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If you believe the left-wing Guardian, the Administration pendulum on Iran has swung back toward taking military action before Bush leaves office. The villain? Dick Cheney of course:

The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favour of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18 months, the Guardian has learned.

The shift follows an internal review involving the White House, the Pentagon and the state department over the last month. Although the Bush administration is in deep trouble over Iraq, it remains focused on Iran. A well-placed source in Washington said: “Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo.”

The White House claims that Iran, whose influence in the Middle East has increased significantly over the last six years, is intent on building a nuclear weapon and is arming insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The vice-president, Dick Cheney, has long favoured upping the threat of military action against Iran. He is being resisted by the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the defence secretary, Robert Gates.

The story bases its conclusions on mostly anonymous sourcing. The problem with doing that was made amply clear last week as several reports by the media regarding an imminent Administration turn on Iraq toward withdrawal using unnamed sources proved to be absolutely bogus when President Bush came out on Friday saying he was contemplating no such thing.

But there is little doubt that the Cheney faction is putting tremendous pressure on the President to take out Iran’s nuclear program prior to their leaving office in 2009. The reasoning mentioned in the article better be made up by some lefty Guardian reporter because if it isn’t, it would constitute an arrogance beyond anything shown so far by the Bushies:

The Washington source said Mr Bush and Mr Cheney did not trust any potential successors in the White House, Republican or Democratic, to deal with Iran decisively. They are also reluctant for Israel to carry out any strikes because the US would get the blame in the region anyway.

“The red line is not in Iran. The red line is in Israel. If Israel is adamant it will attack, the US will have to take decisive action,” Mr Cronin said. “The choices are: tell Israel no, let Israel do the job, or do the job yourself.”

They don’t “trust” any potential successors to “deal with Iran decisively?” I can’t begin to tell you how offensive that idea is – not to mention its raw stupidity. The world may look a lot different to a new President on January 20, 2009 than it does to Dick Cheney and his advisers today or even next year.. And any military action taken against Iran next year – which is the current timetable – will mean that Cheney and Bush’s successor will be reaping the bulk of the whirlwind sown by the current Administration following any massive attack on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

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.

This is not to say that absorbing such a hit may not be necessary and that bombing the Iranian nuclear sites should not be done under any circumstances. There are few things in this world that would be more inimicable to American interests than Iran with nuclear weapons. The question has never been if that would be bad for America because even some lefties think it would be. The question has always been would the advantages in bombing Iran outweigh the disadvantages. And as far as I’m concerned, at this moment the scales tip toward negotiations and sanctions rather than war.

That’s because despite what Cheney and Bush want as far as “dealing” with Iran before they bid farewell to Washington, we still have time to head off the prospect of Iranian bomb making. To do so would require some tough diplomacy and even tougher work at the United Nations. But it can be done if we have the patience and the will to do so.

Iran’s construction of a bomb is not by any stretch of the imagination “imminent.” Dr. Jeffrey Hart of Arms Control Wonk explains why. Right now, the Iranians have installed and are operating around 2000 centrifuges at their main enrichment facility at Nantanz. But what does that mean as far as their ability to construct a nuclear device:

Iran could, with the current 1,968 centrifuges operating at 1.5-2.0 kg SWU per year and assuming 4.8 t SWU/a to produce 25 kg of 90 percent HEU, produce a significant quantity of HEU in 14-19 months or, say, September 2008-February 2009. (Readers might want to double check that calculation.)

But the “general view” of the IC is still—at least as of June 2007—2010-2015.

That’s odd, isn’t it?

One explanation is that the IC must believe Iran is going to, or has, run into some substantial operational barrier—maybe those Iranian manufactured components and/or UF6 feedstock really do suck ball bearings—that could add a year or more to the estimates.

That might explain the IC sticking by the 2010-2015 estimates, as well as the recent slowdown from Iran’s crash installation period this spring. For example, “a senior European official” told WaPo’s Robin Wright “They’ve committed down a road to expand as quickly as possible. But Iran won’t be the first to discover that it does happen to be rocket science, and development has its peaks and troughs.”

I had earlier noted that IAEA officials said Iran had enough good imported components 1,000-2,000 centrifuges, so that we would have to wait for evidence that Iran could get over 2,000. Stilll waiting, I guess.

Or, maybe, Iran may simply be attempting—as David Albright suggested—to learn to operate the centrifuges installed, rather than building more.

Or, maybe, Iran just wanted to create facts on the ground (underground, actually), avoid new sanctions and, perhaps, cut a deal.

The Iranians have experienced problems in mastering centrifuge technology, not unsurprising given the engineering tolerances involved in getting so many machines to work in synchronization. And as Hart points out, their supply of yellowcake may be deficient. And besides all of this, they have yet to enrich uranium beyond the 3-5% range although ratcheting up their enrichment process to achieve the 85% threshold to make a bomb would simply be a matter of time, not technology.

Even if the Iranians overcome all the technical challenges posed by enrichment, they still have to build a bomb. And you just don’t go to your local library and find a workable bomb design. Just ask the North Koreans whose “test” last summer was almost certainly a nuclear “fizzle” due to poor design. Unless they’ve purchased a tried and tested bomb design from A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani scientist who ran a nuclear convenience store, supplying expertise and technology to Iran back in the mid ‘90’s (or somewhere else), you must add another 6-9 months to any timetable to Iranian nuclear capability.

Time is the key. We still have it if we’re willing to use it constructively to put pressure on the Iranians to come to an agreement about enrichment. With adequate safeguards and monitoring by the IAEA, it would be possible to keep the Iranian nuclear program peaceful.

The uncertainty of the moment however, makes Iran a very dangerous nation. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had some interesting thoughts in response to a question at a recent speaking engagement:

Secretary Gates: I think that the general view of American intelligence is that they would be in a position to develop a nuclear device, probably sometime in the period 2010, 2011 to 2014 or 2015. There are those who believe that that could happen much sooner, in late 2008 or 2009. The reality is because of the way that Iran has conducted its affairs, we really don’t know, and it puts a higher premium, it seems to me, on the international community coming together in terms of strengthening the sanctions on Iran so that they begin to face some serious tradeoffs—in terms of their economic well-being and their economic future—for having nuclear weapons. I don’t think anyone begrudges Iran the capacity to have peaceful nuclear power under proper safeguards and supervision. The key is whether they will have nuclear weapons.


Having to take care of this problem militarily is in no one’s interest, but it does put a premium on unanimity in the international community—and I would say especially in the U.N. Security Council—in terms of ratcheting up the pressure on the Iranians, not next year or the year after, but right now, in line with the uncertainty about when their capability actually will come online.

Wise words. He’s not downplaying the threat in the slightest and yet, Gates is pointing out an alternative to war. Given the immense downside to attacking Iran, it simply makes sense to follow the course laid out by Gates and supported by Secretary Rice while eschewing the arrogant belief by some in the Administration that only they have the cohones to deal with the mullahs effectively and that Clinton and Obama (two Democrats who have not taken the military option off the table with Iran) are weak sisters who would somehow allow a nuclear armed Iran to threaten the peace.

Of course, the 800 pound gorrilla in the room is Israel and what her plans might be. The Administration is correct in believing that any attack from Israel on Iran would be seen by the mullahs as an attack by the United States. But Israel herself is conflicted about starting a war with Iran. On the one hand, they realize the Iranians are an existential threat to the existence of the Jewish state. On the other hand, they also would experience a tremendous downside by attacking the Iranians. The Israelis are self confident enough about their relationship with the United States that they wouldn’t ask “permission” to bomb Iranian nuclear sites. But that’s not to say they wouldn’t consult us if they are seriously contemplating such a course of action.

It is impossible at this point to guess Jerusalem’s intent. But it should also be fixed in the minds of our policy makers that the clock ticking toward Iranian nuclear capability also may have an Israeli component. For unless we can convince the Iranians to agree on close monitoring and intrusive inspections of their nuclear program, it is more than likely that the Israelis will take matters into their own hands if they feel threatened and attack first.

That thought should be a goad to the international community to get busy and pass additional sanctions on Iran unless they cooperate in proving to the world that their nuclear program is peaceful. Given their past rhetoric on Israel, the burden is on them, not us and not the Israelis, to prove to the world that their program will not be used to create weapons of mass destruction that would threaten their neighbors – all of whom are US allies.

Yes we have time. But the clock is ticking and the world has a lot of work to do.


Allah has some sobering thoughts:

My feelings about another Bush-managed war are the same as Dennis Miller’s were in an old bit he used to do about Germany’s reunification: much like a Martin and Lewis reunion, he said, he wasn’t impressed with their previous work and wasn’t really looking forward to seeing any of the new sh*t. Hey, George: Let Fred handle it. Or, god forbid, a Democrat if it comes to that.

He also thinks the story is something of an invention by The Guardian. While that may be true, I don’t think there’s any doubt in anyone’s mind where Cheney stands on Iran and that he won’t do his utmost to have his views prevail.

By: Rick Moran at 7:19 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (30)

Captain's Quarters linked with Military Solution Fof Iran?...
CATEGORY: Iran, Politics

Ezra Klein, one of my favorite lefty bloggers, is challenging liberal hawks to be more specific on whether or not they support military action against Iran. He thinks that their previous support for Iraq has made them gun shy and they are therefore carrying on an intellectually dishonest game of refusing to dialogue with liberal doves over any possible causus belli regarding Iranian nukes.

Today’s liberal hawks are engaged in a slightly subtler game. The Iraq war is an acknowledged catastrophe. The same group-think and bandwagon effects that once pushed them so irresistibly towards embracing the invasion is now similarly forceful in pulling them to abandon it. The question, for many, is how to finesse that flip without losing one’s reputation for unparalleled foreign policy seriousness. The answer is Iran.

The new approach is not to refight the battle over the Iraq war, but to argue that those who got it right, or who got it wrong but eventually came to the right answer, are now in danger of overlearning the lessons of the war—and missing the danger posed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. An elegant entry into this burgeoning genre comes from Ken Baer in the latest issue of Democracy. “[A] president’s past mistakes,” writes Baer, “can so preoccupy political leaders that they lose sight of the dangers ahead or the principles they hold dear.” In the conclusion of his piece, he warns that progressives must “not use anger at one war as an excuse to blink when confronting a future threat head on.”

