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When it comes to Iran possessing nuclear weapons, there appears to be general agreement on the right that the mad mullahs must be prevented from getting them at all costs. There is the recognition that Iran is being led by if not irrational, then certainly fanatical people who don’t see nuclear weapons as a deterrent but rather as a way to realize their stated goal of wiping Israel off the map. And there is also the fear that Iran wouldn’t hesitate to give weapons to one or more of the numerous terrorist groups that Tehran sponsors around the world. This would put the United States directly at risk for a nuclear strike, something policy makers have said is unacceptable.

But is all this true? And even if it is, should the United States seek to destroy or set back the Iranian nuclear program by taking military action against the Islamic state?

In answering those questions, we must also think the unthinkable; that the consequences involved with taking military action are so severe that it may be better to try and deal with a nuclear Iran rather than initiate actions that could lead to economic and strategic catastrophe for the United States.

The first question deals with the intent of the Iranian government. Clearly, President Ahmadinejad was chosen to lead Iran at this juncture by his mentor Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei not in spite of his radicalism but because of it. Ahmadinejad’s engineered victory at the polls last June must be seen in the context of a belief by Iranian leaders that the time is ripe for a showdown with Israel and the west and that having a true believer at the helm like Ahmadinejad serves the purpose of rallying the still large numbers of Iranians who believe fervently in the Islamic revolution. With the United States military heavily engaged in Iraq, Israel increasingly isolated internationally, and Europe sinking into a cynicism and defeatism about defending itself, the theocrats in Iran seem to have carefully analyzed the strategic situation and come to the conclusion that they have an approximately 2 year window in which to realize their nuclear ambitions.

After two years, the chances are that more vigorous leadership will take over in Europe as the right is making something of a comeback in response to deteriorating economic conditions as well as a realization that Muslim immigration is tearing at the fabric of European societies. And in two years, there is the probability that the American military will largely be freed of its obligations in Iraq as the new government should be far enough along in being able to handle their own security that our troops should be able to stand down. Also, if the peace process continues apace in Israel, there is a good chance that the Jewish state will become less isolated especially with the prospect of rapprochement with less antagonistic governments in Europe.

Clearly the intent of the Iranian government is to force the issue now while they believe they hold the upper hand. In this respect, they may be correct. For the foreseeable future, there simply is no way to thwart Iranian nuclear designs short of invasion and regime change. Even the kind of sustained bombing campaign military analysts say would be necessary – one that lasts weeks and targets perhaps hundreds of Iranian sites – would only set back the Iranian nuclear program not destroy it.

Then there would be the Iranian reaction to deal with. You can be sure that the mullahs will not sit back and fail to respond to such a massive military intervention, even if we are able to build a coalition of Europeans and Arab states to help take part in the operation. Some of the options open to the mullahs are downright frightening:

  • Attacking ships moving through the narrow Straits of Hormuz, a choke point where 20% of the world’s oil flows daily.
  • Blockading the straits by either using their increasingly capable navy or simply sinking several vessels at a strategic point that would block traffic.
  • Launching a counterstrike against American positions in Iraq with hundreds of short and medium range missiles.
  • Imposing an oil embargo on any nation that participates in an attack.

While it is true we have lessened our own dependence on Middle Eastern oil over the last quarter of a century, that fact wouldn’t stop the speculators from driving the price of oil over $100 per barrel or higher. I daresay if you were to talk to an independent trucker in the United States (and they are responsible for moving more than 70% of the food that ends up in grocery stores) they would tell you that with diesel at more than $7 a gallon they would be unable to stay in business. This fact alone would be bad enough. But the consequences of such a catastrophic rise in the price of oil would be felt in all sectors of the economy. Hardest hit would be the industrial sector where plastic, petrochemical, and other oil sensitive industries would be devastated. The chances are good that hundreds of thousands of people would be thrown out of work with the effects of such a catastrophe rippling through the service sector of the economy causing even more unemployment. Travel and tourism would also be hit hard with the already shaky airline industry probably facing either massive government bailouts or outright nationalization in order to keep them flying.

Other less serious consequences of a strike against Iran would be in undermining our alliances in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia and Egypt as well as complicating the domestic political situation in Iraq. There would be a backlash by Iraqi Shi’ites against any attack against the Shi’ite regime in Iran with the frightening possibility of some of the more radical militias going to open warfare against American troops. That scenario, although not likely, is still a real possibility and one that may mitigate against attacking Iran altogether.

The Iranians are not unaware of these scenarios which is one reason they are gambling that the west will bluster and talk tough while in the end, acquiesce to the Islamic state becoming a nuclear power.

Must this be the end result? Shouldn’t we ignore the consequences outlined above and bomb anyway?

We may end up doing just that. But when military action fails to achieve even the modest objectives we set out to accomplish – significantly delaying the Iranian bomb program – while causing very serious economic and strategic problems for the west, what is the point in attacking in the first place?

This monograph published by the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) should be read by all if only because it so thoroughly examines the situation in Iran from both a diplomatic and military point of view. Richard Fernandez comments on the findings of the SSI study while reminding us of the political problems in the west that make any kind of military action against the mullahs problematic:

An earlier post argued that only a regime change could keep Tehran from getting a nuclear weapon. Since the US Army War College paper cannot envision that happening in the short term, what we are left with then, is a new Cold War with an ideology as strong—and probably much stronger than—Marxism in its prime. It’s hard to remember, now that the Berlin wall is a relic whose fragments have literally been sold for souvenirs, how perilous a time the Cold War was. It took more than 100,000 American lives on the battlefields of Korea and Vietnam. On at least once occasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the US and the Soviet Union came close to the nuclear brink. The difference between the Cold War and the new prospective struggle is that the former was between nations while the latter is between nations and secret societies bound together only by a common hatred.

Diplomats and statesmen since the Treaty of Westphalia had grown accustomed to seeing nothing smaller than nation-states. This conceptual blindness prevented foreign ministries, academics or the United Nations—the very name a testament to the limits of its sensibility—from understanding that sub-national units under the banner of a world religion could arise to challenge the established international order.


