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Tilting at Windmills

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January 29, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

IRANIAN APOCALYPSE UPDATE....So how is Iran coming on that nuclear bomb they're supposed to be building? Here's the Telegraph a few days ago:

A senior European defence official told The Daily Telegraph that North Korea had invited a team of Iranian nuclear scientists to study the results of last October's underground test to assist Teheran's preparations to conduct its own -- possibly by the end of this year.

....Intelligence estimates vary about how long it could take Teheran to produce a nuclear warhead. But defence officials monitoring the growing co-operation between North Korea and Iran believe the Iranians could be in a position to test fire a low-grade device -- less than half a kiloton -- within 12 months.

Sounds bad. But here's the Observer on Sunday:

Iran's efforts to produce highly enriched uranium, the material used to make nuclear bombs, are in chaos and the country is still years from mastering the required technology.

....The detailed descriptions of Iran's problems in enriching more than a few grams of uranium using high-speed centrifuges -- 50kg is required for two nuclear devices -- comes in stark contrast to the apocalyptic picture being painted of Iran's imminent acquisition of a nuclear weapon with which to attack Israel. Instead, say experts, the break-up of the nuclear smuggling organisation of the Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadheer Khan has massively set back an Iran heavily dependent on his network.

So Iran is either going to test a bomb in a few months or a few years or maybe never. Take your pick.

Meanwhile, in Haaretz, Yossi Melman basically confirms the Observer's story, reporting that Iran has indeed made very little progress installing new centrifuges at its Natanz enrichment plant. However, he proposes two possible explanations:

One view is that Iran is having difficulty manufacturing, operating and controlling the enrichment process....But there is of course another possibility, whereby Iran clandestinely built another uranium enrichment facility in a secret location, where it has already installed the necessary number of centrifuges and verified that they work properly.

Again, take your pick. I think I can guess which one is likely to get more media attention.

Kevin Drum 12:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (57)

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Comments

which ever choice causes more death, ours and theirs -- that's the one I choose. I'm battin 1.000!

Al

Posted by: al on January 29, 2007 at 12:34 AM | PERMALINK

Take your pick?!

Here's the Telegraph: [D]efence officials monitoring the growing co-operation between North Korea and Iran believe the Iranians could be in a position to test fire a low-grade device -- less than half a kiloton -- within 12 months.

And here's the Observer: 50kg is required for two nuclear devices

Jeebus, Kevin. Is 50kg less than half a kiloton? Sure.

Posted by: dj moonbat on January 29, 2007 at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK

"But there is of course another possibility, whereby Iran clandestinely built another uranium enrichment facility in a secret location, where it has already installed the necessary number of centrifuges and verified that they work properly..."

... and where Ernst Stavro Blofeld strokes his white Persian cat.

Posted by: Doctor G on January 29, 2007 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

Who cares?

They don't have a delivery method for the US.

And if they try it, we can nuke every square inch of their little shithole.

Of course we should not care. There's only two reasons any American might care. Oil and Israel. And neither of these should have to be critical concerns for us. If we were smart.

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on January 29, 2007 at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK

Moonbat - that'd be 50 kilos weapons grade uranium. More than enough t build two small crude nuclear devices with a yeld around 1 kiloton.

Posted by: Ole on January 29, 2007 at 1:01 AM | PERMALINK

Of course we should not care. There's only two reasons any American might care. Oil and Israel. And neither of these should have to be critical concerns for us. If we were smart.

Yes. Well, smartening America hasn't been all that popular for the last decade.

Posted by: dj moonbat on January 29, 2007 at 1:01 AM | PERMALINK

"Of course we should not care. There's only two reasons any American might care. Oil and Israel. And neither of these should have to be critical concerns for us. If we were smart."

Ding ding ding! We have a winner!

Posted by: Fred on January 29, 2007 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

More than enough t build two small crude nuclear devices with a yeld around 1 kiloton.

Ah, yes. The TNT equivalency.

Posted by: dj moonbat on January 29, 2007 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK

There seems to exist a silent disagreement among liberals about the reasons why the US should not go to war against Iran.

Some claim it's because Iran is far from producing a nuclear bomb. Others, that it lacks delivery systems that could reach the US. Another position is that Iran would never be irrational enough to try to attack the US with a nuclear weapon. And still others claim that, to the extent that we accept the existence of international law, there is no legal basis for such a war.