The liberal hawks’ exculpatory proof for their support of the Iraq war is based on what Sam Rosenfeld and Matthew Yglesias termed “The Incompetence Dodge”: a focus on the war’s mismanagement and poor administration rather than on the question of whether it could have ever succeeded in the first place. The dodge enables opposition to the war’s continuation without a conceptual reevaluation of the war’s worth, which means there’s no conceptual reevaluation of preventative wars in the Middle East more generally. Now, in order to avoid turning the Iran question into just such a first-order conversation but instead use it for another round of more-serious-than-thou point-scoring, many liberal hawks are relying on a different tactic altogether: sheer vagueness.

First of all, any rational discussion of the case for going to war in Iraq must include the initial balance sheet of pluses and minuses. This, after all, is what serious people base serious decisions upon; evaluating the cost/benefit ratio of any potential actions in order to reach a reasonable conclusion about the chances for success or failure.

Put aside the knee jerk dove position that no war (save fighting off invasion of the United States) is worth fighting and indeed, is an immoral exercise in enforcing the will of the stronger over that of the weaker. May as well also closet the knee jerk neo-con argument that war is a necessary adjunct to the pursuit of American interests and that where there is any chance – Cheney’s “One Percent policy – that a nation state is a threat to the United States, that threat must be neutralized.

Both arguments are relatively simple minded and don’t really describe hawks and doves anyway. The question I am asking is prior to the invasion, was there a legitimate, defensible argument for going to war and overthrowing Saddam Hussein?

The answer is obviously yes. Doves might counter that they warned us of this dire consequence or that but the fact is, that’s Monday morning quarterbacking. The weight given to those specific probabilities prior to the invasion could have legitimately been much less for a hawk than it was for a dove. After all, there were many predictions about the war made by doves that turned out to be laughably – even incompetently – wrong. There were not 10,000 dead Americans coming home in body bags as a result of the predicted street fighting in the “Battle for Baghdad.” There were not thousands of dead Americans because Saddam used his chemical weapons. There were not millions of Iraqi refugees as a result of the fighting (what has transpired since is an entirely different matter with 750,000 internally displaced people, driven from their homes for sectarian reasons).

And there were as many as 5 different times that doves asserted as fact that Iraq was in a civil war beginning as soon as a month after Saddam’s statue fell in Baghdad. Even today, while the bloodletting on both sides of the sectarian divide is grim, Sunnis and Shias are serving in the army together as well as sitting side by side in a freely elected parliament – another dire prediction of failure by doves that never came true. There is certainly a civil war between some Sunnis and some Shias. But others are fighting to control that violence and begin the process of national reconciliation (would that they would get some help from the Iraqi government).

But does Klein have a point when he talks about “the incompetence dodge?” Is laying the blame for the current situation in Iraq on Bush or on any one of a variety of critiques that point up the perceived incompetence of the Administration or the Pentagon a legitimate reason to change one’s position and come out against the war? Again, we return to the continually evolving cost/benefit analysis for an answer. And there is now a legitimate, logical case that can be made that because of many mistakes and blunders made in the last 4 years by Bush and the military, the downside of staying in Iraq with our current force structure and mission has tipped the scales in favor of some kind of redeployment. Klein thinks that this kind of thinking doesn’t lead to “conceptualizing” the error of the hawk’s ways. I beg to differ. By constantly evaluating and re-evaluating the case for war, such analysis deepens understanding of both the original factors that animated the hawk’s initial position as well as fleshing out any change in thinking caused by changing circumstances in Iraq. The rigid kind of thinking espoused by Klein leaves no room for such flexibility.

But Klein isn’t necessarily arguing the illegitimacy of this change of heart among liberal hawks. Rather he connects “the incompetence dodge” with the lefty hawk’s vagueness on the issue of going to war with Iran as another sign of dishonesty:

The remarkable thing about the growing liberal hawk literature on Iran is its evasiveness—the unwillingness to speak in concrete terms of both the threat and proposed remedies. The liberal hawks realize they were too eager in counseling war last time, and their explicit statements in support of invasion have caused them no end of trouble since. This time, they will advocate no such thing. But nor will they eschew it. They will simply criticize those who do take a position.

Iran raises several complicated questions, but also a simple one: Do you think military force is called for in preventing Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons? Some, like me, say no. Some also, like me, do not believe the evidence supports the contention that Iran is a fully totalitarian society under the rule of a crazed and suicidal Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, and in fact think that such portrayals should be resisted and identified as part of a larger, pro-war narrative. This is how I ended up in Baer’s article as a convenient straw liberal who “excuse[s] the Iran regime, all the better to deny the very existence of a threat.”

Is Klein mistaking caution for “evasiveness?” In something of a surprise to me, Senator Obama has come out and said that the military option against Iran is not off the table. Clearly, some liberals – even those who could be called doves on the War in Iraq – can see that Iran is threatening enough that totally abandoning the military option would not be wise. And as far as I know, there are few serious advocates for military action against Iran who has made the case that Iran is “a fully totalitarian society under the rule of a crazed and suicidal Mahmoud Ahmadenijad…”

Ahmadinejad is a mystic – and a cipher. He is also, for lack of a better word, a fanatic who is using proxies throughout the Middle East to sow discord and kill innocents. And Iran’s Supreme Leader’s only check is the Assembly of Experts who can overrule him only if they can agree that his decrees run counter to the Koran. The fact that candidates for that body are chosen by The Guardian Council – half of whose membership is appointed by the Supreme Leader – means that you don’t get to run for the Experts Assembly unless you are pretty much in the Leader’s pocket.

While not a “totalitarian” government in the traditional sense, the power in the Iranian state is concentrated in very few hands. And the power of the Supreme Leader is enormous. Rival factions vie for his support and blessing, jockeying for position by trying to be more Catholic than the Pope, so to speak. And while Ahmadinejad has displeased Supreme Leader Khamenei with his over the top rhetoric at times, his anti-corruption campaign and now his cultural revolution has the Leader’s 100% backing.

None of this reveals intent. Just what does the Iranian regime intend to do with nukes if they get them. Israel doesn’t want to find out and will almost certainly attack – even if the prospects for success are slight. The Jewish state simply cannot afford to dismiss the Iranian President’s eliminationist rhetoric directed against Israel. And any Israeli attack will be seen as an attack by America by the Iranians. If that is to be the case, there would be tremendous pressure on Washington to either carry out the attack itself or assist the Israelis in their war effort. “In for a penny, in for a pound” rings true in this case. If the Iranian reaction to an attack by Israel would be the same whether we join in or not, we may as well assist the Israelis or carry out the attack ourselves to give it a better chance to succeed.

Whether Klein believes Iran is building nukes or not or whether he thinks they are a potential threat doesn’t matter in this case. There is no more important American ally in the Middle East than Israel. To abandon her at what she clearly feels is a moment of supreme danger would be a betrayal of monstrous proportions.

However, it should be pointed out that we have time to try other measures short of war. The latest news on the Iranian nuclear program is that simply put, they are stuck. They have been unable to grow their program and make the leap from the experimental enrichment of uranium to the industrial production necessary to construct a bomb. They could still be three years away from being capable of enriching enough uranium to high enough levels to build a nuclear device.

And sanctions are really beginning to bite. Beyond that, the threat of further sanctions has the Iranian economy in a tailspin that is causing great unease among the people. The recent crackdown on dissent as well as the announced return to 1979 revolutionary values is most likely a means to distract the people from what may be a faltering economy and a failure of leadership.

So liberal hawks, rather than being vague or evasive, sound to me as if they are simply exercising good judgement and remaining cautious. But Klein complains that this precludes engaging in argument and dialogue:

It is possible that some self-described progressives agree with them. If so, they should speak up, and we can have an argument. The mantra of “seriousness,” however, is disingenuous. Progressive intellectuals are not diplomats or politicians, actively in search of better positioning or a negotiating posture . Insofar as Iran is a serious foreign policy issue—and it is!—those who pride themselves on their seriousness in such matters should be honest in offering their answers. The “dovish” view is that a military campaign against Iran would be a seriously bad idea. It is a view shared by many generals, most foreign policy experts, and, according to some reports, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Liberal hawks seem to dispute that conclusion, but won’t quite say why. The danger of Iraq, it turns out, is not that too many liberals overlearned its lessons, but that too many liberals didn’t learn them at all—and instead have merely become more circumspect in their saber-rattling.

For those who object to that characterization, and whose public hawkishness is more of an affectation than a real substantive agenda, this is not a time for self-righteous posturing or rhetorical toughness; it is a time for those who do want to prevent war with Iran to, well, oppose war with Iran. That doesn’t mean supporting their nuclear ambitions, or developing a misplaced affection for an ugly regime. But it does mean speaking forthrightly about what a catastrophe a military attack would prove to be. Liberals, after all, do not control the government. George W. Bush is still the Commander in Chief. The best liberals can hope for, then, is to influence the discourse and shift the spectrum of opinion deemed “acceptable.” But they will be unable to do even that if they refuse to speak clearly.

I would say that it is not only a dovish view that military action against Iran would be a bad idea. As Klein points out, there are active duty military people who oppose an Iran strike. Unless West Point has gone soft on us, I hardly think you could make the claim that doves are the only ones resisting the call to battle the Iranians.

But Klein errs when he blames liberal hawks for proceeding more cautiously in their advocacy of military action against Iran than they did – in his mind anyway – with their support to take down Saddam. Is it really a case of sensitivity to the public perception that their “sabre rattling” got us in trouble with Iraq? Or is the case for war against Iran such a close call that it is difficult to formulate a position and stick with it?

I myself have been back and forth, hot and cold on war with Iran. The threat is real but by no means imminent – at least to the United States. But the idea that the only thing worse than attacking Iran would be Iran with nuclear weapons is still something serious people should think about carefully. I’m not sure that statement is true. Nor am I sure it isn’t. And my hesitancy is reflected, I think, by liberal hawks who are having a similarly hard time trying to evaluate the pluses and minuses. There are so many troubling elements to both the Iranian regime and the thought of attacking it that what Klein sees as a kind of disingenuousness on the part of liberal hawks is nothing more than a realization that the consequences of both action and inaction against the Iranian regime could be enormous.

By: Rick Moran at 4:18 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (10)


The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its latest report on the Iranian nuclear program yesterday with somewhat of a mixed verdict. The bad news is that the Iranians are making steady if unspectacular progress in mastering the centrifuge technology necessary to enrich uranium to weapons grade levels. The good news is they still haven’t a clue on how to connect large numbers of centrifuges in order to produce enriched uranium on an industrial scale.

First, the MSM take on the IAEA report:

Iran has again defied U.N. demands to suspend its nuclear enrichment programs, according to a report issued yesterday by the International Atomic Energy Agency, leading Bush administration officials to demand increased pressure on Tehran.

