ranks. They have every reason to be there, as the Islamic Republic (like so many Islamic regimes) is built on the sludge of misogyny.

Second, many of the evil Basij goons wore masks. This is new, and it indicates fear that they will be identified and hunted down. The conflict is ever more violent: On several occasions, crowds attacked security forces, even dragging them out of cars -- and then, cursing them, letting them run away.

Third, in another ominous development for the regime, people from the southern (lower-class) neighborhoods of Tehran joined in. The revolt is now very broad based. But it is not yet powerful enough for the Bazaaris to join: Today the Tehran Bazaar was open for business.

Fourth, the regime has been stripped of religious legitimacy by its own panic-driven brutality. By invading mosques and hosseiniyas, by assaulting family members of leading clerics (Grand Ayatollah Sanei is under house arrest), and by ordering murder on Ashura, the supreme leader has violated a whole series of previously sacrosanct rules. I will be surprised if we do not soon hear from Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Sistani.

Finally, there is still no national strike of the sort that paralyzed the shah's regime 31 years ago. But this may come: There were Twitter reports yesterday saying that Mousavi was calling for a strike on January 7.

There is now a state of emergency throughout the country (although some cities are still in open revolt), and many angry calls for the arrest of Mousavi and Karroubi, which would surely provoke more massive demonstrations and perhaps even the use of weapons by the people (even today, Molotov cocktails were thrown at security forces in central Tehran). If this were a normal regime, I'd expect a cooling-down period; but it isn't a normal regime, so it's unpredictable.

Meanwhile, the Western world clicks its collective tongue and criticizes "the violence" and the lack of respect for rights of free speech and assembly, as if that were the point. Not a single Western "leader" has found the nerve and the common sense to denounce the regime and call for regime change. Indeed, President Obama couldn't drag himself away from the beach and the basketball court on Oahu to say anything at all. Nor could our secretary of state. Or Robert Gates, for that matter, whose men and women are being blown up in Iraq and Afghanistan, courtesy of the mullahs.

As a Washington Times article today points out, the bad news is that Iran's opposition movement has yet to produce a charismatic leader," but the good news is that it has "diverse and growing group of organizers, including numerous students and veterans of an abortive 1999 uprising."

Strong but Brittle

One of the arguments Natan Sharansky makes in The Case for Democracy is that tyrannies are at once strong but brittle. By this he means that they are strong in all the ways we think they are; military and police power, the ability to silence critics, and to manipulate or outright control the thought of millions. But a sharp knock in the right place at the right time and the whole thing crumbles almost instantly.

Nicolae Ceauşescu ruled Romania with an iron fist for almost 25 years. His rule appeared as absolute as any. Yet one day in December of 1989 we read about protests in the streets over the eviction of a popular priest. A week or so later Ceauşescu and his wife had fled his capital by helicopter, shortly after to be arrested, brought back to Bucharest, tried and shot on Christmas Day. It all happened so fast no one could quite believe what they were seeing. That it came on the heals of the fall of the Berlin wall a month earlier did not lesson the shock.

Videos


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December 27, 2009

Iranians Protest: Obama is AWOL Again

Last June, while protests raged in the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities, President Obama remained silent. I and other like-minded protested, conservative pundits and politicians raged, and Obama finally made a few tepid remarks in support of the protesters.

Like deja vu all over again, protests rage throughout Iran and once again our president is silent. Nile Gardiner sums up my feelings exactly in the Telegraph:

I wrote back in June about the shameful silence of the Obama administration during the mass street protests that greeted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's fraudulent re-election victory as President of Iran. As White House spokesman Robert Gibbs ludicrously put it, the administration was "impressed by the vigorous debate and enthusiasm this election generated." Or in Vice President Joe Biden's words on NBC's Meet the Press, describing Ahmadinejad's victory - "we're going to withhold comment... I mean we're just waiting to see."

Embarrassingly for Washington, even many European leaders showed more backbone in condemning the Iranian regime's brutal suppression of protestors, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton humiliatingly outflanked by her French and German counterparts, who had no qualms about speaking out swiftly and firmly against the election result and the actions of the Iranian government.

In the six months that have followed, Barack Obama's high-risk engagement strategy has simply encouraged more repression from the Mullahs, as well as ever greater levels of defiance over Iran's nuclear weapons programme. As Con Coughlin noted in an excellent piece for The Wall Street Journal last month, Obama's Iran diplomacy isn't working:

"Iranian human-rights groups say that since the government crackdown began in late June, at least 400 demonstrators have been killed while another 56 are unaccounted, which is several times higher than the official figures. The regime has established a chain of unofficial, makeshift prisons to deal with the protesters, where torture and rape are said to be commonplace. In Tehran alone, 37 young Iranian men and women are reported to have been raped by their captors."

Now once again huge street protests have flared up on the streets of Tehran and a number of other major cities, with several protesters shot dead this weekend by the security forces and Revolutionary Guards, reportedly including the nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, and dozens seriously injured. And again there is deafening silence from the Commander-in-Chief as well as his Secretary of State. And where is the president? On vacation in Hawaii, no doubt recuperating from his exertions driving forward the monstrous health care reform bill against the overwhelming will of the American public and without a shred of bipartisan support.

For all the talk about human rights and the danger of theocracy that comes from the left, you'd think they could bring themselves to at least say something in support of people who are protesting true dictatorial theocrats.

I've heard all the excuses and they're all bullcrap; because of our role in the Mohammed Mossadeq affair, we're not allowed to ever again interfere in Iran's internal affairs, that even speaking in support of the protesters will backfire, giving the government the excuse it wants to crack down, that silent diplomacy works best, or that the protesters don't live up to our Jeffersonian standards so are probably little better than the government.

Funny how these arguments didn't apply to apartheid South Africa.

Just as with his failed attempt to bring the 2016 Olympics to the Chicago, this is all about Obama. He didn't care about the Olympics, he just wanted to make himself look good by getting them. Likewise, he doesn't care about the well-being of the Iranian people, he just wants to make himself look good by negotiating a deal that will end Iran's nuclear program.

President Obama needs to take a lesson from Ronald Reagan and stand with the protesters in Iran. End this silence, lets end the mullah's regime, and let's bring real democratic change to Iran.

Previous
Why President Obama Should Stand for Freedom in Iran June 27, 2009
Terror in Tehran... But is the Government Getting the Upper Hand? June 24, 2009
More Action, Protests, Remberences of Neda Agha-Soltan in Iran June 23, 2009
One and a Half Cheers for Obama June 23, 2009
Will The Protesters In Iran Succeed In Overturning the Government? June 21, 2009
Violence in Iran, and Obama Shifts His Position...Sort of June 20, 2009
House and Senate Democrats Diss Both Obama and Liberal Bloggers June 20, 2009
Reagan v Obama: How To Handle Tyranny June 17, 2009
Obama to Iranian Protesters: You're On Your Own June 16, 2009
A Few Thoughts On The Iranian Elections June 14, 2009


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November 29, 2009

Iran to World: Bugger Off!

Looks like talking Iran out of it's nuclear weapons program is going to be more difficult than our president imagined. From the Times of London (via Powerline) dateline November 30:

Iran plans to build ten new uranium enrichment plants in a gesture of defiance to the West.

The escalation of its nuclear programme was announced yesterday, two days after world powers ordered Iran to halt construction of a plant near Qom and to adhere immediately to five United Nations resolutions demanding it stop uranium enrichment.

The censure from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), with rare backing from Russia and China, provoked anger in Iran where members of parliament demanded the withdrawal of co-operation with UN inspectors.

President Ahmadinejad announced last night that his Cabinet had ordered the building of ten new plants aimed at producing up to 300 tonnes of nuclear fuel a year, with construction to begin on five within two months....

Robert Gibbs, President Obama's press spokesman, said that if confirmed the plan would be "yet another serious violation of Iran's clear obligations under multiple UN security council resolutions, and another example of Iran choosing to isolate itself . . . Time is running out for Iran to address the international community's growing concerns."

A senior US official said that the plan constituted the boldest public violation of Iran's international obligations to date, and underlined its unwillingness to reach a peaceful compromise. Western powers have said they will consider new sanctions if Iran has not shown signs of good faith by the end of the year.

They'll "consider new sanctions," eh? I'm sure the mullahs are quaking in their boots.

But er, wait; on Friday International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) diplomats threatened Iran with sanctions, and the Iranians evidently aren't impressed.

The Associated Press:

In a blow to Iran, the board of the U.N. nuclear agency on Friday overwhelmingly backed a demand from the U.S., Russia, China and three other powers that Tehran immediately stop building its newly revealed nuclear facility and freeze uranium enrichment.

Iranian officials shrugged off approval of the resolution by 25 members of the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency. But the U.S. and its allies hinted of new U.N. sanctions if Tehran remains defiant.

The West said some time remained for Tehran to come around and accept a specific offer that would delay its ability to make a nuclear weapon as well as engage in broader talks with the ultimate goal of persuading it to mothball its enrichment program.

But that window of opportunity would not stay open indefinitely, officials said.

"The next stage will have to be sanctions if Iran doesn't respond to what is a very clear vote from the world community," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said.

So now they're going to what, ban the sale of number two lead pencils to Iran? Hair spray? Russia and China have said several times that they are not interested in serious sanctions. If we've learned anything from the past eight years or so it's that the Iranians don't feel threatened by the sort of sanctions the "world community" has the stomach to impose.

The fact is that Iran is on the fastrack to obtaining nuclear weapons and all the talk in the world won't stop them. No sanctions that anyone is likely to impose will do any good either. President Obama staked his diplomacy on "engagment" and all that. He'd better engage himself soon or military strikes by Israel or us will be the only options left.

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September 20, 2009

More on the Missile Defense System Obama Canceled

On Thursday I explained how Obama betrayed our allies who had gone out on a limb for us, reduced our ability to defend against Iranian nuclear missiles sure to be developed, and weakened us in the eyes of the world. The system Obama canceled would have put a powerful radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland. cancelled

Before we get going today, a reminder from Jim Geraghty about how all promises from Obama come with an expiration date. Here's Obama this past April 5:

So let me be clear: Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran's neighbors and our allies. The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles. As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven. (Applause.) If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe will be removed. (Applause.)

As I explained in my previous post, Poland and the Czech Republic were under tremendous amounts of pressure not to accept the anti-missile system. n 2004 Poland received 43% of it's natural gas from Russia, and the Czech Republic, 77%. Last winter Russia cut off shipments of gas to Ukraine, allegedly over contract disputes, but most likely it was more just a show of power by Russia.

They therefore went out on a limb for the United States. Now that the system has been canceled, they're without as much protection from Iranian nuclear missiles sure to be developed, and they've still got Russia mad at them.

But that's no big deal, as I'm sure the liberals will say. "Circumstances have changed."

Except that they haven't.

Thomas Joscelyn has the scoop in a post over at The Weekly Standard

First, note that the Obama administration, in its fact sheet on missile defense, does not currently intend to deploy a missile defense system capable of intercepting Iran's long-range missiles until 2020. Phase Four of Obama's plan, which is "in the 2020 timeframe," reads (emphasis added): "After development and testing are complete, deploy the SM-3 Block IIB to help better cope with medium- and intermediate-range missiles and the potential future ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile) threat to the United States." All three of the previous phases deal with short to intermediate-range interceptors.

That is, Obama's plan does not envision the deployment of a missile defense capable of countering Iran's long-range missiles until the tail end of the current estimate of when the mullahs will have that capability. The current estimate is that Iran will have an ICBM capability between 2015 and 2020. Obama is therefore assuming the best-case scenario (for us) with respect to long-range missiles within that range. So, the current plan does not envision deploying long-range interceptors in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, or 2019, which are all possibilities in the current estimate. The Obama plan says things may change, of course, but for now they've assumed the best-case scenario from the West's perspective.

Second, as I discussed earlier, it is still very likely that the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) does not really have a firm grasp on when Iran will deploy ICBM's. Just as with the 2007 NIE on Iran's nuclear program, the IC has once again modified its views within a relatively short period of time. The previous estimate said that the mullahs "could" have a long-range missile capability by 2015. This estimate was cited as recently as President Obama's inauguration day, January 20 of this year. 2015 is still apparently a possibility, but the IC has now pushed back the tail-end of its range of possibilities. This means that it could be in 2015, or in 2020, some time in between, or whenever.

Of course, Iran continues apace with its satellite program (e.g. Iran launched its first satellite into space in February 2009), which can be used to push along its development of ICBM's. So, it is not clear why the IC now thinks, on average, it will take longer than previously anticipated for Iran to develop a long-range missile capability.

Third, the timing of the news of this revised NIE is certainly inauspicious. An IAEA document reportedly showing that Iran has the capability to make a nuclear bomb and is developing a missile system capable of carrying it has been leaked to the Associated Press. The IAEA responded by issuing a statement saying it "has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapon program in Iran." This is transparently false as the AP's account makes it clear that the IAEA's document says Iran has mostly likely worked on both the ability to detonate a nuclear weapon as well as the capability to deliver it.

Thus, at the precise moment the Obama administration is telling us there is less to worry about with respect to Iran's long-range missiles, a leaked IAEA document is telling us that there is more to worry about with respect to Iran's nuclear program in general. The Obama administration's entire rationale for its missile defense plan rests on the assumption that Iran will not be able to deliver such a weapon with a long-range missile for ten more years.

The Concept of Layers

Our ships in World War II had a multi-layered defense against enemy aircraft. Farthest out were our own fighters. The ship itself had three types of guns; 5 inch with proximity fused shells to fire long distance, Quad-mount 40mm Bofors for medium range, and 20mm Oerlikon as a last ditch defense. Modern aircraft carriers have a similar arrangement but with missiles and the Phalanx gun system for terminal defense.

It's the same with ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) defense. In the ideal system you set up a variety of radars and detection systems, then you have different types of missiles to intercept the threat during boost-stage, mid-course, and terminal phase. We have AEGIS ships, ground-based interceptors, and finally the THAAD system as terminal defense.

The reason for all this is pretty simple; no one layer will get all of the threats.

By canceling the system that would have been set up in Poland and the Czech Republic Obama has removed one layer.

MAD Won't Work

We could deter the Soviets and Chicoms (nice Cold War term there) because they were atheists and as evil as they were and are at the end of the day wanted to live. Communism has no meaning if everyone is dead. Mutual Assured Destruction thus had a perverse logic to it that worked during the Cold War.

Not so with religious fanatics, especially of the Muslim variety. Through dozens if not hundreds of statements it should be pretty clear by now that Ahmadinejad and the mullahs are not at all shy about sacrificing perhaps millions of their countrymen if it means destroying an enemy.

This said, they indeed hesitate before pushing the button when they get nuclear weapons and the means by which to deliver them. Even fanatics will have last minute doubts. But weakness on our part will encourage them to "risk it" and encourage their fanaticism. Osama bin Laden and others saw the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan as a sign from God that He was on their side and that they should continue their jihad. No doubt the mullahs and Ahmadinejad see the same thing from Obama's weakness. .

Same Old Song From the Democrats

I have been observing Democrats for almost 40 years, and they're all the same on National Defense. Their mantra is "develop forever, deploy never." They're always against current weapons systems, but in favor of some future system. President Carter canceled the B-1a in favor of a future stealth bomber (which eventually turned out to be the B-2). President Clinton forever delayed the deployment of anti-missile systems in favor of future ones. Democrats in Congress are just the same.

Folks, I know these Democrats. I know how they think. What's going on now is the latest stanza in the same old song. I guarantee you that when it comes time to deploy the system(s) in and around Turkey that Obama now claims he wants, they'll want to cancel them too. Do not be fooled.

What Have We Learned?

  1. All promises from Obama come with an expiration date
  2. Our allies went out on a limb for us and we sawed it off
  3. Obama will not deploy any system capable of countering ICBMs until 2020, "the tail end of the current estimate" as to when Iran will have ICBMs.
  4. We should not be confident of current estimates on Iranian capabilities.
  5. Anti-missile defenses should be set up in layers
  6. MAD won't work
  7. History tells us that Obama's future system will be opposed anyway by Democrats as their motto is "develop forever, deploy never."

The prudent thing is to have multiple layers of defense against all types of missile threats; short range, IRBM (Intermediate-Range Ballistic Misslies),and ICBMs. These defenses should be deployed well ahead of when we currently think our adversaries might deploy their missiles. To do anything less is to toy with the security of the United States.

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Obama Betrays Our Allies By Canceling Missile Defense Shield

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September 17, 2009

Obama Betrays Our Allies By Canceling Missile Defense Shield

Barack Obama is turning into Jimmy Carter Part II with frightening speed. It's bad enough that he apologizes to foreign offices for perceived U.S. offenses, that he let's Latin American thugs lecture him without response, admonishes Israel while ignoring Palestinian offenses and that he cuts vital weapons systems like the F-22 Raptor, but in his latest act he has both betrayed key allies and left Europe defenseless all at once. All that and we're barely eight months into his presidency. Not even Carter got this bad so fast.

In case you haven't seen it, here's the story as it appeared in today's Washington Times

President Obama on Thursday said he is scrapping current plans for a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic that was intended to protect against the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, but said he is doing so in order to deploy a more flexible system, possibly in those same countries, that his administration said is an "enhancement."

Mr. Obama, in a statement at the White House, said that his "new approach" will "best address the threat posed by Iran's ongoing ballistic missile defense program."

He and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates emphasized that the new system was based on a determination that the Iranian threat has shifted, for now, away from long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) delivery systems for potential nuclear weapons and toward short- and medium-range missiles.

We'll deal later with why the explanation is a load of bunk, but for now let's make sure we understand the magnitude of the betrayal of our allies.

Poland is right on the doorstep of Russia. The Czech Republic is father away, of course, but still vulnerable. Poland is most vulnerable to direct military assault, and both to economic pressure. Russia is the world's largest exporter of natural gas. In 2004 Poland received 43% of it's natural gas from Russia, and the Czech Republic, 77%. Last winter Russia cut off shipments of gas to Ukraine, allegedly over contract disputes, but most likely it was more just a show of power by Russia.

A few years ago Russia put a lot of pressure on Poland and the Czech Republic to not accept their parts of the missile defense shield, but they bravely resisted and threw in their lot with the U.S. They did so knowing that they were vulnerable to Russian pressure, but they did it anyway. And now Obama pulls the rug out from under them. They now have the worst of both worlds; no defense against missiles but still having annoyed Russia for having accepted it in the first place.

An Iranian Nuke

For the past few years I've listened to liberals tell us there was no worry because the Iranians had either stopped their nuclear program or were years off. Today we see this from Fox News

A secret report from the United Nations' nuclear watchdog warns that Iran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and is developing a missile system to carry it -- an assessment that could call into question the Obama administration's claim on Thursday that the biggest threat from Iran comes from its short- and medium-range missiles....

The report, which says Iran is likely to "overcome problems" on developing a delivery system, appears to be the so-called "secret annex" on Iran's nuclear program that Washington has said is being withheld by the IAEA's chief.

But the IAEA pushed back hard against that allegation, saying the charge is baseless.

"With respect to a recent media report, the IAEA reiterates that it has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapon program in Iran," the IAEA said in a written statement.

An IAEA spokesman told FOX News that the next formal report on Iran's nuclear capabilities is expected in November. He said the evidence suggesting Iran has a nuclear weapons program has not been verified.

I tried to quote enough to be fair.

Ok, so it's not definitive or verified. And my instinct tells me that they won't have a nuke until next year. And it'll be awhile after than before they have more than one or two, and longer still before they can put them atop missiles.

But maybe not. The simple fact is that we don't know, and seems to me that it is only prudent to assume that they are relatively far along in development.

Missiles in Turkey Not Sufficient

The White House put out a "fact sheet"on their alternative to the canceled missile defense system in Europe, which says in part:

Starting around 2011, this missile defense architecture will feature deployments of increasingly-capable sea- and land-based missile interceptors, primarily upgraded versions of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3), and a range of sensors in Europe to defend against the growing ballistic missile threat from Iran. This phased approach develops the capability to augment our current protection of the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missile threats, and to offer more effective defenses against more near-term ballistic missile threats. The plan provides for the defense of U.S. deployed forces, their families, and our Allies in Europe sooner and more comprehensively than the previous program, and involves more flexible and survivable systems.

But as Michael Goldfarb points out over at TWS:

The White House has put out a "fact sheet" on their policy of Russian appeasement/missile defense surrender. The fact sheet says that the new approach -- focusing on SM-3 and sea-based systems (presumably in Turkey) -- will "augment our current protection of the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missile threats." That is a lie. This system will provide zero, nada, zilch protection to the U.S. homeland, providing only defense against short- and medium-range missiles to Europe.

The fact sheet says this system will protect "our Allies in Europe sooner and more comprehensively than the previous program, and involves more flexible and survivable systems." That is a lie. The system that was being placed in Poland is already operational in Alaska. These new plans will now take years of negotations to implement and will necessarily be less survivable as they will not be underground.

The fact sheet says that "The Czech Republic and Poland, as close, strategic and steadfast Allies of the United States, will be central to our continued consultations with NATO Allies on our defense against the growing ballistic missile threat." That is a lie. The Czechs and Poles get a midnight phone call from the president while Tauscher is already in the air. They were not consulted with and have been given no assurances -- because the president is selling them out.

The fact sheet says, "We also welcome Russian cooperation to bring its missile defense capabilities into a broader defense of our common strategic interests." If that's true, our president is totally clueless about Russian capabilities and intentions -- even Bush, who looked into Putin's soul, was not so delusional as to think U.S. missile defense could be dependent on Russian good will and cooperation. How long til the Russians threaten to throw us out of our "joint" missile defense facilities in order to coerce us into staying out of an attack on Georgia or some other democratic state in their near abroad.

This is a decision based purely on ideology and the good soldiers on the JCS and and at the Pentagon have no choice but to go along for the ride. At least the president ought to be honest about what this means and stop the smears of missile defense.

Yup, what we have here is pure left-wing ideology in action. It is the mindset of Jimmy Carter; screw our friends and talk nice to our enemies. Obama is all set to talk to Iran next month, yet the latter have shown absolutely no inclination that they will even consider giving up their nuclear program. Both Russia and China have said that they are dead set against any more sanctions.

Betraying Friends and Rewarding Enemies and Adversaries

Obama ignored the massive human rights abuses committed by the mullahs in the wake of the last election there, and only spoke out after intense pressure. He's a fool if he thinks that Russia will give us anything in return for this massive U.S. concession. Obama has betrayed Poland and the Czech Republic, two allies, and is being nicey-nice to our enemies and adversaries, Iran and Russia.

So today Iran and Russia are happy, and Poland and the Czech Republic disappointed. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Perhaps the most insightful words, though, were spoken by Mirek Topolanek, who was the Czech prime minister when Prague agreed to co-host the shield, said that Obama's decision to cancel it was

"not good news for the Czech state, for Czech freedom and independence".

Yes, the future of Czech freedom and indepdence are more in question today than they were yesterday

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July 22, 2009

Keep Your Nuclear Umbrella At Home

Don't worry, be happy!

Clinton: U.S. Will Extend 'Defense Umbrella' Over Gulf if Iran Obtains Nuclear Weapons Secretary of state warns Iran that the United States would extend a "defense umbrella" over its allies in the Persian Gulf if the Islamic Republic obtains a nuclear weapons capability.

By James Rosen
FOXNews.com

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Iran Wednesday that the United States would extend a "defense umbrella" over its allies in the Persian Gulf if the Islamic Republic obtains a nuclear weapons capability.

Appearing on a Thai TV program, Clinton said the U.S. would also take steps to "upgrade the defense" of America's Gulf allies in such an event, a reference to stepped-up military aid to those countries.

Yeah right. Sorry, but I'm not buying the notion that anyone will be impressed with a U.S. "defense umbrella," even if it means a nuclear umbrella, and here's why:

One, Iran will not be deterred by conventional or nuclear weapons in the same way the Soviets could be deterred. Evil as the communists where, they were atheists, and as such in the end wanted to live. There was no benefit to them if at the end of a war their country lay in ashes. The Khomeinists who rule Iran are religious zealots, and while they have the earthly goal of establishing a regional Imamate, are willing do die if that's what it takes. Former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has said that

Amid chants of "Death to Israel," he declared, "The use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. . . . It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality." Even if Israel responded with its own nuclear arsenal, the Islamic Republic has the strategic depth to absorb and withstand the retaliation, and so the price might be worth it. "It will only harm the Islamic world," he argued.[9] When it comes to Iranian desires to possess nuclear weapons rather than simply a civilian nuclear energy program, Rafsanjani's statements have become the rule rather than the exception.

And of course current President Ahmadinejad is well known for his fixation on the return of the Mahdi, and might even believe he can prompt his return by creating "chaos and bloodshed" on earth.

At any rate, it is always a mistake to "mirror image" and assume the other side plays by your rules. That is, to assume they share your assumptions and reason as you do.

Two, no country in their right mind would accept a U.S. assurance that we'll use nuclear weapons against Iran if they get hit, and this includes Israel.

Defending western Europe was one thing, the Middle East another. If an Arab state gets hit with a nuclear weapon, there will be a huge outcry in the West to the effect of "why should we kill innocent Iranians to protect Arabs?" If Israel gets hit, many in the U.S. will demand retaliation, but many will demand object. And I'm not at all optimistic about Europe if Israel gets hit.

And this is if the U.S. homeland or our military bases (read personnel) overseas are not directly threatened. Any Iranian with his salt will threaten a retaliatory nuclear attack on either the U.S. homeland or a regional military base if we intervene.

The threat against the U.S. homeland need not be real to be effective. They don't need ICBMs, all they need to do is announce they've got a short-range missile on an mystery cargo ship off the U.S. coast, or a bomb planted in one of our cities, and how are we to know they're bluffing? Will we take the chance?

So in the end I think that in the face of a threatened Iranian strike not many U.S. presidents, and certainly no Democrat ones, will strike Iran.

As such, the countries of the region will get their own nuclear weapons. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt all have the capability to do so. And then we'll have a series of barely stable governments armed with the worlds most dangerous weapons, all on hair trigger alert. Great.

Therefore, the only thing to do is stop Iran from getting the bomb. If President Obama wants to try one more round of talks, ok, fine. But when if they fail, we're going to have to preempt Iran by striking their facilities.

Of course, this entire situation could have been avoided had the Bush Administration pursued a policy of regime change in Iran through clandestine means. I think the evidence, though, is that they didn't, if for no other reason than that the Democrats in Congress would have leaked it and Obama would have announced it. Obama should pursue this strategy himself, but he won't.

I think you can tell I'm very pessimistic.

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July 13, 2009

Obama Releases Known Terrorists

Because I don't have time to do a proper post tonight I'm going to post the most important parts of Andy McCarthy's article today on National Review. This boggles the mind:

Obama Frees Iranian Terror Masters
The release of the Irbil Five is a continuation of a shameful policy.

By Andrew C. McCarthy

There are a few things you need to know about President Obama's shameful release on Thursday of the "Irbil Five" -- Quds Force commanders from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) who were coordinating terrorist attacks in Iraq that have killed hundreds -- yes, hundreds -- of American soldiers and Marines.

First, of the 4,322 Americans killed in combat in Iraq since 2003, 10 percent of them (i.e., more than 400) have been murdered by a single type of weapon alone, a weapon that is supplied by Iran for the singular purpose of murdering Americans. As Steve Schippert explains at NRO's military blog, the Tank, the weapon is "the EFP (Explosively Formed Penetrator), designed by Iran's IRGC specifically to penetrate the armor of the M1 Abrams main battle tank and, consequently, everything else deployed in the field." Understand: This does not mean Iran has killed only 400 Americans in Iraq. The number killed and wounded at the mullahs' direction is far higher than that -- likely multiples of that -- when factoring in the IRGC's other tactics, such as the mustering of Hezbollah-style Shiite terror cells.

Second, President Bush and our armed forces steadfastly refused demands by Iran and Iraq's Maliki government for the release of the Irbil Five because Iran was continuing to coordinate terrorist operations against American forces in Iraq (and to aid Taliban operations against American forces in Afghanistan). Freeing the Quds operatives obviously would return the most effective, dedicated terrorist trainers to their grisly business.

Third, Obama's decision to release the five terror-masters comes while the Iranian regime (a) is still conducting operations against Americans in Iraq, even as we are in the process of withdrawing, and (b) is clearly working to replicate its Lebanon model in Iraq: establishing a Shiite terror network, loyal to Iran, as added pressure on the pliant Maliki to understand who is boss once the Americans leave. As the New York Times reports, Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, put it this way less than two weeks ago:

Iran is still supporting, funding, training surrogates who operate inside of Iraq -- flat out. . . . They have not stopped. And I don't think they will stop. I think they will continue to do that because they are also concerned, in my opinion, [about] where Iraq is headed. They want to try to gain influence here, and they will continue to do that. I think many of the attacks in Baghdad are from individuals that have been, in fact, funded or trained by the Iranians.

Fourth, President Obama's release of the Quds terrorists is a natural continuation of his administration's stunningly irresponsible policy of bartering terrorist prisoners for hostages. As I detailed here on June 24, Obama has already released a leader of the Iran-backed Asaib al-Haq terror network in Iraq, a jihadist who is among those responsible for the 2007 murders of five American troops in Karbala. While the release was ludicrously portrayed as an effort to further "Iraqi reconciliation" (as if that would be a valid reason to spring a terrorist who had killed Americans), it was in actuality a naïve attempt to secure the reciprocal release of five British hostages -- and a predictably disastrous one: The terror network released only the corpses of two of the hostages, threatening to kill the remaining three (and who knows whether they still are alive?) unless other terror leaders were released.

Michael Ledeen has reported that the release of the Irbil Five is part of the price Iran has demanded for its release in May of the freelance journalist Roxana Saberi. Again, that's only part of the price: Iran also has demanded the release of hundreds of its other terror facilitators in our custody. Expect to see Obama accommodate this demand, too, in the weeks ahead.

Finally, when it comes to Iran, it has become increasingly apparent that President Obama wants the mullahs to win. What you need to know is that Barack Obama is a wolf in "pragmatist" clothing: Beneath the easy smile and above-it-all manner -- the "neutral" doing his best to weigh competing claims -- is a radical leftist wedded to a Manichean vision that depicts American imperialism as the primary evil in the world.

What a disgrace. Read the whole thing

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July 7, 2009

The Coming "Reverse Reykjavik"

In October of 1986 Reagan and Gorbachev met in Reykjavik, Iceland, to discuss arms control measures. Gorbachev proposed a 50% reduction in strategic nuclear weapons, and completely eliminating intermediate range weapons, coupled with restricting missile defense testing to "laboratories." Reagan wanted to reduce, indeed eliminate nuclear weapons, but famously refused to restrict missile defense, and so the summit ended without an agreement. The consensus in the press was that it had been a failure because no deal had been struck.

In 2002 President Bush withdrew the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty so that we could deploy defenses without being encumbered by it's restrictions. While there were some protests the reaction of Russia and other nations seemed quite muted.

Now President Obama is in Russia to conduct talks on nuclear weapons, Afghanistan, and other matters. Knowing a sucker when they see one, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is trying to succeed where Gorbachev failed. From a Fox News story on Sunday:

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Sunday the United States must compromise on its plan to build a missile defense system in Europe in order to reach a deal on reducing nuclear warheads, Reuters reported.

The Russian leader said in an interview that a deal on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) and the United States' plan for a missile defense system are linked. Moscow believes a missile defense system is a threat to its national security.

"We consider these issues are interconnected," Medvedev said. "It is sufficient to show restraint and show an ability to compromise. And then we can agree on the basis of a new deal on START and at the same time can agree on the question of how we move forward on anti-missile defense."

Obama has thrown his grandmother, his pastor, and Israel under the bus. Why not the one area that plays to our biggest strength, technology?

Barack Obama, I fear, is getting ready to give up our missile defense. Heaven help us.

The threat is real and growing. Iran does not today have a missile capable of reaching most of Europe, let alone the U.S. They also do not have nuclear weapons. Today. But at the rate they're going they will have them both sooner or later, and when they do it would be foolish of us to count on our being able to dissuade them from using them based on a Cold War MAD mentality.

As good atheists, the Soviet communists wanted to live. They were evil, but they weren't crazy. The kingdom they wanted to create was of this earth.

The rulers of Iran are driven by religious zeal, and as such do not behave according to our rules of reason and logic. Ahmadinejad and his associates are driven at least in part by the cult of the return of the Mahdi, or Twelfth Imam, as I've documented about a dozen or so times.

The U.S. State Department website fact sheet dated January 20, 2009 gives the background into what President Bush trying do to in Europe:

The U.S. has agreed with Poland and the Czech Republic to begin formal missile defense basing negotiations, which if favorably concluded, would allow the fielding of ten U.S. long-range ground-based defensive interceptors in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic.
  • The proposed U.S. missile defense assets in Europe would defend the U.S. and much of Europe against long-range ballistic missile threats launched from the Middle East. The U.S. would benefit from greatly enhanced protection from attacks originating in the Middle East, while Europe would gain defenses where none previously existed.
  • Some southern European countries do not face long-range threats from Iran given their proximity to the Middle East. NATO has focused its missile defense development efforts on countering shorter range threats. The United States and NATO efforts are complementary and could work together to form a more effective defense for Europe.

Obama is wiling to give that up, as we see from this story in today's Jerusalem Post:

"If the threat from Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile program is eliminated, the driving force for missile defense in Europe will be eliminated," US President Barack Obama said Tuesday...

"In the short period since the end of the Cold War, we have already seen India, Pakistan and North Korea conduct nuclear tests. Without a fundamental change, do any of us truly believe that the next two decades will not bring about the further spread of nuclear weapons?

"That is why America is committed to stopping nuclear proliferation, and ultimately seeking a world without nuclear weapons ... And while I know this goal won't be met soon, pursuing it provides the legal and moral foundation to prevent the proliferation and eventual use of nuclear weapons," Obama said.

On the surface this might seem to make sense. No threat, no defense. The problem, of course, is that type of thinking assumes that we can predict with certainty 1) what types of weapons our enemies have and exactly what their capabilities are, 2) who our enemies will be a few years down the road, and 3) that if all else fails we an dissuade them from attacking by threatening the use of our own nuclear weapons.

I'm not certain of any of these. We are pretty good at tracking things like missiles, but not infallible. More, missile defense takes a lot longer to set up and test than do the offensive missiles themselves. Worse, Iran could acquire offensive missiles overnight from a rogue source and we might miss the shipment.

Complicating all this are two more factors: One, that the number of U.S. nuclear weapons is shrinking, and two, without testing their reliability is becoming questionable.

Second one first; I've googled around on the reliability issue, and the consensus seems to be that worst case most will explode, one scientist gives a 70% figure in a 2005 story in The New York Times. Even this doesn't sound so bad, but we need to remember that the perceptions of our enemies count for how they'll act.

A memo circulated by House Republicans has some numbers

...the United States has been shrinking (not growing) its nuclear stockpile for quite some time now. For example, under START accounting rules, the number of US warheads attributed to deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers in recent years has been:

1997: 7,957
2000: 7,519
2006: 5,966
2008: 5,951
2009: 5,576

These numbers aren't as impressive as you might think. Let's understand that warheads are not fungible, which is to say they're not all usable in any given situation. This is why we have a variety of types of warheads with different (sometimes variable) yields on many different platforms. Also, our responsibilities are worldwide, while our enemies are able to concentrate on a specific region. Finally, quick action may be required, and if we have too few it may take too long to get the right weapon to the other side of the world to have a decisive influence.

The U.S. - Russia joint statement wants to bring them down to 1500-1675. From the press conference of President Obama and President Medvedev of Russia on Monday:

It is very difficult for us to exert that leadership unless we are showing ourselves willing to deal with our own nuclear stockpiles in a more rational way. And that's why this post-START agreement is so important, and I'm hopeful that we can reduce our nuclear arsenals by as much as a third and hopefully can move even beyond that in subsequent agreements and treaties.

Here's an insight into Obama's thinking from The Washington Post

President Obama called for a new relationship between the United States and Russia on Tuesday, saying that the frequent rivals could both prosper by joining forces to combat common threats and pursue mutual interests.

The modern scourges of stateless terrorism and nuclear proliferation threaten both the United States and Russia, Obama said, demanding that the two nations shed past suspicions and confront those problems as partners.

"There is the 20th-century view that the United States and Russia are destined to be antagonists, and that a strong Russia or a strong America can only assert themselves in opposition to one another," Obama said. "And there is a 19th-century view that we are destined to vie for spheres of influence, and that great powers must forge competing blocs to balance one another. These assumptions are wrong."

Didn't George W. Bush try this?

From a BBC story of June 16, 2001:

Presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin have met for the first time and appear to have hit it off.

The two men still differ over enlarging Nato and US missile defence plans, but they exchanged warm words...

The summit is being judged a success by both sides even though it leaves Russia and the US little closer to resolving the issues that divide them.

The atmosphere here was one of friendly co-operation with the two leaders getting on far better than expected.

That didn't work out so well, did it? Why does Obama thinks he can do better? The answer is found in another Washington Post story:

Obama said he has been trying to alter the tone of U.S. foreign policy to make it easier for countries to focus on their common interests with the United States. But that task is much easier, he said, when the United States is viewed favorably.

