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02 March 2006

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taters

Thank you, Col. Excellent, I've gotta go over to No Quarter and thank your buddy, too. Please give my best to Mr. Snoot...

Dano

A good, clear and succinct analysis. I hope you do not mind if I note that the only deficiency was nearly eliminated in the final line: "...all diplomatic resources should be fully exhausted..."

If the past five years are any indication (and I think they are) then the next three years of this Administration will produce no more fruitful diplomatic initiatives or concessions, at least in the Middle East. This Administration has proven itself to be unwilling to use diplomacy, and incapable of competent diplomacy by any measure even if it were to stoop to diplomatic measures.

Bolton is of no use, and is a lame duck anyway. Rice represents Bush and thus gets only lip service - at least until Bush is clearly a lame duck and Rice begins to obviously run for President.

As the Cheney/Rumsfeld cabal was able to hollow out and deflate the State Department, it will be a few years before senior career diplomats there can be brought up to have sufficient stature and credibility to overcome the stigma of the Bush Administration.

So even if the Bush Administration were to miraculously change strategy from talk of regime change to diplomatic talk, there is no need for Iran or any member of the world community - outside Britain and Italy and a few minor "New Europe" nations that want more US military aid - to have anything more to do with US diplomats than cocktail party chats.

I'm not a professional at this, so have probably overlooked any number of factors. Whether large or small, please correct my comment wherever there is an error.

W. Patrick Lang

Dano

A certain respect for how humanity should behave compelled the expression you mention, however dim the prospect. pat

W. Patrick Lang

Taters

Presume you mean Smoot. When last he and I were soldiering together we were somewhere in the Wilderness.

he had jusr made major. I need to go find him. pat

Norbert Schulz

Very interesting article.

Still, there are a couple of things that comes to my mind (and this is going to be a long one):

Ain't Al Quaeda a sunni business, and ain't Iran and Hezbollah a Shia thing? While both sides share their strong anti-western sentiments, they are still far apart if the violence in Iraq is any indication.

I have always felt unpersuaded by the childish logic of an alleged Saddm + Al Quaeda connection: They both hate us, so they must be cooperating, and fighting terrorism we can as well hit Saddam (who has more rewarding targets anyway).
So IMO, one cannot throw Al Quaeda and Iran in one pot.

Sadly, I think the 'we-will-regime-change-you' , faster, faster please (Michael Ledeen anyone), rhetoric from D.C. has certainly helped to make possible a Ahmadinejad, even though opposition to domestic corruption under Rafsanjani certainly played an important role in Ahmadinejad's election victory. And considering U.S. threats of regime change - and the example of the invasion of Iraq - after having been at the receiving end of Saddam's military, and the immense loss of life, Iran must have a strong incentive to deter another such invasion. For Iran, nukes make sense, and that's the only strong argument against Iran atm.

Insofar, the very open and loud U.S. threats may well produce (or if there indeed is such a program, have produced already) just that what they proclaimedly aim to prevent. Brilliant.

When I take my shotgun and tell my neighbour that I know he's evil, and that therefor I might well undo him pre-emptively - while he indeed may be evil, it shouldn't come so much as a surprise when he gets himself a means to keep me at bay, like a shotgun of his own (we're all wild west here, no sheriff).

As for Bush's foreign policy ... I can't possibly eat as much as I'd like to throw up ...

While Iran's government is thoroughly unpleasant, there still is a vast difference to Al Quaeda. Whereas Al Quaeda, as a transnational movement has more transcendental goals and indeed hemispheric ambition, Iran's has regional oriented national interests of a country, and is very much palpable. Unlike Al Quaeda, Iran can be deterred.
Sure that is no reason not to to enforce the NPT (which Iran atm does *not* violate, period).

A major problem for the U.S. is that the NPT is giving Iran the 'inalienable right' to have a peaceful nuclear program. Under that premise, Iran's resistance to the intense U.S. pressure and rhetoric is not only understandable but justified.
The point that Iran, with all it's oil, doesn't need nuclear energy is moot. Oil for Iran is a cash cow, nothing to burn up. It's entire economy rests on this commodity. It is only prudent for them to conserve it to sell it and provide for its energy needs otherwise. They key U.S. argument against Iran's assurances that their program is civil in direction, still boils down to: We don't believe you (because you're evil?).

That's pretty weak, and how strong the evidence the IAEA has against them, is unclear. Continuing U.S. pressure is not going to make it any more credible.

Bush's embrace of nuclear state India, which is not member to the NPT, and signing a nuclear deal there is disingenious (unsurprising), to say the least, as it undermines the IAEA, atm the only organisation offering credible arguments (thanks to the Bush crew's blundering of hyping the Iraqi threat) in favour of the U.S. position.