I believe that this diversity of opinions will hurt the effectiveness of the liberal position against an Iran War and can be easily be manipulated by the other side to its advantage.

To clear things up, it would be useful if liberal voices (in the press and in Congress) were asked under what circumstances an Iran War would be warranted. I suspect that most members of Congress would come up with positions that do not differ very much from those of the White House -- just as was the case before the AUMF vote. Which is why I think this new war is all but inevitable.

Posted by: JS on January 29, 2007 at 1:23 AM | PERMALINK

JS,
Do you know what would happen if we attacked Iran pre-emptively? Would you like to suffer the consequences? The blowback from attacking Iran would make 9/11 look small time.

Posted by: Ghost of Tom Joad on January 29, 2007 at 2:22 AM | PERMALINK

ER'S point bears repeating.

Iran doesn't threaten you. Iran doesn't threaten you. Iran doesn't threaten you. Iran doesn't threaten you. Iran doesn't threaten you. Iran down't throuten you. Iran doesn't threaten you. Iran doesn't threaten you. Iran doesn't threaten you. Iran doesn't threaten you.

In any way, form or style.

Arguing about how they don't threaten you is beyond inane.

Posted by: snicker-snack on January 29, 2007 at 2:28 AM | PERMALINK

Ghost of Tom Joad >"...The blowback from attacking Iran would make 9/11 look small time."

Oh, nonsense & you know better. This is Rethuglicans we are talking about here. God Almighty talks with them at least daily keeping them up to date on all his ideas & plans. He even asks for advise now and then. Mr. Almighty certainly wouldn`t allow anything bad to happen to his favorite group of fruit cakes.

OK, so maybe those cakes might get "a little toasty"...

"There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth." - Richard Avedon

Posted by: daCascadian on January 29, 2007 at 2:32 AM | PERMALINK

Ghost of TJ, if you thought I was advocating war there was a misunderstanding. I am very must against it. My point was that those who oppose the war are not in agreement about why they do so, and the pro-war forces can (and will) take advantage of that.

Posted by: JS on January 29, 2007 at 3:26 AM | PERMALINK

It's Miller Time! (Judy, that is.)
And Con Coughlin, author of the Daily Telegraph Article, is just the right guy for the job. He helped sell the Iraq war in 2002, and in 2003 he wrote, "It is entirely conceivable that [9/11 hijacker] Atta secretly made his way to Baghdad to undertake training with Abu Nidal a few months before the September 11 attacks. But as long as Saddam and his senior intelligence operatives remain at large, it is impossible to assess just how much they knew about, and were involved in, the planning and execution of the September 11 atrocities."

Before putting your faith in Con Coughlin, you should see if somebody with less of an ax to grind can verify Con Coughlin's story.

Posted by: From-Missouri on January 29, 2007 at 3:40 AM | PERMALINK

One of Coughlin's previous adventures:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3741646/

Posted by: From-Missouri on January 29, 2007 at 3:47 AM | PERMALINK

JS, I'm not sure I follow where the confusion is:

1. in terms of delivery systems: Iran no threat
2. In terms of mutual destruction: Iran no threat
3. preventative war: Immoral, illegal wrong, wrong, wrong! (though pre-emptive war might in some cases be warranted)

Personally, I think the US should take Iran up on its offer to not develop nuclear weapons should Israel get rid of its nukes and at the same time offer a guarantee to defend Israel in the event of any uprovoked attack. Should Israel refuse to go along, retract this guarantee. Iranian nukes certainly wouldn't threaten the US.

Posted by: snicker-snack (in strident mode) on January 29, 2007 at 3:55 AM | PERMALINK

About Con Coughlin.

Posted by: pistonbroke on January 29, 2007 at 4:03 AM | PERMALINK

I am beginning to fear that an attack on Iran is imminent for the simple reason that the Bush Administration has nothing else left to do! Think about: The Adminsitration's foreign policy (if we can use the word 'policy') is a total disaster and that there domestic policy is virtually non-existent. It seems that after the tax cuts they just ran out of ideas.

So, you've got our beloved Pres, with no attractive policy initiatives, approval ratings so low that they are almost immeasurable outside of his 'base', a hostile Congress, and the Iraq War pulling him down like an anchor. If he doesn't start a new war, what does he plan to do for the next 2 years?

