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14 February 2010


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We could call the policy Singularly Assured Destruction (SAD).


The link was a university in India, not Iran. A comment on another comment. kinda not making sense now, but I thought it was interesting because it's a big archeological dig. Sort of little historical/wiki fun fact ... ancient script give me the tingle, cause I always try reading them like strange comic for a chuckle.

anyway, general serious comment, maybe related, maybe not.

It could very well be that places with big population centers and old history are able to come up with diplomatic solution and read global geopolitical mood better than anyone cares to admit. Hey, if even schmo like me can blather about how Iran should hook up with China and that ought to stop neocon driven agenda dead on its track, and it happened, than maybe those direct and logical strategy, but very difficult to pull diplomacy will all come true. High diplomacy is cultural.

Old places like persia, china and india can create very deep, long and intricate diplomatic dances. They also have long blood ties everywhere. Iran is not Saudi or Kuwait, bunch of nomad just coming out of the desert because of oil wealth. It has the entire persian and macedonian history behind them on top of Islamic world politics. Neocon tricks and game littered their history and story books. They know diplomatic strategems and DC bullshits, they were there when the game was invented.

Above all, recent colonial history caution everybody in asia when it comes to any seemingly dubious legal and military move. Any hint of threat and unequal treaty should be answered only with 'no' and inevitable invasion. Iran is not going to fall for another zbig ploy.

They are an ascdending regional superpower and so far they are doing all the right move. With the collapse of Hillary's credibility in all of asia and arab world, as you say, it's end game now. The middle game were China/Russia rearranging pipelinistan and Iran hanging tough during development of their centrifuge.

The two extreme end games I see. Ugly skirmishes, begin with assassinations all over the world and collapsing into all out war (nule or no nuke), or new regional geopolitical equilibrium with US role in arab world greatly altered. Stable, but definitely different.

So far Israel effort to start war, assassnation, usual neocon gags don't work. Iran stay put and move their pieces methodically. And it is no secret I rather have new equilibrium than keep getting involved in endless war defending bunch of wackos. That will destroy the nation for good, instead of second scenario where everybody finally has to face up new energy policy.

Military moves and counter move? I really don't see how brute force will achieve those "policy".

nuclear war won't save israel out of their morally repulsive action. They are destroying their own existence, no one else. No amount of weapons and technology can hide their crime.

and this so called policy already put US at direct conflict with China, Russia and near collapse of european economy. It doesn't take a lot of money for China to rearrange the global money flow permanently if they want to play their historically in their character game.

Nobody buys neocon lies anymore.


Pat, you say that "...we should do everything we can to impede Iran's progress towards nuclear power status..." but from the context "everything" does not seem to mean the same thing as the often used "...nothing is off the table." Care to expand?

Charles I

For reasons not clear to me aside from a Fatwa I heard on the news, I, well, I'm not sure, I Hope, the Mullahs are not suicidal, or worse yet, are'nt lawyers and it turns out the fatwa didn't cover the tramp steamer nuke touched off in the harbour of New York.

I infer, previous counsel aside, that you fear they think they could get away with sailing one into Israel, or wherever. I also infer from your proposed notice, you hope they are rational too, or you mightn't bother.

Then I read the last bit. . .

I think the mullahs are rational, sorta. Israel drives me nuts, just on bleeding heart, chutzpah, thumb in your eye bullshit grounds alone. I hit post here in a lather, anything is possible I guess.

Not by missile for years and years, surely. But yeah as soon as they get that, Israel will still be there pissing me, and no doubt the mullahs, off. I wonder when the assassination teams crossing the region - Jordan, Gaza, Dubai, Lebanon, Egypt, Iran - will sweep Israel?


I still worry, really worry, that BiBi wants to go down in Israeli history as the superhero who saved his nation from extermination. The mind reels.


Ah, Colonel --
Ever the optimist! If but our wounds from Iraq could speak to the limbs we risk by engaging Iran. I think Van Riper gamed it well, but despite that revelatory exercise, we'll be flim-flammed into doing Israel's will once again.

At the very least, a real dust-up in Iran gives Tel Aviv cover to begin a stronger program of ethnic cleansing.