I have a feeling that the actual U.S. pressure on Iran over its nuclear program is basically shadow-boxing with Iran over it's growing influence in Iraq, one of the few ways left for the U.S. way to exert pressure on Iran on a second front.
Maybe the U.S. can relax somewhat, and think again, when recognizing that in Iraq they will not be able to achieve any of their objectives, and reconsider if the confrontation with Iran brings them any palpable benefits beyond feeling good for not waffling in confronting evil (tongue in cheek). Countering the U.S. and gain the notorious 'rogue state' status pays off in the Middle East considering America's miserable standing there. In fact, instead of making Iran's life miserable, the U.S. pressure seems to help Ahmadinejad to consolidate power.

My take is that Ahmadinejad is beating the nationalist drum, because of his need to position himself in Iran - from all senior politicos there he is the only guy who's not a cleric (that still doesn't make him less volatile).

It is sort of ironic that, when 'moderate' Rafsanjani (who isn't moderate when compared to Ahmadinejad?) was president, he was scoffed as ineffective because the cleric council was obstructing him. Indeed, obstructive they were.
It is worth remembering that today they are obstructing Ahmadinejad - he had serious problems to get through his candidate as oil minister. Insofar, institutional inertia (don't overrate it, Norbert, it didn't prevent Bush from committing the folly of invading Iraq) may well come to the rescue in Iran.
Sure, Ahmadinejad has purged the Iranian executive branch (very much like the Bushies did after their election victory). But odd enough, with folks like Ahmadinejad around we can be thankful for the influence of the clerics in Iran, even though their time may slowly be coming to an end.

If that is so, I agree, then Ahmadinejad is really out for getting the West as a whole lots of trouble. Ahmadinejad must have been influenced by the impressions of the U.S. containment of Iran in the 1980s, that was basically, the massive war with Saddam aside, a low intensity war fought clandestinely by the U.S. - after that, he must be as scarred by the experience as U.S. officials and soldiers on the other side, who experienced the Iranian hostage crisis, Hezbollahs emergence in Lebanon, and the subsequent confrontation with Iran's then new Ayatollah regime.

A good article on Ahmadinejad's positioning in the Iranian political sphere.
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/HB18Ak02.html

Still, the real possibility that Pakistan's 'Busharaf' falls, and an (openly) islamist government manages to seize control over Pakistan's (already existing) nuclear weapons suggests to me a greater urgency for this problem, as opposed to a nuclear Iran in ten years time - much more so in the real potential of an exchange between Pakistan and India over Kashmir.

Besides, with the instability in Pakistan in mind, nukes for Iran not only make sense as a deterrent against U.S. meddling, but also as an insurance against Pakistan (though, for that case, an alliance with India would do the trick, too. And indeed, India and Iran seem to get closer).

So why get all excited about a real threat that may emerge in about ten years - if there is a just as real problem that could give us a real headache tomorrow already?

What America atm lacks for a decade now, is a position from which it can offer Iran something, to persuade it to a deal. I am fully aware that Iranian usual rhetoric and anti-U.S. slogans make that next to impossible for a long time.

But IMO pressure alone will yield no results that benefit the U.S. interests, and it's a question how sensible it is to completely outsource the carrots from the diplomatic arsenal.

W. Patrick Lang

Norbert

I would like to answer this but time does not permit. maybe you could boil it down to any points you would like me to address.

On the Shia-Sunni thing. They will fight each other endlessly so long as an "outsider" is not involved. When the enemy is the "kuffar" then they combine their effort. There is a long history of Iran Iran helping Sunni zealots against the west and vice versa. pl

Questions

Your write:
"The extensive reporting in the New York Times on the contents of a laptop omputer obtained in Iran by U.S. intelligence bears directly on the subject. The computer is reputed to have contained a mass of details pointing to Iranian intentions to produce a miniaturized weapon that could be mated with a guided missile."

To put the proof of a military nuclear program in Iran on one laptop mysteriously found and promoted in Judith Miller's NYT is quite a strech.

Additionally that "laptop" is supposed to have all kind of data:
- mechanical structure of a missle cone. There is no reason to think that this could not be for conventional missles as such cones are neede there too.
- "Green Salt" Uranium conversion/enrichment which is unneeded if one has the much better means through uraniumhexafluorid as Iran has.
- Plans for a 400 meter long underground tunnel

All things, mechanical engineering, nuclear chemistry and minig on one laptop.

To me that sounds like a source only, if at all, marginally better than the forged Niger papers.

Plus all Iranian leaders have claimed and issued fatwas not to strive for nuclear weapons.

Only because we think such weapons might make sense for them, doesn´t mean they are thinking the same.

W. Patrick Lang

Questions

If one wishes to dismiss all information contrary to that desired then one can believe anything one wishes. At that point the "analyic" proces becomes something unrelated to intelligenc and merely an arm of policy advocacy. sound familiar?