...[T]he Western intellectual elite watched the growing number of Wahabist mosques, the photography of landmarks, the application for flying lessons and the attendance at courses of nuclear physics by students from older worlds. They laughed, for nothing could threaten the dominion of Western Man, supreme in his socialized state at the End of History. Even after September 11 the only question for many was how soon history would return to normal after a temporary inconvenience. Little did they imagine that the expansion of the European Union, the Kyoto Agreements and Reproductive Rights—all the preoccupations of their unshakable world—might be the least of humanity’s concerns in the coming years.

The Bush Administration has failed to do the kind of heavy lifting necessary to build up the various Iranian dissident groups and help them coalesce into a united opposition over the past 5 years. We are now paying for this shortsightedness by not having any viable non-military options when it comes to thwarting the designs of the mullahs to become a nuclear power. Yes, we may hit enough of the Iranian nuclear sites, causing damage that would result in setting back their bomb making program temporarily. But at what cost to ourselves and our allies?

If Iran is going to get nuclear weapons despite anything we do short of invasion, regime change, and occupation, then wouldn’t be better to contain their ambitions to become a dominant regional power? The SSI study outlines several approaches we can take to deal with a nuclear Iran:

  • Engage in traditional deterrent strategies such as making it clear to Tehran that the use or threatening the use of nuclear weapons has reciprocal disadvantages to the regime.
  • Allow the development of nuclear weapons by states threatened by Iran such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
  • Employ a regional military strategy against the regime by building credible alliances.
  • Work with dissident groups to create an armed, united opposition that could affect regime change.

From my own point of view, there are a couple of troubling aspects to this strategy, not the least of which is the assumption that the Iranians are sane and would respond to our deterrence in more or less a rational manner.

One author of the study, Michael Eisenstadt (“Deter and Contain, pg. 225), goes so far as to say that the bloodcurdling language used by the mullahs is for all intents and purposes for domestic consumption and that when it comes to the language of deterrence, the Iranians sound rational:

The perception, however, of Iran as an irrational, undeterrable state with a high pain threshold is both anachronistic and wrong. Within the context of a relatively activist foreign policy, Iranian decision makers have generally sought to minimize risk by shunning direct confrontation and by acting through surrogates (such as the Lebanese Hizballah) or by means of stealth (Iranian small boat and mine operations against shipping in the Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War) in order to preserve deniability and create ambiguity about their intentions. Such behavior is evidence of an ability to engage in rational calculation and to accurately assess power relationships.

One might add, “you hope.” This piece was written before President Ahmadinjad ascended to power which may or may not have changed Mr. Eisenstadt’s tune.

Despite this, I still think military action against the Iranians may be necessary – but only if we get a clearer picture of the consequences of such actions. How much support would we have from the world? From other oil producing states? From our allies? What would Russia and China do? Would Arab governments support us?

All of these questions can be answered and work in our favor only through careful and patient diplomacy. From my point of view, military action wouldn’t make sense unless it improved the situation. If it can’t do that, then it would only highlight our impotence when Iran eventually got the bomb. And that could be just as dangerous as anything we can imagine the mad mullahs doing to us.

By: Rick Moran at 9:49 am
  1. 1
    Tom Holsinger Said:
    1:19 pm 

    Vonsider that you may have only looked at the surface consequences of Iran’s mullahs openly having nukes. It’s not just them. Everyone else will want nukes, and get them. May will need their own nukes at that point.

    Consider the consequences of widespread nuclear proliferation. My editorial on the subject at Winds of Change today says of those:

    “If the United States does not forcibly prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons, every country in the area will know to a moral certainty that they cannot rely on the United States for protection against Iranian nuclear attack, or Iranian nuclear blackmail in support of domestic opposition to the generally shaky regimes of the Middle East. American prestige and influence there will collapse. If we won’t protect ourselves by pre-emption, we can’t be relied on to protect anyone else.

    So every country within reach of Iranian nuclear weapons will have enormous strategic pressure to develop their own nuclear weapons to deter Iranian nuclear threats. As a recent strategic survey noted, Syria has many times the per capita and absolute GDP of North Korea, and Egypt several times the per capita and absolute GDP of Pakistan. If North Korea and Pakistan can develop nuclear weapons, so can Syria and Egypt, and also Saudi Arabia, all three of whose regimes are shaky. And they won’t be the only countries to develop nuclear weapons after Iran does – many more will join the nuclear “club” within a few years, some within months.

    All of those countries having nuclear weapons will create a security nightmare – at some point terrorists will be able to buy or steal some (assuming that Iran doesn’t first give a few to favored terrorist groups). It is likely that at least some will use their nuclear weapons on each other, or in a domestic coup or factional fight. The latter might first happen in Iran.

    Few have any idea of the degree to which international trade and prosperity relies on free movement of goods between countries. Container cargo is an ideal means of covertly transporting terrorist nuclear weapons. Once the first terrorist nuke is used, international trade will be enormously curtailed for at least several months for security reasons, and the entire world will suffer a simultaneous recession.

    It won’t stop there, though. These same security precautions, once implemented, will significantly impede future economic growth – a ballpark estimate of reducing worldwide growth by 20-30% is reasonable. Consider the worldwide and domestic effects over a twenty-year period of a one-quarter across the board reduction in economic growth.

    This will be just from security precautions against terrorist nukes –not physical destruction from such use nor, more importantly, the consequences of nuclear wars between or within third world states. Physical destruction from these will be bad enough, but that pales compared with the social and consequent economic effects – enormous tides of refugees, economic collapse and outright anarchy over wide areas.

    We cannot avoid that washing over us from abroad even if we manage to avoid terrorist nuclear attack at home, and we are unlikely to be so lucky. Scores if not hundreds of thousands of Americans will likely be killed, and many more injured, from terrorist nuclear devices used in America when so many politically unstable countries possess hundreds of the things.

    We better than most can economically afford the thoroughly intrusive security measures required to protect against terrorist nukes when the threat can come from anywhere, as opposed to Islamic extremists alone.

    But the price of domestic security, when foreign security fails due to a failure of leadership and will by President Bush, will be something much more precious – our freedom.

    Freedom everywhere will suffer due to those same security precautions. The greatest loss of freedom will come in those countries which are freest, i.e., especially America. Especially us.

    THIS is what is really at stake – the freedom which makes us Americans.”