"The world leaders are like politicians everywhere, and they're reading the polls," Obama said in an interview Wednesday with ABC News' Jake Tapper. "They find out that their population, 45 percent of or 30 percent approve of America and 70 percent disapprove, that is a strong disincentive to want to work with us."

I don't know if Obama is naive, arrogant, or just some combination of the two, but this business of "now that I have ascended to the throne the world will now bow at my feet in adoration" and so "previously bad nations will now come around" routine is getting old.

The Bottom Line

If Obama wants to flatter himself by negotiating a reduction on American and Russian nuclear weapons, fine. I haven't any great objection.

The problem comes if 1) he gives up missile defense, and/or 2) belives that reducing our arsenal somehow gives rogue nations incentive to do likewise. Anyone who thinks that Iran, North Korea, etc want nuclear weapons because we have them is naive or stupid. Anyone who thinks that if we reduce our arsenal the evil nations of this world will be morally shamed is an idiot. I hope our president is none of these. Who knows, he might surprise me, but I worry.

Wednesday Update

Professor Donald Douglas nails it over at American Power:

Conservatives knew Barack Obama lacked gravitas over two years ago. And now we're starting to see the rest of the country catch on. Folks are getting hip to the Democrats' epic electoral fail of 2008...

So, let's just consider President Obama's U.S.-Russia summit this week. It's one more indication of the woeful unseriousness of this man and his administration. The highlights are at Memeorandum. CNN has a story on Sasha and Malia Obama, "Obama Girls Take Russia by Storm." Plus, the New York Times follows up with, "Family Night for Obamas Miffs Some in Moscow." But the best of these, also from the Times, is "Family Night for Obamas Miffs Some in Moscow."...

The president himself remains inside a narcissisitic bubble and the rest of the world can only watch dumfounded as this administration sleepwalks through history.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 5, 2009

The Coming Israeli Airstrike on Iran?

It's quite possible that within the next few months Israel will strike Iran by air. First this from today's Jersualem Post

On the day that US Vice President Joe Biden seemed to give Israel a green light for military action to eliminate Iran's nuclear threat, The Jerusalem Post learned that the IAF plans to participate in aerial exercises in the US and Europe in the coming months with the aim of training its pilots for long-range flights.

And this also today from the Sunday Times of London

The head of Mossad, Israel's overseas intelligence service, has assured Benjamin Netanyahu, its prime minister, that Saudi Arabia would turn a blind eye to Israeli jets flying over the kingdom during any future raid on Iran's nuclear sites.

We've seen many other tell-tale signs as well. In June of last year the New York Times reported that

Israel carried out a major military exercise earlier this month that American officials say appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Just last April the Sunday Times again reported that an Israeli attack on a military convoy in Sudan was practice for a long-range attack. A quick look at a map shows why:

Israel to Iran map

In short, Israel will need to overfly someone in order to hit Iran. Syria is out of the question, though Turkey remains a good possibility. It is well known that for years Israel has cultivated relations with Turkey, and the two hae engaged in military maneuvers together. But if that doesn't pan out, going through Saudi Arabia would be the next best bet.

Israel doesn't have heavy bombers like the B-52, B-1, or B-2. They rely on F-15s and F-16s. They do have a decent tanker capability, but the range of these fighters is severely restricted when carrying heavy ordinance. I haven't done the calculations, but flying down the Red Sea, through the Arabian Sea, and up to Iran would seem prohibitively far.

Can They Do It?

Israel will get one shot at Iran. The sad fact is that much of the world will go ape after just one strike, and I can't see Saudi Arabia or Turkey allowing Israeli planes through more than one time.

As alluded to above, the capabilities of the AIF are limited. I've seen reports both ways on whether we've allowed them to buy our largest bunker busters, but I think it's really beside the point. The Israelis simply don't have enough aircraft, and the Iranian facilities are at this point too advanced and dispersed for them to be able to effectively do the job.

So Israel will set Iran back a few years but that's it. Note that I'm doing this without benefit of the research I'd usually do but just don't have time. That said, I think I've got it pretty much right.

Only the U.S. can hit Iran and do it right. It would take all of our airpower, and a campaign of two to three weeks, but if we kept at it and were willing to do it periodically we could keep them from getting the bomb.

Should They Do It?

I've written about what I think we should do with regards to Iran at some length, but the short version is that these past several years we should have been working towards regime change rather than counting on the EU-3 (Britain, France, and Germany) to negotiate Iran out of their nuclear program.

Military strikes on Iran would be messy, with the ramifications spreading far and wide. Iran could cause a lot of trouble using asymmetric war capabilities, some of which can somewhat anticipate (instability in Iraq, terrorism), but also in ways that will catch us by surprise.

But we also need to understand that worse than strikes on Iran would be Iran with a nuclear bomb.

The best case scenario for a nuclear Iran is that neither they nor anyone else int he neighborhood, but everyone else in the region goes nuclear. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egyptian bombs are a given. Syria and Jordan will be tempted. Either way, you have barely-stable governments staring one another down, and since missile flight times will be only a few minutes, reaction time will be nil, leading to the strong possibility of accidental war. This is to say nothing of the possibility of the sale of nuclear know-how, theft of nuclear bombs/material/plans, and the temptation for jihadist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood to take control of one or more of these new nuclear powers.

Worse scenarios include nuclear exchanges. 'Nuff said there.

Either way, worse than a strike on Iran is a nuclear Iran.

I don't think we're ready for a strike on Iran yet, but time is running short and we're almost there. It's just possible that Iran might undergo internal changes, though in the past few days that hope is receding. Obama has shown no signs of having any idea what to do other than a mindless attempt at direct talks.

In the end if there has to be a strike as the only way to stop them from getting the bomb the U.S. should do it. Only we can do it right, and Iran is as much our problem as it is anyone else's

We're not there yet, but we're awfully close.

Tuesday Update

Once again it looks like Biden may have run on at the mouth, er, misspoke:

The US has "absolutely not" given Israel a green light for a possible attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, US President Barack Obama said Tuesday.

Obama was qualifying comments Vice President Joe Biden had made Sunday that left the impression the US would not stand in the way of an Israeli action.

"We have said directly to the Israelis that it is important to try and resolve this in an international setting in a way that does not create major conflict in the Middle East," said Obama, currently in Russia, during a CNN interview.

Posted by Tom at 10:30 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 28, 2009

"The less we protest, the more people will die"

Yesterday I outlined many reasons why Why President Obama Should Stand for Freedom in Iran and other places around the world. I described why his policy of silence was foolish and how no, speaking up did not give the tyrants a reason they would not otherwise have had to crack heads. I quoted ex-Soviet dissident Anatoly (now Natan) Sharansky about how Reagan's "Evil Empire" speech gave their movement a much needed boost in the arm. I also quoted from The Washington Post some Arab democracy activists who were distraught at Obama's lack of forceful action with regards to Iran.

Today I bring you Jose Maria Anzar, prime minister of Spain from 1996-2004. He hits it out of the part in an editorial in the today's Wall Street Journal:

If there hadn't been dissidents in the Soviet Union, the Communist regime never would have crumbled. And if the West hadn't been concerned about their fate, Soviet leaders would have ruthlessly done away with them. They didn't because the Kremlin feared the response of the Free World.

Just like the Soviet dissidents who resisted communism, those who dare to march through the streets of Tehran and stand up against the Islamic regime founded by the Ayatollah Khomeini 30 years ago represent the greatest hope for change in a country built on the repression of its people. At stake is nothing less than the legitimacy of a system incompatible with respect for individual rights. Also at stake is the survival of a theocratic regime that seeks to be the dominant power in the region, the indisputable spiritual leader of the Muslim world, and the enemy of the West.

The Islamic Republic that the ayatollahs have created is not just any power. To defend a strict interpretation of the Quran, Khomeini created the Pasdaran, the Revolutionary Guard, which today is a true army. To expand its ideology and influence Iran has not hesitated to create, sustain and use proxy terrorist groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. And to impose its fundamentalist vision beyond its borders, Iran is working frantically to obtain nuclear weapons.

Those who protest against the blatant electoral fraud that handed victory to the fanatical Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are in reality demanding a change of regime. Thus, the regime has resorted to beating and shooting its citizens in a desperate attempt to squash the pro-democracy movement.

This is no time for hesitation on the part of the West. If, as part of an attempt to reach an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, the leaders of democratic nations turn their backs on the dissidents they will be making a terrible mistake.

President Obama has said he refuses to "meddle" in Iran's internal affairs, but this is a poor excuse for passivity. If the international community is not able to stop, or at least set limits on, the repressive violence of the Islamic regime, the protesters will end up as so many have in the past -- in exile, in prison, or in the cemetery. And with them, all hope for change will be gone.

To be clear: Nobody in the circles of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei or Ahmadinejad is going to reward us for silence or inaction. On the contrary, failing to support the regime's critics will leave us with an emboldened Ahmadinejad, an atomic Iran, and dissidents that are disenchanted and critical of us. We cannot talk about freedom and democracy if we abandon our own principles.

Some do not want to recognize the spread of freedom in the Middle East. But it is clear that after decades of repression -- religious and secular -- the region is changing.

The recent elections in Lebanon are a clear example. The progressive normalization of Iraq is another. It would be a shame, particularly in the face of such regional progress, if our passivity gave carte blanche to a tyrannical regime to finish off the dissidents and persist with its revolutionary plans.

Delayed public displays of indignation may be good for internal political consumption. But the consequences of Western inaction have already materialized. Watching videos of innocent Iranians being brutalized, it's hard to defend silence.

Posted by Tom at 9:36 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

June 27, 2009

Why President Obama Should Stand for Freedom in Iran

While I've been away these past two days President Obama has issued some more mild criticism of the election fraud in Iran, prompting President Ahmadinejad and other Iranians to lash back in rage. The latest from The Washington Times

President Obama on Friday called the postelection crackdown in Iran "outrageous" and flatly refused President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's request for an apology. One leading Iranian cleric, meanwhile, called for protest leaders to be executed.

Continuing this week's harsh rhetoric, Mr. Obama, after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said "direct dialogue" with Iran will suffer as a result of the beatings and killings of protesters, though he didn't spell out exact consequences. He said he remains vigilant to see how events play out.

Mrs. Merkel went much further, demanding a recount of the votes and saying the international community must identify the victims and make Iran account for their treatment.

"Despite the government's efforts to keep the world from bearing witness to that violence, we see it and we con-demn it," said Mr. Obama, though he continued to say Iran itself must decide the election results. "If the Iranian government desires the respect of the international community, then it must respect the rights - and heed the will - of its people."

Apparently having learned from one or another Clinton on how to parse words to keep all sides happy and yet leave him room to take any position in the future, he vaguely promises that ""direct dialogue" with Iran will suffer" yet doesn't say what that means.

Does it mean that he won't meet directly with the Iranians at all? Or not until certain preconditions are satisfied? If the latter, what are they? Again, no specifics.

Ahmadinejad, for his part, fired back

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with Iran still reeling after his disputed re-election as president, practically dared President Obama on Saturday to take a hard-line approach to the Islamic nation -- pledging a "crushing" response to further U.S. condemnation of the post-election crackdown on protests in Tehran.

As if to back up this threat a senior cleric threatened to execute some of the protesters:

In a Friday sermon at Tehran University, a senior cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, called for harsh retribution for dissent.

"Anybody who fights against the Islamic system or the leader of Islamic society, fight him until complete destruction," he said in the nationally broadcast speech.

The cleric claimed that some involved in the unrest had used firearms.

"Anyone who takes up arms to fight with the people, they are worthy of execution," he said. "We ask that the judiciary confront the leaders of the protests, leaders of the violations, and those who are supported by the United States and Israel strongly, and without mercy to provide a lesson for all."

Fears of a crackdown are why so many on the left say that condemnatory rhetoric from Obama would only be counterproductive. "It would serve no purpose and would only give the regime an excuse to brutalize it's own people even more," goes the logic.

It's a tempting argument, but one that doesn't withstand scrutiny. The perfect example is Ronald Reagan, who famously called the Soviet Union an "Evil Empire" which at home gained him much grief from liberals. Abroad, however, it was a different story.

Reagan's words gave imprisoned dissidents heart, and hope for the future. Anatoly Sharansky (now Natan Sharansky) spent eight years in the gulag. When he was there, Reagan gave his famous "evil empire" speech. Western liberals were appalled, but Sharansky and other imprisoned dissidents had a different reaction:

Q: Were there any particular Reagan moments that you can recall being sources of strength or encouragement to you and your colleagues?

Sharansky: I have to laugh. People who take freedom for granted, Ronald Reagan for granted, always ask such questions. Of course! It was the great brilliant moment when we learned that Ronald Reagan had proclaimed the Soviet Union an Evil Empire before the entire world. There was a long list of all the Western leaders who had lined up to condemn the evil Reagan for daring to call the great Soviet Union an evil empire right next to the front-page story about this dangerous, terrible man who wanted to take the world back to the dark days of the Cold War. This was the moment. It was the brightest, most glorious day. Finally a spade had been called a spade. Finally, Orwell's Newspeak was dead. President Reagan had from that moment made it impossible for anyone in the West to continue closing their eyes to the real nature of the Soviet Union.

George W. Bush was similarly correct to label Iran, North Korea, and Iraq under Saddam Hussein an "Axis of Evil." As with Reagan, he caught nothing but grief from liberals, but has been proven correct by events.

What a U.S. president says is closely monitored by dissidents in totalitarian countries. What he says can either give them hope, or demoralize them. Reagan's "harsh" words gave dissidents in the Soviet Union hope. It's hard to imagine a similar reaction among protesters in Iran.

This isn't just ancient history, however. Arab democracy activists in the Middle East (yes, they do exist) are worried that Obama's policy is counterproductive to the cause of freedom. FromThe Washington Post

The frustration comes against a backdrop of deep-rooted skepticism among pro-democracy activists that U.S. policies under President Obama will help transform the region, despite his vow to engage the Muslim world in a highly publicized speech here last month. Some view Obama's response to Iran's protests, muted until Tuesday, as a harbinger of U.S. attitudes toward their own efforts to reform their political systems. The Egyptian government, they note, is a key American ally, and U.S. pressure on Egypt for reforms began subsiding in the last years of the Bush administration.

"When Obama does not take a stance, the very next day these oppressive regimes will regard this as a signal. This is a test for his government," said Ayman Nour, a noted Egyptian opposition politician who was recently released from jail. "If they can turn a blind eye to their enemy, they can turn a blind eye to any action here in Egypt."

Finally, Christopher Hitchens explains why we shouldn't worry about rhetoric coming from the leaders in Tehran:


  1. There is nothing at all that any Western country can do to avoid the charge of intervening in Iran's internal affairs. The deep belief that everything--especially anything in English--is already and by definition an intervention is part of the very identity and ideology of the theocracy.

  2. It is a mistake to assume that the ayatollahs, cynical and corrupt as they may be, are acting rationally. They are frequently in the grip of archaic beliefs and fears that would make a stupefied medieval European peasant seem mentally sturdy and resourceful by comparison.

  3. The tendency of outside media to check the temperature of the clerics, rather than consult the writers and poets of the country, shows our own cultural backwardness in regrettably sharp relief. Anyone who had been reading Pezeshkzad and Nafisi, or talking to their students and readers in Tabriz and Esfahan and Mashad, would have been able to avoid the awful embarrassment by which everything that has occurred on the streets of Iran during recent days has come as one surprise after another to most of our uncultured "experts."

Hitch then goes on to explain the implication of these observations:

That last observation also applies to the Obama administration. Want to take a noninterventionist position? All right, then, take a noninterventionist position. This would mean not referring to Khamenei in fawning tones as the supreme leader and not calling Iran itself by the tyrannical title of "the Islamic republic." But be aware that nothing will stop the theocrats from slandering you for interfering anyway. Also try to bear in mind that one day you will have to face the young Iranian democrats who risked their all in the battle and explain to them just what you were doing when they were being beaten and gassed. (Hint: Don't make your sole reference to Iranian dictatorship an allusion to a British-organized coup in 1953; the mullahs think that it proves their main point, and this generation has more immediate enemies to confront.)

There is then the larger question of the Iranian theocracy and its continual, arrogant intervention in our affairs: its export of violence and cruelty and lies to Lebanon and Palestine and Iraq and its unashamed defiance of the United Nations, the European Union, and the International Atomic Energy Agency on the nontrivial matter of nuclear weapons. I am sure that I was as impressed as anybody by our president's decision to quote Martin Luther King--rather late in the week--on the arc of justice and the way in which it eventually bends. It was just that in a time of crisis and urgency he was citing the wrong King text (the right one is to be found in the "Letter From a Birmingham Jail"), and it was also as if he were speaking as the president of Iceland or Uruguay rather than as president of these United States. Coexistence with a nuclearized, fascistic theocracy in Iran is impossible even in the short run. The mullahs understand this with perfect clarity. Why can't we?

Oh I get it, Mr. Hitchens. It's our president who seems not to understand.

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June 24, 2009

Terror in Tehran... But is the Government Getting the Upper Hand?

A young woman describes her horrific experiences in Tehran today while CNN uses Google Earth to show where the events took place. The regime has moved into high gear as it looses restraints on the security forces:

Absolutely heartbreaking.

In another interview a student protester described his experiences over the telephone to CNN's John Roberts:

Roberts: Mohammad, we have been talking this morning about what the students are fighting for and whether the students are fighting for something different than the older more established political candidates like Moussavi. Are the students seeking regime change? Are they looking to bring down the Ayatollah and completely change the form of government there in Iran? Or are you looking for - as has been suggested - more civil rights, more freedoms within the context of the existing regime?

Mohammad: Yes. Let me tell you something. For about three decades our nation has been humiliated and insulted by this regime. Now Iranians are united again one more time after 1979 Revolution. We are a peaceful nation. We don't hate anybody. We want to be an active member of the international community. We don't want to be isolated. Is this much of a demand for a country with more than 2,500 years of civilization? We don't deny the Holocaust. We do accept Israel's rights. And actually, we want -- we want severe reform on this structure. This structure is not going to be tolerated by the majority of Iranians. We need severe reform, as much as possible.

The perspective of only one young person to be sure, but interesting nonetheless. Here is where it really gets good though

Mohammad: Americans, European Union, international community, this government is not definitely -- is definitely not elected by the majority of Iranians. So it's illegal. Do not recognize it. Stop trading with them. Impose much more sanctions against them. My message...to the international community, especially I'm addressing President Obama directly - how can a government that doesn't recognize its people's rights and represses them brutally and mercilessly have nuclear activities? This government is a huge threat to global peace. Will a wise man give a sharp dagger to an insane person? We need your help international community. Don't leave us alone.

Chetry: Mohammad, what do you think the international community should do besides sanctions?

Mohammad: Actually, this regime is really dependent on importing gasoline. More than 85% of Iran's gasoline is imported from foreign countries. I think international communities must sanction exporting gasoline to Iran and that might shut down the government.

There's an idea for anyone who claims that we can't do anything. And for all those who protest that stopping the importation of gasoline would only hurt the people and not the government, I wonder if they took that attitude when sanctions were put on apartheid South Africa?

At least he rescinded the invitation to Iranian diplomats to our Independence Day celebrations.

Winding Down?

This latest report from Fox News make me think that the government is getting the upper hand

A flood of security forces using tear gas and clubs quickly overwhelmed a small group of rock-throwing protesters near Iran's parliament Wednesday, and the country's supreme leader said the outcome of the disputed presidential election will stand -- the latest signs of the government's growing confidence in quelling unrest on the streets.

As the election showdown has shifted, demonstrators are finding themselves increasingly scattered and struggling under a blanket crackdown that the wife of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi compared to martial law. In Wednesday's clashes, thousands of police crushed hundreds of Mousavi supporters.

The statement by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that the June 12 election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would not be reversed was accompanied by a vow that the nation's rulers would never yield to demands from the streets.

What To Do

As Edward Luttwak said in todays Wall Street Journal, however this turns out, the events of the past week have "undermined the very structure of the Islamic Republic is the fracturing of its ruling elite." This, then, is the time to apply a full-court-press as stand a good chance of toppling the regime entirely.

Whatever we do we most certainly should not do is go back to business as usual with Iran.

Shun the Regime. This was suggested by Jonah Goldberg today. No meeting with any Iranian official for any reason. This means no negotiations over anything. And it certainly means no more stupid letters from our president. We twist arms around the world and use all of our carrots and sticks to make other nations shun Iran as well. If Ahmadinejad or any other official speaks before any forum, we get as many nations as possible to walk out. Shunning them will cost the regime legitimacy, and will weaken it internally. Remember that when the U.S. and other nations refused to allow entry to Austrian President Kurt Waldheim over his Nazi past, he had to eventually resign. Shunning regime officials will pressure them to reform, and at best cause the system to fall.

Ban the importation of gasoline, as suggested above. Yes this will hurt the people of Iran, but only in the short run. It will also hurt the military who will turn on the mullahs and force change.

These are just two ideas but let me know yours.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 23, 2009

More Action, Protests, Remberences of Neda Agha-Soltan in Iran

Here are some of the latest videos of the the protests in Iran (h/t The Corner)

This one by the Associated Press shows amateur video reportedly shot on Sunday. It also shows protests, and the police making arrests. It also shows part of the infamous video where Neda Agha-Soltan, dubbed the "Angel of Freedom," lay dying of a gunshot wound to the heart.

This one is labeled "Night to June 22," which I take means it was shot Sunday night.

This next one, though, is my favorite. It was shot sometime over the weekend that shows a crowd turning on the police and chasing them. This isn't the norm, to be sure, but it sure is good to see:


Battle w/ Police - Tehran, Iran - June 20th 2009
by mightier-than


They aren't just protesting in Iran. Here's a video of a protest in front of the Iranian consulate in Washington DC

Iran's "Angel of Freedom"

We'll end by quoting a piece in the New York Post about Neda Agha-Soltan (or Sultan), who has become a symbol of resistance to the Iranian regime. Some of the protesters in Tehran are carrying signs with her picture on it.

Neda Agha-Soltan, 26

The young Iranian woman whose gruesome killing has become a rallying cry for the nation's opposition movement eerily predicted her violent death by gunfire -- but was determined to protest against "the injustice of it all," a friend said yesterday.

As the violence continues to escalate on the streets of the embattled Middle Eastern nation, the beautiful philosophy student, Neda Agha-Soltan, 26, who had been engaged to be married, is being hailed as Iran's Joan of Arc.

The government yesterday blocked a wake for her in a central Tehran mosque for fear that the outpouring of grief would lead to more anti-regime protests, her fiancé, Caspian Makan, told the BBC.

"The authorities are aware that everybody in Iran and throughout the whole world knows about her story," Makan said.

"They were afraid that lots of people could turn up."

The 40-second video of Neda's death has not been aired on Iranian state-sponsored TV, but many in the country -- and worldwide -- have seen it on the Internet.

Since the video made shock waves across the Web, her photo has been held aloft at demonstrations all over the globe.

Posted by Tom at 10:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

One and a Half Cheers for Obama

Yipee, after a week and a half of equivocating, our president said something right today regarding Iran. Mostly right, anyway.

Hello, everybody. Good afternoon, everybody. Today, I want to start by addressing three issues, and then I'll take your questions. First, I'd like to say a few words about the situation in Iran. The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.

I've made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not interfering with Iran's affairs. But we must also bear witness to the courage and the dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore the violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place.

The Iranian people are trying to have a debate about their future. Some in Iran -- some in the Iranian government, in particular, are trying to avoid that debate by accusing the United States and others in the West of instigating protests over the election. These accusations are patently false. They're an obvious attempt to distract people from what is truly taking place within Iran's borders. This tired strategy of using old tensions to scapegoat other countries won't work anymore in Iran. This is not about the United States or the West; this is about the people of Iran, and the future that they -- and only they -- will choose.

The Iranian people can speak for themselves. That's precisely what's happened in the last few days. In 2009, no iron fist is strong enough to shut off the world from bearing witness to peaceful protests [sic] of justice. Despite the Iranian government's efforts to expel journalists and isolate itself, powerful images and poignant words have made their way to us through cell phones and computers, and so we've watched what the Iranian people are doing.

This is what we've witnessed. We've seen the timeless dignity of tens of thousands of Iranians marching in silence. We've seen people of all ages risk everything to insist that their votes are counted and that their voices are heard. Above all, we've seen courageous women stand up to the brutality and threats, and we've experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets. While this loss is raw and extraordinarily painful, we also know this: Those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history.

As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent and not coercion. That's what Iran's own people are calling for, and the Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government.

Note that he used the words "appalled," "outraged," and "condemed." Good for him and I'm glad he said it, but I think Michael Goldfarb has it right:

This is Russia invades Georgia redux. Obama flails for a few days and finally gets the rhetoric where it should have been from day one. If speaking forthrightly is right today, why was it not right four days ago? If speaking forthrightly would endanger allegedly greater interests, why speak today? If speaking forthrightly would enable the mullahs to make the United States the issue, why speak today?

The intellectual and moral incoherence of Obama's pronouncements is staggering. Today he decides to join Merkel, Sarko, et al in expressing concern for the brave Iranians fighting for their freedom with his customary swagger. We should not just sit back and say better late than never. We should see the dangers of a soulless president whose limited foreign policy instincts are all wrong, who refuses to discuss the consequences of murder with a Bush-like swagger and who's so stubborn and rigid he won't even rescind an invitation to a barbecue. It's a shame he didn't stick to reading the great Urdu poets.

Yup. I think the only reason Obama has changed his tune is that he felt pressured to do so.

Just to show what a weenie our president is, and that I am probably being way too generous in giving him one and a half cheers for his statement today, here is how he responded to questions in a press conference following the statement (h/t Mike's America)

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

Your administration has said that the offer to talk to Iran's leaders remains open. Can you say if that's still so even with all the violence that has been committed by the government against the peaceful protesters?

And if it is, is there any red line that your administration won't cross where that offer will be shut off?

OBAMA: Well, obviously what's happened in Iran is profound, and we're still waiting to see how it plays itself out.

My position coming into this office has been that the United States has core national security interests in making sure that Iran doesn't possess a nuclear weapon and it stops exporting terrorism outside of its borders.

We have provided a path whereby Iran can reach out to the international community, engage, and become a part of international norms.

It is up to them to make a decision as to whether they choose that path. What we've been saying over the last several days, the last couple of weeks, obviously is not encouraging in terms of the path that this regime may choose to take.

And the fact that they are now in the midst of an extraordinary debate taking place in Iran, you know, may end up coloring how they respond to the international community as a whole.

We are going to monitor and see how this plays itself out before we make any judgments about how we proceed. But to reiterate, there is a path available to Iran in which their sovereignty is respected, their traditions, their culture, their faith is respected, but one in which they are part of a larger community that has responsibilities and operates according to norms and international rules that are universal.

We don't know how they're going to respond yet, and that's what we're waiting to see.

QUESTION: So should there be consequences for what's happened so far?

OBAMA: I think that the international community is, as I said before, bearing witness to what's taking place. And the Iranian government should understand that how they handle the dissent within their own country, generated indigenously, internally, from the Iranian people, will help shape the tone, not only for Iran's future, but also its relationship to other countries.

Back to the old equivocating and weasel words. The guy sounds like a regular Clinton in how he tries to parse his language. He's keeping his language so however things turn out he can say he was on their side.

Despite that the Iranian government has behaved abysmally, he still won't commit to any consequences, but blathers on about the "international community," as if there were such a thing. Stephen Hayes makes the point

The reason to talk about consequences is, at least in part, because it offers an opportunity to influence how this is going to play out. It may be the case that there are few potential consequences from the international community that could affect regime behavior. But if that's the case -- and given the regime's support for terror, its pursuit of a nuclear weapon, its theft of the election, and its violent suppression of the protests -- doesn't that make it more urgent for the international community to at least try to affect behavior and at least raise the possibility that there will come a time when the world refuses to recognize the current regime?

Obama talks like a professor, not as a world leader unafraid to take hard decisions and make hard judgments. He needs to change his tune, and fast.

Posted by Tom at 9:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 21, 2009

Will The Protesters In Iran Succeed In Overturning the Government?

Yesterday I wrote that although I certainly hoped they succeeded in overturning the government "unless there are some disaffected mullahs or potential leaders we don't know about, or unless important elements of the military turn on the government, it's hard to see a full scale replacement of the current government." In all probability the protests would probably peter out, though the regime would be shaken as never before, and would never again be able to function as it had before.

Today we'll look at some analysis from people I trust

First up is the Iranian expatriate journalist Amir Taheri. In today's New York Post he writes that he doesn't think the protests will die down anytime soon. If he is right, there is a lot more support for the protesters in the upper echelons of Iran than I had realized:

Opposition sources put the number of those arrested at around 3,000, including virtually all key aides to Mussavi and Karrubi. Among those arrested are the editors of two of Tehran's leading newspapers, 16 officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and dozens of mullahs and students of theology who have rallied to the opposition.

That even the Shiite clergy is turning against the regime is indicated by statements of support for the protestors by three of the six mullahs who form the highest echelon of Shi'ite clerical leadership in Iran. The three are grand ayatollahs Hussein Ali Montazeri, Yussuf San'ei and Abdul-Karim Mussavi Ardebili.

This tells me that what's going on is not just street mobs vs the government. This is crucial because street action can create a lot of chaos but in the end cannot take over anything, because it by definition has no leadership. One reason the revolution in 1979 succeeded is because the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his cohort was waiting in the wings, ready to take power. From Taheri's information it is possible that there are credible leaders who could take power if enough of the military loses confidence in Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Second is John O'Sullivan, former publisher of National Review, who wrote this not too editor in chief Rich Lowry:

Dear Rich,

Thanks for your note. I am happy to give you my judgment on the Iranian revolt. In brief, it's one of the most important movements of our time. It radically undermines both the realist argument that Muslims are uninterested in democracy and the Jihadist claim to represent the mass of Muslims. And if it continues--whether it is crushed or triumphs in the immediate future--it will add immeasurably to the forces of evolutionary change in the Muslim world since it strikes me as being more like the Glorious, American and "velvet" revolutions (i.e., it is a revolution against a radical revolution) than like the French, Bolshevik, and 1979 revolutions.

Well, that's a bigger mouthful than you expected. But this is an issue on which I would prefer you to take the advice and opinions of my Iranian colleagues on Radio Farda and the English language website of RFERL. So I am attaching two documents below that I think you will find helpful.

The first is a private e-mail form my senior colleague, Abbas Djavadi, a former head of Farda and now the Associate Director for the service as a whole. I had asked him to predict what might now happen. Here is his reply (which I quote with permission) from a hurried discussion yesterday:

Defiance? Definitely, but I don't know for how long. Nobody says it loudly but everybody understands this is about the Supreme Leader and not only Ahmadinejad. Yesterday after Khamenei's speech I thought they would back off. Today in the morning I thought it may be primarily students. This afternoon surprised me. Not only students, not only Tehran. Maybe Mousavi has been pushed up as opposition leader against will. He had the motivation for it for the last 20 years when he kept away from government. He seems to be emboldened now, seeing the masses and the ripening of something in the society, in "masses" and in most big cities.

I wish I could know if it would continue and how. I think nobody knows. I am seeing here two big issues, based on what I am hearing and reading the live inputs and feedback from the "foot soldiers":

1) Mousavi has to further establish himself as a popular leader. Today he again said he has prayed to God that he is ready for martyrdom, sign of strengthened resolve. He needs support from more, hundreds of thousands and millions of middle and upper classes (villagers never attended the Islamic revolution 1979, workers joined just in the last few months of the revolution, middle class did it with a bit upper classes). Bazaris, for example, teachers, doctors, vendors, municipality workers, mid-level state employees, lawyers... And the most important: he needs to get more support from moderate or other clergymen opposed to Khamenei and Ahmadinejad -- people who have been critical, but have rarely spoken out. If we have that trend growing in the next few weeks and months, we will have a new ball game in Iran. If not, the resistance will gradually fade out while reprisals intensify.

2) Security and organization as well as communication of the opposition leaders (Mousavi and Karroubi). Today and last weeks were typical. Will they join the demonstrations? Are the meetings cancelled? There were hundreds of conflicting news, information and disinformation until it really happened. And it happened, mainly thanks to the websites, Facebook and Twitter. 20 years ago it would be unimaginable. But the communication is distorted and disorganized. Security for the leading figures is also extremely important. What if Mousavi just disappeared? (detained, under strict house arrest) etc.? Khomeini in 1978 had the security provided to him in Paris and his big group of executives in Europe instructing his army of mullahs inside Iran what to do and how to lead the movement. In the case of Mousavi, once he is out of the country, he would be disregarded and would play no role after a year or so at all. [Yet] staying safe in Iran while the movement is intensifying is a contradiction per se. And we don't have any relieving indications that they are well organized. That's also bad. Things may change and would change if both the defiance continues and if the leadership grows together with the defiance.

That is the judgment of a shrewd and experienced observer of Iranian politics.

What this tells me is that the situation is very fluid and could go either way, but again there are opposition leaders. They're hardly perfect, of course, as neither Mousavi nor Karroubi are to be mistaken for Thomas Jefferson on any day.

But the protests don't have to completely overthrow the existing government and institute a Western style democracy complete with Bill of Rights in order to succeed. All they have to do is topple the existing system and start a process of slow reform. Once the hard-line theocrats have been chased from power, the work of real reform can begin.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 20, 2009

Violence in Iran, and Obama Shifts His Position...Sort of

Arguably the most dramatic - and distrubing - video is this one

The story, as relayed by The Weekly Standard:

At 19:05 June 20th Place: Karekar Ave., at the corner crossing Khosravi St. and Salehi st.

A young woman who was standing aside with her father watching the protests was shot by a basij member hiding on the rooftop of a civilian house. He had clear shot at the girl and could not miss her. However, he aimed straight her heart. I am a doctor, so I rushed to try to save her. But the impact of the gunshot was so fierce that the bullet had blasted inside the victim's chest, and she died in less than 2 minutes.

The protests were going on about 1 kilometers away in the main street and some of the protesting crowd were running from tear gass used among them, towards Salehi St.

The film is shot by my friend who was standing beside me.

Please let the world know.

Update: The young woman has been identified as Neda Agha-Soltan

Following is some amateur video believed to be from Iran, via Fox News, along with the latest photos (more here)

This one shows confrontations with the police

In this one, a protester has been shot

A few photos, though I'm not sure exactly when they were taken

Iran Riot 06_20_09


Iran Police 06_20_09


This one is from CNN's excellent photo essay

Iran 06_20_09 Police v Protesters


From the Fox News story about the protests today

The clashes along one of Tehran's main avenues -- as described by witnesses -- had far fewer demonstrators than recent mass rallies for Mousavi. But they marked another blow to authorities who sought to intimidate protesters with harsh warnings and lines of black-clad police three deep in places.

The rallies also left questions about Mousavi's ability to hold together his protest movement, which claims that widespread fraud in June 12 elections robbed Mousavi of victory and kept hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in office.

Mousavi bewildered many followers by not directly replying to the ultimatum issued Friday by Iran's most powerful figure, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His stern order to Mousavi and others: Call off demonstrations or risk being held responsible for "bloodshed, violence and rioting."

So I'm not sure at all where this thing is going. It's possible the protests could just peter out.

Whether it does or not, this story today from the Los Angeles Times told us what we had pretty much guessed, that the regime was using a lot of violence against protesters:

Reporting from Tehran -- A huge swath of downtown Tehran erupted in fiery chaos today as helmeted security forces and pro-government militias armed with tear gas and water cannons battled stone-throwing protesters defying warnings from the country's supreme leader against further demonstrations over a disputed presidential election.

Fierce clashes pitting protesters against security forces and militiamen broke out when cordons of police attempted to block a rally from forming by beating demonstrators and pushing them into waiting police vans.

At one point, anti-riot police shot into the air after they roughed up a young woman and attracted the ire of protesters. A middle-aged man could be seen staggering along the sidewalk near Tehran University with blood dripping from his face.

Protesters formed into rock-throwing crowds that fought running battles with militiamen in camouflage uniforms for control of streets and intersections, witnesses said.

By nighttime, witnesses said, the unrest stretched from the side streets along Enghelab Street all the way from Azadi (Freedom) Street to Vali Asr Street, a miles-long corridor that is among the city's most important east-west thoroughfares. There were reports that disturbances had also broken out in other parts of the city, especially key squares in the north Tehran, but they could not be immediately confirmed.

And this bit from a CNN story is very interesting

Another (video) showed that the unrest had spread beyond the capital -- police clad in riot gear dispersing a crowd at a university in the southern city of Shiraz, beating screaming women with their batons.

Witnesses in Tehran said crowd members were chanting "Death to Khamenei!" and "I will kill whoever killed my brother!" The latter phrase dates to Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution that brought Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power.

What To Make Of It

At this point it's hard to know what to make of these reports. How widespread are the protests really? What do the majority of Iranians think? It's impossible to know. One big difference between what's happening now and 1979 is that there is no obvious government-in-waiting. From what I can tell, Mir Hossien Mousavi is only different from Ahmadinejad in degree, not in kind. So unless there are some disaffected mullahs or potential leaders we don't know about, or unless important elements of the military turn on the government, it's hard to see a full scale replacement of the current government. But if what's happening now leads to serious changes in the system, that'll be good enough for now.

