Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Decision '08, Iran — Rick Moran @ 6:36 am

Step outside your door and smell the air. Go ahead, take a whiff. What do you smell?

The stink of war is in the air.

Whether this is an atmosphere deliberately fostered by those in the Administration who wish to insure that Iran does not develop the capability to construct a nuclear weapons or whether there truly are signs that the world is preparing for the worst if we attempt to take out Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is impossible to tell. That’s because the consequences of such an attack simply cannot be foreseen. As hard as we try to game out all the scenarios of the attack, there is a real and palpable sense that the dominoes are all set up and ready to topple if we were to go ahead and do what many believe needs to be done to protect our friends and keep The Bomb out of the hands of those seen as irresponsible, messianic fanatics.

It was different with Iraq. Many of those who gave lip service to condemning our attack were privately cheering us on, seeing the toppling of Saddam as a desirable end. But the confrontation with Iran is much more complex and problematic undertaking. There is the real possibility that the Iranians would unleash their proxy armies in Lebanon and Iraq not to mention goading Syria into attacking. If that were to happen - and it is difficult to imagine a reason Iran would forgo the opportunity - the very real possibility of a general Middle East war with the rest of the world choosing sides is not beyond imagining.

A worst case scenario? Pie in the sky fear mongering? Idiotic speculation? Ask the Pentagon. Even the best case scenario involves risks for our troops in Iraq not to mention Israeli civilians. The point is simple; war with Iran involves tremendous risks. And the startling realization is that the best we can do is set back the Iranian nuclear program a few years.

Is it worth risking so much for a gain of so little?

Proponents of bombing Iran point to the possibility of regime change, whether as a result of our attacks or due to encouraging those already fighting the Islamic regime. I reject the liberal argument being made that this would be as bad as bombing. Their reasoning (or lack thereof) is that fomenting revolution is an act of war in and of itself.

Let me know when the left is through wringing its hands that nothing can be done about the possibility of Iranian nukes. Then the grown ups can allow them back into the conversation. After all, they refuse to acknowledge that Iran considers itself already at war with America, having demonstrated that fact time and time again since 1979. Anything short of endless, fruitless negotiations (”As long as we’re talking, we’re not shooting at each other.”) is neocon warmongering in their view.

But an exception to that liberal futility is surprisingly coming from Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama. In an interview with the New York Times, Obama outlines a very interesting diplomatic scenario that includes some pretty strong incentives for the Iranians as well as the outline of a “Grand Bargain” on Iraq:

In an hourlong interview on Wednesday, Mr. Obama made clear that forging a new relationship with Iran would be a major element of what he pledged would be a broad effort to stabilize Iraq as he executed a speedy timetable for the withdrawal of American combat troops.

Mr. Obama said that Iran had been “acting irresponsibly” by supporting Shiite militant groups in Iraq. He also emphasized that Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program and its support for “terrorist activities” were serious concerns.

But he asserted that Iran’s support for militant groups in Iraq reflected its anxiety over the Bush administration’s policies in the region, including talk of a possible American military strike on Iranian nuclear installations.

Making clear that he planned to talk to Iran without preconditions, Mr. Obama emphasized further that “changes in behavior” by Iran could possibly be rewarded with membership in the World Trade Organization, other economic benefits and security guarantees.

“We are willing to talk about certain assurances in the context of them showing some good faith,” he said in the interview at his campaign headquarters here. “I think it is important for us to send a signal that we are not hellbent on regime change, just for the sake of regime change, but expect changes in behavior. And there are both carrots and there are sticks available to them for those changes in behavior.”

Obama is not the first to propose such a quid pro quo; guaranteeing Iranian sovereignty in return for constructive engagement by the mullahs in Iraq. I wrote about it many months ago, drawing a parallel with the resolution of the Cuban missile crisis and Kennedy’s pledge to respect Cuban sovereignty:

Kruschev wrote in his memoirs that the reasons he placed missiles in Cuba in the first place was to redress what the Russians saw as a strategic imbalance between the two countries and to protect his client from a Bay of Pigs repeat. The missiles were removed only after Kennedy promised privately to retire the obsolete Jupiter missiles based in Turkey (which were as provocative from the Soviet point of view as missiles in Cuba were to the United States) and a further guarantee that the Americans would not invade or use a proxy army to overthrow Castro. Later, Bobby Kennedy reasoned that such a promise did not include attempts to assassinate Castro, which continued until at least 1965.