Col Lang,

Do you think it might be possible that Iran will seek to be a turn of the screw away from a nuke and not have actually ever build one? Would having that capability to nuke up on short notice give Iran substantial strategic heft without incurring the world's wrath?

Alternatively, if the do go nuclear, wouldn't it be in their interest to maintain an Israeli like ambiguity rather than actually detonate a nuke?

There was a study at a Tel Aviv Strategic Studies institute saying just that. It was reported in Haaretz a few years back.


Money quote

According to the study, as Iran formulates its nuclear policy, it will have to decide on one of three options: a) to remain on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons - to avoid developing a nuclear arsenal immediately, but developing the capability to do so on short notice; b) to adopt a policy of nuclear ambiguity - to produce nuclear weapons, but to avoid making their existence public and testing them, in the hope of averting further pressure on Tehran; and c) to produce nuclear weapons, announce their existence and possibly also to carry out a test.

The study suggests that Iran will prefer the second option "which appears most likely, at least in the first stage.""


For all practical purpose Iran is already a "nuclear capable" state just as Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and Brazil are.

They do have the theoretical and practical know-how on how to build a bomb or two.

But Iran will not do so unless it gets under serious physical attack. There is simply no advantage in that.

The U.S. could and should still go for a grand bargain with Iran.

Unfortunately the masters in Tel Aviv will not allow this and Washington seems too timid to give it a try.

The whole U.S. foreign policy staff seems to run around the middle east right now screaming "Iran, Iran, Iran" while important other issues, the new START agreement, economic relations with China, climate etc are all delayed and mishandled onyl to "fix" the "Iran problem".

Netanyahu must laugh his ass off.

RAISER William

"...do everything we can to impede Iran's progress towards nuclear power status..."

That's the sticky part. How do we impede nuclear bomb development, allow and encourage nuclear electricity development, and do everything we can to develop positive relations with Iran. Not an easy combination, as you have pointed out.

There are enough nuclear bomb powers now to ensure that anyone who uses such a device will commit suicide, and everyone knows that.

Seems to me you are pushing in a direction of much needed creative engagement. Everything we can do to expand cultural understanding and trade (rather than trade sanctions) should move in positive directions.

Since the US started Iran's nuclear electric program, we might help them achieve that rather than see their money spent on Russian plants.

Let's work to enhance their integration into the global community rather than try to isolate them. That has a BIG upside and very little on the down side.


I've figured Iran was on that road for at least 5 years now.

It doesn't worry me very much.

I grew up in Tucson in the 1960s, and went to grad school there in the 80s. We had Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (SAC base: nuclear-armed B-52s) on the southeast side of town, a big Hughes Aircraft defense plant in the south part of town, and 18 Titan II hardened silos surrounding. If things had dropped in the pot with the USSR, there wouldn't have been much point in seeking shelter. OTOH, with that many H-bombs going off nearby, it probably would have been over quickly.

These people had more than 30,000 deliverable nuclear weapons at their height, and a BW arsenal, also deliverable, that boggles the mind.

And we stared them down. It took us 40 years, but we did it. Where are they now?

So an Iran with less than a dozen first-generation nukes and nothing in particular to deliver them with does not scare me all that much.

When and if they "graduate" into the nuclear club, they'll only find themselves bound by the same constraints as everyone else at the table. Plus the fact that some of that club's senior members really don't care for them very much.

I agree that Iran should be told. These things are best made explicit. That avoids confusion.

But Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn't seem to be a dynamite-vest type to me. Despicable, yes. Sociopathic, yes. Brutal, yes. Rather lie than tell the truth? Absolutely.

Suicidally insane, no.

different clue

I wonder if Ahmadinejad himself and some other figures in the A-K/RevGuard/Baseej faction which currently rules the Islamic Republic have a psychological mindset such that the threat or even the fact of massive retaliation would not upset them. I wonder if they are psychologically even if not theologically similar to the
most "Darby" of "Rapturists". In other words, what if Ahmadinejad and some of the RevGuards and Baseejis consider an atom bomb to be their "ticket to heaven"?

On the other hand, I wonder if some of the out-of-power power centers such as senior clerics like Rafsanjani, the Regular Armed Forces, political leaders like Mousavi and others; might be more pragmatically survival-oriented and as such; would rather "have" the bomb than use it? If so, might they be more trustworthy custodians of Iran's eventual atom bomb than the faction now in power?

