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Iranian uranium
February 24, 2012 11:54 AM   Subscribe

The International Atomic Energy Agency says that Iran has tripled its production of >20% enriched uranium in the past three months, while adding 2,600 new uranium centrifuges to its main enrichment facility in Natanz. The agency has not received a "satisfactory explanation" of how 20kg of uranium metal went missing from an Iranian research laboratory. Iran has been blocking IAEA inspections, and the agency "is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities". In recent years, Russia and China have chosen to limit UN sanctions against Iran, whose government denies it aims to make atomic weapons.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 (220 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
LA Times: "U.S. does not believe Iran is trying to build nuclear bomb"
As U.S. and Israeli officials talk publicly about the prospect of a military strike against Iran's nuclear program, one fact is often overlooked: U.S. intelligence agencies don't believe Iran is actively trying to build an atomic bomb.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:56 AM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


As U.S. and Israeli officials talk publicly about the prospect of a military strike against Iran's nuclear program, one fact is often overlooked: U.S. intelligence agencies don't believe Iran is actively trying to build an atomic bomb.

Meh. I'm sure they can come up with some other excuse to bomb them.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:58 AM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Meh. I'm sure they can come up with some other excuse to bomb them.

Do you mean "remain quietly terrified at the thought that Israel may go and do it single handed with vaguely-complained-about-afterwards-but-suspiciously-little-shooting air passage through Saudi" and the sheer amount of potential crap that would unleash?
posted by jaduncan at 12:02 PM on February 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's not the American intelligence agencies I'm worried about coming up with an excuse to bomb Iran.

On preview, exactly what jaduncan said.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:04 PM on February 24, 2012


Saudi Arabia and Israel seem like they're itching to start WWIII down there. One of the big reasons I want to stay the fuck out of Syria.
posted by empath at 12:06 PM on February 24, 2012


Those gosh-darned Israelis! Determined to attack Iran while we helplessly watch - powerless to stop them. Powerless!
posted by Trurl at 12:08 PM on February 24, 2012 [17 favorites]


I can't see any calculation that makes bombing Iran a positive step. I mean, even from a purely cynical realpolitik point of view, I can't see any cost-benefit analysis that says that such an act contributes even to the medium-term security of the Israeli state or to US interests of any kind whatsoever.

The only calculus that could lead the US into such an act would be a purely domestic political one. I can see the Republican presidential candidates painting themselves into a corner where they feel they have to do something or risk losing too much political support (assuming one of them wins the next election). And I can just see Obama feeling that he has to do something to stem charges of "weakness" in the run up to the election (although that takes something of a stretch to see--unfortunately this latest IAEA report makes going down that road more likely). I certainly hope that that won't happen, and I'm pretty confident that no one in the Administration wants it to happen, but I can see a political calculus that says "fuck it, if we don't send a few cruise missiles in we'll lose the election, and then we might be looking at all our invasion." Of course, the problem with a calculus like that is that it could lead to full scale invasion itself.
posted by yoink at 12:09 PM on February 24, 2012


Probably stupid question, but if they're not trying for weapons-grade uranium, why are they letting the IAEA in?
posted by angrycat at 12:10 PM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


why are they not, that is.
posted by angrycat at 12:11 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Many have compared the coordinated propaganda campaign now being disseminated about The Iranian Threat to that which preceded the Iraq War, but there is one notable difference. Whereas the American media in 2002 followed the lead of the U.S. government in beating the war drums against Saddam, they now seem even more eager for war against Iran than the U.S. government itself...
posted by Trurl at 12:12 PM on February 24, 2012


LA Times: "U.S. does not believe Iran is trying to build nuclear bomb"

That's might be true as far as it goes. Iran may not be trying to assemble a nuclear device per se. But there's a growing body of evidence that it is trying to become "nuclear capable" - meaning that it has the technical means and material necessary to assemble a deliverable nuclear device.
posted by BobbyVan at 12:12 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


angrycat, I don't think that's a stupid question. It's a very good question.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:13 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


if they're not trying for weapons-grade uranium, why are they letting the IAEA in It's a good question, but I think its for the same reason that I refuse to show people my receipt on the way out the door of stores. Its not that I stole something, but I really resent the whole presumption of guilt.
posted by H. Roark at 12:14 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


What needs to be noted: If Iran does get the bomb, then Egypt and the Saudis will soon go aft4er one too.
posted by Postroad at 12:15 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a good question, but I think its for the same reason that I refuse to show people my receipt on the way out the door of stores.

If there was a significant risk of them ordering airstrikes against you, I expect you would show the receipt
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:15 PM on February 24, 2012 [13 favorites]


If there was a significant risk of them ordering airstrikes against you, I expect you would show the receipt

hahaha, probably a good point.
posted by H. Roark at 12:16 PM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Probably stupid question, but if they're not trying for weapons-grade uranium, why are they not letting the IAEA in?

There could well be other things on the site they don't want the inspectors to see. And they've clearly been playing a rather dangerous game of trying to convince people that they are moving towards a bomb. This has both an international audience (Israel) and a domestic one (convincing the Iranian people that they're not intimidated by the US and by Israel). I think what Iran would really find ideal in a way would be to have the UN reasonably satisfied that they weren't making a bomb and to have the Iranian people reasonably satisfied that they were and Israel somehow convinced that preemptive action wasn't worth the candle. In that situation it really wouldn't matter much one way or the other if they bothered to go ahead with developing it or not.

Unfortunately, that's a pretty difficult sweet spot to hit.
posted by yoink at 12:17 PM on February 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not an expert on this by any means, the following possible reasons I've just come up with after reading about the decades long hissy fit between Tehran and the rest of the west.

1. They are actually building bombs.
2. Its a Lisbeth Salander style reaction: they just don't trust any agency associated with the US (in any way) to give an unbiased report.
3. They saw what happened in the months leading up to the Iraq War and aren't going to make the same mistakes (relates to number 2).
4. Its a matter of pride, and they wish that the US would just GTFO and leave them alone.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:17 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Iran insists it is not interested in nuclear weapons and that all of its activities are meant either to generate energy or to be used for research. But the IAEA expresses "serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program." The UN's atomic agency said it has "major differences" with Iran and "major concerns" about its nuclear program. "An intensive discussion was held on the structured approach to the clarification of all outstanding issues related to Iran's nuclear program. No agreement was reached between Iran and the Agency, as major differences existed with respect to this approach," the IAEA said following its latest failed mission to Tehran. The IAEA said that Iran has tripled production of 20% enriched uranium since its last assessment in November, with 696 centrifuges installed at its heavily bunkered Fordo site. Uranium further enriched to 90% could in theory be used in a nuclear bomb, although Iran denies intending to do so, saying its activities are peaceful.
posted by Postroad at 12:19 PM on February 24, 2012


As a journalist, there’s a buzz you can detect once the normal restraints in your business have been loosened, a smell of fresh chum in the waters, urging us down the road to war. Many years removed from the Iraq disaster, that smell is back, this time with Iran.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:19 PM on February 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Probably stupid question, but if they're not trying for weapons-grade uranium, why are they letting the IAEA in?

Because they are. They're going to get nuclear weapons, but it's not the end of the world.

Look, Stalin had nuclear weapons, a man who conquered half the planet and murdered millions of his own people. He never used them. Ahmadinejad is no Stalin.
posted by empath at 12:19 PM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Assassinating Iranian scientists is a great way to give Iran -- who says that the scientist's name was leaked by the IAEA -- either a pretext or rationale for blocking inspections.

The Iranian response to January's bombing has been underreported in Western media. A part of me wonders whether the assassination was intended to hasten this kind of showdown.
posted by compartment at 12:21 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Iran-Washington Conspiracy to prevent an Israeli attack. Short version: the US and Iran will say/do just about anything to prevent Israel from attacking, believing if they stall long enough they'll get what they want in the end. But Iranian elections are coming up and Ahmadinejad & co. do not want to lose to an even more bellicose party/leader.
posted by K.P. at 12:22 PM on February 24, 2012


I can see the Republican presidential candidates painting themselves into a corner where they feel they have to do something or risk losing too much political support (assuming one of them wins the next election).

Yeah, that McCain guy singing "Bomb Iran" means he'll certainly attack if he wins this election. The 2008 elections have been pretty crazy so far. And if Obama wins he won't be able to resist the pressure and will be forced to bomb them by the end of 2010 at the latest. Plus, they're so close here in 2008 that they must have the bomb in another 2 years.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:24 PM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


NEVER, EVER ARGUE IN TERMS OF INTELLIGENCE AT ALL.

It is always irrelevant to major policy decisions, and such decisions are reached for different reasons altogether. This is true whether the intelligence is correct or not, and it is almost always wrong. On those very rare occasions when intelligence is accurate, it is likely to be disregarded in any case. It will certainly be disregarded if it runs counter to a course to which policymakers are already committed.

The intelligence does not matter. It is primarily used as propaganda, to provide alleged justification to a public that still remains disturbingly gullible and pliable -- and it is used after the fact, to justify decisions that have already been made.
posted by Trurl at 12:24 PM on February 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


In fact, I think that a Iran with nuclear weapons is a more stable country, internationally, because they can operate their foreign policy without constant fear of being invaded. Once they have nuclear weapons, then the overwhelming foreign policy goal of every other country on earth will be to stabilize the regime rather than destabilize it.
posted by empath at 12:27 PM on February 24, 2012 [20 favorites]


Look, Stalin had nuclear weapons, a man who conquered half the planet and murdered millions of his own people. He never used them. Ahmadinejad is no Stalin.

The fact that Stalin had nuclear weapons wasn't exactly unhelpful in his plans to conquer half the planet. But you're right that Ayatollah Khamenei (the real power in Iran) is a bit more modest - he simply wants "the Zionist regime ... true cancer tumor in this region... cut off."
posted by BobbyVan at 12:28 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Probably stupid question, but if they're not trying for weapons-grade uranium, why are they not letting the IAEA in?

If you're not doing anything illegal, why don't you let the police come in and inspect your house? It's a police-state mentality, and I'm not sure it should apply on an international level.

I'm not defending Iran. But look at it this way: no sovereign nation likes to be manhandled by outsiders. It makes them look weak that they are going to let themselves be forced into letting non-Iranians snoop around their house. It's not necessarily about whether or not they have something to hide, it's about whether or not they want to swallow their pride. What do you think is the status of Iranian pride?
posted by jabberjaw at 12:30 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


But you're right that Ayatollah Khamenei (the real power in Iran) is a bit more modest - he simply wants "the Zionist regime ... true cancer tumor in this region... cut off."