I don't know what you do in life, but I will insist that it should be clear that intelligence analysis is not scholarship or the law or even journalism. In those fields a rigorous insistence on proofs of truth for each piece of information that goes into an argument is absolutely necessary.

Intelligence analysis is perforce conducted in the presence of incomplete and ambiguous information and concerning qustions which, as in this case, are so important that a conclusion must be reached even if the information is imperfect. In this dilemma the intelligence analyst applies his over-all knowledge to the available information and on the basis of what he thinks are the probabilities in the matter, makes a "call."

The neocons claimed that they were unimpressed by this process, that they wanted the raw data and would make their own judgments as to its validity without the opinions of the intellgence analysts, "et, le voila."

I would add that except for a few quislings among the analytic corps nobody agreed with the neocons. pl

John Howley

Mazel tov!
You make a succinct argument that military action against Iran would be irrational and costly. Could not the same have been said, however, of invading Iraq? (Same was said by Bush Senior no less!) With appropriate PR stimulus, American people can be mobilized: Fort Sumter, U.S.S. Maine, Lusitania, Pearl Harbor, Tonkin Gulf, 9/11.
Unfortunately, the gasoline has already been poured upon the floor:
"Overwhelming numbers believe that if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons it would likely launch attacks on Israel (72%), and the U.S. or Europe (66%). There is even greater agreement that a nuclear-armed Iran would be likely to provide nuclear weapons to terrorists (82%)." http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=269
All the neocons need to do is find some matches and the pressure to "do something" about Iran will be overwhelming. All your worthy arguments notwithstanding.

Norbert Schulz

Thanks for the first answer, now my remaining questions in a more focused manner:

1 * When National Review praises Ahmadinejad as a gift from the heavens, the thing starts to smell fishy for me (Hooray, no no one can anymore deny the *need* for regime change). It sounds so conveniently by the book to me: ... Iraq ... Lebanon, Syria ... Iran.
It might as well be some 'Project of the Present Danger' scare, that is, a tale that Iranians are in fact three metres tall, eat little kittens, and beam death rays from their eyes, and that we really gotta do something against them, before they ally with Lex Luthor!!! What's your take?

2 * Do you think Bush's confrontational course proved counterproductive in dealing with Iran, and their nuclear program in particular?

3 * Has the Bush crew overplayed their hand in Iraq, and now desperately tries to salvage what's left by pressuring Iran over the nuke issue?

4 * Finally, how do you rate the risk of Musharaf falling, especially in respect of his recent troubles and the risks Pakistan's nukes and their Al Quaeda ties pose?

... whenever you find the time ...

Norbert Schulz

Questions,
I feel you have pretty much the same problem I have - that we are highly sceptical wether Iran poses a threat or not. The Bush crew's history of ... being somewhat unreliable as far as threat assessment is concerned certainly does not help the U.S. present their case.

The NPT allows Iran to conduct a peaceful program, period. The problem starts when it comes to say if they, too, might have a military nuclear program. Enrichment equipment produces Plutonium - or Uranium, but there is no indication for what purpose. And that's where the big questionmarks begin.

Actually, ever since the U.S. starting to push the nuclear issue with Teheran Iraq was in compliance with the NPT. They still are. Unless they have a secret program, which we don't really *know*.

Iran has been in violations of an additional safeguards agreement they volunteered to as a confidence building measure. What has irritated me about all that, was that rhetoric from Washington persistently blurred this distinction. For what reason please? To me the impression they try make a (misleading) case is overwhelming, but anyway, that's just my impression.

The Bush crew in their first term tried to confront even a cooperating Iran (just like Syria). If you want confrontation, why not taunt Iran into violating procedural rules of the agreement by frustrating it with fiery rhetoric? That is Bolton's SOP, and that's just what he did.
With a violation you could then try to get your UN security council resolution backing 'sanctions', or even the big price, 'action against Iran'.

And now we have the laptop intel so conveniently leaked to the NYT (with it's excellent rep for it's stellar reporting on the threat posed by Saddam ...) Yes, there is plenty of reason to be sceptic about the U.S. position. It is very much deja vu all over again for me.

However, PL made the good point that it is not about making a case, but an informed call when it comes to intelligence. Now that's a field where I can't possibly beat him.

Norbert Schulz

I just noticed I made my argument against an Iranian nuke program pretty much like the neo-con's theirs for it.

Iran wants nukes because they are evil (well, I guess so, somewhat at least). When the neo-cons make a claim to underline their call for regime change, conjuring up mushroom clouds all over the place, they must clearly be lieing, because I know they're nutty (of course they are).

How ironic ... :D

W. Patrick Lang

Norbert

Clausewitz would be pleased. pl

W. Patrick Lang

Norbert

In re the "informed call," never believe you can not be good at it. It is a question of having the requisite machinery in your head and acquiring the habit of mind. Like many on this board, you would do well as an intelligence analyst. pl

Jonah D. Wail

A very fine and in-depth analytical article there Pat ... I have come to expect nothing less from you and the masked man...