James

Posted by: James M. on January 29, 2007 at 4:31 AM | PERMALINK

Snicker-snack, what you say illustrates my point. Your position, it seems to me, amounts to "Let Iran develop the bomb -- they can't hurt us, and anyway it would be immoral to preemptively attack them".

I believe that this position is vastly different from that held by all Democratic members of Congress, liberal analysts, and even major liberal bloggers. The position there is, I believe: "We cannot accept a nuclear Iran, but Iran is a long way from being nuclear and there is no hurry -- we have time to persuade them to stop".

Given that Democrats in Congress have taken a position against accepting a nuclear Iran (it's one the SOTU points they stood and applauded), it would be easy for Lieberman/McCain to craft a new AUMF that essentially says that the Prsident is authorized to do whatever is necessary to keep Iran from getting the bomb. This AUMF, like the previous one, would require Bush to make a "determination" that only force can accomplish this objective -- to which Cheney would answer, "no problem". This is exactly what happened last time around.

Posted by: JS on January 29, 2007 at 5:07 AM | PERMALINK
Again, take your pick. I think I can guess which one is likely to get more media attention.

I could say the same thing about various global warming theories.


Regardless, I think J.S. (above) has it right. There may be multiple liberal "reasons" for opposing a war of any sort with Iran, but a) you can't agree on them, and b) they conflict.

Besides, didn't the Left spend decades protesting US nuclear weapons and proliferation? Why was Reagan the anti-Christ (heh) to so many while people are falling all over themselves saying that Iran is not and/or will not be a problem.

At least the US, France, UK, USSR, and China were fairly sane -- MAD was a valid concept. Iran is whack, and publically subscribes to a philosophy of martyrdom.

Posted by: J.C. on January 29, 2007 at 5:14 AM | PERMALINK


It's perfectly possible, of course, that Iran has secretly built another entire enrichment plant somewhere, which works much better than the one we know about, and that no one has found any evidence of its existence.

It's also perfectly possible that there is a hitherto-unobserved three-mile-long chocolate-coated Spode teapot in orbit around Jupiter.

However, with reference to the second point, my view would be that it would be foolhardy to spend billions on sending astronauts to Jupiter on the assumption that they will be able to replenish their chocolate supply once they arrive.

The analogy is, I trust, clear.

Posted by: ajay on January 29, 2007 at 5:23 AM | PERMALINK

Is there any reason for the US to be more concerned with a potentially nuclear Iran than a nuclear North Korea, a nuclear Pakistan, and all that loose fissile material in Russia.

Posted by: sky is falling on January 29, 2007 at 6:41 AM | PERMALINK

At least the US, France, UK, USSR, and China were fairly sane -- MAD was a valid concept. Iran is whack, and publically subscribes to a philosophy of martyrdom.

JC. You know whack about Iran. Have you ever been to that part of the world? The Irani regime, while fairly repressive and a regime we (the West) should be working against, is hardly the worst in the region and is overall fairly pragmatic. Further, Iran has never waged a war of aggression in its entire modern history. Argument by prejudice is hardly an argument. Much of your country seems pretty whack to me. Are you beyond deal-making?

(P.S. You also know whack about left and right).

Snicker-snack, what you say illustrates my point. Your position, it seems to me, amounts to "Let Iran develop the bomb -- they can't hurt us, and anyway it would be immoral to preemptively attack them".

First, please note that my argument was against preventative war. There is nothing pre-emptive about the current situation.

Actually, my position is that I'd rather not see them with the bomb (and Iran has certainly given lots of notice that all is negotiable) but that Iran with a bomb is not an utter disaster (though perhaps another fuck-up to ascribe to Dick Cheney for his brushing aside Iranian approaches in 2003). But then, I'd rather not wee you guys with the bomb either (and of all the bomb-wielding countries you guys have seemed to be least averse to using the technology of late). You're probably right that there is at least one split - between those for whom an Iranian bomb is ultimately acceptable and those for whom it is unacceptable in any measure. So perhaps two strands, not several.

But in the international communicty at large, such a split will not begin to be noticed until Iran is much, much closer to development than it currently is (and we have hard evidence of such).