The IAEA report said that Iran has significantly accelerated its enrichment capability and has not provided a range of verification information to the agency. The IAEA’s “level of knowledge of certain aspects of Iran’s nuclear-related activities has deteriorated,” the four-page document said. The report described the last 60 days of activity since an assessment in March led to the adoption of a U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution against Iran. That resolution stepped up the sanctions initially authorized in December.

“The pressure so far has not produced the results that we all have been hoping for,” said Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “The time has come,” he said, to “ratchet up the pressure to bring about a change in Iranian calculation.”...

Yesterday’s IAEA report said that during a surprise visit on May 13, nuclear inspectors found eight operating enrichment cascades—each with 164 centrifuges, for a total of 1,312—being fed uranium hexafluoride at the underground facility near the town of Natanz. Five additional cascades were in various stages of completion. The number was more than four times the total number of centrifuges operating at the time of the last IAEA report, in February.

Although the total was far from the 3,000 centrifuges that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad predicted would be operating by May, some nuclear experts said that point could be reached by early summer. The glass “is a little more than half full,” said David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington.

How has Iran “significantly accelerated” it’s program? This is directly from the report (HT: Arms Control Wonks):

Since the Director General’s last report, Iran has fed approximately 260 kg of UF6 into the cascades at FEP. Iran has declared that it has reached enrichment levels up to 4.8% U-235 at FEP, which the Agency is in the process of verifying. On 13 May 2007, eight 164-machine cascades were operating simultaneously and were being fed with UF6; two other similar cascades had been vacuum tested and three more were under construction.
(Emphasis mine)

The Iranians achieved the ability to connect 164 of the centrifuges in order to create a cascade that enriched uranium hex to around 5% last year. The fact that they have been unable to go beyond that and create much larger cascades is significant, although it is worrisome that they have so many of these “mini-cascades” operating at once. The experts that I’ve read also believe that Iran has just begun to introduce UF 6 or Uranium Hexafluoride directly into the centrifuges rather than injecting “feedstock” into the machines to prevent them from breaking.

Short version of report: Iran is making steady progress toward industrial production of enriched uranium but still faces significant obstacles to achieving that goal. And those obstacles are perhaps the most daunting in the entire enrichment process – connecting hundreds and hundreds of centrifuges into one, gigantic machine which will operate for long periods of time in order to enrich the uranium to the magic 85% level for bomb making.

Even if they can connect all 1300+ centrifuges, it would take a year of perfect operation for the cascade to produce enough U-235 for one bomb. Thankfully, this level of technical expertise is still beyond them. But it should worry us that they appear to be making steady progress toward that goal.

It is also worrying that the Iranians appear to be making progress elsewhere in their nuclear program. Construction of the IR-40 reactor and the operation of the Heavy Water Production Plant are continuing. This will speed the production of plutonium once the Iranians start enriching Uranium hex to industrial levels.

This still gives us time for sanctions and diplomacy to work. How much time? Certainly less time than our brilliant intelligence people thought only two summers ago when they confidently predicted Iran wouldn’t have the bomb for perhaps a decade. The Iranians are moving farther and faster than anyone in our intelligence community thought possible which makes one wonder why they even bother in the first place. Bush might be better off throwing darts at a board marked “countdown to Armageddon” with a series of numbers representing the length of time in years before Iran gets the bomb.

It would seem that might be a more accurate way to predict when the mullahs will be able to threaten their neighbors with nukes than relying on legions of intelligence bureaucrats who seem more concerned about not sticking their necks out instead of delivering intelligent, accurate analysis.

Too hard on our intel people? You bet! We spend upwards of $70 billion on hardware, software, and the care and feeding of thousands of analysts and this was the best we can do? (Andy: I know I don’t know what I’m talking about but something is still wrong with that picture.)

Leaving aside our failed intelligence on the Iranian nuke program, the question is where do we go from here? While there is still time for sanctions to work, the question of how severe we can make them and still bring along China and Russia at the UN remains unknown:

At a news conference last week with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush said that the United States would push for a third Security Council resolution if the IAEA report was negative. The measure is expected to require additional restrictions on Iran, including mandatory travel bans on specific government officials, expanded prohibitions against dealing with Iranian companies and banks, and new sanctions against companies associated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Arms imports from Iran are currently banned; a ban on weapons exports to the country is also being considered.

U.S. officials said yesterday that the administration will delay pressing for new Security Council action until after the talks scheduled for next Thursday between European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Ali Larijani, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator. On behalf of the United States, France, Britain and Germany, Solana has been instructed to consider even a month-long suspension as Iranian progress, but Iran has refused and officials expressed little optimism the meeting would lead to a breakthrough.

Poor Larijani. The guy has tried to resign at least 5 times in the last few months, protesting Ahmadinejad’s wild rhetoric as well as his choice for Foreign Minister, Manuchehr Mottaki. But Supreme Leader Khamenei has rejected his resignation each time, if only because he seems to be the one Iranian negotiator who has any credibility with the western powers.

Meanwhile, Mohamed ElBaradei has recently proven once again that the IAEA is a nuclear enabling organization rather than an enforcement agency:

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei infuriated the administration and its European partners last week by telling reporters that the demands for suspension have been “superseded by events” in Iran. He said they should accept a certain level of uranium enrichment in exchange for more inspections and Iranian agreement not to expand the program.

“We vehemently disagree . . . with the contention that somehow the international community should allow Iran to get away with violating all of its obligations,” said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity in criticizing the IAEA chief. The official said that U.S., French and British officials will meet with ElBaradei at IAEA headquarters in Vienna tomorrow to express their displeasure.

Although I hesitate to use the analogy of a woman being raped told to lie back and enjoy it, in this case the shoe fits. ElBaradei has been undercutting a strong policy toward Iran for years even though his own agency has shown that the mullahs are not being forthcoming about their program and are obstructing the IAEA from doing its job:

One of the most striking things about the report is its emphasis on what the IAEA doesn’t know about Iran’s program because of Tehran’s lack of transparency. Not only has Iran refused to cooperate (for the most part) with the IAEA’s requests for information about Iran’s nuclear program(s), but Iran still won’t implement the additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement.

The UN Security Council, BTW, has required Tehran to cooperate with the investigation and ratify its additional protocol.

Anyway, this lack of cooperation is clearly impairing the IAEA’s investigation. According to the report:

because the Agency has not been receiving for over a year information that Iran used to provide, including under the Additional Protocol, the Agency’s level of knowledge of certain aspects of Iran’s nuclear related activities has deteriorated.

That information includes

information relevant to the assembly of centrifuges, the manufacture of centrifuge components or associated equipment and research and development of centrifuges or enrichment techniques.

This does not bode well for future inspections. The Iranians can continue to obstruct the IAEA from doing its job as long as the price they pay for doing so is cheap. Much broader and tougher sanctions are called for. Whether they will be forthcoming is anyone’s guess.

By: Rick Moran at 7:14 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)


Weekends are mostly quiet around The House. Visitors are few and far between and nobody bothers to read what I write.

Come to think of it – that pretty much sounds like what happens on weekdays too. In truth, blogging lately has been a depressing pastime. Events here and around the world are careening toward some kind of climax – perhaps not an explosion but certainly some sort of denouement that will alter the landscape and make the world a different place. Political re-alignment here at home is in the offing – something the Republicans in Congress seemed bound and determined to speed along. It smells like 1979 to me. All the signs that pointed to an overturning of the established order back then – deep discontent among our fellow citizens, a sense of events spinning out of our control, a world situation made dicey by our own missteps, and the nagging feeling that a change would probably do us some good – are eerily present in 2007.

Of course, the big difference is that the Democrats don’t have a Ronald Reagan to take advantage of the situation. Nobody will ever confuse Hilliary’s shrill denunciations with the twinkle in the Gipper’s eye when he zinged an opponent. Nor will anyone fail to see the difference between the inspirational yet empty platitudes of Obama with Reagan’s soaring rhetoric that touched something so American in people’s souls.

The Republicans don’t have a Reagan to save them either. Just as well. I think even The Great Communicator would find it hard to get through to the blockheads who control the party. From the national headquarters on down through my local Republican organization, the GOP is demonstrating all the symptoms of a sick puppy; lethargy, sleepiness, a pathetic and forlorn look on its face, and the disgusting habit of soiling its own house.

What the Democrats have is plenty of ammunition to use against the Republicans and the fact that voters are in a punishing mood. That and a curious death wish exhibited by the GOP means that chances are very good that even if a Republican is elected President, the House and Senate gains made by the Democrats will be augmented considerably in 2008. And given the enormous power of incumbency today, that will mean a virtual GOP lockout from regaining power on the Hill for the foreseeable future.

Those of you inclined to be more optimistic and wish to take me to task for being a gloomy gus, I have some news for you – it’s only going to get worse.

The Democrats have yet to really get busy investigating stuff that even if you are a dyed in the wool Bushie will make your hair stand on end. I’m talking about billions and billions of dollars that have disappeared in Iraq. Just up and went missing. No one knows where it is, whether it was spent on legitimate projects or whether someone just walked into the Coalition Provisional Authority offices and stuffed gobs of $100 bills down their pants. Estimates range from $4 billion to $7 billion dollars of taxpayers money down the rabbit hole.

Then there was the actual letting of contracts and that whole mess which will show not only favoritism toward Republican contractors but also a lot of waste, fraud, and abuse. There have already been at least two trials where contractors have been found guilty and the investigations continue.

Similar accusations (and proof that there is fire where that smoke is coming from) will be forthcoming when Democrats investigate the letting of Katrina rebuilding and clean up contracts. Some of that information has been out in the open for a while but we can trust the Democrats to tie it all up and present it to the voters with a nice, neat, bow.

Then there’s Iraq. I want to say that by November, 2008 Iraq will be well on its way to becoming a viable state, relatively violence free with a government who respects the political rights of all of its citizens. I want to say it but I won’t. Iraq then will probably look a lot like Iraq today. Less violence, perhaps. But the very same problems that have to be solved before the bleeding will stop are still not going to be addressed by the Iraqi government. They are incapable of dealing with reality. And I might add that no timetable or benchmark is going to get them off square one either. So much for the Democrat’s “plan” to end the war in anything but what they’ve desired all along; a humiliating retreat in the face of the enemy.

So there’s that to look forward to. And the almost certain collapse of the Musharraf government in Pakistan – or at least his less than graceful exit from power. Who replaces him will be one of the more interesting questions facing the United States over the next 18 months.

