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21 October 2007


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Mad Dogs

Here's hoping Junya's Little "Make War, Not Peace" Train that huffed and puffed its way to Baghdad, has run out of steam before these Flatheads can send it on to Tehran.

Crazy is doing the very same thing and expecting different results. Something that Deadeye Cheney repeats in spite of our continuing incredulity.


The US is down to one carrier in the Gulf right now...

Others are undergoing deep refit etc.

It doesn't look like Bush can assemble a big carrier based strike force off Iran for a few months.

Perhaps land based aircraft wings can be flown in at short notice to bases around Iran.... but I'm fairly sure the first signs of that would be detected within 24 hours.

As for Iran's right to enrich Uranium for use in nuclear reactors.... that's International law.

If The USA had wanted to stop Nuclear Proliferation and enforce the NPT, it should have done so when first Israel, the Pakistan got it's weapons.



Paraphrasing that famous quote from Susskind's book the One Percent Solution, we have the unnamed White House official sharing with us that 'while you are out there studying reality, we are busy creating it'. Folks, they are going in! They are going in. The political opposition, either out of timidity, a scrupulous dedication to absolute assurance before taking a stand, idiocy, or political cowardice, just stand by and watch. Occasionally raising a word or two in mild, mild, protest. IOW...as the Col notes, it is Iraq all over again. A bit lower of a profile perhaps because, by 2007, we've all been there before, so the drama seems a little contrived. A nation of sheep.


Same you know what. Different day. How nice that he found a place to express such garbage with a friendly bunch of folks.
I wonder if he's recovered from his eight page Huffington Post stomp down from weeks ago.



Does this sound like the Iraq farce to anyone but me? pl

Yes, it sounds just like it.

President Obama will enter into an energy alliance with Iran and offer U.S. assistance to help it develop its "nuclear generated electricity" along with other alternative energy sources. A new day will dawn.

(I know, I need to get out more.)


Col. Lang:

Iraq farce? Of course. Think Syria and Israel and the unrelieved issue of Israel's survival in the middle east.

Zuckerman is pushing an Israeli agenda. He always has and always will. Some of the time he's right and some of the time he's not.

Regardless, when his point of view is convenient, as it is here, the no nukes for Iran crowd will use it to support their argument (to be read as "We want their oil too") regardless of the potential downstream consequences: increasing economic and political confrontations with Russia, China, and perhaps even the EU.

I keep hoping that this imperialist fever of ours will finally fun its course but hope hasn't been worth much recently.



Now, I am no "nucular" engineer, but if I read the available materials right, it is necessary to enrich uranium somewhat to produce fuel for nuclear electricity plants. A further enrichment is necessary to produce weapons grade enriched uranium.

This is in fact the case. Regrettably, the underlying technology is identical, differing only in intent, which makes highly enriched uranium the fissile material of choice for proliferators.

The Iranians say they want to exchange the petroleum for foreign exchange rather than burn it for electricity.

Which is a superficially sensible standpoint, but Iran lacks significant domestic uranium deposits, so they would in any event be compelled to sell their fossil fuels in order to purchase fissile fuels. Considerably simpler to use their own petroleum and natural gas for the job of generating electricity.

Observe as well that arrangements can be made to externally purchase, with full IAEA oversight, stocks of uranium which have already been enriched to reactor-fuel grade and no higher. Several other countries with civilian electric power generation from fission plants do precisely this. The need to own and operate one's own enrichment facilities is thus obviated.

I would hope that no one would parse any of the foregoing caveats as in any sense endorsing any of the views put forth by the odious Mort Zuckerman. He regularly re-demonstrates the principle that owning a printing press no more makes one a genuine publisher than does the mere ownership of a violin make one a musician.



Rhetorical question, same players, same plays, same audience. The only question is how many it will fool this time, and will they matter. I have deep concerns, given that the Democrats feel it too dangerous politically to take a simple step like voting to require a direct attack on the US or further authorization by Congress before going to war with Iran. When people are arguing that Congress has already authorized a war on Iran this simple step is needed.


Exactly like it. What do you think of Israel's air strike on Syria? Could they be used as a proxy to start a conflict with Iran?