Meamwhile, Back At the Ranch

President Obama issued a new statement on Iran today. Here it is in its entirety:

The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.

As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.

Martin Luther King once said - "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples' belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.

That's certainly better than the mealymouthed stuff he'd been saying. Rich Lowry, writing at The Corner, says what I was thinking:

I await the thunderous denunciations of Obama's vastly improved statement today by all those who have defended his timidity to this point. No, actually I don't. I await hackish turn-abouts that praise Obama for saying the kind of things the evil "neo-cons" have been urging him to say for a week.

Yup.

Until today, anyway, Obama's behavior had gotten so bad that even the editors of The Washington Post took him to task. After correctly saying that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's speech yesterday was "a challenge to his internal foes -- and the Obama administration," they went on to say that.

Either way, President Obama's policy cannot remain unaffected. As of today, it remains tantalizingly possible that he may be able to engage a new and more reasonable Iranian government. But it is depressingly plausible that he will be facing a cornered, radicalized despotism. It would be unthinkable to attempt to do business with such a regime while pretending that nothing fundamental has changed. That is why Mr. Obama was ill-advised to muse that "the difference between [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and [opposition candidate Mir Hossein] Mousavi in terms of their actual positions may not be as great as has been advertised."

I wouldn't hold my breath. My guess is that no matter what the outcome Obama is determined to have his negotiations.

The Case For Meddling

In a piece in TIME Magazine, of all places, Dan Senor and Christian Whiton make the case for intervention (h/t TWS)

As for the notion that American silence is unhelpful to reformers, this simply contradicts historical experience. Successful movements to alter authoritarian and totalitarian regimes almost always depend on internal dissent backed by strong international support. Those key factors are often required to get a regime's enablers -- including domestic security forces -- to lose confidence and eventually succumb.

Time and again and around the world -- from as recently as Tibet in 2008, to Egypt in 2005, to Tiananmen in 1989 -- the prospects of reform dim considerably without international support. In fact, we know of no modern democratic evolution or revolution that has succeeded without some support and pressure from the west.

Most famous was the demise of the Eastern Bloc and then the Soviet Union itself, which came on the heels of years of sustained U.S.-led international pressure. Another example is South Korea, where energetic bipartisan U.S. pressure peaked in 1987 when U.S. ambassador Jim Lilley hand delivered a letter from President Reagan urging against a crackdown on protesters. The advice was heeded. Two weeks later the protesters' demands were met, and Korean democracy was born.

Other transitions in places like South Africa, Panama, Taiwan, Georgia, the Philippines, Nicaragua, and Indonesia also all involved considerable pressure from the outside world.

Given this history, could Iran be the one exception? President Obama thinks so. In making his case, the CIA's involvement in a coup in 1953 has become Exhibit A.

But even if many Iranians are still suspicious of U.S. intentions because of this coup, which happened at a perilous time in the Cold War, Mr. Obama must also consider that more than two-thirds of Iran's population is under thirty years of age and was born after the 1979 revolution. Their whole lives have been lived under this regime, and many correctly credit it with the misery with which they must contend, rather than a coup that occurred decades before they were born.

We do not want to minimize the myriad tactical dilemmas here in addressing a fluid situation. But the minority camp inside the Obama Administration seems to understand that the threshold dilemma must first be met. The job of an American president is not that of a history professor, but an actor in history. As masses march and bullets fly this weekend, a timeless question cannot be avoided. Even if we cannot know or control the outcome, we have a responsibility, through our actions as a nation, to answer clearly the question: whose side are we on? For President Obama's team, Monday could begin a critical week of reassessment.

Let's hope so.


Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

House and Senate Democrats Diss Both Obama and Liberal Bloggers

Both the House and Senate have passed resolutions regarding the situation in Iran. The House version is much stronger than anything said by President Obama thus far. The text of the Senate resolution is not available yet.

House Resolution 560

Expressing support for all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law, and for other purposes.

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
(1) expresses its support for all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law;

(2) condemns the ongoing violence against demonstrators by the Government of Iran and pro-government militias, as well as the ongoing government suppression of independent electronic communication through interference with the Internet and cellphones; and

(3) affirms the universality of individual rights and the importance of democratic and fair elections.

The resolution passed 401-1, the only opposing vote being cast by...Ron Paul. Sigh.

On Friday the Senate passed Senate Resolution 193, but as of this writing the text is not available. I'll post it as soon as it is.

What's interesting is that this places House and Senate Democrats squarely in opposition to President Obama...not to mention many liberal bloggers.

Although President Obama's spokesman Gibbs tried to say that the House resolution "echoes Obama's message," I don't see it. Nowhere has the President used the word "condemn" to describe what the Iranian government has done, nor has anything he has said been nearly as strong (see here and here). We do know that he worked to tone down the original resolution, so we know that he's still "sensitive" to offending the mullahs. Wouldn't want to upset his quest for negotiations. But judge for yourself.

Democratic congressman Howard Berman (CA-28) had this to say on the House floor during debate:

Mr. Speaker, every day since Iran's election, the streets of Tehran have been filled with demonstrators, and each day this past week, the number seems to be growing.

Even state-run media in Iran has put the number of demonstrators in Tehran at "hundreds of thousands." One British newspaper reports that there were a million demonstrators in Tehran yesterday.

What do these demonstrators want? Are they simply in favor of the candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi? Or are they making a more profound statement about the Iranian regime?

Nobody knows exactly. We do know one thing, though: The demonstrators feel their intelligence was insulted and their dignity assaulted by the high-handed manner in which the results of the June 12 election were handled. They want justice - this morning, the Supreme Leader offered none.

It is not for us to decide who should run Iran, much less determine the real winner of the June 12th election.

But we must reaffirm our strong belief that the Iranian people have a fundamental right to express their views about the future of their country freely, and without intimidation.

The Iranian regime is clearly embarrassed by the demonstrations and has not shrunk from using violence to stop them. At least eight demonstrators - and quite likely, a number more - have been killed and hundreds have been injured.

The Regime has also tried to ban media coverage of the demonstrations. Foreign journalists are consigned to their homes and offices; several have been expelled from the country.

Cell-phone coverage has been frequently blocked in order to limit communication among the protestors. And the regime has interfered with the Internet and taken down many opposition Web sites.

We cannot stand silent in the face of this assault on human freedom and dignity.

I repeat that we have no interest in interfering in Iran's internal affairs. That era has ended.

This resolution "affirms the universality of individual rights," as well as "the importance of democratic and fair elections." Beyond that, it simply expresses its solidarity with "Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law."

I don't know how many of the demonstrators fall into that category, but I do know that many of them do.

This resolution also condemns the bloody suppression of freedom.

It is not a judgment on who won the Iranian elections. It is an acknowledgement that we cannot remain silent when cherished, universal principles are under attack.

Mr. Speaker, I want to just offer my appreciation to our ranking member and to the gentleman from Indiana for working together on a resolution which puts the House of Representatives on the side of the people of Iran. And with that, I ask my colleagues to join me in supporting this resolution.

If you think we shouldn't conduct clandestine operations against the mullahs like Reagan did against the communists in support of Solidarity in Poland, fine. But surely we can agree that we shouldn't be silent, or only say that we are "troubled by the violence," or are "monitoring the situation." Surely we can at least condemn what is going on.

Finally, these resolutions would seem to put many liberal bloggers at odds with Democrats in Congress at well. You don't have to go far on the Internet to see quite hysterical reactions to any suggestion that President Obama is not handling this exactly right. It'll be interesting to see how they spin this.

Posted by Tom at 2:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 17, 2009

Reagan v Obama: How To Handle Tyranny

The crackdown continues

International human rights organizations said Wednesday that many prominent activists and politicians have been arrested in response to protests over the Iran's disputed election.

Hadi Ghaemi, director of the New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights, said he had spoken with family members and colleagues of people who have been arrested or disappeared and was told that there were at least 200 across the country.

IranCrowd_3  06-16-09


IranCrowd_1  06-16-09

IranCrowd_2  06-16-09

Yet President Obama refuses to take a stand for freedom

Stephen Hayes says it best

President Obama said that he admired the protesters, not that he supported them. He refused to say anything at all that might have been understood as a direct criticism of the plainly fraudulent election. (On Tuesday, in his most aggressive statement, he said he joins the rest of the world in its "deep concern" about the election.) And by pretending that the coming "investigation" of perceived "irregularities" might actually be a serious undertaking, he strengthened the position of a criminal regime--or, as he prefers, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

As I outlined yesterday and the day before, rather than taking a stand our president issues mealymouthed statements and talks in that strange bureaucratic language that sounds like it came from a computerized phrase generator.

Once Upon A Time

On December 13, 1981 the Polish government declared martial law, and General Wojciech Jaruzelski took over the government. The Solidarity trade union was banned, and its leaders, most notably Lech Wałęsa, were arrested and thrown into prison.

Ronald Reagan official photo as President

Ronald Reagan was in the White House, and he wasn't having any of it. Less than a week later he said this during a press conference:

All the information that we have confirms that the imposition of martial law in Poland has led to the arrest and confinement, in prisons and detention camps, of thousands of Polish trade union leaders and intellectuals. Factories are being seized by security forces and workers beaten.

These acts make plain there's been a sharp reversal of the movement toward a freer society that has been underway in Poland for the past year and a half. Coercion and violation of human rights on a massive scale have taken the place of negotiation and compromise. All of this is in gross violation of the Helsinki Pact, to which Poland is a signatory.

It would be naive to think this could happen without the full knowledge and the support of the Soviet Union. We're not naive. We view the current situation in Poland in the gravest of terms, particularly the increasing use of force against an unarmed population and violations of the basic civil rights of the Polish people.

Violence invites violence and threatens to plunge Poland into chaos. We call upon all free people to join in urging the Government of Poland to reestablish conditions that will make constructive negotiations and compromise possible.

Certainly, it will be impossible for us to continue trying to help Poland solve its economic problems while martial law is imposed on the people of Poland, thousands are imprisoned, and the legal rights of free trade unions -- previously granted by the government -- are now denied. We've always been ready to do our share to assist Poland in overcoming its economic difficulties, but only if the Polish people are permitted to resolve their own problems free of internal coercion and outside intervention.

Our nation was born in resistance to arbitrary power and has been repeatedly enriched by immigrants from Poland and other great nations of Europe. So we feel a special kinship with the Polish people in their struggle against Soviet opposition to their reforms.

The Polish nation, speaking through Solidarity, has provided one of the brightest, bravest moments of modern history. The people of Poland are giving us an imperishable example of courage and devotion to the values of freedom in the face of relentless opposition. Left to themselves, the Polish people would enjoy a new birth of freedom. But there are those who oppose the idea of freedom, who are intolerant of national independence, and hostile to the European values of democracy and the rule of law.

Two Decembers ago, freedom was lost in Afghanistan; this Christmas, it's at stake in Poland. But the torch of liberty is hot. It warms those who hold it high. It burns those who try to extinguish it.

On December 23 he gave an address to the nation in which he said:

I want emphatically to state tonight that if the outrages in Poland do not cease, we cannot and will not conduct ``business as usual'' with the perpetrators and those who aid and abet them. Make no mistake, their crime will cost them dearly in their future dealings with America and free peoples everywhere. I do not make this statement lightly or without serious reflection.

But "business as usual" is what Obama is all about. In his case it is keeping his campaign promise of negotiations with out preconditions.

Reagan had it right. Almost immediately after his inauguration he "...met with his senior foreign policy advisers to discuss how to undermine Communist power in Poland and discourage Soviet intervention." Negotiations with the communists were at times necessary, but were not viewed as strategies in and of themselves. Overthrowing the communists was.

Obama should take a cue from Reagan and adopt a similar policy with regard to Iran.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

June 16, 2009

Obama to Iranian Protesters: You're On Your Own

It is apparent that the protesters in Iran are not going to get any help from the Obama Administration.

It's a shame, too, because Iran could well be at the tipping point. There are specific times in history where a small push could have taken events in another direction. There were Five Days in May, 1940, where Britain teetered between accepting a Hitler dominated Europe and fighting.

We could be at a similar point in Iran. The demonstrations in Tehran against the government are huge, as has been widely reported. One to two million people have participated, and there have been several fatalities as a result of shooting by the police. The regime is obviously worried, and on Monday Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ordered the Guardian Council to investigate charges of vote fraud. Today the council agreed to a limited recount. All this is simply an attempt to appease the protesters and is therefore for show, but the fact they're doing it shows that they fear they may lose control.

Let's be clear; the lead challenger, Mir-Hussein Mousavi, is no boy scout. It's not that I think he will lead the country to freedom. What I want is regime change. The way to do it is support a counterrevolution that will sweep the current government from power, and institute a new constitution. It's about establishing true liberty and democracy (not quite the same thing), and ridding the country of theocracy.

Stuck In Reactionary Mode

To the Obama Administration none of this matters. The only thing they seem to care about is setting up negotiations. As an AP story has it:

The United States urged Iran on Monday to agree to a meeting with the six key nations trying to ensure that its nuclear program is peaceful in which the U.S. will be "a full participant."

U.S. deputy ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo told the U.N. Security Council that Iran has not responded to the request from the five permanent council members -- the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France -- and Germany for new talks, which would be the first international discussion on Iran's nuclear program since President Barack Obama took office in January.

Of course Iran hasn't responded. They're busy trying to quel a counterrevolution.

So what is the Obama Administration doing?

At a press conference earlier today President Obama said that "It's not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling." Uh huh. So it would be ok to "meddle" if we had a different history? Or we just shouldn't "meddle" at all?

Either way, perhaps on his next apology tour he could stop by South Africa and apologize for "meddling" during their apartheid era.

In a response to a question during Monday's press briefing Obama sounded like like one of those computer programs that strings together pre-written phrases. Here's an excerpt

Obviously all of us have been watching the news from Iran. And I want to start off by being very clear that it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran's leaders will be; that we respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran, which sometimes the United States can be a handy political football -- or discussions with the United States.

Having said all that, I am deeply troubled by the violence that I've been seeing on television. I think that the democratic process -- free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent -- all those are universal values and need to be respected. And whenever I see violence perpetrated on people who are peacefully dissenting, and whenever the American people see that, I think they're, rightfully, troubled....

with respect to the United States and our interactions with Iran, I've always believed that as odious as I consider some of President Ahmadinejad's statements, as deep as the differences that exist between the United States and Iran on a range of core issues, that the use of tough, hard-headed diplomacy -- diplomacy with no illusions about Iran and the nature of the differences between our two countries -- is critical when it comes to pursuing a core set of our national security interests, specifically, making sure that we are not seeing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East triggered by Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon...blah blah blah.

What meaningless drivel. It's a series pre-written bureaucratic statements applicable to any situation. If there's trouble in Cuba next month we'll here the same thing but with different proper nouns and the sentences in a different order.

Allahpundit points out that

Whereas The One was "shocked and outraged" by the murder of George Tiller, the most he can muster here for mass beatings and cold-blooded killings across Iran is that he's "troubled." Make of it what you will.

On Sunday Secretary of State Clinton said that

We are monitoring the situation as it unfolds in Iran but we, like the rest of the world, are waiting and watching to see what the Iranian people decide.

The United States has refrained from commenting on the election in Iran. We obviously hope that the outcome reflects the genuine will and desire of the Iranian people.

Hope may have made a fine campaign slogan but it isn't a foreign policy for adults. More, it doesn't do squat to help the Iranian people.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly "declined to condemn the Iranian security forces for their crackdown on street protesters."

Further, unless additional information comes to light I think it clear that what's happening in Iran is the result of internal forces and not the result of anything any American president has done.

It is quite possible that Western intelligence forces are working behind the scenes, much as they did in Poland in the 1980s, to effect regime change. But until we have direct evidence of this we must assume it is not occurring, or at least not occurring to the point where it would have any effect on the outcome.

So if the protesters do succeed and force an accurate and true count of the votes, or better still bring down the government, President Obama cannot claim credit.

Melanie Phillips nails it

What is weakening the regime is not Obama's appeasement. It is resistance. It is the fact that the people did not take their stolen election lying down but turned out in their hundreds of thousands to demand justice - and are prepared to die for it - that has rocked the regime. With a reported twenty people dead yesterday and hundreds more injured at the hands of the regime's thugs, the people have now been galvanised still further. Staring at what might well be a true counter-revolutionary moment, the regime is wobbling, and has now announced there will be a recount of the vote.

And still Obama is getting it wrong. Not surprising -- having made nice with the tyrants and thus undermined the democrats he has been badly caught out and clearly doesn't know what to do. With whom does he now side? His reaction -- as promulgated by his fawning acolyte Miliband -- is to be even-handed and support neither. How appalling. The President of America should have immediately condemned in the strongest possible terms this brutal onslaught against people trying to claim their democratic rights, and supported them against injustice and oppression.

But he was silent for a full two days before finally coming up with a mealy-mouthed statement last night that he was 'deeply troubled' by events in Iran and that Iran's leaders should respect the 'universal values' of the democratic process. Clearly he was worried that if he supported the demonstrators, he might scupper his 'grand bargain' with the regime in which they get their nukes and he gets some meaningless agreement they won't use them. Thus appeasement betrays freedom many times over.

As the Confederate Yankee put it, "Obama got his 3:00 AM call, and refused to pick up the phone."

The Imperative of Regime Change

The objectives are one, to keep Iran from getting the bomb, or if they do make sure that the government is controlled by responsible people. I do not fear nuclear weapons in the hands of democratic France, I do fear them in the hands of the mullahs who rule Iran. Second, our objective is for Iran to stop promoting terror and terrorist organizations. Third, it is in our moral interest for human rights to be respected in as many places as possible.

The only way to achieve these objectives is through a change of government. Changing out the leaders won't work if the current constitution is left in place. A new constitution is needed.

The reason Obama needs to stop this mealymouthed nonsense is that may we have an opportunity to change the regime in Iran, and if we do not act the moment may be lost. The situation in Iran could go either way. The government may be able to regain control, even though it will be permanently damaged. But it could also lose control, with the whole theocracy swept away. What the United States says or does could make the difference.

At the very least, as Jim Geraghty and others have said that one way to influence events would be to hint that we won't talk with the Iranians if their crackdown continues. In March Iranian spokesmen told Obama to kiss off, they weren't interested in negotiations. As I said yesterday, the President of the United States confers legitimacy on whomever he meets. He should not meet with any Iranian leaders after they commit such election fraud.


Posted by Tom at 10:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 14, 2009

A Few Thoughts On The Iranian Elections

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been declared the winner of last Friday's presidential election in Iran, with the official results having him at 62.6 percent of the vote, with his chief rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi, at 33.75. The government also announced that 75% of eligible voters went to the polls.

This runs contrary to what many expected, and many are suspicious that the result is fraudulent. Ahmadinejad was declared the winner after only 2/3 of the votes were counted, and there are many other reports of irregularities. Mousavi has sent a letter to the Guardian Council calling for the election to be canceled and saying that he was the real winner.

Tellingly, many Iranians do not accpet the official results, and there are many reports of unrest and anti-government protests, along with severe crackdowns by riot police. It is hard to judge how extensive they are, and harder still to predict the staying power of the protesters. There were reports of irregularities in 2005, when Ahmadinejad was elected to his first term as president.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a statement urging the nation to accept Ahmadinejad as the legitimate winner.

A Few Thoughts

I've no idea whether the election was truly fraudulent or if so by how much. It's possible that Ahmadinejad did win a majority of the vote, and and that the losers are just engaged in sour grapes.

But I doubt it. As such, I will proceed as if the vote was rigged.

For the past several years some on the left have assured us that the rantings of Ahmadinejad do not really matter, because the presidency of Iran was a mostly symbolic office devoid of real power. "Listen to the mullahs, and watch what they do instead," we were told.

But since it is impossible for Ahmadinejad to have stolen the election without the acquiescence if not active participation of the mullahs (Supreme Leader, Guardian Council, Assembly of Experts), then they must support what he says and does. And if this is the case, then we must accept his message as the true voice of all the Iranian government.

The office of the president of the United States carries more weight than any other on earth. He conveys legitimacy on whomever he meets. In fact,for any official of the United States to meet with a person or nation bestows legitimacy on it. This is a fact that no amount of political spin can get around. As such, President Obama will legitimize the election of Ahmadinejad if he refuses to denounce his election as a fraud and meets with him or sends a representative to meet with him.

There were at least 28 meetings between Bush 43 Administration officials at the ambassadorial rank or above and representatives of the Iranian government. Every administration from Carter on has met with the Iranians. The question is whether Obama will denounce the election of Ahmadinejad first, just as Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil empire" while still meeting with them, or wheher he'll engage in his usual "blame America first" routine.

As I've said about a zillion times, the best way to resolve the situation is through regime change. While we can work through clandestine means to achieve this, part of it can also be done publicly through an aggressive human rights campaign.

Unfortunately, the United States has a habit of encouraging democracy/independence protesters and then failing to support them when the chips were down. 1956 in Hungary, 1968 in Czechoslovakia, and 1991-2 in southern Iraq, come to mind.

If Obama really wants change, he can start by standing up for the Iranian people. What he needs to do is go on the air immediately and give a strong speech calling into question the election results and denouncing the regime. As the voice of the president of the United States carries much weight, it will give the Iranian leaders pause. it will also encourage the protesters. With luck, we can tip the scales in the right direction. Let's give it a try.



Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 21, 2008

Iran: How Long Should Israel Wait?

Caroline Glick thinks that we've waited long enough, and that it's time to strike Iran. From her column last Thursday in The Jersualem Post. After laying out her case that Iran is closer to obtaining nuclear weapons than many suppose, and that nothing we are doing will dissuade them, she concludes that

In light of Iran's unrelenting and rapid progress toward the nuclear finish line, it is clear today that while positive in their own rights, none of the actions the West is taking will succeed in blocking its path to the atomic bomb.

For that matter, the one option short of war that might have put an end to the mullahs' race to the bomb three years ago - namely supporting the Iranian people in their wish to overthrow their regime - cannot be adopted fast enough to prevent the likes of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad from pushing the button now.

Today, there is only one way to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Israel must bomb Iran's nuclear installations. Such a strike will not end Iran's nuclear program. It will not overthrow the regime. It will not cripple Iran's economy. It will not end Iran's active support for international terrorist groups.

She further admits that all an Israeli strike will do is delay that mullahs from obtaining nuclear weapons for a couple of years. Israel would likely only get in one strike. But it's clear that the Bush Administration will not act, and with five former secretaries of state saying that they want to talk, it's a forgone conclusion that our current course will result in a nuclear holocaust.

No doubt that an Israeli strike would cause a huge uproar, and Iran would find ways to retaliate. Glick doesn't mention this in her article, but I've no doubt she's familiar with the problems a strike would cause. She also doesn't say so, but I suspect has concluded that if elected president neither McCain nor Obama would strike either. That she still advocates one tells us how desperate the situation has become.

Why, then, does she want to strike when she knows that it would not permanently resolve that matter and would cause other proglems?

Following are a few excerpts from the rest of her column, but you should follow the link and read the whole thing yourself.

Iran is just a heartbeat away from the A-bomb.Last Friday the Daily Telegraph reported Teheran has surreptitiously removed a sufficient amount of uranium from its nuclear production facility in Isfahan to produce six nuclear bombs. Given Iran's already acknowledged uranium enrichment capabilities, the Telegraph's report indicates that the Islamic Republic is now in the late stages of assembling nuclear bombs.

It would be a simple matter for Iran to assemble those bombs without anyone noticing. US spy satellites recently discovered what the US believes are covert nuclear facilities in Iran. The mullocracy has not disclosed these sites to the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, which is charged with inspecting Iran's nuclear sites.

As to the IAEA, this week it presented its latest report on Teheran's nuclear program to its board members in Vienna. The IAEA's report claimed that Iran has taken steps to enable its Shihab-3 ballistic missiles to carry nuclear warheads. With their range of 1,300 kilometers, Shihab-3 missiles are capable of reaching Israel and other countries throughout the region.
...

Russia has made clear that it will reject any further sanctions. Indeed it is intensifying its military and financial ties to Teheran. Moscow has pledged to have the Bushehr nuclear plant up and running by the end of the year. And Iran is already suspected of diverting plutonium from the plant to develop still more nuclear weapons.

Germany, too, has evinced no interest in curtailing its financial ties to Teheran. To the contrary, German trade with Iran expanded 12% in the last year, from $2.7 billion to $3b.

So the US will fail to pass additional sanctions against Iran in the UN Security Council. And this is a shame. But even if a miracle occurred and Russia, China and Germany agreed to adopt and enforce stiff sanctions against Iran, those sanctions would come too late to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The uranium that the Iranians took from their Isfahan plant will be weapons grade and attached to Shihab-3 missiles or transferred to Hizbullah, al-Qaida or Hamas terrorists for use long before such hypothetical sanctions would even be noticed.

I found the Daily Telegraph article referenced above, so you can follow the link and judge for yourself.

Of course, Iranian progress toward nuclear weapons should not really be news. Just last Monday AFP reported that that IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) just released a report saying that "Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities," which puts it (once again) in defiance of the Security Council.

Can more diplomacy succeed? Reuel Marc Gerecht reported last month in The Weekly Standard that

On July 30, Ali Khamenei demolished what was left of George W. Bush's Iran policy. Iran's clerical overlord also put paid to Senator Barack Obama's dreams of tête-à-tête, stop-the-nukes diplomacy. Ten days earlier the Americans, British, French, Germans, Russians, and Chinese had gathered in Geneva hoping to convince Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment. True to form, Khamenei told them all to stick it. The Islamic Republic will not cease and desist: "Taking one step back against the arrogant powers [the West] will lead them to take one step forward," Khamenei replied.

Now, yes I know that Gerecht is part of the evil neocon conspiracy, and Glick is Israeli. But the questions still need to be asked:

Should Israel strike Iran?

Should the United States support Israel in this endeavor, and if so, how much?

The answer to the first is what you balance an Israeli strike against. If you balance it against what you think is a stable status quo, then it looks foolish. If you believe that reports of Iranian progress toward nuclear weapons is the result of bad intelligence similar to what we experienced with WMD in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, you would also not want to strike. Lastly, if you think that a nuclear Iran could be contained you would be against a strike.

But if you are like Caroline Glick and myself, and believe that Iran is on the fast track to obtaining nuclear weapons and that they will most likely use them once they get them, then you balance all of the bad things that would happen in the wake of an Israeli strike against the millions of deaths from a nuclear war, and the balance tips the other way.

So if you accept the latter view, what should the U.S. do?

It's not an easy question to answer. There are a whole range of things that we could do to help. We could supply "bunker buster" bombs. We could allow an air route so as to reduce the need for refueling and enhance entry and exit routes. We could supply intelligence vital to making the strike more effective. And we could run cover for Israel diplomatically around the world, including at the UN.

We could try to do all but the latter clandestinely, but we have to work on the assumption that sooner or later the world will get out about whatever we do to help.

We also have to take into account that an Israeli strike will inflame Shiite passions in Iraq, a place were we hardly need trouble. Overt American support will make our task there all the more difficult. It is this, I think that holds us back the most.

Oh, that and the fact that Iran will no doubt retaliate by trying to close the Straits or Hormuz, and it would fall to to the U.S. Navy to keep them open, which would mean a shooting war with Iran. We would win, but it could get very messy. And the price of oil would skyrocket.

In the end we have to support Israel. I don't have the answers to the details, but I fear that doing nothing will be worse than doing something.


Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 8, 2008

Coming War with Iran?

James Zumwalt thinks that a war with Iran is pretty much inevitable

This unavoidable war will be with Iran. Every American voter should understand this before casting a ballot. Every voter should understand the theocratic leadership in Tehran is of one dominant mindset. The mullahs, led by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who serves at the former's call, are committed to developing a nuclear weapon for Iran. Mr. Ahmadinejad has made his convictions on this clear. An Islamist zealot, he believes the 12th imam will return to lead Islam to world domination. As the 12th imam can only return after global cataclysmic chaos, Mr. Ahmadinejad believes he must become the vehicle for creating this chaos. (As Tehran's mayor prior to becoming president, Mr. Ahmadinejad so convinced of the 12th imam's return - widened some city streets for the welcoming parade.) In 2006, observers at the United Nations heard Mr. Ahmadinejad pray to the 12th imam before delivering his speech.

When one understands all this, factoring in Mr. Ahmadinejad's past warnings about wiping Israel off the map and his lack of intimidation over retaliatory U.S./Israeli nuclear strikes (rationalizing the deaths of any Muslim victims will expedite their journey to an afterlife of rewards for their sacrifice), one understands why war with Iran is inevitable.

Everything I read tells me that the Iranian leaders - not just Ahmadinejad - are determined to get nuclear weapons. Our current approach of negotiations coupled with carrots and sticks will fail. Personal president to president talks of the sort Senator Obama wishes to engage in will not change matters. Until we change their government we are headed towards a nuclear Iran.

I've said this on this blog so many times my fingers are blue but another post is always worthwhile. Just go to "Categories" at right, find "Iran", and scroll down.

My disagreement with Mr. Zumwalt is on how it will play out. Here are the three scenarios that he offers:

(1) Least likely regardless of who wins the next presidential election, the United States, having been ineffective in numerous diplomatic efforts, gives Iran a final warning to stop its nuclear weapons development, followed by surgical strikes against its nuclear facilities.

(2) Israel, realizing its survival is threatened, conducts a pre-emptive strike against Tehran to knock out its nuclear development capability. This scenario is gaining momentum. Should such an attack - which Israel has already practiced - happen, the consequences to the United States, from Iran's perspective, would be the same as if the United States had initiated the attack itself....

(3) Most likely, having developed nuclear weapons as the United States and Israel stood by, Iran will conduct a coordinated nuclear attack on Israel and terrorist nuclear/EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) attack upon the U.S. - to await a retaliatory strike by both countries. (Having lost any land-based capability to strike back but with its submarine fleet intact, Israel will still have a sub-surface capability to do so).

These scenarios are all quite plausible. I even agree with his probabilities. I don't see either McCain or Obama striking Iran as in his scenario #1.

Two years ago I wrote a post in which I laid out three scenarios for an Iran gone nuclear, one of which involved the all-out war posited by Zumwalt in #3 above.

Of the two other scenarios I offered, did not involve a war - at least an immediate war. I called it my "best case" for a nuclear Iran:

The American president assures Israel and the world that we have received "assurances" that Iran will not use it's nuclear weapons offensively. Faced with a cutoff of aid, Israel backs down and decides not to act.

Iran conducts a nuclear test. The Muslim world goes wild with approval.

However, Iran does not use its weapons. Perhaps Ahmadinejad is no longer in power, the mullahs restrain him, or the prospect of a nuclear retaliatory strike by Israel gives them pause. Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia announce that to assure their security, they have started their own nuclear bomb programs. Other countries in the region hurry to ally themselves with someone who has or will soon have nuclear weapons and shows the desire to protect them. None approach the United States.

Here there is a sort of Mutual Assured Destruction which keeps everyone from pushing the button. This is the scenario that the soothsayers of "stability" spin us to assure us that not to worry, for a nuclear Iran is manageable.

The idea is to sell it to as a parallel to the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. "It worked then," we'll be told. "It can work again." "Containment" will again be the watchword of the day.

The problem with the parallel is threefold. One, we came very close several times to all-out war with the Soviet Union. The Cuban Missile Crisis was the most obvious incident, but there were many more. The Cold War was not as "stable" as some now portray it to be.

Second, at least the United States and Soviet Union were relatively stable countries. While it existed, there was virtually no chance of any terrorist or non-governmental group buying or stealing nuclear weapons from the Soviet Union. Not so regarding the Middle East. These are unstable governments, and any could be overthrown. It is also easy to envision the sale of nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons technology or material by sympathetic military personnel to terrorist groups.

Third, the leaders of both the United States and Soviet Union were sane. Terrible as the communists were, as good atheists they wanted to live. Iran is not ruled by sane leaders. Continuing with Zumwalt's #3 scenario:

As the United States reels from this devastating hit and Israel ceases to exist as was forewarned, Mr. Ahmadinejad, much as Emperor Nero was said to have done as Rome lay burning, will simply fiddle away his time. Awaiting the doom on Iran his actions will have wrought, Mr. Ahmadinejad will smile, firmly believing the 12th imam's return to be imminent and that Mr. Ahmadinejad's destiny to lead the imam home will be recognized.

The details of the 12th Imam, otherwise called the Mahdi, Muhammad al-Mahdi, or simply the "Guided One", are not so important. What is important is to realize that Ahmadinejad and many in the Iranian leadership believe in his return.

So even my "best case" scenario is only of a temporary MAD, in which I think the situation to be so unstable that war is more or less inevitable.

Conclusion - Zumwalt is right in that if Iran gets nuclear weapons there will be a war. Unfortunately I don't see any serious proposals to stop them.

(Quick note - as a Christian yes I believe in the return of Jesus as foretold in the book of Revelation. So, too, I supposed, does President Bush and for that matter Senator Obama. The difference between all three of us and Ahmadinejad is that we believe that the time and place of Jesus' return is strictly in God's hands, whereas Ahmadinejad and his fellows believe they can prompt it by certain actions on their part. Again, see "Iran" under "Categories" at right and scroll down)

Posted by Tom at 8:40 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 10, 2008

The Iranian Missile Tests and the Presidential Candidates

As I think we all know, yesterday and today Iran "tested" a series of missiles. The ones today were apparently anti-ship missiles, but yesterday's involved the Shahab 3, a weapon capable of hitting Israel.

It is important to note that the missiles were fired by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, not their normal military. The IRGC is somewhat analogous to the Schutzstaffel; the Nazi SS.

Just as interesting as the tests themselves was the reaction to them by the presidential candidates.

First up is Barack Obama. I went to his website but cannot find anything there that directly addresses them. There's absolutely nothing about Iran on the "ObamaNews" tab. Regarding Iran, we have this

* Diplomacy: Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions. Now is the time to pressure Iran directly to change their troubling behavior. Obama would offer the Iranian regime a choice. If Iran abandons its nuclear program and support for terrorism, we will offer incentives like membership in the World Trade Organization, economic investments, and a move toward normal diplomatic relations. If Iran continues its troubling behavior, we will step up our economic pressure and political isolation. Seeking this kind of comprehensive settlement with Iran is our best way to make progress.

I cannot believe that he still has on his website that he wants "diplomacy with Iran without preconditions." Didn't he just go though this process of "clarification" in which he said that he wanted "preparations"?

And for those of you who think that Obama will rally Europe to our side, think again. They think that his position on Iran undermines them. From The Washington Post

European officials are increasingly concerned that Sen. Barack Obama's campaign pledge to begin direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program without preconditions could potentially rupture U.S. relations with key European allies early in a potential Obama administration.


Contrast this with John McCain. Yesterday he issued this press release, which you can find on his website:

"Iran's most recent missile tests demonstrate again the dangers it poses to its neighbors and to the wider region, especially Israel. Ballistic missile testing coupled with Iran's continued refusal to cease its nuclear activities should unite the international community in efforts to counter Iran's dangerous ambitions. Iran's missile tests also demonstrate the need for effective missile defense now and in the future, and this includes missile defense in Europe as is planned with the Czech Republic and Poland. Working with our European and regional allies is the best way to meet the threat posed by Iran, not unilateral concessions that undermine multilateral diplomacy."

Guess what? Obama is against missile defense. Oh, he says on his website he's for it

National Missile Defense: An Obama administration will support missile defense, but ensure that it is developed in a way that is pragmatic and cost-effective; and, most importantly, does not divert resources from other national security priorities until we are positive the technology will protect the American public.

But there are so many weasel words in there it's clear he'd never allow anything to be built.

Regarding the Iranian Republican Guards, McCain voted in favor of a Kyle-Lieberman designating Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, and Obama voted against it.

But today he says that the missile tests demonstrate the need for sanctions. But wait, the Kyle-Lieberman would have imposted sanctions on the IRGC. Which is it?

Here's McCain

"It's my understanding that this missile test was conducted by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. This is the same organization that I voted to condemn as a terrorist organization when an amendment was on the floor of the United States Senate. Senator Obama refused to vote, called it a provocative step."


Obama is also a mind-reader

"It's in nobody's interest, including Iran's, I believe, to have a nuclear weapon that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region."

I rather think that it's the Iranians who will decide what's in their best interests. And they've said about a thousand times that they'd like to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. What better to do that with than nuclear weapons?

Obama wants more sanctions and apparently endless diplomacy.

And it's part of the reason why it's so important for us to have a coherent policy with respect to Iran. It has to combine much tougher threats of economic sanctions with direct diplomacy, opening up channels of communication so that we avoid provocation but we give strong incentives to the Iranians to change their behavior.

I think we're already trying that, Senator. We are speaking with the Iranians. We do have sanctions. It's hard to imagine either doing much good. As I've said time and again, what we need is a policy of regime removal.