And Iran. Let’s not forget our friends, the mad mullahs. I’d like to say that by November, 2008 the threat of a nuclear Iran will have diminished and their dreams of becoming a regional powerhouse tossed on the dustbin of history. I’d like to say it but I won’t. I will boldly go out on a limb and predict that the Administration will not bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities nor will Israel. That’s because the mullahs are still having problems with the technical aspects of enriching uranium. (Note: The New York Times story last week about Iranian progress at Nantanz was incorrect. See here for a full accounting of what ElBaradei actually said. They are still 3-5 years away from having the bomb.)

Iran will still be making trouble in Iraq on election day – even if we have begun to pull out. This story in today’s Guardian - a situation with the militias I’ve alluded to many times in the South – shows what the mullah’s game is in Iraq. I have little confidence that we can do a damn thing about it.

North Korea will continue to drag its heels, trying to extort more and more from us as we pay them to abandon their nuclear program. Africa will continue to bleed in places like Darfur, Nigeria, the Congo, and points in between. Asia will continue to be roiled by Islamic fundamentalism. Europe will continue its slide into a stuporous defeatism with regards to the War on Terror and their ability to work with the United States in any meaningful way to defeat Islamism.

Yoikes! But my black dog’s got a hold of me today! I hasten to add that most of this is not the fault of the United States but rather historical forces that have been simmering since before the Cold War ended. Nor is it possible for the United States to “manage” or even “guide” events in most of these places to mitigate the worst of what is going on. No nation has that kind of power. This is simply the world as it is circa 2007. And we have to live in it.

It would be comforting to think that a change in parties controlling Washington will have much of an effect on what is occurring on this planet. It won’t. It can’t. The liberal Democrats are as bereft of ideas on how to confront most of these problems as the clueless policy makers and stubborn, turf conscious bureaucrats who currently run things. It’s hard for us Americans to admit it but some problems are just not solvable. Change comes whether we like it or not. Sometimes that change is accompanied by rivers of blood. Sometimes not. Our ability to determine one outcome or the other is extremely limited. Military power, “soft power,” economic power, cultural dominance – all pale in comparison to the tidal forces that are moving various peoples toward a far distant and unknowing shore.

This is the ebb and flow of history. All we can do is sit in the boat and ride out the storm as best we can.

By: Rick Moran at 3:04 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (23)

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I had to read this “analysis” by AP’s Sally Buzzbee twice before I decided it was not a belated April Fool’s joke. In a word, outrageous:

Iran’s abrupt release of 15 British sailors and marines is raising hopes the country might compromise on other disputes, most notably its nuclear program.

The move points to the growing influence of pragmatic conservatives, a faction that backs Iran’s Islamic clerical leadership but is still willing to deal with the West — at least to ensure that the country is not harmed in its confrontations with the U.S. and its allies.

British media credited the breakthrough to Ali Larijani, Iran’s top foreign policy negotiator who leads its diplomatic efforts in dealing with a demand by the West for a freeze in Iranian uranium enrichment.

While a religious conservative, Larijani is seen as a pragmatist with close ties to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He and his allies, including former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, are less anti-Western than Iran’s hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

First, whose hopes are being raised by this stunning propaganda victory of the Iranians? My guess is the AP editorial board and Sally Buzzbee. You sure don’t see these “hopes” anywhere else in the western world:

The Bush administration said Thursday that the release of 15 British sailors and marines held by Iran for two weeks created no new openings in dealing with Tehran, and it urged American allies to return their attention to enforcing new sanctions against Iran.

In public statements and background interviews, White House and State Department officials said that they saw no indications that the release indicated a change of attitude by Iran’s leadership. Neither did they see any more willingness to discuss suspension of its enrichment of uranium — the requirement that President Bush has said Iran must meet before he is willing to accept talks with the country.

One senior official, who like some other officials who discussed the issue spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing internal assessments of Iran’s motivation, said that the administration’s internal assessment of the episode, while incomplete, suggested that the seizure of the Britons was “probably not directed from the upper reaches government.” The official said that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad decided on the release because “he understood that they had exploited whatever they could from the incident” and that “declaring them guilty and letting them go was the cleverest way to get out of it.”

And what about the growing influence of “pragmatists” as Buzzbee refers to them? She assures us that they are less “anti western” than Ahmadinejad. Specifically, she refers to former President Rafsanjani as in this camp and his him allied with the “conservative clerics” who run Iran.

I hate to disabuse Buzzbee and anyone else who thinks this way but it is imposslbe to rise as far in the Iranian leadership as Rafsanjani has without proving your anti-western credentials. How much “less” anti-western is Rafsanjani? As President, he began the secret Iranian nuclear program, using the services of the Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan and his nuclear black market during the 1990’s. The significance of this is simple; Khan doesn’t assist nations in creating uranium enrichment facilities in order to construct power plants. Every single client in Khan’s little black book has either successfully built or is striving to build a bomb. (Libya was forced to give up their bomb program when we caught them red handed.)

And Rafsanjani has never had a kind word to say about America, calling for our destruction on numerous occasions. You also don’t rise as far as he has in the leadership unless you are a fanatical hater of Israel.

Some pragmatist. Some moderate.

Don’t tell Buzzbee any of this, though. She’s on a roll:

The pragmatists also worry about the populism of Ahmadinejad and his backers that includes calls to redistribute wealth within Iran. Rafsanjani is a multimillionaire, and much recent criticism of Ahmadinejad by Iranian conservatives has centered on fears his strident rhetoric could hurt Iran’s economy and the status quo.

Yet if Larijani and his allies led the way in ending the faceoff with Britain, Ahmadinejad’s featured role during the release of the naval team seemed to indicate he was not completely brushed aside.

It is the struggle between hard-liners and pragmatists in the Islamic Republic that could give optimism only a brief life: As Iran headed back into talks with Europe on its nuclear program Thursday, it already was warning of retaliation if the West pushed too hard.

The mixed signals put the spotlight on a key conundrum about Iran — the question of who really calls the shots.

It is unclear whether Ahmadinejad himself cut Larijani and his friends off at the knees with this sudden move to release the hostages while they were busy trying to get the Brits to admit they were wrong or whether the decision was made in the Iranian National Security Council. Somehow, I think Larijani and his friends were blindsided by this decision which could point to a unilateral decision by Ahmadinejad to release the hostages that was okayed directly by Supreme Leader Khamenei. Ahmadinejad has his own power base in the Rev Guards and the fact that the leader of the Guards came out in favor of releasing the Brits without conditions while Larijani was in the process of negotiating could be significant.

But the question of “who calls the shots” in Iran is always fraught with uncertainty because of shifting alliances in the Assembly of Experts and the general perception that the Iranian president’s power is largely dependent on being in the good graces of Khamenei. Some western observers think that Khamenei knows that Ahmadinejad will be the last president on his watch as Supreme Leader. Rumors of ill health have dogged Khamenei for the better part of a year and it is thought he engineered Ahmadinejad’s victory over Rafsanjani to cleanse the revolution of endemic corruption. Rafsanjani, by the way, is not a “multi millionaire” as Buzzbee claims but rather a multi billionaire. Forbes Magazine named him one of the richest men in the world back in the 1990’s. Needless to say, you don’t make billions on a mullahs salary.

Ahmadinejad is in trouble with the elites not because of his anti-western rhetoric but because he has fired hundreds of technocrats in the ministries – conduits who funnel ill gotten gains to the leadership – and replaced them with true believers. To say that these “pragmatists” or “moderates” are interested in using negotiations with the west for any other purpose than to lull us into a false sense of security is absurd. Their goals are similar to those of Ahmadinejad, although they may disagree with him tacticly – especially when it comes to the rhetoric coming out of Iran. The mullahs have studied the western press and people closely and realize that making occassional noises about “reform” or diplomatic openings plays much better than vowing to wipe Israel off the map or sponsoring Holocaust denial conferences.

I doubt whether we wll ever know exactly how the internal decision was reached to release the hostages. But that didn’t stop Buzzbee from wildly speculating:

Ahmadinejad and his backers combine anti-Western ideology and strong Islamic conservatism. Larijani and his allies are also conservative, religious and strong supporters of the Revolutionary Guard, even if they are slightly less anti-Western.

That means tough bargaining over the nuclear program, and Western charges that Iranians are helping some of the violent groups in neighboring Iraq and supporting Islamic extremists elsewhere in the Middle East.

Iran clearly wants to engage the United States and the rest of the West, and it is likely to meet “flexibility with pragmatism,” said Vali Nasr and Ray Takeyh, two Iran experts with close ties to the country.

But so far, fearing that Iran is trying to develop atomic weapons, the United States and other governments remain adamant that Tehran must curb the nuclear program before any talks can begin on broader issues.

I shudder at the thought of an Iranian’s idea of “pragmatism” once we meet them with “flexibility.” I’m sure what those analysts are talking about is “flexibilty” regarding the Iranian nuclear program. In other words, surrender on the nuclear issue and we’ll talk.

No thanks. And if Iran is so all fired anxious to “engage” the US and the west, why are they taking hostages, refusing to bow to the will of the United Nations and stop their enrichment program, and training and supplying militants in Iraq who are killing Americans?

Krauthammer hit a home run today:

The capture and release of the British hostages illustrate once again the fatuousness of the “international community” and its great institutions. You want your people back? Go to the European Union 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.

In the end, it will be up to the US to stand up to the fanatics. Probably alone, as usual, while the rest of our allies shout their criticisms and at the same time privately thank us for doing what they themselves lack the will to do.

By: Rick Moran at 12:41 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (10)

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It appears that the hostage crisis in Iran is over. President Ahmadinejad has “pardoned” the British sailors and has given them back to Britain as a “gift:”

During his press conference taking place right now, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has just announced that he has “pardoned” the British marines and sailors and that they will be released as a “gift” to Britain. (Sky News live broadcast, no link)

The presser is still going on as I speak, although I wouldn’t necessarily call it a press conference since, as is his wont, the talkative Ahmadiinejad is apparently asking and answering his own questions. And being a long winded sort of fellow, the hostages may be in for a long wait for freedom:

Iran is to free the 15 UK sailors and marines taken captive in the Shatt al Arab waterway as a “gift” to Britain.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the group would be released promptly and handed over to the British embassy in Tehran.

He said he had pardoned the sailors as a gift to the British people and to mark the birthday of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed and Easter.

He made the pledge after awarding medals to the “brave” border guards who arrested the Britons.

“I would like to thank the Iranian coast guard for courgeously defending our Iranian territorial waters,” he said.

He then pinned medals on the chests of three Coast Guard officers. The ceremony was performed during a broadcast broadcast around the world.