If analysts and decision makers within our government think that could be so; would they have a way
to convey a sense of hope and support to the out-of-power counter-faction elements of the leadership system in Iran? Would efforts to delay Iran's reaching the bomb combined with very carefully crafted sanctions buy enough time for the counter A-jad forces
to take back power from the current faction in time to put Iran's eventual bomb in wiser cooler hands?

Clifford Kiracofe

Some journalism studies have shown that in US papers there were porportionately more column inches devoted to foreign news reporting back around 1800 in Jefferson's day than in recent years.

As the votes show, Congress is dominated by the "pro-israel" lobby. Thus it will rubber stamp what the White House would offer in terms of action against Iran, IMO. About 3/4 of the House and Senate voted for war against Iraq. (voted to "authorize force"). Probably have more votes today against Iran.

Today's "pro-Israel" press will play the cheerleader-stenographer role.
We saw this with the Iraq war so it is not likely to be any different when the US launches against Iran.


The irony is of course that if weaponary is their goal it would be only to avoid that fate. I do not think the Iranians will ever use a nuclear weapon on Israel and take the risk of killing Palestinians or the Shia of southern Lebanon. Nor do I think that they are foolish or naive enough to not anticipate the consequences of such an act (and I doubt the US would be the only nation taking part in carpet bombing Iran in response.)

I think you nailed it on the head in an earlier post. This is about a balance of power.

This isn't so much about Iran's first strike ability but more about their ability to respond to a first strike.

And this isn't so much about the US defending Israel's right to exist as it is about the US defending Israel's desire to act with total impunity without fear of consequence.

The question is are the Israelis prepared for to accept this outcome or will they try to act before-hand?



So you have come to the belief that they will some day use their Bonneville salt flats to detonate weapons testings? How does Iran achieving nuclear status capability threaten our U.S.? I could care less about if they become a threat or not to Israel, as Israel has stabbed our U.S.in the back too many times. How does Iran become a threat to our U.S.? We contained the Soviets. Is not Iran a pimple compared to the Soviet threat of yesteryear?

Patrick Lang


"The irony is of course that if weaponary is their goal it would be only to avoid that fate."

You don't know that. You HOPE that it is true. pl

Patrick Lang


They will be a threat to us when they achieve the farther goals of their ballistic missile program. pl


Since, absent a US invasion, an Iranian nuclear capability now seems all but certain, the following questions suggest themselves:

1. What steps will Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab and neighboring states take now that another regional power has nuclear weapons?

2. Israel's possession of nuclear weapons has been somewhat tolerated until now; to what extent does an Iranian capability mean that future nuclear disarmament discussions will include addressing all such weapons in the region? Perhaps one part of achieving this capability is to use it as a bargaining chip, as has sometimes seemed the case with the DPRK?

3. What of the nightmare scenario of such nuclear capability falling into unstable, perhaps even non-state actor, hands? Given that this fear already exists vis a vis Pakistan, have we doubled the odds that a suitcase nuke is in D.C.'s future? Or are these fears exaggerated?

Patrick Lang


Forget about the freighter blowing up in the St. Lawrence. All they have to do to radically alter the balance of power in the ME is get something to go "bang" in the desert. It can be as big as a boxcar. that won't matter. As soon as it happens the world will be profoundly different. strategic wargaming on this issue has always revealed the same thing. Possession of of a nuclear device paralyzes options political options against Iran.

The first deliverable Iranian nuclear weapon does not have to be a suitacase or freighter bomb. It can be something that fits into a C-130 which can be flown at nap of the earth altitude all the way to the Mediterranean on a one way trip. pl


FDR Democrat:

Given that this fear already exists vis a vis Pakistan, have we doubled the odds that a suitcase nuke is in D.C.'s future? Or are these fears exaggerated?

The fears of a suitcase-sized tactical nuclear weapon are exaggerated, at least in terms of such technology being designed, manufactured and successfully tested in Pakistan or Iran.