So, say you're right and Iran wants to nuke Israel with the nuclear weapons they are developing. Everything I've read says that an Israeli strike would only set back an Iranian nuclear weapons program by one to two years. So, what do you propose we do? Have Israel bomb Iran every one to two years from now on? Have the United States invade and take over Iran, Iraq-style? Seriously, what is the overall objective here of those who want to see military action against Iran?
posted by Juffo-Wup at 12:31 PM on February 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


The fact that Stalin had nuclear weapons wasn't exactly unhelpful in his plans to conquer half the planet. But you're right that Ayatollah Khamenei (the real power in Iran) is a bit more modest - he simply wants "the Zionist regime ... true cancer tumor in this region... cut off."

The Russians said similar things about capitalism, and we said similar things about communism.
posted by empath at 12:32 PM on February 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yeah, that McCain guy singing "Bomb Iran" means he'll certainly attack if he wins this election. The 2008 elections have been pretty crazy so far. And if Obama wins he won't be able to resist the pressure and will be forced to bomb them by the end of 2010 at the latest. Plus, they're so close here in 2008 that they must have the bomb in another 2 years.

Um...what? All the Republican candidates this time around (other than Ron Paul) have been vying with each other to see who can make the most belligerent comments about Iran. I'm not sure how you've failed to notice this.
posted by yoink at 12:32 PM on February 24, 2012


The fact that Stalin had nuclear weapons wasn't exactly unhelpful in his plans to conquer half the planet.

Stailin had no such plans.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:34 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a journalist, there’s a buzz you can detect once the normal restraints in your business have been loosened, a smell of fresh chum in the waters, urging us down the road to war. Many years removed from the Iraq disaster, that smell is back, this time with Iran.

Yellowcake or death. /apologies to Izzard.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:34 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


What do you think is the status of Iranian pride?

---

"America uses the nuclear issue as an excuse to replace our regime with a puppet regime to control our energy resources . But we will not let them. Nuclear technology is our right and I fully support our leaders' view. Death to America," said student Mohammad Reza Khorrami in the northern town of Chalous.
posted by Trurl at 12:36 PM on February 24, 2012


The fact that Stalin had nuclear weapons wasn't exactly unhelpful in his plans to conquer half the planet. But you're right that Ayatollah Khamenei (the real power in Iran) is a bit more modest - he simply wants "the Zionist regime ... true cancer tumor in this region... cut off."

Yes--that's the stuff he knows his audience wants to hear. It's a far cry from that to saying that he's willing to see Iran become a smoking, radioactive ruin as the price for seeing Israel a smoking, radioactive ruin. Mutually Assured Destruction is, actually, a pretty stable impasse.
posted by yoink at 12:36 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that McCain guy singing "Bomb Iran" means he'll certainly attack if he wins this election. The 2008 elections have been pretty crazy so far. And if Obama wins he won't be able to resist the pressure and will be forced to bomb them by the end of 2010 at the latest. Plus, they're so close here in 2008 that they must have the bomb in another 2 years.

Um...what? All the Republican candidates this time around (other than Ron Paul) have been vying with each other to see who can make the most belligerent comments about Iran. I'm not sure how you've failed to notice this.


My point is they were all about this 4 years ago. Did Iran get the bomb? No.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:36 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seriously, what is the overall objective here of those who want to see military action against Iran?

For most, overthrow or control of the leadership so as to facilitate greater control over Iranian energy supplies, with bonus Christian domination of heathen Muslims for the rest.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:37 PM on February 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Why are they not allowing inspectors in? I think in part it is because the current Iranian political structure has backed itself into a corner that in order to stay relevant and in power they believe they need to project authority and sovereignty, and needs an antagonistic west to legitimize it's rhetoric and actions. With perhaps a dash of being concerned that those inspectors would include spies from western countries.

A bit scary-wise Ahmadinejad finds himself in a similar situation as Saddam Hussein was, "if he doesn't have nukes why doesn't he let the inspectors in?"

People who have risen and/or cling to power because of overt threats and violent action are not exactly the sort of people you can easily threaten, violence or threats are not always a reliable way to get cooperation, problem is of course there is NO sure fire way to get cooperation.

And for good or for ill "The Bomb" is one of the sure fire ways of ensuring you are not invaded, even if you end up committing crimes against humanity against your own people. NATO would not have bombed Libya if Libya had the bomb. I suspect as Iran moves into greater internal discord they want to ensure no one from the outside even thinks of pulling a Libya.
posted by edgeways at 12:37 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Once they have nuclear weapons, then the overwhelming foreign policy goal of every other country on earth will be to stabilize the regime rather than destabilize it.

Yes, everyone wins with a nuclear Iran, especially the victims of Iran-sponsored terrorist groups who will be able to operate with near impunity and the moderate citizens of Iran who will have zero hope of outside help.
posted by Behemoth at 12:39 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ayatollah Khamenei (the real power in Iran) is a bit more modest - he simply wants "the Zionist regime ... true cancer tumor in this region... cut off."

Iran doesn't want Israel gone. Israel is an excellent scapegoat for tinpot dictators across the Middle East to point at when their people ask why things suck. With Israel gone and a new scapegoat needed, the Persians and the Turks are next on the list for all the Arab leaders in the area. Why take that chance, if you're the head of the Persian nation?
posted by Etrigan at 12:39 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


they've clearly been playing a rather dangerous game of trying to convince people that they are moving towards a bomb.

I've heard a number of people say this. It seems backwards to me. The only reason the West might go to war with Iran, the world's 26th largest economy, would be in an effort to prevent them from obtaining nuclear weapons. After the Iraq debacle, they'd otherwise much prefer to save the blood and treasure. So:

No perceived risk of Iranian nuclear weapons capability => Low risk of war
Perceived risk of imminent Iranian nuclear weapons capability => High risk of war
Actual current Iranian nuclear weapons capability => Low risk of war

Iran wants to avoid being attacked. I could imagine that they might want the world to believe that they have a nuclear weapon, but never that they are working towards a nuclear weapon.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:40 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, everyone wins with a nuclear Iran, especially the victims of Iran-sponsored terrorist groups who will be able to operate with near impunity and the moderate citizens of Iran who will have zero hope of outside help.

IOW, not much will change?
posted by 2N2222 at 12:40 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, everyone wins with a nuclear Iran, especially the victims of Iran-sponsored terrorist groups who will be able to operate with near impunity

Unlike the Israel-sponsored terrorist groups?

Yes, everyone wins with a nuclear Iran, especially the victims of Iran-sponsored terrorist groups who will be able to operate with near impunity and the moderate citizens of Iran who will have zero hope of outside help.

What hope do the Greens have of "outside help" now? Are you saying that problem with the Iranians getting a nuclear weapon is that it makes it harder for other countries to invade them?

Aren't you kind of making the argument for them?
posted by empath at 12:42 PM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


As Ironmouth said was said...

My reading of the threat from Iran is that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it is an existential threat to the State of Israel and to other countries in the region because the other countries in the region will feel compelling requirement to acquire nuclear weapons as well.

Now we cannot a second Holocaust. Let's just make that very clear...

So this is a serious threat. This is a serious threat to security in the world, and I believe we can act and we can act with our friends and allies and reduce that threat as quickly as possible, but have no doubt about the ultimate result of them acquiring nuclear weapons.



John McCain, first US presidential debate, September 26, 2008
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:42 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


My point is they were all about this 4 years ago. Did Iran get the bomb? No.

I suspect that you misread the part of my comment where I said "where they feel they have to do something or risk losing too much political support" as referring to the Iranians when I was actually referring to a putative future Republican president. If not, then I don't know what you're talking about, sorry. Nothing in my comment was a prediction about what would or would not force Iran to 'get the bomb.'
posted by yoink at 12:42 PM on February 24, 2012


Also, what color do I change my twitter icon to over this?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:42 PM on February 24, 2012


Iran deserves to be annihilated. I think they're lunatics. I think they're evil.
posted by empath at 12:44 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Aren't you kind of making the argument for them?

You mean for the ayatollahs? Yeah, I'm pretty sure they'd love to have some nuclear weapons. Not sure what the disagreement is.
posted by Behemoth at 12:44 PM on February 24, 2012


Probably stupid question, but if they're not trying for weapons-grade uranium, why are they not letting the IAEA in?

It's déjà-vu all over again.

But how soon people forget! Saddam Hussein wasn't building weapons of mass destruction - he did not, in fact, have any weapons of mass destruction - yet he refused entry of UN weapons inspectors for years. At some point you realize nothing you do is gonna change the trajectory.

Israel will not attack Iran. Then their bluff will be called. The IDF got their asses handed to then by Hezbollah - they cannot defeat a nation of 70m people. The Israelis cannot invade and occupy Iran - all they can do it sting them.

No, someone in an Iranian uniform will shoot a missile into the side of an American ship in the Persian Gulf - the United States will go all 911/Pearl Harbor - and the stupid Americans will - as always - do the killing and dying for them.

It is inevitable. The die is cast.

Ironically, only an Iranian nuclear capability can save the peace.
posted by three blind mice at 12:45 PM on February 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


this goes back a number of years, but like Hitler's Mein Kampf, suggests what is going on.
VIDEO HERE
posted by Postroad at 12:46 PM on February 24, 2012


I could imagine that they might want the world to believe that they have a nuclear weapon, but never that they are working towards a nuclear weapon.

The problem is that claiming that you have a device just won't work. You have to test one to convince people you have it. The Iranian leadership is looking about at the Arab Spring and looking a a people who are very far from passionately devoted to their leaders. They can see an issue that rallies the Iranian people around the flag (nasty US/Israel bullying them and trying to emasculate the nation) and they're playing it for what it's worth. It is, obviously, a very dangerous game. But to some extent making all of Iran's enemies mad is actually a plus for them--in terms of domestic PR.
posted by yoink at 12:46 PM on February 24, 2012


Yeah, I'm pretty sure they'd love to have some nuclear weapons. Not sure what the disagreement is.

You're saying that they have a perfectly rational and reasonable reason for getting nuclear weapons, to protect themselves from an aggressive invasion from foreign powers that you seem to support. In fact, it seems to be the only that that would protect them.

I'm sure you'd be just as happy to launch a nuclear first strike.
posted by empath at 12:46 PM on February 24, 2012


They have nuclear weapon "related program activities", and history has shown that's where you get into trouble with the US
posted by Hoopo at 12:46 PM on February 24, 2012


The concern is state sponsored terrorism which extends to every country and city and suburb, not only Israel.
posted by stbalbach at 12:47 PM on February 24, 2012


The Iranians are crazy, but they're not 'nuke a city' crazy. They would be erased off the face of the earth if they tried it.
posted by empath at 12:48 PM on February 24, 2012


You're saying that they have a perfectly rational and reasonable reason for getting nuclear weapons, to protect themselves from an aggressive invasion from foreign powers that you seem to support.

