Tag: Iran

Do We Want Another War?

A couple of months ago, the Obama Administration and the P5+1 negotiators worked out a temporary deal with Iran on nuclear weapons. About a week ago, the first date was set — January 20 — for Iran to begin scaling down their program.

Congress is now working on a plan to scuttle this deal. Their bill, which is apparently one vote short of being veto-proof, would impose new sanctions on Iran, effectively ending the agreement. As a result, Iran would not get rid of enriched uranium; they would not dismantle their enrichment equipment and they would be free to start up new centrifuges. Of course, they might not do those things anyway. But they will definitely not do them in the face of new sanctions.

As shaky as the Kerry deal is, I think it should be allowed to proceed. Goldberg:

For years, Iran hawks have argued that only punishing sanctions, combined with the threat of military force, would bring Tehran to the nuclear negotiating table. Finally, Iran is at the table. And for reasons that are alternately inexplicable, presumptuous and bellicose, Iran hawks have decided that now is the moment to slap additional sanctions on the Iranian regime.

The bill before the U.S. Senate, which has 59 co-sponsors at last count, will not achieve the denuclearization of Iran. It will not lead to the defunding of Hezbollah by Iran or to the withdrawal of Iranian support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. What it could do is move the U.S. closer to war with Iran and, crucially, make Iran appear — even to many of the U.S.’s allies — to be the victim of American intransigence, even aggression. It would be quite an achievement to allow Iran, the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, to play the role of injured party in this drama. But the Senate is poised to do just that.

I write this as someone with hawkish views about the Iranian nuclear program. Iran is ruled by despots who endorse and fund the murder of innocent people; oppress women, gays and religious minorities in the most terrible ways; and threaten to exterminate a member-state of the United Nations. Some of the “moderates” in the regime are moderate only in comparison to Holocaust-deniers. The regime in Tehran cannot be allowed to cross the nuclear threshold: Israel’s existence is at stake, as is the security of the U.S.’s Sunni Arab friends across the Middle East. The U.S.’s international standing would also be imperiled by a nuclear Iran.

But, at least in the short term, negotiations remain the best way to stop Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold. And U.S. President Barack Obama cannot be hamstrung in discussions by a group of senators who will pay no price for causing the collapse of negotiations between Iran and the P5 + 1, the five permanent members of the security council, plus Germany. “You have a large group of senators who are completely discounting the views of the administration, the actual negotiators, the rest of the P5 + 1, the intelligence community and almost every Iran analyst on earth,” said Colin Kahl, who, as a deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East during Obama’s first term, was responsible for preparing all of the options that the President says are still on the table.

I am dubious that a long-term deal can be worked out or that Iran will comply with the current deal. But I do know that our position for containing Iran will be much stronger if they show themselves to be the unreasonable ones. And, even if I opposed the deal, I do not see the value in imposing new sanctions on Iran at this stage. What exactly is the goal of that? To make them … negotiate more? Is “thank you for coming to the table, here’s more sanctions” going to change things for the better?

Or is the point to push us toward a war?

I am finding Congress’ move to effectively undermine the deal to be alarming. It reflect a neocon mentality that has thoroughly infested both Right and Left; a belief that the use of force is the only acceptable outcome of a foreign policy debate. There is a large block of Congressmen — in both parties — to whom war with Iran is not the means; it’s the end. The have claimed that they wanted Iran to deal. But now that Iran is dealing, they want to scuttle the agreement. Listening to them, it sounds like their fear isn’t that the deal won’t work; their fear is that it will.

It’s not even clear that a war can stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions. They have spread their facilities out, buried others and it’s not clear that anything short of occupying a Russia-backed country twice the size of Iraq would accomplish anything. What we would probably be talking about is some bombings, followed by a long drawn-out conflict over traffic in the Gulf with likely massive spikes in oil prices as Iran uses terrorism and small military attacks to effectively bottleneck a critical fraction of the world’s oil supply.

That’s a big price to pay for some chest thumping.

Conor finds an eerie parallel to the Iraq War, reminding us that many of the same neoconservative hawks trying to scuttle the Iran deal behaved the same way in the run-up to Iraq. The neocons ignored any and all criticisms of their Iraq strategy, deriding their opponents as America-haters and naive peacenicks while portraying themselves as “the reality-based community”. Wanting to contain Iraq was a sign that you were a naive egghead who didn’t really know how the world worked. Serious adults understood that invading Iraq and occupying it was the only realistic course of action (read some of the pre-war boasts Conor links and weep at the hubris).

