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09 February 2010

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Lysander

We've come upon this topic many times here at SST. If Iran is correct and it's calling the American bluff, then their actions are wise. If you are correct and the US is about to attack and destroy Iran, then Iran should do everything in its power to obtain a deterrent. **OR**, at the very least, force a conflict on the terms best for itself, not later when America has recovered from its wars and economic crisis.

Because, quite frankly, Iraq DID do everything to prove it had no WMD and got attacked anyway. North Korea nuked up and...well you understand.

Will the US (or Israel) use nukes on Iran?? I rule out no possibility. Still its instructive to note that in 1945 the US used nukes on a defenseless Japan but, in 1950, did not use them against China when an entire American army was at risk of destruction. Same president each time. Different outcomes. Its a different world when only when country has nukes than when 10 have them and 40 others could make them at a moment's notice.

Iran might be wise to tone down the rhetoric. But its hard to find fault in its actions.

Jackie

Col.,
Everyone seems to be getting their knickers in a knot on this one. Yesterday Juan Cole said Iran is enriching to 19.75 percent for medical isotopes production. I don't know much about nuclear enrichment but if you or one of your numerous readers would be so good as to explain what percent of enrichment you would need for a nuclear bomb, I would really appreciate it.

I really think what we have here is a failure to communicate. When we haven't talked in 30 years, we may not remember which language to speak. Also, you have always said the Iranians are excellent chess players.

John Sp.

I'm not sure whether pl's comment is directed at Obama or the Ayatollahs. Anyway, as I understand it from reading Juan Cole's blog, Iran's activities and stated intentions are perfectly okay under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Anyone have any comment on that?

Amir

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LB09Ak01.html

Background on the current negotiations: an Iranian perspective FYI.

mac nayeri

Power is shifting east, but that certainly doesn’t render the US a paper tiger. We are not hemorrhaging 'power' as it were. But the wheels of time are slowly turning.

Our Iran policy should not accelerate the shift of power eastward, as our general MidEast policy appears to be doing. The fact is, in any negotiation there is a certain amount of bluster, hyperbole. Theres alot more at stake than the nuclear issue. Broad, strategic areas of our international posture are effected, directly and indirectly, by our Iran policy. Some sort of Modus Vivendi is going to be reached and what is being played out in moments like today’s press conference is simply part of that negotiating process. Much in the same way Ahmadinejad's television appearances were from last week.

RAISER William

In this case, it's the US and France who are "mad." 20% enrichment is needed for the medical reactor that Iran has. This is FAR from the level of enrichment needed for a nuclear weapon.

Israel's nuclear stockpile and the bullying of the US to anyone without nuclear weapons will push Iran, and others, toward the nuclear option. Witness the difference in treatment between Iran and North Korea that does have nuclear weapons.

Would the world fall apart if Iran had nuclear weapons. No, but it would be a sad waste of their resources.

So far what Iran has done, and announced it will do, is within the confines of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to which it is a signatory. Israel, whom we don't condemn, never signed and went nuclear long ago.

curious

I guess the chinese understand the true meaning of fiat currency. Its value only exist as long as players trust and use it.

I think within 6-12 months we will know the general shape of post cold war geopolitics. (so much for neocon's end of histroy dream.)

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-dumping-begins-chinese-reserve-managers-notified-that-any-non-usg-guaranteed-securities-must-be-divested-2010-2

It appears that this time China's posturing is for real.

Following up on our earlier post that Chinese military officials want to "punish" America by selling Treasuries, Asia Times Online is reporting that an explicit directive by the Chinese government has notified reserve managers to sell all risky US assets, including asset backed and corporates, and just hold on to explicitly guaranteed Treasuries and Agency debt.

William R. Cumming

Well clearly Iran is now going to push the system. Question, is sooner better than later with respect to International response military or otherwise to this take of events? Who is preparing the American people to the threat of the Iranian efforts? Or is this just to wait for the Iranian "Pearl Harbor" on US Forces deployed in that area of the world to trigger our (US) attention? Remember in 1941 Hawaii was not yet a full member in the United States. My guess is that if Iran is allowed to go nuclear then at least 5 other nation-states in area of world will also do the same. That is the best result the worst is some kind of armageddon for that unstable portion of the world of Islam.