Yes, I am saying that a bloodthirsty, power-hungry dictatorship has a rational (from its perspective) desire for nuclear weapons. For some reason you seem to be supporting the dictatorship, and I its victims.
posted by Behemoth at 12:51 PM on February 24, 2012


We are hearing a new concept these days in discussions about Iran — the zone of immunity. The idea, often explained by Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister, is that soon Iran will have enough nuclear capability that Israel would not be able to inflict a crippling blow to its program.

In fact, while the specifics are fresh, this is not a new strategic concept at all. Nations have often believed that they face a closing window to act, and almost always such thinking has led to disaster. The most famous example, of course, was Germany’s decision to start what became World War I. The German General Staff believed that Russia — its archenemy — was rearming on a scale that would soon nullify Germany’s superior military strength. The Germans believed that within two years — by 1916 — Russia would have a significant, and perhaps unbeatable, strategic ­advantage.
posted by empath at 12:53 PM on February 24, 2012


Yes, I am saying that a bloodthirsty, power-hungry dictatorship has a rational (from its perspective) desire for nuclear weapons. For some reason you seem to be supporting the dictatorship, and I its victims.

Do you think that, nuclear weapons or not, we should invade Iran?
posted by empath at 12:53 PM on February 24, 2012


For some reason you seem to be supporting the dictatorship, and I its victims.

And this is the same gung-ho bullshit that got us into the Iraq War. Find somewhere on free-republic to post that shit.
posted by empath at 12:54 PM on February 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


The problem is that claiming that you have a device just won't work. You have to test one to convince people you have it.

Well, not if you're Israel. Even the chance that Iran might drop a nuclear missile on Tel Aviv means that the Israelis can no longer act with impunity in the region.

That's what's really at stake here. Not the existence of Israel, but the existence of an Israel that can do what it wants because it enjoys absolute military hegemony. Once that equation is balanced, Israel will have to act as an equal partner in peace, with everything that comes along with that.
posted by three blind mice at 12:55 PM on February 24, 2012 [10 favorites]


The problem is that claiming that you have a device just won't work. You have to test one to convince people you have it.

Didn't stop Saddam from playing that game. He certainly didn't announce to the world that he had actually stopped WMD production years before.

Cheney, I thought you got the banhammer here some years back!
posted by Ironmouth at 12:55 PM on February 24, 2012


So, say you're right and Iran wants to nuke Israel with the nuclear weapons they are developing. Everything I've read says that an Israeli strike would only set back an Iranian nuclear weapons program by one to two years. So, what do you propose we do? Have Israel bomb Iran every one to two years from now on? Have the United States invade and take over Iran, Iraq-style? Seriously, what is the overall objective here of those who want to see military action against Iran?

I admit there are shitty options here. Airstrikes may not be terribly effective at stalling progress for very long, and there are all sorts of bad things that could happen as a result (terrorism, regional war, etc.).

But I also see a nuclear-armed Iran as a game changer in a very negative sense. What happens in Bahrain, for instance, once Iran has nukes. Iran could support more openly the Shiite rebellion in that country and overthrow the Sunni minority government without fear of military reprisals. Bahrain could seek to forestall that threat by seeking nukes of its own. Saudi Arabia has already indicated that it would seek its own nuclear weapons if Iran got the bomb.

Now, take the new race for the bomb in the Middle East and combine it with popular revolutions, and you have a recipe for chaos. The chances that a nuclear weapon, or radiological/fissile material, could end up in the hands of a non-rational terrorist group would increase dramatically.

My preferred policy would probably be the one that's being pursued now (but I'd have hoped it would have been more aggressive earlier). Using cyber-warfare against Iran's industrial systems was pretty clever, and I'm not shedding any tears for Iran's dead nuclear scientists either. The sanctions seem to be having an effect, and the military threats against Iran seem to be growing in credibility.

I also think we (in the West) missed a real opportunity in not supporting Iran's Green Movement when we had the chance. President Obama naively thought that he could negotiate with the Iranian government to have them give up their nuclear program, so he decided to accept their legitimacy and simply "bear witness" to the crackdown in the streets of Tehran. Unfortunately, the negotiations went nowhere and the Green Movement was basically crushed.... and now we are where we are.
posted by BobbyVan at 12:58 PM on February 24, 2012


Didn't stop Saddam from playing that game.

When did Saddam claim to have a nuclear weapon?

Well, not if you're Israel. Even the chance that Iran might drop a nuclear missile on Tel Aviv means that the Israelis can no longer act with impunity in the region.

Actually, nuclear weapons really don't change the calculus of conventional military activity very much at all. Israel's nukes don't stop Hamas and Hezbollah from lobbing rockets into Israel, for example. Nobody thinks that Israel would meet even a large-scale conventional assault with a nuclear response. Nor does anyone in Iran think that if they got the bomb suddenly Israel would fear that, say, killing an Iranian nuclear scientist would result in a nuclear attack on Tel Aviv.

"Nuclear deterrence" really only deters nuclear attack--it doesn't deter much of anything else.
posted by yoink at 1:00 PM on February 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I also think we (in the West) missed a real opportunity in not supporting Iran's Green Movement when we had the chance.

The Greens didn't have enough popular support in the country to make that worthwhile. Sure, in Tehran, among the middle class, but that's not enough people to create a revolution. I think there will be a second go around for them and a "Persian Spring", but not with all this pressure on the regime. The opposition has no room to breathe now.
posted by empath at 1:03 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but think about how many jobs those centrifuges created!
posted by anewnadir at 1:05 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, I am saying that a bloodthirsty, power-hungry dictatorship has a rational (from its perspective) desire for nuclear weapons. For some reason you seem to be supporting the dictatorship, and I its victims

Iran is not a dictatorship. It isn't quite a democracy, but it has voting for office with a council of elders putting pressure on elected leaders.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:06 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I also think we (in the West) missed a real opportunity in not supporting Iran's Green Movement

By "supporting Iran's Green Movement" you mean "invading Iran under color of providing 'support' to an indigenous uprising," right? Because anything less than that would have had the same outcome as the Green Movement had.

And, of course, invading Iran is a really, really, really crappy move. We immediately deprive the Green Movement of any shred of legitimacy it would ever have had and we reinvigorate the Iranian Revolution for generations to come.
posted by yoink at 1:07 PM on February 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, not if you're Israel.

Israel did test its nukes, by the way. It just did it in collusion with South Africa. It maintained "plausible deniability" about the nukes, but no one who matters has had any doubt at all as to whether they "really" had them since those tests.
posted by yoink at 1:09 PM on February 24, 2012


Do you think that, nuclear weapons or not, we should invade Iran?
posted by empath at 12:53 PM on February 24 [+] [!]

And this is the same gung-ho bullshit that got us into the Iraq War. Find somewhere on free-republic to post that shit.
posted by empath at 12:54 PM on February 24 [+] [!]


Posting even more unwarranted accusations per minute is going to help you win this argument with yourself so much faster.
posted by Behemoth at 1:10 PM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


'It is not in the American national interest to go to war against Iran anytime soon'
posted by homunculus at 1:11 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Didn't stop Saddam from playing that game.

When did Saddam claim to have a nuclear weapon?

Well, not if you're Israel. Even the chance that Iran might drop a nuclear missile on Tel Aviv means that the Israelis can no longer act with impunity in the region.

Actually, nuclear weapons really don't change the calculus of conventional military activity very much at all. Israel's nukes don't stop Hamas and Hezbollah from lobbing rockets into Israel, for example. Nobody thinks that Israel would meet even a large-scale conventional assault with a nuclear response. Nor does anyone in Iran think that if they got the bomb suddenly Israel would fear that, say, killing an Iranian nuclear scientist would result in a nuclear attack on Tel Aviv.

"Nuclear deterrence" really only deters nuclear attack--it doesn't deter much of anything else.


See Policy of Deliberate Ambiguity or Strategic Ambiguity. This is a long discussed phenomena that Israel itself uses.
A country that lacks WMDs may use strategic ambiguity to create “deterrence by doubt” (see Gordon and Trainor 2006, 65). For example, when Saddam Hussein revealed to his inner circle that Iraq had no WMDs, he “flatly rejected a suggestion that the regime remove all doubts to the contrary” because he thought such a revelation would embolden his enemies to attack (Woods, Lacey, and Williamson 2006, 6). However, a country that possesses WMDs may rely on strategic ambiguity to avoid sanctions or preemptive strikes. For example, Israel’s policy of strategic ambiguity on nuclear weapons may be “a way of creating a deterrent, without making it explicit, a position that could invite sanctions or encourage an arms race in the Middle East” (Myre 2006, 5).1
See: Strategic Ambiguity and Arms Proliferation by Sandeep Baliga and Tomas Sjostrom in The Journal of Political Economy (PDF)
posted by Ironmouth at 1:12 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]



Iran deserves to be annihilated. I think they're lunatics. I think they're evil.


Carlson seems to have http://ggdrafts.blogspot.com/2012/02/email-exchange-with-tucker-carlson.html a bit, though he gets quite pissy about it all. So maybe he isn't as stupid as he seems, though he's still as much asshole as he's always been.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:12 PM on February 24, 2012


Sorry bout that mixup.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:13 PM on February 24, 2012


Yes, I am saying that a bloodthirsty, power-hungry dictatorship has a rational (from its perspective) desire for nuclear weapons. For some reason you seem to be supporting the dictatorship, and I its victims.

Um, I don't think it's very civil to talk about Israel that way... just sayin'
posted by facetious at 1:14 PM on February 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I also think we (in the West) missed a real opportunity in not supporting Iran's Green Movement

More like the West missed a real opportunity in not swallowing its pride and supporting Mosaddegh, nationalized oil and all. But, y'know, "water under the bridge" and all that rot, what?
posted by Thorzdad at 1:14 PM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Carlson's argument seems to be that Iran is evil and should be annihilated, but we shouldn't do it because that would raise gas prices. Which doesn't make him look like less of an asshole.
posted by empath at 1:15 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


A country that lacks WMDs may use strategic ambiguity to create “deterrence by doubt” (see Gordon and Trainor 2006, 65). For example, when Saddam Hussein revealed to his inner circle that Iraq had no WMDs, he “flatly rejected a suggestion that the regime remove all doubts to the contrary” because he thought such a revelation would embolden his enemies to attack

Sure, but my claim was specific to nuclear weapons. Saddam never claimed to have a nuke and no one thought he did. He was ambiguous about whether he was trying to get a nuke and ambiguous about what other WMD he might or might not have. But no one thought he had a nuke or that attacking him risked a nuclear response. Similarly, no one, at all, has any doubts whatsoever about whether or not Israel has nukes. No one has had those doubts for a very long time. Israel is certainly playing a political game that involves deliberate mystification on the issue, but there is no strategic uncertainty of any kind for any of Israel's neighbors. They all know, for a fact, that Israel has nukes. Israel could parade its nukes on trucks past the Knesset tomorrow and do a bunch of televised nuclear tests and it wouldn't change anyone's strategic calculations one iota.
posted by yoink at 1:18 PM on February 24, 2012


What Would John Adams Do About Iran? It’s time for No. 44 to channel No. 2.
posted by homunculus at 1:19 PM on February 24, 2012


But no one thought he had a nuke or that attacking him risked a nuclear response.