The simple fact is that a complete ore-to-fuel enrichment capability is inherently dual-use and once one masters the technology, the ability to produce weapons-grade material is easy.

You're right the IAEA has found no proof of progress toward nuclear weapons, but of course, progress towards an enrichment capability IS, like it or not, progress toward a nuclear weapons capability.

And that is the crux of dual-use technology. In such cases it comes down to intent - a difficult thing to determine under the best circumstances - doubly so with a country like Iran.

My personal view is that Iran wants a nuclear weapons option - not necessarily nukes themselves, but the ability to acquire them in a short amount of time if need be. In addition to Iran's enrichment capability, the HW reactor they are building at Arak is about the best design one could hope for for making weapons-grade plutonium. This option is much further down the line, however, since the reactor is not yet finished, is under IAEA safeguard, and Iran lacks a plutonium separation facility necessary to extract plutonium from spent fuel. So my theory is that Iran wants the stage set - to have all the "legal" pieces in place - to allow them to build a weapon in as little as six months. The advantage for Iran is that it gets to have its cake and eat about 90% of it too.

Although the IAEA has no proof that Iran intends to weaponize, it has discovered evidence of wholly-military related activity which suggests that Iran has at least done some initial thinking on bomb options and design. Additionally, since Iran has not ratified the additional protocol, the IAEA is only granted access to sites and facilities that Iran declares under its safeguards agreement. Therefore, if there is hidden, illicit activity going on, the IAEA will be hard-pressed to discover it unless queued by US or foreign intelligence agencies (which is exactly how Natanz was "discovered" by the IAEA). Although Iran's past activities and deception are worrisome, by itself, they are not enough to prove intent.

My view mirrors many in the arms-control community that Iran must be made to, at a minimum, sign and ratify the additional protocol to the NPT. Without the additional protocol the IAEA would have no mechanism to detect or prevent covert cascades for a weapon's program. Additionally, Iran must greatly increase its transparency so the IAEA and international community can account for and verify that all activities conducted during it's decades-plus long covert program are wholly peaceful.

To summarize, the jury is still out. This situation is only analogous to Iraq in that there is ambiguity that allows people and policy-makers to reach whatever conclusion they wish WRT Iranian nukes. An inherent problem is the demand for "proof" that something does not exist - somewhat analogous to asking a man to "prove" he doesn't, and never has, slapped-around his wife. Iraq had ample opportunity to prove it did not have weapons, yet it decided to pursue a policy of purposeful ambiguity that ultimately led to Saddam's downfall and execution. I would hope that the Iranians learned that lesson and will move to eliminate all ambiguity about it's nuclear program given the current administration's "better safe than sorry" attitude of attacking sooner in the face of ambiguity rather than later.


Col. Lang, I echo sentiments completely on this.

Nuclear energy is a prestige technology. It is highly arguable whether light water nuclear power actually can produce more useful energy than the sum of all of its inputs. It takes a lot of energy to run those centrifuges, which is why ORNL is located where it is - taking advantage of all the TVA juice.

Nuclear power requires enrichment to about 5% U235, weapons to 95% and higher. U238 doesn't do much for you, and yellowcake can make your geiger counter jump and provide a decontamination and health challenge, but not much else.

Nuclear enrichment is not a linear process. It's much hard to get successively purer refinement.

Plus, U235 is highly reactive-it wants to start a fission reaction; which is one of the reason to have many centrifuges, keeping the amount in any single one rather small. You really want to keep it from going critical until you're good and ready.

But having enough U235 doesn't mean that you now have a nuclear weapon. Getting to Hiroshima is extraordinarily complicated and difficult. Even with all of Pakistan's goodies, even with the nuke plans that the US insisted in putting in their hands, doesn't mean they have the capability of inclination to build a weapon.

Iran could also make some dirty bombs. But they don't need to build any centrifuges to do that. They need their plants up and running, irradiating like crazy, exposing lots of material, then grinding it up and wrapping it around a ball of conventional explosive, which can then slide neatly into the shipping container of your choice. Set timer and mail.

Besides oil and gas, Iran apparently also has some native deposits of uranium, so they have a bonifide case for mining and refinement. Nuclear power will diversify their energy portfolio. But as with petroleum, their uranium assets are limited.