While the release of the hostages is welcome news (and I doubt that Blair would turn them away no matter what Ahmadinejad had made them out to be), the Iranian president’s “pardon” of the sailors is hugely significant. It presupposes that the sailors had done something wrong in the first place – an idea directly at odds with what the British government has been saying since the crisis began. In the end, Ahmadinejad found a way to humiliate the Brits while coming out smelling like a rose himself thanks to his “Easter gift” to the British people.

I realize that this is news and must be covered. I also realize that reporters sitting in Tehran are not about to get up and call out the Iranians on this shameless, nauseating piece of propaganda.

But the commentary I’m hearing on the voice over from Skye News is unbelievable. No mention that this is so obvious a propaganda dog and pony show. No comment about what a “pardon” for people who have done nothing wrong might mean. And certainly nothing about how this has placed Ahmadinejad on the top of the heap once again in Iran.

For the last 3 or 4 days, some of the less fanatical leaders in Iran (I will not refer to them as “moderates” or “pragmatists” which makes a mockery of the English language in so doing) shoved Ahmadinejad and his radical brethren to the sidelines in this dispute, working the phones and trying to get the British to agree to some kind of language where the Brits would admit to violating Iranian territorial waters without actually saying so. And they seemed to be making some progress.

And then, out of the clear blue, Ahmadinejad grabs the bull by the horns and “pardons” them all and then pins medals on the border guards who kidnapped the sailors illegally in the first place. Hard to beat that kind of chutzpah. In one fell swoop, he has scored an incredible propaganda victory for the regime, making them look like reasonable human beings instead of the drooling fanatics they are portrayed as being. And he has humiliated one of the great powers of Europe, making them accept his definition of what happened and acquiescing in his “pardon” of the innocent sailors. Ahmadinejad even managed to go over the heads of the British government by offering the sailors as a “gift” to the British people – no doubt many of whom will be eternally grateful that the thug didn’t torture and behead them while they were in his custody.

The effect of these gestures was to cut the less fanatical mullahs off at the knees, leaving them looking like idiots for trying to get the Brits to agree to language that would have been problematic in the extreme when all Ahmadinejad had to do to get exactly the same result was unilaterally declare the Brits in the wrong by pardoning the sailors.

Pretty brilliant stuff.

I have no doubt this has emboldened Ahmadinejad and his radical brethren although they’d be daft to try something like this on the United States. More likely, Iran will continue to probe the periphery of the west, searching for weakness and exploiting it when they can. Clearly, they are now big-time players in the Middle East – something they have been pointing to since long before our invasion of Iraq – and will either cause our allies to buckle and try and make the best accommodations possible with Tehran or they will look to the US for assistance.

Given the ever more strident calls for our leaving Iraq to the tender mercies of those allied with Tehran in the first place, I doubt whether our allies in the region are feeling encouraged today.


Ed Morrissey, celebrating the return home of his beloved First Mate following kidney transplant surgery, takes a slightly less optimistic view of the Iranian victory:

Ahmadinejad makes the most out of the reversal. Facing the threat of a blockade if Iran pressed this any further, he gets to look magnanimous while still maintaining the notion that he could have tried the sailors for espionage, even while dressed in uniform. It’s a net win, allowing the Iranians to feel as though they won a tactical victory while avoiding having to back up their rhetoric with action.

Whether this is a win for Tony Blair remains to be seen. He stuck with negotiations and got the 15 back, and he didn’t have to apologize for a violation that never occurred. On the surface, it looks great—an end to the crisis without a shot being fired. It’s what happened below the surface and behind the scenes that will determine how Blair fared against Ahmadinejad. What did the British have to give up in order to get their personnel back?

First, it would have taken a helluva lot of provocation for the Brits to have instituted (or asked our help in instituting) a blockade. I don’t think that was ever a serious option as long as the Iranians didn’t put the sailors on trial.

Secondly, few questions will be asked of Blair about the resolution of this crisis. As Ed says, he got them home and nobody died. No doubt the left in Britain will trumpet this “victory” and compare it unfavorably to something the US may have done. But because they have the introspective capabilities of a three toed sloth, the British left will fail to realize that Ahmadinejad has forced the Brits to tacitly admit that everything the Iranians said about the sailors was true; that they were spying, they were in Iranian waters deliberately, and that the British government is a bunch of liars for trying to say differently.

But hey! Nobody died!

And Allah sees the pardon as a sign of weakness on Ahmadinejad’s part:

The fact that they let/made Ahmadinejad make the announcement smacks of a face-saving gesture. According to the Times, Ahmadinejad’s hardliners were split with the pragmatists about how far to pursue confrontation here. You may remember the Times of London claimed a few days ago that the hardliners themselves were split, with the head of the Revolutionary Guard advocating that the sailors be freed. Sounds like “Mahdi” and his crew lost the debate but Khamenei threw him a bone by letting him look powerful and magnanimous by framing the release as a presidential pardon. The fact that it’s a pardon also assumes that a crime was committed, of course, which is another face-saving gesture.

The question now, given the de facto prisoner exchange yesterday involving that Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Iraq, is how much Britain — or we — gave up to make this happen.

Allah points to a report out of Iran that apparently we are going to allow an Iranian diplomat to look in on the Rev guards we captured at Irbil a few weeks ago.

“Quid pro quo, Clarice…”?

By: Rick Moran at 9:38 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (10)

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Is it culturally bigoted to compare the Iranian mullahs to Persian rug merchants? (Note: According to this site, referring to an Arab as a rug merchant is considered racist. Since everyone knows that Persians are not Arabs – just ask any Arab who remembers every Persian invasion over the last 1000 years – I think I’m on safe ground with the language Nazis of the left.)

If the shoe fits…

Actually, the entire British hostage episode is turning into something of a rug merchant joke, reminiscent of haggling in a bazaar over the price of a piece of carpet only to have the merchant raise the price after you agree to his final offer. “Ah! But this is a special carpet with magical properties,” says the merchant. “Surely you wouldn’t mind paying a bit more for a carpet that flies, no?”

And that’s just about where the Brits are with the Iranians at this point in the drama, as the mullahs, after saying they would let the female hostage go today, appear to have reneged on that promise and have now upped the price by saying that Tony Blair’s government must grovel before Darius and the mighty Persians:

Iran may delay the release of the female British sailor if Britain takes the issue to the U.N. Security Council or freezes relations, the country’s top negotiator Ali Larijani said Thursday.

Speaking on Iranian state radio, Larijani said: “British leaders have miscalculated this issue.”

If Britain follows through with its policies on the 15 British sailors and marines detained by Iran last week, Larijani said “this case may face a legal path” – a clear reference to Iran’s prosecuting the sailors in court.

How have the Brits “miscalculated?” They actually believed the Iranians when they said they would release the woman. That was mistake number one. Their second mistake was not seeing this coming a mile away; the beginning of the attempt to humiliate Great Britain:

Iran’s foreign minister said Wednesday that Britain must admit that its 15 sailors and marines entered Iranian waters in order to resolve a standoff over their capture by the Mideast nation.

Manouchehr Mottaki’s statement in an interview with The Associated Press came on a day of escalating tensions, highlighted by an Iranian video of the detained Britons that showed the only woman captive saying her group had “trespassed” in Iranian waters. Britain angrily denounced the video as unacceptable and froze most dealings with the Mideast nation.

The Iranian official also backed off a prediction that the female sailor, Faye Turney, could be freed Wednesday or Thursday, but said Tehran agreed to allow British officials to meet with the detainees.

Mottaki said that if the alleged entry into Iranian waters was a mistake “this can be solved. But they have to show that it was a mistake. That will help us to end this issue.”

Please note the escalation of Iranian demands the longer this thing goes on. They apparently are seeking a replay of the American hostage drama from 27 years ago when the students would come out every couple of months with an ever changing, ever shifting set of demands that would have to be met before we got our people back. Then, just as the Carter Administration would buckle, the students would up the ante. How many times did President Carter or one of his aides announce the imminent end to the hostage drama only to have negotiations blow up in their faces when the Iranians shifted gears and add another “condition” to the release of our diplomats?

The question should be asked why the Brits should acknowledge something that isn’t true:

In London, British military officials released new information about the seizure, saying satellite positioning readings showed the vessels were 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi waters.

Vice Adm. Charles Style gave the satellite coordinates as 29 degrees 50.36 minutes north latitude and 48 degrees 43.08 minutes east longitude. He said that position had been confirmed by an Indian-flagged merchant ship boarded by the sailors and marines.

He also told reporters the Iranians had provided a geographical position Sunday that he said was in Iraqi waters. By Tuesday, he said, Iranian officials had given a revised position 2 miles to the east, inside Iranian waters.

“It is hard to understand a legitimate reason for this change of coordinates,” Style said.

Wonderful British understatement! The Iranians provide a position that clearly shows the men were in Iraqi waters but when they realize they goofed, they pretend the first set of numbers were never released and simply make sh*t up.

To be completely accurate, the boundaries for the Shatt-al-Arab waterway where the Brits were kidnapped has been in dispute for centuries. The problem for the Iranians is that the Brits were clearly in Iraqi territorial waters under a mandate from the UN (UN SEC RES 1723) and at the invitation of the Iraqi government. The waterway is a bone of contention between Iraq and Iran and was one of numerous issues that led to the Iran-Iraq War in 1980. But the British sailors were in internationally recognized waters belonging to Iraq. Of this, there is no doubt.

But such minor details like what actually happened don’t trouble the Iranians. They have much bigger fish to fry. They have a western nation to humiliate and make an example of and nothing is going to stand in the way of that goal.

So far, the Blair government has been firm but not bellicose. Fat lot of good that did them when the Iranians, sensing weakness, now threaten to put the sailors on trial unless the Brits grovel before them and tell the world what everyone knows to be false; that they were in Iranian waters when they were illegally taken.

I fully expect the UN to issue what passes for ringing denunciations. In UNese, this means calling on “both parties” to exercise restraint while politely suggesting to the Iranian thugs holding the sailors that they be good sports and not be too beastly to the Brit hostages. And if they could see their way clear to letting them go, they would have the eternal gratitude of the UN - something the Iranians might find a little ironic since the Security Council has just slapped a few more sanctions on their heads for trying to build a nuclear bomb.

There are some whispers coming out of western capitals that this latest hostage grab is actually a symptom of a power struggle within the Iranian government. Ahmadinejad may have felt his power ebbing away and decided on carrying out an operation guaranteed to whip the population into a frenzy of patriotic feeling. Meanwhile, the less radical faction (I just can’t bring myself to call some of these galoots “moderates”) led by former presidents Ayatollah Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami who favor engaging the west in some kind of dialogue are trapped. If they criticize Ahmadinejad, they risk losing support of the people. If they support him, Ahmadinejad has bought himself some breathing room.