  2. 2
    Jonathan Said:
    2:21 pm 

    An invasion would have a lot of bad consequences for America and the world, no doubt about it. But as Tom Holsinger notes, the consequences of not invading would be worse in the long term. If we do decide to invade, we must avoid half measures. Simply bombing a few installations would only slow Iran down while providing it with a casus belli and a thirst for revenge.

    This crisis is upon us not because of Iran’s nuclear capabilities but because of the perceived malign intent of its leaders. For years they’ve vowed to excise the “tumor” of Israel from the Middle East and have repeatedly talked about destroying “anglo-saxon civilization.” It may be all bluff and buster, but we have to assume that they mean what they say and act accordingly.

  3. 3
    s Said:
    2:52 pm 

    Absolutely amazing that H. Clinton can go on TV and claim that Bush outsourced our negotiations with the Mullahs! Isn’t that what the left has been advocating both pre and post 9/11. She sounds like Kerry in the past presidential debate when she advocates sanctions. Are we really to belive that stopping friendly soccer matches will turn the tide of centrifugal developments in Iran. It would be laughable if it weren’t so frightening. The only crisis right now seems to be one of confidence in Pennsylvania Avenue. Action in Iran is after-all a hobson’s choice. Recent precident (sigh!) suggests the White House will once again regain its rational footing. Arguing oil price spikes seems diversionary. The lesson from Ukraine should be that curtailing supply is beyond “our” control. Perhaps it is time for that sacrifice so many partisons have been preaching for the past few years!

  4. 4
    Brandon Said:
    4:18 pm 

    I think there are other options. Why must it be either a surgical strike on their nuclear facilities or a full invasion? I do not see us doing either. Instead, we could knock out the regime’s ability to govern with a massive airstrike targeting it’s CNC infastructure, communications, military installations, and try to eliminate as many of their SRBMs as we can (and hope our missile defenses can handle those that remain). The key would be suprise. No hint or warning. Of course, there would have to be some cooperation with dissident groups. A Desert Storm/Enduring Freedom hybrid. Operation Enduring Freedom v2.0

  5. 5
    Brad Brunfelt Said:
    4:44 pm 

    It is good to hear people here decrying the President. I believe that there has been a great deal of short term thinking on the issue of Iran. I believe that this president took the opportunity of 9/11 to invade Iraq based on the will of mulitnational corporations. To do so benefitted Haliburton, et al.

    The cost of this has been dear. We are now unable to effectively respond to the Iran situation. We simply do not have the resources to effectively threaten Iran with anything significant.

    I understand that some will say that Clinton saw the same threat and came to the same conclusion as Bush. But they were for the same reasons: What benefits Haliburton in terms of control of the oil situation – predictable oil supply – is good for politicians, and is generally thought to be good to an America that has not invested in alternative sources of energy.

    However, the Bush administration has now stretched our massive resources in the military thin by attacking what was effectively a non-threat and creating a threat in Iraq in a legitamate insurgency (Iraqi’s who don’t want the occupation) and in the foriegn fighters. Luckily(?), these two groups are now in conflict – and that may help. But do not expect that our troops will be able to really sustain another war. We already spend a massive amount of our federal budget on the military – and people back home are getting kicked of medicare. How long until public support completely erodes and we resort to protectionism?

    In addition, patience with the president is wearing thin. His style of leadership – no dissent allowed – alienates 49% of America. His arrogance and his secrecy, his openly defying the spirit of the law (if not indeed breaking the law) will not help to sell any effort to attack Iran. For many Americans (myself included), the President simply has no credibility, and his motives are somewhat suspect.

    For years, we have acted like an Empire. Iran is very very prudent to attack this issue in this way at this time. Our empire declared after 9/11 that we reserved the right to attack any nation we felt was a threat. Is this not tantamount to saying we will atttack Iran? We list them in the Axis of Evil. Is this not tantamount to saying that we plan on attacking Iran?

    If you were the leadership in Iran or North Korea, and you heard the message there – would you not too try to get a deterrent to invasion? It is clearly in their interest to declare the only sovereignity that matters: a nuclear deterrent. President Bush acted without UN agreement. And now, since we are acting unilaterally – we can do what we want: we need not ask anyone, really. So what is to stop us from attacking Iran. Look for a second at their point of view. Yes, yes, they are doing something we dont at all like (and believe me I don’t like it either – nukes are scary sh*t). But it is we who have set the conditions for them to worry about their safety – BEFORE they declared their nuclear ambitions.

    Our colllective shortsightedness about that doctrine and its consequences will be the undoing of the nonproliferation that has [somewhat] held in recent decades if we are not willing to change course.

    Maybe we can fight another war. Maybe. But clearly we would not have to be as concerned if we had not declared war on everyone at once. We can undo that doctrine, and should. God forbid that China and Russia agree it is a good doctrine and adopt it (watch out Taiwan!).

    Stupidy aside. We now need to act as a WORLD BODY. We cannot be the cowboy sheeeerif who boldy goes into the lawless town and shoots up the bad guys. We need to assure the Iranians that we will not attack them, that we will trade with them, give them parts for their airplanes, technology, and all the many things we have denied them over the years with in exchange for peace, security, assurances, and VERIFICATION that this situation has come to rest.

    But, unlike North Korea, where we promised them heating oil and didn’t deliver on our end (thus again killing our credibility) We ALSO need to deliver on our end of the bargain.

    Barging into Iran militarily will only give more fuel to anyone on the exdge of existance in those areas – those most vulnerable to extremism – to come and fight the Americans in yet another country as we attack the world in our welll laid out plan (speaking from the view of someone there, not me personally). In other words, it LOOKS like we are taking over the world. If we attack Iran without ALOT of world support – we are gonna be there for a very, very long time.

    I rather doubt that the people in this country are willing to support it. But I haven’t always been right either.

  6. 6
    Rick Moran Said:
    4:49 pm 


    Let me check here…wait a sec…


    You didn’t miss one single loony lefty fantasy about Iraq, Iran, N. Korea, or Bush.

    Congratulations…that’s a record.

  7. 7
    K Said:
    5:10 pm 

    We should face facts. Diplomacy utterly failed with North Korea and Iran. It failed with both India and Pakistan, both developed nuclear weapons.