Under the Shah, the US fell all over itself to transfer nuclear technology to Iran. I believe that a handful of reactors were promised, and work was started, but went into hiatus with the advent of the ayatollahs. Now, they're picking up where we left off. Of course they're making use of Russian technology and fuel to get started.

Can a nuclear energy program be used to mask and jump start a weapons program? You betcha. That's what the Israeli's did. I doubt that any nuclear energy power has resisted entirely the temptation to see what they might be able to do with weaponization, to one degree or another. India, Pakistan, North Korea, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, and South Africa have all fessed up to one degree or another. I expect that Germany has done a bit more than think about it, maybe the Swiss...

Has/will Iran managed to avoid the temptation of exploring nuclear weapons? They say no. The IAEA can find no evidence having traces of funky isotopes that apparently came with a machinery purchase from Pakistan.

Oddly, Iran seems to have deliberately slowed construction and completion of their russian reactor. They've held up progress payments for construction and dragged their heels on other aspects. If they were wanting those plants for nefarious purposes, they'd likely agree to anything in order to speed the process up, then abrogate the deals later. Instead, they seem to be very focused on being able to home grow a full nuclear industry from this seed and are expressing a comprehensive, long term attitude.

But, if I were Iran, I'd be working my butt off on getting a crude nuclear weapon up to speed post haste.

Maybe Valerie Plame could enlighten us a little if her gag was removed. At this point I'm more than a little inclined to accept her word over Cheney's.

The Iranian's have certainly taken notice of how their brethren in the 'Axis of Evvul' have been treated: DPNK gets treated to nice long talks over tea in mirrored ballrooms; Iraq gets a dose of 'Shock & Awe' and gets its ass invaded.

What is the difference between them, besides oil? Oil aside I'd say Korea is the bigger strategic prize, plus we've been at war with them for a whole lot longer.

But my suspicion of what my actions would be falls far short of adequate justification for military action.

Actions of the US to prepare the ground in Iran right now looks like Iraq circa 2002 to me. Full court press. Spook teams in country, support to rebels, overtures to the military and intelligentsia, various destabilization campaigns, political and economic sanctions, diplomatic isolation.

Only, this time we can't be sending the army in, so we'll largely have to make do with air and sea power to lob a lot of firepower. I would expect to see the targeting of the entire military, all suspected nuclear assets, all communications and control, all infrastructure, all governance. Your basic back-to-the-stoneage scenario recently seen in Iraq, Lebanon and Serbia. Except maybe this time with nuclear weapons added.

Less that a full assault would leave the army and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan too exposed to retaliation. Might not matter, though.

How this could possibly help the US, secure access to resources, or improve Iraq, I can't really fathom.

If you wanted to unite the islamic world against the US (and maybe Christendom) you couldn't hope to do better without vaporizing Dome of the Rock and Mecca. What supporters could we gain in the world? Maybe India? This would only speed the disengagement of the rest of the world from the US, and cement strategic ties between Europe, Russia, China, Japan. Canada and Central America would hope that continental drift would hurry up and get them some separation.

And of course, Iran would not suddenly come to their senses and beg forgiveness. The country might be decapitated and brought to ruin, but not to surrender. As with the Blitz of London, they would suffer and strengthen their resolve, and vow revenge.

If your investment portfolio involves energy assets that aren't located in the Middle east, this could work out very nicely for you. Maybe Halliburton's relocation to Dubai is the best argument against this scenario... Then again it hasn't happened yet.

Any idea how Zuckerman is invested? War is very good for newspapers (see: Hearst).

BTW, what's Chalabi's opinion on all of this? Haven't heard much from him for a while (!)

Sidney O. Smith III

More and more people are concluding that the neoconservatives are redefining the pre-emptive strike doctrine. The attempt to recast the pre-emptive strike doctrine is due in part to the fact that S. Hussein was not in possession of wmd, thus exposing the lies that lead to Shock and Awe. Now neoconservatives are arguing that the mere knowledge of how to construct a wmd justifies a pre-emptive strike, at least against selective nations. Here’s Yglesia explaining the point:

“But basically were you to want to use military force against the Iranian nuclear weapons program tomorrow, you'd run into the problem that there's nothing there. If you define the threshold down to some kind of war on knowledge, however, you put yourself in a position where maybe you can define the centrifuges Iran already has as constituting the knowledge they must be denied or at least a program to obtain the knowledge. Thus you have, on the level of rhetoric though not international law or sound diplomacy, the justification for military action.”