Here's McCain's take

Diplomacy plays a key role. There have been negotiations. There have been discussions. There have been packages of incentives offered to the Iranians which have been rejected time after time. There has been intense negotiations and diplomacy and there continues to be a role for it, but history shows us that when nations are embarked on paths that can jeopardize the security of the region and the world, then other actions besides diplomacy have to be contemplated and taken. That's why meaningful and impactful sanctions are called for at this time, and again, our European allies are ready to do that. President Sarkozy has indicated that. Prime Minister Brown has indicated that. Chancellor Merkel, and others have clearly indicated that they are ready to act, but it's time for action, and it's time to make the Iranians understand that this kind of violation of international treaties, this kind of threatening of their neighbors, this kind of continued military activity is not without cost, and those costs I think can be impactful."

So you can't paint him as a warmonger. But he's not a negotiations-forever military-strike-never guy. He seems to recognize that the the point of no return is approaching.


Posted by Tom at 8:57 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 15, 2008

When Will We Learn?

Over at The Corner, Michael Rubin has found something at Barack Obama and all liberals who think we should negotiate with Iran should read.

The former spokesman of the President Mohammed Khatami's government (1997-2005) has admitted that the only reason they negotiated with the West was to stall for time so that they could continue their nuclear weapons program. From a report in the Fars News Agency (you have to trust Rubin's translator, the Royal Danish Defence College analyst Ali Alfoneh):

Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, Khatami-era government spokesman, on a panel with Mehdi Faza'eli, general secretary of the Muslim Journalist Association: "We did our outmost to prevent the case of Iran being sent to the Security Council, whose judge is the United States.... During the confidence building-era, we entered the nuclear club, and despite the suspension [of uranium enrichment] we imported all the materials needed for our nuclear activities of the country...We were not subjected to sanctions regime during the reform era, but today, even our ophthalmologists are not allowed to import laser products [needed for operations]... If we pursue the right to nuclear energy for bombs, it is clear that the world does not want this, and if we want it for electricity, they say 'you don't have nuclear power plants, what do you want nuclear fuel for?' Just take a look at what the Russians have done to us in the Bushehr nuclear power plant.

With the current speed of enrichment, it will take us 25 years before we reach enrichment self-sufficiency. And who knows where we want to find nuclear fuel? And our reserves are unknown... The solution is to prove to the entire world that we want the power plants for electricity. Afterwards, we can proceed with other activities... The peak of our goal is an honorable life for the people. Do we want to become another North Korea...

And this isn't even the good part. Read on

There are only two ways of coming through the current crisis. One is what Khatami did by winning the election of 1997, and the other what [he did] after September 11th, which both guarded the country against war. Today, the solution is to marginalize the Ahmadinejad government from political decision-making in the nuclear energy field, with decisions be taken elsewhere.

As long as we were not subjected to sanctions, and during our negotiations we could import technology. We should have negotiated for so long, and benefited from the atmosphere of negotiations to the extent that we could import all the technology needed. The adversary wanted the negotiations to come to a dead end and initiate a new phase. But we wanted to continue negotiations until the U.S. would be gone from the circle of negotiations. We had one overt policy, which was one of negotiation and confidence building, and a covert policy, which was continuation of the activities...

We consider access to all sciences and technologies of the humankind a necessity, but we also prioritize confidence building. Today, in the field of confidence building, Japan is the most advanced country in the world, but Japan can produce a nuclear bomb in less than a week...We achieved to divide the Europeans from the Americans, but today it has come to a point that the Europeans and the Americans have harmonized their policies.

Yes I know, this does not necessarily mean that they're working on nuclear weapons now. And Ramezanzadeh doesn't come out and directly say they were working on nuclear weapons. But I think it's pretty clear what he's talking about.

And in case you think this was the first such admission, think again. In March of 2006 The Telegraph reported that

The man who for two years led Iran's nuclear negotiations has laid out in unprecedented detail how the regime took advantage of talks with Britain, France and Germany to forge ahead with its secret atomic programme.

In a speech to a closed meeting of leading Islamic clerics and academics, Hassan Rowhani, who headed talks with the so-called EU3 until last year, revealed how Teheran played for time and tried to dupe the West after its secret nuclear programme was uncovered by the Iranian opposition in 2002.

Iran has completed uranium enrichment equipment at Isfahan
He boasted that while talks were taking place in Teheran, Iran was able to complete the installation of equipment for conversion of yellowcake - a key stage in the nuclear fuel process - at its Isfahan plant but at the same time convince European diplomats that nothing was afoot.

"From the outset, the Americans kept telling the Europeans, 'The Iranians are lying and deceiving you and they have not told you everything.' The Europeans used to respond, 'We trust them'," he said.

Remember last December's National Intelligence Estimate? The one that was used by the left to "prove" that Iran wasn't seeking nuclear weapons? The one in which the authors confidently said that

A. We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program...

Oops.

Unless this Ramezanzadeh fellow is blowing smoke, we've been had. And by "we" I mean the Bush Administration as well as his predecessors. We've been talking to Iran for 38 years and it hasn't worked. When will we learn?

Posted by Tom at 8:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 22, 2008

Book Review - The Iranian Time Bomb

It is perhaps fitting that I finished Michael Ledeen's The Iranian Time Bomb: The Mullah Zealot's Quest for Destruction, just days after the good Senator Obama and his fellow Democrats lost it over President Bush's remarks in Israel. Obama and his friends imagine that if only they were in charge, their magical words would convince the Mullah's to quit their pursuit of the bomb and stop their support of terrorism. All this, mind you, while running out of Iraq and cutting military spending.

In his book Ledeen demonstrates that diplomacy, "aggressive" or otherwise, is an utter waste of time. The only policy that has a chance of succeeding is regime change, something we should pursue both openly and clandestinely. A direct military attack, at this time, however, would be counterproductive. It may come to military action if that is our only option to stopping them from getting the bomb, but as of now we have many options if only we would pursue them.

The bottom line is that Iran has been at war with us since the Islamic revolution in 1979. They have attacked us numerous times, and are doing so to this day by sending weapons and personnel into Iraq. Yet astoundingly, many Americans do not grasp this fact. They are at war with us, yet we are not allowed to be at war with them. This would somehow be "fearmongering", and "racheting up tensions."

Every president from Reagan to Bush has negotiated with the Iranians, though not at the presidential level. Every single our attempt to find common ground has resulted in failure. Ledeen documents the whole sad story.

The negotiations were almost always based on a search, always futile, for an Iranian "reformer". President Reagan thought he had found Iranian leaders with whom we might be able to negotiate, and famously sent Oliver North and National Security Adviser Robert C. "Bud" McFarlane with bible and chocolate cake allegedly in the shape of a key. Nothing came of it. President Clinton was encouraged by the election of Mohammed Khatami as president in 1997, only to see those hopes dashed as well. The vote for Khatami was more a vote against the regime than a vote for him.

What makes all this so frustrating is that the human rights situation in Iran is much worse than is generally recognized, and no administration of either party has done anything about it. Ledeen spends a chapter detailing the abuses of women, minorities, non-Shiite Muslims, and anyone who disagrees with the regime.

The leaders of the Iranian revolution made clear from the beginning that there's was not a nationalist movement. The Ayatollah Khomeini said it best "We do not worship Iran. We worship Allah, for patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land burn. I saw let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world." Their motivation is important to understand, because all too many Western leaders think that we can placate the Iranians leaders and they will be happy secure within their own country. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that they have quasi-religious/historical motivations which drive them to want to dominate the region, chasing out Western powers in the process.

For example, Muhammed started the practice of writing to infidel leaders, "inviting" them to accept Islam - or else. In 1989 the Ayatollah Khomeini wrote a similar letter to Gorbachev, then still leader of the then still USSR. In 2006, Ahmadinejad wrote such a letter to President George W. Bush. As with the others, Ahmadinejad's letter asked Bush to convert to Islam. Muhammed's letters presaged war. We ignore the letters they send us to day at our own peril. They mean what they say.

The main forces used by the Iranians to carry out their policies of terror are the Quds force (the overseas arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, or IRGC), and Hezbollah. They are not going to attack us with conventional military forces if they can help it. They are practitioners of asymmetrical warfare. They aim to wear us down, and to hit us in ways we can least defend against.

In another example of using proxies to further their cause, in the 1990s Iran supported the government of the Sudan, the latter a Muslim Brotherhood movement born out of Sunni Islam. In 1991 they "established a strategic alliance to wage war against their common enemies in the West". The alliance between Iran and Sudan extended to the former sending several thousand IRGC trainers to the Sudan in the 1990's. al Qaeda was in the mix too, as the 1998 U.S. Federal indictment of Osama bin Laden stated that

"Al Qaeda... forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in the Sudan and with the government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezbollah for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States."

The evidence is that Iran was behind the 1988 Khobar Towers attack. The al Qaeda terrorist who carried out the attack were in fact trained by Hezbollah, and the explosives came from Iran. "The entire operation was conceived, organized, and controlled by the Islamic Republic from beginning to end."

It took some doing, but finally in the spring of 1999 FBI interrogators got access to the terrorists the Saudis had captured, and what they heard confirmed Iranian involvement. Director Louis Freeh advised National Security Advisor Sandy Berger and President and Clinton that Iran was behind the Khobar Towers attack. There is some dispute as to what exactly happened within the Clinton Administration, but in the end there was no U.S. retaliation for the attack.

Unfortunately the Bush Administration has done any better than any previous one in dealing with Iran. Despite tough talk, the Bush Administration has no policy to permanently solve the problem. Regime change by whatever means seems off the table. Ledeen places most of the blame on Condolezza Rice, especially when she was National Security Adviser. In this role she was responsible for the formulation of policy, which in the case of Iran she absolutely failed to do.

Another factor contributing to the confusion is the intelligence community, which has been working against doing anything "muscular" with regards to Iran. They are quite happy to let the current negotiations regime take its course, believing that Iran will naturally flower into a democracy sometime in the next decade. Adding to that is that the CIA has very few true Iranian specialists and fewer Persian speakers. Most of the people assigned to the Iran desk are Arabists by trade.

Ledeen, like Richard Miniter, believes that bin Laden is most likely in Iran. This is hardly as unlikely as it may seem, once you get over the false notion that the Sunni-Shiite split precludes all cooperation. Ledeen takes this one more step; "...al Qaeda no longer exists as a separate entity, and that it has been integrated into the terrorist galaxy that revolves around Iran." This may be be going too far, but I don't have the information to make that judgement. I do know that al Qaeda is loosely organized, so that AQI can exist somewhat separately from the rest of the organization.

As with all totalitarians, the Iranians believe us to be weak, and unwilling to take casualties. Whether this is true or not is beside the point; what is important is that they believe it is so and act based on their beliefs.

Further, they believe themselves to be strong. Part of this is the cult of the return of the Mahdi, personified now in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a member (or reputed to be) of the Hojetiah sect. The Hojetiah believe that they can prompte the return of the Mahdi by creating bloodshed and chaos on earth, something which even the Ayatollah Khomeini thought so extreme that he banned them in 1983.

To be fair, they have not succeeded in their objectives in Iraq. They were not able to prompt the civil war they hoped for, and the "surge" is working.

It would be bad enough if the Iranian leaders simply thought themselves strong and us weak. This might lead to dangerously overstep, and then get plastered by a determined U.S. president in response. Here's Ledeen:

Some of the most thoughtful analysis of contemporary Iran believe that the Islamic Republic is currently in the throes of a second Islamic revolution, driven by Ahmadinejad and the Revolutionary Guards Corps from which he comes. As the label suggests, Iranian leaders seek a revitalization of Khomeini's original vision - above all, the export of the revolution - and fully embrace "such events as 'destruction, pestilence, and wars' which they see as the inevitable accompaniments of the Mahdi's return. Amir Taheri terms this "a deliberate clash of civilizations with the West."

They believe they can achieve their Jihadist goal of chasing the U.S. and other Western powers from the gulf region and creating a regional Imamate.

Ledeen doesn't just complain about our past and current failings, however, for he does offer concrete proposals about what to do about Iran, ones that are in line with what I have been saying here.

One thing that he does not believe is useful is engaging in a "War of Ideas" with the Mullahs. Although he does not mention Walid Phares by name, it is apparent that Ledeen has him and similar thinkers in mind. Ledeen has other ideas for dealing with Iran.

Ledeen's starting point is that only regime change will solve the problem. The current government is inherently anti-Western and expansionist and cannot be reformed.

His basic strategy for regime change is pretty straightforward:

...the same way we brought down the Soviet empire, by exporting the American democratic revolution, by adopting the methods that have successfully been used against dictators from Moscow and Belgrade to Beirut and the Philippines. the best strategy is to support the Iranian people against the mullahs they so hate.

A direct military attack would not achieve this purpose because we do not have the capability to take down Iran as we did Iraq. Bombing nuclear installations would set back their program but not get rid of the root problem, which is the government.

Rather, we should use our vast "soft power" to do things like support Iranian dissidents and democracy movements and start a human rights campaign. We can provide these dissidents with material and moral support. Broadcast messages ("propaganda" if you prefer) should be stepped up (our current efforts are abysmal). An information campaign to educate people on the mullahs and their regime should be launched taking advantage of all media including the Internet. Simply providing moral support to regime opponents would go a long way.

Of course this may not work. And there will be many who object to such a campaign, including, sadly, the American left who is stuck in a paradigm of endless negotiations.

Unlike many others, Ledeen sees Iran as the key to winning the War on Terror, or War on Jihadism (or whatever you want to call it).

My take is that Ledeen is mostly correct in this book, but that he takes it all a step too far. Yes Iran is a huge threat, larger than is commonly realized. Yes we should revise our strategy to one of regime change, and, and no, negotiations will not work. Administrations of both parties have kicked the can down the road, and it is time to deal with it before they get nuclear weapons.

The "War of Ideas" that thinkers like Phares advocate will work well against the Wahabbists and Muslim Brotherhood, but alone cannot work against Iran. That said, I think Ledeen criticizes it too much, since I find nothing in Phares' work to indicate such single-mindedness. A War of Ideas can certainly be part of the information or propaganda war that Ledeen advocates.

I also don't see al Qaeda being submerged into Iran as Ledeen thinks. I'm not the expert, but I don't see that theory being promoted elsewhere. Bin Laden may well be in Iran, but that doesn't mean his movement has been totally captured by them. al Qaeda is a pretty dispersed and loosely organized movement, and I never did buy the idea that it's controlled from the top like the Mafia (so "getting bin Laden" would, I think, have minimal effect).

Next Up

Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. Don't miss it!

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 7, 2008

Why did the Iranians Threaten U.S. Navy Ships?

Earlier this morning this was reported by Reuters

Five Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats harassed and provoked three U.S. Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday, CNN reported.

The CNN report on Monday, citing unidentified U.S. officials, said the Iranian vessels came within 200 yards (metres) of the U.S. ships and that after a threatening radio communication, U.S. sailors manned their ships' guns and were very close to opening fire.

Agence France Presse has details

Armed Iranian speedboats swarmed three US warships in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, radioing a threat to blow them up and sending tensions flaring ahead of President George W. Bush's trip to the Mideast, US officials said Monday.

"I'm coming at you and you will blow up in a couple of minutes," a Defense Department official quoted the radio transmission as saying.

Crew aboard two of the five speedboats also dumped floating boxes into the path of one of the vessels during the incident Sunday morning, but it passed them without incident, officials said.

At 6:23 PM ET the AP had still more, with a bit of analysis

No shots were fired an an Iranian official in Tehran said the incident amounted to "something normal."

Bush administration officials complained that the Iranian actions amounted to a dangerous provocation, but one private analyst said the Iranians may have believed they were acting defensively in a narrow waterway that is heavily trafficked by commercial ships, including oil vessels.
...

The three U.S. warships -- cruiser USS Port Royal, destroyer USS Hopper and frigate USS Ingraham -- were headed into the Persian Gulf through the Straits of Hormuz on what the U.S. Navy called a routine passage inside international waters when they were approached by five small high-speed vessels believed to be from Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy.

The Iranians "maneuvered aggressively" in the direction of the U.S. ships, said Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff, the commander of U.S. 5th Fleet, which patrols the Gulf and is based at nearby Bahrain. The U.S. ship commanders took a series of steps toward firing on the boats, which approached to within 500 yards, but the Iranians suddenly fled back toward their shore, Cosgriff said.

Cosgriff was not precise about the U.S. ships' location but indicated they were about three miles outside Iran's territorial waters, which extend 12 miles from its shores, headed in a westerly direction after having passed the narrowest point in the straits.

At one point the U.S. ships received a threatening radio call from the Iranians, "to the effect that they were closing (on) our ships and that the ships would explode -- the U.S. ships would explode," Cosgriff said.

"Subsequently, two of these boats were observed dropping objects in the water, generally in the path of the final ship in the formation, the USS Ingraham," he added. "These objects were white, box-like objects that floated. And, obviously, the ship passed by them safely."

The boxes were not retrieved, so U.S. officials do not know whether they posed an actual threat. Cosgriff the U.S. ship commanders were moving through a standard series of actions -- including radio calls to the Iranians that went unheeded -- but did not reach the point of firing warning shots.

What was the Iranian motivation?

First, we need to be careful because initial reports can be wrong. It is possible that our warships surprised the Iranians and they acted the way they did out of fear. Unlikely, but possible.

Did last November's National Intelligence Estimate (NIE 20071203) embolden the Iranians?
It might be that they are simply emboldened, and think that President Bush has been so weakened that they can get away with provoking us. Like with petty tyrants and schoolyard bullies alike, this sort of thing makes them feel big and tough. They think they can show the region that they're not intimidated by the American colossus. Last March, it will be recalled, they seized 15 British sailors and Royal Marines in an act that provoked a lot of analysis but no real certainty as to their intent.

But if one engages in "mirror image" thinking, surely the Iranians would lie low. The NIE gave them the cover they needed to restart their nuclear weapons program, and the last thing they need is to start something that might disrupt it. After all, once they get nuclear weapons then they'll be the dominate power in the gulf, and with that they can pursue their goal of creating a regional Imamate.

Further, the last time they tangled with our navy was in 1988, and they got their heads handed to them.

What to make of it, then? Steve Schippert, writing at The Tank, thinks that much of it could be about oil:

First, in a quote attributed to an unnamed official in the latest New York Times article on the incident, is the possibility of an Iranian probe, testing reactions and observable procedures for future reference. "Whether they're just testing us to learn about our procedures, or actually trying to initiate an incident, we don't know," the Times quoted him as saying.

Second, and more importantly from a strategic view rather than tactical, is the Iranian leveraging of crisis and instability in the manipulation of sky-high crude oil prices, the only boost that exists in the Iranian economy.

Oil is flirting with $100 per barrel. Its average price in December dropped to just over $88 per barrel from over $92 average for the month of November. Incidents like this weekend's serve to remind the global oil market of how fragile the supply route is, thus maintaining premium price for Iran's only significant export and only significant source of revenue

Continuing in this vein at Threatswatch, he makes the Clausewitzian point that

The Iranian Oil Weapon is not the act of blocking the Strait of Hormuz nor the removal of Iranian oil from world markets, which is economic suicide for an immensely struggling Iranian economy. The Iranian Oil Weapon is the threat of this, manifest in actions such as the naval harassment this weekend, and the clear economic advantage the resulting tensions provide via increased market price for exported crude oil and natural gas.

On the other hand, it might simply be that the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing. This might not have been an operation sanctioned by Tehran; or at least by everyone in Tehran. StrategyPage, in an article that happened to come out today but is not directly about the situation at hand, explains

Who runs Iran? No one in particular, it turns out. Over the past two years, the senior cleric, Ali Khamenei, has tried to solve the corruption problem by ordering most state owned companies to be privatized (sold off to investors). Khamenei, who has enormous civil and religious power, was ignored. ...

The various cleric controlled bureaucracies keep themselves out of trouble with each other by following a "live-and-let-live" policy. So one faction can support terrorist attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, while another insists that the government is doing no such thing.

Bottom line, no one is in charge of the national government, and the senior government officials have the maintenance of their personal wealth and power as their primary goals. All in the name of Allah, of course.

All these motives and more are possible. It's also possible that we'll just never find out.

Update: Tuesday Jan 8

Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, gave a press briefing yesterday on the incident. Adm Cosgriff reports to Adm Fallon, who is commander of Central Command.

This video can also be viewed at DODvCLIPS

Here are the important parts

With respect to the encounter yesterday morning local time in the Strait of Hormuz, I think the facts are known to many of you. USS Port Royal, USS Hopper, USS Ingraham were in bound the Gulf via the Strait of Hormuz routine transit.

In the early hours of the morning, daylight hours of the morning, they were encountered by five total small high-speed craft that we assessed to belong the Iranian Revolutionary Guard navy. The five boats approached the formation on the formation's starboard bow in international waters slightly inside the gulf from the apex of the strait, broke into two groups, one to one side of the formation, one to the other. The groups maneuvered aggressively in the direction of the U.S. ships. They were called on radio; they were -- ships' whistles were sounded, those sorts of things, to draw attention to the fact that their maneuvers were a cause of concern to the commanding officers.

At one point during this encounter, we received a radio -- the ships received a radio call that was threatening in nature, to the effect that they were closing our ships and that the ships might -- the ships would explode, the U.S. ships would explode. Subsequently, two of these boats were observed dropping objects in the water, generally in the path of the final ship in the formation, the USS Ingraham. These objects were white box-like objects that floated, and obviously the ship passed by them safely.

The encounter continued, with the boats maneuvering close to stern and after -- under 30 minutes total, they returned in the direction from whence they came, to the north, back towards Iranian territorial waters.

So I would reiterate it was a transit passage in international waters incidental to a routine inbound transit of the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. ships were clearly marked, at daylight, decent visibility. The behavior of the Iranian ships was, in my estimation, unnecessary, without due regard for safety of navigation and unduly provocative in the sense of the aggregate of their maneuvers, the radio call and the dropping of objects in the water.

I'd like to report that the training of our ships as they came in was more than satisfactory. They stepped through the procedures carefully, with good discipline, with due regard for all the factors, while at the same time taking the reasonable precautions to place their ships in conditions of readiness consistent with the environment in which they were entering. So I was very proud of their performance and the training they received.
...

Q Admiral, this is Bob Burns from AP. Could you tell us how frequently in the recent past have Iranian National Guard -- or Republican Guard vessels intercepted U.S. ships in that area, and exactly how close were the U.S. ships to the Iranian territorial waters?

ADM. COSGRIFF: I'll answer the last first. We were at least 15 miles from Iranian-recognized land, so outside the 12-mile territorial waters, in international waters.

We routinely encounter Iranian navy and Iranian Revolutionary Guard ships on our operation in the gulf, including in and around the Strait of Hormuz. In fact, this group had passed an Iranian navy ship earlier in its transit and exchanged quite correct radio communication with that Iranian ship, and indeed had communicated again correctly with some Iranian shore stations and, for that matter, Omani shore stations, again following the procedures that we teach them to follow. So encounters with warships, of either the Revolutionary Guard navy or the regular navy, are not unusual.
...

Q Admiral, it's Andrew Gray from Reuters. Can you characterize how serious this incident was from your point of view?

Following off of Bob's question, have you known an incident as serious as this since you took command here?

ADM. COSGRIFF: Well, this particular body of water, no; this is more serious because of the aggregate of the actions, the coordinated movement of the ships, the boats, the aggressive maneuvering, the more or less simultaneous radio communication, the dropping of objects. So these are -- in my unnecessarily provocative -- in international waters incidental to a routine transit of a(n) internationally recognized strait. So yes, it's more serious than we have seen, but to put it in context, we do interact with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and their navy regularly. For the most part, those interactions are correct. We are familiar with their presence, they're familiar with ours. So I think in the time I've been here I've seen things that are a concern, and then there's periods of time -- long periods of time where there's not as much going on.

Update: Jan 12

Reading this post, I realize that I forgot to state the obvious; that the Iranians were probably just testing our reaction in case they do decide to attack our ships. Given their lack of large warships or modern attack aircraft, they've decided that "swarm" attacks by small boats might work. As such, they need to gather intelligence to determine our rules of engagement so that they can search for weaknesses.

Update II Jan 12:

Malcolm Nance, writing at Small Wars Journal, sort of agrees with what I just wrote, but adds a new twist

Given all the factors and the evidence by both the US Navy and Iranian video, this was a simple harassment and surveillance mission carried out by the IRGC on US Navy vessels as the opportunity arose. The boxes thrown into the water were most likely ammunition packaging as they prepared to be engaged and engage the US ships. For reasons I am sworn to secrecy over I can assure you that Iranian high speed boats do not warn on bridge-to-bridge radio that they are making a suicide attack. No terrorist would. ...

The risk here is that the White House and Pentagon staffers may have a political scenario in their head that will always explains routine incidents such as these in a hostile, dangerous light. As tensions and rhetoric escalates they may fall victim to "scenario fulfillment" (the same group think that the crew of the USS Vincennes experienced in their tragic gunbattle) where the desire to attack the Iranians, who are acting out their role as "evil", is aided by the ease of which Iranian activities, however mundane can be seen as belligerent. To the hawks in the administration, the Iranians want to start a war because they are "Islamofacists" who seek nuclear weapons and the destruction of Israel - so of course they are trying to provoke us.

Well...maybe. True enough that we should be aware of self-fulfilling prophesies. But just because you're paranoid of the Islamo-fascists doesn't mean they're not out to get you.


Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 5, 2007

More on the NIE

I've got a bit more time tonight and so want to quickly revisit the issue of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE 20071203) on Iran (hat has caused so much comment. First off, let's take a look at what it actually says. Under "Key Judgements", we have, among other findings

A. We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we access with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons....

• We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons.

• We judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years. (Because of intelligence gaps discussed elsewhere in this Estimate, however, DOE and NIC access with only moderate confidence taht the halt to those programs represents a halt to Iran's entire nuclear weapons program.)

• We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.

• Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously.

What's all this about "high or moderate confidence"? Here's where the Estimate gets interesting. Here's how it defines these two levels:

High confidence generally indicates that our judgements are based on high-quality information, and/or that the nature of the issue makes it possible to render a solid judgement. A "high confidence" judgement is not a fact or certainty, however, and such judgements carry a risk of being wrong.

Moderate confidence generally means that the information is credibly sourced and plausible but not of sufficient quality or corroborated sufficiently to warrant a higher level of confidence.

What the report does therefore not say is that "Iran has shut down it's program". It speaks in terms of probabilities and admits that it could all be wrong. Not that it is, but that it could be. Further, remember it was only with moderate confidence that it declared that as of mid-2007 "Tehran had not restated its nuclear weapons program."

Two more key findings bear quoting:

E. We do not have sufficient intelligence to judge confidently whether Tehran is willing to maintain the halt of its nuclear programs program indefinitely while it weights its options, or whether it will or already has set specific deadlines or criteria that will promot it to restart the program.

So they might be waiting to see if the political climate changes. What could they be waiting for? One possibility is to see if a Democrat wins the White House in 2008, especially one like Barak Obama or John Edwards. While this comment might seem overly partisan, I think it to be a fair one. Neither has shown any willingness to use military force against Iran, or to use it as a credible threat during diplomacy. Second is that they could be waiting to see if they can chase the U.S. out of Iraq. If they succeed there, their prestige will be enhanced and ours will fall. We will be less willing than ever to use force, and they will know it. Again, they could seize the opportunity to restart work.

And under "E"

• Our assessment that iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran's desisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs. This, in turn, suggests that some combination of threats of international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportuities in Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might - if perceived by Iran's leaders as credible - prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program. It is difficult to specify what such a combination might be.

Certainly the bit about Iran being "guided by a cost-benefit approach" contradicts much of what I've written about the Iranian leadership. This in turn leads to a few observations

One, of the NIE is accurate, then why has the Iranian leadership, and especially President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, been so bellicose? With Saddam we learned that he was playing a double game; trying to convince his own people, party, and regional threats that he had WMD, while trying to convince us that he didn't. It doesn't seem likely that the Iranians are up to the same thing, but it's possible.

Two, as with Saddam, the Iranian leadership bears ultimate responsibility for our uncertainty. Saddam could have resolved the whole issue of whether he had WMD or not by simply opening up his country for honest inspections. Instead, the history of the mid-to-late 90s with him is one of deception after deception. Ditto with Iran. If they really aren't pursuing weapons then it's their responsibility to open up fully to inspections.

Three, as with others I have to question the accuracy of the NIE, because the Iranian leadership (and yes I know that their president does not hold total power) seems so driven by religious/historical objectives.

Also, under "E" is this

• We assess with moderate confidence that convincing the Iranian leadership to forgo the eventual development of nuclear weapons will be difficult given the linkage many within the leadership probably see between nuclear weapons development and Iran's key national security and foreign policy objectives, and given Iran's considerable effort from at least the late 1980s to 2003 to develop such weapons. In our judgement, only an Iranian political decision to abandon a nuclear weapons objective would plausibly keep Iran from eventually producing nuclear weapons - and such a decisiion is inherently reversible.



In other words, they're probably going to restart their weapons program and talking them out of it will be difficult. Why this one is only of "moderate confidence" is hard to know.

More Observations

If indeed they stopped in 2003, what was the "international pressure" that made them stop? One has to be Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which (yes) many countries besides the U.S. participated. Seems like a vindication of the Iraq war to me.

The left will claim a "victory for diplomacy", yet talk without the credible threat of force to back it up is meaningless. If indeed diplomacy worked, then it did so only because the Iranians knew that if they pushed too far we'd hit them.

The Bush Administration's policy on Iran has been to follow the European's lead, which has been negotiations, sanctions, and the use of international agencies such as the IAEA. Isn't that what the left wants? Or is the mere hint of military action so upsetting to them that it must be completely "off the table"? My own idiot Senator, James Webb, apparently thinks so.

As I said on Monday, if it's accurate, then the new NIE is certainly good news. The 2005 Estimate was to "assess with high confidence that Iran currently is determined to develop nuclear weapons despite its international obligations and international pressure...."

Other Opinion

Mossad and Aman aren't convinced that the NIE has it right. From the New York Times

Israel today took a darker view of Iran’s nuclear ambitions than the assessment released by United States intelligence agencies yesterday, saying it was convinced that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons.

It said Iran had probably resumed the nuclear weapons program the American report said was stopped in the fall of 2003. “It is apparently true that in 2003 Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear program for a certain period of time,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israeli Army Radio. “But in our estimation, since then it is apparently continuing with its program to produce a nuclear weapon.”

The Israelis are hardly infallible, but they are to be taken seriously.

The editors of National Review aren't impressed either

First, the NIE says that Iran was indeed operating a covert nuclear-weapons program up to the fall of 2003. Until now, no NIE had held that such a program existed. The acknowledgement that one did is a big piece of news — even if not many people want to talk about it. Yes, the NIE also claims that Iran suspended weapons-related activities in 2003. But the question for policymakers is whether a regime that has, in the past four years, tried to build atomic bombs, should be trusted with civilian technologies that greatly increase its ability to make a bomb whenever it wishes to do so.

And that’s the second thing to remember about this NIE: It relies on an unrealistic distinction between civilian and military nuclear technologies. When it says Iran suspended its weapons program in 2003, what it means is that Iran isn’t currently designing or building warheads, or other components of nuclear weapons. But it concedes that Iran “made significant progress in 2007 installing centrifuges at Natanz.” And while the NIE judges “with moderate confidence” that Iran “still faces significant technical problems” operating the centrifuges, it does not question that the enrichment of uranium continues.
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Of course, all this assumes that the NIE is accurate and impartial — and there is reason to doubt that. It’s no secret that careerists at the CIA and State have been less interested in implementing the president’s policies on Iran, Iraq, and North Korea than in sabotaging them at every opportunity. Sources close to the intelligence community question the objectivity of the NIE’s Iran conclusions, and tell us that three principal authors of the report are longtime critics of the administration’s policy who have axes to grind.

We can’t know for sure whether the claims in the NIE are correct. What we do know is this: The Islamic Republic is killing Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has exported terror around the globe. It has powerful strategic reasons to want an atomic bomb: to counterbalance American influence, and to become a hegemon in the Middle East. And it continues to enrich uranium while refusing to allow the kind of intrusive and thorough inspections that would allow us to test its claim that it seeks nothing but electricity. Until that big picture changes, it would be irresponsible for any American policymaker to conclude that the Iranian threat had diminished.

Robert Rubin in the New York Daily News reminds us that

Just last month, IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei revealed Iran had a blueprint for a nuclear warhead provided by disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan during a visit to Tehran in the 1990s.

Writing on the Media Blog at NRO Tom Gross has a host of good links and quotes, all from major publications. Here are a few

William J. Broad in The New York Times:

When is a nuclear program a nuclear weapons program? The open secret of the nuclear age is that the line between civilian and military programs is extraordinarily thin...

The Washington Post

While U.S. intelligence agencies have “high confidence” that covert work on a bomb was suspended “for at least several years” after 2003, there is only “moderate confidence” that Tehran has not restarted the military program. Iran’s massive overt investment in uranium enrichment meanwhile proceeds in defiance of binding U.N. resolutions, even though Tehran has no legitimate use for enriched uranium. The U.S. estimate of when Iran might produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb – sometime between late 2009 and the middle of the next decade — hasn’t changed.

Robert Baer (who is a former CIA field officer) in TIME magazine:

… Then there are the Gulf Arabs. For the last year and a half, ever since the Bush Administration started to hint that it might hit Iran, they have been sending emissaries to Tehran to assure the Iranians they’re not going to help the U.S. But in private, the Gulf Arabs have been reminding Washington that Iran is a rabid dog: Don’t even think about kicking it, the Arabs tell us. If you have to do something, shoot it dead. Which is something the U.S. can’t do. So how far is Iran from a nuke? The truth is that Iran is a black hole, and it’s entirely conceivable Iran could build a bomb and we wouldn’t know until they tested it...

The hard reality is that at this point President Bush doesn't have the political capital to "shoot it dead". That's the penalty for taking so long to get Iraq on the right track.

Update

Bret Stephens, writing in the OpinionJournal, pointed out the other day that another NIE failed to anticipate that Nikita Khrushchev might place missiles in Cuba. From the Estimate

"The USSR could derive considerable military advantage from the establishment of Soviet medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Cuba, or from the establishment of a submarine base there. . . . Either development, however, would be incompatible with Soviet practice to date and with Soviet policy as we presently estimate it."

--Special National Intelligence Estimate 85-3-62, Sept. 19, 1962

Twenty-five days later our U-2 photographed the Soviets building a base for SS-4 missiles in Cuba, and the rest is history.

Posted by Tom at 7:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 3, 2007

The National Intelligence Estimate on Iranian Nuclear Capabilities

You're going to see a lot of the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran in the next few weeks. Here's how it was reported in the New York Times earlier today

A new assessment by American intelligence agencies concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains frozen, contradicting judgment two years ago that Tehran was working relentlessly toward building a nuclear bomb.

The conclusions of the new assessment are likely to reshape the final year of the Bush administration, which has made halting Iran’s nuclear program a cornerstone of its foreign policy.

The assessment, a National Intelligence Estimate that represents the consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies, states that Tehran is likely keeping its options open with respect to building a weapon, but that intelligence agencies “do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.”

Iran is continuing to produce enriched uranium, a program that the Tehran government has said is designed for civilian purposes. The new estimate says that enrichment program could still provide Iran with enough raw material to produce a nuclear weapon sometime by the middle of next decade, a timetable essentially unchanged from previous estimates.

But the new estimate declares with “high confidence” that a military-run Iranian program intended to transform that raw material into a nuclear weapon has been shut down since 2003, and also says with high confidence that the halt “was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure.”

The next two paragraphs could have been written by the DNC. Look for them to be used quite a bit in the days to come.

Rather than painting Iran as a rogue, irrational nation determined to join the club of nations with the bomb, the estimate states Iran’s “decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs.” The administration called new attention to the threat posed by Iran earlier this year when President Bush had suggested in October that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to “World War III” and Vice President Dick Cheney promised “serious consequences” if the government in Tehran did not abandon its nuclear program.

Yet at the same time officials were airing these dire warnings about the Iranian threat, analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency were secretly concluding that Iran’s nuclear weapons work halted years ago and that international pressure on the Islamic regime in Tehran was working.

So we can all relax and stop worrying about Iranian nukes, right? All that talk about an "Iranian threat" was just the evil neocons trying to scare us so they could drum up more business for Halliburton, wasn't it? Not so fast, and here's why:

First off, what makes the NIE the word of god? It will be described as holy writ by the left in the days to come, but just partisan politics talking.

Second, the NYT somewhat mischaracterized the NIE, as Tom Maguire points out on his blog (h/t Michelle Malkin), and says that the Washington Post was more accurate when it said that

Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 in response to international pressure, and while it continues to develop an enriched uranium program, it apparently has not resumed moving toward a nuclear capability, according to a consensus judgment of the U.S. intelligence community released today by Director of National Intelligence John M. McConnell.

The assessment states "with moderate confidence" that "Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program" as of mid-2007, but suggests that Tehran continues to keep that option open.

Third, the fact is that our intelligence agencies have not had a good record at figuring out the capabilities of other countries when it comes to weapons of mass destruction. Most of the time our enemies have developed weapons well before we thought they would.