The American right has not undertaken a rational analysis of Iran policy and concluded that sanctions and the increased possibility of war is the most prudent course. Rather, a small faction of neoconservative ideologues believes, against all evidence, that a strike on Iran is desirable, and they’ve managed to win allies not by winning arguments on the merits but by exploiting right-wing foreign-policy heuristics. Conservatives “know” that President Obama is an Israel-hating, Kenyan anti-colonialist dove, and that liberals are naive pacifists, so there is no need to engage the critiques of Iran hawkishness on the merits. If liberals are for diplomacy in this case, it cannot be that there is a strong rational case to support such efforts. It must be because naive liberals always want to talk things out with our enemies. And these conservatives “know” that talking with Iran will do no good, not because they’ve studied the subject, but because their heuristics tell them so.

Meanwhile, most though not all Democratic enablers of this nonsense (some Democrats just are hawks) see standing with the neoconservative ideologues as a political win, both because it aligns them with powerful AIPAC lobbyists and because it burnishes their credentials as “serious” foreign-policy thinkers, inoculating them against the caricature of naive, dovish liberals. (American politics is often about overcoming entrenched narrative disadvantages.) This anti-substantive approach to Iran is extremely reckless and potentially catastrophic. America’s legislators and its movement conservatives would realize as much if they stopped making decisions based on heuristic shortcuts about Obama, liberals, and diplomacy, and started looking at hard-headed analysis that lays out likely consequences of war with Iran. There is, in fact, no shortage of it.

In retrospect, the danger signs for our Iraq adventure were obvious. There wasn’t a lot of discussion of practical strategy; there was almost no realistic approach to the status of post-war Iraq; concerns about internecine fighting were tamped down; it was never really argued how war with Iraq would bring down Al-Qaeda. No, we were told that the Iraq war planners were serious men who were taking the problems seriously and advocating a serious course of action that would seriously turn Iraq into a democracy. They were vindicated, for a while, because the American military is the most capable fighting machine in history and was filled with people who would do their best, would pay any price, would go back into the lion’s den a dozen times to try to make it work. But here we are, trillions of dollars poorer with thousands of our best dead and tens of thousands more injured and Iraq trying to keep parts of their country from falling to Al-Qaeda. It is my opinion that the big mistakes on Iraq were made before any shots were fired. We didn’t plan for a long war and we didn’t plan for a long war because the neocons insisted that they were serious “reality-based” men who knew what they were doing and only a naive squish would question them.

The rumblings on Iran eerily remind me of the rumblings on Iraq. There is little concern with the practical effects and the potential for a much wider conflict. No, inside-the-beltway neocons are make condescending hubristic statements about how there is only one way to solve this and only one realistic approach and we should just let Israel do what they want and drag us into a massive regional conflict. When concerns are raised, they shake their heads, roll their eyes, tut-tut and make condescending statements about the naiveté of those who think we should think out a war before we start one.

We don’t need another Iraq. We don’t need the same hubristic fools who claimed that we’d turn Iraq into a peaceful Western democracy assuring us that the Iran government will fall if we attack it (governments almost never collapse as a result of outside attack; outside attacks usually rally people behind their government. If we bomb Iran, the people won’t blame the Mullahs).

Our strategy of containment has managed to keep Iran “six months away” from a nuclear weapon for 15 years. The current deal is likely to implode but it’s a small ray of hope that there is a way out of this that will not leave thousands of Iranians, American, Iraqis, Saudis and Israelis on the floor. We should allow that, however unlikely it is, to proceed.

Having Obama and Kerry leading out foreign policy is bad. But having 60 chest-thumping Senators leading it would be even worse. Let this play out.

An Iran Deal

This is breaking now so updates as events warrant. We appear to have struck a deal with Iran. The agreement apparently includes a halt to their nuclear program: no enrichment past 5%, no new centrifuges, no new enrichment facilities, full inspections and getting rid of any 20% enriched uranium. They will be allowed to continue to enrich uranium to low levels (3.5%) consistent with nuclear reactors, can keep their current centrifuges and the sanction will be eased (maybe; not clear at this point). This is preparing for a permanent deal in the next six months.

Expect Israel and the GOP to have a fit, whether the deal is a good one or not. I want to see more information before I judge.