    Japan, the US, and South Korea made deals supplying economic aid to North Korea through the 1990s. Clinton thought it was the way to go. It didn’t work.

    The EU and UN took the lead in negotiating with Iran in the last 3 years. While talks continued no sanctions were considered. The diplomats merely made it easier for Iran.

    Perhaps we should conclude that some nations decide to develop nuclear weapons and have realized diplomacy actually helps them do so.

    There are no good options now. It is best to beef up counter terrorist and intelligence services. That way we will at least know who/what to go after if a nuclear attack is made overtly or covertly.

  8. 8
    Michael L. Cook Said:
    4:07 am 

    Any real military action versus Iran will have to involve a coalition with substantial European nation involvement, even leadership. The reason is simple—the first use of an atomic WMD is much more likely to be someplace like Paris, London, Berlin, or Athens, then anyplace in the U.S. The U.S. will not act unilaterally on this unless some part of the U.S. military proposes a plan that is time-sensitive and might actually work. It is hard to imagine what such a plan would be.

  9. 9
    Brad Brunfelt Said:
    10:13 am 

    Thanks Rick for the insult [*wipes blood off nose*]. As generally a progressive thinker, I do tend to listen to the left more than less. But perhaps you could address my points:

    1) will the American Public support an attack on Iran?
    2) Can the American military support yet ANOTHER war. Please remember that we are supporting many military actions right now, including pakistan/Afghanistan and Iraq.
    3) Perhaps if you are daring, you might want to explain to the readers here how the First Strike policy is good, explain how it serves us, and tell us please how it is not dangerous precendent if China and Russia also adopt such a policy. Tell me why, If you were the leader of Iran or North Korea, you would not feel compelled to have a Nuke to protect your country considering that you have no conventional military might like America.
    4) Explain how we can do this without international support.
    5) If you really have the Sisu (courage), please explain how President Bush deserves all the power he is now claiming and whether we should grant anyone power over the constitution, even when our country is in an [undeclared] state of war.

    These are my main points. Please address these before just calling me a leftist communist looney who believes every damn thing I hear. Personal criticism helps nothing. The right has its merits, but so does the left. keep that in mind as you answer Rick.

    I rarely waste my time with conservatives, and posting on the Right Wing Nut House was a rare move to reach over my personal views to try and answer a tough question: that of Iran having a Nuke. The reason I rarely do – especially on Blogs – is exactly for the fear that some person will just say what you said – that I just follow the left. I do not. I have some valid thoughts and concerns. Perhaps you are strong enough and smart enough to have a valid conversation about it.

    If some progressive like me does not engage your conversation here then yall are talking to yourselves – much like the left does – and we all become victims of group think.

    Perhaps we can do better here on this self proclaimed right winger site.

  10. 10
    Rick Moran Said:
    10:27 am 


    1. By “attack” if you mean bombing, yes; invasion no.

    2. Again,if “war” means a sustained bombing campaign the answer is easily yes. If invasion, the answer is not without a lot of help from NATO and probably Egypt.

    3. Trying to excuse a nation headed up by someone like Ahmadinejad by trying to justify their building the bomb (and don’t deny it, that’s what you are saying when you write “compelled to have a Nuke to protect your country”) is despicable. WE ARE NOT THE BAD GUYS!

    As for China and Russia, China has already said they will invade Taiwan whenever they wish and Russia went into Chechnya without so much as a by your leave.

    4. Um…read the damn article again. I think I say three times we need help.

    5. President’s don’t “deserve” anything. To make such an argument is silly. President’s exercise power granted them by the Constitution. Some agree that the NSA intercept program falls under that rubric. Others don’t. The fact is no one knows a damn thing because details of this top secret program cannot be revealed. I do find it revealing that even the Democratic leadership who have been briefed on this program have not called for its ending.

    What does that tellya?

    6. I never called you a commie. But anyone who brings Haliburton into any discussion involving Bush, Cheney, or the American government is a conspiracy loon.

  11. 11
    Brad Brunfelt Said:
    10:36 am 

    K said
    “We should face facts. Diplomacy utterly failed with North Korea and Iran. It failed with both India and Pakistan, both developed nuclear weapons.”

    I don’t Disagree. I think there is a problem with the way we negotiate. I aslo agree that there are no really good options right now.

    Negotiating with anyone does not seem to be a really strong skill for this administration, either. I personally believe that this has been a result of America trying to get out of our treaty obligations and not living up to our agreements (example: North Korea oil – we stopped delivering).

    I think there is an arrogance in thought that says that we are the only world superpower, why do we need to answer to anyone? If it is not immediately self-serving, then pressure grows to simply not do it. Mix this with the fact that Money plays into it. We play games with lumber from cananda as part of the NAFTA agreement, playing every legal card we can to benefit who? The big corporations here in America. These people pay big money to congress to get them eleceted. This is one local example righ here in Minnesota. Another example – steel – we want to get the benefits of Nafta without the down side – that steel companies are going to be undercut by foreign steel in Russia and other countries where it is cheaper to produce it (because there are no regulations on the impact of such production, and where workers are in the equivalent of our industrial age protections for them)

    The net result of this is that America appears to not want to live up to our obligations. Both in trade and in foreign policy.

    I personally believe that the short term gains of those individual situations puts us at a drastic loss when negotiating with other countries.

    Our word is only as good as our lawyers make it, rather than in any way being true to the SPIRIT of our treaties.

    For years now we have been denying Iran airplane parts and other items that are really only available in America.

    That is a huge leverage point. And if we say we are going to deliver them as part of an agreement, then now (since the above is postulated), Iranians will want garauntees rather than promises.

    Given that – I still believe that with the First Strike doctrine it will be hard to negotiate. Its like negotiting with a guy with a gun. If we dont like it, we have the doctrine in place to just attack cause we think you are a threat. Who in their right mind would negotiate on such unequal terms?

    Better to have your own gun. In this case, that is a Nuke.

  12. 12
    Brad Brunfelt Said:
    11:34 am 

    Thanks for the reply Rick. that helped clarify.

    Some points:
    you said:
    3. Trying to excuse a nation headed up by someone like Ahmadinejad by trying to justify their building the bomb (and don’t deny it, that’s what you are saying when you write “compelled to have a Nuke to protect your country”) is despicable. WE ARE NOT THE BAD GUYS!