The Soviet Union exploded their first atomic bomb in 1949, years before we thought they would. We based our estimate not knowing that we had been betrayed by spies. The first Chinese detonation was in 1964, again catching us by surprise. Ditto with the Indian bomb in 1974 and that of Pakistan in 1998.

We didn't think that Iraq was very far along in it's bomb program in the 1980s, which turned out to be wrong. After the Gulf War, the IAEA, with Hans Blix as it's director, went into Iraq and found out that their program was much more advanced than we had suspected. As Blix himself said "It's correct to say that the IAEA was fooled by the Iraqis".

On the other hand, we were obviously wrong in 2003. As it turned out, Saddam did not have the WMD that we thought he did. Whatever happened to it (unaccounted for to this day) it was not at the ready.

Further, the Manhattan Project itself was based on the Roosevelt's belief that Nazi Germany had an atomic bomb program. As it turned out, Germany had a small research program that never came anywhere close to developing weapons.

Let's not forget the "missile gap", which was used by then Senator John F Kennedy during the presidential race of 1960, in which he ran agains Vice President Richard M Nixon. The whole story is a bit complicated, but suffice it to say that several NIE reports in the late 1950s had it that the Soviet Union was or would over take us in Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). Further, the USAF thought that the Soviets had more ICBMs than we did, but that the CIA said otherwise. Sen Kennedy seized on the NIE and USAF estimates and used them to attack the Eisenhower Administration, of which Nixon was of course a part, as being "weak on defense". Adding fuel to the fire was Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who had a habit of saying that his country was turning out nuclear-armed missiles "like sausages". As it turned out, the "missile gap" was as illusory as the "bomber gap" of a few years earlier, something President Kennedy learned after taking office.

The point, if I have to spell it out, is that sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong. It's hard to know at the time, but it all seems so obvious in retrospect.

I am not saying that the new NIE is necessarily wrong. It might be right. But it's not holy scripture.

Other Opinion

It would certainly be good news if it turns out that the NIE is correct. I'd be happy if Iran was truely not pursuing nuclear weapons. If they are, then at some point we'll have to attack them. While an attack will stop or at least set back Iran, it will also lead to all sorts of negative consequences, not the least of which might be riots or demonstrations by Shiites in Iraq.

But how do we know that the NIE is right? Thomas Joscelyn, writing in The Weekly Standard, has five questions of the NIE that need to be answered before we can be assured of its accuracy.

Victor Davis Hanson points out that contrary to what at first glance seems to be a Democrat advantage, it actually puts them in something of a pickle

Are they now to suggest that Republicans have been warmongering over a nonexistent threat for partisan purposes? But to advance that belief is also to concede that, Iran, like Libya, likely came to a conjecture around (say early spring 2003?) that it was not wise for regimes to conceal WMD programs, given the unpredictable, but lethal American military reaction.

I hadn't thought of that when I first saw the NIE, but he's right; if in fact Iran stopped work on their bomb in 2003, it's really too much to believe that it's coincidence that OIF started at the same time.

In the same vein, Richard Fernandez of The Belmont Club also has a few questions, among them is "Why was Iran not provoked into further and more frantic efforts to develop nuclear weapons by the invasion of Iraq?" Maybe because the invasion had the effect the evil neocons said it would have? Maybe. Whatever caused them to shut off their program (again, if they did), "no new sanctions were imposed on Iran between 2000 and 2005" so it couldn't have been that.

And as to leftists who claim that the whole Iranian threat was "overblown" and that nothing needed to be done, " that is a perverted argument which reverses the order of things. The reason the Iranian bomb program was prevented or slowed was because it was taken seriously and the necessary counter-pressures were implemented." As always when it comes to Fernandez, read the whole thing.

Writing at The Corner, Cliff May thinks that it's all political: "The purpose of this NIE is to prevent Bush from using military force during the remainder of his term to destroy Iran's nuclear weapons program." Maybe. It's been known that the CIA in particular is full of people who don't like GWB.

Either way, there will be a lot more about this NIE in the days to come.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 2, 2007

Newt Nails It

Many of us on the right are increasingly dissatisfied with the Bush Administration's handling of the "war on terror". Most of us aren't even really happy with that term, and those of us who accept it tend to do so only because either they don't think it can be changed or because none of the other choices seem better.

The president started out strong after 9-11, and it seemed that there was a new sheriff in town. The rest of the world saw that after those attacks on our homeland we did not hesitate in quickly going to Afghanistan and routing the Taliban and al Qaeda there. A little over a year later we removed another cancer in the region by quickly smashing the Iraqi army and rolling into Baghdad.

The outlaw regimes of the world trembled and the rest of the world looked on in awe.

This is the type of respect that I want for our country. When Democrats, reporters, news anchors ask "how can the U.S. regain the respect of the rest of the world" they are looking for a politically correct answer along the lines of "pull out of Iraq, apologize for invading, and only do what the UN allows us to do". But that's appeasement, not respect (As a side note, why is it that no one thinks to ask "what can the rest of the world do to gain our respect?")

When Iraq turned out to be more difficult than anticiplated we stumbled, and in the years that followed slowly lost our way. I've detailed all this in numerous posts on this blog, but no one does it better than Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich is simply one of the most brilliant speakers there is. I heard him last year at CPAC

In an article posted the other day at Family Security Matters, he takes us through the genesis of our problem and how to fix it. Following are the most important excerpts, but I encourage you to read the whole thing

Our current problem is tragic. You have an administration whose policy is inadequate being opposed by a political Left whose policy is worse, and you have nobody prepared to talk about the policy we need. Because we are told if you are for a strong America, you should back the Bush policy even if it's inadequate, and so you end up making an argument in favor of something that can't work. So your choice is to defend something which isn't working or to oppose it by being for an even weaker policy. So this is a catastrophe for this country and a catastrophe for freedom around the world. Because we have refused to be honest about the scale of the problem. ...

What's the primary source of money for al Qaeda? It's you, re-circulated through Saudi Arabia. Because we have no national energy strategy, when clearly if you really cared about liberating the United States from the Middle East and if you really cared about the survival of Israel, one of your highest goals would be to move to a hydrogen economy and to eliminate petroleum as a primary source of energy.
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So then you look at Saudi Arabia. The fact that we tolerate a country saying no Christian and no Jew can go to Mecca, and we start with the presumption that that's true while they attack Israel for being a religious state is a sign of our timidity, our confusion, our cowardice that is stunning.
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So we accept this totally one-sided definition of the world in which our enemies can cheerfully lie on television every day, and we don't even have the nerve to insist on the truth. We pretend their lies are reasonable. This is a very fundamental problem. And if you look at who some of the largest owners of some of our largest banks are today, they're Saudis.
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So we accept this totally one-sided definition of the world in which our enemies can cheerfully lie on television every day, and we don't even have the nerve to insist on the truth. We pretend their lies are reasonable. This is a very fundamental problem. And if you look at who some of the largest owners of some of our largest banks are today, they're Saudis.
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We have created our own nightmare because we refuse to tell the truth. We refuse to tell the truth to our politicians. Our State Department refuses to tell the truth to the country. If the president of the United States, and again, we're now so bitterly partisan, we're so committed to red vs. blue hostility, that George W. Bush doesn't have the capacity to give an address from the Oval Office that has any meaning for half the country. And the anti-war Left is so strong in the Democratic primary that I think it's almost impossible for any Democratic presidential candidate to tell the truth about the situation.

And so the Republicans are isolated and trying to defend incompetence. The Democrats are isolated and trying to find a way to say, "I'm really for strength as long as I can have peace, but I'd really like to have peace, except I don't want to recognize these people who aren't very peaceful.
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None of our enemies are confused. Our enemies don't get up each morning and go, "Oh, gosh, I think I'll have an existential crisis of identity in which I will try to think through whether or not we can be friends while you're killing me." Our enemies get up every morning and say, "We hate the West. We hate freedom." They would not allow a meeting with women in the room.
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Now what do we need?

We need first of all to recognize this is a real war. Our enemies are peaceful when they're weak, are ruthless when they're strong, demand mercy when they're losing, show no mercy when they're winning. They understand exactly what this is, and anybody who reads Sun Tzu will understand exactly what we're living through. This is a total war. One side is going to win. One side is going to lose. You'll be able to tell who won and who lost by who's still standing. Most of Islam is not in this war, but most of Islam isn't going to stop this war. They're just going to sit to one side and tell you how sorry they are that this happened. We had better design grand strategies that are radically bigger and radically tougher and radically more honest than anything currently going on, and that includes winning the argument in Europe, and it includes winning the argument in the rest of the world. And it includes being very clear, and I'll just give you one simple example because we're now muscle-bound by our own inability to talk honestly.

Iran produces 60% of its own gasoline. It produces lots of crude oil but only has one refinery. It imports 40% of its gasoline. The entire 60% is produced at one huge refinery.
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n the 28 years since the Iranians declared war on us, in the six years since 9/11, in the months since Gen. Petraeus publicly said they are killing young Americans, we have not been able to figure out how to take down one refinery. Covertly, quietly, without overt war. And we have not been able to figure out how to use the most powerful navy in the world to simply stop the tankers and say, "Look, you want to kill young Americans, you're going to walk to the battlefield, but you're not going to ride in the car because you're not going to have any gasoline."
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We had better take this seriously because we are not very many mistakes away from a second Holocaust. Three nuclear weapons is a second Holocaust. Our enemies would like to get those weapons as soon as they can, and they promise to use them as soon as they can.

I suggest we defeat our enemies and create a different situation long before they have that power.

I don't think we're quite at the point where we need to take out that single Iranian refinery, or blockade their shipping, but we're getting close.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 13, 2007

Yes They Want Nukes

If you thought that my warnings yesterday about why we should not let Iran get nuclear weapons were alarmist, today we have this AP story via the New York Times:

Iran has met a key demand of the U.N. nuclear agency, handing over long-sought blueprints showing how to mold uranium metal into the shape of warheads, diplomats said Tuesday.

Iran's decision to release the documents, which were seen by U.N. inspectors two years ago, was seen as a concession designed to head off the threat of new U.N. sanctions.

But the diplomats said Tehran has failed to meet other requests made by the International Atomic Energy Agency in its attempts to end nearly two decades of nuclear secrecy on the part of Iran
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The agency has been seeking possession of the blueprints since 2005, when it stumbled upon them among a batch of other documents during its examination of suspect Iranian nuclear activities. While agency inspectors had been allowed to examine them in the country, Tehran had up to now refused to let the IAEA have a copy for closer perusal.

Well that was awfully nice of them to let us have the documents. But how did they get them in the first place? After all, aren't we supposed to believe that their nuclear program is peaceful? Here's the Iranian explanation:

Iran maintains it was given the papers without asking for them during its black market purchases of nuclear equipment decades ago that now serve as the backbone of its program to enrich uranium -- a process that can generate both power or create the fissile core of nuclear warheads. Iran's refusal to suspend enrichment has been the main trigger for both existing U.N. sanctions and the threat of new ones.

I guess the documents were just thrown in as a bonus. Kind of like when you buy a new cell phone they throw in a car charger.

Just to be sure we're all on the same page regarding the documents, the AP story goes on to explain that

Both the IAEA and other experts have categorized the instructions outlined in the blueprints as having no value outside of a nuclear weapons program.

Anyone still want to maintain that Iran isn't seeking nukes?

Paul Mirengoff of Powerline attended a breakfast hosted by The American Spectator two days ago. Former Ambassador to the UN John Bolton was the featured speaker. Here's what he had to say about Iran

Our policy has been, let the Europeans handle it. Europe's policy has been "speak softly and carry a big carrrot." This dynamic has caused us to waste four years. Finally, we have Sarkozy and perhaps Merkel on board, and we've been able to implement some decent sanctions. But they are too little too late. The only question now is when (not whether) Iran will get nukes. And given the price of oil, the answer is probably sooner rather than later. Our options, then, are regime change and the use of military force. There's some chance of regime change because the regime is fragile. Failing that, as a last resort the U.S. or Israel should strike Iran's nuclear facilities. However, this is a risky strategy because Iran may have facilites we don't know about. In that case, you get the adverse consequences of the stirke without the benefit. Bolton doubts that Iran would withhold oil because the revenue is too important to the regime. Iran would likely retaliate by supporting terrorism, but Iran's support of terrorism is already substantial.

I'd say he has it just about right.

Unfortunately, the Bush Administration seems determined to forge ahead with our current strategy of endless negotiations and sanctions that will not deter the mullahs. We should be pursuing regime change but are not. What we're going to end up with is a situation where the choice will be between letting Iran have the bomb and hoping for the best and a military strike, which as Bolton says is risky.

Part of me thinks that the President will assess the 2008 race late next year and if it looks like the Democrat will win, will order strikes because he (rightly) won't trust his successor to do it. On the other hand, this ridiculous business of seeking an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord makes he think he's looking at his legacy and wants to go out a peacemaker.

If Israel had a strong leader I'd say they would present Bush with an ultimatum; you strike or we will. Bush would have to hit Iran because 1) Israel couldn't get the job done (they don't have big bombers that can carry the deep penetrator bombs) and 2) an Israeli strike would inflame the region even more than a U.S. one would. But unless Israel gets new leadership (Bibi where are you?) I'm not sure I even see this happening.

Either way, Bolton is right in that the situation will come to a head sometime in the next few years. It might not be September 1939 yet, but it's just about 1938.

Posted by Tom at 8:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 12, 2007

More Reasons not to let Iran get the Bomb

David Frum linked to an article by Barry Rubin at The Gloria Center that is worth quoting in its entirety

The Iranian nuclear issue is too important and dangerous to be miscomprehended. So here are some life-and-death factors to keep in mind about it:

First, Iran is not about to obtain nuclear weapons, certainly not ones that it could use. That dreadful outcome is still several years away. Despite all the bragging going on by Iranian leaders in Persian-language statements about how they are getting closer to atomic bombs—coupled with denials of any such intention in English-language ones—it just isn’t that easy to do.

Second, neither Israel nor the United States is about to attack Iran. There are lots of reasons why this is so but they can be boiled down to the following: it is hard militarily to carry out such an attack, it is politically dangerous, and can lead to very serious consequences. An attack is something better to avoid, if possible. And it is certainly too early for such a high-risk, potentially high-cost venture.

Third, why then are Israel, the United States and others making such a big fuss about Iran right now, since it is neither the last moment nor a prelude to an attack soon? The answer is that it is the last moment for three other things:

* If international terms, if diplomatic and economic pressure is going to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons it has to be intensified right now or it will be too late to generate the needed non-military threat to Tehran.

* In technological terms, Iran is right on the verge of being able to build nuclear weapons all by itself without any more foreign help or equipment.

* In political terms, if Iranian leaders and people aren’t worried about the country’s isolation and the nuclear program’s high costs, they will more likely keep in power the regime’s most extreme faction—and the ones most likely to use nuclear weapons in the future.

So in several real ways it is truly a moment of now or never, not because of an imminent attack but due to the fact that this era gives the last chance to avoid one.

But there is a fourth set of factors extremely important yet hardly ever mentioned. True, the most horrifying outcome would be if Iran used these weapons against Israel, possibly triggering a region-wide nuclear and conventional war which will make previous conflicts look like a picnic.

Yet while this risk alone justifies decisive action to stop Iran’s nuclear success, this may not happen, you could argue. Or perhaps you don’t mind seeing Israel incinerated or think it can take care of itself. Why, then, should Iran having nuclear weapons bother you?

The reason is that even more likely to take place than an Iranian attack on Israel are a number of other dire circumstances that would be devastating for everyone in the region and the world in general. Briefly, these include the following disasters:

* Appeasement: Frightened by Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons and uncertain of Western protection, Arabic-speaking states will rush to meet Iran’s demands.

* This means they will be afraid to cooperate with U.S. policy or provide facilities for Western efforts to contain Iran. And that development will make them even less able to protect themselves against Tehran, further reinforcing the effect.

* Given Iran’s rejectionist stance, no Arab state or the Palestinian Authority would dare move toward peace with Israel. Even if you believe such a thing is possible now, forget about it for 20 or 30 years.

* Since Iran always favors higher oil prices (with Saudi Arabia, which already has lots of money, holding them down), the combination of Iranian pressure and heightened regional insecurity will send the cost of petroleum sky-high, far above anything hitherto dreamed.

* Intoxicated with a belief that Islamism is on the march to victory, tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands will join radical Islamist groups, either clients of Iran or independent ones.

* It is quite conceivable that even if the Iranian government makes no decision to give nuclear weapons to terrorists super-extremist elements in the regime will do it on their own.

* With the regime having nuclear weapons, any opposition will be too intimidated to try to change it, no matter how much support dissidents have.

* Nobody in the region will be willing to oppose greater Iranian influence in Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere. And even if you believe this is possible now—though I don’t—it is certainly obvious that Syria, nestled under Iran’s nuclear protection, will never move away from its alliance with Tehran

* In fact, new members may join the current radical HISH alliance (Hamas-Iran-Syria-Hizballah), thus further building the extremist forces. The result could be a turning point with Islamists toppling one Arab nationalist regime after another.

* Of course, all of the above would escalate regional instability.

Does the above sound exaggerated? I don’t think so but even if you want to reduce such dire predictions to a lower level the prospects are still quite harrowing. Remember that even if Iran never uses nuclear weapons to make mushroom clouds it will quite effectively use them for strategic and economic leverage.

Oh and for the millionth time Ahmadinejad is proclaiming that the return of the Mahdi is near.

Posted by Tom at 8:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 27, 2007

Ahmadinejad's Other Message

It's taken me longer than I wanted to get this posted

There's been a lot of talk about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech(or here) earlier this week at Columbia University. What you may have missed is what he said at the beginning of his talk

AHMADINEJAD: In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful...

TRANSLATOR: The president is reciting verses from the holy Koran in Arabic.

AHMADINEJAD: Oh, God, hasten the arrival of Imam al-Mahdi and grant him good health and victory and make us his followers and those to attest to his rightfulness.

My guess is that most people skipped right through this part. I however, think it very important to understanding who he is and what we are up against.

And the bottom line is that we are dealing with a madman. One who if present trends continue will have nuclear weapons at his disposal.

The Doctrine of Mahdism is as follows

According to Shi’ite tradition, the Twelve Imams, descendants of the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law Ali Ibn Abi Talib, were endowed with divine qualities that enabled them to lead the Shi’ite believers and to function as Allah’s emissaries on earth. However, when the Twelfth Imam Muhammad Al-Mahdi disappeared in 941 CE, his connection with the Shi’ite believers was severed, and since then, the Shi’ites are commanded to await his return at any time.

In the meantime, Shi’ite senior clerics are considered to be the representatives of the Imams, and thus have the authority to handle the affairs of the Shi’ite community, mainly in the religious and judicial spheres, until the Hidden Imam returns to lead the Shi’ite community and deliver it from its suffering.

According to Shi’ite belief, during the period of the Mahdi’s absence (termed ghaibat or “occultation”), no one but God knows the hour of the Mahdi’s return, and no man can presume to foresee when this hour will come. Upon the Mahdi’s reappearance, all wrongs will be righted, divine justice will be instated, and the truth of Shi’ite Islam will be acknowledged by the entire world. (Mahdism).

So far so good. I have no problem with any of this and want to make clear that in no shape way or form am I "making fun" of Shi'ite end times theology. As a Christian I believe that the book of Revelation is accurate and will one day occur. We Christians are also fond of saying "Jesus is coming soon", so neither am I criticizing Ahmadinejad when he said that he wished to "hasten the arrival of Imam al-Mahdi".

So if that's all there was to it, then no issue. But that's not all there is too it. With Ahmadinejad, there's a lot more.

Continuing from the same MEMRI report linked to above

Immediately upon assuming the presidency, Ahmadinejad began to assert his belief in the imminent return of the Mahdi as the basis for his political activities. Despite the traditional belief that no one can foresee the hour of the Mahdi’s return, Ahmadinejad frequently stated that his coming was nigh, and even gave a more specific prediction. During a meeting with the foreign minister of an Islamic country, he said that the crisis in Iran “presaged the coming of the Hidden Imam, who would appear within the next two years.” In a December 2006 speech in Kermanshah, Ahmadinejad wished the Christians a merry Christmas and said: “I hereby announce that, with God’s help, the day is not far off when Jesus will return at the side of the Hidden Imam.”

Not only has Ahmadinejad wished to proclaim the imminent coming of the Mahdi, and thereby to legitimize his policy and actions by associating them with Hidden Imam - but he has also presented himself as being directly connected to God.
...

Ahmadinejad has also presented himself as being privy to God’s intentions and actions, as reflected in his statement that “God has appointed the Hidden Imam to be our supporter.” His claim of having a direct relationship with God was also evident in the speech he made upon his return to Iran after addressing the U.N. General Assembly in 2005. Ahmadinejad claimed that, as he was delivering his U.N. address, he felt himself “surrounded by a halo of light” symbolizing the messianic nature of his message to the nations of the world.

Again, though, I'm just setting the stage. Stay with me. Here's more from MEMRI

In his just-published memoirs, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy relates the story of a meeting between three European foreign ministers together with Javier Solana of the European Union and President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The meeting, which took place at the United Nations on September 15, 2005, dealt with what Douste-Blazy characterized as "the generous European offer" to Iran regarding its nuclear program. Ahmadinejad was characterized by Douste-Blazy, a surgeon and a professor of medicine by profession, as stubborn, and the meeting was described as leading nowhere. Suddenly, Ahmadinejad changed the course of the conversation with the following aside: "Do you know why we should wish to have chaos at any price?" he asked rhetorically. "Because, after the chaos, we can see the greatness of Allah."(emphasis added)

Do you see where I'm going with this? Let me spell it out: Ahhadinejad is a sympathizer of the Hojjatieh. Who are they? Well, the Hojjatieh are a sect of Shii Islam that is so radical that it was banned by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1983, if that gets your attention.

Here's where I'll wrap it all up. Read this carefully

But rooted in the Shiite ideology of martyrdom and violence, the Hojjatieh sect adds messianic and apocalyptic elements to an already volatile theology. They believe that chaos and bloodshed must precede the return of the 12th Imam, called the Mahdi. But unlike the biblical apocalypse, where the return of Jesus is preceded by waves of divinely decreed natural disasters, the summoning of the Mahdi through chaos and violence is wholly in the realm of human action. The Hojjatieh faith puts inordinate stress on the human ability to direct divinely appointed events. By creating the apocalyptic chaos, the Hojjatiehs believe it is entirely in the power of believers to affect the Mahdi’s reappearance, the institution of Islamic government worldwide, and the destruction of all competing faiths.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has clearly indicated that he is a true believer in this faith. It has been reported that he has told confidants that he anticipates the immanent return of the Mahdi. When he previously served as Mayor of Tehran, he advocated for widening the roads to accommodate the Mahdi’s triumphal entry into the city. One of his first acts of office as President was to dedicate approximately $20 million to the restoration and improvement of the mosque at Jamkaran, where the Mahdi is claimed to dwell.

The short version of all this is that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad belives that he can prompt the return of the Mahdi by creating bloodshed and choas on earth.

See now why I said he was a madman?

Don't think that Ahmadinejad is the only one in Iran to hold such beliefs. At least one other senior Ayatollah, Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi (aka "Professor Crocodile"), who is "the Iranian President’s ideological mentor", also buys into this stuff.

Do you understand now why under no circumstances can we allow these people to obtain nuclear weapons?

Posted by Tom at 9:29 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 24, 2007

Ahmadinejad at Columbia

I was able to tune into Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about halfway through his address at Columbia University earlier today. What struck me was what a poor speech it was. He rambled and seemed not to be able to stay on any one topic for long. I was unimpressed.

Much more interesting was the question and answer period which followed. He is the master of evasion, able to take just about any question and turn it into a soliquoly on "justice" for the Palestinians. When asked whether Iran was building nuclear weapons he engaged in moral equivalence; "you have them and you tell others they can't have them?" Sadly though unsurprisingly, many in the audience applauded him.

Playing to Western leftists, he tried to portray Iran as the a victim; of terrorism, Western imperialism, of economic sanctions for no reason, and of Iraqi chemical weapons.
The last is at least true, although no doubt many leftists will simply use this as an excuse to attack the United States. All we want is justice and freedom, he insisted.

Many students were having none of it, there being many reports of anti Ahmadinejad demonstrations outside of the lecture hall. And many in the United States who haven't paid much attention to him will rightly be offended by his insistence that more "research" is needed to determine whether the holocaust occured or not.

Also President Bollinger (whom I heard later on the Sean Hannity show) did attack Ahmadinejad pretty good during his introduction, and to their credit many students applauded him. On the flip side, they should have just boycotted the whole thing.

Here's how I think it will play out from a public perception standpoint

This is win for Ahmadinejad in Iran and in Muslim countries, as they will only show him at his best. They won't show Bollinger's introduction. They'll also show the students applauding Ahmadinejad. The mere fact that he spoke at a major American university give him legitimacy and standing.

Further, this invite and his speaking at Columbia feeds into the fantasies of the jihadists. The Khumeinists believe that they can declare jihad and create a regional Imamate. They believe that they can pull the wool over our eyes as to their true intentions. This event today encourages that belief.

On the other side, some in Muslim countries will hear Bollinger's introduction (from one source or another), and this will be damaging. Also, more people in the United States will now realize what a dangerous man this guy is.

The real shame here is on Columbia University for inviting him in the first place. I don't buy their excuse that everyone should be given a forum. Dean Coatsworth even said that they would have invited Hitler if he had been willing to debate. This is absurd. There are some people so extreme we need not listen to them. Grand Wizards of the KKK are an example. Anyone who denies the holocaust and has repeatedly said that Israel should be wiped off the map is another.

Unfortunately, this is the same university that allowed Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minutemen, was literally chased off stage by leftist idiots in October 2006. According to his website, he was supposed to return this year but the deal was nixed. It's unclear why, but Gilchrist said that the Columbia Political Union succumbed "to pressure from anti-freedom-of-speech gangsters." It wouldn't surprise me.

While I'm sure Ahmadinejad had great security, I'm sure he had nothing to fear from any students at Columbia. Conservatives don't storm stages or disrupt speakers, and leftists will tolerate anyone who hates the U.S.

And anyone who wonders where the faculty of Columbia's sympathies lie need only consider that this is a university that has banned ROTC and military recruiters, yet has no problem inviting a man like Ahmadinejad.

Rather, I think the Editors of National Review have figured out why Columbia invited Ahmadinejad

Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia has nothing to do with freedom of speech. Rather, it is one more capitulation in series of victories for anti-Israel sentiment at the university. Columbia has long had problems with professors’ intimidating students who disagree with them about Israel’s right to exist, and its Middle East–studies department is a hotbed of anti-Israel hysteria. The sad reality is that there isn’t much daylight between Ahmadinejad’s positions on the legitimacy of the founding of Israel and those of Columbia professors Joseph Massad and Gil Anidjar.

I think they have it about right. Bollinger and other academics prattle about "free speech", but the experience of conservative speakers at universities over the past 30 years has put the lie to this. Recall also that these academics are the same ones who pushed onerous speech codes (most of which have fortunately been overturned by the courts).

In the end, sometime in the next year or so we'll have to face the Iranian quest for nuclear weapons and their sponsorship of terrorism. Hitler had no shortage of apologists in France and Britain in the mid-30s. After he took Czechoslovakia (and certainly after Poland) most people came around, though it was nearly too late. Let's hope it's not so close this time.

Posted by Tom at 9:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 5, 2007

Hold the B-2s... for Now

Oh criminy here we go again, another book to add to my ever-growing list.

Michael Ledeen's just published The Iranian Time Bomb looks like another must-read. Given than I've got several to go before I can get to it, it may be awhile. It also gives me an excuse to do another post updating myself on where we are with regard to the situation with Iran and their nuclear weapons program.

I heard it mentioned on somebody's radio talk-show the other day, and then came across it today on NRO, where Kathryn Jean Lopez interviewed him about the book. You'll want to hop on over there and read the whole thing, but essentially his thesis is that Iran has been at war with us ever since their 1979 revolution, we haven't done much of anything about it, and that we ought to explicity make it our national objective to overthrow the mullahs. We should do this mainly through "soft power" (although Ledeen himself does not use the term). The reason why the entire regime must go, he says, is that it's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is just "the mask currently worn by the regime.

To be clear, Ledeen is not advocating some namby-pamby "lets go though the UN" approach, where the we offer various carrots to the mullahs and threaten toothless sanctions. That, um, would be our current policy.

Read K-Lo's interview with him to find out what he thinks. The good news is that the Iranian people hate the mullahs, and stage fairly large demonstrations against it on a regular basis. We ought to be able to take advantage of that.

Some people quibble over how many centrifuges Iran has, and how fast they can produce fissile material. Ahmadinejad says he has 2,000, some inspectors say says no he doesn't, but other inspectors say he has enough to do the trick.

I say that what this tells us is that it's darn hard to know what's really going on, so if we're going to stop them we better get to work on it.

Hold the B-2s

Whereever Iran is on their enrichment program, we do have some time. How much is hard to say, but it's enough so that we can safely put off military action for awhile, perhaps even a few years. Victor Davis Hanson said as much last week when he concluded that our current policy towards Iran might just work,

...there are subtle indications that U.S. policy is slowly working, and that a strike now on Iran would be a grave mistake, in every strategic and political sense — not to mention the humanitarian one of harming a populace that may well soon prove to be the most pro-Western in the region.

His remarks were in the context of praising the new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who almost along among continental European leaders takes the Iranian threat seriously. Sarkozy has even gone so far as to say that

An Iran with nuclear arms is, to me, unacceptable, and I am weighing my words…And I underline France's full determination to support the alliance's current policy of increasing sanctions, but also to remain open if Iran makes the choice to fulfill its obligations. This policy is the only one that will allow us to escape an alternative, which I consider to be catastrophic. Which alternative? An Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran.

As a practical matter any attack on Iran would be mostly a U.S. affair, but it would be invaluable to have French support if for no other reason than to watch the American left collectively grab it's chest and fall to he floor.

Hold the B-2's...But Keep Them Ready

No way no how can we allow the mullahs to obtain nuclear weapons. If it even looks like Iran is getting close to building bombs, we attack. Of course, it's going to be hard to know. It's hard to see into Iran as it is. The lesson of Iraq is that it's hard to know what's going on. With Iraq we got it wrong in the direction of thinking they had something they didn't. It would even worse though, to get it wrong the other direction.

I've written various scenarios about what might happen if they get the bomb, and even my best-case wasn't very good.

So in the end we have to hit Iran if nothing else works. An article a few months ago in the London Telegraph quoted John Bolton

"It's been conclusively proven Iran is not going to be talked out of its nuclear programme. So to stop them from doing it, we have to massively increase the pressure.

"If we can't get enough other countries to come along with us to do that, then we've got to go with regime change by bolstering opposition groups and the like, because that's the circumstance most likely for an Iranian government to decide that it's safer not to pursue nuclear weapons than to continue to do so. And if all else fails, if the choice is between a nuclear-capable Iran and the use of force, then I think we need to look at the use of force."

Be sure to check out the article, especially for it's excellent links at top. You'll also get some laughs, or cries, out of reading the comments, because Bolton's comments seem to have driven a good many leftists into paroxysms of rage.

Although the Bush Administration has done a miserable job at employing the "soft power" that strategists like Frank Gaffney and Michael Ledeen advocate, they might at least be taking long-term steps toward setting the legal basis for military strikes. Ralph Peters explained why a few weeks ago

The media missed a big one yesterday.

They ran with the story that the Bush administration will soon designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps - a major troublemaker in Iraq - as a terrorist organization. But they didn't look past the public-consumption explanation that the move lets our government go after the Revolutionary Guards' finances and the international companies that cut deals with Tehran's thugs.

The real reason for the move is to set up a legal basis for airstrikes or special operations raids on the Guard's bases in Iran.

Our policy is that we reserve the right to whack terrorists anywhere in the world. Now we have newly designated terrorists. And we know exactly where they are.

He may be right. Let's hope it doesn't come down to military strikes, because if it does it isn't going to be a 2 or 3 day affair, but one that lasts weeks, and will undoubtably involve naval action in the Persian Gulf as well. And let's not forget that Iran won't take it lying down. They'll unleash their terrorist proxy forces around the world, and we'll get hit with some nasty surprises. In the end, though, even this is better than an Iran armed with nuclear weapons.

Posted by Tom at 8:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 26, 2007

The Iranian Hostages

You may not know it, but the government of Iran is effectively holding 4 American hostages and 1 Canadian.

It was a Mark Steyn column from Monday that prompted me to write this piece. I'd heard of the situation before I read his piece, but haven't saved any articles. He doesn't list all of the hostages, so I've had to piece this together by finding them one by one.

Here they are:

Haleh Esfandiari is the director of the Middle East program at the Smithsonian’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Her friends have started a "free Haleh" website, I believe that she holds dual American and Iranian citizenships.

Kian Tajbakhsh (sometimes "Yahya Kian Tajbaksh") is an urban planning consultant with the New York-based George Soros Open Society Institute,. There is also, appropriately, a "free Kian" website. According to the website, he is "an internationally-respected scholar, social scientist and urban planner". He holds both American and Iranian citizenship. Exploring the website, under "Kian's Writing" we find a piece called "An Iranian in New York: America’s Split Personality". In it he takes a leftie view of Sept 11, for example describing Bill Moyers as "that rare American intellectual" before quoting him.

Ramin Jahanbagloo (or "Jahanbeglou") is an Iranian-Canadian who was, at least for a time, adjunct professor of political science at the University of Toronto. According to Wikipedia he was arrested in April of 2006 while traveling from India to Iran, held at least for a time at Evin prison, and released from on August 30. He is not allowed to leave Iran.

Ali Shakeri, advisor to a California-based group called Center for Citizen Peacebuilding, is currently being held in Evin prison. He left Iran in the early 1970s, but went back some months ago to visit his ill mother. On May 8 he was arrested and is still being held.

Parnaz Azima is another Iranian-American held in Iran. She left the country in 1979 after being branded a "counter-revolutionary". She returned two years ago after receiving an official invitiation from the government. For awhile they treated her "like a VIP", but when Ahmadinejad came to power she has been threatened by the authorities and subjected to interrogations. She 's not imprisoned, but the authorities won't let her leave.

I don't know much about the Woodrow Wilson Center, but I'm sure they're not a conservative group. None of the above people can be considered a real threat to the Iranian government...unless it's just democracy that they're afraid of.

Three of the above, Ramin Jahanbegloo, Kian Tajbaksh, Haleh Esfandiari, gave their "confessions" on Iranian TV, which were aired by Iranian Channel 1 on July 18 and 19, 2007.

The invaluable MEMRI has the transcript of their "confessions". What's interesting is that they don't "confess" to stealing military secrets or anything important at all.

Haleh Esfandiari says that her role was to provide information to the American government on Iranians who came to speak at the Woodrow Wilson Center. The speakers were from Iran, but are not further identified. As to her involvement with the Woodrow Wilson Center and other similar organizations,

"There is a connection between the government, the government officials, and the heads of these research centers. It is like a revolving door." ...

"I have been in Iran for nearly five months now. I have had an opportunity to think about the issues I have discussed with you. I have come to the conclusion that these people - myself included - have become links in a chain created by foundations, research institutes, and universities, that have, in the name of democracy, in the name of the empowerment of women, and in the name of dialogue, created networks in Iran, which should eventually bring about fundamental changes in the Iranian regime. In fact, they should shake the system."

Kian Tajbaksh says that his job with the Soros Foundation was to act as a laison between his organization and Iran.

"The fact that the American government allowed the Soros Foundation to have this project on Iran indicates that despite the differences in policy that Mr. Soros and his foundation have with Mr. Bush's Republican Party, they are in agreement with regard to their plans concerning Iran." ...

"The long-term goal of the Soros Foundation is to achieve an open society [in Iran]. The way to achieve this is to create a rift between the rulers and the people. Through this rift, those parts of civil society which were formed and strengthened according to the concept of open society will exert pressure on the rulers to change their conduct."

Ramin Jahanbaglou "admits" to having contacts with Haleh Esfandiari, who's Woodrow Wilson Center "receives most of its funding from the U.S. Congress, and therefore, it had connections there." He concludes that

"Now, when I look back on all my activities during the years I spent in America until I reached Iran, I realize that my activities served the interests of Iran's enemies, and not the interests of the Iranian people. I regret this very much, and I think I should make amends for this."

These are "confessions"? What a joke.

All they really did was say that they're working with the US government to promote democracy in Iran. Some crime.

As upset as televised "confessions" are to Westerners, Iranian leaders are said to be quite pleased with the spectacle:

Government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham told reporters on July 22 that the televised confessions did not constitute "legal" evidence but rather revealed "the nature of a cultural assault" on Iran by the United States. At the same time, he said the security-related "criminal" charges against Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh are separate issues to be dealt with by the judiciary and investigators. He suggested that "the issue of their being spies and charges against them concern judges and the judiciary," adding that "they have committed a criminal offense, an act against national security with the methods they used."

The head of the parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Alaeddin Borujerdi, argued on July 21 that the program provided "outstanding" evidence of alleged U.S. "interference in Iran's internal affairs," the "Javan" daily reported. He said the detainees' statements showed how the United States is allocating what he described as "enormous sums" to "obstruct" Iran.

