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Tilting at Windmills

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July 11, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

RED LINES....Laura Rozen writes that tensions may be growing between Israel and the United States over how advanced Iran's nuclear program is:

US sources who did not wish to be identified describe a disagreement between the US and Israeli intelligence communities over the timetable of Iran's alleged weaponization and research and development efforts. Nuclear analysts at Livermore nuclear facility crunched the numbers and looked at the information on Iran's centrifuges and concluded that they are sticking to the public estimates in the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear program, that forecast Iran could have enough enriched material for nuclear weapons capability in the mid next decade. The Israelis allegedly presented the US with Iranian weaponization evidence that they consider very credible, that the US intelligence community allegedly did not consider credible. Analysts also say Israel and the US are drawing different definitions and red lines about what they consider would be Iran's nuclear "breakout" capability.

Apparently there's been a noticeable uptick in the number of high-level Israeli visits to the U.S. recently, possibly with the goal of persuading a reluctant Bush administration to approve a military strike. David Wurmser, a former aide to Dick Cheney, believes the odds of Israel striking Iran before Bush leaves office are "slightly, slightly above fifty/fifty." Read the rest here.

Kevin Drum 1:46 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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Comments

Ultimately we are faced with symmetry in nuclear material handling, and likely to be under some global monopoly.

Iran should simply want that process to go faster, but the corollary is that all nuclear powers have to be moving toward reduced nuclear weapons and standard inspection.

Posted by: Matt on July 11, 2008 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Mid-next decade?!? Oh, God!!! We'll never be able to get our armed forces moving by then!!!

The time for action is now-- before McCain must face Obama in the November general U.S. presidential election! Quick, get some curmudgeonly Israeli officials on the phone and have them come down to Washington to look like they're demanding things from Bush!

That'll get the Iranians quaking in their boots and make them launch a totally idiotic and futile attack that they could not possibly rationally believe will help them (after all, the Iranians certainly must be about as smart as a 13-year-old Little League pitcher who was raised by a dumb father with a big temper problem)! Then we'll be able to start a war!

Posted by: Swan on July 11, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

God-damned liberals!!!!! By mid-next-decade, the Iranians will have taken over all the oil fiels-- and then, the world!!!!!

Posted by: Swan on July 11, 2008 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

American policy expresses it will to defend Israel against attack, but American policy does not defend other countries from attack by Israel. The US should defend Palestine and Iran as vigorously and as generously as it defends Israel.

Posted by: Brojo on July 11, 2008 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Predictably, Brojo comes in on any Israel-related thread to resume his bashing. Hey Brojo, has Israel ever done anything right?

Posted by: TwiztedLiberal on July 11, 2008 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone have a guess, what % enrichment Iran is now doing and capable of? In any case, I think the MIT (?) idea, to have a trans-national enrichment/monitoring program to take over from the nations (especially Iran) that are playing around with enrichment, is worth taking a good look at. This system would provide those nations with "correct" forms of uranium fuel. Some worry about diversion, monitoring, corruption etc. but it could hardly be worse than the uncertainty and danger of what's happening now.

Posted by: Neil B. on July 11, 2008 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

We are rushing to attack a country that had to photo-shop its test missile launches?

Why can't we just photoshop a bombing campaign, and have done with it?

Posted by: Diana on July 11, 2008 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

I am bashing US policy, not Israel.

Posted by: Brojo on July 11, 2008 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

I really like Diana's suggestion lets just use movie special effects to fake an attack...

IIRC low grade enriched Uranium is somewhere around 3%. Weapons grade is around 90%. The same centrifuges could be used for the later step. IAEA monitors would be able to detect it (unless they have some other centrifuges hidden away). Iran is fully within it's rights under the nonproliferation treaty. It's just that we, and especially Israel are not comfortable with them being able to make a weapon a few months after deciding to break out of the treaty.

Posted by: bigTom on July 11, 2008 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Neil B.,
Russia offered to provide the Iranians with the HEU appropriate for power generation. They also offered to take away the spent fuel, so that the Iranians wouldn't have to worry about contamination.

The Iranians declined the offer.