For what its worth, an America engaging in another self-claimed war of prevention rushed against all the wishes of its allies would start to find things really chilly round the world. American big business would quickly find that its brands held all the appeal of Israel. And Europe, Japan, Brazil, even Canada would begin working much, much more closely with China and Russia to try and box you guys in. You guys would continue to hold some power to threaten and coerce (and give people like JC hard-ons) but your soft power would be largely spent and never fully return. It would be a squandering of generations of good will. I hope Democrats are at least unified in understanding this.

Posted by: snicker-snack on January 29, 2007 at 6:50 AM | PERMALINK

JS: Snicker-snack, what you say illustrates my point. Your position, it seems to me, amounts to "Let Iran develop the bomb -- they can't hurt us, and anyway it would be immoral to preemptively attack them".

That's not what snicker-snack wrote at 3:55 AM especially the spin... Let Iran develop the bomb.

Given that Democrats in Congress have taken a position against accepting a nuclear Iran (it's one the SOTU points they stood and applauded), it would be easy for Lieberman/McCain to craft a new AUMF that essentially says that the Prsident is authorized to do whatever is necessary to keep Iran from getting the bomb.

Let 'em try. A new AUMF for a president whose approval ratings may eventually eclipse Nixon's or Truman's lowest point with two years yet to go? Don't make me laugh.

A) Forget about it passing in the House.
B) Table the motion until hearings in both House and Senate conduct a thorough assessment of Iran's nuclear activites including what intel we have or don't have, and best course of action.... diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy... all of which will give Dems the op to reiterate that Bush's so-called new Iraq strategy is just more stay the course and that Bush is a one-note johnny... war, war, war... and incapable and incompetent of conducting an effective foreign affairs policy. Heh.
C) No blank checks for Bushie. Fool us once, shame on Bush. Fool us twice, shame on us.
D) Isn't Congress a little bit behind on drawing up Articles of Impeachment? May not happen but they are behind as far as this voter is concerned.
E) Bush has already blown off talking to Iran via the ISG recommendations. So he hasn't even exhausted diplomatic efforts... so forget an AUMF.
F) The Libby trial is bringing forth very interesting insights into how we can not trust Bush-Cheney on matters of national security.
G) Iraq, Iraq, Iraq.

And here's the big reason why your "concern" concerns me:

H) 68% of Americans oppose military action in Iran (CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll. Jan. 19-21, 2007)

Hmm, anybody else getting a whiff of what may be one of our "friends" from under the bridge? I could be wrong, but reading someone theorize crafting a new AUMF for Iran makes me wonder.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on January 29, 2007 at 6:50 AM | PERMALINK

OK, Let's assume the US launches a preemptive raid or raids on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Then what?

That is the question that should have been asked before the invasion of Iraq. It is the question that should be asked now.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 29, 2007 at 7:33 AM | PERMALINK

Apollo13 your analysis is spot on. It overlooks only one thing. Many members of the congressional leadership owe their souls to the Israel lobby. Those people have paid millions for decades. They want a return on their investment.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 29, 2007 at 7:38 AM | PERMALINK

Why is Charlie posting under Stefan's handle?

Posted by: Gregory on January 29, 2007 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Can Iran's delivery method reach Israel?

Not everything is about the US.

Posted by: Zit on January 29, 2007 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

>"Many members of the congressional leadership owe their souls to the Israel lobby. Those people have paid millions for decades. They want a return on their investment."

Ron Byers pretty much nails it, except I'm afraid it's not MANY members... it's likely ALL members. Even those who aren't paid directly are afraid to speak as they know crossing the line will trigger a massive retaliation in the form a targeted campaign against them in the next election.

As a result, Repub/Demo, Bush, the desires of the people, the democratic 'activist base' (etc.) have little or no impact on the decisions that are being made. Those decisions (regarding Middle East policies and attacking Iran) are being made in Tel Aviv.

The corruption of our political system is now 'structural'. By definition, it is incapable of correcting itself without massive and very direct intervention by the American people.

To recover control of our political system we are talking about millions taking to the streets, a general strike, or similar actions. That's the only way the power of money will be broken. With the same money in control of the media, it's very hard to envision how this will come about.

I think Chairman Mao was quite correct in his observation that time and money inevitably corrupt government and only periodic housecleaning gives a period of respite in which the government acts in the interests of the people.

The US had their first in the revolutionary war, their second (smaller one) in the Civil War, and a third during the Great Depression. The fourth is a bit overdue.