Borujerdi also claimed that the hostages "have made these confessions voluntarily and in a fully free atmosphere."

The government is so confident that it recently announced that it had arrested several associates of Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh.

What is Going On?

As I've said numerous times, I certainly hope that the CIA is aiding Iranian democracy groups. Our best hope for avoiding a Middle East holocaust is to get rid of the current government in Iran and replace it with one that is genuinely representative of the will of the people. Unlike with Iraq, however, regime change in Iran is not official U.S. government policy.

Looking at the biographies of the people being held, though, I find it very hard to believe that they're the sort who would work for the CIA, even on a non-violent project like supporting democracy movements.

More likely, the Iranian authorities know that the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies are hard at work trying to subert their government, and as such need to arrest someone, if for no other reason than to feel like they're doing something. Likely the counter-intelligence fellows are under intense pressure to come up with arrests, and since they can't find any genuine spies these will have to do.

The other probable motive is to send a warning to Western governments any anyone considering working for their intelligence agencies: spy on us and this is what will happen to you - if you're lucky.

Finally, it just seems to be in the nature of totalitarian regimes to put on show trials. I grew up reading about Andrei Vyshinsky and the Moscow Show Trials of the 1930s. Things never seem to change
.
What Are We Doing?

Not much, from what I can tell. "Quiet diplomacy" seems to be the order of the day. This exchange between Press Secretary Tony Snow and an unnamed reporter

Q Will there be talk about the four Iranian American scholars and activists that are being held?

MR. SNOW: No. The conversations are restricted to security matters within Iraq proper. That is the channel that has been opened up. This is not a way of broadening diplomatic contacts between the nations.

Q And about the five Iranians being held inside Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, what we're talking about are those who have been trying to destabilize Iraq. That is going to be a topic of conversation.

Yes well we wouldn't want to upset the talks by bringing up uncomfortable topics like hostages. We all know the Iranians are so interested in a stable Iraq.

Sigh.

Posted by Tom at 9:10 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 15, 2007

Consequences of Failure

What would happen if we left Iraq as soon as possible, as many now want? What if we just immediately halted offensive operations, returned to our bases, and began packing?

Austin Bay has come up with seven scenarios. Summarized, they are

1) Three new countries are formed; Kurdistan, Southern Iraq dominated by the Shia, and Anbar, controlled by the Sunni. The latter two fight over Baghdad, but the rest of the country is relatively peaceful.

2) Full-scale civil war between Sunnis and Shias breaks out. Sunni Arab states aid the former, and Iran the latter. Iran sees this as an opportunity to expand its border. The Kurdish north remains relatively peaceful.

3) Turkey invades the Kurdish north. This scenario can be combined with others.

4) The Iraqi state quickly becomes a Shia dictatorship. Sunnis are either massacred or flee (or a little of both). The Kurds throw in their lot with the Shia in return for limited autonomy.

5) Chaos. This differes from #2 in that the country devolves into many factions, instead of two or more large warring parties. More than in any of the other scenarios, in this al Qaeda is able to use the situation to build up a series of terrorist training camps in the country.

6) The Shia tribes "gang up" and expel virtually all Sunnis from the country (note; I am not clear on how this differs from #4)

7) The democratic government holds, and ultimately proves popular. After several months, the Iraqi Army defeats all major rivals.

As Bay accurately concludes, only numbers 1 and 7 benefit all Iraqis, the US, and the civilized world.

At this point there's no way I'm going to try and predict which would happen if we withdraw.

Ralph Peters, along with Austin Bay a retired Army colonel, thinks that the result will be a massacre along the lines of what happened in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge took over.

I'll tell you what happens: massacres. And while I have nothing against Shia militiamen and Sunni insurgents killing each other 24/7, the overwhelming number of victims will be innocent women, children and the elderly

Bosnia? That was just rough-necking at recess compared to what Islamist fanatics and ethnic beasts will do. Given that Senate Majority Misleader Harry Reid and Commissar of the House Nancy Pelosi won't tell us what they foresee after we quit, let me lay it out:

* After suffering a strategic defeat, al-Qaeda-in-Iraq comes back from the dead (those zombies again . . .) and gets to declare a strategic victory over the Great Satan.

* Iran establishes hegemony over Iraq's southern oil fields and menaces the other Persian Gulf producers. (Sorry, Comrade Gore, even that Toyota Prius needs some gasoline . . . )

* Our troops will have died in vain. Of course, that doesn't really matter to much of anyone in Washington, Democrat or Republican. So we'll just write off those young Americans stupid enough to join the military when they could've ducked out the way most members of Congress did.

* A slaughter of the innocents - so many dead, the bodies will never be counted.

Obviously Peters does not subscribe to Bay's scenario numbers 1 or 7.

Assuming neither 1 or 7 occur, we should not think that repercussions will be limited to Iraq. As Michael Rubin points out

The idea floating around Washington that Iraq can be separated from Afghanistan is naive. The Iranians, who interfere in both, have the same objectives in both. Iraq is a laboratory. If strategies applied there cause the U.S. Congress to embrace defeat, then those same strategies will be applied in Afghanistan.

And how long before those who tell us we need to "redeploy" so as to better fight al Qaeda will decide that Afghanistan isn't worth it after all? Not too long, I'll wager.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 11, 2007

The Nutter of Iran

Actually, I wish we could just dismiss Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a nutter.

As it is, his country is earnestly pursuing nuclear weapons, and unless there is a regime change they likely have them in less than a half-dozen years. Yes yes I know, Ahmadinejad does not hold total power, that is the reserve of the Mullah-dominated Assembly of Experts. But it is more than just a ceremonial post. The President has significant influence over government policy. But I digress.

If Iran gets nuclear weapons, or looks like it is getting seriously close to obtaining them, there's going to be the mother of all wars in the Middle East, possibly the biggest on the planet since World War II. The reason is simple; nuclear weapons by themselves are not dangerous. Combine them with someone like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and you've got trouble. And even if Ahmadinejad is not in office when Iran goes nuclear, someone like him will be.

Arnaud de Borchgrave has collected some of Ahmadinejad greatest hits, and passes them along in his column today. Not that I have anything but a small readership, but anything that increases the dissemination of information about Ahmadinejad's rants can only be a good thing. Here goes

"This regime [Israel] will one day disappear.... The Zionist regime is a rotten tree that will be blown away by one storm.... The countdown for the destruction of Israel has begun. Zionists are the personification of Satan.

"In the case of any unwise move by the fake regime of Israel, Iran's response will be so destructive and quick the regime will regret its move forever.... The West invented the myth of the massacre of the Jews (in World War II) and placed it above Allah, religions and prophets."

Mr. Ahmadinejad's strategic recipe: "We don't shy away from declaring Islam is ready to rule the world.... The wave of the Islamist revolution will soon reach the entire world.... Our revolution's main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi [a 5-year-old boy who vanished 1,100 years ago and who will lead the world into an era of peace and prosperity, but not before the planet is convulsed by death and destruction.

"Soon Islam will become the dominating force in the world, occupying first place in the number of followers among all other religions....

"Is there a craft more beautiful, more sublime, more divine, than the craft of giving yourself to martyrdom and becoming holy?... Do not doubt Allah will prevail, and Islam will conquer mountaintops of the entire world. Iran can recruit hundreds of suicide bombers a day. Suicide is an invincible weapon. Suicide bombers in this land showed us the way, and they enlighten our future.... The will to commit suicide is one of the best ways of life.

"By the grace of Allah we will be a nuclear power and Iran does not give a damn about [International Atomic Energy Agency] demands [to freeze enrichment of nuclear fuel]. Iran does not give a dam about resolutions.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran has the capacity to quickly become a world superpower. Iran's enemies know your courage, faith and commitment to Islam and... Iran has created a powerful army that can powerfully defend the political borders and the integrity of the Iranian nation and cut off the hand of any aggressor and place the sign of disgrace on their forehead.

"In parallel to the official political war there is a hidden war going on and the Islamic states should benefit from their economic potential to cut off the hands of the enemies."

Addressing a conference on "The World Without Zionism," Mr. Ahmadinejad said, "To those who doubt, to those who say is it not possible, I say accomplishment of a world without America and Israel is both possible and feasible."

Read the whole thing.

No I do not think we should bomb Iran - yet, anyway. Right now it looks like we are doing our dangest to squeeze Iran economically, and it is at least partially succeeding. You saw the riots over gasoline rationing a few weeks ago. Iran's economy is faltering, and it's young people restless. With any luck they'll overthrow the Mullahs and the process won't be too bloody.

Bottom line is that the CIA, MI6, and all of the other Western intelligence agencies better be pulling out all the stops to get rid of this regime, or the job will get passed to the US Air Force and Navy before you know it. My guess is that if Ahmadinejad is still in power this time next year President Bush will order military strikes, because he won't trust the next inhabitant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave to do the job, especially since it might be a Democrat.

Posted by Tom at 10:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 31, 2007

The Doctrine of Mahdism

This latest from MEMRI fits in well with many of my postings regarding the Hojjatieh Society and the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (see links at bottom). While some of what follows might seem esoteric or irrelevant, that fact is that in order to formulate a proper policy towards Iran we need to understand what motivates their leaders. We need to understand that the Iranians (more accurately "Khumenists") do not follow the dictates of Western geopolitical thinking. Following are some excerpts from the MEMRI report:

The Doctrine of Mahdism: In the Ideological and Political Philosophy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Mesbah-e Yazdi

According to Shi’ite tradition, the Twelve Imams, descendants of the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law Ali Ibn Abi Talib, were endowed with divine qualities that enabled them to lead the Shi’ite believers and to function as Allah’s emissaries on earth. However, when the Twelfth Imam Muhammad Al-Mahdi [1] disappeared in 941 CE, his connection with the Shi’ite believers was severed, and since then, the Shi’ites are commanded to await his return at any time.

In the meantime, Shi’ite senior clerics are considered to be the representatives of the Imams, and thus have the authority to handle the affairs of the Shi’ite community, mainly in the religious and judicial spheres, until the Hidden Imam returns to lead the Shi’ite community and deliver it from its suffering.

According to Shi’ite belief, during the period of the Mahdi’s absence (termed ghaibat or “occultation”), no one but God knows the hour of the Mahdi’s return, and no man can presume to foresee when this hour will come. Upon the Mahdi’s reappearance, all wrongs will be righted, divine justice will be instated, and the truth of Shi’ite Islam will be acknowledged by the entire world. (Mahdism) [2]

Mahdism and the Islamic Regime in Iran

From the establishment of the Islamic Regime in 1979 to Ahmadinejad’s rise to power in August 2005, Mahdism had been a religious doctrine and a tradition that had no political manifestation. The political system operated independently of this messianic belief and of the anticipation of the return of the Mahdi. It was only with Ahmadinejad’s presidency that this religious doctrine has become a political philosophy and taken a central place in politics.
...

Ahmadinejad’s Messianic Policy - Main Characteristics

Immediately upon assuming the presidency, Ahmadinejad began to assert his belief in the imminent return of the Mahdi as the basis for his political activities. Despite the traditional belief that no one can foresee the hour of the Mahdi’s return, Ahmadinejad frequently stated that his coming was nigh, and even gave a more specific prediction. During a meeting with the foreign minister of an Islamic country, he said that the crisis in Iran “presaged the coming of the Hidden Imam, who would appear within the next two years.” [4] In a December 2006 speech in Kermanshah, Ahmadinejad wished the Christians a merry Christmas and said: “I hereby announce that, with God’s help, the day is not far off when Jesus will return at the side of the Hidden Imam.” [5]

Not only has Ahmadinejad wished to proclaim the imminent coming of the Mahdi, and thereby to legitimize his policy and actions by associating them with Hidden Imam - but he has also presented himself as being directly connected to God.
...

Ahmadinejad has also presented himself as being privy to God’s intentions and actions, as reflected in his statement that “God has appointed the Hidden Imam to be our supporter.” [8] His claim of having a direct relationship with God was also evident in the speech he made upon his return to Iran after addressing the U.N. General Assembly in 2005. Ahmadinejad claimed that, as he was delivering his U.N. address, he felt himself “surrounded by a halo of light” symbolizing the messianic nature of his message to the nations of the world. [9]

Messianism in Iranian Foreign Policy

The messianic doctrine of Mahdism is also manifest in Iranian foreign policy, especially in its attitude towards the Western superpowers and towards the nuclear program. Ayatollah Mesbah-e Yazdi, mentor to Ahmadinejad, expressed this approach in an October 11, 2006 speech: “The greatest obligation of those awaiting the appearance of the Mahdi is fighting heresy and global arrogance [i.e. the West, primarily the U.S.].” [18]
...

These characteristics are also evident in Ahmadinejad’s nuclear policy: In contrast to Khatami’s government, which endeavored to soften the position of the West on the nuclear issue via ongoing dialogue, Ahmadinejad and his close circle do not avoid confronting the West, since they consider this struggle to be one of the ways to prepare the ground for the return of the Mahdi.

According to the Internet daily Rooz, “Some of those close to Ahmadinejad, who frequently speak [of the need] to prepare the ground for the Mahdi’s return, explicitly link the [fate of] the Iranian nuclear dossier to this need... According to reliable information, they stressed, in various private meetings, that the [Iranian] opposition to global pressure [on the Iranian nuclear program] and its insistence on the right to utilize nuclear power are among the ways to prepare the ground for the return of the [Hidden] Imam.” [20]

Mahdism in the Ideology of Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-e Yazdi

The address given at this year’s International Seminar on the Doctrine of Mahdism by Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-e Yazdi shows that he too regards belief in the Mahdi as a concept that transcends the religious or theoretical realm. Ayatollah Yazdi gave this belief a tangible political-ideological dimension when he explained that the Mahdi’s return would lead to the establishment of a single rule over the entire world, and that the present battle against the infidels and against “the global arrogance” is preparing the ground for, and hastening, the coming of the Mahdi: [21]

Clerics Criticize Ahmadinejad’s Messianic Policies

Ahmadinejad’s messianic policies have drawn growing criticism from ayatollahs and senior religious figures in the religious seminaries in Qom who oppose the politicization of the messianic doctrine.
...

Reformist Intellectuals Criticize the Politicization of Mahdism

Intellectual Mohsen Kadivar: “Hasn’t the Time Come for [the Ayatollahs] and the Clerics to Clarify Their Position on These Claims?”

The intellectual and cleric Mohsen Kadivar pointed to the danger posed to Islam by Ahmadinejad’s messianic leanings. In a speech on the occasion of Eid Al-Fitr, Kadivar criticized the incorporation of the Mahdist doctrine in Ahmadinejad’s political platform. The report was originally published by the ILNA news agency, and is cited on Kadivar’s website:

Sources of footnotes can be found on the MEMRI article linked to at top. I don't have time to set them all up here.

Unfortunately we in the West have a bad habit of "mirror imaging" our concept of reason and logic and how international relations should work onto other countries, regardless of their internal idiology or religion. If we insist on using policies appropriate for 19th or 20th century Europe, we will fail in our approach to Iran.

As bad as the Soviets were, at the end of the day they wanted to live. In retrospect there was a saving grace in the communist idiology in that it's adherents had to be alive in order to implement it. The Soviets didn't want millions of their citizens to die.

The Khumeinists are another matter. Their radical version of Islam tells them that if a Muslim "innocent bystander" is killed during a jihad, then he goes to heaven, so what's the problem? The doctrine of Mahdism outlined above only complicates matters, but if we understand them we can at least begin to formulate a policy that takes their motivations into account.

You can also download the report from MEMRI as a pdf document


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Motivations and The Mahdi

The Hojjatieh and "Professor Crocodile"
The Hojjatieh Society

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April 7, 2007

The Iranian Hostage Crisis: Khumeinist Victory

It is a very good thing that the 15 British sailors and Royal Marines are safe and back home. Whatever one thinks of the circumstances of their surrender and their behavior while in captivity, good people can only be happy that they have been returned back home without physical injury. Further, I am pleased to have been incorrect in my prediction that they would spend a long time in captivity.

What are the perceptions on each side? What did the Khumeinists hope to get out of this, and why didn't they hold their captives longer? How does this portend for the future?

In the West, opinion is divided between those who think that the way Blair and his government handled the situation proves that quiet diplomacy works best. This attitude is typified in an editorial in The Guardian condescendingly titled "The US can learn from this example of mutual respect"

The unexpectedly early resolution to the dispute between the UK and Iran over the detention of 15 sailors and marines in the Persian Gulf is the direct result of Iran's goodwill and a U-turn by the British government. After initially using threatening language and seeking to add an unnecessary international dimension to the dispute, it eventually opted for direct negotiations with Iran based on mutual respect.

It should be noted that the author of this piece, Abbas Edalat is identified at the bottom of the editorial as the founder of the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran.

No better, however, is an opinion piece in The Telegraph in which the author states that "Our Government's tactics were vindicated by the result." His only suggestion for the future is "the need for additional force protection for exposed naval units." We are reassured that in the long run "the episode will come to be seen as relatively minor in the sweep of events of the region." More appalling, perhaps, are the comments at the end by Britons; the majority of them are firmly in the leftist blame-Britain and America first crowd.

On the other side the editors of The Telegraph conclude in their lead piece that " They're free, but Britain has been humiliated". They are critical of the Blail government and the Royal Navy. However, they do not examine the long-term effects of such actions.

The editors of National Review make no bones about their position

By committing an act of war, Iran has simultaneously made itself look peaceful and made the West look impotent. ...

The way the crisis played out will have serious consequences in the Middle East. Iran proved that it is the region’s dominant power. Could any other country have attempted this and gotten away with it? Syria? Saudi Arabia? Egypt? Surely not. Britain, meanwhile, reinforced Iran’s view of the West as a decadent society that does not respond effectively to provocations and need not be feared. Perceptions matter: Recall the conclusions Osama bin Laden drew after the American retreat from Somalia. What we can expect now is greater aggression, from both Iran in particular and Islamists in general.

Kathleen Parker, writing in the Washington Post, made a particularly good point, I thought, when she said that

When a pretender to sanity such as Ahmadinejad gets to lecture the West about how it treats its women, we've effectively handed him a free pass to the end zone and made the world his cheerleaders.

Not only does the Iranian president get to look magnanimous in releasing the hostages, but he gets to look wise. And we in the West get to look humiliated, foolish and weak.

Quid pro Quos ?

In the resolution to the Cuban Missile Crisis the world was not told the full story, only that Khrushchev agreed to remove his missiles from Cuba. It was only years later that we discovered the secret deal whereby President Kennedy agreed to remove our Jupiter missiles from Turkey.

It is probable that there was a secret deal made this time, too. Charles Krauthammer thinks so

"The quid pro quos were not terribly subtle. An Iranian “diplomat” who had been held for two months in Iraq is suddenly released. Equally suddenly, Iran is granted access to the five Iranian “consular officials”—Revolutionary Guards who had been training Shiite militias to kill Americans and others—whom the U.S. had arrested in Irbil in January."

Mario Loyola agrees

As some of us predicted, the quid pro quo included concessions by the United States—we know that Iranian officials will now be allowed to visit the five Iranian "diplomats" detained by the United States in Iraq for supporting the insurgency.

There may be more that we don't know about.

Why The Quick Release?

Walid Phares (author of "Future Jihad"), concludes that

The risky Iranian adventure was smartly designed but poorly executed. There seems to be a gap between the “architects” (both inside and outside Iran) and the Ahmadinejad mediocre execution of the plans. At first, Iran was successful in steering the debate away from the UN sanctions then by executing a grotesque masquerade Tehran was on the verge of causing a disaster to itself. This is when the advisors quickly suggested a remedy that is to move to plan “B” abruptly. This leap salvaged Ahmadinejad from an imminent disaster.

"Plan B" took place when Ahmadinejad issued his pardon and said that he was releasing them as "a gift to the British people." Phares says that Ahmadinejad decided to release them "and invest heavily in their “merciful liberation.” "

Key mistakes, Phares says, were made by Iran when they paraded the British sailors and Royal Marines around on TV, making them put on what was an obviously rehearsed and scripted show. Once this propaganda machine got going, few people around the world believed the Iranian story about where the Brits were when they were captured. Rather, their heavy-handed tactics made it seem obvious that their intent was to create an incident in order to distract the world from Security Council action on their nuclear program. Once the game was up, they felt they had no choice but to change course.

Lastly, Phares makes the point that since the seized British sailors and Royal Marines were carrying out a UN-mandated inspection, any Khumeinist trial would provide the perfect causus belli for U.S. military action against the regime. In other words, they captured the wrong people to suit their goals.

Consequences

The bottom line is that Britain was humiliated and although Ahmadinejad and his fellows mishandled the situation they scored a propaganda victory. While it is impossible to know all that is going on behind the scenes in the Iranian government, it seems likely that this will encourage the Khumeinists that they can provoke us without fear of serious consequences, at least in the short term.

Bashar al Assad, dictator of Syria, also scored a small victory in this affair. His government is trumpeting the news that they played a role in the release of the captured Brits. Coming on the heals of Speaker Pelosi's disgraceful visit to Damascus, this can only shore up the Alawite regime.

One thing that is bound to be examined are the actions of the Britons while in captivity.
It's easy to be critical when you aren't in their shoes, so I won't be. But you'd have to be blind not to notice that they seemed to give in in awfully easy to the desire of their captors to use them in TV propaganda pieces, smiling and shaking hands with Ahmadinejad. You don't have to read very many accounts of U.S. pilots captured in the Vietnam War, or for that matter of any US or British troops captured by the Germans or Japanese during World War II, to know that things simply weren't done this way in days gone by. American troops have a code of conduct for such situations that the British don't have or seem to have forgotten. As I read one British commenter say somewhere, "we've come a long way since Bridge on the River Kwai"

Naysayers will point to the risks in escallating the situation. Threats to blockade Iran's oil exports, or destroy their only refinery capable of producing gasoline, are risky. Total economic embargoes are risky. In the short run, those who say that the result vindicates the strategy of the Blair government have a point.

But it's all so erily similar to the provocations of Hitler's government in the 1930s. The horrors of The Great War (WW I) was something no one in France or Britain wanted to repeat. Much safer, and how painless, to engage in negotiations.

Middle Eastern societies are "honor" societies. Face is all-important. The Khumeinists were determined to humiliate us. They were sending a message to everyone in the region that they have the ability to humiliate the West anytime they want to. Many of us in the West do not understand this. The idea of "turning the other cheek" is I believe pretty much a Christian (and to some extent Jewish) one and something one doesn't find in Islam. In our modern age we want to be magnanimous in victory and humble in defeat. Our better side tells is to avoid responding tit-for-tat to slights and insults. Unfortunately not everyone plays by our rules. We must never fall into the trap of mirror-image thinking.

If anyone really needed it, the incident should also put to final rest the notion that the UN Security Council can be counted on anything. Krauthammer again

The capture and release of the 15 British hostages illustrate once again the fatuousness of the “international community” and its great institutions. You want your people back? Go to the EU and get stiffed. Go to the Security Council and get a statement that refuses even to “deplore” this act of piracy. (You settle for a humiliating expression of “grave concern”). Then turn to the despised Americans. They’ll deal some cards and bail you out.

Unfortunately, the Bush Administration doesn't seem to have leared the proper lesson. Just today we learn that Secretary Rice " is willing to meet one on one with her Iranian counterpart at an international conference on Iraq" But what exacty is she going to say? "Please stop killing our soldiers or we'll get really angry?" As long as Iran doesn't directly provoke the U.S., they have little to fear from us now with Congressional Democrats doing everything they can to protect them from the US military. My own idiot senator, James Webb, even introduced legislation to "prohibit the use of funds for military operations in Iran." I'm sure the Iranians were most appreciative.

All this episode can do, I fear, is encourage Ahmadinejad and his fellows to believe that the West is a paper tiger that they need not fear. They will continue to thumb their nose at the UN and continue work on their bomb. A weakened President Bush may not act unless Iran attacks us directly. If a Democrat gets in the White House in 08, they certainly will not act. When Iran gets the bomb, talk will turn to "long range containment". We'll quickly discover, however, that we're not dealing with athiest communists but with religiously inspired fanatics who don't buy into Western conceptions of Mutually Assured Destruction. And then the consequences of not acting more firmly in what seems at the time a relatively small matter of a few sailors and Royal Marines will be driven home to us in a stark and brutal way.

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The New Iranian Hostage Crisis
The New Iranian Hostage Crisis II
The Iranian Hostage Crisis: The Use and Misuse of "Soft Power"

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April 3, 2007

The Iranian Hostage Crisis: The Use and Misuse of "Soft Power"

For some years now elites in places like Europe and Canada have been peddling the idea of "soft power" in international relations.

Harvard Professor Joseph Nye is the architect of the idea of soft power, having laid it all out in his 2004 book Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. In the preface to the book, Nye defines soft power

[Soft power] is the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments. It arises from the attractiveness of a country's culture, political ideals, and policies. When our policies are seen as legitimate in the eyes of others, our soft power is enhanced.

The Publishers Weekly review on Amazon identifies Nye as "assistant secretary of defense in the Clinton administration and is certain to be a key player in a new Democratic administration." So his is not a name to forget.

My brief investigation of Nye and his ideas seems to show that he's not a limp-wrist liberal who eschews hard power. Indeed, the Publishers Weekly review also says that he "gives credit to President Bush and his neoconservative advisers in their projection of "hard" military and economic power." Unfortunately we also get the same old tired "go it alone" criticisms, as if we had only waved the "soft power" magic wand a bit harder the "allies" would have all fallen in line.

But for all the benefits of soft power, they're not doing the captured British sailors and Royal Marines much good right now.

As the invaluable Victor Davis Hanson pointed out today;

Since 9/11 we have been lectured on the advantages of "soft" power, especially in the context of the economic engine of the EU used for moral purposes. But if the Europe Union is still extending trade credits to a belligerent that has committed an act of piracy against a fellow member, then there is neither soft or hard power, but no power at all.

To give Nye credit, he knows that soft power has limits

All power depends on context -- who relates to whom under what circumstances -- but soft power depends more than hard power upon the existence of willing interpreters and receivers. Moreover, attraction often has a diffuse effect, creating general influence rather than producing an easily observable specific action.

So nothing in this post should be construed as criticizing him directly. Indeed, from what I can tell, soft power has a lot to offer as a long-term strategy for dealing with Iran. The regime is hated by most of the people. We should be able to leverage that better than we have. I've offered my own criticisms of our policy in the past.

The Current Problem

But as we said above, soft power has its limits, and one of them is that it is simply inapplicable in the current situation.

Richard Fernandez pointed out the other day that had Prime Minister Blair "gone ugly early" by doing something such as immediately expelling all Iranian diplomats from his country and (hopefully) persuading at least a few European allies to do likewise, the situation today would be completely different. He could have frozen assets and the like. Taking a few simple steps like these would have placed the ball in the mullah's court. They, not Blair, would have had to take the first step towards diplomacy.

As it is, it was Blair who went the diplomatic route first. This took the pressure off of Iran and put the ball in Blair's court. Thus, it is Blair who looks like he is begging for a solution rather than Ahmadinejad.

Of course, there is also absolutely not even a hint of a threat of military power from the British. As VDH says in the article linked to above, Blair is both speaking softly and carrying a small stick.

How Long Will It Last?

A few days ago I tended to think the whole thing would be resolved fairly quickly. Yesterday I wrote that

The diplomats (will) work out some weasel words whereby the British say in effect "we don't think we violated Iran's sovereignty but if we did we're sorry and won't do it again". Immediately upon the release of the hostages Iran will crow that this language means that the UK agreed to never attack it.

I still think this is the way it will end, but now I'm not as sanguine that this will happen quickly. The more I think about it, the way things are going now the mullahs have every reason to string this out as long as possible. Their objectives are 1) to divert attention from their nuclear program, and 2) to show the Sunnis who's really in charge.

David Pryce-Jones pointed out today that the players are now caught in an "honor-shame" conundrum. Each demands an apology from the other, but since an apology means shame, a direct apology is out of the question.

The only ways out of this impasse are the exercise of immense ingenuity to devise a formula that saves the face of all concerned, or unarguable force. Caught in exactly this same predicament over Iran's nuclear program, the powers are equally uncertain how to play their hand. Shame and honour values are conducive to irrational emotion. The 15 now in prison are likely to have to endure a long and agonizing ordeal.

If Blair had moved quickly and decisively all this might have been avoided. Iran might just have said "uh, it really was a mistake, we meant to just turn their boat around" In setting this up, and you better believe they've been planning to seize hostages, the Iranians bet on Western weakness. Nothing I've seen so far has lead me to believe they calculated wrong.

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April 2, 2007

The New Iranian Hostage Crisis II

Mario Loyola nails it today in two articles posted on National Review. Actually only one is a full-fledged article, the other is a long comment on The Corner.

Here are key excerts from the first: "Nuclear Motives: Understanding why Iran took British hostages"

There’s no denying it. Iran’s capture of 15 British hostages was a stroke of cunning — and a brilliant one at that. The mullahs were in a pickle. They had decided to do two things which were going to push Washington closer to military action. They needed a diversion or a smokescreen — some way to make the Bush administration blink. And so far, it has worked. ... Tony Blair has asked Washington to stand back while he negotiates the release of the sailors from a position of weakness and utter humiliation. And what will get the sailors released? An apology is unlikely to be enough.

The hostages are a smokescreen, and the key question is: What does Iran need a smokescreen for? Two things — both of them dangerous escalations of the crisis on Iran’s part.

First, it became clear last week that the Security Council was going to agree on another sanctions resolution. Everyone knew the Iranians would reject it immediately. And Washington has now established a pattern of responding to every Iranian rejection by ratcheting up the tension in the Persian Gulf.

Indeed, as I pointed out yesterday in my first post on this crisis, we have two carrier battle groups in the Gulf, one based around the USS John C Stennis and the other around the USS Dwight D Eisenhower. The French also have one of their carriers, the Clemenceau, in the Gulf. Loyola adds that as we speak our two carriers are engaged in "live-fire" exercises, which were planned many weeks ago but the execution of which was perhaps speeded up.

But lets move on to the second reason Iran seized the hostages

(Iran) decided to announce on Sunday that they would stop making certain disclosures about their nuclear program to the International Atomic Energy Agency. This could have triggered a military response from the United States immediately. Why? Because Iran is due to launch a large-scale centrifuge-enrichment cascade at Natantz in a matter of weeks or months. This means that Iran will finally be able to start enriching enough weapons-grade uranium to manufacture warheads on a time-scale measured in months. Because of technical hurdles, they are probably still years away from producing a viable device. But they have now reached a point where they cannot keep advancing towards the production of nuclear warheads unless they stop cooperating with the IAEA and pull a veil of secrecy over their program.

In other words, they figure that if they have hostages we won't attack. It's kind of like the bank robber holded up with the teller. He figures that as long as he has a gun to her head the cops won't come storming in.

Iran also knows that in addition to the Stennis and Eisenhower battle groups, we can add the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Chester Nimitz in short order as well. Add that to the fact that our B-1bs and B-2s aren't doing much now and you've got a regime that has reason to be worried.

W

ith four aircraft-carrier battle groups, several hundred carrier-based strike fighters, and 20 strategic bombers just minutes or hours from Iran, the United States will have assembled everything it needs to cripple the regime and wipe out the most important elements of its nuclear program. Iran needs to know that this is the only alternative to complying with the Security Council resolutions. Otherwise, in a few years, Iran could be holding all of us hostage.

So Where Are the Brits?

The only British ship in the Gulf right now is the frigate HMS Cornwall, the ship the seized sailors and marines served on. To the best of my knowledge, no other ships, and certainly no Falklands-style fleet, has been ordered to set sail.

In the post on The Corner Loyola sums up the current British attitude

While Iran’s humiliating abuse of the sailors provoked outrage in Britain, the outrage has manifested mostly in a despondent impotence. On the British right, folks lament that years of Labour government have left the Royal Navy in the most decrepit and weakened state of its history; whereas from the left the government is criticized for wasting British power on a needless war in Iraq. Opinion seems unanimous that Britain is helpless.

I can just hear all of the heros of British history turning over in their graves. I've actually been to St Pauls Cathedral in London and saw where Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington are interned and I can imagine the stones are quaking right about now.

As for the Prime Minister

Tony Blair appears to be in a daze. Confronted with Iran’s abuse of his countrymen in an act of war, Blair threatens Iran with—of all things—isolation! Isolation—the very word occasions comic relief in Tehran. The latest reports suggest the hostages will be traded for a guarantee that British forces will not violate Iranian territory—at the precise moment we need to start doing precisely that in order to enforce Iran’s nuclear obligations. And London just might agree. How sad and humiliating for the British.

And indeed the stories today are about a "diplomatic solution" that may well entail just such a promise. Here are key excerpts of one from the Jerusalem Post

Iran's chief international negotiator said Monday that Iran wants to resolve the crisis over 15 captured British sailors through diplomacy, and that there was no need to put the crew on trial.

Ali Larijani said Iran's priority "is to solve the problem through proper diplomatic channels."
...

n Britain's part, "a guarantee must be given that such violation will not be repeated," he added.

Get it? The diplomats work out some weasel words whereby the British say in effect "we don't think we violated Iran's sovereignty but if we did we're sorry and won't do it again". Immediately upon the release of the hostages Iran will crow that this language means that the UK agreed to never attack it. True or not, it will have great propaganda value.

The purpose, then, is to remove the UK as a threat to their nuclear program. If the U.S. has to hit them, we may be alone.

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April 1, 2007

The New Iranian Hostage Crisis

Iran seized the British sailors because they believe that they can use them to achieve certain foreign policy goals and there is little chance of retaliation by Western powers. Unfortunately, they are probably right.

The main goal of the Khumeinists is to create a regional Imamate, or Shiite "superstate". They want to chase all Western powers from the region and subdue the Sunni powers. Shiites were shut out of the jihad for 13 centuries, and are in now with a vengance. More about the Khumeinists and why I call them that here and here.

Everthing I have read since the hostages were taken tells me that the Khumeinists are going to get away with their act of terror with no repercussions. What is going to happen, I think, is that Ahmadinejad or whoever's in control of this in Iran will hold the Britons for a few weeks, using them for television propaganda, then release them after Tony Blair issues what will amount to an apology. Ahmadinejad will declare that he could have tried the sailors and Royal Marines but in a grand act of mercy he will let them go. Meanwhile, diplomats and liberal editorial writers will issue soothing words about how lives were saved and "see quiet diplomacy does work."

What we will not want to notice is that Ahmadinejad and the Khumeinists mullahs will celebrate themselves, having learned the same lesson about the West that Osama bin Laden learned about the Americans after Beirut, Somalia, and the USS Cole.

It did not always used to be this way. The other day on The Corner Mark Steyn reminded us of how fast Margaret Thatcher responded to a naked act of agression in 1982

On April 2nd, the Argies seized the Falklands, which were all but undefended.

On April 5th a British task force of over 100 ships and 28,000 men sailed from England for the South Atlantic.

In three days! Talk about a rush to war, eh?

Wow. I'd forgotten how fast Maggie's response was.

Yes I know that there's a difference between the seizure of 15 sailors and Royal Marines and a piece of real estate. But on the other hand the military junta ruling Argentina was not really a threat to anyone but it's own citizens. The seizure of the Falklands was as much an attempt to divert public opinion from the failures of the junta as it was an expression of nationalism etc. Iran, or the "Khumeinist" as I think a is more accurate term, are a threat to the region and indeed the world. They are on the fast track to acquiring nuclear weapons, and if they choose to use them Western concepts of deterrance will not deter them.

Further, yes I know that the Royal Navy of today is a shell of what they had during the Cold War, to say nothing of earlier days. As Arthur Herman pointed out earlier this week, not only has the Royal Navy been dramatically cut in size, in the past few years, but "by this time next year, the once-vaunted Royal Navy will be about the size of the Belgian Navy, while its officers face a five-year moratorium on all promotions." If you don't believe me consider this chart (click to enlarge)

450px-RN_Surface_Fleet_Since_1960.JPG

At the time of the Falklands War the Royal Navy consisted of 50 frigates. Today it has 17. You get the point.

But what ultimately separates Thatcher from Blair is that the former knew that agression much be met with force or the credible threat of force immediately. You do not deal with a schoolyard bully by going to the teacher, but by whacking him with your textbook. Likewise, the Argentinians knew that while diplomats like Secretary of State Alexander Haig shuttled back and forth between London and Buenos Aires, the task force was slowly making its way south. And when it arrived, the time for diplomacy would be over. The Argentinian generals knew that the clock was ticking down to zero hour.

This time the clock is ticking upwards. The Khumeinists believe that they can keep the hostages as long as they like and there will be no military consequences. Blair has sent forth no task force and likely never will. The Argentinian generals lost their military gamble, but the truth is that it was a near-run thing that could have gone the other direction. The Khumeinists will likely not even have to risk a military gamble.

The irony is that the military balance is far more lopsided this time than it was in 1982, this despite Tony Blair's near emasculation of the Royal Navy. Although the Royal Navy has shrunk in size from times past, it is still larger and much more capable than anything the Iranians have. In addition, this time the British could most likely count on direct military support from the United States. In the Falklands War the Brits were largely on their own, with only limited logistical support from the US.