Would such a Quid Pro Quo work with the Iranians? Could we guarantee the sovereignty of the Iranian state in exchange for intrusive inspections by the IAEA and a promise by the mullahs not to enrich uranium?

All would depend on whether or not the leaders of Iran are indeed rational and fear war with the United States and the destruction of their regime. And much would also depend on the IAEA, an organization that would have to prove itself to be more than the nuclear enabler it has been in the past.

There are other carrots we can hold out to the Iranians including unlimited access to enriched uranium for their power plants as well as joint enrichment projects on Iranian soil with other nuclear powers. These are similar deals we’re making with the North Koreans and hold out the promise to end the threat of nuclear weapons from that country.

I realize my conservative brethren are rolling their eyes and shaking their heads at this point. The IAEA? ElBaradei’s nuclear enablers? Obviously, such a deal would depend on full disclosure of the Iranian nuclear program and unconditional cooperation by the mullahs in the kind of monitoring and inspection regimes that would be effective. It would take time to negotiate and set up and in the end, may not even be 100% satisfactory to the United States and our allies.

But as an alternative to war, it’s a good start.

I don’t believe an Obama Administration should be the entity to negotiate such a deal. I prefer a little more steel in the backbone of our negotiators. Perhaps a Clinton or Giuliani Administration would be able to accomplish more given both candidates statements on their willingness to confront the Iranians militarily if negotiations fail.

The point is that negotiations are going to occur one way or another prior to the outbreak of hostilities. What are we prepared to offer in order to get what we want? A package of incentives that include a promise not to invade Iran or support groups that wish to overthrow the mullahs may - just may - be enough of temptation to the Iranians for them to talk about their nuclear enrichment program in the past tense.

We may very well one day be forced to prevent the unthinkable reality of Iranian nuclear weapons by bombing them. But war should only be considered after all diplomatic options have been exhausted. And this is one option I think we can’t afford not to try.


  1. Rick, you poor soul…

    Let’s start by working backwards. If we (1) believe that Iran wants to acquire nuclear weapons for the purpose of using them (literally or figuratively), and (2) we believe that this would be detrimental to our national security, then our goal has to be to either (1) keep them from acquiring the bomb or (2) to keep them from using the bombs they acquire.

    Let’s next stipulate that keeping them from getting the bomb would be better than allowing them to acquire a bomb and then trying to keep them from using it. Ok by you?

    We then have to look at what the Iranians would consider to be too high a price to pay for continuing their efforts to acquire a bomb, keeping in mind that the more obsessed they are with getting a bomb, the less likely they are to think they’re going to pay too high a price.

    So what is there, either in the form of positive inducements or negative sanctions that could persuade the Iranians to back off, keeping in mind here that whatever we offer them or promise to do to them can’t leave us worse off than if we stood by and let them have and use the bomb?

    I don’t think there’s anything we can offer them that they want more than a bomb and is something we can live with. For example, were we to offer to nuke Tel Aviv ourselves and promise that we’ll all convert to Islam, that might be enough for the Iranians, but it isn’t something we’re likely to want to do. The Iranians aren’t going to roll over in return for some silly pledge to not invade Iran; they don’t think we’re going to do it, so why would they offer to give up something they want in return for that? (by the way, your Cuba analogy really falls short: the Cubans weren’t calling the shots, the Soviets were, and, unlike now, back then, our threats were taken a bit more seriously). As for your idea to give them enriched uranium, do you really think that’s what they want, that they really aren’t interested in acquiring nuclear weapons, that their intentions are just being misunderstood? If so, I’ve got a bridge…. I’ve got the same reaction to those, like Obama, who want to ‘talk’ with the Iranians. Talking is for the purpose of letting our intentions be known, for communicating promises and threats, and for seeking a compromise that both sides are willing to live with. Unfortunately, if there is no middle ground, what’s the point in talking, other than to run up billable hours and be seen as ‘doing something’?

