Join 3,497 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

Tags:

Why Not To Attack Iran.
January 11, 2012 9:55 AM   Subscribe

Elbridge Colby and Austin Long lay out a case for the US not attacking Iran. As the news of the assassination of a scientists who works on Iran's purported nuclear programs sinks in and the pressure ramps up to attack Iran, Elbridge Colby and Austin Long present a compelling case for why the US should eschew an attack on Iran and follow a containment agenda instead.
posted by RedShrek (106 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
tl;dr: Because they will just build it again.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:02 AM on January 11, 2012


At this point, the US should just give Iran a nuke or two and see what they do with it. You can't stop them building one, so we might as well put the dire situation on the table and see what happens.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:07 AM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Why the US should not attack Iran: because it is a dumb idea.[1][2][3][4][5]" Short but readable, I think.

1. Look, you remember Iraq, right?
2. Yeah, Iran's four times the size of Iraq. Literally.
3. Yes, we could still bomb the shit out of it.
4. But, it's not at all clear that that would really eliminate their nuke program. And it certainly wouldn't affect their ability to sponsor terrorism, which they were prett big on for quite a while.
5. Plus, you know, they'd hate us forever, just about at the time when the entire region is making fragile but fitful attempts to transition to more democratic regimes.
posted by Diablevert at 10:10 AM on January 11, 2012 [20 favorites]


Probably a little late to pull back now, we (or Israel is our name, there's no effective difference) are already attacking Iran. It's just a matter of time until they openly hit back.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:11 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry USA, but Dubya gone done fucked up your long-term Middle East strategy real good. Now you're just throwing good money after bad.

China and Iran are major trading partners. 80% of China's oil imports are from Iran. Do you think the USA is really going to attack Iran, really? Do you think China is going to sit back politely while Americans bomb infrastructure their economy depends on?

An attack on Iran would be a more colossal foreign policy mistake than Iraq was, which is saying something.
posted by mek at 10:13 AM on January 11, 2012 [10 favorites]


How about we don't attack anyone for a while?
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:14 AM on January 11, 2012 [44 favorites]


No, I'm sorry, you can't have dessert until you finish your dinner. And your lunch. And clean your room. And do your homework.
posted by DU at 10:15 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's no way President McCain will pay any attention to this. And I'm afraid with Mitt Romney being his obvious successor (when McCain was elected I wondered if he would be able to serve two full terms) we're unlikely to see much besides getting stuck in deeper. All his campaigning about America needing to "stand strong" and "not be seen as weak, like Obama wants us to be" cuts out any hope for diplomatic efforts.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:16 AM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ways to destroy an article's credibility in one millisecond: use the "head scratching" Word clip art guy.
posted by letitrain at 10:18 AM on January 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


The theory that Cheney was in fact a deep cover Iranian mole is seemingly more and more likely.
posted by The Whelk at 10:18 AM on January 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


The current strategy of covert action (Stuxnet, assassination of people involved in the weapons program, defective parts sold to Iran, etc.) is much more effective than open hostilities would be, IMO.
posted by superelastic at 10:20 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Indeed, another cold war would be a good way to get fear-based politics back on the menu after a short hiatus of things that matter.
posted by DU at 10:21 AM on January 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


The current strategy of covert action (Stuxnet, assassination of people involved in the weapons program, defective parts sold to Iran, etc.) is much more effective than open hostilities would be, IMO.

With the added bonus of being totally illegal and an act of war.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:22 AM on January 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


The people that need to see this won't, and even if they did, it wouldn't matter. Just wait for the PowerPoint presentation with WMDs inside railcars.
posted by narcoleptic at 10:24 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well this is what frightens me about Romney. It's not his hair, really, or that chin, though I've had dreams about the chin growing a face of its own, going rogue, leaping off his face and running for office on the Randian ticket all by itself leaving Mittens a sad, ferret-faced milquetoast, it's that the republicans would probably go ahead and try to pave Iran, which would be a really, really bad idea, not just because it would make the entire Arab world hate the west a million times more and not achieve anything other than giving the DHS a budget five times higher and also basically gutting everyone's grandchildren's future because gutting our children's future just isn't enough, but also because it would wreck the pomegranate crop. THE JUICE MUST FLOW.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:25 AM on January 11, 2012


Indeed, another cold war would be a good way to get fear-based politics back on the menu after a short hiatus of things that matter.

HELLO NEW SPACE RACE!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:27 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a sad commentary on where the US is when there actually has to be a case made for not attacking another country.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:28 AM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


The theory that Cheney was in fact a deep cover Iranian mole is seemingly more and more likely.

I'm picturing like a four-foot-tall Iranian guy nested inside an almost-lifelike Cheney golem.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:32 AM on January 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


With the added bonus of being totally illegal and an act of war.

I didn't comment on the legality or the morality...

Only the effectiveness.
posted by superelastic at 10:32 AM on January 11, 2012


Can you imagine if Iran killed an American nuclear scientist? I wake up every day, so glad to be the good guys
posted by crayz at 10:44 AM on January 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


We're still naming people Elbridge?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:47 AM on January 11, 2012


Plus, you know, they'd hate us forever, just about at the time when the entire region is making fragile but fitful attempts to transition to more democratic regimes.

If only they were a democratic regime..then they'd be peaceful like us!
posted by srboisvert at 10:59 AM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ah, but have they developed a strategy for not attacking Iran?
posted by kcds at 11:21 AM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


the US should eschew an attack on Iran and follow a containment agenda instead.

The assassination, which was almost certainly by Israel, is probably an attempt to do exactly that -- contain Iran instead of attacking.
posted by msalt at 11:23 AM on January 11, 2012


it's that the republicans would probably go ahead and try to pave Iran

And what if this happens with the present administration?
posted by rough ashlar at 11:25 AM on January 11, 2012


After Israel’s much-lauded 1981 strike on Iraq’s Osirak plutonium-reprocessing facility, Baghdad redoubled its efforts to obtain a weapon, only failing to achieve its goal because its pursuit was cut short by Desert Storm.