Posted by: optical weenie on July 11, 2008 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Just up as top red headline on Drudge,
http://www.drudgereport.com/flashim.htm:


IRAN MISSILE TEST BIG BLUFF: OLD ROCKETS, BOGUS VIDEO
Fri Jul 11 2008 15:18:02 ET

Many of Iran's claims related to its missile tests appears to be smoke and mirrors, the NEW YORK TIMES is planning to report on Saturday.

The missiles tested DID NOT not have 2,000-kilometer range; it was an older missile that was out of production, newsroom sources tell DRUDGE.

A video showed what appeared to be many missiles being fired is actually one missile, filmed from different angles.

NYT's Bill Broad is planning to quote Pentagon officials and military insiders.

Developing...

Puts the whole thing in a new perspective ...

Posted by: on July 11, 2008 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, in above post it should be LEU, not HEU.

Posted by: optical weenie on July 11, 2008 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

If Iran offered to enrich nuclear fuel for the US, would the US decline such a generous offer?

Posted by: Brojo on July 11, 2008 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

The US should defend Palestine and Iran as vigorously and as generously as it defends Israel.
Posted by: Brojo on July 11, 2008 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

After they jettison their jihadi and mahdi policies and beliefs. I hate neo-conservatism too, but I'm not going to replace it with another messianic political ideology. The Palestinian sit and suffer strategy is inhumane and ineffective, if you want to help them write letters to the UNHCR and the islamic nations to begin an organized multi year emigration and resettlement program. It worked for my scotish ancestors, it can work for the palestenians too.

Posted by: Northern Observer on July 11, 2008 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

Are white people always so comfortable with forced relocations of nonwhites, Northern Observer?

Posted by: Gonads on July 11, 2008 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Messianic political ideology was created by the promise YWH made to Adam and Eve, according to the myth.

That ideology has been used to kill people for a very long time, which was the purpose of its invention by priests.

Posted by: Brojo on July 11, 2008 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmmm.... Headline story on CNN - Holocaust surviviors reunite. Yesterday - Nazi hunters on trail of 'Angel of Death'.

When holocaust stories show up in the US media, an Israeli strike is in the works. Bet on it.

>"multi year emigration and resettlement program"

Yeah, just like South Africa should have done with those pesky black folks.


Posted by: Buford on July 11, 2008 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

NYC Dermatology

Posted by: NYC Dermatology on July 11, 2008 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

"NYC Dermatology" - whose open code announcement, Mossad or the Iranians?

Posted by: on July 11, 2008 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

"It worked for my scotish ancestors, it can work for the palestenians too."

I can understand misspelling the term for the "out"siders you don't care about, but your own ancestors?

Posted by: Neil B. on July 11, 2008 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

Neil B: Anyone have a guess, what % enrichment Iran is now doing and capable of?

The IAEA has measured enrichment levels of 4%; Iran declared enrichment levels up to 4.7%. (Those are at the declared facilities which are subject to IAEA controls, at which the IAEA has conducted 14 unannounced inspections since March 2007.)

Undoubtedly they could enrich to higher levels, but the time would increase and volume would decrease dramatically, and at the declared facilities would be very difficult to hide. Of course, if there are other undeclared facilities all bets are off.

A transnational program is interesting, but from Iran's perspective (and several other countries) of dubious value, as it would be subject to the same political pressures and manipulation as any other organization, with institutionalized have's and the have-not's. One reason Brazil and Argentina continue to pursue indigenous enrichment capabilities.

Posted by: has407 on July 11, 2008 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

Bah.

It's all just a lot of scaremongering to further drive up the price of oil.

Fine bunch of wankers we managed to vote for ourselves.

Posted by: Model 62 on July 11, 2008 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

Call Pelosi @1-202-225-0100 DEMAND IMPEACHMENT

Posted by: Mike Meyer on July 11, 2008 at 9:25 PM | PERMALINK

The following brilliant and insightful essay by novelist E.L. Doctorow appeared in the Sept. 9, 2007 edition of the Easthampton Star.

I fault this president for not knowing what death is. He does not suffer the death of our twenty-one-year-olds who wanted to be what they could be.

On the eve of D-day in 1944, General Eisenhower prayed to God for the lives of the young soldiers he knew were going to die. He knew what death was. Even in a justifiable war, a war not of choice but of necessity, a war of survival, the cost was almost more than Eisenhower could bear.