    So, lacking positive inducements to offer them, we have to look at negative pressure than can be applied. Unfortunately, due to our so-called friends in the international community not seeing things the same way, there is absolutely nothing in the realm of sanctions that can or will be applied that would force the Iranians to give up, especially since the high value they ascribe to getting nukes would make them more willing to absorb pressure. Thus, threatening to keep them out of the Olympics, not letting their planes land at friendly airports, freezing some of their funds and so on just wouldn’t amount to much. And like dictators world-wide, they’d be more than willing to let their people take it on the chin in order to keep their programs going.

    So, unfortunately, we’re left in the position where the only choice we have, if we truly want to keep them from getting nukes, is to use our military to keep them from doing so. Is this a perfect, slam-dunk, scenario? No. There will certainly be some side effects of our doing so, whether it be $200 a barrel oil or terrorist attacks. But the decision comes down to whether we believe the benefits of keeping Iran from getting nukes for as long as we can do so are better than the side effects. Just as Iran is willing to absorb pressure to get nukes, we too have to be willing to absorb some pressure to keep them from doing so.

    As to your argument that we shouldn’t use the military since we can’t keep them from getting a nuke, we can only delay that day, and as such, the side effects aren’t worth the limited benefit, I’d argue instead that since the consequences of letting the Iranians have a bomb are so severe, it is worth putting up with a whole lot to keep that day from coming for as long as we can. Every day we keep them from getting a bomb is another day we have to come up with a magic bullet that permanently solves this problem, whereas each day of sitting and doing nothing (which is what your prescriptions are) just brings us one day closer to them using nuclear weapons on us and our allies.

    And, yeah, I know it’s a long comment…

    Comment by steve sturm — 11/2/2007 @ 7:34 am

  2. The only thing we could offer the Iranians that would be of any value to them would be to get our troops out of the Middle East.
    As long as we insist on being the big dog in the Gulf a confrontation is inevitable.

    Comment by gregdn — 11/2/2007 @ 8:14 am

  3. [...] My friend Rick Moran is in substantial agreement with me: There are other carrots we can hold out to the Iranians including unlimited access to enriched uranium for their power plants as well as joint enrichment projects on Iranian soil with other nuclear powers. These are similar deals we’re making with the North Koreans and hold out the promise to end the threat of nuclear weapons from that country. [...]

    Pingback by The Glittering Eye » Blog Archive » Obama’s Proposal to Break the Impasse on Iran (Updated) — 11/2/2007 @ 9:00 am

  4. Ultimately if we can reach an agreement with the Iranians that seems satisfactory to all sides there will have to be some mechanism in place to ensure that the Iranians honor the agreements they make. The US will honor its agreements. The pressure placed on them by the main stream media and others is always intense. They would be unable to shirk their agreements even if they really wanted to.

    For the Iranians this is a different story. It would be an unmitigated disaster if the US makes concessions to Iran and the Iranians shirk whatever agreements they make. We will need to insist on some mechanism to ensure Iran honors whatever agreements that may be made. Right now such a mechanisim simply does not exist.

    Comment by B.Poster — 11/2/2007 @ 9:14 am

  5. Pour me a glass, buddy. I’m right there with you.

    Comment by kreiz — 11/2/2007 @ 9:38 am

  6. War with Iran is a horrible idea. We need to talk to them. Eventually we’ll work something out and their markets will be open to us. Commerce, right? Think of the vast consumer potential there. We already know that Iranian consumers LOVE American stuff. I, for one, can’t wait to sell our Chinese made goods in Iran. Everyone wins, mostly.

    Comment by tHePeOPle — 11/2/2007 @ 9:56 am

  7. Good post Rick.

    Comment by Andy — 11/2/2007 @ 10:32 am

  8. What US troops were stationed in the Middle East in 1979 - the year Iran declared war on us?

    Comment by Juan Paxety — 11/2/2007 @ 11:40 am

  9. Rick,

    You should read Ed Morrisey’s take on this. To save you the time I’ll paraphrase it for you.