I don't know this publication (motto: "The Power of Realism") but I'm struck that they are endorsing Cheney's argument that the Iraq invasion was necessary to stop Saddam's WMD program. I thought that had been thoroughly discredited by now.
posted by msalt at 11:30 AM on January 11, 2012


seanmpuckett ..it's that the republicans would probably go ahead and try to pave Iran
rough ashlar: And what if this happens with the present administration?

The difference between the Obama administration and Republicans is very subtle, I know, but it can be succinctly summed up this way -- starting the Iraq War vs. ending the Iraq War.
posted by msalt at 11:33 AM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


The authors make a strong case against air strikes and ground invasion, but do not adequately describe what containment would actually look like. The closest they come is this sentence:
The United States would need to be strong, resolute and even fearsome in demonstrating to Iran the costs of aggression and assuring U.S. allies that staying the course with Washington represents a prudent strategy.
So... does containment mean covertly assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists, cyberwarfare against Iran's nuclear infrastructure, sabre-rattling with the US Navy, and economic sanctions? If so, carry on.
posted by BobbyVan at 11:35 AM on January 11, 2012


msalt: Desert Storm
posted by rosswald at 11:45 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


One comment worried about
Romney and his party as being fully for attacking Iran as though the Democratic Party and its past and present leader have been peace mongers ....alas, just not so.
I assume you know that we now have some 6 thousand Am troops inside Israel doing exercises and another aircraft carrier on the wayl
posted by Postroad at 11:57 AM on January 11, 2012


Foreign Affairs published an [6]article [6] in its opening 2012 issue by nuclear expert Matthew Kroenig forthrightly stating that it is “time to attack Iran.”

Here's an exchange Kroenig had with Stephen Walt:

The worst case for war with Iran

Kroenig's case for war with Iran

Why attacking Iran is still a bad idea
posted by homunculus at 12:00 PM on January 11, 2012


As the news of the assassination of a scientists who works on Iran's purported nuclear programs sinks in

More on that: Iranian nuclear expert killed by magnetic bomb attached to his car

TIMELINE / Mysterious deaths and blasts linked to Iran's nuclear program
posted by homunculus at 12:05 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Public ire one goal of Iran sanctions, U.S. official says
posted by homunculus at 12:09 PM on January 11, 2012


Foreign Affairs published an [6]article [6] in its opening 2012 issue by nuclear expert Matthew Kroenig forthrightly stating that it is “time to attack Iran.”

Would it be time to attack Iran if he had to go?
posted by swerve at 12:11 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The difference between the Obama administration and Republicans is very subtle, I know, but it can be succinctly summed up this way -- starting the Iraq War vs. ending the Iraq War.

The terms of the ending - were they not mostly (or even in whole) negotiated during the last administration?

If so, the "ending" would be following the agreed to terms.

Besides - the Iran issue "going kinetic" would be 'starting a war' would it not?

does containment mean covertly assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists, cyberwarfare against Iran's nuclear infrastructure, sabre-rattling with the US Navy, and economic sanctions?

Don't forget providing Liberty to Iranians captured by Somali pirates.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:24 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The terms of the ending - were they not mostly (or even in whole) negotiated during the last administration?

And didn't the Obama Administration attempt to get the Iraqis to agree to extend the Status of Forces Agreement, which would have kept US troops in Iraq? And wasn't the failure to reach agreement on extending the SOFA what led to the US troop withdrawal at the end of 2011?
posted by BobbyVan at 12:37 PM on January 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


I can't believe it's even a matter for debate.

It would be another horrific disaster in a decade of U.S. disasters.
posted by scelerat at 12:58 PM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


And an Iranian nuke is a boon for the world?

The proliferation chain that it would set off would be terrible unto itself, and the Iranian regime having a nuclear weapon is something that strikes me as incredibly dangerous.
posted by rosswald at 1:11 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


As the news of the assassination of a scientists who works on Iran's purported nuclear programs sinks in ...

Surely that should be purported assassination of a purported scientist? If the nuclear programs don't exist then the employees don't exist either.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:14 PM on January 11, 2012


The important thing to remember is that the US and Britain have been in a cold war in Iran more or less for 70 years. The current events are just a part of the arc of western invasion of the middle east going back to WWI. Every time Iran tried to control the direction of their own oil industry, we successfully threatened them enough to continue giving away their oil, or used violence to ensure that our geopolitical desires were met by imposing our preferred government on them when they tried in 1953. Then we sponsored a terroristic government that radicalized their population with torture, murder, and suppression until 1979.

Since 1979, we have been engaged in a proxy war with Iran that has led to the current situation. We funded and trained the Iraqi army in the 80s, and after the cool off in the early 90s following the Iran Contra affair, we began to explore covert options once again. The second Bush Administration signed off on letting the CIA destabilize Iran, even receiving the blessing of Elliott Abrams:
Also briefed on the CIA proposal, according to intelligence sources, were National Security Advisor Steve Hadley and Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams. "The entire plan has been blessed by Abrams, in particular," said one intelligence source familiar with the plan. "And Hadley had to put his chop on it." Abrams’ last involvement with attempting to destabilize a foreign government led to criminal charges.

He pleaded guilty in October 1991 to two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress about the Reagan administration’s ill-fated efforts to destabilize the Nicaraguan Sandinista government in Central America, known as the Iran-Contra affair. Abrams was later pardoned by President George H. W. Bush in December 1992.

In June 2001, Abrams was named by then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to head the National Security Council’s office for democracy, human rights and international operations. On Feb. 2, 2005, National Security Advisor Hadley appointed Abrams deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor for global democracy strategy, one of the nation’s most senior national security positions.
You read that correctly: the man who was convicted of selling arms to a sworn enemy to fund a guerrilla army that burned half of Nicaragua to the ground is our choice for "democracy [and] human rights." Pardoned by GW's dad, no less.