Further, there is much more that we could do today to harm the Khumeinists. Their economy is largely dependant on oil shipments, and we have many bases and a large fleet in the Persian Gulf right now. It would be very easy for us to blockade Iran.

The sad thing is that we don't even really need to resort to military force, even of the blockade type. If the European Union meant anything, they'd rally around a "member nation" and stop trade with Iran. As Mark Steyn pointed out in another editorial "the European Union is the Islamic Republic's biggest trading partner, accounting for 40 percent of Iranian exports." The EU could seriously punish Tehran if it wanted to. But it doesn't want to. One suspects that many Europeans secretly think that the British deserve this for their unholy alliance with the hated Bush.

To be sure, retaliation works the other way round too. There was not much the Argentinians could do around the world to make trouble for the British, whereas the Khumeinists can certainly give us a very difficult time.

But at least in the short run there is an awful lot we can do to punish the Iranians. We currently have the John Stennis and Eisenhower battle groups in the gulf. The French carrier Clemenceau is there as well, less capable than ours but could serve very well as a blockade enforcer. It is the British who are lacking in power. It is my understanding that the only ship they have in the region is the frigate HMS Cornwall, the very ship from which the sailors and marines are from.

What about the UN? Wasn't it supposed to resolve all these issues? Here's Steyn again in the article linked to above (hat tip LGF)

The U.N. will do nothing for men seized on a U.N.-sanctioned mission. The European Union will do nothing for its "European citizens." But if liberal transnationalism is a post-modern joke, it's not the only school of transnationalism out there. Iran's Islamic Revolution has been explicitly extraterritorial since the beginning: It has created and funded murderous proxies in Hezbollah, Hamas and both Shia and Sunni factions of the Iraq "insurgency." It has spent a fortune in the stans of Central Asia radicalizing previously somnolent Muslim populations. When Ayatollah Khomeini announced the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, it was not Iranians but British, Indian, Turkish, European, Asian and American Muslims who called for his death, firebombed bookstores, shot his publisher, fatally stabbed his translator and murdered anybody who got in their way.

So we live today in a world of one-way sovereignty: American, British and Iraqi forces in Iraq respect the Syrian and Iranian borders; the Syrians and Iranians do not respect the Iraqi border. Patrolling the Shatt al-Arab at a time of war, the Royal Navy operates under rules of engagement designed by distant fainthearts with an eye to the polite fictions of "international law": If you're in a ''warship,'' you can't wage war. If you're in a ''destroyer,'' don't destroy anything. If you're in a "frigate," you're frigging done for.

All our military power and the jihadists know that they have little to fear from most of it. As long as they refrain from acts as blatant as 9-11, they can pretty much do what they want. I hate to sound so pessimistic, but my guess is that the Khumeinists are going to get away with this with minimal consequnces and that it will lead to more and more agression on their part.

Posted by Tom at 8:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 24, 2007

Motivations and The Mahdi

One of our current problems in the war on jihadism is that we can't even call it by it's rightful name. We insist on "War on Terror", an unfortunate description started by our president. I think he had good motives in that he wanted to divide moderate Muslims those with evil intent and get good Muslims on our side.

Unfortunately the world didn't cooperate. We should have called a spade a spade right off the bat and termed it "War on Jihad". There is an important religious aspect to this war whether our government wants to admit it or not.

The Khumeinists (and here) in Iran are one leg of the jihad. They are motivated not by nationalism but by religious beliefs. The Ayatollah himself is on record as speaking out against Iranian nationalism, saying among other things that "Those who, in the name of nationalism, factionalism, etc, create schism and disunity among Muslims, are armies of Devil, opponents of the holy Quran and helping agents of the superpowers", and that "Our Movement is Islamic before being Iranian." (I've got another quote somewhere and will put it up when I find it- ed)

The way I see it too many people look at Iran and the situation in the Middle East as if they were looking at 19th century Europe. They see it in terms of power struggles between nation-states. I believe this is mistaken. We will never understand what is going on unless we understand their motivations, and the Western concept of nationalism isn't one of them.

Ahmadinejad and The Creation of Chaos

From the invaluable MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute):

In his just-published memoirs, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy relates the story of a meeting between three European foreign ministers together with Javier Solana of the European Union and President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The meeting, which took place at the United Nations on September 15, 2005, dealt with what Douste-Blazy characterized as "the generous European offer" to Iran regarding its nuclear program. Ahmadinejad was characterized by Douste-Blazy, a surgeon and a professor of medicine by profession, as stubborn, and the meeting was described as leading nowhere. Suddenly, Ahmadinejad changed the course of the conversation with the following aside: "Do you know why we should wish to have chaos at any price?" he asked rhetorically. "Because, after the chaos, we can see the greatness of Allah."(emphasis added)

A casual observer would ignore or pass over the mention of "chaos". Ahmadinejad is, after all, fairly nutty by our standards. He did, after all, host a holocaust denial conference last December.

Unfortunately it's not so simple. It is rumored that Ahmadinejad and some of his close associates are members of the Hojjatieh, a radical sect within Shia Islam.

The Hojjatieh believe that chaos and bloodshed will prompt the return of the 12th Imam, or Mahdi (Muhammad al-Mahdī (محمد المهدى) (or Muhammad ibn Hasan ibn Al). To Muslims, the Mahdi is "the ultimate savior of mankind", and will one day arrive to set things right by Muslim standards.

Patrick Poole, writing for FrontPage Magazine, elaborates on the Mahdi

Most Shiites await the return of the 12th Shiite Imam, Muhammad ibn Hasan, the last direct male descendent of the Prophet Mohammed’s son-in-law Ali, who disappeared in 874AD and is believed to be in an invisible, deathless state of existene, or “occultation”, awaiting his return... His reappearance will usher in a new era of peace as Islam vanquishes all of its enemies. The Sunnis, who reject the successors of Ali, believe that the Mahdi has yet to be born.

But rooted in the Shiite ideology of martyrdom and violence, the Hojjatieh sect adds messianic and apocalyptic elements to an already volatile theology. They believe that chaos and bloodshed must precede the return of the 12th Imam, called the Mahdi. But unlike the biblical apocalypse, where the return of Jesus is preceded by waves of divinely decreed natural disasters, the summoning of the Mahdi through chaos and violence is wholly in the realm of human action. The Hojjatieh faith puts inordinate stress on the human ability to direct divinely appointed events. By creating the apocalyptic chaos, the Hojjatiehs believe it is entirely in the power of believers to affect the Mahdi’s reappearance, the institution of Islamic government worldwide, and the destruction of all competing faiths.

So far this is interesting but only from an academic view if you're not a Muslim. But here's where it gets interesting.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has clearly indicated that he is a true believer in this faith. It has been reported that he has told confidants that he anticipates the immanent return of the Mahdi. When he previously served as Mayor of Tehran, he advocated for widening the roads to accommodate the Mahdi’s triumphal entry into the city. One of his first acts of office as President was to dedicate approximately $20 million to the restoration and improvement of the mosque at Jamkaran, where the Mahdi is claimed to dwell.

Pool also quotes Ahmadinejad as saying that "“Our revolution’s main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi.".

By itself we would not rely on one article from FrontPage Magazine. But talk about the Mahdi has a way of popping in with regard to Iran.

Again from MEMRI, we have on the website of the governmental Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting(IRIB) an article titled "Waiting for the Mahdi: Official Iranian Eschatology Outlined in Public Broadcasting Program in Iran" . The link is to the actual Iranian website (note the .ir), where they have helpfully provided an English translation.

The document is rather lengthy and readers can go to it and form their own conclusions, but here is the summary by MEMRI

The program describes in glowing terms the messianic age to be inaugurated by the Mahdi. He is to begin his uprising in Mecca, and then march on Iraq, where he will establish his "seat of world government" in the city of Kufa and subjugate the current world powers. This will be an age of unparalleled happiness; there will be completely new technologies at mankind's disposal, and "corruption, war, and rebellion will no longer exist." Neither will "liberal democratic civilization."

Various days of the year are mentioned as being propitious for the appearance of the Mahdi, though the program says that the precise date cannot be known.

The series also includes, in parts not reproduced here, a lengthy polemic against the West, focusing on Evangelical Christians, Zionism, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Hollywood. It also gives a historical survey of Western thinking, from Saint Augustine to Francis Fukuyama.

Just as with the mention of "chaos" by Ahmadinejad to the European ministers, if we didn't know any better we would pass over this article on IRIB. Non-Muslims would, or should, treat it with academic curiousity, but that's about it. Decent people don't make fun of what other people believe, we just don't believe in it.

The problem is that we've seen and heard too much from Ahmadinejad and his cohorts over the past several years. When we read this stuff we have to pay attention.

Yes I know that Ahmadinejad does not hold all of the real power in Iran. Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-Khamenei is the Supreme Leader and holds, well, supreme power. But from what I can tell Khameini and his fellows differ from Ahmadinejad more in style than substance. They share his Khumeinist goals of creating a regional Shiite superpower armed with nuclear weapons.

The reason motivations matter is that the way I see it Iran isn't going to give up on obtaining nuclear weapons because of a few trade sanctions or a "carrot and stick" approach. No I'm not saying we ought to go to war against them, as I've proposed many options that fall short of that while being more intensive than "sanctions".

All I'm saying in this post is that we must stop looking at Iran and the Middle East as if it was 19th century Europe.

Posted by Tom at 8:17 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 28, 2007

The Bush Doctrine R.I.P.

This morning we learned that the Bush Administration might just, after all, "talk" with Iran over the future of Iraq. From the Washington Post

The United States agreed yesterday to join high-level talks with Iran and Syria on the future of Iraq, an abrupt shift in policy that opens the door to diplomatic dealings the White House had shunned in recent months despite mounting criticism.

The move was announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in testimony on Capitol Hill, after Iraq said it had invited neighboring states, the United States and other nations to a pair of regional conferences.

The Administration quickly backtracked, however. At 4:28pm today CNN posted this

U.S. officials won't hold direct talks with Iran or Syria at a Baghdad conference next month despite the Bush administration's complaints that those countries are allowing weapons into Iraq, White House spokesman Tony Snow said Wednesday.

Direct talks would happen only if those countries made changes to their own policies. Iran would have to halt its uranium enrichment work and Syria would have to stop supporting groups Washington considers terrorist organizations, Snow said.

I don't know if this "only if those countries made changed" bit was part of the original plan or not, but there's nothing about it in the Post story and I don't have time to do extensive research. My guess is that they backtracked once they heard the outrage from the right.

Either way, contrast this with the set of policies popularly known as the Bush Doctrine, first outlined in a speech to graduates of West Point in June of 2002, and formalized in this AEI document.

- Military pre-emption
- Unilateral action when necessary
- A policy of "you're with us or against us"
- Bringing democracy, liberty, and security to other parts of the world

It looks like the Administration has bought into the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. Or they're trying to appease the Democrats. Or the editorial page of the New York Times. Or Secretary Rice is unable to resist the influence of the Arabists in the State Department. Or they've gone nuts.

Frank Gaffney outlines at least three reasons why negotiating with Iran is a bad idea

First, such negotiations will legitimate one of the most dangerous regimes on the planet. By acceding to the pressure to accord the mullahocracy in Tehran the status of equal partners and members in good standing of the “community of nations”....

Second, embracing Ahmadinejad and his mullahs in this way can only alienate our natural allies: the people of Iran. They have lately been demonstrating a growing willingness to challenge the Islamofascists who have oppressed them for so long.

Third, the adoption of the negotiating track effectively forecloses other options for dealing with the danger posed by the Iranian regime. In particular, efforts to bring about its downfall will be precluded. Diplomats predictably will insist that nothing be done — for example, through covert operations, more far-reaching and effective economic sanctions, military preparations, or political warfare — that will jeopardize the prospects for successful negotiations.

All three are good reasons not to engage in high-level public negotiations, but the last one strikes me as being particularly important. Several months ago I proposed several actions we ought to take that fall short of military strikes, but do not involve "negotiations" either. They include a human rights campaign, support for democratic movements inside Iran, propaganda, and giving them their own insurgency to worry about.

But Gaffney is right; diplomats will put a brake on any covert or overt actions. They won't even want a public human rights campaign for fear that it would "disrupt sensitive negotiations".

The Administration used to insist that it would never negotiate with states which sponsored terrorism. Iran is supposed to be part of the "axis of evil." What has changed? Andy McCarthy asks the same question

Other than the fact that we have now caught the Iranians red-handed killing Americans in Iraq and that the Iranians have made plain that they have no intention of foregoing their nuclear ambitions, what has changed in the last six months to suddenly transform these uncompromising, murdering extremists into negotiation material?

The only answer I can think of is what I stated above, that the administration is in full pander mode.

Talking vs Negotiating

Let's get one thing out of the way right now; there's a difference between "talking" and "negotiating". We "talk" with everyone. This is something you do in the back room of the a third party embassy somewhere in a rarely-traveled corner of the world. I'm certain we're "talking" with Iran right now, using the back room of the Canadian embassy in Madrid or something like that. Secret trips also count, such as when Kissinger's secret trip to China in 1971.

But when people say "negotiate" they mean the public stuff that occurs when high-ranking diplomats disappear behind closed doors and come out to a throng of journalists eagerly snapping photos and pushing microphones in their faces. This is a whole 'nother matter.

Defined this way, you simply don't enter into negotiations unless you're pretty sure of what the result is going to be. So when President Nixon made his public trip to China in 1972, he knew what was going to happen because Kissinger had laid the groundwork the year before.

But walking into high-level negotiations without this groundwork is like walking onto a minefield. This is what happened in 1986 when Reagan and Gorbachev got together at Reykjavik Iceland. The whole thing essentially blew up, and each came home to bad press. In the long run I think it became clear that Reagan got the better of Gorbachev, but my point is the danger in entering into high-level negotiations when the groundwork has not been properly laid.

What Do You Even Say To Them?

For those who say that we should negotiate with Iran I have one simple question; what exactly are we supposed to say to them?

I ask honestly, because for the life of me I don't know. "Please stop sending weapons into Iran"? "Please stop your nuclear weapons program"?

Negotiations can only succeed when there is the possibility of reaching common ground. Each side gives a little, and in the end the end you meet somewhere inbetween. But the US and Iran have diametrically opposed views on the future of the Middle East. The US wants a pluralistic Iraq, the better which to spread liberty around the region and thus combat jihadism. Yes, we also want a steady supply of oil but we'd pretty much get that in any event (they've got to sell it to someone. An embargo hurts them in the long run too). Iran wants to create a Khumeinist superstate that can compete the Sunni jihadists. I do not see the possibility of meaningful agreement.

If any commenters can enlighten me please do so. I insist, however, that you avoid generalities and tell me exactly what you would say and how you think they'd react.

There's a fierce debate going on right now over at The Corner on just this. Andrew Stuttaford says that we should negotiate with Iran, and the others are beating him up over it. Mark Levin asks essentially the same question that I put to Stuttaford in an email today; "So, Andrew, I'm curious, these discussions you argue for, what what you say and to whom?" Stuttaford hasn't responded yet, and I'll be at CPAC the rest of this week so might not be able to check aback for awhile. However, Andy McCarthy has posted a hilarious parody of how talks might go.

Meanwhile

Iran continues to ship arms to the terrorist insurgents in Iraq. I'm sure the far left is dismissing this evidence because "Bush lied!" on WMD.

Two weeks ago the Financal Times published an internal European Union document in which officials conclude that negotiations with Iran will probably fail and that "at some stage we must expect that Iran will acquire the capacity to enrich uranium on the scale required for a weapons programme."

Just thought you'd like to know.


Posted by Tom at 7:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 21, 2007

Iran and the Bomb - Can they Be Stopped?

There are those who take a "what me worry?" approach to Iran.

Like Newsweek, for example. Their cover-story "Rumors of War" is an exercise in denial that will please many a liberal heart. Take this passage, quoted by Victor Davis Hanson on NRO

The secret history of the Bush administration's dealings with Iran is one of arrogance, mistrust and failure.

By Newsweek's account, Iran helped stabilize Afghanistan after the US invasion. To Iranian "reformers", "9/11 was a blessing in disguise". All these many years, you see, they "wished to offer an olive branch to the United States."

To Newsweek authors Michael Hirsh and Maziar Bahari, there are no problems that cannot be negotiated away. The Iranian leaders wish us no harm, and "have reason to feel paranoid" because "senior American officers have condemned Tehran for providing training and deadly explosives to insurgents"

Apparently agreeing, Sen Clinton now demands the President Bush get Congressional approval before using any force on Iran. Her husband had no such qualms, bombing Serbia in 1999 without either approval from Congress or the UN.

Blech.

Back to the real world. The Financial Times has a must-read piece in which the authors say that it may be too late to stop Iran from obtaining the bomb

Iran will be able to develop enough weapons-grade material for a nuclear bomb and there is little that can be done to prevent it, an internal European Union document has concluded.
In an admission of the international community’s failure to hold back Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the document – compiled by the staff of Javier Solana, EU foreign policy chief – says the atomic programme has been delayed only by technical limitations rather than diplomatic pressure. “Attempts to engage the Iranian administration in a negotiating process have not so far succeeded,” it states. ...

The admission is a blow to hopes that a deal with Iran can be reached and comes at a sensitive time, when tensions between the US and Tehran are rising. Its implication that sanctions will prove ineffective will also be unwelcome to EU diplomats. Only yesterday the bloc agreed on how to apply United Nations sanctions on Tehran, overcoming a dispute between Britain and Spain over Gibraltar.

So it would appear that those who believe that negotiations and sanctions will convince Iran to give up it's nuclear program are wrong.

It's hard to overstate the danger of a nuclear Iran. In a previous piece I outlined what I thought would happen if we let Iran get the bomb. I laid out three scenarios. In the first, there was no general war, but other countries in the region went nuclear and everyone held their breath. The other two involve war, one more severe than the other.

has two excellent articles on ths subject that appeared in the Jerusalem Post recently. In the first, Daniel Elfrati explains the the financial costs of an IDF attack on Iran, and in the second, Anshel Pfeffer, lays outthe cost to the IDF of maintaining a nuclear deterance.

Unfortunately, most of the current talk about Iran focuses on the extremes; negotiations and sanctions or a direct military attack. There are many measures inbetween these that we should be pursuing. I laid out a whole range of options in a post last September.

There was one that I seem to have missed. I heard this from Glenn Beck last week:

Vice-President Cheney visited Saudi Arabia last November. There was a meeting of the OPEC ministers shortly thereafte. At this meeting other countries wanted to drop production to raise the price, but the Saudis said no. Rather, they boosted production and of course prices went down, if only slightly. For geological reasons Iranian oil is expensive to drill for and pump out. It requires sophisticated equipment which is hard to obtain.

Obviously we won't sell them what they need. We persuaded Canada and Japan to forgo sales to Iran also.

All of this means that Iranian oil is only profitable to drill is the price of oil is high.

Given this, Iran knows that their time is limited. They're accelerating their work on the bomb. They're going to Russia fcor help. The Russian NSA advisor met with their top Ayatollah/ or a top Ayatollah. With a lagging economy,Russia wants no part of sanctions on Iran.

I don't have time to do much research this but, did find one article that lends credence to Beck's theory. I certainly hope so.

We need to stop Iran, and there are more options than the extremes of negotiations/ sanctions and direct military attack. Serious people can disagree on what exactly we need to do, as long as we agree that our current strategy doesn't stand much chance of success and that it is imperative that we do stop Iran. What we don't need are Newsweek articles like the one cited above.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 14, 2007

Iran in Iraq

There are a rash of stories lately to the effect that Iran is arming and aiding the terrorist insurgents in Iraq. Here's one from Fox News that's pretty typical

U.S. military commanders in Iraq have shown members of Congress explosive devices that bear Iranian markings as evidence Tehran is supplying Iraqi militants with bombs, a senior U.S. government official said Saturday.

One of the lawmakers, independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, said he has seen some of the evidence, though he would not be specific. "I'm convinced from what I've seen that the Iranians are supplying and are giving assistance to the people in Iraq who are killing American soldiers," Lieberman said.

However, in another story Gen Pace is quoted as saying that he isn't sure if the Iranian government knows about it

On Monday, Pace said he had no firm knowledge that the Iranian government had sanctioned the arming of the insurgents.

"It is clear that Iranians are involved, and it's clear that materials from Iran are involved, but I would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit," Pace told the Voice of America.

What is going on here?

Andy McCarthy over at NRO cites a story in the Boston Globe in which Daniel Serwer of the U.S. Institute for Peace and who was part of the Iraq Study Group, said that "he was not convinced that the Iranian government had decided 'at the highest levels' to provide weapons to target US troops," From the Globe story

Some skeptics also say that US officials in Iraq and their British counterparts have known for more than two years that armor-piercing explosives were being smuggled from Iran, but had never displayed them to the media until Sunday, prompting critics to ask why the administration is choosing this moment to highlight the alleged misdeeds of the Iranian regime.

McCarthy comments that

When it comes to Iraq, the Left is dizzying. Are these not the same people who said that if Lynndie England was walking a naked Iraqi prisoner around like a dog on a leash, she simply must have been acting on orders from Don Rumsfeld, if not Bush himself? Now, the mullahs' own militia, formed for the purpose of exporting the Islamic revolution, is caught red-handed exporting the Islamic revolution to Iraq, and the Left's response is to ask whether we can really be sure the mullahs put them up to it?

I sent an email to McCarthy asking him about what Pace said and what he thought about it. I'll check The Corner tomorrow to see if he responds.

My Take

Like McCarthy, I find it very difficult to believe that some rogue elements in Iran are aiding the insurgency, and the leaders don't know about it. If by some chance it is true then the Iranian government is much more fractured and brittle than I had supposed.

I'm not sure, but my guess is that the administration is ratcheting up pressure on Iran but doing so cautiously. On the one hand, they want to let everyone know that we know that Iran is arming the insurgents. On the other hand, they don't want to directly accuse Iran. Maybe I'm missing something, but this is the best I can come up with.

What We Ought To Be Doing

Last September I wrote a longer piece exclusively on what we ought to do about Iran, so read that if you want my complete thoughts on the matter.

For now though if we think Iran is involved in aiding the insurgent terrorists we ought to say so unequivocally. I see no benefit to this half-way "we know there are Iranian weapons in Iraq but don't know if the Iranians are behind it" stuff.

Rumor has it (I didn't save the link) that a few years ago Secretary Rumsfeld wanted to attack terrorist bases in Syria but President Bush said no. We lost that opportunity, we oughtn't lost another. If we're not going to go after Iranian terrorist bases militarily(directly or though proxies) we ought to at least mount a serious PR offensive. It's bad enough that the administration isn't making a big deal about Iran's human rights abuses, we ought to at least go after them on aiding the insurgents.

Update

There's a long post on Instapundit on Iran in Iraq with lots of links. The short version of the post is that the administration ought to be doing a lot more, but direct military strikes aren't the answer.

Interestingly, Glenn posts an email by a leftie who thinks that taking any strong action against Iran would make us equal to the 9-11 terrorists. The other line from the left that I've seen recently is that "you guys screwed up Iraq now you want to create a bigger mess in Iran?" This is at best a bumper-sticker mentality. We've got a big enough problem with the administration not seeming to want to do much, we're evidently not going to get any help from the left side of the isle.

Posted by Tom at 7:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 20, 2007

Good News from Iran

This can only be good news

Conservatives and reformists are openly challenging President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's hard-line nuclear diplomacy -- an unusual agreement across Iran's political spectrum -- with many saying his provocative remarks have increasingly isolated their country. ...

After a year of silence, reformists are demanding that Iran dispel fears that it is seeking to build atomic weapons, pressing for a return to the enrichment suspension policy under President Mohammed Khatami. Uranium enrichment can produce the material for either nuclear reactors or bombs.

"Resisting the U.N. Security Council resolution will put us in a more isolated position," said the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the largest reformist party.

Mr. Ahmadinejad's popularity already was weakened after his close conservative allies were defeated last month in local elections, which were widely seen as a referendum on his 18 months in power.

Even some conservatives warn that his confrontational tactics are backfiring.

"Your language is so offensive ... that it shows that the nuclear issue is being dealt with a sort of stubbornness," the hard-line daily Jomhuri-e-Eslami said in an editorial.

Some lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum are considering impeaching Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki if the Security Council approves more resolutions against Iran.

No I do not think that this is all an elaborate ruse. It is not some sort of situation like Stalin's famous "show trials". I think that Ahmadinejad is genuinely losing popularity. The question is, does this mean that Iran is giviing up their pursuit of nuclear weapons?

The answer, I think, is "not necessarily". Better, "we shouldn't count on it".

It rather seems to me that they just see Ahmadinejad's rhetoric as counter-productive. The details of their nuclear program are no doubt a closely held secret, and it is doubtful that even many mullahs the Assembly of Experts or Council of Guardians know what is really going on. So when we read that "reformists are demanding that Iran dispel fears that it is seeking to build atomic weapons", that doesn't necessarily mean they aren't developing them.

After all, how many nations send "high-level delegations" to North Korea?

My conclusion is that it is a good thing that it is a good thing that Ahmadinejad is losing popularity, because he is a seriously crazy guy who I think would nuke Israel in a heartbeat if given the chance. Some of the more sane mullahs might be at least disuaded from doing so by Israeli or American nuclear weapons.

But even this doesn't get us completely off the hook. An Iran with nuclear weapons is unacceptable, whether they use them or not. It would destabilize the entire region, and soon thereafter we'd have a nuclear Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, maybe even Jordan. Therefore, we still need to keep this issue on the front burner.

Posted by Tom at 2:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 6, 2007

The Hojjatieh and "Professor Crocodile"

Two days ago Michael Ledeen (hat tip ThreatsWatch reported that Grand Ayatollah Ali Khameini, the Supreme Leader of Iran , was dead. Yesterday Iran denied it. I've searched a few major news outlets and can find nothing on it.

Whatever the truth, I've seen a few reports that he has been ill for some time, so it is likely that he will not be with us much longer. Even is he is alive but ill, his power is obviouly diminished and jockeying for power has undoubtably shifted into high gear.

The good news is that the Hojjatieh were apparently not able to extend their influence in the elections to the Council of Experts (who elect the Supreme Leader) last Dec 15. Instead, "moderates" close to Ayatollah Rafsanjani won most of the seats. This would seem to diminish the power and/or influence of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Then again, trying to decipher the workings of the Iranian government is difficult even on a good day, because so much of what happens appears to be scripted.

By way of quick background, Khameini's bio on Wikipedia makes for useful reading. He was born in 1939, and was President of Iran from 1981 to 1989. He was elected by the Assembly of Experts to be the country's new Supreme Leader on June 4, 1989, shortly after the Ayatollah Khomeini died. The Assembly of Experts (sometimes incorrectly called the "council of mullahs") is the true power in Iran, and it's Supreme Leader has much more power than does the president.

The question that emerges now, or will very shortly, is who will succeed Ayatollah Khameini as Supreme Leader? Will the Hojjatieh gain or lose influence?

Professor Crocodile

The ThreatsWatch post linked to above mentions a certain Ayatollah Yazdi. I first read about him a few weeks ago on in the comments section of this ThreatsWatch post, when post author Steve Schippert mentioned his name. I decided to do some poking around and here's what I've found out so far.

His Wikipedia entry tells us that he is "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's spiritual advisor, and a member of Iran's Assembly of Experts." He is considered a fundamentalist in a nation where we in the West would consider just about all clerics fundamentalists. He is considered the leader of these fundamentalists, and is "an outspoken, and sometimes violent critic of the reform movement." Of course, he supports martyrdom operations and suicide bombers against Israel.

Although he is rumored to be the leader of the Hojjatieh, he has denied any link to them. Even if he was tied to them he would likely deny it, since the Ayatollah Khomeini banned the group in 1983. Given the opaque nature of what we know about Iranian politics, anything could be true.

In November 2005 an article about Yazdi appeared in The Telegraph which described him as "a hardliner to terrify hardliners". In Iran he is known by some as "Professor Crocodile", a nickname bestowed on him by a political cartoonist he later had thrown in jail.

According to the Telegraph article, Yazdi's influence waxed when he issued a fatwa in support of Ahmadinejad's presidential bid in 2005. Given the last election, however, one suspects his influence has since waxed. All will become clear when the next Supreme Leader is chosen.

A story by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty also discusses the possible reimergence of the Hojjatieh and accusations that Yazdi is a member or even the leader.

Further, a long article on a website of The Baha'i International Community (Wikipedia entry on the Baha'i Faith here) has much information on the Hojjatieh, including much I have not yet had time to read.

Yazdi's Crystals

As if the practices and beliefs of the Hojjatieh as I described them in my initial post on the subject weren't weird and worrysome enough, we have stories about the Ayatollah Yazdi and his magic crystals to add to the mix.

From what I can tell, the Hojjatieh are in the "mystical" tradition of Islam (many religions, including Christianity, have their mystical sects, which I believe are usually regarded as heretical). Likewise, I believe that the Hojjatieh are regarded as at least somewhat heretical by most Shi'ites, especially given that Ayatollah Khomeini did ban the organization.

ThreatsWatch contributor Steve Schippert elaborates about the Ayatollah Yazdi and the Jojjatieh in this comment he posted on his site in response to a question of mine about Yazdi:

One thing to also keep in mind is that the Hojjatieh sect is extremely apocolyptic and bizarre in practice. Many respected writers - including Bernard Lewis and Amir Taheri - shy away from writing publicly the details of their practices. A well-informed friend in a position to know has said several times that they fear that their practices are so mystic and strange (“truly what you would expect in a comic book” - including the use of crystals, belief in meta-physical powers, etc.) that readers would question the authors’ credibility rather than the frightening nature of the Hojjatieh practices themselves.

Yazdi is paranoid and is said to sleep just a couple of hours each day. Again, according to a very well informed friend, Yazdi has good reason to be paranoid. The position he holds within the sect he gained - it was said - by killing his predecessor—-trying to remove his “third eye”. It’s barely believable. Surely some reading this here may think me off my rocker for even echoing what was told to me by an extremely reasonable, objective source who is most definitely not the sensational type. If his followers truly believe he caused a foe to spontaneously combust from afar…well, you’re beginning to see why so many credible writers run away from such stories, though they believe them true. Reasonable westerneres will dismiss such things, believing it truly impossible for a group of people to truly and faithfully subscribe to such things and beliefs.

This is what Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi and his young pupil Ahmadinejad bring to the leadership table of the world’s foremost state sponsor of international terrorism.

If, in an outside chance, Yazdi’s followers win enough seats in the Assembly of Experts from Friday’s elections (we’ll know Sunday, I believe), they will certainly seek to remove Supreme Leader Khameini - or if his health is as bad as reported, wait until Khameini dies - and replace him with Yazdi himself.

This is unlikely, as Khameini still holds the electoral trump: Power.

However, if the US sees Yazdi assume Khameini’s position, the cause for American military action will have exponentially increased.

The Hojjatieh - and Yazdi in particular - are that scary.

Note: Schippert later clarified that "the ‘credible writers’ of whom I speak do not believe that Yazdi caused a man to spontaneously combust. They believe that the Hojjatieh followers subscribe to this thinking, reasoned by the group to be a part of the mystic powers he is touted as having."

Schippert and many others believe that Ahmadinejad is a Hojjatieh true believer. Yazdi may be as well, and if Khameini is dead or dies soon, the balance of power could shift in their favor.

Of course I've no idea how much if any of this President Bush and his advisors are aware of, but the recent appointment of Admial William Fallon to replace General John Abizaid at CENTCOM shows that they are taking the threat from Iran very seriously.

I rather doubt that military action is on the table in the near term, but what if Yazdi or Ahmadinejad suddenly announced that the Mahdi ("12th Imam") had in fact returned?

It is easy to dismiss all this talk of the Hojjatieh and Mahdi as comic-book stuff. Certainly it is strange beyond our imaging. The fact, however, is that in order to defend ourselves against our enemies we have to understand them. And from what I'm beginning to understand what's going on in Iran is as scary as it gets.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 12, 2006

When Will We Take Ahmadinejad Seriously?

Once again, Iranian President Ahmadinejad has threatened to destroy Israel

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday told delegates at an international conference questioning the Holocaust that Israel's days were numbered

Ahmadinejad, who has sparked international outcry by referring to the killing of six million Jews in World War Two as a "myth" and calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map," launched another verbal attack on the Jewish state.

"Thanks to people's wishes and God's will the trend for the existence of the Zionist regime is downwards and this is what God has promised and what all nations want," he said.

"Just as the Soviet Union was wiped out and today does not exist, so will the Zionist regime soon be wiped out," he added.

In case you've been living in a cave, he says this sort of thing just about every week. The Jerusalem Post has helpfully gathered a list of his statements on this and and other subjects. Here are a few

"If the West does not support Israel, this regime will be toppled. As it has lost its raison d' tre, Israel will be annihilated."

"Israel is a tyrannical regime that will one day will be destroyed."

Now, if this was coming from some pipsqueak who ran a no-name nation in some godforsaken corner of the planet, we could be excused for ignoring such insanity. But Iran is in the process of developing nuclear weapons, and it's anybody's guess as to when they'll have them.

Holocaust Denial Confence

The official name of this monstrosity, if you are interested, is the "Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision". It is being held right now in Tehran, under the official auspices of the Iranian government, and has been personally endorsed by Ahmadinejad. MSNBC provides some details

Ahmadinejad announced the conference would set up a “fact-finding commission” to determine whether the Holocaust happened or not. The commission will “help end a 60-year-old dispute,” he said.

The Tehran conference was touted by participants and organizers as an exercise in academic freedom and a chance to openly consider whether 6 million Jews really died in the Holocaust, away from Western taboos and the restrictions imposed on scholars in Europe, where some countries have made it a crime to deny the Nazi genocide during World War II.

It gathered 67 writers and researchers from 30 countries, most of whom argue that either the Holocaust did not happen or that it was vastly exaggerated. Many have been jailed or fined in France, Germany or Austria, where it is illegal to deny the Holocaust.

And their preliminary conclusion? That the Holocaust didn't happen


“Results of surveys so far show Holocaust is no more than a myth,” concluded Ali-Akbar Mohtashamipour, secretary general of the International Congress to Support Palestinian Intifada and former Iranian interior minister, in an interview with the Islamic Republic News Agency. He may be right about those results — staggering numbers of gun-toting, bomb-belt-wearing Hamas and Fatah members undoubtedly claim the Holocaust was a myth. “Saying that Holocaust is a myth does not mean that the Nazis committed no crimes in the course of World War II,” continued Mohtashamipour, as if to establish his credibility — it’s not that they like Nazis; they just hate Jews.

Guess who is there from the United States? David Duke.

Why the Conference?

It is no secret that throughout much of the Muslim world there is a schizophrenia about the holocaust; they deny that it occured, but then weirdly celebrate that it did. On the surface it may seem that Ahmadinejad is just engagin in more Jew-hatred. But I think he has something more in mind.

Michael Rubin
over at The Corner found a story in the Tehran Times which reveals all:

“If the holocaust is questioned officially, then the existence of the Zionist regime will also be questioned,” Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki said here on Monday at a conference on the holocaust.

Get it? They're setting Israel up. They're getting all the pieces in place. First you delegitimize Israel, then you destroy it.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

So what are we doing about all this? In a piece today on NRO, Rick Santorum isn't optimistic that official Washington will do anything to stop Iran

The president is not unaware of the situation in Iran, but his view of the country is informed by the advisers who surround him, a collection of people from the various sectors of the foreign-policy establishment. His intelligence team, led by the director of National Intelligence, will advise him that the opposition in Iran is weak and divided and that there is no legitimate exile community; thus we have no real alternative to either bombing the country or establishing by diplomacy a modus vivendi. The Pentagon will advise the president that our already stretched forces are unable to engage in another conflict. The State Department and our new secretary of Defense do not think that there is a casus belli and that our best hope for mitigating the many crises of that region is to negotiate with Iran. ...

The Democrats of course would never confront Iran because they attribute their wins in November to America’s growing dissatisfaction with Iraq. If continued instability in Iraq works to their political benefit, why would they change the subject to Iran, particularly when they have no solution to propose and have always been skeptical that military force will do anything to stop Islamic terrorism

Half of me thinks he's right. The other half thinks that in a year or so, if the President thinks that a Democrat will be elected in '08, he'll say the hell with it and order our military to hit Iran with everything we've got.

If we stay on our current course of of endless negotiations, not backed by any credible threats of sanctions or reprisals, Iran is going to get the bomb. Period. A few months ago I laid out three scenarios for what I think will happen when they get the bomb. None are pretty.

In another post shortly after that one, I proposed several courses of action designed to stop Iran from going nuclear. Most do not involve full-scale war, but some come very close.

Those who object to strong measures will point out the various risks associated with them. And let there be no doubt, the Iranians can hit us in several ways.

Imagine if the Western powers had invaded Germany in the mid 1930s. The resulting war would have cost many lives. We know today that it would have been less costly than World War II turned out to be, but of course we wouldn't have known that then.

I don't think the time is quite right for a military strike on Iran. But we have to act fast, and negotiations alone will prove fruitless. It's time for more serious measures, like the ones I outlined in the post linked to above. When Ahmadinejad says he's going to wipe out Israel, we need to take him seriously.