So the question remains…what will the prez do? Seems to me that strategic analysis (and military planning) are based on assumptions that, in turn, arise from a particular worldview. So the key is to identify the undefined -- dare I say “esoteric” -- worldview. Analytical conclusions…aka decisions…would seem to offer a way to identify the assumptions that in turn would lead us to the underlying worldview.

Time and time again, President Bush appears to make US foreign policy decisions based on assumptions that arise out of the rapturist worldview. If anyone in the msm simply asked Bush if he considered himself an adherent of the rapturist movement, then we may have a greater understanding of his intent.

The assumptions of the rapturist movement appear to have melded with those underlying “Leo Strauss and the World of Intelligence (By which we do no mean nous)”. So the task then becomes to find a competing worldview that serves two purposes. Number one, it acts as an antidote to Leo Strauss and Pastor Hagee. Number two, the worldview is consistent with that left by our founding fathers and within the parameters of the US Constitution. Once this competing worldview is identified and further defined, then certain assumptions would arise and they in turn would lead to a different strategic analysis -- one that, for example, would prove the Wurmser option is not in American interests.

Just my opinion, but the success of the neoconservative movement appears to have started with their ability to overtake strategic intel analysis and then, somehow, control the entire military culture at the Pentagon. So I simply offer for consideration the idea that step one to preventing the Wurmser option or the like from materializing begins with constructing a worldview that provides quality strategic intel analysis and shines a bright light on a very dark place at the Pentagon -- the one occupied by the epigones of Leo Strauss.


Iran pumps crude oil. Iran does not have enough refineries to meet domestic demand and thus is required to buy and import refined gasoline at world market prices. Iran has recently been forced to raise the price of their subsidized gasoline. Also, there is a reason why there are few petrol-fired electrical generating power-plants: they are inefficient and expensive. It's ridiculous to asset that it's a good idea for Iran to export crude, buy back refined petrol, and then use it for electrical generating power plants. How many people here with gasolive powered back-up generators would want to feed that pig as their primary power source?

Richard Armstrong

COL Lang,

You wrote: "Does this sound like the Iraq farce to anyone but me? pl"

Yes it does.

I'm beginning to think that Iraq was only the starting point. Admittedly, I'm starting to sound like one of those guys that sees conspiracies everywhere however, if you will permit me my delusions I will continue.

Although it is the only remaining "superpower", the American empire is in decline. Over the horizon the next great world power, China is patiently waiting as only a culture that measures history in thousands of years can. The peculiarities of geology have placed the greatest known quantities of petroleum in the Middle East and in Africa. China is currently engaged in dramatically increasing it's influence on the African continent, laying the seeds for when it's influence over the resources of that continent will be necessary to the new Chinese empire. The industrialized west's influence over the resources in the ME have historically been based on economics. They have the resources and the west has been the most capable of paying for it. As the economic power of China grows, the West cannot continue to rely solely on economics to maintain that control.

A completely destabilized ME would force the West to massively intervene in order to insure access to the precious petroleum. A Middle East military dominated by Western forces would be an 800 pound gorilla sitting next door to the African prize the Chinese seek.

The importance of African resources and a desire to inhibit Chinese influence is probably the true reason for the reported plans to reconfigure CENTCOM so that the African continent gets it's own US Military Command.

Of course the American adventures in the Middle East are all about the oil.

I'm not really suggesting that there is a secret cabal that meets in one of the vice president's "undisclosed locations" that is managing this conspiracy. Rather, I think there is a confluence powerful lobbies that all see our current belligerence as the means to their ends. Of the top of my head I'll name the petroleum industry, the military industry, multi-national corporations and of course those corporatists that have done such a good job of eroding our Constitution.


so Andy, just curious. Why can't the Iranians have the bomb in the first place? IOW...what would be our legal grounds for attacking them?