"We cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."
posted by Ironmouth at 1:21 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Greens didn't have enough popular support in the country to make that worthwhile. Sure, in Tehran, among the middle class, but that's not enough people to create a revolution.

Ahmadinejad stole the election - it's not like he had much popular support either.

By "supporting Iran's Green Movement" you mean "invading Iran under color of providing 'support' to an indigenous uprising," right? Because anything less than that would have had the same outcome as the Green Movement had.

No, I mean offering public, rhetorical support. President Obama had just been elected - there was a huge amount of goodwill for him to tap (he was about to win the Nobel Peace Price for simply not being President Bush). He could have told the Iranian regime to listen to its people. He could have encouraged the Iranian people to stand up for their freedom and defy the basij thugs on motorbikes. He could have called for a UN investigation into the killings. Instead, he complained about the violence he saw on TV.

There may be more the US could have done to support the Green Movement (money or covert support), but given our history with Iran, such actions could have been just as galvanizing for the regime as the opposition.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:22 PM on February 24, 2012


Israel: Over 100 nukes, deliverable by missile, fighter/bomber, or submarine.
Iran: Developing its first.
posted by timsteil at 1:23 PM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


'It is not in the American national interest to go to war against Iran anytime soon'

Carlson's argument seems to be that Iran is evil and should be annihilated, but we shouldn't do it because that would raise gas prices. Which doesn't make him look like less of an asshole.


It's not in the American national interest. It is very much in the interest of every single GOP candidate for national office, especially that of President. For them there's no downside, since if America is forced to go to war, gas and oil shoots to a new high, none of the already agreed-upon supercommittee cuts to defense happen, and the recession comes back with a vengeance. Then they can make an ironclad case--which would be a lie, but no one cares: see also 2003--in the election about Obama killing the economy and how Israel must be protected at all costs. At that point, Obama and most swing-state/district Democrats are now significant underdogs, and presto-chango GOP controls the White House and both chambers of Congress.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:25 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


He could have told the Iranian regime to listen to its people. He could have encouraged the Iranian people to stand up for their freedom and defy the basij thugs on motorbikes. He could have called for a UN investigation into the killings. Instead, he complained about the violence he saw on TV.

Really? This is your plan? Making the greens look like stooges of the United States?

That would have been a rookie mistake that Obama should have been roundly criticized for.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:25 PM on February 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


But no one thought he had a nuke or that attacking him risked a nuclear response.

"We cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."


Well, it's nice that someone thinks that statement was sincere. But go have a look at the transcript of that speech. Bush is not claiming that Saddam has a bomb. He is claiming that he is trying to get a bomb. Here's what he says just before the bit in your video clip:
If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly-enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year.
So no--not even during the build up to the Iraq war was anyone in doubt as to whether or not Saddam had a nuclear bomb.
posted by yoink at 1:27 PM on February 24, 2012


I'm not shedding any tears for Iran's dead nuclear scientists either.

I'd be interested to hear more on why they were so deserving of death.

Because they might have been helping their country to create a nuclear weapon? Which said country might use to kill civilians?

If so, I assume the Japanese killing Robert Oppenheimer would also have been a case of scum getting what was coming to him?
posted by Trurl at 1:28 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, it's nice that someone thinks that statement was sincere. But go have a look at the transcript of that speech. Bush is not claiming that Saddam has a bomb. He is claiming that he is trying to get a bomb. Here's what he says just before the bit in your video clip:

But isn't that exactly what "they" are claiming about Iran? That they don't have a bomb yet but they are trying to get one and that therefore we need to bomb them?

We've been down this road before. There are many, many dead at the end of it.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:31 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


If so, I assume the Japanese killing Robert Oppenheimer would also have been a case of scum getting what was coming to him?

Maybe in a PKD novel.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:32 PM on February 24, 2012


There may be more the US could have done to support the Green Movement (money or covert support), but given our history with Iran, such actions could have been just as galvanizing for the regime as the opposition.

Even feeble rhetorical support would not have helped the Green Movement in any way.That kind of signaling would have existed for the benefit of America's political watchers, not Iranian opposition.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:32 PM on February 24, 2012


No, I mean offering public, rhetorical support.

That would have been the worst possible thing that Obama could have done. It would have branded the movement as US stooges and snuffed it out overnight. It would have been worse than useless.
posted by yoink at 1:32 PM on February 24, 2012


If so, I assume the Japanese killing Robert Oppenheimer would also have been a case of scum getting what was coming to him?

To say that the situation is a bit different is an understatement. The Empire of Japan and the U.S. were in an all-out fully declared global war. If they bombed Los Alamos it would have been a perfectly legitimate military target.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:35 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Iranians are crazy, but they're not 'nuke a city' crazy. They would be erased off the face of the earth if they tried it.

This argument has always puzzled me. What makes it true? The fact that it hasn’t happened yet? It very, very nearly did in 1962. Even equally-equipped ‘rational’ actors can get to the brink—and that’s some scary shit. A Cold War, MAD way of framing the problem doesn’t really work anymore, and in my opinion, never really worked. We need to get rid of this thinking that would lead to everyone having nuclear weapons, aiming them at each other, then (presumably) feeling safer.
posted by TropicalWalrus at 1:35 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


But isn't that exactly what "they" are claiming about Iran? That they don't have a bomb yet but they are trying to get one and that therefore we need to bomb them?

We've been down this road before. There are many, many dead at the end of it.


Ironmouth, I take it you're participating in this thread while heavily engaged with some other activity that is actually consuming your attention. I made a claim that people can't just claim to have a nuclear device--they have to demonstrate it. O.K? That is the claim you were taking issue with insofar as you were disagreeing with something I said. I made no claim whatsoever about people claiming or hinting that they were developing nuclear weapons. Obviously Iran is doing that. I have said explicitly, on multiple occasions in this very thread, that they are doing that.

It's weird to find myself twice in the same thread apparently arguing with you completely at cross purposes because you haven't bothered to actually read what I really wrote or you've just forgotten it in between posts.
posted by yoink at 1:36 PM on February 24, 2012


Really? This is your plan? Making the greens look like stooges of the United States?

Did the Egyptian protesters look like stooges of the United States when Obama offered them his support? Are the Syrian protesters looking like American stooges to you? If anything, we were criticized by the Egyptian people for not supporting their democratic aspirations sooner.

If so, I assume the Japanese killing Robert Oppenheimer would also have been a case of scum getting what was coming to him?

Oppenheimer would have been a legitimate military target for the Japanese.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:36 PM on February 24, 2012


No, I mean offering public, rhetorical support.

He did, in fact, do that.
posted by empath at 1:36 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


He did, in fact, do that.

Too late in my opinion, and he was careful not to question the legitimacy of the regime that he was still hoping (against reason and experience) to cut a deal with.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:40 PM on February 24, 2012


Even if you believe that a nuclear Iran would result in a peaceful M.A.D. situation with Israel, there is no chance that Israel would allow that situation to occur. It's clear that Israel would launch a major attack before allowing Iran to gain nuclear weapons.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:40 PM on February 24, 2012


Did the Egyptian protesters look like stooges of the United States when Obama offered them his support? Are the Syrian protesters looking like American stooges to you?

Review the political and military history of Iran and the US since WWII and come back to us on this.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:40 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is all about the US elections. This is the October Surprise. Facing electoral defeat, the NeoCon elements of the Republican party make a deal with Isreal to start a war. And why not? From their perspective, Iraq worked great. It ensured Bush won a second term, and they made out like bandits. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
posted by vibrotronica at 1:41 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Too late in my opinion, and he was careful not to question the legitimacy of the regime that he was still hoping (against reason and experience) to cut a deal with.

It was exactly the same rhetoric he used in Egypt and used in the early days of the Syrian rebellion, and in the early days of the Libyan rebellion. There's no point in getting way out in front of events.
posted by empath at 1:42 PM on February 24, 2012


Did the Egyptian protesters look like stooges of the United States when Obama offered them his support? Are the Syrian protesters looking like American stooges to you?

I see a problem in conflating Iran with Arab Spring uprisings. US response has not been a one-size-fit-all affair, nor should it be.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:43 PM on February 24, 2012


It was exactly the same rhetoric he used in Egypt and used in the early days of the Syrian rebellion, and in the early days of the Libyan rebellion. There's no point in getting way out in front of events.

I guess that's what they mean by "leading from behind."
posted by BobbyVan at 1:46 PM on February 24, 2012


Did the Egyptian protesters look like stooges of the United States when Obama offered them his support?

Firstly, Egypt is not Iran. Secondly, yeah--Obama was incredibly careful about the timing and the nature of whatever rhetorical support he gave the Egyptians. The last thing he wanted was to jump prematurely on a bandwagon and A) make it harder for the protesters and B) make the US look weak and ineffective by throwing in with the losing side. These are both sensible calculations to make when the realities of the situation mean you cannot usefully provide real, material support.

Casually saying "yay--you go! We're on your side!" for every flicker of rebellion against repressive regimes might sound like an easy no-cost way of supporting "liberty" in some abstract sense, but it has often had real and unpleasant costs. Consider the Shi'ite uprising in the south of Iraq at the end of the Gulf War. The US's unguarded messages of support for that abortive uprising cost many young Iraqis their lives and badly hurt US prestige and the reputation of the US amongst anti-Saddam groups (something that came back to bite us in the ass during the Iraq war).

I think it's hilarious that you're accusing Obama of being naive and inexperienced for wisely failing to fall into what are, in fact, obvious rookie traps.
posted by yoink at 1:47 PM on February 24, 2012 [10 favorites]


I guess that's what they mean by "leading from behind."

A President is not a cheerleader. His/her words have actual consequences in the real world. You're asking him to react as if he's just BSing about this stuff on the internet.
posted by yoink at 1:49 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Consider the Shi'ite uprising in the south of Iraq at the end of the Gulf War. The US's unguarded messages of support for that abortive uprising cost many young Iraqis their lives and badly hurt US prestige and the reputation of the US amongst anti-Saddam groups (something that came back to bite us in the ass during the Iraq war).

Exactly. This was a textbook example of what not to do, snark about "leading from behind" notwithstanding.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:50 PM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


A new take on Iran-Contra is really the nightmare situation for me here. It worked for Reagan, back when the party was led by people with forethought, cunning, and guile.