The real questions are: what would Iran look like today if we hadn't forced them at gunpoint to do business our way for so long? And will we ever stop invading and the blaming them for the consequences caused by our meddling in their sovereign affairs? Since the Obama Administration has continued the previous administration's policies virtually unchanged, I doubt the war will ever stop.

The only thing the US policy of nonstop violence has precipitated in that region is a series of less stable governments. Iraq went from secular paradise (compared to most states in the region) to a literal cesspool, which at any moment could erupt in sectarian violence. If we invade Iran, or further destabilize it, the war could eventually consume every country from India to Iraq as governments cease to operate effectively, especially since our allies in the Pakistani military have begun to lose control over the pretend democracy there. With a third of the world's oil at stake in the Strait of Hormuz, China will not keep quiet, and nor will Russia.

tl;dr: Outlook not so good.
posted by deanklear at 1:14 PM on January 11, 2012 [15 favorites]


Then we sponsored a terroristic government that radicalized their population with torture, murder, and suppression until 1979.

Which was replaced by a different terroristic government that continues to torture, murder and suppress its people, AND is seeking nuclear weapons AND is helping the government of Syria to brutally suppress the democracy movement in that country.

Not saying we should be invading or directly attacking Iran (costs may very well outweigh benefits)... I agree with the authors that a robust containment policy is probably the most prudent course for now.

But let's not gloss over the very serious problems with the current regime which, if it ever had legitimacy, lost it in the aftermath of the 2009 elections.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:28 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


It never ceases to amaze me how so many prominent Americans (ie: the Bomb Iran crowd) have no ability to shift their perspective and attempt to see how the world looks from the perspective of other people.

If the US was attacked without provocation by another country, in an attempt to keep the US contained, would America just say "Gosh, we better stay inside our borders." History says no. So why would the Iranian people react differently?
posted by Kevin Street at 1:55 PM on January 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


And an Iranian nuke is a boon for the world?

Republicans say that an armed society is a polite society, so it should be totally fine.

It never ceases to amaze me how so many prominent Americans (ie: the Bomb Iran crowd) have no ability to shift their perspective and attempt to see how the world looks from the perspective of other people.

Having a huge military helps with that perspective.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:58 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The proliferation chain that it would set off would be terrible unto itself

People who suggest Iranian nuclear capability will cause a proliferation crisis need to back this claim up with at least a little bit of evidence. Iran will have a much easier time holding onto their nukes than Pakistan does, and Pakistan has had nuclear capability for over two decades. Proliferation is a red herring - the only thing the USA actually cares about is that Iranian nuclear capability will weaken their position in the region, and especially further weaken their influence in Iraq and Syria. Iran isn't going to just start giving away nukes to terrorists like popcorn: they're self-interested, not evil.

But this ship has sailed: Iran is going to get the bomb, and the best solution is simply to deal with the new politics which emerges from this power shift. The burden of proof is now on those who advocate further intervention: under what scenario does this intervention improve the situation, rather than worsen it?
posted by mek at 2:01 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


What disturbed me most from the article was that if Iran should acquire a working device, they may feel pressured to use it quickly lest it be captured or destroyed.
posted by bitmage at 2:02 PM on January 11, 2012


Or they might deploy the weapon in such a way that it could still be used if the command and control links with Tehran were severed. (By giving launch authority local commanders in the field.) This would make it much more likely the bomb could be lost, stolen or used by some colonel who's having a really bad day and doesn't care anymore.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:07 PM on January 11, 2012


People who suggest Iranian nuclear capability will cause a proliferation crisis need to back this claim up with at least a little bit of evidence.

Prince Hints Saudi Arabia May Join Nuclear Arms Race

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A Saudi prince, in a remark designed to send chills through the Obama administration and its allies, suggested that the kingdom might consider producing nuclear weapons if it found itself between atomic arsenals in Iran and Israel.

The prince, Turki al-Faisal, who has served as the Saudi intelligence chief and as ambassador to the United States, made the comment on Monday at a Persian Gulf security forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The remark confirmed Western fears about the potential for an arms race in the Middle East if Iran moves to produce a nuclear weapon.
posted by BobbyVan at 2:16 PM on January 11, 2012


AND is seeking nuclear weapons AND is helping the government of Syria to brutally suppress the democracy movement in that country.

Switch Syria to Bahrain, or to Egypt a few hours after they began to murder people in Tahrir, or to Turkey where they are busy killing Kurds right now, and you're talking about the United States. We don't have better morals, we just have more power to achieve our goals and pretend that we are moral.

But let's not gloss over the very serious problems with the current regime which, if it ever had legitimacy, lost it in the aftermath of the 2009 elections.

It has more legitimacy than the Shah did. And more legitimacy than the Saudi Arabian government, since Iran at least pretends to have elections, and at least pretends to allow Christians and Jews to live and pray there. Let's imagine the revolution wasn't successful until the we allowed the Shah to have nuclear weapons (as we did for Pakistan): what would you say then? Was our invasion of yet another country a success in your eyes?

And if you were being attacked by an outside force after a fraudulent election, would you be more apt to take up arms against your own brothers and sisters, or against the outsider? Our policy is not only morally bankrupt, it's politically ignorant.
posted by deanklear at 2:17 PM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


People who suggest Iranian nuclear capability will cause a proliferation crisis need to back this claim up with at least a little bit of evidence. Iran will have a much easier time holding onto their nukes than Pakistan does, and Pakistan has had nuclear capability for over two decades. Proliferation is a red herring

"Loose-nuke" scenarios are not generally what people consider proliferation. Proliferation is the growth of nuclear armed states. The non-proliferation treaty was meant as a way to encourage non-nuclear states to forego the nuclear weapons development path. This is the treaty that Iran signed, and is now ignoring.

The real proliferation fear is: Iran --> Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia (from this link, which I don't really care for all the much, but this list is relatively accurate).

Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be like India getting a nuclear weapon all over gain, except, in this case, Pakistan is a dozen somewhat-stable to unstable countries in the ME and Africa.
posted by rosswald at 2:20 PM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Surely that should be purported assassination of a purported scientist? If the nuclear programs don't exist then the employees don't exist either.

Well, when your car is blown-up by a bomb that was attached to it, I'm pretty sure we can call it an assassination.

Iran has never denied that they have a nuclear program. They just deny that it's a military program. So, the scientists definitely exist.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:27 PM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Surely the US has considerable influence over gulf states like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain? And I'm no CIA analyst, but it's hard to imagine Yemen or Jordan developing nuclear technology on their own. The North African nations are more of a wild card, though, and it's easy to imagine Egypt building a bomb.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:37 PM on January 11, 2012


And more legitimacy than the Saudi Arabian government, since Iran at least pretends to have elections, and at least pretends to allow Christians and Jews to live and pray there.

I'd argue that the Saudis are at least honest about their country being a monarchy. Pretending to be a democracy when you're really not isn't a step towards legitimacy -- it's an illegitimate perversion of democratic processes and a fraud. And life under the Shah was much better for women and religious minorities than it is today under the mullahs.

Let's imagine the revolution wasn't successful until the we allowed the Shah to have nuclear weapons (as we did for Pakistan): what would you say then? Was our invasion of yet another country a success in your eyes?

I'm sorry but I don't understand the question. I take it to mean this: "would we allow the Shah to have nukes if he was in power today?" Obviously lots of variables here, but I don't think we want any new countries to acquire nuclear weapons, least of all countries that sponsor destabilizing terrorist groups beyond their borders.
posted by BobbyVan at 2:39 PM on January 11, 2012


Oh, and who knows what will happen with Syria. It looks like they already have a nuclear weapons program, thanks to Pakistan. But the situation there is in such flux it's hard to say what they'll be doing a year from now.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:45 PM on January 11, 2012


Surely the US has considerable influence over gulf states like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain

I don't think any amount of influence could get SA to ignore a Shia bomb. Remember, their monarchy is essential a minority Sunni clan ruling a majority Shi'ite population. People talk about Israel's "existential threat," but SA has its own deep, deep-rooted fear.
posted by rosswald at 2:49 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's funny people bring up proliferation when we talk Iran as if countries like Pakistan, North Korea and Israel don't exist. I mentioned these 3 countries because they have been tied to nuclear technology proliferation activities at some point in time. So if we are using the proliferation threat as a metric for picking which country to bomb then I suggest we start with these 3. Iran, as far as what is publicly available, doesn't even yet have the capability.
posted by RedShrek at 3:07 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


RedShrek: You have put your finger on the very point of it. Iran does not yet have nuclear weapons (as far as we know). Therefore it may be possible to prevent their proliferation in that country. But by definition we cannot prevent nuclear proliferation in countries that have already acquired nuclear weapons.

Also, frankly, the USA is far more interested in constraining its enemies than its allies. It's very arguable that weapons of mass destruction are effectively aimed at us all, but that horse bolted long ago.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:18 PM on January 11, 2012


"You will get your ass handed to you" isn't a good enough reason?
posted by telstar at 3:23 PM on January 11, 2012


I can't believe it's even a matter for debate.

It is if you are defending the present administration or think you would see a net benefit from a "kinetic action".

There are people who see the world in such a way.
1st guy: "...We've shown, we've proved (misspoke), we've proved over the last ten years or etc., repeatedly that we only do one at a time. We can fight two wars."
2nd guy: "This is all get'n interrupted when he's, Ron Paul becomes President"
Woman laughs
1st guy: "See, see this room? Two-thirds of us laid off when Ron Paul is President"


And history has the whole "stop the war profiteers" movement to further point out some people benefit from warfare.

So yes, there will be a "debate". And like all debates, some will have different positions from what they claim is their position.

The proliferation chain that it would set off would be terrible unto itself, and the Iranian regime having a nuclear weapon is something that strikes me as incredibly dangerous.

Where does that put the idea of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) then? If MAD is valid thinking - who cares who has nukes? If Iran having a bomb or 2 is bad, then why should ANY nation have em? Because Iran might use them? Check your own eye for a mote that is labelled "Has used nuclear bombs on civilians" in case you were thinking you had a moral high ground to preach from.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:30 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


"You will get your ass handed to you"

There is a viewpoint that one could use "better weapons" and "win". Made by real people, not Dr. Strangelove.

"we sent men with rifles into Afghanistan and Iraq and kept our best weapons in their silos" - Paul Harvey

good day?
posted by rough ashlar at 3:39 PM on January 11, 2012


I'm not in favour of bombing Iran, and I do believe the best way to stop nuclear proliferation is to fully embrace rogue nations as part of the world community, but even so... The concept of MAD has always been iffy at best, and it gets dramatically worse when there are more than two players on the table. One of the few saving graces of the cold war was the ability of the two superpowers to gather other nuclear armed nations like Britain and China under their respective wings, which made the possibility of nuclear war into a simple binary option. (And the situation with India and Pakistan is similar right now.) When you get more and more players with differing agendas, all armed with nuclear weapons, it becomes harder for everyone to clearly calculate their options, and the chance of someone making a terrible mistake increases.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:44 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry but I don't understand the question.

Pakistan is a nuclear power because they played ball in the 80s, and we certified them as nuclear free every year, even though we knew they had a nuclear weapons program. If Iran had done the same and acquired nuclear weapons, and then become radicalized by a revolution after that, would you consider it another victory for American foreign policy?
posted by deanklear at 4:13 PM on January 11, 2012


@Joe in Australia: I'm all for stopping Iran from getting the capability but not at the cost of another war.
posted by RedShrek at 4:30 PM on January 11, 2012


I'm all for stopping Iran from getting the capability

And how does one do this in a world where fission power plants are allowed under a 1950's vision of "the Peaceful Atom" along with 'electricty too cheap to meter'? Does the world turn its back on Fission power due to the risk of Nations "getting the capability" of a bomb?