The Iran Deal Falls Through

Over the last week, news reports emerged of a pending deal with Iran on nuclear weapons. In return for some limited sanction relief, the Iranians would have frozen their weapons program with a permanent deal to follow. It might have worked; it probably wouldn’t have. But at least the beginnings of a long-term deal were there.

I’m on record as saying a nuclear Iran is almost inevitable, no matter who is in charge. Even if the Mullahs were toppled and the most pro-Western government imaginable were put in place, Iran would still be surrounded by nuclear powers and they would continue to pursue a nuclear capability. All we can do is delay that moment. We have so far pushed that date back for a decade — Iran has been “X months away” from a nuke since the early 2000’s. This deal would have bought six more months and a “permanent” deal with some teeth might have pushed that date back another decade or more. I realize everyone thinks we should use a military strike to solve the Iran nuclear issue but Iran has learned the lessons of their neighbors and dispersed their program as much as possible. Unless you are prepared to invade and occupy a nation of 80 million people indefinitely, a military strike is a waste of time, money and lives.

The Israelis balked but the Israelis would always balk and the Israelis are actually part of the problem here since Iran has cited the expansion of West Bank settlements as one of their issues. What scotched this deal, oddly enough, was France taking a hard line and refusing to sign on. Whether this was a good or bad thing, I leave up to you. Here is the case that the proposed deal was a bad one. The case that the deal was a good one is that Iran will continue to try to enrich uranium past 20% and to get the Arak reactor online, things they would not have done with a deal.

Ordinarily, this would just be normal diplomacy. Deals fall through all the time. The only interesting part would be that we are moving toward less hostile relations with Iran (a direction we should have moved toward on 9/12 when the Iranians had a vigil for the victims of 9/11 while the Palestinians danced in the streets and the Saudis had “who us?” looks on their faces). But the Obama Administration went public with this deal in a big way before it was signed, trying to pressure all the parties into agreeing and hoping to capitalize on Syria beginning to destroy their WMD arsenal. You could almost hear Obama saying that he had headed off not one but two WMD crises (even though he really hadn’t).

Now their over-eagerness has left egg on their faces yet again. France, Israel, Iran and the gulf states are just as annoyed as if we’d actually made a deal, but no deal actually exists. Iran continues to advance their nuclear agenda and we look like fools.

Remind me again how the Obama Administration was going to be so much better that the Bush team?

A Small Shuddering Step In Iran


In a striking repudiation of the ultraconservatives who wield power in Iran, voters here overwhelmingly elected a mild-mannered cleric who advocates greater personal freedoms and a more conciliatory approach to the world.

The cleric, Hassan Rowhani, 64, won a commanding 50.7 percent of the vote in the six-way race, according to final results released Saturday, avoiding a runoff in the race to replace the departing president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose tenure was defined largely by confrontation with the West and a seriously hobbled economy at home.

Thousands of jubilant supporters poured into the streets of Tehran, dancing, blowing car horns and waving placards and ribbons of purple, Mr. Rowhani’s campaign color. After the previous election in 2009, widely seen as rigged, many Iranians were shaking their heads that their votes were counted this time.

What happened was quite simple. The reformers rallied behind one candidate while the conservatives split. But even the conservatives combined only grabbed about a third of the vote. The result was so overwhelming that even the Iranian government couldn’t steal this one.

Now we shouldn’t get carried away here. Power in Iran still rests with Ayatollah Khamenei and his mullahs. This may only serve to give a respectable veneer to their regime. They will temper any attempt by Rowhani to reform Iran. The nuclear program will go on. However, if the message of the last election was not heard, this has to be: the Iranian people are growing tired of being cut off from the world and controlled by a bunch of 70-year-old religious fanatics.

At some point, the mullahs are going to have to give in just a little bit. And when that happens, it may be the damn breaking. For the past 12 years, I have been thinking that Iran was about 10 years away from turning into an ally. Now I’ll say it’s about nine years away from being an ally. This is a tiny step. Let’s not confuse it with a revolution. But it’s a step.

Rock, Rock, Rock Iran

I don’t want to find out if this story isn’t true. Because if it is true, whoever thought of it deserves a medal for sheer awesomeness:

A computer malware has allegedly attacked computer systems in Iran forcing them to play AC/DC’s Thunderstruck at full volume in the middle of the night, according to a computer security researcher.

Mikko Hypponen, lead researcher at the Finnish computer security firm F-Secure, reported in his blog that a scientist working at the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) sent him an e-mail about his systems getting hit by a cyber-attack.