God help us if the current, captain-less crop tried it with a Iran.
posted by Slackermagee at 1:53 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


US response has not been a one-size-fit-all affair, nor should it be.

Indeed. I am continually surprised by how many people seem to view everyone in that entire region as a single swarthy shapeless mass that should be handled with tongs. I'm not sure if it's intellectual laziness, pure bigotry, or what, but it's really tiresome.
posted by aramaic at 1:54 PM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


A new take on Iran-Contra is really the nightmare situation for me here.

I don't see what you mean by this, sorry. We trade hostages with Iran to fund...whom? Or we trade hostages with someone else to support an insurgency in Iran? No, I'm lost.
posted by yoink at 1:58 PM on February 24, 2012


A President is not a cheerleader. His/her words have actual consequences in the real world.

I agree with this 100%. Reagan got crucified by the left in this country for calling on the Soviets to "tear down this wall." Such rhetoric was seen as naive and idealistic (I'm sure an FPP on the topic here on Metafilter, if it existed, would have had thousands of outraged comments), but it put the Soviets on notice and served to inspire an oppressed people. His words had consequences.

I think we in the West outsmart ourselves sometimes. We think the Iranians will respect us more if we keep quiet about freedom in Iran because we're embarrassed about Mossadegh. I think the opposite is true. We get respected when we stand up for our ideals. We don't get points for cleverness or picking the middle path of least resistance.

As for the Shiite example, that was, to borrow a 41 phrase, "imprudent," because we called for an uprising but did not take the minimal steps required to support it (like grounding Hussein's helicopter gunships, which we had authority to do).
posted by BobbyVan at 2:00 PM on February 24, 2012


I agree with this 100%. Reagan got crucified by the left in this country for calling on the Soviets to "tear down this wall."

Balls. I'm guessing you're not old enough to actually remember that speech or the events of those years. It's fame has been largely retrospective. Events were moving extremely fast by the time Reagan made that speech. The Cold War was rapidly melting. Gorbachev's Perestroika had begun a year earlier. Republicans like the dramatic fairy tale that Reagan somehow strode onto a world that had been unchanged since the end of WWII and by simply uttering four little words brought it all crashing down, but it's still a fairy story.

Reagan's speech received little coverage at the time in the US because they were behind, not ahead, of the curve. There was no "crucifixion" of Reagan by the left, either, because the left (other than the kookiest of kooky fringes at that point) entirely agreed with him that the collapse of the wall would be a great thing. The only doubt on the non-kooky left was whether Reagan trying to brand the removal of the wall as a "US" thing would delay that outcome rather than hasten it.
posted by yoink at 2:07 PM on February 24, 2012 [18 favorites]


"they were" should be "it was."
posted by yoink at 2:08 PM on February 24, 2012


I regret to inform my Israeli friends that they will not be able to bomb their way out of this problem. I have tremendous respect for the many impossible feats of the IDF, but anything more than a futile symbolic strike is fantasy. Destroying the sites from the air is probably beyond even the capabilities of the US Air Force. Thus the military options are a protracted US bombing campaign and or ground invasion. Neither of these options is viable. Therefore folks need to accept that while no President will take options off the table, the only real option is continued diplomacy.
posted by humanfont at 2:17 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here, by the way, is the only contemporary editorial comment I can find from the New York Times on Reagan's "Tear down this wall" speech (and it only gets a couple of unexcited news reports):
The world watches Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms with hope and wonder. President Reagan challenges him to go further with glasnost and tear down the Berlin Wall. East German youths trying to hear a rock concert in West Berlin chant his name. How fast and radically can the Soviet system be changed without bringing on reaction? Source.
As you can see, the NYT sees Reagan's speech as purely a footnote to the reforms that Gorbachev has initiated and that it is watching with "hope and wonder." If there was supposed to be some kind of united leftish howl of anguish at Reagan's temerity, the NYT clearly failed to get that memo. In their news report on the speech, they frame it simply as Reagan trying to retake the momentum on the issue from Gorbachev. As I say, this was anything but an example of "leading from the front."
posted by yoink at 2:20 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


What happens in Bahrain, for instance, once Iran has nukes. Iran could support more openly the Shiite rebellion in that country and overthrow the Sunni minority government without fear of military reprisals.

Holy fuck, when you start defending the Bahrain regime but arguing that the Iranian regime must be bombed to shit, you really are illustrating a complete moral bankruptcy and US-centric ignorance.

Here's an idea: The US doesn't bomb anybody. Ferchrissake you're not the world police force. How many Vietnams and Iraqs is it gonna take to realise that?
posted by smoke at 2:23 PM on February 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


Ironmouth, I take it you're participating in this thread while heavily engaged with some other activity that is actually consuming your attention. I made a claim that people can't just claim to have a nuclear device--they have to demonstrate it. O.K? That is the claim you were taking issue with insofar as you were disagreeing with something I said. I made no claim whatsoever about people claiming or hinting that they were developing nuclear weapons. Obviously Iran is doing that. I have said explicitly, on multiple occasions in this very thread, that they are doing that.

Israel does that now.

Saddam did that with his WMD back in the day, too. Your conclusion isn't supported by the literature.

More importantly, since Iran does not currently have the bomb, why the derail? If this is not the current situation, it doesn't matter.

but in the end, I totally disagree with you. You can maintain nuclear ambiguity. Its done now.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:23 PM on February 24, 2012


I've said it before and I'll say it again : if a Republican is elected president this year, expect at least another war or two in the next couple years. It's basically the only trick they have up their sleeves.

It's not like they have any ideas for how to fix the economy.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:23 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


but in the end, I totally disagree with you

Well, it would be nice if you'd actually read what I wrote. But go on disagreeing with an entirely imaginary interlocutor.

Just in case you bother to read a whole comment for once in this thread:

Israel does that now.

No, they don't. I've already pointed out that while they maintain political deniability, they have, in fact, tested their nuclear devices and nobody has any doubt, at all, as to whether they have them.

Saddam did that with his WMD back in the day, too.

No, he did not. He made no claim to having a nuclear device and nobody suspected that he did. Not even G.W. Bush.

Its done now.

Perhaps. You have not, however, provided a single instance of it.
posted by yoink at 2:27 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I regret to inform my Israeli friends that they will not be able to bomb their way out of this problem. I have tremendous respect for the many impossible feats of the IDF, but anything more than a futile symbolic strike is fantasy. Destroying the sites from the air is probably beyond even the capabilities of the US Air Force.

The New York Times looked at the chances for such a strike. Basically, the conclusion is Israel could only do it with American tanker support but the Americans could do it themselves easily.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:30 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


if a Republican is elected president this year, expect at least another war or two in the next couple years

A slackening off, in other words?
posted by Trurl at 2:30 PM on February 24, 2012


I think we in the West outsmart ourselves sometimes. We think the Iranians will respect us more if we keep quiet about freedom in Iran because we're embarrassed about Mossadegh. I think the opposite is true. We get respected when we stand up for our ideals. We don't get points for cleverness or picking the middle path of least resistance.

LOLWUT
posted by zombieflanders at 2:37 PM on February 24, 2012


Yoink, you're right that the state of US-Soviet relations was rapidly evolving in 1987, but the ultimate outcome was by no means assured. I think my comment that Reagan was "crucified" by the left in the US was also a bit hyperbolic.

Reagan has received a great deal of credit for his "tear down this wall" speech. Yes, much of it was retrospective, but that's because in retrospect we can see how powerful his words were.

A historian who wrote a well-received book on the speech (which made the case for its importance in ending the cold war) wrote in Time Magazine that "Reagan's gift was his ability to speak candidly about the realities of the age while still presenting, and working toward, an optimistic vision of the future. He sensed when the right risk might be rewarded. Obama's challenge now is to do the same."
posted by BobbyVan at 2:40 PM on February 24, 2012


He made no claim to having a nuclear device and nobody suspected that he did. Not even G.W. Bush.

"We know that based on intelligence that he has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He’s had years to get good at it and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons. I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong." - Dick Cheney, Meet the Press, March 16, 2003
posted by one_bean at 2:42 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Iran is not a dictatorship. It isn't quite a democracy, but it has voting for office with a council of elders putting pressure on elected leaders.

East Germany had voting for office. The non-Communist parties were made up of unelectable buffoons, and with the Stasi surveillance state, one was never sure that voting for them was not going to have consequences (people lost jobs, university places or places on waiting lists for more trivial things). But still, they had elections, and people voted.
posted by acb at 2:42 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


North Korea has nuclear weapons capabilities, and ever since they got the bomb, you don't hear much about the threat of a nuclear North Korea. Why is that?

Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons capabilities (they're not necessarily friendly towards each other, and one is a muslim majority society).

This whole bomb Iran business is ridiculous. What good did it do anyone to bomb Iraq (other than Halliburton, Bechtel, Boeing et. al.)? Deja vu anyone? I hear much of the same straw man arguments for this upcoming war, as I did back in 2002.

Farce = Tragedy
posted by nikoniko at 2:45 PM on February 24, 2012


Reagan has received a great deal of credit for his "tear down this wall" speech. Yes, much of it was retrospective, but that's because in retrospect we can see how powerful his words were.

Well, sure, if we ignore the widespread economic, political, and cultural divisions that were going on inside the USSR at the time, as well as a system that had been rendered unsustainable by the time Reagan took office and was already in its death throes by the time he gave the speech. In retrospect, of course.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:46 PM on February 24, 2012


Cheney later corrected himself:
Questioned by host Tim Russert, Cheney acknowledged that he had been wrong to claim, as he did on "Meet the Press" before the war, that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons.

"Yeah, I did misspeak," Cheney said. "I said repeatedly during the show, 'weapons capability.' We never had any evidence that [Hussein] had acquired a nuclear weapon."
posted by BobbyVan at 2:47 PM on February 24, 2012


Reagan got crucified by the left in this country for calling on the Soviets to "tear down this wall."

I think that you are somehow confusing the reflexive idiocy of today's Tea Party hooligans with the left of the 1980s.
posted by goethean at 2:47 PM on February 24, 2012


Cheney later corrected himself

Thousands of dead Americans and Iraqis are undoubtedly very pleased about that.
posted by goethean at 2:49 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


North Korea has nuclear weapons capabilities, and ever since they got the bomb, you don't hear much about the threat of a nuclear North Korea.

I don't know what led you to that conclusion! North Korea's nukes are both scary and newsworthy.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:50 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


North Korea has nuclear weapons capabilities, and ever since they got the bomb, you don't hear much about the threat of a nuclear North Korea.

I don't know what led you to that conclusion! North Korea's nukes are both scary and newsworthy.