Posted by: Buford on January 29, 2007 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

If we can't find the nukes, they must be hiding them from us, so we've gotta go to war!

To quote Peter Noone, "Second verse - same as the first."

Posted by: RT on January 29, 2007 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

I am an experimental physicist and engineer. The problems of producing weapons U235 are far greater than assembling the stuff into a weapon. Enrichment requires a large, sophisticated physical plant. (Note--plutonium is much easier to produce,from reactors, but plutonium bombs are much harder to build). Iran is unable to build its own refineries, and as a result, loses lots of its oil income. Worse still, its oil infrastructure is decaying rapidly, mismanaged by a Soviet style state bureaucracy. While one needs to watch carefully, I'd guess it could be a while before they have a bomb.

Posted by: jhh on January 29, 2007 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

My point was that those who oppose the war are not in agreement about why they do so,

I disagree. One can oppose war against Iran for all of the reasons you posted plus others - it's not an either or.

Posted by: ckelly on January 29, 2007 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

We can move ahead now, Bush wants to go to war with Iran, not because of WMD, but because they are amassing in Iraq and causing poor little Bushie to lose the war, at least according to the Bushies.

Its not about WMD Kevin, its about those damn commies from Iran.

But lets face the facts, there isn't ANY Mideast country that wants Bush's occupation to win in Iraq. And even old Europe, Russia and China are laughing at Bush right now, waiting for the evitable, as Bush wishes for WWIII, but doesn't nor ever will have a big enough lie to start one. Bush can't sit back and let terrorist blow something else up, than blame it all on Clinton again. That was a one shot deal, to bad Bush and Dick completely *ucked it up.

Posted by: Cheryl on January 29, 2007 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK
There seems to exist a silent disagreement among liberals about the reasons why the US should not go to war against Iran.

No, there is complete unanimity: there is no reason for the US to go to war. You seem to make the mistake of assuming that war is the default position, and that a positive reason is needed to not go to war.


Some claim it's because Iran is far from producing a nuclear bomb. Others, that it lacks delivery systems that could reach the US. Another position is that Iran would never be irrational enough to try to attack the US with a nuclear weapon. And still others claim that, to the extent that we accept the existence of international law, there is no legal basis for such a war.

Well, yes, those are all arguments that are cited to demonstrate the basic position that war against Iran is not justified at this time; of course, they are all mutually consistent, too.

In fact, I'd argue that each of those positions is true, and each is, on its own, a sufficient reason (though none of them is necessary) to reject war with Iran.

I'd also argue that they don't exhaust the list of independently sufficient reasons to reject war with Iran.


Posted by: cmdicely on January 29, 2007 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK
I think Chairman Mao was quite correct in his observation that time and money inevitably corrupt government and only periodic housecleaning gives a period of respite in which the government acts in the interests of the people.

If one is not inclined to look to Mao on the subject, one might instead prefer to invoke Jefferson here:
"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it's natural manure."

Posted by: cmdicely on January 29, 2007 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

You shot your bolt in Iraq, America, and the whole world knows it. That's why ridiculous men like Kim Jong-il, Ahmadinejad, Chavez, etc. are screaming for attention while flamboyantly kicking you below the belt. They know it's an easy way to look tough since there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

This is all courtesy of Bush and Cheney, who frittered away America's status as a superpower. Now they're the ridiculous, damn-near impotent men trash-talking on the world stage.

Posted by: otherpaul on January 29, 2007 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

The democrats need to read Scott Ritter's article in The Nation, Stop the Iran War before it Starts! cleve

Posted by: cleve on January 29, 2007 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

The solution for peace between the US and Iran is to offer Iran some US nuclear weapons. I would prefer the US disable its nuclear weapons and agree to a non-aggression pact with Iran, but I do not think that will happen, so gifting some nuclear weapons to them is the second best thing to do. Unfortunately, W. Bush is going to send some nuclear weapons to Iran, but they are going to detonate upon arrival, so they will not be gifts to the Iranians but gifts to Exxon and Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: Brojo on January 29, 2007 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

I haven't read the thread and have no time to right now, but U235 is really easy to make a bomb from - once it is processes - but the processing is a right bitch. Conversely, Plutonium is really easy to process to weapons grade, but it's a right bitch to make a functional weapon. (Something about a liquid doesn't much care for compression. Go figure.) (Karmic balance in the nuclear age?)