Kolya

I think Iran judges that the US will not attack it before it has developed nuclear weapon capability.

Is there evidence to the contrary? Iran has been very pushy and aggressive up to now - and they have gotten away with it. Why should they change.

Balint Somkuti

Sir,

As far as I know China has not played out (all of) its cards yet. While I also disagree with the current iranian steps, who knows what deal have they secretly struck especially considering the current tensions in US-chinese relations.

It was you who warned me of taking current western weapon system capabilities for granted. If as it is hinted Iran has recieved or is to recieve the S-300 equivalent HQ-9 it may seriously alter the stakes. I have no doubt that massed US air assets joined by the israeli air force can take out the iranian nuclear programme, and more I am worried about the asymmetrical consequences.

4GW or not, hybrid war or not, we (the west incl US, EU and Israel and along with our worldwide interests) are vulnerable to asymmetrical response.

b

Unlike what the U.S. claims, Iran has not rejected a deal about Uranium for its research and medical reactor.

Iran has agreed to the principle of swapping low enriched Uranium for higher enriched fuel.

But the U.S. wants Iran to ship out most of its lower enriched fuel in one big batch and says that Iran MAY get higher enriched fuel later on (Sarkozy emphasized "MAY NOT").

Iran can not do a swap deal without any guarantees. It has already been cheated by "the west" several times on nuclear issues with payments made by Iran but products not delivered.

It is the U.S. here that his blocking a deal by insisting that Iran hands over the valuable stuff now for a simple promise to have delivered something later on.

Indeed one might think that this whole "offer" show was never serious and was simply used as a step to get greater cooperation on sanctions.

Dennis Ross was co-author of a paper that described such a process. He is now Obama's point man for Iran.

Of course the U.S. can destroy Iran. But Iran can also destroy U.S. troops in its neighbor countries. It can block the street of Hormuz and destroy any rebound of the world economy.

The only country benefiting from this is would be, of course, Israel.

Sven Ortmann

The problem is that Iran can legally and legitimately produce nukes after a certain period after leaving the NNPT. There's no legality in pressuring it against that right - that's all interest-led policy (ironically mostly from nuclear powers themselves!).

Along the same line, Iran can legally and legitimately build as many "secret" nuclear enrichment sites as it wants as long as it notifies about them six months in advance of first enrichment (see NNPT).

The Western hypocrisy in regard to Iran is beyond the usual scale. This may be related to the lack of effectiveness of the Western policy in regard to Iran.

jlcg

This technique is very old. Create a desolation and call it peace.

Arun

A nuclear Iran may actually work to the US advantage - there was a good op-ed in the New York Times.

It doesn't work to Israel's advantage, however.

HJFJR

Pat,

Here is another view of the same subject by Robert Wright at the New York Times. His point, even if there is regime change Iran is not going to back away from its nuclear program.
http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/09/thursday-promises-to-be-anothe/?hp

N. M. Salamon

Colonel:

there is this bit of interpretation that you, Sir, might find interesting:

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LB11Ak01.html

Aside from the above, IMO the notion that the USA can pulverize Iran is not a question, the question is what happens during that time frame. I would not bet on the survival of Kuwait's and Suadi arabia's oil ports. As yesterday's posting by me clearly indicated next year and thereafter the USA will depend on OPEC oil from ME land.

If your elites want to take down the USA, then go to war. We in Alberta have oil, you are short next year from Canada, Mexico and Venezuela. You can not occupy the whole world!

Patrick Lang

Lysander

Your history is shaky.

Japan was defenseless in the air in 1945 because we had destroyed their naval and army air forces in prolonged combat and we were then facing massive casualties in an invasion of the home islands.

UN forces in Korea were never in danger of "destruction." The difficulties caused by Chinese entry into the war in the winter of 1950-51 were reversed by spring without the use of other than very conventional weapons. The US did not use nuclear weapons against the Chinese because Truman did not want to escalate war. pl

Clifford Kiracofe

There was NO "WMD" in Iraq, yet we attacked etc. The WMD/Nuclear "threat" is the scariest the politicians can raise so as to justify their geopolitical notions of empire and keeping "rogue states" in line.

I agree with Col. Lang that it is entirely possible the US could hammer Iran some. This is not "rational" but then our political elite as we have seen now plainly is irrational and delusional.