But the drums of war are no longer beating for an attach on North Korea. Why is that?
posted by nikoniko at 2:53 PM on February 24, 2012


...because they have nuclear weapons?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:54 PM on February 24, 2012


But the drums of war are no longer beating for an attach on North Korea. Why is that?

They're not an oil producer.
posted by Trurl at 2:55 PM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Cheney lied to start a war that would benefit him and his cronies politically and financially. Anyone who defends that war criminal instantly loses all credibility. This who push towards war with Iran is a farce and a pack of lies, just like Iraq. How could any sane, rational human being seriously advocate for it after the events of the last decade?
posted by vibrotronica at 2:57 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


But the drums of war are no longer beating for an attach on North Korea. Why is that?

To the extent that they were ever really beating, that's easy: China. But Bush had already relented on the DPRK for the most part by the time he left office.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:58 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


How could any sane, rational human being seriously advocate for it after the events of the last decade?

I don't know, but unfortunately half of Americans seem to be OK with it.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:00 PM on February 24, 2012


But the drums of war are no longer beating for an attach on North Korea. Why is that?

they are a client of China.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:01 PM on February 24, 2012


I wonder what the polling would say about an invasion of Canada.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:02 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know what led you to that conclusion! North Korea's nukes are both scary and newsworthy.

They'd be even scarier if they worked (there is suggestion that the tests, both of the bombs and missiles, were failures) and the North Koreans had a reliable delivery system. At the moment, the massive mortar array that's aimed at Seoul, ready to reduce it to rubble on the God-Emperor's order, is probably more terrifying than the outside possibility of the North Koreans using nuclear weapons and them working.
posted by acb at 3:02 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Perhaps. You have not, however, provided a single instance of it.

Israel. South Africa most definitely had the bomb, never said a word.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:04 PM on February 24, 2012


I wonder what the polling would say about an invasion of Canada

Let's see:

"Let me first state what I understand to be your position. It is that if it shall become necessary to repel invasion, the President may, without violation of the Constitution, cross the line and invade the territory of another country, and that whether such necessity exists in any given case the President is the sole judge.

. . . Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after having given him so much as you propose. If to-day he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him,--"I see no probability of the British invading us"; but he will say to you, "Be silent: I see it, if you don't."

posted by Ironmouth at 3:07 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know, but unfortunately half of Americans seem to be OK with it.

To be fair, the poll specified "use of military force to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." If military force was rephrased as endless fucking hellride in a country three times the size of Iraq with more than twice the population (and possibly in China too), I'd like to think the numbers would have come in differently.
posted by Iridic at 3:12 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


We did have plans for invading canada, starting with a poison gas attack on Nova Scotia.
posted by empath at 3:13 PM on February 24, 2012


Hopefully nuclear weapons are never dropped anywhere on planet earth ever again. I just fail to see how bombing a country with conventional weapons is a good way of preventing nuclear war in the future?


Robert Oppenheimer regretted his involvement.


Here's a documentary that shows the aftermath of the Nuclear Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It's horrifying.

Hiroshima-Nagasaki, August 1945
Dir. Erik Barnouw
Camera: Akira Iwasaki, 16min. B&W, 1945/1970, 16mm film

The earliest (and the only) film record of the immediate atomic bomb devastation was shot in September 1945 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Japan Film Co., but was later confiscated by the U.S. Occupation Army. It was kept as a top-secret file until 1967, then for some bureaucratic reasons was discreetly released to the National Archive. A film team at the Columbia Univ. lead by Erik Barnouw (filmmaker/film historian) paid a trip to the National Archive to view the 2hrs 40min.-long film. Devastated by the power of the footage, they decided to make a short film to convey the terror of the A-bomb, especially focusing on the human effect footage.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
posted by nikoniko at 3:15 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Election fraud, uranium production, close ties to a nation with extreme military ambitions and goals of world domination...I don't think we can afford to wait.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:16 PM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Iran has a Supreme Leader who is not elected or influenced by the people. He commands the military and judiciary etc. Deets in the wiki. It sounds like he is directly responsible for making change both difficult and deadly.

As long as this is the case the "Mexican stand-off" will continue. It's pretty clear that under the Supreme Leader death will come to anyone who stands in their way, is a non-believer or speaks ill of their religion.

That said, I know many Iranians, and just like most folks everywhere else, they just want to live their lives and are not responsible for the actions of their leaders.
posted by snsranch at 3:24 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fuck it, let's bomb Indonesia. We've never bombed Indonesia have we? We need a change of pace, bigtime.
posted by facetious at 3:44 PM on February 24, 2012


What happens in Bahrain, for instance, once Iran has nukes. Iran could support more openly the Shiite rebellion in that country and overthrow the Sunni minority government without fear of military reprisals.

This points up something that seems to be largely missed in the thread -- that an Iranian nuclear capability destabilizes the whole region. If Iran has a nuke the Saudis will buy/build one to protect themselves and their allies. So probably will Turkey, possibly Egypt too. So you have a whole region full of animosity and old hatreds now armed up with nuclear weapons.

An attack on Israel by a nuclear Iran seems less likely than a host of other bad scenarios.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 4:40 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


The problem is that military intervention also has a chance of leading to catastrophic destabilization. When you are faced with the possibility of falling into a situation of chaotic armed conflict, it is my firm opinion that shooting first is not the best way to ease the pressure.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:55 PM on February 24, 2012


In other news, gas prices in Vancouver jumped 8 cents a liter overnight, and are expected to continue to rise until the fall. War is good for business.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:57 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why is it that every time I hear these attempts to raise alarms about the dangers of Iran having a nuke, I can't help but hear it in the whining voice of some neighbor who has been pistol whipping his wife for years complaining and fretting about what she'll do when she gets home with that gun she's gone and got herself.

It seems like the core Middle East has taken on the mantle of the dysfunctional household in the global neighborhood that we all just wish would figure it's sh*t out. There really isn't anything anyone outside of this house can do. We tried to help you and just got sucked into your little drama that don't make any sense to anyone but yourselves.

The Middle East has two paths and one future. The chosen path: continually discover new ways to hate and hurt your own family. The other path: finding a way to ride the rising tides of successive Arab Springs to a United States of the Middle East that includes a domesticated and disarmed Israel as part of it's inevitable union. We're all tired of hearing your bickering and fighting and frankly even your old best buddies are trying to tell you to work it out (there is no way the US will go to war with Iran. Forget it. Stop pretending you can make it happen with your little jedi mind whining that we all see though now).

The world is headed towards unity and the harder you focus and yell about what makes you different from each other, the uglier and more dangerous your house will become. History is a force of nature trying to get you to wake up from itself. It will force you to find peace even if, in your pride, you force the inevitable peace to arrive at your doorstep as a gun shot you seem hell bent on pulling into your own head.

New Jersey will never nuke Utah. Get it? This dispute in the Middle East is just as silly as that would be if it weren't for people being so stuck up on themselves and their chosen identities.
posted by astrobiophysican at 5:09 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know, but unfortunately half of Americans seem to be OK with it.

An important lesson from opposition to the Iraq war is that having half the population with you only matters if you have enough very serious people on your side. The peace movement needs to do a better job this time recruiting and promoting moderate pundits that oppose attacking Iran. Right now the "serious people" are up for grabs, time to go out an get them.
posted by humanfont at 5:17 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


The other path: finding a way to ride the rising tides of successive Arab Springs to a United States of the Middle East that includes a domesticated and disarmed Israel as part of it's inevitable union.

If someone in this thread said that any country in the Middle East other than Israel needed to be "domesticated," that person would be called out as a racist and a bigot.
posted by BobbyVan at 5:22 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


If someone in this thread said that any country in the Middle East other than Israel needed to be "domesticated," that person would be called out as a racist and a bigot.


Um, you just did, two comments down. A self-refuting comment.

Yes, it's a bigoted thing to say. No, it doesn't matter which country it's made about.
posted by facetious at 5:32 PM on February 24, 2012


Um, you just did, two comments down. A self-refuting comment.

Is there a flag for that? :)

But seriously, glad we can agree that calling for individual countries to be "domesticated" is a form of bigotry.
posted by BobbyVan at 5:40 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


But seriously, glad we can agree that calling for individual countries to be "domesticated" is a form of bigotry.

I'm with you 100%. If we (all of us) are gonna talk about the situation in the middle east rationally - facts, figures, history, context - I'm in, and I'll be genuinely grateful for anything I learn. If we're going to talk about ayatollahs and other boogiemen, and the "personalities" of nations - I can get that in Time Magazine comment threads. *the shit is so irritating*. i think i'm going to go have a drink of my own medicine and have a nice hard look at the cia factbook on iran.
posted by facetious at 5:51 PM on February 24, 2012


An armed populace is a polite populace. Simplistic, yes, but it worked pretty well under the pseudonym of "Mutually Assured Destruction."
posted by dogrose at 6:15 PM on February 24, 2012


I'm with you 100%.

Great!

If we're going to talk about ayatollahs...

Wait, why can't we talk about Ayatollahs?
posted by BobbyVan at 6:22 PM on February 24, 2012


From their perspective, Iraq worked great. It ensured Bush won a second term, and they made out like bandits.

Not really. Bush's approval ratings were hitting record lows in 2004, the his Iraq invasion ratings spike was gone by Election Day, and the election was close.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:36 PM on February 24, 2012


An armed populace is a polite populace. Simplistic, yes, but it worked pretty well under the pseudonym of "Mutually Assured Destruction."

That was more due to luck than anything else.
posted by ymgve at 6:52 PM on February 24, 2012


2012's thinly veiled accusations of anti-semetism are 2003's "Why do you hate America so much?"
posted by vibrotronica at 7:40 PM on February 24, 2012


Here's an idea: The US doesn't bomb anybody. Ferchrissake you're not the world police force. How many Vietnams and Iraqs is it gonna take to realise that?

n+1, apparently.
posted by brennen at 8:41 PM on February 24, 2012


Poem for the rooftops of Iran. An amazingly beautiful people. I hope the best for them.

(Not directly related to the Iran's nuclear program, but when I hear all the warmongering, I think of the people and how utterly inspired I was at the bravery of they were during the 2009 protests. Godspeed.)
posted by Sreiny at 9:10 PM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


"An armed populace is a polite populace. Simplistic, yes, but it worked pretty well under the pseudonym of "Mutually Assured Destruction."

Really all MAD did was push the cold war into several smaller wars-by-proxy, basically involving whole other (3rd world) countries into doing our fighting for us. The "Cold War" was pretty damn hot for a lot of people as we sat back and sold them the arms to do so.. really the best of all words eh? Get other people to fight for us and pay for the privilege. We really had our heads up our asses.