No matter whether this has anything to do with internal Iranian politics, the Brits are up against it. If this thing starts to drag on, Blair may find himself “Carterized” – shown to be impotent in the face of naked aggression. This would only embolden Iran and could lead to other hostage situations involving not only the Brits, but the United States as well.

And what about our response? Two carrier battle groups are launching F-18’s 24 hours a day, roaring off the decks and making a huge show of force. Would George Bush launch a strike against Iranian nuke and oil facilities? Not while the Brits are hostages. And this raises the question of the timing of this grab. I mentioned here that some analysts around the world think that the US is preparing to strike Iran sometime in April of this year. The Iranians can read the papers too which may mean they are hedging their bets. Sure would be awkward if the Iranians placed those Brits in various strategic sites around the country as human shields.

That last was rank speculation but the question is valid; would we attack even without the permission of the Brits? I don’t think George Bush would risk getting Blair mad at him so that option is off the table. For the moment, we wait. And the British sailors also wait to hear if their country sacrifices honor and truth just to get them back or whether Blair stands firm and, with the rest of the world behind him, gets the Iranians to back down and release the hostages.


Allah has an update that Blair will ask the UN to urge the Iranians to release the hostages immediately.

What’s very strange is that there is a “debate” scheduled for today in the Security Council.

It may seem a little forward of me to ask, them being high falutin diplomats and all, but who, praytell, is going to take the position in this “debate” that Iran is within their rights to hold 15 foreign nationals who even the Iranian government admitted on Sunday (later changing the lat/long to reflect the lie that they were picked up in Iranian waters) were in Iraqi territorial waters engaged in activity mandated by the UN and approved by the Iraqi government?

Further, if the debater is going to make the case that the Brits were engaged in “espionage,” they are going to have to explain why the sailors were boarding an Indian-flagged dhou looking for contraband in broad daylight when they were kidnapped and not sneaking around at night watching Iranian military posts and the like.

Sounds like a job for the late Johnny Cochrane or maybe the Monty Python guys could do something with it.

By: Rick Moran at 9:06 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (8)


It’s almost as inevitable as the daffodils blooming.

Every spring for the past three years, we’ve heard reports that the US intends to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites. While this has proved to be an incorrect prediction in the past, there are some signs that within a month, the United States could initiate hostilities against Iran, thus setting off a chain reaction of events – the outcome of which would be uncertain.

There have been numerous reports since January of this year that point to an April kickoff for such an attack. And in the last 48 hours, two separate foreign news services have pegged April 6 as the date for the attack. And then there was this curious story in the Turkish Daily News talking about using Bulgarian and Romanian air bases where increased activity has been spotted recently:

The United States “could be using its two air force bases in Bulgaria and one at Romania’s Black Sea coast to launch an attack on Iran in April,” the Bulgarian news agency Novinite claimed. Commenting on the report, The Sunday Herald wrote that the U.S. build-up along the Black Sea, coupled with the recent positioning of two U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups off the Straits of Hormuz “appears to indicate that U.S. President Bush has run out of patience with Tehran’s nuclear misrepresentation and non-compliance with the U.N. Security Council’s resolution.”

“Whether the Bulgarian news report is a tactical feint or a strategic event is hard to gauge at this stage. But, in conjunction with the beefing up of the America’s Italian bases and the acquisition of anti-missile defense bases in the Czech Republic and Poland, the Balkan developments seem to indicate a new phase in Bush’s global war on terror,” wrote the Scottish paper…

The Bulgarian agency named Colonel Sam Gardiner, “a U.S. secret service officer stationed in Bulgaria,” as the source its story.

Before the end of March, 3,000 U.S. military personnel are scheduled to arrive “on a rotating basis” at the United States’ Bulgarian bases. Under the U.S.-Bulgarian military cooperation accord, signed in April, 2006, an airbase at Bezmer, a second airfield at Graf Ignitievo and a shooting range at Novo Selo were leased to the U.S. Army.

The Sunday Herald noted that last week, the Romanian daily Evenimentual Zilei revealed the U.S. Air Force is to stage several flights of F-l5, F-l6 and Al0 aircraft at the Kogalniceanu Base. According to the story, Admiral Gheorghe Marin, Romania’s chief of staff, confirmed “up to 2,000 American military personnel will be temporarily stationed in Romania.”

At the very least, all of this activity points to getting our ducks in a row militarily so that a decision can be made one way or the other to attack Iran and be followed immediately by military action.

Would Bush attack Iran without Congressional approval? He’s be writing his own articles of impeachment if he did. And given the dwindling support for the President among Republicans on the Hill, it could very well lead to his removal from office.

Ahmadinejad’s most recent outrage – the taking of 15 British sailors hostage – along with our apparent refusal to give him a visa to come to the US and speak before the UN about the planned sanctions against Iran, (It’s possible we issued the visa but Ahmadinejad decided not to come due to the hostage incident which would gain him no friends anyway on the Security Council.) could be significant. Did the Iranians take pre emptive action, believing an attack is imminent and would they use the Brits as human shields for their nuke sites?

Wild speculation to be sure. As is this entire article. But when enough people are whispering that something is about to happen, you can either ignore it as gossip or take it as a sign that things are going on behind the scenes that we, the public, may not be privy to.


Here’s a little levity regarding the prediction of an imminent attack:

Q. Why is the United States being forced into Daylight Savings Time three weeks early?

A. Back in 2005, Bush was planning an attack on Iran for April 2007 and some policy wonk pointed out that the attack would be taking place during the Daylight Savings Time change. It would be crazy to be changing clocks during a shooting war so, Bush’s wonks created a bogus piece of legislation called the Energy Policy Act of 2005 as a cover for early Daylight Savings Time. Now Bush can have his surprise attack on Iran without the fekkups that would be created by time changes right in the middle of an attack.

What do you expect from the English language Pravda forum?

By: Rick Moran at 3:28 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (26)

The Thunder Run linked with Web Reconnaissance for 03/26/2007

News that a retired Iranian General has defected to the west may prove to be one of the most significant events in the War on Terror to date. While questions surround the issue of who assisted his defection and exactly who he’s talking to, the fact remains that if reports of his past postings and potential knowledge of some of the most closely guarded secrets of the Iranian regime are correct, this defection could lead to an intelligence bonanza that will shake up the Iranian regime while filling in some of the gaps in our knowledge of some of their most secretive programs:

A former Iranian deputy defense minister who once commanded the Revolutionary Guard has left his country and is cooperating with Western intelligence agencies, providing information on Hezbollah and Iran’s ties to the organization, according to a senior U.S. official.

Ali Rez Asgari disappeared last month during a visit to Turkey. Iranian officials suggested yesterday that he may have been kidnapped by Israel or the United States. The U.S. official said Asgari is willingly cooperating. He did not divulge Asgari’s whereabouts or specify who is questioning him, but made clear that the information Asgari is offering is fully available to U.S. intelligence.

Asgari served in the Iranian government until early 2005 under then-President Mohammad Khatami. Asgari’s background suggests that he would have deep knowledge of Iran’s national security infrastructure, conventional weapons arsenal and ties to Hezbollah in south Lebanon. Iranian officials said he was not involved in the country’s nuclear program, and the senior U.S. official said Asgari is not being questioned about it. Former officers with Israel’s Mossad spy agency said yesterday that Asgari had been instrumental in the founding of Hezbollah in the 1980s, around the time of the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut.

Pajamas Media lays out some of the potential intelligence treasures Asgari might provide:

It is clear that Asgari is a man privy to numerous secrets which Iran desperately does not want revealed. As well as being a former deputy defence Minister, Asgari was also a General in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC). The IRGC, more than any other branch of Iran’s armed forces, is aware of, and has access to Iran’s nuclear program. Its members are in charge of monitoring and protecting Iran’s nuclear installations, and scientists.

Furthermore, the IRGC is in charge of developing and testing Iran’s missiles, an arsenal which Iran has threatened to use if attacked. Last but not least, the IRGC is in charge of training and arming Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Iraqi Shiite militants in Iraq.

The idea that as head of the Rev Guards Asgari might have been privy to nuclear secrets seems to be contradicted in the WaPo piece by Dafna Linzer above. Linzer reports that his source says that Asgari is “not being questioned” about the Iranian nuclear program. Does this mean they just haven’t gotten around to it yet? Or is it disinformation on the part of the US official?

It actually rings true that Asgari would have limited knowledge of the Iranian nuclear program. The IRGC is not a monolithic organization. It has several quasi-independent commands, including the Qods Force that we’ve heard so much about recently. It wouldn’t surprise me if the vitally important task of guarding Iran’s nuclear infrastructure was given to one of these independent commands that report directly to Supreme Leader Khamenei. Hence, Asgari would probably be in the dark about many of the specifics regarding the nuclear program although he might be able to confirm once and for all whether the regime was truly working on building nuclear weapons.

Richard Fernandez examines some of the side issues to this defection:

To those who have long ago decided that America must withdraw from Iraq, this development must bring some disquiet. First, Asgari’s reception can be regarded as “provocative”. After all, if Teheran’s goodwill is necessary to gain an exit from Iraq, then encouraging the defection of one of their top officials hardly answers the purpose. Second, it underscores the fact that American policy is still vacillating between the polar opposites of creating an Iraq on US terms and withdrawing in good order to save face. It may be all Washington talks about, but on the crucial point of whether to stay and “win” in Iraq or accept it as another Vietnam there has been no closure, nor is any likely until a new President is elected in 2008. Lastly, whatever revelations Asgari may make may be viewed with suspicion by those who fear that the Administration is once again attempting to manipulate the public to support a policy unpopular with the other major party. Nor is this fear entirely unfounded because it is possible, though unlikely that Asgari in some subtle way may manage to project disinformation which will raise more questions than it answers. Like every opportunity, his defection raises both tempting prospects and dangers. Maybe Washington should send Teheran a message: who said life was easy.

This should make the meeting with Iran, Iraq, and Syria this Saturday very interesting. I doubt whether Iran will raise the issue but it will nevertheless color the background of the conversations – especially if the US has some new intel on Iran’s assistance to the militias and Shia terrorists.

Meanwhile, the question of who facilitated Asgari’s defection has taken on an almost comical air as each of the likely suspects either refuses to comment or politely denies any involvement:

Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, quoted the country’s top police chief, Brig. Gen. Esmaeil Ahmadi-Moqaddam, as saying that Asgari was probably kidnapped by agents working for Western intelligence agencies. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Asgari was in the United States. Another U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, denied that report and suggested that Asgari’s disappearance was voluntary and orchestrated by the Israelis. A spokesman for President Bush’s National Security Council did not return a call for comment.