    If it is despicable, then we are despicable too, as is every other Nuclear nation, by logic. What we are talking about it Iran as a sovereign nation being able to be a nuclear power. We are one. China, Russia, and Europe all are nuclear powers. We in the US feel compelled to protect ourselves with nukes. Iran now feels the same way. What I am saying is that perhaps we are making them feel compelled to protect their county by the misguided first strike doctrine.

    In addition, I think that they feel compelled to protect themselves because of the Axis of Evil speech in which we essentially APPEAR (please note that word) to want to attack them because they are EVIL.

    I do NOT want Iran to have a nuke, nor in any way do I think that this is a necessary evil or any such thing. What I am saying is that our words issued by our president, and our doctrine of first strike issued by our president LAY THE GROUNDWORK FOR A WAR IN IRAN that predates any such nuclear activity. Our tough rhetoric and our doctrine of first strike are clearly a threat to Iran in their eyes. We have to address that. We cannot expect them not to feel threatened. We are, in doctrine and in rhetoric threatening them.

    I simply feel that it is a natural reaction to being threatened to protect yourself. Iran does not have a big military – so a nuke is the fastest and most effective way to quickly protect yourself. In our own logic – we call it a nuclear “deterrent”. And that it is. It is simply a way to protect yourself from attack.

    I dont want it, but I understand why THEY want it – because we are threatening them. We are not “bad” as it were, but that is the current status of things. And it is my postulation that this heavy-handedness will complicate any negotiations and lock us into a fight with them.

    BTW - my haliburton reference is not to implicate some conspiracy theory. It is to indicate that the politics of oil ALWAYS play. there is simply too much need in this country for oil to not assume that it informs all decisions. It has to.

    How many of us here – here of all places – have called their reps. about oil prices?

    Having a cheap source of oil is a national security issues ALL THE WAY. To deny that is to deny basic economics.

  13. 13
    Rick Moran Said:
    11:41 am 

    Where have you been since June. HAVE YOU LISTENED TO WHAT THAT LUNATIC IS SAYING?

    Russia, China, and every other nation who presently has nukes (NoKo may or may not) is led by rational, sane people.

    Someone who threatens not to have nukes to deter BUT TO ATTACK (“wipe Israel off the map”) is a danger to human civilization and must be taken down.

    There is no argument Iran also is the major funder and supplier of Hizballah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Th Muslim Brotherhood and a half dozen other terrorist groups who want to kill us. The fact that Ahamdinejad has hinted at making those weapons available to those groups puts him BEYOND THE PALE - he is in fact evil. And if you can’t recognize that – if you’re moral relativism has so blinded you to the threat, then there is nothing anyone can say to convince you it would be madness for the Iranians to have nuclear weapons.

    I would say that the odds of them using them without warning within 6 months of getting the bomb are 3-1…at least that’s the odds the bookies in England are giving.

  14. 14
    Andrew Said:
    2:35 pm 

    Let me add some insight and rationality to what has been said.

    Rick’s article makes a lot of good points. Too often right-wing figureheads spout off about taking out Iran’s program with nary a thought to the consequences. Your article is a good start.

    First off, attacking Iran is not a “military action,” it is an act of war. Too many throw that term around to disguise what we are really contemplating. Attacking Iran is very different that the invasion of Afghanistan (which was still in a state of civil war with an unrecognized Taliban government) or Iraq, in which we were already in a de-facto state of war (since they violated every article of the cease-fire they signed in 1991 and attempted for 12 years to shoot down our aircraft). Iran, like it or not, is a legitimate, recognized government. Attacking them, even in a limited strike, is an act of war, plain and simple. This is not Sudan, or Panama, or Grenada with a weak and easily toppled government that no one cares about. I cannot recall any instance where the USA has openly attack such a government in such a way. My point here is that this is not a simple “military action” but a massively significant act that has far-reaching and, ultimately, unknowable consequences.

    Secondly, we do not have the capability to “invade” Iran in the traditional sense. We could conceivably destroy their government and military forces by invading – at significant cost to us – but what then? Occupation of a country like Iran is impossible for our present force structure. We’d do nothing more than create a failed state and play right into the hands of Sunni wahhabists by crushing the bastion of shiism. An invasion itself is a much more difficult problem than either Iraq or Afghanistan. We have no proxy forces to assist us. The geography of Iran makes it a tough nut to crack. Iran’s standing Army is large and more capable than the hollow Iraqi army we faced. Some of their senior military leadership were trained by Americans. I can list more reasons, but I think it’s safe to say that an invasion is out of the question currently.

    Air and precision strikes on their nuclear facilities is definitely a doable option. Despite what most of the idiot commentators on TV say (who wouldn’t know a military strategic thought if it hit them in the face), our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t a significant hindrance to this kind of attack. Both those conflicts are ground anti-insurgency forces and make little use of strike aircraft and cruise missiles.

    Since it’s possible to conduct a limited strike, the quesion becomes one of targeting. How solid is our intelligence on where their facilities are? Can we achieve strategic and tactical surprise to prevent them from moving key equipment out of those facilities? We cannot eliminate the nuclear knowledge they have, so we have to try to destroy the equipment that makes a nuke possible. Even if we succeed, equipment can be remade and/or repurchased. Depending on how well we do (and judging that will be difficult), we will delay their program anywhere from a 2-15 years.

    Third is the Iranian populace. The general Iranian population is the most pro-western, pro-US muslim population in the world. You may remember the scores of Iranians who took to the streets for candle-light vigils following 9-11 and contrast that with what you saw in Eqypt, Gaza, or any other Muslim country. Attacking Iran would undoubtedly alienate one of the most positive aspects for us in that country.

    Fourth are the long-term consequences. These are impossible to determine, just as it was impossible for us to predict where we’d be in Iraq at this point.

    One thing is for certain – the Iranians would close the strait of Hormuz. They have been acquiring the tactics and weaponry to do this for over a decade. We would have to take out this capability in conjunction with strikes on their nuclear facilities. We would succeed in degrading their capability, but each and every ship transiting the straits would still need a military escort. The effect on world oil supplies is obvious and quite scary, but many of the supplies we use for our forces in Iraq come through the strait as well.