But this president does not know what death is. He hasn't the mind for it. You see him joking with the press, peering under the table for the WMDs he can't seem to find, you see him at rallies strutting up to the stage in shirt sleeves to the roar of the carefully screened crowd, smiling and waving, triumphal, a he-man. He does not mourn. He doesn't understand why he should mourn. He is satisfied during the course of a speech written for him to look solemn for a moment and speak of the brave young Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. But you study him, you look into his eyes and know he dissembles an emotion which he does not feel in the depths of his being because he has no capacity for it. He does not feel a personal responsibility for the thousand dead young men and women who wanted be what they could be. They come to his desk not as youngsters with mothers and fathers or wives and children who will suffer to the end of their days a terribly torn fabric of familial relationships and the inconsolable remembrance of aborted life; they come to his desk as a political liability, which is why the press is not permitted to photograph the arrival of their coffins from Iraq.

How then can he mourn? To mourn is to express regret and he regrets nothing. He does not regret that his reason for going to war was, as he knew, unsubstantiated by the facts. He does not regret that his bungled plan for the war's aftermath has made of his mission-accomplished a disaster. He does not regret that rather than controlling terrorism his war in Iraq has licensed it. So he never mourns for the dead and crippled youngsters who have fought this war of his choice. He wanted to go to war and he did. He had not the mind to perceive the costs of war, or to listen to those who knew those costs. He did not understand that you do not go to war when it is one of the options but when it is the only option; you go not because you want to but because you must.

Yet this president knew it would be difficult for Americans not to cheer the overthrow of a foreign dictator. He knew that much. This president and his supporters would seem to have a mind for only one thing -- to take power, to remain in power, and to use that power for the sake of themselves and their friends. A war will do that as well as anything. You become a wartime leader. The country gets behind you. Dissent becomes inappropriate. And so he does not drop to his knees, he is not contrite, he does not sit in the church with the grieving parents and wives and children. He is the President who does not feel.

But he will dissemble feeling. A litany of lies he will versify with reverences for God and the flag and democracy, when just what he and his party are doing to our democracy is choking the life out of it.

There is one more terribly sad thing about all of this. I remember when millions of people around the world marched against the war. It was extraordinary, that spontaneous aroused oversoul of alarm and protest that transcended national borders. Why did it happen? After all, this was not the only war anyone had ever seen coming. There are little wars all over the world most of the time. But the cry of protest was the appalled understanding of millions of people that America was ceding its role as the last best hope of mankind. It was their perception that the classic archetype of democracy was morphing into a rogue nation. The greatest democratic republic in history was turning its back on the future, using its extraordinary power and standing not to advance the ideal of a concordance of civilizations but to endorse the kind of tribal combat that originated with the Neanderthals, a people, now extinct, who could imagine ensuring their survival by no other means than pre-emptive war.

The president we get is the country we get. With each president the nation is conformed spiritually. He is the artificer of our malleable national soul. He proposes not only the laws but the kinds of lawlessness that govern our lives and invoke our responses. The people he appoints are cast in his image. The trouble they get into, and get us into, is his characteristic trouble. Finally, the media amplify his character into our moral weather report: he becomes the face of our sky, the conditions that prevail.

How can we sustain ourselves as the United States of America, given the stupid and ineffective warmaking, the constitutionally insensitive lawgiving, and the monarchal economics of this president? He cannot mourn, but is a figure of such moral vacancy as to make us mourn for ourselves.

--The Unfeeling President, E.L. Doctorow

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on July 11, 2008 at 9:27 PM | PERMALINK

optical weenie: The Iranians declined the offer.

Sort of. They declined one offer but got a better one which they accepted. No requirement for return of spent fuel or halt/delay of enrichment activities. Russia delivered the final shipment of fuel needed for Bushehr I Jan-08; it is expected to start operation Sep-08.

Posted by: has407 on July 11, 2008 at 9:43 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you, Conservative Deflator.

Posted by: Everyman on July 12, 2008 at 1:40 AM | PERMALINK

You are welcome. Every American should read Doctorow's essay.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on July 12, 2008 at 6:47 AM | PERMALINK

I forget, which is the enemy? Israel or Iran?

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