The Israeli government denied any connection to Asgari. “To my knowledge, Israel is not involved in any way in this disappearance,” said Mark Regev, the spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry.

An Iranian official, who agreed to discuss Asgari on the condition of anonymity, said that Iranian intelligence is unsure of Asgari’s whereabouts but that he may have been offered money, probably by Israel, to leave the country. The Iranian official said Asgari was thought to be in Europe. “He has been out of the loop for four or five years now,” the official said.

That last statement about Asgari being “out of the loop for four or five years” is almost certainly wishful thinking on the part of the Iranian official – or an outright lie. He was a Deputy Defense Minister for 8 years prior to his retirement in 2005 according to DEBKA who also speculate that rather than defecting, Asgari was kidnapped in retaliation for the raid by the Qods Force in Karbala that ended in the execution style deaths of 5 US servicemen:

The missing general has been identified as the officer in charge of Iranian undercover operations in central Iraq, according to DEBKAfile’s intelligence and Iranian sources. He is believed to have been linked to – or participated in – the armed group which stormed the US-Iraqi command center in Karbala south of Baghdad Jan. 20 and snatched five American officers. They were shot outside the Shiite city.

An Middle East intelligence source told DEBKAfile that the Americans could not let this premeditated outrage go unanswered and had been hunting the Iranian general ever since.

As always, DEBKA offers up entertaining takes on what’s happening in the world. But their track record for accuracy is, shall we say, something less than stellar. Take the above with a grain of salt.

Our record regarding how we have handled high level defections in the past is also something less than stellar. In fact, two famous incidents during the cold war raise the question of why any high value defector would wish to come here in the first place.

In 1964, Yuri Nosenko, the highest ranking officer in the KGB to defect to the west at that time, was at first seen as an intelligence coup, on par with the Soviet’s triumph with “The Cambridge Five” – a shocking penetration of British intelligence that included Kim Philby and Guy Burgess helping to pass nuclear secrets to the Russians following the war. But once in the United States, Nosenko became the target of one of the most irrational and paranoid men ever to serve in the CIA - James Jesus Angleton – who believed the Soviet defector to be part of a Soviet disinformation campaign to throw the agency off the scent of an agency mole that was supposed to be ensconced at the highest levels of the CIA.

A short profile of Angleton shows what Nosenko was in for:

Angleton can do nothing right. Mangold repeatedly shows him making a mess of his marriage, indulging his passion for martinis, turning up at his Langley office at 11 in the morning, or rolling up drunk after lunch. But his innumerable personal failings were nothing to compare with the disastrous consequences of his professional actions. Mangold’s central charge is that Angleton, as a result of his cold-war obsession, fell under the spell of another KGB defector, Anatoly Golitsyn, who persuaded Angleton that the most important step in the Kremlin’s quest for world domination was the takeover of the Western intelligence services. They would become vehicles of Soviet disinformation, both through fake defectors and through “moles” within the services who would seek to ensure that the “disinformation” coming out of the Soviet Union was accepted back home as genuine information. Subscribing to this theory, Mangold asserts, led Angleton to demoralize the Agency and ruin careers through his vain hunt for “moles” burrowing away at Langley. In addition, he prevented the CIA’s Soviet Bloc Division from recruiting spies in the Soviet Union—its raison d’etre—in the fear that they might all be KGB agents. But this assault on paranoia itself bears the marks of the disease.

This led to an unbelievable ordeal for the Soviet defector. From 1964 until 1975, Nosenko was treated not as a defector, but as a Soviet double agent:

Mr. Nosenko is subjected to increasingly harsh and inhuman interrogation and confinement, even locked up in a “dungeon” for three years, tortured by sensory deprivation and physical, psychological and pharmacological abuse, but still never concedes that he’s a K.G.B. plant. Instead, the holes in this narrative are attributed to the sort of innocent mistakes and memory lapses that may have resulted from his trying to build himself up to make himself seem more important.

Nonetheless, Mr. Nosenko becomes the rationale for an Angleton-led witch hunt that tears apart and paralyzes the C.I.A. in its hunt for the Hidden Mole, and results in destructive rebuffs of genuine defectors, because of a paranoid “sick think” mindset that imagined a K.G.B. Master Plan of Deception and Disinformation that succeeded in befuddling the West—all of which resulted in Angleton’s firing, Mr. Nosenko’s rehabilitation and the triumph of the K.G.B. mole in the C.I.A., who had succeeded in turning the C.I.A. “inside out.” Indeed, some of the cult-like Angletonians were so paranoid that they believed the man who fired Angleton, the one-time head of the C.I.A. itself, William Colby, was the mole. (Mr. Bagley, who doesn’t buy it, nonetheless conceded that he’s heard muttering to this effect.)

The gritty details of Nosenko’s ordeal can be found in Gerald Posner’s Case Closed. Nosenko’s defection came on the heels of the JFK assassination and coincidentally, he happened to have been Oswald’s KGB baby sitter while the assassin was in Russia. It was thought by some at the agency who agreed with Angleton, that the Soviets sent Nosenko to assure the Americans that the KGB had nothing to do with the assassination. But that was just more paranoia. Nosenko had been spying for the Americans for months prior to his defection and it was just a good piece of luck that he happened to have had access to Oswald’s files while in Russia.

Nevertheless, Nosenko’s ordeal was truly horrific. And to this day, there are some at the agency who believe he was a plant. His story has been told not only in Posner’s book but also fictitiously in the recent Robert DeNiro film The Good Shepard where the idea that Nosenko was a double agent is advanced. Regardless of Nosenko’s true status (and most experts believe he was genuine) his beastly treatment would have given any potential defector second thoughts.

Then there was the incredibly bizarre story of Vitaly Yurchenko, a man who defected to the US and then, a few months later, simply walked away from his CIA handlers and re-defected back to Moscow. To this day, no one knows whether he was a genuine defector who suffered from second thoughts or a clever Soviet ploy to embarrass the Reagan Administration and learn details of CIA debriefings of defectors.

What makes this case even stranger is that Yurchenko fingered two CIA moles; Ron Pelton and Edward Lee Howard. The CIA let Howard slip through their fingers and escape to Moscow but Pelton was captured and convicted of espionage.

The details of his re-defection are pretty unbelievable:

All that seemed certain about the drama of the turncoat’s return was that the last act began at a casual bistro in bustling Georgetown, Au Pied de Cochon, where he went for dinner with a junior CIA security officer on Saturday night. As his escort was paying the check, Yurchenko suddenly asked a question. “What would you do if I got up and walked out? Would you shoot me?” Replied the CIA agent: “No, we don’t treat defectors that way.” “I’ll be back in 15 or 20 minutes,” Yurchenko said. Pause. “If I’m not, it will not be your fault.”

He did not come back, and it was not until late Monday afternoon that his whereabouts became public. At 4 p.m., Soviet Embassy Press Counselor Boris Malakhov called the Associated Press’s State Department correspondent to inform him that there would be a press conference in 90 minutes. “We’ll have Vitaly Yurchenko,” he said. Replied Reporter George Gedda: “Wait a minute. Did I miss something? He defected three months ago.” Said Malakhov: “Ah, there have been reports that he defected, but come to the embassy to find out what really happened.”

The fact that Yurchenko works as a security guard in a Moscow bank today probably means he was indeed a Soviet plant. But why give up two valuable agents? The simple answer is because around this time (1985) the Soviets recruited their most valuable asset and the worst traitor in CIA history – Aldrich Ames. By sacrificing the two lower level spies, the KGB would have thrown all suspicion away from Ames – at least for a while. After nearly 10 years of doing extraordinary damage to US national security (including giving the KGB information that led to the deaths of several Russian citizens who were spying for the United States), Ames was finally caught after a lengthy investigation by the FBI.

Any potential defector may have seen the incredibly lax security around Yurchenko that allowed him to just walk away as a red flag. An Iranian defector’s life especially would be in constant peril from Rev Guard “special action” squads (which President Ahmadinejad was reportedly part of when he was a commander in the Qods Force) that target dissidents and defectors. It would certainly have given Asgari pause which may be why he worked through the Israelis to plan his defection.

I should also point out that there have been other high level defectors who were treated very well and handled expertly by our intelligence people and proved to be a font of information that no doubt helped us win the cold war. But the Nosenko and Yurchenko cases have been publicized far and wide, no doubt impressing on foreign intelligence types the potential problems with giving themselves up to the Americans.

As the inevitable leaks from Asgari’s interrogation start flowing, it will be important to keep in mind the political context in which these leaks are taking place and not to give unnecessary weight to revelations that show the Iranian government in either a good or bad light. By definition, the leaks will be coming from people with an agenda – pro or anti military action against the Iranians – and thus they will be trying to influence what we should be doing about the regime. Unless there is some truly actionable intelligence gleaned from Mr. Asgari’s debriefings, it is best that we wait and see until more of the story of his defection can be told.


Allah has been on this story for two days:

Israel denies involvement. Alas, Asgari seems not to have been involved in the nuclear program so this isn’t quite the intel coup for which we’d hoped. Sounds like he was the man to know if you were a Shiite terrorist in Lebanon as of a few years ago, though, which should be of use to the IDF and Mossad. Plus there’s the propaganda windfall, plus the paranoia this must be seeding among the mullahs. How’d you like to be an officer in the Revolutionary Guard who was friendly with Asgari? Sleep with one eye open, jerkies.


I might also mention that Hizbullah has been expanding their foriegn operations in the last couple of years. Some names of Hizbullah operatives working overseas that Asgari might be able to pass along to us would, I’m sure, prove interesting and useful.

Ed Morrissey highlights the fact that Asgari served under President Khatami and may not have been able to stomach Ahmadinejad’s radicalism:

The tie to the Khatami regime could be significant. Khatami is what passes as a reformer in Iran, which means that he favored a more measured approach to international relations. Calling the US the “Great Satan” and Israel the “Little Satan” sufficed for stirring up anti-Western sentiment amongst the rabble for Khatami and his clique. They saw no need to dive into the waters of Holocaust denial and openly advocating for war with Israel and the US.

Asgari may have become disenchanted with the direction Mahmoud Ahmadinejad provided for Iran after the mullahs staged his election in June 2005. That appears to be around the time that Asgari left the Iranian government, although it seems he continued his work in intelligence. That would make Asgari one of the most valuable defections for Western intelligence in decades, not just in information but also in motivation. The mullahs not only have to stop all programs of which Asgari has knowledge, but they also have to wonder how many other disaffected Asgaris they are creating with their reckless domestic and foreign policy.