Just as in the Bush Administration, we are engaging in "coercive diplomacy." But such diplomacy to stay "credible" MUST use force according to its own logic if diplomacy fails.

Time will tell...

harper

Thank you for directly hitting at this American "declining power" line, which is infecting some in Europe, Russia, China, South America, as well as Iran. The U.S. defense budget is equal to the rest of the world, combined, and that still speaks very loudly. And the U.S., from the standpoint of our Constitution, our still living concept of popular sovereignty, etc. suggests that we are capable of turning around the disasterous decades of real economic decline. Europe, this week, is going through a string of threatened sovereign defaults, Europe continues to benefit from an American military umbrella (as if anyone would want to take over or go to war with bankrupt Europe in the first place).

Let us not forget that the spreading of the decline of America is part of a very skewed international relations theory, called "world systems theory," trumpeted by Harvard University's late "former" Marxist Emmanuel Wallerstein, who argued that wars occur when declining powers feel threatened by ascending powers. This has virtually no historical validity, and the fact that Ahmadinejad and a few other crazies in Tehran subscribe to this anti-American "theory" (along with Chavez in Venezuela) does not make it true. So, Col. Lang is absolutely right that the Iranians are making some not surprising dumb-headed miscalculations, in not taking the IAEA October offer, or the variations on that theme that have been put forward by Japan, most recently.

Interesting note: Saudis are clearly waging longterm warfare against the perceived Shiite threat coming from Iran, but at the Wehrkunde conference over the weekend, Prince Turki bin-Faisal repeated his call for a nuclear weapons-free Middle East region, meaning that Israel's nuclear arsenal is dismantled and no one else works on weaponization. Not even the Saudis want a new Persian Gulf war against Iran, despite the intensifying rivalry for the hearts and minds of Islam. Russia and now, even China, have lost patience with Iran. China has $150 billion in longterm economic deals with Iran, many negotiated through the business empire of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, so they are ambivilent about sanctions, for purely economic self-interest. But when push comes to shove, the Chinese will back whatever action needs to be taken to shake some sense into the heads of the current Tehran leadership.

Bob

Sanctions, sanctions, sanctions on Iran are USELESS!

I would prefer the US to strike hard while it's still hot. That what I would do as US President, geopolitical consequences be damned.

Allen Thomson


To Jackie and others who asked about enrichment:

"Bomb grade" is nominally 90% or better enrichment. It can be less, but bombs made with lower enrichments are bigger and heavier.

However, there's an imporant fact about the physics of enrichment that sometimes gets overlooked: Most of the work goes into the earliest stages, when natural uranium (0.7% U235) is being enriched to a few percent.

The NYT has a decent piece by Bill Broad on this today:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/10/world/middleeast/10iran.html?hpw

"Going from the natural state of 0.7 percent enrichment to roughly 4 percent — as Iran has been doing for years at Natanz in defiance of the United Nations Security Council — requires about 70 percent of the energy needed to concentrate the uranium to the high levels considered necessary for a bomb. Going to 20 percent takes 90 percent of the total energy required — almost to the finish line."

Jackie

Mr. Thomson,
Thank you for the explanation on the enrichment issue.

Charles I

Those interested may find a detailed report on the latest enrichment activities, with some background, put out by the Institute For Science And International Security here:

ISIS Reports:

Iran’s Gas Centrifuge Program: Taking Stock

http://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/irans-gas-centrifuge-program-taking-stock/

Comments that Iran is acting within the law, or that 19.55 enrichment for isotope purposes is plausible on the face of it are reasonable, but engender the concerns Allen Thomson addressed.

I just don't think an attack is in American interests, even if the ultimate regional balance of power is the nakedly explicit calculus. Only Israel benifits. China really can't lose whatever happens, whatever the regional balance of power, aside from energy cost implications, and I see they just signed a 20 year gazillion dollar coal deal with Australia the other day.

An attack and 6 months of $150/bbl oil would make for interesting midterms too.

In any event, just as Syria and Lebanon are growling at Israel about robust response to actual aggression as opposed to overflight, Iran will continue to growl, and thus be painted the bellicose target, whatever the wisdom, the merits of any side.

I still aspire to a reality with no attack.

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