The fears of nuclear proliferation are, of course, not exaggerated, though it is intriguing how incredibly selective we seem to be in terms of the attribution of those fears, e.g., we worry about the future potential for a handful of low-yield weapons in Iran, but not about the current certainty of perhaps hundreds of high-yield weapons in Israel, or about the considerable uncertainty of Soviet-era weapons that might have gone missing.

One of the stranger aspects of nuclear weapons technology is that it's arguably easier to increase the size and yield of a weapon than it is to decrease it. So the design and construction of a suitcase nuke is likely well beyond the engineering capabilities of all but the most well-established nuclear club members, e.g., the US, the Russians, the French.

On the other hand, Iran's engineering capabilities have so far proven to be incapable of refining sufficient gasoline to keep its citizens' automotive needs satisfied. Engineering a portable tactical nuclear weapon is an infinitely more difficult task than turning crude oil into gasoline, so while fears in general are warranted, the current level of fear is almost certainly not.


Thanks for this. Sounds about right to me. I would say the timeline is about 20 years (my timeline would include sabotage, as well as the possibility of limited air strikes).

I guess my second question would be about the secondary effects of such. Are you arguing for a comprehensive containment policy or one focused neatly on the nuclear issue and accepting the status quo elsewhere, ie Iraq, Lebanon, etc?

I guess my concern would be that a comprehensive approach would run at cross-purposes with preparation for the "day." This is not necessarily so, but I doubt we have the agility such a policy would require (and I say this leaving aside the reliability of our "partners" in such a policy.)

Finally, can I infer from this post that you have given up on the idea of a "grand bargain" or more accurately decided such will not be possible until all other possibilities are excluded?

Patrick Lang


It does not appear to me that such a bargain is still a possibility. pl


Yes, I don't know that it is true (and we could say that we don't know that they actually want the bomb).

I can only base my conclusions on analysis and understanding. One can think what one wants of the Iranian leadership but they have never done anything to portray themselves as suicidal - There is a rationale to having the weapons only if you do not intend to use them first.

As you say, a test of any site in the desert will fundamentally change the balance of power in the region.

Iran supports the Palestinians and the Palestinian cause. That cause would not be served by irradiating the coastal cities of Israel.

However, if their possesion of nukes causes enough Israelis to start thinking about using that second passport then that would serve the Palestinian cause perfectally.

With Hizballah, water shortages, the "Khamas" rocket threat and the total breakdown of the peace process, a nuclear Iran may be the straw that puts the camel on a flight to Florida or Russia.
That is what I believe Israel (and therefore the US govt.) fears the most, far more than mushroom clouds over Tel Aviv.

Patrick Lang

"When that happens, (in spite of our sabotage), we must serve notice on Iran that a combat use of nuclear weapons will immediately lead to a total destruction of Iran by the United States."

Does this apply to Iranian retaliation for first use of nuclear weapons by "some other state" against Iran,
or a false flag "Iranian attack" on one of its neighbors? The latter
is perhaps a hare-brained hypothesis,
but similar (and more complex) scenarios are easy to imagine, and have, in the past, been used to initiate conflicts."

Hannah O'Luthan


Given how overstretched we are militarily now, I don't see that we have any ground military option against Iran, and that the airwar option--bombing them back to the stone age LeMay style with conventional weapons--would also be a disaster.

IMO it would lead to incredible disruptions in the world oil supply, turn the entire Muslim world against us (even the Arab states that fear and hate Iran) and cause many unforeseen asymmetric warfare problems for us in AFPAK and Iraq, where we are engaged, not to mention elsewhere.

I absolutely agree that it is "the Iranian state's manifest intention to "trick f---k" the world into inaction while it achieves the status of a nuclear capable state.

So what are our options? While still an "act of war," what about a blockade of Iran's oil ports and sea trade? Will that accomplish anything positive? Or is the only real option we have doing everything we can to support a "green revolution" behind the scenes?

After our follies in Iraq and AFPAK, and out own economic weaknesses, I have real concerns about another massive military effort in the Middle East.

I'm interested in hearing more about what others think. Unless I'm mistaken, Col. Lang thinks our hands are tied at this point, except for the "glass it over" option should Iran ever use nukes.


Colonel, do you think that one of unintended consequences of a pre-emptive strike against Iran could be unification of Islam, meaning fusion of Shia and Sunni into a monolithic Islam?

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