Lee would have loved this. You can read a quick post he did back in the old days about Marines blasting “Hell’s Bells” into militant-controlled areas, which includes a great Lee line.

Murder on the Nuclear Express

Green Greenwald has a great point about the recent assassination of another Iranian nuclear scientist. He compares the reaction to the actual assassination of Iranian scientists to the reaction to Glenn Reynold’s suggestion of same:

What’s most remarkable here is to compare the boisterous, furious denunciations of the mere suggestion by a blogger on the Internet that Iranian scientists be killed, versus the relative silence in the face of its actually being done in real life, now that the corpses of murdered Iranian scientists are beginning to pile up. Does anyone doubt that some combination of the two nations completely obsessed with Iran’s nuclear program — Israel and the U.S. — are responsible? (U.S. officials deny involvement while pointing the finger at Israel, whose officials will not comment but “smile” when asked; the CIA has “targeted” Iran’s scientists in the past, several of whom have disappeared only to end up in U.S. custody, including one who “resurfaced in the United States after defecting to the CIA in return for a large sum of money”). At the very least, there has been no denunciation from any Obama officials of whoever it might be carrying out such acts.

I actually don’t think we’re behind this. I wouldn’t put it past Obama, but I’m very doubtful. Everyone seem to think it’s Israel and I will admit they’re the most likely candidate. But the Saudis and Iraqis have no interest in a nuclear Iraq. Neither do India or Pakistan.

But I do know that if a Republican were President, the demands for a special investigation would be long and loud. It’s obscene how the Left falls on real or perceived War on Terror excess when it’s their guy doing it.

Curious what you guys think about this, however. Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan was not a terrorist or a military figure; he was a scientist with a family. Is the killing justified? Is it an act of war? Is it an act of terrorism, as Greenwald claims?

Update: More here. I do want to re-iterate what I’ve said before: I think all of this is merely delaying the inevitable. Iran, even if the current regime is toppled, will never accept not being a nuclear power. Not when they’re surrounded by other nuclear powers. Staving off the inevitable isn’t a bad thing — maybe we can push the nuclear day past the Mullahs’ expiration date. But it is still just staving off the inevitable. Iran will be a nuclear power one day. The debate is not about whether we can prevent it but what means we are willing to use to delay that day of reckoning.

Gift Wrapped

Christmas came early this year for that scabby faced Holocaust denier gollum who heads the Persian Empire, courtesy of our terror warrior in chief, check this out:

Ummmm, obviously this will need confirmation but wasn’t the original story that the errant drone kinda got lost on it’s own, strayed from it’s course and just wandered off? This implies that the drone was intentionally sent into Iranian airspace to sniff out the air and spy on their nuclear reactor progress, which, if true, makes our idiocy even louder. Send in a drone to spy on an avowed enemy, knowing that the drone will on it’s own land intact outside of radio control, brilliant.

All that other stuff about Obama nixing all the attempts to retrieve what experts have described as a veritable treasure trove of military technology, far advanced and highly prized by our other enemies, now we see that he has reverted back to that wavering equivocating bumpkin we saw with the Maersk Alabama/Capt. Richard Phillips rescue attempt from those sea pirates, that, and the interminable delay going after OBL.

Upsetting the Iranians (how could they get more upset with us?, giving the OK for the Jews to bomb their nuclear reactors, like that is going to happen), or retrieving valuable military technology that would be very damaging to national security if it was compromised, seems like a no brainer to me:

“With early knowledge that the aircraft had likely remained intact, the senior U.S. official also told Fox News that President Obama was presented with three separate options for retrieving or destroying the drone. The president ultimately decided not to proceed with any of the plans because it could have been seen as an act of war, the official told Fox News.”

“Among the options the U.S. considered were sending in a special-ops team to retrieve the drone; sending in a team to blow up the aircraft; and launching an airstrike to destroy it.”

Which indicates that there was some sort of homing device on the drone and that they knew exactly where it had landed.

Some mitigating circumstances that could bolster the president’s decision; if the location of the downed drone was so precarious as to put any rescue attempt in specific harms way or any attempt at an air strike was ruled out because of close proximity to civilians or an Iranian air base where an air conflict was likely to have taken place.

This sure does sound reminiscent of the Gary Powers incident. Nobody likes being spied on, but this incident might have been fixed.

Hey, Anyone See My Missing Drone?