Rather than present facts and act rationally, these chuckleheads are intent on setting our hair on fire. Everyone needs to take a step back, educate themselves on the issues and then push back with fact.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 29, 2007 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

It is the question that should be asked now.

Should be, yes.

Posted by: thersites on January 29, 2007 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Good response, cmd (at 11:56).

It's hard to glean what JS' actual point is; standing downwind from his post one can definitely detect the essence of "concern troll".

The notion that liberals are presenting diffuse, unfocussed and therefore ineffective opposition to an inevitable attack on Iran could be dismissed as merely argument but one does wonder why the capital-D Democrats aren't standing up more forcefully against this madness.

We hear more "Iran must be contained", "Iran is a menace", etc. from the leading D's than we hear "Cool your jets, Georgie, one international fiasco at a time".

Posted by: pistonbroke on January 29, 2007 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Ron Byers,

Valid points at 7:33 and 7:38 AM. But there's one thing. The ROI they want, if we're speaking of a new AUMF and a strike against Iran, is much too high. If Congress has a lick of sense, they'll say, no deal.

I (and I think most voters would agree) don't like that foreign countries have more influence over congressional leaders than American citizens they represent. From my POV, that must end. But how? I dunno at this moment. As to Israel specifically, they aren't endearing themselves by violating U.S.-Israel arms agreements. And then there's the Larry Franklin/AIPAC espionage situation. Who has the spine to step Israel off our feet? Do we abandon Israel? Hell, no. But I'm pissed that the tail wags the dog over U.S. foreign policy in the ME.

I'll definitely keep my eyes peeled on how our congress-critters handle the current situation, that's for damn sure.

This morning I heard a CNN report on Tehran offering economic assistance to Iraq by opening a bank in Baghdad, a significant development in Iraq-Iran relations that ought to raise eyebrows. Minutes before, the Pentagon was saying they had "evidence" of Iranian weapons in Iraq (Yeah, right...is it 2003 again?). But from other reports (LATimes, WaPo), the British military in Iraq dispute U.S. claims of Iranian involvement.

From Davos, Switzerland:

Several prominent participants at this year's World Economic Forum are urging politicians to give dialogue and diplomacy a chance in the crisis over Iran's nuclear program.
El-Baradei, whose agency has been monitoring Iran's nuclear program for several years, called for an end to talk of a military option for the Iranian nuclear crisis, saying that any strike would be counterproductive.
"I still believe that the only solution to the Iranian issue - which is in our hands right now - is dialogue, is negotiation, is engagement by the neighbors and by all the relevant parties," he said. "The Arab countries have to be engaged, the US has to be engaged. We need to try that. We need to invest in peace because the alternative is not there, and the alternatives could be 10 times worse."...
...Concern was expressed on 25 January by Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, another participant at the Davos World Economic Forum. He warned that attacking Iran in order to halt its nuclear activities would be "catastrophic" for the region and the world.
"In Pakistan's point of view, Pakistan is against [nuclear] proliferation by Iran," he said. "We do not support their production of weapons, and we support what the IAEA is doing."...
...A day earlier (24 January) in Davos, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Mussa, said there is a 50-50 chance that the United States will attack Iran. He did not explain on what basis he made the assessment, but he said any such strike would backfire. Mussa said Washington should use dialogue both to resolve the tensions with Iran and also the violence in Iraq.
Even the Russians (the Russians, for chrissakes!) are calling for a diplomatic solution especially since they are negotiating with Tehran to drill Iran's natural gas. With Iran's massive oil reserves -- second largest in the world -- a lot of stakeholders have an interest in Iran remaining un-nuked.

The revolution that Buford writes about at 10:33 AM might kick off via a worldwide outcry against the U.S. if Bush pushes a military option. Could we see the first (?) UN sanctions against the U.S.? That wouldn't please corporate masters I would think or an American electorate already angry about the Iraq War. When the 2008 elections roll around, my guess is the ROI on the Israel lobby's investment would be worth zero.

I'm not arguing against your point. I'm just saying Congress had best wise up and fast in answering your question, if the US launches a preemptive raid or raids on Iran's nuclear facilities... Then what? Indeed. That is the question.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on January 29, 2007 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

I want to address JS's point, which is a fair one - Liberals should be articulating the fact that first and foremost, we need to talk with Iran directly. However, Bush and his henchmen want no dialogue - only to kill first and ask questions later. That is not the way the United States retains its position as the world's beacon of democracy. It is simply wrong and unAmerican to not engage the Iranian government in serious diplomatic dialogue and look for peaceful solutions first.