Nuclear armed Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran just likely means pushing the fighting to transnational groups, furthering the destabilization due to so-called terrorism. And frankly the longer nukes exist and the more widespread they become the closer it comes to them being used... again, it really is inevitable at some point. Just have to hope we actually learn something from it next time.
posted by edgeways at 9:22 PM on February 24, 2012


The problem is that military intervention also has a chance of leading to catastrophic destabilization. When you are faced with the possibility of falling into a situation of chaotic armed conflict, it is my firm opinion that shooting first is not the best way to ease the pressure.

The problem with a military solution is that the only way we could stop them militarily is to invade them, full on. This is the country on earth with the highest proportion of military-aged males. They're more than twice the size of Iraq.

All in favor of a full-on invasion, raise your hand.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:52 AM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Those gosh-darned Israelis! Determined to attack Iran while we helplessly watch - powerless to stop them. Powerless!

Bear in mind Israel apparently see this as a matter of national survival and they've previously intentionally sunk a US surveillance boat to do military stuff then apologised afterwards, stolen nuke designs from the US, kept on building settlements against Obama's wishes, etc etc.

As long as AIPAC can keep the US-Israel funding locked in, it's hard to see that the administration has that much leverage.
posted by jaduncan at 6:15 AM on February 25, 2012


The faintest whiff of a nuclear Iran. Oh it's going to be fun when I see my "liberal" Jewish mother-in-law today.
posted by Talez at 7:49 AM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just as a hypothetical which I don't support. Consider that the goal of an airstrike would only be to delay Iranian nuke development. Certainly a significant week or longer air campaign would cause some delay in the weapons program. Facilities would take time to be rebuilt. More uranium would need to be enriched. Economic assets like oil production might also need reconstruction and repair. The question how much of a delay do you think you need. If you are a political leader like Obama you just need to buy about 6 years. That makes the Iraniab nuke the next guy's problem. Also once you bomb them once you can do it again later

If one starts factoring in the number of construction projects and the time required for covert site selection, bunker design, etc. It is possible to make estimates about the amount of delay one could create.
posted by humanfont at 8:31 AM on February 25, 2012


Consider that the goal of an airstrike would only be to delay Iranian nuke development.

This isn't Iraq who didn't rebuild their navy after the first gulf war and have no real means to retaliate.

If you bombed anything in Iran they'd mobilize their entire navy, attempt to sink whatever US warship was on patrol in the gulf and blockade the Strait of Hormuz faster than it takes a Fox News pundit to pronounce "Ahmadinejad" correctly.
posted by Talez at 9:23 AM on February 25, 2012


You assume that there would be anything left of the Iranian navy after the first wave of airstrikes and that they would have operational capabilities to organize such a response. I anticipate that an American war plan would be designed to limit Iranian retaliation.
posted by humanfont at 1:16 PM on February 25, 2012


"Even as the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said in a new report Friday that Iran had accelerated its uranium enrichment program, American intelligence analysts continue to believe that there is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb."
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:49 PM on February 25, 2012


Washington (CNN) – Seven in 10 Americans believe that Iran currently has nuclear weapons, according to a new national poll.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:52 PM on February 25, 2012


(That article is from 2010, even though it says "8 days ago" at the top)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:54 PM on February 25, 2012


How long does it take to make a bomb once a country has enough nuclear material? I'm under the impression that acquiring the capability to make enough material is the really hard part.
posted by humanfont at 3:10 PM on February 25, 2012


American troops flood island of Socotra
According to Socotra local officials, thousands of American soldiers are flooding in as the US is said to be gearing up for an armed conflict with Iran.
Socotra is an island off the coast of Yemen. It's not actually very close to Iran - no closer than Israel is, anyway - so I don't know whether this report makes sense.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:18 PM on February 25, 2012


Humanfont asked: How long does it take to make a bomb once a country has enough nuclear material?

It depends how sophisticated your bomb is. The Manhattan Project didn't take very long, and that was before anyone actually knew how to do it. But you'll waste a lot of material making an old-fashioned design and if you want to deliver your bomb by missile then you need something smaller and lighter. On the other hand, you probably want to test your sophisticated design - and the more sophisticated it is, the more tests you need. Mind you, if I were a Middle Eastern country largely composed of desert I would be very aware that my borders are porous and an oil tanker has enough room for any bomb ever constructed.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:35 PM on February 25, 2012


Yemen just changed its head of state. I have absolutely no idea but because of the timing I wonder if the Socotra base were for some reason arranged to coincide with that transition.
posted by Anything at 6:50 PM on February 25, 2012


Socotra is a very weird and beautiful place. Previously.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:45 PM on February 25, 2012


Mind you, if I were a Middle Eastern country largely composed of desert I would be very aware that my borders are porous and an oil tanker has enough room for any bomb ever constructed.

How does that make sense as a military operation. A tanker with a hidden nuke sails for Port of Houston or Tel Aviv and then kaboom? Then what?
posted by humanfont at 8:46 AM on February 26, 2012


PROFIT!
posted by Justinian at 2:25 PM on February 26, 2012


Israel is just a sideshow - they're genuinely threatened, but Iran has no strategic interest in it except as a rallying point. I was thinking more of the threat to Saudi Arabia, and the conversation would go something like this:

Saudi Arabia: We note that your troops are mobilising on the Iraqi border.
Iran: We would never enter Iraqi territory without an invitation.
Saudi Arabia: His Majesty will not accept an Iranian presence in Iraq, even one authorised by the puppet government you installed there. And I am required to tell you that the US government is watching these events closely.
Iran: I suggest you ask the US government to stand down in the interests of peace and democracy.
Saudi Arabia: And why should we do that?
Iran: Because we have nuclear weapons concealed in your major cities, and we will surely use them if we are attacked.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:26 PM on February 26, 2012


How do you think the United States and the International community would respond to such a threat? Suppose the US intercepted one of the bombs as it was being smuggled in? I don't see a positive outcome for Iran in that instance. I think the US would move to secure itself and then respond.
posted by humanfont at 6:18 PM on February 26, 2012


How do you think the United States and the International community would respond to such a threat?

The stated US/NATO doctrine is quite clear. First use of NBC (any of the above) by an opponent allows responses from across the NBC continuum. Unofficially biological and chemical are less likely to result in a nuking. Probably Cuban missile crisis Mk.2, with nuclear-armed subs all over the Gulf publicly and repeatedly stated to be ready to absolutely level Iran if one of Iran's nukes went off and ICBMs as backup for those.
posted by jaduncan at 8:12 PM on February 26, 2012


I think the United States and the international community wouldn't necessarily hear about it. But let's say that Saudi Arabia comes out and says "Iran has threatened to use a nuclear weapon against us if we attack them first." Do you imagine ... a huge upwelling of support for Saudi Arabia? Would you be one of the people saying "Outrageous! The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a right to attack the flawed Iranian democracy any time it pleases, particularly if the USA gives its assent!" Me, I'd be pretty equivocal, even given the fact that I don't want Iran to control Iraq.

But let's say that push comes to shove and we have all the UN to-ing and fro-ing and the decision comes to prevent Iran allying itself with Iraq's significant Shi'ite population through the dastardly mechanism of parliamentary democracy. So the US invades Iran. And because this involved the threat of nuclear weapons they don't just do what they did in Iraq, they ... well, do what they did in Iraq. So no change. Or let's suppose Iran came through on its threat and blew up Riyadh. In that case the consequences for Iran are ... the same. No change.

Given all this, do you think Saudi Arabia would call Iran's bluff? The whole point of Saudi Arabia is that it is a feudal cacocracy. They do not care about anyone else in the entire world. Iran's influence on Saudi Arabia's neighbours would be irritating, even a strategic injury, but the loss of their major cities would hurt them in a very fundamental way. Of course they would acquiesce.

Anyway, my point is that the "smuggled atomic weapon" scenario isn't something out of Tom Clancy; it's a tactic that makes as much sense as the use of nuclear weapons themselves. Iran doesn't need ballistic nuclear weapons in order to credibly threaten its neighbours, and it can threaten its neighbours even with nuclear weapons that would only be used defensively.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:22 PM on February 26, 2012


I'm skeptical that his would work. The bombs would have to be smuggled in. Then your have to secure and maintain them. It can't just be parked inthe Riyadh U-Store.
posted by humanfont at 10:05 PM on February 26, 2012


Excellent points, to which I have three answers:
1) It's probably easier to smuggle an anonymous shipping container over a border than to develop a nuclear weapon small enough and sturdy enough to go on a ballistic missile.
2) Maintenance is certainly an issue, particularly as nuclear materials suffer from radioactive decay. But this takes years, time enough for Iran to consolidate its gains. I see no reason why a device in a buried shipping container wouldn't be operational a decade later.

Here's me channeling an imaginary Iranian envoy to Saudi Arabia:
You think we didn't smuggle one in? Here's the location of a fake weapon inside a shipping container which we smuggled in and buried as a proof of concept. You think any weapon we buried would be no longer operational? Perhaps. Do you want to bet your city on it?

This is all speculation, obviously, but the fact is that Saudi Arabia is very scared of Iran. They have offered to counteract any oil price rises caused by a war - I don't think they ever made that offer before. There must be something that's terrifying them, and although it might be a conventional attack I don't think that would be sufficient. I believe they really are scared of Iran's nuclear program, ballistic or truck-mounted.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:54 AM on February 27, 2012


Two! Two answers, among which are the ease of smuggling, lack of maintenance needed, and an almost fanatical devotion to the Ayatollah ... I'll come back in again.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:55 AM on February 27, 2012


Israel to sell $1.6 billion in arms to Iran's neighbor Azerbaijan

Ooh. Nice one. The "arms" mentioned in the article appear to be defensive, but of course defense has two strategic values: it protects you against an attack, but it also protects you when attacking.

Turkey should like this too, because Azerbaijan has more than one significant territorial dispute going on with Armenia (which Turkey hates, because of its genocidal past). So it reminds Iran that sabre-rattling is not free of cost and it helps Israel patch up relations with Turkey. When you add the possible value of any unstated arrangements reached between the parties it looks like an excellent deal for both sides.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:11 AM on February 27, 2012


1) It's probably easier to smuggle an anonymous shipping container over a border than to develop a nuclear weapon small enough and sturdy enough to go on a ballistic missile.

Consider the challenges of site planning for your weapon. The probability and consequences of detection by the Saudis. The technical hurdles of having a reliable, yet secret communications system. Failsafes to prevent tampering with or accidental detonation. Finally you'd want to be certain that the device would be able to survive the environmental conditions you presented it with (heat, possible flooding, constant radiation causing accelerated wear and tear on electronic components). These would be significant engineering challenges and risks to the projects success. I think the Iranians would probably work on making a more compact missile deliverable design. It is a lot easier to store the weapons in climate controlled facilities and have them at the ready from hardened silos.