And does one nation make all the components for nuclear medicine to then ship to everyone else, or are sovereign Nations allowed to enrich to 20% to make such stuff?
posted by rough ashlar at 4:41 PM on January 11, 2012


Pakistan is a nuclear power because they played ball in the 80s, and we certified them as nuclear free every year, even though we knew they had a nuclear weapons program. If Iran had done the same and acquired nuclear weapons, and then become radicalized by a revolution after that, would you consider it another victory for American foreign policy?

You make a good argument against any new countries acquiring nukes. Clearly, permitting Pakistan to become a nuclear power was a mistake, and their subsequent proliferation of nuclear technology to N. Korea and Iran was harmful to US and international security.
posted by BobbyVan at 4:50 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


If the US was attacked without provocation by another country, in an attempt to keep the US contained, would America just say "Gosh, we better stay inside our borders." History says no. So why would the Iranian people react differently?

What part of "American Exceptionalism" don't you understand?
posted by Trurl at 5:06 PM on January 11, 2012


I have every confidence that the US military could obliterate Iran and leave behind a weak state run by corrupt officials and a low intensity conflict that will simmer for a generation. Zero chance we attack Iran in a major way under Obama. It isn't his thing.
posted by humanfont at 5:07 PM on January 11, 2012


You make a good argument against any new countries acquiring nukes. Clearly, permitting Pakistan to become a nuclear power was a mistake, and their subsequent proliferation of nuclear technology to N. Korea and Iran was harmful to US and international security.

Sarcasm can only partially disguise lack of principle.
posted by deanklear at 5:13 PM on January 11, 2012


The theory that Cheney was in fact a deep cover Iranian mole is seemingly more and more likely.

Exactly. That's what drives me crazy about right-wing bomb-Iran types. Somehow they can't see that Iran is only a problem now because of their Iraq war.
posted by msalt at 5:15 PM on January 11, 2012


Sarcasm can only partially disguise lack of principle.

I was being sincere. Does that still make me unprincipled?
posted by BobbyVan at 5:16 PM on January 11, 2012


Is my memory mistaken? — didn't the collapse of the USSR result in the sale of nuclear materials on the black market? Aren't warheads missing from more than one nations' inventory? Wasn't Aum Shinrimko doing atomic testing in the Australian desert outback?

I find it difficult to believe that proliferation has not bolted out of the barn.

Nuclear missiles were what I worried about in the 70s. This century, I worry about nuclear briefcases. I don't worry about wars: I worry about guerrilla actions. The rules are no longer followed; the battlefield is no longer demarcated; action against civilians is common; the war is brought to homes in Afghanistan, the subways of London, the towers in America.

Stopping Iran from having missiles ignores a more serious issue. IMO, it would be preferable that we ensure that Iran has excellent accounting and control of its materials, safely locked up in electrical plants and warheads; than that we drive those materials underground and into the black market.
posted by davidpriest.ca at 5:21 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


worry about nuclear briefcases

And how does one stop that other than not allowing fission plants to be built?
posted by rough ashlar at 5:27 PM on January 11, 2012


And didn't the Obama Administration attempt to get the Iraqis to agree to extend the Status of Forces Agreement, which would have kept US troops in Iraq? And wasn't the failure to reach agreement on extending the SOFA what led to the US troop withdrawal at the end of 2011?

No. Or to be precise, only if you twist words.

Bush planned on keeping 50,000 US troops in Iraq after 2011 as "trainers/advisors," and many didn't believe he would reduce even to that. Most Republican candidates for president (other than Ron Paul) support reintroducing or expanding US troops in Iraq.

Obama took office with 144,000 US troops in Iraq. The last combat troops left August 10, 2010 leaving 50,000 advisers (= Bush's plan for 2012 onward). Obama planned to take them out too by the end of 2011, leaving only some soldiers at a US base. The failed agreement scotched the plan for a base.

Keeping an army base in a country is not continuing the war there, unless you think we're still fighting WW2 in Germany and Guam.
posted by msalt at 5:36 PM on January 11, 2012


Juan Cole: Iran Hype undermined by Obama Administration Admissions
posted by homunculus at 5:57 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


My understanding is that suitcase nukes were hot to handle and the electronics and ignition systems required a ton of maintenance. It is much more likely that the Iranian nuclear plant will have a major accident.
posted by humanfont at 6:07 PM on January 11, 2012


No. Or to be precise, only if you twist words.

Keeping an army base in a country is not continuing the war there, unless you think we're still fighting WW2 in Germany and Guam.

Umm... what are we arguing about? I didn't say anything about "continuing the war." I merely pointed out that the withdrawal of US troops was the result of the failure of the US and Iraqi governments to come to an agreement about how US troops could operate inside Iraq.
posted by BobbyVan at 6:27 PM on January 11, 2012


"When you get more and more players with differing agendas, all armed with nuclear weapons, it becomes harder for everyone to clearly calculate their options, and the chance of someone making a terrible mistake increases."

Exactly.

The real problem is not that Iran might use a nuke. The problem is in false flag operations.
I don't think there's much question that nuclear proliferation has to be stopped. And there's not much question that Iran shouldn't have one (given the current situation/s).

Fixing that though is just a security and power sharing problem.
We need to take nuclear weapons as a means of security out of the equation.

That would change Iran's need to have them too. Not that this would be easy or getting the political and economic will to do that would be anything short of miraculous.
But y'know, the solution is there.

As destructive as the U.S. might be, what worries me when talking nuclear arsenals is not the cool professional with the silenced automatic, it's the shaky junky with the rusty .38 special.
North Korea's nuclear security is for shit.

Iran is between a rock and a hard place as it is. We attack them we put them in a corner. And as we all know, cornered animals just roll over and give up.