Allah reports that there is some question whether Asgari is in custody. One US source is telling Fox News and ABC’s The Blotter that we don’t have him and don’t know where he is:

A former Iranian deputy defense minister who disappeared from Turkey last month is not cooperating with Western intelligence agencies and his whereabouts remain a mystery, a U.S. official told FOX News Thursday…

[A] senior U.S. official flatly denied the [Washington Post’s] report…

The official did not rule out the possibility that Asgari, who once commanded Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and served as the country’s deputy defense minister, was conducting negotiations with an intelligence organization, but denied that there was any type of cooperation with the U.S.

Stop. My head hurts.

Anything is possible including the idea that his defection was made public way too soon and US officials are trying to throw the Iranians for a loop. A high value defection like this takes months, perhaps even years to debrief properly. Of course, the longer the Iranians are in the dark, the more information gleaned from interrogations can be confirmed and even used to gather more intel. But once the cat is out of the bag the Iranians will change their methods and sources – perhaps even roll up some operations in foreign countries that may have been at risk. That last possibility would be a huge disappointment because western intelligence could have latched on to the Iranian cells and observed them for months, spreading the net as wide as possible before springing the trap.

Or, WaPo’s Linzer may have been taken by a little disinformation campaign hatched by American intelligence to panic the Iranians into thinking we had Asgari. Watching what the Iranians do in response to that kind of news is an intelligence windfall in and of itself.

The idea that Asgari may be negotiating his defection also is possible. Asgari evidently has a family and if they’re still in Iran, he may want us to approach the Iranians about getting them out. Some reports have suggested they’re already gone but no confirmation as of yet.

Appropos of my title, I sure hope we haven’t screwed the pooch with this guy somehow.

By: Rick Moran at 9:23 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)

alphabet city linked with Just Asking
CATEGORY: Iran, Politics

It’s one thing for an hysteric like Seymour Hersh to go off the deep and and talk about the real possibility that we would use nuclear weapons to destroy Iranian nuclear research and development sites. We expect such stupidity from the man who accused the American government of deliberately testing the Soviet Union’s air defenses by sending a passenger plane into Russian air space only to have it shot down much to our propaganda advantage.

But when the theory is advanced by “experts” like George Lakoff, well. . . all we can do is bow to the superior intelligence and perspicacity of the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley and start digging bomb shelters:

The stories in the major media suggest that an attack against Iran is a real possibility and that the Natanz nuclear development site is the number one target. As the above quotes from two of our best sources note, military experts say that conventional “bunker-busters” like the GBU-28 might be able to destroy the Natanz facility, especially with repeated bombings. But on the other hand, they also say such iterated use of conventional weapons might not work, e.g., if the rock and earth above the facility becomes liquefied. On that supposition, a “low yield” “tactical” nuclear weapon, say, the B61-11, might be needed.

If the Bush administration, for example, were to insist on a sure “success,” then the “attack” would constitute nuclear war. The words in boldface are nuclear war, that’s right, nuclear war—a first strike nuclear war.

We don’t know what exactly is being planned—conventional GBU-28’s or nuclear B61-11’s. And that is the point. Discussion needs to be open. Nuclear war is not a minor matter.

At the very least, we can gather from his writing that the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley is concerned about nuclear war. It’s just a shame that a Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley is a little deficient in the cognitive and not very adept at the linguistic.

But then, it takes a Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley to understand the nuances and “Euphemisms” of the enemy (that’s the White House to those uninitiated into leftist doublespeak) in order to wrest the truth from the dark corners of the Bush Administration so that the glorious light of reason can be shone and the nefarious plans of Bushco destroyed:

As early as August 13, 2005, Bush, in Jerusalem, was asked what would happen if diplomacy failed to persuade Iran to halt its nuclear program. Bush replied, “All options are on the table.” On April 18, the day after the appearance of Seymour Hersh’s New Yorker report on the administration’s preparations for a nuclear war against Iran, President Bush held a news conference. He was asked,

“Sir, when you talk about Iran, and you talk about how you have diplomatic efforts, you also say all options are on the table. Does that include the possibility of a nuclear strike? Is that something that your administration will plan for?”
He replied,

“All options are on the table.”

The President never actually said the forbidden words “nuclear war,” but he appeared to tacitly acknowledge the preparations—without further discussion.

I see the cognitively challenged Professor’s point. The President also never actually said the forbidden words “Hillary is a slut” but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t wholeheartedly believe it.

Or maybe, this linguistics expert missed the President’s point. Do you think that when he said “All options are on the table” he really meant “I’m gonna nuke them suckers back to the stone age?” Or did he mean “All options are on the table?”

It’s a tough call which is why I’m glad we have a Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley working on the translation problem. In this case, not just any old High School English teacher will do. We need someone with not only the linguistic skills to decipher the President’s cryptic comments but also someone very well versed in cognitive dissonance – er, theories that is.

As for the aforementioned Hillary Clinton, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley helps in translating her rather obscure pronouncements on Iran:

Hillary Clinton, at an AIPAC dinner in NY, said,

“We cannot, we should not, we must not, permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons, and in dealing with this threat, as I have said for a very long time, no option can be taken off the table.”

Translation: Nuclear weapons can be used to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons can also be used to make excellent scrambled eggs but that doesn’t mean we will use them for that purpose – or for any reason for that matter. But our cognitiveless professor can see beyond the nuance, beyond the horizon, even beyond reason to glean the truth from the utterances of the powerful. Or so he thinks.

The nomenclature “All options are on the table” has been used in one form or another for centuries. The idea of using that phrase has never been to threaten or even hint at the use of nuclear weapons in any situation but rather to 1) state the obvious; and 2) keep a potential adversary guessing about your intentions. To make the gigantic leap of illogic as the professor does that all of a sudden this innocuous, boilerplate response – a response fully expected by the questioner – somehow is revealing of the deep, dark plans of the Bush Administration to use nuclear weapons on Iran is absurd on its face. It is idiotic. And it is embarrassing for anyone with more than a 6th grade education to advance such puerile drivel.

Perhaps it is the result of this Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley being so far out of his depth that he is unable to see the nose in front of his face. But that simply doesn’t matter. It is the superior goodness, the purity of heart, the absolute moral certitude of the professor that counts when coming to grips with the problems of . . . dare I say the words that none dare say?

To use words like “low yield” or “small” or “mini-” nuclear weapon is like speaking of being a little bit pregnant. Nuclear war is nuclear war! It crosses the moral line.

Any discussion of roadside canister bombs made in Iran justifying an attack on Iran should be put in perspective: Little canister bombs (EFP’s—explosively formed projectiles) that shoot a small hot metal ball at a humvee or tank versus nuclear war.

Incidentally, the administration may be focusing on the canister bombs because it seeks to claim that the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 permits the use of military force against Iran based on its interference in Iraq. In that case, no further authorization by Congress would be needed for an attack on Iran.

The journalistic point is clear. Journalists and political leaders should not talk about an “attack.” They should use the words that describe what is really at stake: nuclear war—in boldface.

First of all, I agree with the professor. From now on, when writing the words “nuclear war” on this site, I will place a smiley face :-) immediately after it (boldface can get old very quick – especially when you consider how many times every day I write the words “nuclear war” :-) on this site, being the war mongering, bloodthirsty neocon that I am.)

As far as the Bush Administration believing that the AUMF is all that is needed for an attack on Iran, isn’t it strange that the only ones making that argument at the moment are liberals in the blogosphere? I have yet to hear anyone from the Administration advance that rather novel theory – especially as the professor frames the issue as being Iran’s interference in Iraq. So far, the Administration has used what they consider evidence of Iran’s assistance to the militias and death squads only to crack down on Iranians in Iraq and not to threaten an attack on Iran itself. That certainly may change. I sincerely hope not. But Bush would almost certainly find the political rug pulled out from underneath him if he attacked Iran without specific Congressional authorization. Even many Republicans have made that clear.

Lakoff is pathetic. His rationale for not using nuclear weapons is self evident and simple minded. What is truly stupid is his belief that he’s somehow saving the world by writing about it – as if the rest of us had become so enamored of destroying Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities that we have lost sight of the consequences of using nuclear weapons. It takes someone awfully full of themselves to presume to lecture the rest of us about the immorality of using nuclear weapons or even the practical consequences that would flow from nuclear war :-).

Nor is the professor’s list of worst case scenarios complete – not by any means. No word from the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley about what Vlad the Impaler in Moscow might think of a radioactive cloud wafting over Russian territory. Such a turn of events would almost certainly spoil family outings in southern Russia for quite a while. For that reason alone, despite the claim that “all options are on the table,” I think that we can all stop digging those new bomb shelters and emerge from the darkness with a fair amount of assurance – if not absolute rock solid certainty – that we will not use nuclear weapons if we decide to take out Iranian nuclear sites, thus avoiding “nation destruction” and – heaven help us – nuclear war! :-)


From the milblog ARGGHHH!!:

Sometimes it’s best to actually study the subject before you go off screaming, ‘Bush is going to start a nuclear war!’ Just being smart doesn’t make you a polymath with a deep grasp of everything you know.

Do you have to destroy something to put it out of commission? Is mission kill sufficient? Is offline for 2 months to a year sufficient for national policy goals? What are the national goals wrt Iranian nuclear weapons research? None of these questions is asked. Just straight to ‘those batiches are going to employ nuclear weapons because we know he’s a Nazi!’

And why are these guys taken seriously? I can only guess ignorance.

Actually, reader Patrick Murray just emailed to remind me that Lakoff was hired in 2004 by the DNC to “reframe” the message coming from the Democratic party for the election.

We know how well that worked out.

During the 2004 campaign, Lakoff suggested that instead of talking about how Bush had run up the national debt, Democrats should label it a “baby tax’’ the Republican president had imposed on future generations.

He has suggested that same-sex marriage should be referred to as “the right to marry.’’ Trial lawyers like vice presidential nominee John Edwards should instead be called “public protection attorneys,’’ and the term environmental protection, which brings to mind big government and reams of regulations, should instead be termed “poison-free communities.’’

Excuse me while I call my public protection attorney about suing my poison free community so that my partner and I have the right to marry and allow us to work together, hand in hand, cheek to cheek, to lower the baby tax.

Is this a great country or what?

By: Rick Moran at 10:27 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (8)

The Thunder Run linked with Web Reconnaissance for 03/01/2007