Raw Story has a good investigative report on it's website today, that indicates Cheney and the neo-con Straussians have been wanting to wage war against Iran since at least 1992. The PNAC document of 1996 urges the same thing. This group believes the U.S. should be the bully of the world and beat up any country that gets in the way of our global or even regional hegemony. This approach is doomed to fail, as all great empires inevitably collapse from overspending on their military or simply overreach. We are nearing that point now, in my opinion.

We could easily negotiate a workable diplomatic solution with Iran over their nuclear ambitions - perhaps modeled after the Agreed Framework with North Korea (which worked well until Bush repudiated it and N. Korea went nuclear as quickly as they could).

In terms of threats, Pakistan is a much larger and more deadly immediate threat to the U.S. than Iran and Bush has done nothing to defuse that powderkeg other than play pattycake with the unelected dictator Musharraf. So much for "promoting democracy in the Middle East". If Musharraf goes down before we negotiate a nuclear builddown with Pakistan, we are in a world of shit.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 29, 2007 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

In the end there is one overriding reason that there will be an attack on Iran: the motives and opinions of those in favor or willing to go along are stronger than those opposed.

America is paranoid, and ultimately thinks it has the right to launch premeditated attacks on countries that dare to present an independently-minded face to the U.S.

The whole thing is insane.

Posted by: JB (not John Bolton) on January 29, 2007 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Despite whatever evidence there is to indicate that some in the current Administration want to attack Iran, there is scant evidence that they intend to do so anytime soon, if at all.

Iran is probably safe from direct bombing attack as long as we are engaged in Iraq. We need to avoid provoking Iran from escalating their interference in Iraq, which they would surely do if we bombed their nuclear facilities. It also means we will likely confine our direct anti-Iranian efforts to Iraq itself. The non-proliferation efforts will continue through European allies and the UN, whilst we rattle our sabers occasionally to keep things moving.

This all means that it is highly unlikely that we will be able to stop the Iranian acquisition of nukes, if they truly want them. We are not going to compromise Israel and we cannot offer the Iranians anything they cannot do without or get from other sources. The only thing that can stop the Iranians from getting nukes is regime change and bombing will not only not result in regime change, it would practically guarantee it not happening.

What we better start doing is figure out how to live with Iranian nukes.

Posted by: Trashhauler on January 29, 2007 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

Trashy wrote: What we better start doing is figure out how to live with Iranian nukes.

Yeah, because there's no precedent at all for coexisting with nuclear-armed states. Oh, wait...

Posted by: Gregory on January 29, 2007 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

we cannot offer the Iranians anything they cannot do without or get from other sources

My understanding is that the Iranians only want an assurance the US will stop trying to overthrow their government. That is all they want from the US. You would think it would be quite easy to assure the legitimate, popular, limited democratic government of Iran that the American people will not interfere with their self-determination, yet neither faction of the Party will agree to such a thing despite the lack of a threat from this maligned nation.

Posted by: Brojo on January 29, 2007 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Yes, they could be within months (I doubt it though) or years from testing a device. However, I don't think never is a real possibility, unless someone actively takes measures to stop them, and even then, never is a bit of a stretch.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on January 29, 2007 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

To avoid a potential conflagration in the future, we should have several real ones now. U-S-A, U-S-A!

Posted by: Kenji on January 29, 2007 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK
Yes, they could be within months (I doubt it though) or years from testing a device. However, I don't think never is a real possibility, unless someone actively takes measures to stop them, and even then, never is a bit of a stretch.

I think "never" is a very real possibility for the nation-state of Iran (and even more real of a possibility for "the Islamic Republic of Iran" as anything like it is understood today). Nation-states don't necessarily last forever, and modern revolutionary authoritarian regimes seem lucky to last three generations.

Then again, if North Korea is actively assisting, there is little reason Iran couldn't test a nuke anytime they wanted to.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 29, 2007 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo wrote:

"My understanding is that the Iranians only want an assurance the US will stop trying to overthrow their government. That is all they want from the US."
______________________

If that's the case, then we truly have nothing to offer them, since we probably have no way to provide assurance that they could fully accept.