We're still laboring under the illusion that having nukes can provide security or prestige. Iran wants to be the middle of the middle east. The big dog in the region. And they sort of are anyway. And they want to have something to threaten the U.S. with should things come to that. So alleviate the fear, eliminate the underlying crisis motivating the drive to get nukes and you stop countries from pursuing a program.
Brazil, Argentina, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Libya, Iraq, the Ukraine all gave up nuclear weapons or programs to make them.

So it's doable. The concern is that if Iran (and to a lesser extent RNK) doesn't give up their programs there'd be a cascade of proliferation as their neighbors develop their own programs in response. There's pressure on South Korea and Japan now to think seriously about their own program.
As it is, they have security guarantees and don't have to so much worry about it.
Iran - hell, Egypt, the Saudis, the Turks, the UAE would all start going that way.

But the NPT and stopping proliferation world wide should be our overall goal.
And all other geopolitical considerations aside, Iran would be at the top of the list as it could make that go to either a deescalation of nuclear weapon production or a cascade increase.
We have to attack the political incentives for having a nuclear weapons program (economically, they're a liability anyway) - we could make formal military agreements, alliances, mutual security guarantees, regional treaties, treaties with nuclear weapons states stating they would not use nuclear force against countries that don't have them (big one right there that would help), etc.

All of that is less costly and more likely to have success than the initiation of hostilities.
Albeit, slower.
Which means a lot in U.S. political cycles. But shouldn't because we're talking game ending shit right here and scoring points or getting votes should be secondary to achieving the right stability to avoid greater nuclear proliferation.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:11 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't imagine a scenario in which Israel will accept an Iran with nuclear capability, and Israel seems to be good at military options.

I hope we evolve beyond war, I hope we are allowed to exist beyond global climate change. I hope we evolve to be smart enough to stop trying to kill ourselves one way or another. I'm kind of cynical about our odds.
posted by theora55 at 7:46 PM on January 11, 2012


I didn't say anything about "continuing the war." I merely pointed out that the withdrawal of US troops was the result of the failure of the US and Iraqi governments to come to an agreement about how US troops could operate inside Iraq.

In response to me saying that Obama ended the Iraq War, you said basically "the only reason we withdrew troops was because he couldn't get Iraq to sign an immunity agreement." Which is bullshit. Obama ended the war, and withdrew all combat troops within 18 months of taking office, and was aiming to remove even the 50K trainers Bush would have kept indefinitely.

Yes, he was hoping to keep a small number of troops, a few thousand, at a base in Iraq going forward, just like we do in Germany, Korea, Guam, etc. Many fewer troops than those bases have, actually. That plan was scotched by the inability to agree with Iraq. But not the other 137,000 out of the 144,000 troops in Iraq on the day he took office.
posted by msalt at 7:47 PM on January 11, 2012


McCain, who serves as ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said America should have kept a residual force in Iraq because not having troops in the country "does pose a greater threat to the security of the American civilians."
posted by rosswald at 7:51 PM on January 11, 2012


What concerns me most about this is wondering what will happen to 'containment' post nuclear-Iran. If everything from legal sanctions to unsanctioned killings fails, then what would work? Why wouldn't any militarily-controlled government seek nuclear weapons?

It just seems that once it becomes clear that containment has 100% failed, it will be a different game.
posted by rosswald at 7:59 PM on January 11, 2012


So if not containment, we need to ask ourselves if we are really ready to absorb another war. I have no doubt about the ability of the US military to smash the Iranian military. That said, Iran is no Iraq. Iran does have some capability to wage a proxy war against us and our interest via Hezbollah. Also, we need to think about the fragile state of the global economy. We are barely out of a recession here in the US while other European countries are in the thick of it. A war with Iran will no doubt wreck havoc on the global economy (e.g. higher oil prices, soaring commodity prices etc).
posted by RedShrek at 8:11 PM on January 11, 2012


Davidpriest.ca wrote: Is my memory mistaken? — didn't the collapse of the USSR result in the sale of nuclear materials on the black market? Aren't warheads missing from more than one nations' inventory? Wasn't Aum Shinrimko doing atomic testing in the Australian desert outback?

There's no evidence that significant nuclear materials were sold on the black market; I certainly don't believe that actual warheads were sold. If they had been, they would probably no longer be operational. As for Aum Shinrikyo, they were playing around with sarin gas, not nuclear warheads - although they allegedly were asking about acquiring them.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:15 PM on January 11, 2012


In response to me saying that Obama ended the Iraq War, you said basically "the only reason we withdrew troops was because he couldn't get Iraq to sign an immunity agreement." Which is bullshit. Obama ended the war, and withdrew all combat troops within 18 months of taking office, and was aiming to remove even the 50K trainers Bush would have kept indefinitely.

This is kind of a pedantic derail. Suffice to say that the only reason the last combat troops came home at the end of 2011 is that the US failed to come to terms with the Iraqi government on an agreement for them to stay. It's also inaccurate for you to say that Obama "withdrew all combat troops within 18 months of taking office."
posted by BobbyVan at 9:17 PM on January 11, 2012


This is kind of a pedantic derail. Suffice to say that the only reason the last combat troops came home at the end of 2011 is that the US failed to come to terms with the Iraqi government on an agreement for them to stay. It's also inaccurate for you to say that Obama "withdrew all combat troops within 18 months of taking office."

No, it does not suffice, even if you quote a fluffly MSNBC article that loosely uses the word "combat." It's a deceitful twisting of words for you to say that "only reason" troops came home was the failed agreement. You're talking about 7,000 troops out of 144,000, who were going to stay on a base. 94,000 had come home by August 2010 (the 18 months). Most of the remaining 50K had come home by the time the agreement failed.

Wiki: "On 27 February 2009,...President Barack Obama announced a deadline for the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq. According to the president, by 31 August 2010, after nearly seven and a half years of United States military engagement in Iraq, all but a "transitional force" of 35,000 to 50,000 troops would be withdrawn from the Middle Eastern nation. President Obama defined the task of the transitional force as "training, equipping, and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq" [with] the entirety of troops to be out by 31 December 2011.