    We’d have to increase our presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan to guard against Iranian counterattacks on our forces there, as well as our many military installations scattered across the Gulf area. All are in range of Iranian aircraft or missiles.

    Beyond that, who knows what other measures the Iranians may take to retaliate?

    Finally, let’s look at history. Back when the Soviets stole our science and got the bomb a decade early, there was talk about us taking them and their program out. We and the world weren’t nearly as sensitive to the use of nuclear weapons as we are now. Nuking the Soviets was a considered possibility. Who can say how today’s world would be different if we had chosen to go to war against the Soviets when they were at the height of their power?

    This leads me into my solution, which is the path I think our government will eventually take. If political and economic sanctions and military threats fail, we should make it clear that it is US Policy that any use of a nuclear weapon by Iran anywhere in the world constitutes a nuclear attack by Iran on the United States.

    Many people say it’s “likely” that Iran will give a nuke to terrorists. I think this overstated. Iran would only consider this if they believe there was zero possibility the weapon could be traced to them. If the weapon is captured before detonation, they’d be found out immediately. Their nuclear scientists will know that attribution can be obtained through chemical analysis of fallout and nuclear debris if the weapon is detonated. It’s seems unlikely to me that Iran would risk the safety of its nation, and more importantly – its Islamic Revolution – by taking such a risk that would certainly lead to their own destruction. Giving a nuke to a terrorist, which takes it out of their control, also carries the risk it could be captured by a rival group and used against them or an ally. In my determination, Iran would probably not take that risk, despite the rhetoric we hear.

    This biggest problem with this course of action, in my view, is the pressure a nuclear Iran would have on neighbors to acquire their own weapons. In one sense, the pressure already exists due to Pakistan/India and North Korea. Iran wouldn’t likely announce they had a nuclear weapon in any event, since they spend so much time telling the world they don’t want one. In all likelihood, Iran would probably pursue a policy of either keeping the program totally secret, or adopting a policy of ambiquity similiar to Israel.

    So in the final analysis, I believe that attacking Iran has more drawbacks than benefits, especially if you factor in the unforseen consequences that always occur when undertaking such a course of action.

  15. 15
    Brad Brunfelt Said:
    2:49 pm 

    Indeed the Rhetoric on their side has stepped up a notch as well. It is a war of words on every side of the equation.

    I have said in several posts here that for Iran to have a nuke is a VERY BAD THING. But for us simply to say “it’s all their fault” or “they are EVIL” dismisses the fact that we have not and continue not to have any diplomatic options because of careless choices that we have made.

    Let me be clear – We need to prevent Iran from getting a Nuke. Period. End of story. OK?

    Now what? Do we bomb them to smithereens. Shit, while we are at it, why not initiate a first strike with a Nuke?

    Airstrikes kill lots of civilians. Of all the civillian casualties in Iraq, most are not by our soldiers, but by bombs. We would do well to remember that as we ponder our plan. We can not afford to carelessly attack without world support. I am hearing more of that. That is good.

    We would do well to let go of the first strike doctrine. It does no good but to make countries into opportunists when we are distracted.

    Threatening to wipe Israel off the map is old rhetoric, it is a mind set that many groups over there hold. It does not at all help.

    By the same turn, threatening to wipe out any government we want to because we feel they are a threat (at our sole discretion mind you) is relatively the same thing.

    They want to wipe Israel off the map, we want to wipe Iran off the map – isnt the concept about the same – even close?

    The Rhetoric is at a high level. We need to make it come down, and no friggin soccer match is going to accomplish that. We need a stellar diplomatic effort led by the united states state department (sidelined in recent years) to create conditions that will stop the development of nukes in Iran.

    Like North Korea, they need to be bought out. Only this time, perhaps we should pay the bill in good faith.

    One last thing. We always demand as a condition that X happen before we begin negotiations. In this case it will be that they abandon their nuke ambitions before we even talk. This sounds great for politicians, but never accomplishes anything. We both hold cards, better that everyone steps into the diplomatic ring to decide who will give up what.

    It is a better environment for everyone to negotiate.

    It doesnt sound tough, but it is a wiser choice.

    Clearly the Iranians want something. We can provide. We want something. They can comply.

    Negotiations really can be a simple matter with lots and lots of details.

  16. 16
    Rick Moran Said:
    3:28 pm 


    Your taking the NoKo line on the fuel oil deliveries is puzzling. Didn’t we stop deliveries AFTER they threw out the IAEA inspectors and “restarted” their nuke program?

    I use quotes around restarted because most experts say they were cheating all along. And this is why negotiations are not going to work.

    You need two people to negotiate in good faith. Both NoKo and Iran see negotiations as a stalling tactic and are not serious about reaching any agreement that would thwart their nuclear ambitions. The NoKo’s were processing uranium as early as 1998 according to the IAEA - this is while a couple of their sites were under surveillance.

    It doesn’t matter what agreement is reached with Iran. If Russia gets to enrich their uranium, all they have to do to complete the process of making bomb grade fissile material is to take U-238 and bombard it with neutrons which transforms it over time into plutonium. This can be done in any nuclear reactor but is best done in heavy water reactors. Iran has two of those and only one would be monitored by IAEA. The other is “military” reactor and would not be under IAEA jurisdiction.

    Mr. McNabb:

    You are correct in almost everything you said. I read a piece published in the Congressional record that estimated a successful invasion-occupation of Iran would take more than a 700,000 troops – which means we would need NATO and probably Egypt and the Gulf States to come along; admittedly impossible.

    As for Iran’s neighbors getting the bomb, we could hardly stop them after allowing Tehran to build theirs. Read that SSI study especially Part III that deals with the regional problems of a nuclear Iran.

    As for “an act of war”...That may have had meaning in a pre-nuke age but not now – except perhaps to the delicate sensibilities of some of our citizenry.
    Doing what needs to be done in spite of a hostile world should be a given. Nothing we can ever do – except give up our soveriegnty – will ever get the world to “like us.” We could pull back every US troop to our shores, dismantle our military, kowtow to the UN, kiss Chirac et al’s ass, and people would still hate us.