Babak Makkinejad


As far as I know, there is no apolitical instrumentality existing that would guarantee the supply of nuclear fuel. In fact, the Indians tried to get US to agree to supply their civilian nuclear plants "in perpetuity" as part of the US-India Nuclear deal; US did not agree since that was a Sovereign Right.

As for Iran having to spend oil money to purchase nuclear fuel; that is not entirely correct. Iran could buy raw uranium ore from Australia or other places and fabricate its own fuel more cheaply. [Australia has entered such a deal with Russia.]

But the real issue is not Iranian Nuclear Rights. Even if Iran suspends nuclear development, US & EU states will find another excuse; say Human Rights. And if that is resolved they will probably raise the issue of Animal Rights.

Below is my personal opinions:

The fact is that US-EU are opposed to the existence of the independent Iranian power. It is for this reason that US-EU have never ever reassured Iran that they will not attack Iran. [Jack Straw was removed because he proffered exactly that.]

Kissinger recently observed, in connection with Iran:
"The industrial nations cannot accept radical forces dominating a region on which their economies depend," and Tony Blair further propagandized that
strategy by stating:

“Out there in the Middle East, we’ve seen... the ideology driving this extremism and terror is not exhausted. This ideology now has a state, Iran, that is prepared to back and finance terror in the pursuit of destabilizing countries whose people wish to live in peace.”

I note here that Russia, China, and India have no problems with an independent Iranian power. [In fact, several years ago, Vajpayee, the Leader of Hindu Fundamentalists was in Iran meeting Ayatollah Khamenei, the Leader of (Shia) Muslim Fundamentalists. They had no problems with each other at all.]

The way I read these statement is that US & EU aim to maintain political control over the world's energy resources so that they may be able to transform that control as an instrumentality of coercion against Russia, China, India or any other state. The existence of the independent Iranian power thwarts that.

I want to emphasize this is not a US-only policy or exclusive to this Administration. In my opinion, US ruling elites are convinced of the soundness of this policy and its viability.

The EU states, on the other hand, are too weak to do anything without US. They are also largely in agreement with US aims, they are US Lite. And they much prefer US to do the dirty deeds for them while they can continue living their fantasies of a law-based international order unsullied. [Does anyone seriously believe that EU will sanction US in the event of a US war on Iran?]

[I personally think that the days of hegemony of US or anyone else in the Levant and the Persian Gulf is gone; hegemony is too costly to maintain both financially & politically.]

I think US & EU will continue down this path of confrontation with Iran since their fundamental policy objectives leave them no other alternatives. This suits Russia, China, and India just fine as it ties US-EU position in the Persian Gulf and Levant into a frozen morass that could go on for decades, sapping resources and effort.

Moreover, because of the direct threat that US-EU control over energy resources poses to these and a number of other states, they will do all that they can to help Iran maintain her political independence. In my judgment there is nothing that US and EU can offer these states that will be worth so much to them that they let their energy bloodline be politically controlled by US & EU.

In my opinion, a possible US-Iran War will not alter the above considerations since the geopolitical situation cannot be altered via air power [I am going out on a limb here since I am not an expert in military matters.]

On the other hand, I might be wrong.


Andy Harrowel, the Yorkshire Ranter, continues to hammer away at the fact that there isn't going to be an attack on Iran until the US gets more than one carrier, the Enterprise, on station in the Gulf. And it shows no sign of that. In fact, it would need probably three.


But at the rate things are happening on the Turkish/Kurdish border, it looks as though Iran is going to be increasingly on the back burner.


Of course Zuckerman brought up Putin's Iran visit (and subsequent Israel visit to what, soothe ruffled nerves?). However, I found Gary Kasparov's reading of Putin's visit and his relationship with the Iranians in general ( (on Bill Maher this past Friday nite), much more interesting than Mort's. Kasparov says that the Russian's arms and technology transfers to Iran are largely about roiling the U.S, which in turn roils the oil market, keeping oil prices high (I think the per barrel price hit a new high last week). High oil prices are certainly something that Putin wants.

Zuckerman has been a consistant Iraq War hawk on McLaughlin Group and so somehow I wasn't surprised to see him trying to reprise Judy Miller's old role in the new Bush/Cheney production, "Little Big Men in the Middle East, Part II." This time the maguffin is cascading centrifuges instead of aluminum tubes.