"On 19 August 2010, the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division was the last US combat brigade to withdraw from Iraq. About 50,000 US troops remained in the country in an advisory capacity...scheduled to run until the end of 2011." Need more proof? Here's Al Jazeera.

That is what Obama promised in 2009 -- one month after he took office -- and that's exactly what happened. The failed immunity agreement didn't affect that -- it just meant that the US wouldn't keep a base in Iraq.
posted by msalt at 1:13 AM on January 12, 2012


I can't imagine a scenario in which Israel will accept an Iran with nuclear capability, and Israel seems to be good at military options.

It would be extremely difficult for Israel to strike the hundreds of targets necessary to cripple the program. They would also have to defend against a likely counterattack launched from Lebanon, Gaza and possibly Syria involving rockets and mortars fired at a rate to try to overwhelm defenses.
posted by humanfont at 2:04 AM on January 12, 2012


msalt, are you sure you want to cite Al Jazeera as "proof"?
posted by BobbyVan at 5:07 AM on January 12, 2012


I was being sincere. Does that still make me unprincipled?

The option for a nuclear free middle east has been on the table since 1995, supported by virtually all Arab states — including Iran and the Israeli public — but the United States and the Israeli government still demand an exemption for Israel.

So, yes, your stance on the dangers of a nuclear armed middle east is unprincipled if you place the blame only on Pakistan and Iran. It's also insane if you think more violence in a region that already has nuclear weapons is going to make nuclear war less likely.
posted by deanklear at 6:12 AM on January 12, 2012


Why stop in the Middle East, deanklear? We ought to be pushing for nuclear disarmament across the board (see this WSJ op-ed [pdf] from a few years ago written by a bipartisan group of foreign policy lumnaries).

You misunderstand me if you think I'm placing "the blame only on Pakistan and Iran." I just think the nuclear arsenal in Pakistan, and the efforts by Iran to design/manufacture nuclear materials, pose a greater threat to international security than Israel's reputed nuclear weapons.

That's a judgment I'm making, and you're free to disagree with it. But it's not a question of principle; it's a question of prudential policy making.
posted by BobbyVan at 6:45 AM on January 12, 2012


I just think the nuclear arsenal in Pakistan, and the efforts by Iran to design/manufacture nuclear materials, pose a greater threat to international security than Israel's reputed nuclear weapons.

Israel has attacked or invaded a half dozen countries in the past forty years. You can't say the same for Iran or Pakistan, so I'm not sure why you trust Israeli violence over the others. Your actual position is that of the USG: Iranian nuclear capability represents a threat to American interests, not to international security. That's why your stance has no principle behind it. It's based on who the winners are, and not on an ideal.

The only thing invading Iran is going to do is the same thing invading Iraq did: it will prove to the world that if you don't have nuclear weaponry, the United States will invade you when they feel like it. However, if you run a psychotic military state like North Korea, you're free to do as you like because you do have nuclear weapons.

Pretending that we should instead focus on worldwide disarmament is the opposite of prudent policy, unless you really believe that disarming Israel and coaxing Iran back to the negotiating table is the same task as asking China, the US, Russia, Soviet satellites, North Korea, India, and Pakistan to disarm.
posted by deanklear at 7:09 AM on January 12, 2012


i have a question:

what are the odds we won't invade iran, at this point? any kind of estimate or anything would be helpful, thank you
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:59 AM on January 12, 2012


Israel has attacked or invaded a half dozen countries in the past forty years.

It's also been under near-constant attack since its creation in 1948. I'm sure you just overlooked that minor detail.

Iranian nuclear capability represents a threat to American interests, not to international security.

I'd submit that it's both. Take a gander at some of the comments up-thread, which list the countries (most notably Saudi Arabia) that have said they would seek nuclear weapons for self-defense should Iran go nuclear.

The only thing invading Iran is going to do is the same thing invading Iraq did: it will prove to the world that if you don't have nuclear weaponry, the United States will invade you when they feel like it. However, if you run a psychotic military state like North Korea, you're free to do as you like because you do have nuclear weapons.

That's probably true. But what makes you think I support invading Iran?

...disarming Israel and coaxing Iran back to the negotiating table...

Do you honestly think that Iran wants the bomb because it fears an Israeli invasion?
posted by BobbyVan at 8:27 AM on January 12, 2012


So, yes, your stance on the dangers of a nuclear armed middle east is unprincipled if you place the blame only on Pakistan and Iran

The point of stopping Iran isn't to create a nuclear free Middle East, but to prevent further proliferation anywhere.

The idea of ignoring current proliferation to favor a strategy of de-proliferation (which is an entirely different process) is kind of bizarre. It sounds like you are saying we should focus on current nuclear armed states, but ignore countries that are trying to currently become nuclear armed. Which is strange because eventually those trying to get nuclear weapons, will get them. Only then do they appear on your list, I guess.
posted by rosswald at 9:32 AM on January 12, 2012


BobbyVan: msalt, are you sure you want to cite Al Jazeera as "proof"?

Absolutely,since the very article you cited proves my point (your word games aside) - that Obama ended the war and would have removed 99% of the troops even if an agreement with the Iraqi govt. had been reached:

US officials were unable to reach an agreement with the Iraqis on legal issues and troop immunity that would have allowed a small training and counterterrorism force to remain.
posted by msalt at 10:46 AM on January 12, 2012


msalt, this is exhausting... you're shadowboxing here, making arguments against points I didn't make. Apparently, the only relevant point you have is that the last troops who came home from Iraq as a result of the failure to agree on a new SOFA weren't really "combat" troops. If that's your issue, please contact AP and Bloomberg, and ask them to issue some corrections.