    That’s the price we pay for being the biggest kid on the block. And frankly, since the process of becoming popular again will not only compromise our security but also damage us economically as we allow the rest of the world to trample all over us (moreso than we do now) I frankly could care less that other countries would like to see us subsume our national interest in the name of comity.

    We’ll let the Democrats handle that when they get back in power.

  17. 17
    Brandon Said:
    5:10 pm 

    “Airstrikes kill lots of civilians. Of all the civillian casualties in Iraq, most are not by our soldiers, but by bombs.”

    Statements like this really get under my skin. I sometimes wonder if “progressives” have any idea how much time and effort goes into preventing civilian casulties. In any targeted airstrike we analysize the location of the target and its surroundings – then we look at the civilian concentration around the target at different times (8:00am,12:00pm,7:00pm, etc.) So, say the target is across the street from a mosque and a school – the school is populated from 8am to 5pm and the mosque is populated from 5am to 10pm – the school and the mosque are N and NW of the target, respectivly. We would program the missile to aproach the target from the S at high trajectory (to prevent shrapnel) – at 1am and choose the warhead size based on the distance between the target and the school mousque. Do you remember when we decided to take out the Information Ministry in Baghdad a few days into the campaign? That was a solid concrete warhead – no explosives – aimed at the satilite dishes on the top of the building – there were zero casulties and there was people in the building!

    An overwelming majority (at least 90%) of the civilian casulties in Iraq are not caused by Americans, period. They are caused by the insurgents (roadside IEDs) and the Jihadis (exicutions, suicide bombers, VBIED (vechicle borne improvised explosive device).

  18. 18
    Andrew Said:
    5:49 pm 


    The “act of war” was not a comment about sensibilities so much as a need to use language to express the gravity of that course of action. Too many so-called “hawks” I see in the media pass military action off as if it were an easy, simple matter. It also relates to international law, but I didn’t mention that because we should never let international law completely remove options from our table. However, we have no real legal right attack Iran because we think they’re building a bomb. That issue doesn’t bother me, but it comes into play when we have to deal with allies and other countries who do take international law as gospel.

    No we couldn’t stop Iran’s neighbors from getting the bomb – but nonproliferation has failed in the region and worldwide already. Unfortunately, what Iran wants to do – or rather, what they say they want to do – is completely legitimate under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Iran DOES have the right under that treaty to master the nuclear fuel cycle and enrich fuel for use in reactors. It’s the huge gaping flaw in that treaty. To be honest there are many countries in the world who have the technology to make a bomb in a matter of months. Their civilian programs provide all the necessary technology; all they would need is to enrich some uranium and get a viable bomb design. Anyway, I could go on and on about the NPT, but I think everyone agrees that it’s been a failure.

    As for the Russian offer to provide uranium for Iranian reactors – that is a viable solution, but one the Iranians have rejected. Russia, the US and other countries provide uranium for reactors in other countries, and there is very little danger of Iran recapturing the plutonium, or seeding the reactor with U-238. The spent fuel is analysed by the provider country and IAEA, compared with reactor logs, etc. Any such activity to get plutonium is easily detected. This is exactly why Iran has rejected this course of action. It would actually be much cheaper for them to get their fuel from Russia, as Russian has plenty and Iran wouldn’t have to worry about long-term storage and reprocessing of spent fuel. But again, Iran rejected that offer for obvious reasons.

    Finally, I must take issue with Brad about airstrikes and civilians getting killed. What you state is simply false. The vast majority of civilian deaths are due to ethnic, religious, or terrorist acts. Airstrikes that cause major civilian casualties are when a piece of ordnance goes awry or the wrong target is attacked. Also remember that this is an insurgent war. Can the family that feeds, shelters, and houses terrorists be called “civilian?” In insurgent warfare, the lines between who is a “civilian” and who is not isn’t easily defined (If you read about guerilla/insurgent organization, you’ll find that the lowest level, often called the “mass base” are often no more than “civilians” who are sympathizers who provide shelter and supplies, but don’t actively conduct attacks. Many of the “civilians” we’ve killed fall into this category)

    Case in point is the latest attack we conducted in Pakistan. While it’s very tragic that children were killed in those attacks, the parents of those children are to blame for inviting targets into their midst.

    More than ANY other country, we try our best to avoid killing the innocent. I have seen strikes called off and the enemy escape because we were unwilling to kill innocents. Our opponents are completely the opposite. They think nothing of killing 20 children if they can get one American. These are the same people who take over a school – attach explosives to children, and shoot them in the back when they run away. It still boggles my mind that any person has the mental incapacity to gun down a scared child.

    I’ve read some of the after-action reports from Falluja. Insurgents there kept some families from fleeing the city before the battle and used them as human shields. They’d tie them up on the ground floor and when our boys came in to clear the house they’d roll grenades down the stairwells or hold the kids in front of them while shooting at our guys. In many of those cases, we have no choice but to kill the civilians, but you need to bear in mind who is responsible for their deaths.

    I really get tired of people on the far left blasting the American military for civilian casualties while never mentioning the scores of civilians our enemies kill daily. It’s bad in this country, but even worse in Europe where our troops are often portrayed as reckless at best, and murderers at worst, while the insurgents are just “fighting the unjust occupation.” No fighting force in the world takes more measures to prevent civilian casualties than ours – why do you think the insurgents surround themselves with civilians and hide in mosques? Because they know we are hesitant to attack them there and kill those civilians. They know our ethical values and use them against us daily. Yet when a tragedy happens or a mistake is made in a confusing and violent situation, we are the ones to blame their deaths. Ok, rant over.

  19. 19
    Rick Moran Said:
    7:13 pm 

    The spent fuel is analysed by the provider country and IAEA, compared with reactor logs, etc. Any such activity to get plutonium is easily detected.

    This presupposes Iran would follow IAEA protocols although admittedly, it would be difficult to get around them. This however, is a paperwork matter and could be dragged out for months – such as Saddam did with the reactor at Al-Tuwaitha. UNSCOM was constantly having to cite the Iraqi’s for being behind in their reports regarding the 500 tons of yellowcake being stored there. What was probably bureaucratic incompetence was seen as a deliberate attempt to avoid their responsibilities.