Cloned Poster

Why are Israel so crazy about possible Iranian nukes, they have nukes also.


Although I cannot appraise all of Jon's comments, I think it is accurate based on what I have read in regard to the US (read our) encouragement of Iranian development of nuclear power--this from back in the days of the early 70s when oil alternatives were being touted and foisted on the rest of the world so we could avoid gasoline prices of 73 cents a gallon I think and lines several hours long, if my memory serves.

Clifford Kiracofe

Same old, same old. Little Sir Echos everywhere.

Here's our bionic Veep:

"LEESBURG, Va. (AP) -- The United States and other nations will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday...
He said Iran's efforts to pursue technology that would allow them to build a nuclear weapon are obvious and that "the regime continues to practice delay and deceit in an obvious effort to buy time."

If Iran continues on its current course, Cheney said the U.S. and other nations are "prepared to impose serious consequences." The vice president made no specific reference to military action.
"We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon," he said."

As for bio on the Canadian-born Zuckermann:




so Andy, just curious. Why can't the Iranians have the bomb in the first place? IOW...what would be our legal grounds for attacking them?

As a signatory to the NPT, Iran has no right to nuclear weapons. If Iran wants to withdrawal from the NPT and suffer all the consequences that entails, then there is no legal prohibition for it to develop a weapons capability.

As for a legal justification to attack, I'll leave that to the lawyers.

Several people have commented on US-Iranian nuclear assistance under the Shah. It should be noted that none of those agreements included a domestic enrichment capability for Iran - only the construction of reactors supplied by fuel produced in the US or Europe.


On Juan Cole's blog a while ago, I proposed that the Iranians be given active assistance towards a CANDU reactor.

These reactors provide electricity without needing enriched uranium fuel (hence no need for centrifuges).
It's a technological trick that would allow the Iranians their legitimate rights to peaceful nuclear power without giving them threshold nuclear bomb capability.

I can see why Iran isn't so crazy for a CANDU, I don't understand why the west doesn't endorse it. (At the very least, offering a CANDU would call Iran's bluff)


Dear Col. Lang,
Yes, I also believe that we are seeing the same movie again - which you know all too well.

Fellow SST readers -
This may be worth a re visit re Zuckerman.

It's Col. Lang's "Iran - Whose Existenial Threat?"


Putin also has a few words to say on the matter.


(Is there anyone other than me - to recycle Pat's phrase - who thinks that perhaps GWB, purveyor of nicknames, has referred to him as Pooter or Pooty Poot? I know about the Vlad gaffe..)


As someone who has spent much of my professional career in the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, it continues to amaze me how much politicians and pundits wildly overestimate the ability of nations to assemble functional nuclear weapons program.

Our incursion into Iraq was justified on little more than the idiotic notion that as soon as a nation obtains a pile of yellowcake, it's just a matter of time before they can assemble an atomic weapon. That's complete hogwash.

The science behind fission weapons is pretty simple, and college students learn it in physics courses every day. But the engineering required for design and manufacture of even a simple weapon is a nightmare of complexity, even for assembly weapons (which are a good design point for clandestine HEU programs, since they don't require testing, and because plutonium cannot be used in such a rudimentary design).

And while almost all nuclear technology is inherently dual-use, in practice the non-weapons use is pretty simple compared to the weapons applications, whether you're talking about Homer Simpson running a nuclear power plant or about NIF. So engineering a transition from a functioning non-weapons capability (e.g., a nuclear power plant) to a weapons capability is a difficult task, and for countries that do not have established cadres of appropriate technical talent, it may be essentially impossible.

Finally, the practical details of nuclear WMD design and manufacture are "born classified" (i.e., classified as SRD or TSRD from their inception, and only very rarely declassified, if ever!), so anytime you hear a politician or pundit pontificating about this topic, you can safely deduce that either (a) they don't know what they are talking about, or (b) they do know, and thus they can be prosecuted for violating classification constraints on SRD information.

And since the consequences for knowledgeably disseminating such information range up to "the death penalty", it's safe to assume that (a) is always the case, including Mr. Zuckerman's recent assertions on this topic.

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