I know this statement I'll make is very obvious to most of those here that are acutely tuned in. It seems that most of this is very reminiscent of the past reasonable and sensible positions debated by many previous to the lead up to the invasion of Iraq. One thing that does standout is that the emotional factor of the country is not quite as acute as it was in the aftermath of 9/11. But will the will of the people be heard? Is it truly even being listened to?

Of course, the keywords here are emotional, reasonable, and sensible.

Now... the key question is: Will those powers who have preyed upon the emotions causing further fear in the country--and who also hold the pen that signs the orders continue to proceed in a sensible and rational manner? So far I note that they have--sorta--with mixed signals. Although the overall track record and my personal pragmatic side doesn't give me much feeling of hope.

Now... the following for all here is self-explanatory if you are fortunate enough to see the irony. And I'm sure most will.

> > http://www.thismodernworld.com/blog/prelude.jpg < <

ps: Irony is not what grandma used to do on what you thought was a surfboard...

Sam

Just a quick question - Russia is mentioned one time in the article in the context as working to establishing a "blue helmet" invasion.

Geography says they have a very large dog in the fight. Why weren't they considered in the analysis?

RJJ

"All the neocons need to do is find some matches and the pressure to "do something" about Iran will be overwhelming. "

Surely there is an albatross bag limit - even for a self-anointed unitary executive.

W. Patrick Lang

Sam

Because we think they would not interfer withwhat we are doing, just seek to profit from it. pl

W. Patrick Lang

Jonah

I did not think that anyone had seen the pictures of Larry in the black socks and mask?

This article is getting a wide "read" in the armed forces. We will see.

Pat

Glen

Pat,

Thanks, Pat and Larry for a good article.

It would seem that US has no good choice but to work with the UN and the IAEA in order to get the best possible chance to enforce the NPT in Iran. The parallel path is to work with the EU, Russia, China and India to convince them that allowing Iran to get nukes is not in their best interest. I somehow don't see Bush/Bolton taking that direction and I strongly suspect we will have no leverage in the UN security council because Russia and China will vote down any resolutions.

Unfortunately, making a nuclear tech exchange deal with India at this time only serves to muddy the waters even more, and actually suggests that we will have to deal with Iran after they get nukes weather we like it or not. To me, it seems that the deal with India is just a way for GE, Bechtel and a couple of other giant Incs to sell some product and outsource some jobs, so I don't quite understand why we should make it. How are we going to go back to ANYBODY (UN, allies, you name it) and try to make a fuss now about enforcing the NPT in Iran after Bush's trip to India?

My guess is that if Iran gets enough support from China and Russia, they will dump the NPT, and then Iran will have nukes in about ten years and Saudi Arabia and Eygpt will be working on them too.


Glen

W. Patrick Lang

Glen

I am good with all this except the 10 years part. NIEs are negotiated documents among a number of interest groups in the intelligence community. Before the 1st Gulf War the ME people in the IC insisted to the Nuky tech crowd that Iraq was withing 2 years of a detonation. They insisted in a rather racist way that this could not be true. In fact we were right and they were wrong. The same thing could be hapenning now. pl

Glen

Pat,

Ouch! Not much time to manuver if you've only got two years.

So this begs the question: Does Bush see India as a counterbalance to Iran or as a backdoor ambassador to Iran? Could Bush be thinking about negotiating a deal with Iran? Is this an "only Nixon could go to China" moment?

Glen

Serving Patriot

Glen,

I think you are much closer in your analysis when you suspect economic motives for the India gambit (Bechtel et al) than any sort of realist foreign policy play (Iranian counterbalance, backdoor apporach). One could even see "more nukes (power) to India" as a self-centered American ploy to slow petroleum demand growth in the only country (of the two) we can reasonably make slow down.

Besides, India is on the other side of the bureau and military cut lines of the world from Iran (PACOM not CENTCOM, South Asia not Near East Asia) - why would we want a coordinated policy in India that complements what-ever it is we are trying to do with Iran? I mean, then the NSC would have to do more than just make pretty slide charts for you know who. And Hadley is too busy fighting off criminal indictments to really concentrate on NSC's business.
(ok.../sarcasm off)

SP

Babak Makkinejad

For the life of me I do not understand why you guys care so much about this issue. After all, Iran is not a threat to US, only to US strategies in the Middle East. INMH, Brazil is potentially far more of a danger to US down the road.

W. Patrick Lang

Babak

Brazil does not have a program proabably aimed atproducing nuclear weapons. Neither does Brazil have a ballistic missile program intended to produce delivery systems with ranges up to 10,000 kilometers. pl

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