    That said, since the Iranians have two heavy water “research” reactors – one of them as I said run by the military – there would be little to prevent them from playing a little switcheroo with the fuel rods. From what I understand, the Argentine’s tried something similar a few years ago and the only reason it was caught was due to a blabby employee.

    I will not be surprised if we do very little to stop the Iranians from getting the bomb. But I suspect that we will work very hard from here on out to bring down the regime and try and replace it with a more secular and hopefully democratic state. At this point, it’s just about all we can do.

    BTW - you should get your own site if you don’t have one already. You give great rants.

  20. 20
    K Said:
    10:59 pm 

    Brad. I really can’t understand your postion. Your reply to me agreed that diplomacy had failed. Yet you seem to think the solution is more.

    It didn’t fail with Iran because the US negotiated with them – the UN and EU asked to lead on that. And they got nowhere.

    Iran declared war upon the US when they took our embassy and held every American in the nation hostage. And you think we should send them aircraft parts for planes we sold before then? Iran never formally delivered their declaration of war and no substantial action ever followed.

    The Clinton administration made the nuclear deals with North Korea. They broke them and Clinton complained but did little. When it finally became clear from N. Korea’s own statements that they were not abiding by the agreements we finally stopped sending them aid. And you think that is why they behave as they do?

    Finally you seem to think that we should not follow the letter of trade agreements but the spirit so that other nations will be happy. That is total nonsense.

    Every other nation immediately runs to the arbitration board at the slightest chance of using legalities to help their trade. Are we to simply not show up and default?

    My point is that diplomacy and endless talk has actually made things much worse, not better. Shrewd nations are using it to stall and not meet treaty obligations. I don’t know what can improve things. But it will not be sending parts for warplanes to Iran or oil to North Korea.

    And it will not be telling our trading partners that they need not follow the parts of treaties they do not like.

  21. 21
    Brad Brunfelt Said:
    2:34 pm 

    There were a couple of points that were made that were good:

    1) Did North korea balk on the agreement or did we? I beleive that North Korea responded to our lack of delivery by raising the issue of Nukes again as this was their promised return for abandoning them the first time.

    2) Can we engage Iran at all diplomatically? I believe we have to. We cannot have a zero in the diplomacy column guys, CANNOT DO. I don’t know if that is the answer – diplomacy to solve this issue – but I do know that without us, europe is not in a position to deliver what Iran may want.

    The fact of the matter is that the Bush administration does NOT have a coherent strategy for diplomacy. He has the Houston Oilers “Run and Gun” philosophy. The state department has become a threat department.

    It may be that you folks were always right, and that military action is mostly preferred to dilpomacy. But I am simply stating that

    A) You must HAVE a diplomatic strategy
    B) Negotiations are give and take – strategically it is wise to negotiate in good faith. This is somewhat suspect I believe)
    C) The first strike doctrine works against A) and therefore is a BAD doctrine. Consistent with what I say about Bush is that he and cheney are BIG supporters of this doctrine. It is a fundamental issue I have with both of them

  22. 22
    Brad Brunfelt Said:
    2:48 pm 

    Brandon Said:
    “Airstrikes kill lots of civilians. Of all the civillian casualties in Iraq, most are not by our soldiers, but by bombs.”

    Statements like this really get under my skin. I sometimes wonder if “progressives” have any idea how much time and effort goes into preventing civilian casulties. In any targeted airstrike we analysize the location of the target and its surroundings – then…

    I do understand that Brandon. I have listened to some intelligence folk who made a big deal of that. Furthermore, I do believe them. I believe that there is a lot of effort put in there. But the simple fact of the matter is when the value of the target is high enough, the bombs fly. They have to. It makes sense. It is wise military strategy. One might argue that even if 16 innocents die as a result of this action, how many more will if we don’t – furthermore – how many of those will be American soldiers.

    My point in saying that was to:
    A) not subscribe to the thought that soldiers on the ground are making errors in the rules of engagement. There is no evidence that this is the case on any scale. Individual situations happen, but it is not the troops on the ground that make up the mass of civ. casualties. The majority of the civ. deaths are caused by bombs. They don’t get the benefit of a judgment call in that situation, are far more deadly, and if some teenagers are walking by at that moment, they are goners.

    I don’t even think of it as controversial to be honest, because that is the way people want to fight this war. You hear it over and over – smart strikes – which do happen, there are good strikes that are pretty contained. But, honestly tell me that when you drop a 500 pound bomb of the best explosives in the world that bad stuff isnt BOUND to happen, despite our efforts to make sure we do our best…

    I say it because you cannot assume that any strike will be clean in Iran either. Consider what we are targeting! Nuclear material. Now maybe all of you can tell me that we have this really nasty stuff in our bombs that will totally eliminate any radiation. But my thought is: BIG FAT DIRTY BOMB. I just want to at least for a second, think of the PEOPLE in this country. And to be less than cautious about our airstrike thinking shorts them.

    To this end- you always need a diplomatic strategy. Because if you can make it succeed you get no one dying.

    Whether this is possible is the question. But agree for a moment that in THEORY it is best to negotiate out of these things rather than attack.


  23. 23
    Mike Walker Said:
    11:42 pm 


    I was reading a news article last night on the nuclear Iran issue when I came across one of those comment-posts that follow the article. It title was, “Nuclear Iran is a Red Herring,” I would appreciate anyone’s comments on the text of the comment. Is there any truth to this?

    It is Iran’s determinatioin to switch from petrodollars to the Euro for payment of its oil that has Bush’s jockey shorts in a bunch. It was Saddam Hussein’s switch to the Euro circa 2000 that was the real tipping point for the invasion of Iraq. A switch to Euros by other Opec nations which is likely will have a devasting effect on the U.S. economy. no longer would the importany nations have to hold on to dollars to pay for oil. Dumping their dollars before they lose value via inflation makes them less valuable around the world as well as in the U.S. U.S. Bonds held by China and others will be dumped…

  24. 24
    Right Wing Nut House » IRAN: WAR CAN WAIT Pinged With:
    7:19 am 

    [...] And make no mistake. That “whirlwind” will be the mother of all blowbacks. We’ve been over and over the downside to attacking Iran so repeating the enormous cost to the United States and perhaps the west would be redundant punditry. [...]

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