Posted by Tom at 7:44 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 3, 2006

The Hojjatieh Society

One of my favorite radio talk-show hosts is Glenn Beck, and recently he's been talking about something called The Hojjatieh Society. Glenn is convinced that the leaders of Iran are not only up to no good, but that they represent a unique threat that is mostly unappreciated. Further, Iran is allying itself with Venezuela and other anti-American forces around the globe. "The stars are aligning against us", he likes to say.

I think he may be on to something.

What is the Hojjatieh society or sect? Here's the short version: The Hojjatieh are a sect of Shii Islam that is so radical that it was banned by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1983. The current President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as well as several of his cabinet ministers, are adherents to the Hojjatieh faith.

The current leader of Iran more radical than Khomeini? That certainly gets my attention. I hope it gets yours.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. What follows will chill you to the bone.

One of the best articles I was able to find on the Hojjatieh was one by Patrick Poole on FrontPage Magazine. Poole provides the background

Most Shiites await the return of the 12th Shiite Imam, Muhammad ibn Hasan, the last direct male descendent of the Prophet Mohammed’s son-in-law Ali, who disappeared in 874AD and is believed to be in an invisible, deathless state of existene, or “occultation”, awaiting his return. Though it is discounted even by the most extremist clerics, a popular belief in Iran holds that the 12th Imam, also called the Mahdi or the sahib-e zaman (“the Ruler of Time”), lives at the bottom of a well in Jamkaran, just outside of Qom. Devotees drop written requests into the well to communicate with the Mahdi. His reappearance will usher in a new era of peace as Islam vanquishes all of its enemies. The Sunnis, who reject the successors of Ali, believe that the Mahdi has yet to be born.

So far all this is standard Shiite Islam. Ahmadinejad takes the well part very seriously. Not too long ago he and his cabinet ministers signed a petition to the hidden imam urging his speedy return, went to the very well, and dropped it down.

But here's where it gets interesting. Poole again

...rooted in the Shiite ideology of martyrdom and violence, the Hojjatieh sect adds messianic and apocalyptic elements to an already volatile theology. They believe that chaos and bloodshed must precede the return of the 12th Imam, called the Mahdi. But unlike the biblical apocalypse, where the return of Jesus is preceded by waves of divinely decreed natural disasters, the summoning of the Mahdi through chaos and violence is wholly in the realm of human action. The Hojjatieh faith puts inordinate stress on the human ability to direct divinely appointed events. By creating the apocalyptic chaos, the Hojjatiehs believe it is entirely in the power of believers to affect the Mahdi’s reappearance, the institution of Islamic government worldwide, and the destruction of all competing faiths.

Get it? Ahmadinejad and his ministers may be trying to create the chaos and bloodshed they think is necessary to entice the Mahdi into returning. They are not trying to acquire nuclear weapons simply to become the primary hegemon in their part of the world. If they get them, I think they mean to use them.

Ahmadinejad, Poole says, "believes he has personally received a divine appointment to herald the imminent arrival of the Mahdi", so this Hojjatieh stuff is not just a some-time belief of his.

Telling the Whole World

What is most madding is that Ahmadinejad is not making a secret about any of this. Just this past September 29 he gave a speech before the General Assembly of the United Nations in which he made many references to the Mahdi that he believes will return.

Newsbusters has analysis and a link to the actual speech, which the Washington Post reprinted in it's entirety.

Most of the speech is fairly pedestrian, and it's only at the end that he lets himself go, and where we see the real Ahmadinejad.

The almighty and merciful God, who is the creator of the universe, is also its lord and ruler. Justice is his command. He commands his creatures to support one another in good, virtue, and piety, and not in decadence and corruption.

He commands his creatures to enjoin one another to righteousness and virtue, and not to sin and transgression. All divine prophets, from the prophet Adam, peace be upon him, to the prophet Moses, to the prophet Jesus Christ, to the prophet Mohammad, have all called humanity to monotheism, justice, brotherhood, love and compassion.

Is it not possible to build a better world based on monotheism, justice, love and respect for the rights of human beings and thereby transform animosities into friendship?

I emphatically declare that today's world, more than ever before, longs for just and righteous people, with love for all humanity, and, above all, longs for the perfect righteous human being and the real savior who has been promised to all peoples and who will establish justice, peace and brotherhood on the planet.

Oh, almighty God, all men and women are your creatures and you have ordained their guidance and salvation. Bestow upon humanity that thirst for justice, the perfect human being promised to all by you, and makers among his followers and among those who strive for his return and his cause.

We can imagine the result if a Western leader, especially President Bush, spoke so forthrightly about religion. Unlike Newsbusters, however, I don't think that it was liberal bias that kept most news outlets from reporting the speech. Most of it, as I said, was boilerplate stuff. But the end is revealing.

However, it was at his September 17 2005 speech, or rather after it, that all doubt is removed that Ahmadinejad believes himself to be on a mission from God. I reported on this incident a few months ago from an article in National Review, but the Newsbusters piece provides the exact link to the story on Radio Free Europe. During the speech, he " called for the reappearance of the 12th Imam." Afterwards the following occured.

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad says that when he delivered his speech at the UN General Assembly in September, he felt there was a light around him and that the attention of the world leaders in the audience was unblinkingly focused upon him. The claim has caused a stir in Iran, as a transcript and video recording of Ahmadinejad's comments have been published on an Iranian website, baztab.com. There are also reports that a CD showing Ahmadinejad making the comments also has been widely distributed in Iran. Is the Iranian president claiming to be divinely inspired?

Prague, 29 November 2005 (RFE/RL) -- According the report by baztab.com, President Ahmadinejad made the comments in a meeting with one of Iran's leading clerics, Ayatollah Javadi Amoli.

Ahmadinejad said that someone present at the UN told him that a light surrounded him while he was delivering his speech to the General Assembly. The Iranian president added that he also sensed it.

"He said when you began with the words 'in the name of God,' I saw that you became surrounded by a light until the end [of the speech]," Ahmadinejad appears to say in the video. "I felt it myself, too. I felt that all of a sudden the atmosphere changed there, and for 27-28 minutes all the leaders did not blink."

Ahmadinejad adds that he is not exaggerating.

"I am not exaggerating when I say they did not blink; it's not an exaggeration, because I was looking," he says. "They were astonished as if a hand held them there and made them sit. It had opened their eyes and ears for the message of the Islamic Republic."

The same RFE story reports that "In mid-November, during a speech to Friday prayers leaders from across Iran, Ahmadinejad said that the main mission of the revolution is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam."

So What of It?

Dispute Newsbusters and FrontPage Mag if you want, but Radio Free Europe cannot be dismissed as some wingnut blog.

The story about dropping the petition down the well is disputed by Ahmadinejad's assistants who say that it is used by his enemies to discredit him (from the RFE story). Maybe so. But it is equally possible that it is true and they're just trying to it up so as jnot to give away the game to the infidels.

And of course the president of Iran is somewhat of a figurehead office, with the real power being held by the Assembly of Experts.
Ahmadinejad's term, I believe, ends in 2009. He might be removed before then or might not win reelection. His Hojjatieh sect may lose favor. He might not be able to put his plans into effect.

So there are those who will take a what-me-worry about all this or dismiss it all with a there-go-those-fearmongering-neocons-again.

But I thing such a position is far too risky. From where I sit, Glenn Beck has it about right; the stars are aligning against us, and too many people are ignoring the signs. Ahmadinejad means to start a world war.

Posted by Tom at 8:26 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

September 4, 2006

What To Do About Iran

In a post last week I told you what I think will happen with regard to Iran and it's nuclear weapons program if present trends continue. None of my three possible scenarios were good ones.

Now I'm going to tell you what I think we ought to do about Iran. Note that it does not involve immediate air strikes.

The Current Situation

The Administration seems intent on using the offices of the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) as a basis for the legitimacy of negotiations and for consequences that may follow. The advantage is a perceived moral and legal authority. If "everyone" is for (or against) something, it must be right. Because for so long wed and others have accepted the legality of UN and IAEA decisions, they have a certain authority. Lastly, there is the hope that if negotiations go nowhere and we must impose sanctions, we can make them binding on all nations through the appropriate UN resolution.

The disadvantage is that is ties us to their decisions. If negotiations fail, and the Security Council does not approve meaningful sanctions, it would be difficult for us to unilaterally impose a blockade. And if it looks as if Iran is on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons, and the UN refuses to give us authority to use air strikes, we look as if we have defied the very body that we demanded Iran obey.

Recent news headlines such as "Iranian President Says Pursuit of Nuclear Technology is Irreversible" and "Iran Questions Veto Right at U.N. Security Council" are hardly encouraging. In past months Iran has tested an "underwater missile" and a submarine-launched anti-ship missile as shows of strentgh. What is most disturbing about these tests is not so much that they were conducted, as the political statements by Iranian leaders that accompanied them. They spoke of "superweapons" in a way that reminds one of Adolf Hitler's belief that his V-1 and V-2 "superweapons" would save him from defeat.

I do no think that these strong statements by Iran are simply a negotiating position. American and European liberals hyperventalate at the thought of using air strikes or any sort of military force. Russia and China have "ruled out" sanctions. Given that negotiations without either sanctions or the threat of military force are useless, our current approach is unlikely to succeed.

What To Do

Here, point-by-point, is what I think we ought to do about Iran

Regime Change must be our number one priority It is impossible to know exactly what we are currently doing in this regard, but one suspects we are not putting nearly enough effort into this effort.

Regime change is easy to say, hard to do, and as we've seen in Iraq, it is very difficult to control what happens after the existing regime is gone. The big questions are these: Are the Iranians developing nuclear weapons, and is this acceptable. The answer to the first is clearly yes, and the second to me, no. I outlined what I thought would likely happen if Iran gets nuclear weapons here, and none of my scenarios were pleasant. Therefore, it is worth the risk.

Some steps we ought to be taking to change the government in Iran are:

Exposure - That the government of Iran oppresses it's people is not news to informed people. However, unless you seek out this information you will not know the details. Most people don't read blogs and human rights reports. They read their newspaper and watch the news on TV. It is critical that our government put forth maximum effort to publicize human rights abuses in Iran. Cabinet-level officials and the president himself must include Iranian human rights abuses in their speeches. Government reports detailing abuses should be distributed at all press conferences. And so on down the line.

We did this with the Soviet Union and apartheit South Africa, and it worked. It is a measure of how much progress was made in the 19tha nd 20th centuries that most dictatorships today seek to hide their abuses. Even the Nazis, it will be recalled, felt obliged to hide their "final solution".

Public Disorder - Encouraging, forment, and fund public protests and demonstrations against the government. This should go father than just people running around carrying signs. We should infiltrate a labor union and encourage strikes and work stoppages.

Encourage Democratic Elements - Fund and train those anti-regime parties and organizations who themselves are reasonabley pro-democracy and pro-secular. We must avoid working with communist, criminal, terrorist, or extremist religious groups.

During the 1980s Western governemts and organizations such as labor unions funded and supplied the Polish Solidarity movement. If we are not doing this in Iran now, we should be

Recruitment of Assets - Use covert operations to identify and recruit anti-regime government people, including those in the military. If it looks like we can stage a coup, it will be necessary to have people already in positions of power.

Start an Insurgency - This could be done along the "contra" model; recruit, fund, and train anti-regime guerilla forces. This worked against the Sandanistas in the 1980s, and it might work again against Iran. We would be essentially starting an insurgency against Iran. It is risky, as we might find ourselves supporting unsavory characters if we are not careful. But it would have the additional belefit of diverting Iranian attention from Iraq and "giving them a taste of their own medicine". It runs the risk of backfiring, but I think that taking down parts of Teheran's power grid, for example, would cause the Iranian government to have to divert a serious amount of resources.

Flood Them With Propaganda - Again, one suspects that the US government is not doing hearly enough in this regard. We are currently broadcasting Voice of America radio and TV into Iran, which is fine as far as it goes. But we must use our imagination, for example by conducting campaigns whereby we temporarily flood their airwaves with radio broadcasts on all channels. During the run-up to the war in Iraq we got the cell phone numbers of Iraqi government and military officials, and made numerout phone calls to them. If nothing else, this woulde serve to demoralize them as it would show that we "have their number."

Military Pressure - There is much we can do militarily short of all-out air strikes. Coupled with the above measures, we might even seek to repeat Operation Praying Mantis, where in 1988 we got into a shooting match with the Iranian Navy, sinking a frigate, a smaller ship, and six speedboats, as well as damaging several more against no losses for us. Praying Mantis was retaliation for Iranian mining operations in the Gulf which damaged a US warship.

As the Iranians may not make the mistake of laying mines along likely paths of US warships again, such a direct opportunity may not arise. However, if we adopt the actions I specify above, they will retaliate somewhere somehow. As I mention below, they might even try and sabatoge tankers in the gulf. When they do, this will be our pretext for destroying some of their naval assets.

The Iranian Response

They're not going to sit there and take this. They will strike back. As Clausewitz said, "the enemy is an animate object that reacts". We can expect direct terrorist attacks to attempts to subvert our financial markets. They will step up support of the insurgent terrorists in Iran. They might even try and sabatoge tanker shipments in the gulf through mining operations much like they did during the Iran-Iraq war. And they will try to carry out terrorist operations in the United States itself, if not directly then through proxies such as Hezbollah.

The Final Option

Massive, sustained air strikes are our final resort. If we must use them, we should realize that it will not be a quick one or two day operation. Iran has hidden it's assets well, and air strikes will require several weeks, and will undoubtably involve naval fighting as well. Tanker traffic will be shut down for a month or more, and oil prices will skyrocket.

But it all comes down to these questions:

1) Is Iran trying to obtain nuclear weapons?
2) Is it acceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons?

1) yes 2) no The reason is simple; at the worst they will actually use them against us or Israel, and at best will create an intolerable situation in the region. The authors of this Army War College Paper point out that Iran can do many nasty things once armed with nuclear weapons.

We must not let this happen. And to achieve that goal, we must not wait until the last minute. We need to put strong measures in place now.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 1, 2006

Here's What's Going to Happen with Iran

If present trends continue...

After some dithering, some sanctions are imposed. They consist of an embargo on #2 lead pencils. We really push Russia and China, and agree to add protractors and rulers to the list.

The Iranian rulers announce that the sanctions will have no effect on their nuclear program. Western leaders respond by saying that if Iran does not behave they will issue an even sterner warning.

In 2008 a Democrat is be elected to the White House. Tony Blair loses a confidence vote in the House of Commons and is replaced by a Labor Party leader who was known for his anti-George W Bush rhetoric.

The new American president announces a "grand bargain", which will be presented to Iran. She says that terms of the bargain are simple; if Iran agrees to give up their nuclear weapons program, we will shower them with all sorts of economic benefits, as well as diplomatic recognition.

The Iranian rulers pretend to be interested and will agree to talks. They also announce that regardless of what happens they will continue their nuclear program. Nevertheless, the American president agrees to talks, which drag on for months or years with no visible progress.

All the time the United States insists on getting UN Security Council approval for each step. While this strategy seems to give us the "worldwide unity" we seek, it also has the additional effect of making us beholden to the council, and gives it a certain legitimacy.

Eventually, even the Democrat US president tires of Iranian stalling, and asks the Security Council to rachet up the sanctions. Almost all countries on the council refuse to consider anything beyond adding ball point pens to the list of prohibited items.

Sometime towards the end of the decade, it becomes clear to American intelligence that Iran is close to building a nuclear bomb. The president makes some of the information public and asks for congressional approval. Congressional Democrats, in the majority of both houses, refuse. They publicly doubt the intelligence, with "remember Iraq" as their battle cry. Besides, they say, we need approval from the UN Security Council.

The American president considers consults with the permanent members of the Security Council. Every one says that they will veto an American proposal to use force against the Iranians.

Israeli intelligence sees the same thing that American intelligence does. The Israelis go to the Americans and say that they will strike if America does not. The American president not only refuses to strike Iran, but says tells Israel that if they do they will face serious consequences, up to and including a total cutoff of American aid.

At this point, three possible scenarios emerge

1) The Best Case

The American president assures Israel and the world that we have received "assurances" that Iran will not use it's nuclear weapons offensively. Faced with a cutoff of aid, Israel backs down and decides not to act.

Iran conducts a nuclear test. The Muslim world goes wild with approval.

However, Iran does not use it's weapons. Perhaps Ahmadinejad is no longer in power, the mullahs restrain him, or the prospect of a nuclear retaliatory strike by Israel gives them pause. Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia announce that to assure their security, they have started their own nuclear bomb programs. Other countries in the region hurry to ally themselves with someone who has or will soon have nuclear weapons and shows the desire to protect them. None approach the United States.

2) The Middle Case

Iran obtains nuclear weapons, and gives one to a terrorist organization. Because Israeli security is now unbelieveably tight, the terrorists are only able to sneak it up to the border. They detonate it there, which kills several tens of thousands of Arabs and Israelis (a ground blast being much less effective than an air burst). Muslims the world round go wild with joy, and excuse the death of so many fellow Muslims by saying that they are martyrs who are now assured a place in paradise.

World leaders, including the American president, urge Israel to "show restraint".

Because "only" one bomb is used, and they are facing so much pressure from the "world community" to "show restraint", Israel's response is limited to a retaliatory nuclear strike of a single nuclear weapon against iran, coupled with conventional attacks by its F-15s and F-16s. The Middle East goes nuts and everyone except for a few American conservatives (and 2 Belgiuns) blame Israel for it's "disproportionate response".

3) The Worst Case

As with the middle case scenario, this may develop in one of two ways. However, in the end the result will be the same.

The first way this begins is with a conventional Israeli strike, designed to take out Iran's nuclear facilities. Because Israel does not have the detailed intelligence that American assets can provide (the American president having refused to share), and because they do not have the quantity or quality of weapons that the Americans have, they are unable to signifiantly delay the Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons. After one or two strikes international pressure is such that Israel backs down.

The second possibility is that Israel does not strike at all, and in a moment of weakness accepts assurances from the American president that she has received assurances from Iran that despite what they say publically every other day they will not actually use them. Assurances are everywhere.

Either way, Iran obtains nuclear weapons and begins to build up an arsenal. Because they have secretely obtained technical information from North Korea and Pakistan(the latter through scientists working independently from the government), they are able to mount a few on top of missiles.

Out of the blue Iran strikes Israel with over a dozen Shahab-4 missiles armed with nuclear weapons. Israel, on the alert, launches its Arrow II anti-missile missiles. Most incoming Shahabs are destroyed, but a few get through. Because Iran has targeted Israeli cities, losses are high, with three million Israelis become casualties almost instantly. Israel retaliates with nuclear armed Jericho 2 missiles, F-15s, as well as Popeye Turbo missiles fired from Dolphin-class submarines prepositioned in the Persian Gulf. Israel concentrates it's attacks on military targets, since it fears more attacks from Iran. Being a small country, Israel cannot absorb many blows, and 40% of it's population is already either dead or seriously injured. The Middle East goes nuts and everyone around the world except for a few American conservatives (and 2 Belgians) blame Israel.

In retirement at his ranch in Texas, George W Bush mutters that he wishes he'd struck Iran when he had the chance. A few American conservatives (and 2 Belgians) agree.

Posted by Tom at 8:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 19, 2006

Super Tuesday?

Let's hope this coming Tuesday, August 22, passes with little news, but I and many others believe that someting big may be in the offing. Bernard Lewis, professor emeritus at Princeton and Middle East scholar, tells us why in a piece that was published last week in the Wall Street Journal

This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to "the farthest mosque," usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (c.f., Koran XVII.1). This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind.

Most elites in the West, and indeed most Westerners, I think, have trouble accepting the idea that a national leader would use a religous event to provoke a cataclysmic event. It seems like something out of the Middle Ages.

But the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is no ordinary fellow. He takes his religion seriously. Very seriously.

David Pryce-Jones, in the May 8 2006 print edition of National Review (digital subsctiption required), quotes Ahmadinejad on the purpose of his government, and provides an, er, illuminating detail.

“Our revolution’s main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam, the Mahdi.” In the middle of the 10th century, this imam went into hiding, supposedly in a well in Jamkaran, south of Tehran, but it is an article of Shiite faith that he will return and herald the End of Days. Ahmadinejad and his cabinet signed a petition to the hidden imam, proceeded to Jamkaran, and threw it down the well for his attention

"He did what?" I said to myself the first time I read that. It's the type of thing that must be read a few times before the significance sinks in. And then you realize; there are people who actually think we can negotiate this man out of obtaining nuclear weapons. I don't think so.

Just for the record, yes I know that Christian pastors will talk about end times, and will even say "the end is near." I know because I hear this on Sundays. The difference is that the pastors say this because they're trying to get people to change their ways before it's too late, and they don't tell the parishoners to go quit their jobs and sit at home to await the rapture.

Now read what Pryce-Jones tells us about a speach he gave at the UN:

Similarly unself-conscious, he claimed that while speaking at the United Nations “I became surrounded by a green light,” so that for 27 to 28 minutes all the attentive listeners did not blink — the chronological exactitude is a touch a thriller writer might envy. And he closed that speech by urging God to “hasten the emergence of Your last repository, the Promised One, that perfect and pure human being, the one who will fill the world with justice and peace.”

The color green, if you didn't know, is the color of Islam.

Further, all this is not just theological musing by Ahmadinejad. According to Joel Rosenberg in an article at NRO,

Ahmadinejad is telling colleagues in Tehran that he believes the end of the world is rapidly approaching. He also believes that the way to hasten the coming of the Islamic Messiah known as the “Hidden Imam” or the “Mahdi” is to launch a catastrophic global jihad, first against Israel (the “little Satan”) and then against the U.S. (the “Great Satan”).

Now do you understand why Bernard Lewis isn't crazy when he told us we better pay attention on Tuesday August 22?

What Might Happen?

One thing that might not happen is that 10 airliners dont' get blown out of the sky. Some commentators, such as Michael Ledeen, think that the airline plot was supposed to happen on August 22. Of course, it might still. The one thing about playing defense is that you never know if you've stopped all of the plots. I just hope that security people take extra precautions next week.

Iran has said that they will respond to our demand that they cease production of nuclear fuel on Tuesday August 22. So on the "lite" end of the spectrum, maybe they're just going to tell us to bugger off that day.

The other end of possibilites, the "heavy" end, looks much more dire. While it is unlikely that Iran has nuclear weapons, North Korea almost certainly does. While there is no formal alliance between them, the two countries are united in their hatred of the West in general and the United States in particular. We would be foolish to discount the possibility of cooperation. It is rumored that a North Korea nuclear test could be very near, perhaps imminent. Steve Schippert of ThreatsWatch speculates that a strong possibility therefore, is that the DPRK lites one off on Tuesday.

Iran, for it's part, has just started major military maneuvers. Schippert takes all of this into account and throws out one possibility

One speculation – taking the events and forcing them into the same context – would interpret the Iranian exercises as an actual perimeter defense deployment ahead of events known by Iran and expected to be perceived as provocative. That event could potentially be an Iranian rejection of the nuclear proposal simultaneous with a nuclear demonstration by their chief technology proliferation partner, North Korea.

The two countries might even announce some sort of formal alliance, or defensive treaty. We would do well to remember that the Tripartite Pact ("Axis Pact") between Germany, Japan, and Italy, was defensive in nature, only obligating the powers to come to each other's aid if they were attacked by an outside power.

So I don't know about you, but I'm going to pay extra close attention to the news this Tuesday. And I'm not flying anywhere.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 5, 2006

The Question of War with Iran

With the Bush Administration's recent offer to negotiate directly with Iran, the question of military force is once again in the news. And once again some people do not seem to understand the issues at stake.

From today's Washington Times

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the U.S. diplomatic offer to Iran "a very positive step."

Asked what would happen if Iran rejects the offer, Mr. Biden, said, "I think at a minimum, it will keep the world united and move toward a Security Council resolution that maybe holds everybody together and adds additional sanctions from other countries. That may have an impact."

Mr. Biden said he thinks war with Iran would be a mistake. "The one way to unite the 71 million Iranians with a government they do not like would be to attack them."

What is the problem here?

As I wrote in The Big Question with Regard to Iran, " Is it acceptable for us to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons?" It's not an idle question, because as Senator Biden indicates, "all hell is going to break lose in the world, and especially in the Middle East, if we have to bomb Iran".

The answer to the question depends on what you think the Iranian regime will do when or if they acquire nuclear weapons. If, like me, you think they'll use them to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, then the answer to the question is an emphatic "no".

No serious person is saying that we should attack Iran now. By the same token, no serious person should say that we should take the military option off the table.

Senator Biden is generally a serious person on foreign affairs, and is a Democrat worth listening to. His press release on our overture to Iran is worh reading. He's no wild-eyed peacenik, and does not have a habit of making completely irresponsible statements such as those we hear regularly from the likes of Rep John Murtha.

So what is Senator Biden saying? We do not have his full remarks, so it's hard to say. If he is saying that we should not ever attack Iran because it would "unite the 71 million Iranians with a government they do not like", then my question to him would be:

"If Iran secretly acquires nuclear weapons, and uses them to attack Israel, will you still be happy that we hadn't attacked Iran and united those 71 million people?"

Because that's what it comes down to. There are a hundred reasons why we shouldn't attack Iran now. But if we cannot stop Iran diplomatically, there will come a point where we cannot be sure if Iran does or does not have nuclear weapons. In other words, we know they do not have them today, but as time goes on our level of certainty will decrease. There will come a point, like that with North Korea, where we simply will not be sure.

Further, we should remember that the history of our predictions as to when a nation is on the brink of acquiring nuclear weapons is not a good one. We were taken by surprise when the Soviet Union tested their first weapon in 1949, China in 1965, India in 1976, and probably Pakistan in 1998.

To simply say "we should not attack Iran" is too vague to be useful. To take the military option off the table entirely would be to give Iran the green light to develop nuclear weapons. We should not use it now, but should hold it in reserve for that time when our level of uncertainty rises to an unacceptable level. Because all of the objections to attacking Iran will be nothing in the face of 7 million dead Israelies.

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April 27, 2006

Some People Still Don't Get It

Chinese President Hu Jintao refuses to back santions against Iran for continuing to develop nuclear weapons and ignoring international pressure to stop.

Big surprise.

China's foreign policy is to distract the United States from it's objective of taking back Taiwan. During the 1990s it used the threat of North Korean nuclear weapons to do this. China could have easily pressured the Koreans into halting it's program, but did not do so. China probably doesn't want to see North Korea obtain nukes, but it doesn't want to end their program, either. They are playing a double game, the objective of which is to distract the United States.

China is doing the same with regard to Iran. Now that Iran is in the news front and center, they see this as a means of distracting the West. As such, they are not going to take any action that might actually convince the Iranians to end their nuclear program.

Some in Congress Get It

Fortunately, this is one area in which our Congress actually gets it right

The House yesterday overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan bill that toughens sanctions against Iran until the country dismantles its nuclear programs, with supporters saying the move is a "key component of our war on terror."

Lawmakers voted 397-21 for the Iran Freedom Support Act, created "to hold the current regime in Iran accountable for its threatening behavior and to support a transition to democracy in Iran."

The bill sends the message "the United States expects Iran to be a responsible member of the international community," said House Majority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

So far so good.

Unfortunately, Some People Still Don't Get It

There was opposition to the bill, and it came from both sides of the isle

Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, said the measure reminds him of a 1998 congressional resolution that called for regime change in Iraq, which he thinks was the first step to the "very unpopular, expensive" Iraq war.

The Civil War was unpopular among many people in the North, and it too was expensive. Only 1/3 of Colonists supported independence, 1/3 were loyal to the crown, and 1/3 didn't care. Until Dec 7 1941 the vast majority of Americans wanted nothing to do with the war in Europe, and didn't want to give any aid whatsoever to Britain. But sometimes you do what you have to do. It's called leadership, Representative Paul.

Further, he is saying that he though that the 1998 resolution was all feel-good words but heaven forbid we actually take it literally. Sorry, Rep, but there's a new sheriff in town and he means what he says.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Democrat, noted all lawmakers "hate this regime," but he favors "strong, smart, constructive, diplomatic efforts" -- characteristics that he says are not present in the bill. "I am very worried about where this all ends," he said.

Heaven help us if this guy gets any real power.

Rep. Eric Cantor, who is Jewish, said Congress must take such threats seriously. "This bill should be the first step and not the last," the Virginia Republican said.

That's what opponents fear.

Fear what?

"It is bad for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, but there are things that are worse," such as giving the country a reason to use one, said Rep. Jim Leach, Iowa Republican.

What the...? Does this Leach guy not read the papers? The president of Iran, "Mad Mahmoud" Ahmadinejad, says every week that he'll blow Israel off the face of the earth as soon as he nuclear weapons.

Oh but it gets better

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich said the Bush administration has "made a mess of international relations," with the war in Iraq.

"Don't we have enough problems in Iraq to clean up before setting the stage for another conflict with Iran?" the Ohio Democrat asked.

I see. And by this logic we shouldn't have done anything about Hitler because we had our hands full in the Pacific with the Japanese.

Morons and idiots. What will their excuse be if Iran does nuke Israel and kills millions of Jews?

Did you notice that about half of these fools were Republicans?

Tell me again why I should work to make sure the GOP keeps control of Congress.

Posted by Tom at 9:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 21, 2006

The Big Question with Regard to Iran

It seems that every week the president of Iran threatens to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. Here's one from last week

The president of Iran again lashed out at Israel on Friday and said it was "heading toward annihilation," just days after Tehran raised fears about its nuclear activities by saying it successfully enriched uranium for the first time.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel a "permanent threat" to the Middle East that will "soon" be liberated. He also appeared to again question whether the Holocaust really happened.

"Like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation," Ahmadinejad said at the opening of a conference in support of the Palestinians. "The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm."
...

The land of Palestine, he said, referring to the British mandated territory that includes all of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, "will be freed soon."

What a guy.

Does he mean it? I'm sure he does. Will the other mullahs let him destroy Israel if or when Iran acquires nuclear weapons? Maybe, but maybe not. Either way, it doesn't really matter, becauase the government of Israel has said many times that it is simply unacceptable for them to allow Iran to have the bomb. The clear implication is that Israel will strike with nuclear weapons first if it becomes known that Iran is so armed.

The question for us, then, is this: Is it acceptable for us to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons?

Before you quickly answer "no", let's consider the implications of that answer.

Here is my point: All hell is going to break lose in the world, and especially in the Middle East, if we have to bomb Iran.

Reuel Marc Gerecht has a very useful article in The Weekly Standard in which he reviews the arguments against bombing

* "If we bomb, we will kill off the internal Iranian opposition"
- Pretty weak, he says. The chances of a popular uprising overthrowing the regime is pretty small anyway.

* "If we bomb, the Iranians will rise in righteous indignation and a new generation of anti-American Shiite holy warriors will be produced (as if the Sunni terrorists weren't bad enough)."
- Some will, but it's more complicated than that, Gerecht says. Some or many will eventually turn against the regime. Further, we've heard so often that the "Arab/Muslim street" was about to rise up that it's all a case of the boy who cried wolf.

* "If we bomb, the international community will go ballistic."
- Yes they will. And this would be a problem. But would it be any worse than what we endured at the outbreak of the invasion of Iraq? Further many of these same countries will privately congratulate us.

* If we bomb, the mullahs will hit us in Afghanistan and Iraq.

- The administration is afflicted with "Iraq fatigue", he says, which is real and serious. But untimately, this should not affect our decision. Besides, for them to do so would risk annihilaton themselves. They would have to come into the open to do much worse, and it is in this sphere where we hold all the advantages.

* If we bomb Iran's nuclear facilities, we cannot fully verify the damage we've done without a land invasion. And Iranian terrorist reprisals against our troops, if sustained and deadly, might force us to consider the unthinkable: a large-scale land invasion of the Islamic Republic.
- This, Gerecht, is the "most stultifying concern." Bombing Iran would not be a one-time affair, whereby we could sit back after a week or so and let things be. This is not Libya 1986. We would be at war with Iran.

"All of this is frightening. It reinforces the temptation to accept the status quo rather than going on the offensive. Inaction is the default position of "realists," which explains their staying power."

Gerecht is certainly right. If you want to be frightened even more, read James Fallows piece in The Atlantic Monthly, in which he outlines the dangers of air strikes in even more stark terms. But all of this simply brings us back to our central question

Is it acceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon?

Because if the answer is truely "no", then the consequences of our bombing them do not matter.

"He doesn't Mean It"

Get ready, because you're going to hear variants of the "he doesn't really mean it" line in the months and years to come. "He's only saying it for public consumption" and the like.

Well, maybe and maybe not. It's easy to say that when you're not Israel. If you were, you'd whistle a different toon.

Then there's that Hitler thing. Do we really have to go through the 1930s again?

Steyn At His Best

Mark Steyn was at his best the other day

If you think, for example, the European Union and others have been fairly craven over those Danish cartoons, imagine what they’d be like if a nuclear Tehran had demanded a formal apology, a suitable punishment for the newspaper, and blasphemy laws specifically outlawing representations of the Prophet. ...

Anyone who spends half an hour looking at Iranian foreign policy over the last 27 years sees five things:

1. contempt for the most basic international conventions;
2. long-reach extraterritoriality;
3. effective promotion of radical Pan-Islamism;
4. a willingness to go the extra mile for Jew-killing (unlike, say, Osama);
5. an all-but-total synchronization between rhetoric and action.
...

So the question is: Will they do it?

And the minute you have to ask, you know the answer.

Iran, Now

The editors of National Review urge the Bush Administration to end their lethargy and to take the following actions

There are three things we should begin doing now. First, supporting Iranian labor unions. The Iron Curtain would not have fallen without Lech Walesa and Solidarity, and unions could play a similar role in Iran....

Second, we should do everything we can to help Iranian student groups. Roughly 70 percent of Iran's population is under 30. These youths are the most pro-Western segment of Iranian society — and they happen to be mad as hell at Iran's rulers....

(Third), We should massively increase our pro-democracy broadcasts into Iran, both by funding U.S.-based Farsi satellite-TV networks and by exercising a modicum of intelligence in our Voice of America programming.

"None of this is guaranteed to spark a revolution, but it has better odds than doing nothing" they conclude. We must hit them with air strikes, they say, if nothing else works. "This is not a good option", but allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons "is incalculably worse."

The Wisdom of the Ages

Perhaps the great Southern General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson said it best

"Never take council of your fears"

The key word is not fear. More than most, Jackson knew the danger of war, both on the strategic and tactical levels. The key word is council. Air strikes would entail much danger. We must be realistic; all hell would break loose in the Middle East. Therefore, they should be our last option. But they must remain on the table, because to talk them off would be to take council of our fears.

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March 5, 2006

Toward the Brink

To the surprise of no one except maybe Jimmy Carter, the Iranians have spent much of the past two years tricking European negotiors into thinking that it had halted the processing of nuclear fuel while in reality they were busy installing equipment to do just that.

We know this because the Iranian in charge of talks with the Europeans said so. From today's Sunday Telegraph

In a speech to a closed meeting of leading Islamic clerics and academics, Hassan Rowhani, who headed talks with the so-called EU3 until last year, revealed how Teheran played for time and tried to dupe the West after its secret nuclear programme was uncovered by the Iranian opposition in 2002.

He boasted that while talks were taking place in Teheran, Iran was able to complete the installation of equipment for conversion of yellowcake - a key stage in the nuclear fuel process - at its Isfahan plant but at the same time convince European diplomats that nothing was afoot.

"From the outset, the Americans kept telling the Europeans, 'The Iranians are lying and deceiving you and they have not told you everything.' The Europeans used to respond, 'We trust them'," he said.

What makes this interesting is that the IAEA's (International Atomic Energey Agency) 35-member Board of Governors is going to take up Iran tomorrow at their meeting in Vienna. If they find that Iran has violated it's agreements, they will make a recommendation to the Security Council. Playing a dangerous game of brinksmanship, Iran has said that if this happens then they will start full-scale uranium enrichment.

As if they wouldn't do it anyway.

The Bottom Line

1) Unless there is a dramatic change somewhere, either in how we deal with Iran or a regime change(both unlikely), Iran will obtain nuclear weapons, probably this year. Sanctions are not going to work period.

2) Given that various leaders of Iran have stated that they will up and use these weapons against Israel, the latter has made it clear that they will not accept a nuclear Iran.

3) If it becomes known that Iran has a nuclear weapon, or is on the verge of obtaining one, Israel will present the US with an ultimatum; either you hit Iran or we will.

4) Given the uproar that would ensue after Israeli strikes, and the fact that they simply cannot do the job, the United States will have to act. This means a bombing campaign that will last at least a week or two.

We are moving towards the brink of war with Iran, and I am very pessimistic that it can be avoided. Regime change through an internal coup, while desireable and should be pursued, is a long shot. International sanctions and pressure will not change the Iranian leaders determination. Nuclear weapons in the hands of insane Iranian leaders is simply not acceptable.

We should not deceive ourselves into thinking that we can hit Iran without regional consequences, many of which will be unpleasant. If we thought the "cartoon intifada" riots were bad, get ready for worse. This is going to get ugly.

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