2) Maintenance is certainly an issue, particularly as nuclear materials suffer from radioactive decay. But this takes years, time enough for Iran to consolidate its gains. I see no reason why a device in a buried shipping container wouldn't be operational a decade later.

The nuclear materials themselves are pretty shelf stable. I'm thinking more about the batteries to power the detonators, the related electronics include communications gear (which would be getting a constant dose of radiation from the core), and the conventional explosives. Over a ten year period you'd have to consider scenarios such as a flood from a thunderstorm, animal infestation, extreme heat and cold. I can see a lot of things that engineers would need to study before they were willing to bet that the thing would go off after being buried and abandoned in the desert.
posted by humanfont at 7:08 AM on February 27, 2012


Humanfont: the imaginary Iranian envoy I'm channeling smiles and whistles when confronted with those points. King Abdullah says that he relies on your judgment implicitly, and he knows you'll enjoy having your family with you as you stay in Riyadh Hilton for the next decade.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:32 PM on February 27, 2012


Iran moves to bring the Lebanese Army under its sway
Lebanese Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn met in Tehran on Sunday with senior Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi. Vahidi pledged Iranian support for the Lebanese Army, announcing that strengthening the Lebanese Army was “one of the strategic policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:35 PM on February 27, 2012


I don't get invited to those kinds of meetings. Imagine me at a safe house in Tehran trying to fix a piece of shit stolen moped with a multitool and a partial shop manual. FML.
posted by humanfont at 4:37 PM on February 27, 2012


Gen. McCaffrey privately briefs NBC execs on war with Iran
posted by homunculus at 8:49 PM on February 28, 2012


AP sources: Israel wouldn't warn US on Iran strike

also btw...oh and here's the white house press briefing...
Q On another topic, can you confirm that Israeli officials have told the U.S. that they would not warn the U.S. if they were to strike Iran?

MR. CARNEY: I have no comment on discussions between government officials -- United States government officials with officials of another government. I would simply say that we obviously have very close cooperative relationships with the Israeli government, with the Israeli military and the Israeli intelligence services. But beyond that I have no comment.

Q Does the White House believe that it should be alerted by the Israelis should they strike Iran?

MR. CARNEY: I would simply repeat what I said, which is that we have very close relationships with our Israeli counterparts. We have deep engagement at every level. But I wouldn't discuss speculative -- I wouldn't answer speculative questions like that.
netanyahu will meet with obama march 5 in the white house; check out AIPAC's guest list for its conference starting march 4...
AIPAC Policy Conference 2012
Videos, transcripts and photos of keynote speakers will be linked below as they become available.

Sunday Morning PlenarySunday Afternoon PlenaryMonday Morning PlenaryMonday GalaTuesday Morning Plenary
posted by kliuless at 12:48 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


perhaps fareed zakaria should be speaking...

How history lessons could deter Iranian aggression: "In the end, however, the global revolutionaries in Moscow, the mad autocrats in Pyongyang and the terrorist-supporting military in Pakistan have all been deterred by mutual fears of destruction. While the Iranian regime is often called crazy, it has done much less to merit the term than did a regime such as Mao's China."
posted by kliuless at 1:01 PM on February 29, 2012


Senator Diane Feinstein opposes new Iran resolution. Israeli public opinion seems to be leaning against war. Biden and Clinton both appear think war with Iran is a bad idea. Even McCaffery's report suggests only a 15% chance.
posted by humanfont at 6:32 PM on February 29, 2012


I don't know whether people in the USA are familiar with the British series Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister, but there was one very good bit where they discussed the Politician's Syllogism:
  1. Something must be done.
  2. This is something.
  3. Therefore, it must be done.
I think the push to intervention in Iran - and Syria - and Libya - is firmly based on this very tempting logic. The question of what is to be done afterwards is very hard to contemplate and if you raise it people accuse you of failing to recognise the urgency of Doing Something. But I do recognise it; I just don't know what the Something might be.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:56 PM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Israeli PM demands Obama commit to military action if Iran sanctions fail: Binyamin Netanyahu pressing for explicit threat from US ahead of crucial meeting with Obama next week in Washington
posted by homunculus at 10:55 AM on March 1, 2012


Israel’s Last Chance to Strike Iran

A surprisingly thoughtful article despite the stupid headline. Worth reading.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:36 PM on March 1, 2012


I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don't bluff. I also don't, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say.
posted by Anything at 11:51 AM on March 2, 2012


The incomplete media debate on Iran
posted by homunculus at 11:58 AM on March 2, 2012


sullivan: "Obama has ruled out containment of Iran, the position I take, and never raises the issue of Israel's nuclear weaponry... He maximizes non-military pressure on Iran, holds Israel at bay from unilateral action, and then promises to follow through in a second term by military strike if necessary. There's a chance that the chaos in Syria, the crippling nature of the European-US sanctions, and regime fragility and division in Tehran could lead to a win-win: an Iranian nuclear energy program subject to full and constant international inspection. Why rule that out now prematurely? Why isolate Israel and make Iran a victim and unleash a global terror wave if we can avoid it and still retain a US capacity and pledge to destroy Tehran's alleged nuclear weapons program if necessary? Obama has essentially committed the US to war as a last resort to stop nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. He's said it before. But it's clear he means it."

fallows: "I will say that only twice before in my memory, and maybe thrice in American history, has there been as much carefree talk about war and unprovoked strikes as we've had concerning Iran in recent months, including from candidates other than Ron Paul in the GOP race. The twice in my experience were: during the runup to the invasion of Iraq in 2002, and in the 'bomb 'em back to the stone age' moments of the early Vietnam era."
posted by kliuless at 3:54 PM on March 2, 2012


Joe in Austrailia, where that article lost me was in this paragraph:

After the Osirak attack and the destruction of the Syrian reactor in 2007, the Iraqi and Syrian nuclear programs were never fully resumed. This could be the outcome in Iran, too, if military action is followed by tough sanctions, stricter international inspections and an embargo on the sale of nuclear components to Tehran. Iran, like Iraq and Syria before it, will have to recognize that the precedent for military action has been set, and can be repeated.

This seems to be drawing some dangerous historical parallels. I mean, he hedges his language carefully, but he seems to dismiss the whole 'so we'll be bombing every two years, then' question with not much of substance. I mean, yay outcome in Iraq?
posted by angrycat at 7:43 AM on March 3, 2012


Khamenei Takes Control, Forbids Nuclear Bomb
posted by homunculus at 10:45 AM on March 4, 2012


Obama urges less bluster, more diplomacy in AIPAC speech.
posted by humanfont at 11:18 AM on March 4, 2012


In other news: Iranian Court Overturns American’s Spying Conviction

Previously
posted by homunculus at 12:56 PM on March 5, 2012


As Netanyahu pushes for war, Israel starts to balk: The prime minister has cowed Washington on Iran but he hasn't convinced his own people
posted by homunculus at 11:33 AM on March 6, 2012


Ladies and gentlemen, if it looks like a duck, if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, then what is it? What is it? That's right, it's a duck!

But this duck is a nuclear duck.

posted by Anything at 7:49 AM on March 7, 2012


The End of Ahmadinejad

Unpromising beginning ("Iran is a complicated country") but still worth reading.

And some anonymous people say they totally have pictures of Iran cleaning up a nuclear site before letting IAEA inspectors in, which I guess implies that Ahmadinejad has the hots for Yukiya Amano and wants to move the relationship up a notch.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:27 PM on March 7, 2012


Iran trains female ninjas as potential assassins

I just report.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:25 PM on March 10, 2012


The Spymaster: Meir Dagan on Iran's threat. In a rare interview, ex-chief of Mossad Meir Dagan speaks out against a preemptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities anytime soon.
posted by homunculus at 10:29 AM on March 12, 2012


Six Questions About the Nuclear Crisis in the Middle East

Some good points: Iran never really stopped working on nuclear weapons; Israel probably has nuclear-armed subs that can cruise the Persian Gulf (but where do they reside? surely they can't go through the Suez Canal); if you're not planning a MAD policy it's probably best not to muse about your ability to annihilate the other side while absorbing anything your enemy can throw at you.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:28 PM on March 14, 2012


Oh, they would dock in Eilat. Duh.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:37 PM on March 14, 2012


Swift, the body that handles global banking transactions, says it will cut Iran's banks out of the system on Saturday to enforce sanctions.
...

Almost all banking transactions pass through Belgium-based Swift, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, which is sometimes called the "glue" that holds the financial system together.

Swift will pull the plug at 1600 GMT on Saturday, in what is all but the final blow to Iranian business dealings.
posted by Anything at 12:14 PM on March 15, 2012


Reuters
"This EU decision forces SWIFT to take action," SWIFT Chief Executive Lazaro Campos said.

"Disconnecting banks is an extraordinary and unprecedented step for SWIFT. It is a direct result of international and multilateral action to intensify financial sanctions against Iran."

...

Overseas Iranian businessmen said the move might strangle their operations. One said he had been expecting SWIFT to act in a few months, and was surprised at the news on Thursday.

"It will make life even more difficult for us than before, because this is like our lifeline to the outside being cut," Naser Shaker, who owns an oil and gas trading company in Dubai, told Reuters by phone. "All the transactions will be stopped. Through the banks, there are no more options."
posted by Anything at 12:23 PM on March 15, 2012


U.S. Faces a Tricky Task in Assessment of Data on Iran: Discerning the intentions of Iran’s leaders on the crucial steps to building a nuclear bomb is the most covert aspect of one of the world’s most difficult intelligence collection targets.
posted by homunculus at 3:51 PM on March 17, 2012


Gunboats, Super-Torpedoes, Sea-Bots: U.S. Navy Launches Huge Iran Surge
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:09 PM on March 17, 2012


A high-level advisor to Iran's supreme leader said his country is ready to allow "permanent human monitoring" of its nuclear program in exchange for Western cooperation but also warned Iran is prepared to defend itself against military strikes.
posted by Anything at 2:44 PM on March 18, 2012


AP: JERUSALEM - Despite saber-rattling from Jerusalem, Israeli officials now agree with the U.S. assessment that Tehran has not yet decided on the actual construction of a nuclear bomb, according to senior Israeli government and defense figures.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:31 PM on March 18, 2012


Israelis and Iranians make nice on Facebook.
posted by empath at 7:44 PM on March 18, 2012


From the NY Times: U.S. War Game Sees Perils of Israeli Strike Against Iran

Worth reading, but keep in mind that a "leaked" report like this has obviously been released for political purposes.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:49 PM on March 20, 2012


Nuclear watchdog chief accused of pro-western bias over Iran. Former officials warn of parallels between IAEA approach to Iran and mistakes over Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:17 PM on March 22, 2012


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