    The EU and UN have been trying this same approach for 2+ years and Tehran has not budged one bit.

    Obama is the one peddling the kool-ade this time around. Increasing sanctions while fomenting unrest in the opposition are the only remaing alternatives we have short of bombing Iran. With inflation running at 15%+ and a crumbling oil infrastructure the Iranian people will not rest much longer if the house of cards continues to collapse at it’s current rate.


    Comment by Dan Peterson — 11/2/2007 @ 12:13 pm

  10. Rick, over in the Corner this morning Michael Ledeen has a post that damn near seems like he’s answering you.


    I think you make some valid points, and, in his post, he makes some of the same. Overall, however, I tend to agree with Ledeen. We’ve been doing what you’re advocating for decades and have been met with nothing but the mullahs scorn, hostility & violence.

    Don’t think the mullahs don’t read the Times & watch C-SPAN. I’m not trying to stifle debate, but suggesting carrot/stick, weak tea diplomicy coming from a divided America will be received with anything other than the mulllahs laughter seems rather ridiculous.

    We share no common values with these people. The mullahs & their army (Qods, etc.) worship in 12th imam death cult. They care nothing for their country or the world. The jews & the infidels MUST be destroyed. We have a disire to LIVE in peace and prosperity. They desire only to murder us, and have demonstrated the will to do so directly, and through proxy (Hammas, Hezbollah, Syria, Al Qeada) for over 30 years. Iranians love American suff #6? Wearing bluejeans, adidas, and occasionally having sex before marriage doesn’t make one pro-western (though I guess they’ll look ‘cooler’ at the next Death to Israel/America rally).

    War with Iran is a horrible prospect. So was war with Germany & Japan. In fact, in 1941, it seemed impossible. The stakes are just as high here. Setting their program back gives us room to maneuver, but I’m not ‘pro-war’ yet. I’m simply for the stick then the carrot approach. And the stick is a big one, and one we should use.

    Iran imports 65% of their gasoline. While they sit on a sea of oil, they have only a handfull of refineries. Bomb those refineries (and take a few terrorist training camps on the Iran/Iraq border for good measure), cut their only gas pipeline, and blockade the Persian Gulf. Allow all the food, water & medical supplies in the world through, but block gas tankers headed for Iranian ports. This would absolutely cripple Irans military infastructure. And as much as the mullahs would cry, “look how the infidels agress against us,” the Iranian people would start revolting against them pretty damn quick. THEN head to the negotiation table and start the diplodunk. At that point you can offer them gift cards to Best Buy for all I care. I expect the quid pro quo would be quite different.

    Apologies for the length.

    Comment by Lamontyoubigdummy — 11/2/2007 @ 1:05 pm

  11. Re: “The point is that negotiations are going to occur one way or another prior to the outbreak of hostilities.”

    Not if the NeoConservatives at the American Enterprise institute have their way.

    Comment by Philadelphia Steve — 11/2/2007 @ 2:48 pm

  12. Imagine Iran waving nukes around everytime they get upset at some country for insulting Islam. They will sell small nukes and dirty bombs to the highest bidders, no questions asked. Free to Al Qaeda. The only requirement in the sale is that you reserve a few nukes for use on Israel to “wipe them off the map”.

    We don’t have to have a war with Iran, just tell them that if they build a bomb making plant, we’ll bomb the plant. If it’s underground, we’ll bunker bust it. You just won’t get the bomb, keep trying if you like, it’s just target practice for us.

    Would a nuclear Islamic state use the nukes? Russia understood the concept of mutually assured destruction, I’m not so sure that the culture of 57 virgins care if they die or not. If they are anxious to get to the 57 ladies, they can camp out by the nuke plants.

    I can see the conversation now with my future grown grandchildren : Well, we could have stopped them back way back in 2008, but nobody had the nerve then. Now half the world is radioactive, it’s a shame I know.

    Comment by Steve — 11/6/2007 @ 5:29 pm

  13. Tom Hayden pokes his head out of the dope den just long enough to instruct Obama on how to fall even further behind Hillbill.

    Comment by Chip — 11/10/2007 @ 8:44 am

  14. [...] Right Wing Nut House [...]

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