Having sophisticated (expensive) super secret spy shit is nice to have, keeps you one step ahead of your enemies, unless, of course, you are so careless as to not keep track of your new toys:

Iran’s Press TV on Thursday broadcast an extended video tour of the U.S. spy drone that went down in the country late last week–and it indeed looks to be intact.

American officials have acknowledged that an unmanned U.S. reconnaissance plane was lost on a mission late last week, but have insisted that there is no evidence the drone was downed by hostile acts by Iran. Rather, they said, the drone likely went down because of a malfunction, and they implied the advanced stealth reconnaissance plane would have fallen from a high altitude–the RQ-170 Sentinel can fly as high as 50,000 feet–and as a result, wouldn’t be in good shape.

Iranian military officials have claimed since Sunday they brought down an intact American spy drone–and now they are giving tours of the drone, in what is sure to be another humiliating poke in the eye for U.S. national security agencies.

That drone the Iranians now have looks in pretty good shape to me. What the article omits is that these drones are built to, after a certain amount of time outside of communications with base, to find a level area and land on it’s own, oops.

The video tour may also be a move to bid up the price Iran could receive for sharing the highly sophisticated American stealth drone technology with countries such as China and Russia.

Gee, ya think?

A couple questions from a rube civilian not trained in the nuances of espionage, since we know that this is an unmanned drone-controlled from a distant command station and that malfunctions do happen, why was there no homing device built in? Why no self destruct mechanism in place? Why no effort to track this drone down and if found to retrieve it (or destroy it with an air strike) so that years (and boatloads of dollars) of research and technology is not wasted? Why were not contingency’s in place to counter an eventuality that sometimes unmanned drones go off on their own and keeping an avowed enemy from valuable military hardware might be something that we should plan for?

I also got a kick of that “Who’s On First?” redux between the pentagon and the CIA when word forced surface that a valuable sophisticated drone was missing and probably in the hands of the Iranians.

Boy, do we look dumb.

Are We At War?

Sure seems like it:

Following a (perhaps not-so-mysterious) explosion on a military base last month that took with it the life of Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam–one of the Iranian missile program’s most distinguished OGs–comes news of a second explosion in Isfahan this past Monday, which according to sources “struck the uranium enrichment facility there, despite denials by Tehran.”

Two explosions might just be the result of combining nuclear weapons with idiocy. But when you add in the Stuxnet attack, the mysterious deaths of several Iranian nuclear physicists … well, it certainly seems like someone is up to something. Whether that someone is Israeli or American or both is a very good question.

This is kind of the way I’d prefer to deal with Iran’s nuclear program. Negotiation is not going to work: no Iranian government will tolerate being a non-nuclear power while India, Pakistan, Israel, Russia and the US have arsenals. Sanctions help, especially now that Russia is on board. But you can’t really stop science; all you can do is slow it down. And a military attack would massively improve the Iranian government’s support from their own people and have only a modest effect.

A cold war is the way to go. Killing scientists might go too far, but sabotage is perfectly fine. It buys time for the regime to fall. And they are getting nervous, as their little attack on the UK embassy demonstrates.

Iranian nukes and politics

“Unexpectedly” – man that word sure as hell seems to be abused by the LSM since Obama won the WH – we are told by the IAEA that The Iranians will soon have a nuke thanks to help from ex-Soviet scientists right as everyone is talking about Israel doing the world’s dirty work for it, yet again, I should add. It seems Iran has solved whatever issue was holding them back and will soon have nukes. Of course, back in 2007, when people realized that nothing short of a military option was going to stop the apocalyptic fucking freaks in Teheran that want that bomb, the same IAEA put out a report telling us all Iran had completely stopped trying to build one.

At the time most of us that knew better said that that asshole El Baradei was playing a dangerous political game – this report came out to help the democrats prevent President Bush from doing something about this problem, other than tell us how cool the Iranian thugocracy is and that we could talk them off the ledge like Obama has been – by obviously lying about what Iran was doing explicitly to prevent any action by the US military. And while that asshole is still at it, it is now obvious that the IAEA can no longer deny that Iran, not only has rebuffed the “come hither” advances from Community-Organizer-in-Chief, but has been working hard enough at its bomb project such that Iran now will soon have a bomb. That is, again, unless Israel does the dirty work of stopping that. It now looks to me that the pacifists and collectivists won this battle, and Iran will now go nuclear. Joy.