However, most observers feel there is more to the Iranians than just a desire to be left alone.

Posted by: Trashhauler on January 29, 2007 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

Gregory wrote:

"Trashy wrote: What we better start doing is figure out how to live with Iranian nukes.

Yeah, because there's no precedent at all for coexisting with nuclear-armed states. Oh, wait..."
______________________

Yes, of course, there is such precedent. Equally, as succeeding governments get nukes, those precedents become increasingly harder to maintain, given the increasingly more complex pattern of allies, enemies, and conflicting interests. Then too, as the number of nuclear-armed countries increase, the chance that some whack-job will use his nukes also increases.

Not a situation to contemplate with joy.

Posted by: Trashhauler on January 29, 2007 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely said: there is complete unanimity: there is no reason for the US to go to war. You seem to make the mistake of assuming that war is the default position, and that a positive reason is needed to not go to war.

But then how do you interpret the fact that virtually all major Democratic members of Congress have said that a nuclear Iran is "unacceptable"? Doesn't "unacceptable" ultimately imply "casus belli"? Yes, they are urging diplomacy and sanctions -- but what if Iran does not respond?

And what about Obama's statement in 2004:

"...launching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in," he said.

"On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse. So I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran. ... And I hope it doesn't get to that point. But realistically, as I watch how this thing has evolved, I'd be surprised if Iran blinked at this point."

How do you reconcile this with a Democratic consensus against war?

Posted by: JS on January 29, 2007 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

Pendulums swing. That's their nature.

If we bide our time and exercise caution but don't engage Iran, the Mullahs will enjoy another decade in power.

Attack, and their power will be cemented for another 50-100 years.

Iranians are not Iraqis.

First, Iranians have a strong national identity that was missing in the artificial construct that is Iraq.

Second, Iran is twice the size of Iraq.

Third, Iran has a modern military.

Fourth, taking out the president wouldn't cut it. Iran wouldn't fall before the last Mullah was hanged, and there are 86 on the Council of Experts alone. The president is the very definition of a mere figurehead.

Fifth, Iran has as many males between 15-64 as Iraq has total population, and the average age of all males in the country is around 25.

Finally, Iran's unease is understandable. The United States has combat troops in two counties that border Iran, and an Air Force base in Turkey, which also shares it's border. Think about it - how would the U.S. react to Iranian combat forces in Mexico and Canada, and a bomber wing in Cuba?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 29, 2007 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

The ruling capitalists of America are much more radical and aggressive than the ruling clerics of Iran. That so many Democrats fear the clerics of Iran, who have not done anything militarily aggressive since assuming their power, must inform Americans that Iran will become a target of our covetous quest for oil.

Posted by: Brojo on January 29, 2007 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

JS: But then how do you interpret the fact that virtually all major Democratic members of Congress have said that a nuclear Iran is "unacceptable"? Doesn't "unacceptable" ultimately imply "casus belli"?

No, if one doesn't think in either/or, black/white terms. War is a last resort in defense of an imminent threat, a clear and present danger. Iran doesn't arise to that level.

Yes, they are urging diplomacy and sanctions -- but what if Iran does not respond?

They will but not with the stubbornly state of denial of Mr. One-Note Johnny... war, war, war... as CinC, a preznit who refuses to talk or lead diplomatic efforts with them.

How do you reconcile this with a Democratic consensus against war?

Easily. But I"m more interested in how you reconcile it. Do tell.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on January 30, 2007 at 1:51 AM | PERMALINK

Uh. Oh. We won't talk to the Iranians ... but our dear good friends the Saudis will! (see link below)

So how big an enemy are they in the ME? And the Saudis are not talking about Iraq. No they are on to the side show - Lebanon! Doing a little ego-diplomacy together. How they must hate each other! How much the Saudis support our view of the ME.

Bush and Cheney should resign. This is preposterous. We are now the offical joke in the ME. We suck.

Thank you GOP. For make this the "War on Terror" the clapped out, fiasco it is. You can agree or disagree on moral issues but you can not disagree on the duck-headed incompetance of the GOP. The days of Newt are long gone.


http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/30/world/middleeast/30lebanon.html?hp&ex=1170219600&en=5f4f7a0d6c912a59&ei=5094&partner=homepage

Posted by: exclab on January 30, 2007 at 7:47 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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