/end derail

posted by BobbyVan at 11:21 AM on January 12, 2012


Correct AP link here. And I'm done. Apologies for the mind-numbing derail.
posted by BobbyVan at 11:26 AM on January 12, 2012


As I understand it the neo-con / Israel fantasy isn't a ground war. The US would launch a series of attacks to establish air and naval supremacy in the Gulf as we did in 87. We would prevent an Iranian offensive against Saudi Arabia, Iraq or other neighboring countries using stand off weapons. Missile defense technology would prevent SCUD style attacks from Iranian ballistic missiles. A bombing and drone campaign would target key individuals and sites. This would go on for a long time. Iran would be unable to advance its weapons programs while the bombs were falling. As leaders were killed by drone strikes the survivors would be forced to sue for peace.

The Israeli's don't need to worry about securing the Gulf so in their fantasy they conduct a quick strike the overwhelms Iran's air defense network and attack key targets. Having established their willingness to act they will then declare that they will conduct additional strikes as needed in the future unless Iran agrees to specific terms. Should the Iranians counter attack they will escalate by attacking oil production capabilities and leadership targets.

I make no assertions that these plans are at all likely to succeed.
posted by humanfont at 12:02 PM on January 12, 2012


The point of stopping Iran isn't to create a nuclear free Middle East, but to prevent further proliferation anywhere.

That's why it will fail. You can't get people on board diplomatically if you say, "Listen, I know we're selling your sworn enemies billions of dollars in the latest military technology, but you can't have it, because we don't like you." If they do capitulate, you're going to have to sell them billions of dollars in military technology, until (almost inevitably) they come to disagree on an issue and "go rogue" by having their own opinion. If they continue to develop, you're waging a hot or cold war, guaranteed.

Think about it in the reverse. Let's say Venezuela and China team up in 2050, and China gives Venezuela some radical new plasma weapon. Our scientists start working on our own version, and China threatens to invade if we continue. Are you going to let China tell you that you don't deserve a weapon? Are you going to stop developing it just to be a good guy while Venezuela continues to use it as a not-so-veiled threat while they assassinate your scientists in broad daylight? No, you're going to work overtime to get it operational to defend yourself.

The only thing that could give you pause is knowing that a third party is disarming Venezuela and anyone else in the region thinking about joining up in the arms race. The United States has been ruling out this possibility for 15 years to the detriment of world security. Every time a new country pops up wanting to have the capability to defend themselves by having nuclear weapons — even barely working ones like NK has — we're going to have to invade or contain, which will probably lead to invasion anyway. It's an untenable policy that will eventually fail, and probably in a catastrophic manner.

That's why you need policy based on principle and not picking winners to your own benefit. Iran may be half-crazy, but they aren't stupid.
posted by deanklear at 2:41 PM on January 12, 2012


msalt, this is exhausting... you're shadowboxing here, making arguments against points I didn't make. Apparently, the only relevant point you have is that the last troops who came home from Iraq as a result of the failure to agree on a new SOFA weren't really "combat" troops.

No, the point is simple and much larger - Republicans started the Iraq War, and Obama ended it. And that's a big difference.

Whether the last troops brought home were combat troops or training troops, or whether Obama wanting to keep 7,000 troops (out of 144,000) at a base in Iraq after the end of the war meant he wasn't really going to end it, until negotiations failed and forced his hand-- those were your quibbles against that obvious fact.
posted by msalt at 3:11 PM on January 12, 2012


You can't get people on board diplomatically if you say, "Listen, I know we're selling your sworn enemies billions of dollars in the latest military technology, but you can't have it, because we don't like you."

We did get them on board. Iran is a signatory to the NPT.
posted by rosswald at 4:43 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sadly, it's all a bit too late to walk it back, but there's a reason why Iran wants the bomb, and it's pretty much the reasons deanklear describes above. Frankly, if I was Iran I'd want a few nuclear tipped ICBMs with at least enough range to hit Bahrain and the US Fifth Fleet, and ideally Western Europe too, to stop people messing with my shit. That's not too excuse the human rights violations its government gets up to, but again, frankly, was it any better under the governments the West insisted on?

To be honest I'm not even all that worried about Iran getting a nuclear capability, because it's essentially defensive. There is a (fair) bit of a worry that they may use it against Israel (if they were particularly foolish), and definitely the issue that a nuclear Iran would entail a nuclear Saudi Arabia, and a middle east arms race. That would be quite bad.

But the reason I'm not that worried about that is that I'm too busy being worried by the south Asian situation. And not just Pakistan v India BTW. I'm of the opinion that if it wasn't for the Himalayas there's a good chance we already would have seen WW3 kicking off between India and China, and I'm somewhat apprehensive about how the two most largest and rapidly developing countries on the planet sort out their relationship to each other, cause if you want a textbook example of natural rivals....
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 5:37 AM on January 13, 2012


'too excuse'? damnit.

you have permission to artfully assassinate me with magnetic car bombs etc.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 5:41 AM on January 13, 2012


Upon further rereading, please feel free to also assassinate me in un-artful ways.

'two most largest'

Of course I just literally died of embarrassment, so it's a moot point
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 5:45 AM on January 13, 2012


We did get them on board. Iran is a signatory to the NPT.

The Shah's government signed that in 1970. If that meant anything to the current Iranian government, I don't think we'd be having this discussion. Signing the NPT certainly didn't save Iraq from complete annihilation.
posted by deanklear at 6:24 AM on January 13, 2012


Iran Offers U.S. Tiny Replica of Lost Drone
posted by homunculus at 5:00 PM on January 17, 2012


Iranian toy maker, not Iran. An American toy maker decided to send a box of toy seagulls. The response will take some time because Iran so far away.
posted by humanfont at 5:36 PM on January 17, 2012


Pentagon’s Ex-Mideast Chief: We Might Need Nukes to Deter Iran

bad.

bad bad bad.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:58 PM on January 18, 2012


« Older NumberADay...  |  Buildings being torn, literall... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments