Bunker Busters
April 28, 2006 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Is George really planning to nuke Iran? Some physicists are worried and have written a letter to the president voicing their concerns. Others have gone one step further and made a flash animation.
posted by piscatorius (77 comments total)
 
Now that we have Rice questioning the UN's credibility over Iran, I figure some kind of attack is pretty much a done deal. It's sickening, I don't know how that woman can look at herself in the mirror. It reminds me of nothing so much as a bully poking you in the chest and taunting, "what cha gonna do about it baby, huh? Huh?"

Once those bombs start to fall, the last vestiges of the US' reputation goes with them. What an insane government.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:09 AM on April 28, 2006


Pat Buchannan things Congress should impeach him if he tries.
posted by empath at 8:12 AM on April 28, 2006


That's a pretty effective short animation, thanks. (Hated the robotic narration, though - whoever came up with the idea that eliminating all feeling from the human voice is the way to go to make a convincing point needs to rethink.)
posted by mediareport at 8:13 AM on April 28, 2006


Watching the animation made me start to wonder something. Doesn't the US have whole gangs of specially trained people who would love nothing more than to figure out how to get into the country, and then into the bunkers, and then destroy them? Is that just a myth? Is there nothing that can be done against a military installation like this besides bombing?
posted by jon_kill at 8:16 AM on April 28, 2006


Powell and now Rice
I will not cry Uncle Tom
But, I will think it
posted by edgeways at 8:22 AM on April 28, 2006


jon: We could send in Chuck Norris!
posted by empath at 8:28 AM on April 28, 2006


edgeways, I don't see why individual black people shouldn't be murderous right-wing pricks on their own recognisance.
posted by biffa at 8:33 AM on April 28, 2006


Doesn't the US have whole gangs of specially trained people who would love nothing more than to figure out how to get into the country, and then into the bunkers, and then destroy them? Is that just a myth? Is there nothing that can be done against a military installation like this besides bombing?

Explosions look cool on the teevee. Maybe if we're really lucky we can get in in that awesome green-tinted staticy think like the night vision goggles from Jurassic Park. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:39 AM on April 28, 2006


Good Bush Outcome of Nuking Iran: No pesky WMD or nuclear program evidence to be found.
Bad Bush Outcome: Entire Muslim world condemns us as war criminals and solidifies against us.
posted by rzklkng at 8:40 AM on April 28, 2006


And is it really fair to say "some physicists"? There were 1800 of them.
posted by rzklkng at 8:42 AM on April 28, 2006


Powell and now Rice
I will not cry Uncle Tom

But I will post it on Metafilter. What biffra said. Being black has nothing to do with it edgeways.
posted by three blind mice at 8:42 AM on April 28, 2006


And is it really fair to say "some physicists"? There were 1800 of them.

'Thirteen of the nation’s most prominent physicists have written a letter to President Bush.'

'The letter was initiated by Jorge Hirsch, a professor of physics at the University of California , San Diego , who last fall put together a petition signed by more than 1,800 physicists that repudiated new U.S. nuclear weapons policies that include preemptive use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear adversaries.'
posted by Zombie Dreams at 8:54 AM on April 28, 2006


Rice yesterday said to European leaders in Sofia, Bulgaria that the U.S. has "no intent to attack Iran". At least that's what the Dutch Foreign Minister Bot claims she said. [in Dutch, registration req.]

The Washington Post however adds that she said "all options remain on the table".
posted by kika at 8:56 AM on April 28, 2006


Jon: I've known several people in Special Forces, and they're all pretty realistically-minded folks. I certainly don't know whether or not they can genuinely pull something like this off. I'd like to think so, but I also wish the world worked more like it does in comic books.

Regardless, the trick is that we usually want our guys to come home after going on such a raid. Having them die out on such a raid would be a big deal to the US. Having them get caught would be, ironically, even worse.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:05 AM on April 28, 2006


I've been pretty bummed about this since I read Seymour Hersh's April 8 posting in The New Yorker. I really don't see any way to stop BushCo from warring on Iran.
posted by taosbat at 9:07 AM on April 28, 2006


For once I feel the president's pain. Iran is likely violating the NPT and the rest of the world is either too cowardly to call them on it, too protective of their economic ties with the country, or is simply enjoying the prospect of the Americans suffering a foreign policy embarrassment. The long-term ramifications of a nuclear Iran aren't being given much consideration.

An American attack, whether conventional or otherwise, would be a bad idea, and I think the White House recognizes that; otherwise they would have attacked already. While I'm sure that the US could bring Britain and France on board by convincing them that it will attack absent tough UN sanctions, that isn't going to work with Russia and China. They'd both be overjoyed to see the United States stuck in another quagmire.

In other words, there are only two viable options to convince the Iranians to halt their nuclear programs: rigorous and economically painful UN sanctions or an attack. The former seems unlikely. That leaves a choice between attacking and accepting an Iran with nukes. Can the world live with that?

Doesn't the US have whole gangs of specially trained people who would love nothing more than to figure out how to get into the country, and then into the bunkers, and then destroy them?

I think it's less a question of being able to get into the bunkers and destroy them than being able to get out of them again: do we want to send our special forces on what would essentially be a suicide mission, particularly if the Iranians would (rightly) consider it just as much an act of war as they would a bombing?
posted by Makoto at 9:07 AM on April 28, 2006


Wow. There's some really frightening stuff in that animation, the projected path of radiation, for example. Nothing says "Be our ally in combatting extremism" like sending a cloud of poison over your country, right Pakistan? Right Afghanistan? Right! (And that's not even getting into the human tragedy that would play out.)

If this happens, I cannot imagine what it would take for the U.S. to rehabilitate its image. I'm 29 and I don't think such a rehabilitation would be possible in my lifetime. Come to think of it, even if this doesn't happen I can't think of what it would take for the U.S. to rehabilitate its imagine in my lifetime.
posted by veggieboy at 9:08 AM on April 28, 2006


I am of two minds. On the one hand, I think the powers that be are fully capable of this and it fills me with horror and fear. Another part of me thinks this might be a ruse to make a conventional bombing war seem more palatable.

Either way, every day I have the same sinking feeling I had about Iraq for months prior - I think a war with Iran is a fait accommpli. We are just talking degrees of horror.

Scott Ritter: "Well, warlike actions are already taking place. We're not at conventional war yet, but we are violating the sovereignty of Iran in ways that constitute acts of war. So that's why I say we have a state of war. We have a policy of regime change that's in place today. That is a warlike policy."

The Iran war buildup: " ... there is no evidence that President Bush has already made the decision to attack Iran. But there are many indications that planning for such a move is well under way — and if the record of Iraq (and other wars) teaches us anything, it is that such planning, once commenced, is very hard to turn around."
posted by madamjujujive at 9:08 AM on April 28, 2006


Obviously there's a very tricky game of chess going on here. Personally I don't think Bush has any intention of nuking Iran. But I do think he wants Iran to think that he might, and does not dismiss the idea publically. Hence the conflicting statements; Rice saying "We're not going to do that.", Bush saying "All options are on the table."

If Iran thought either statement was the actual truth, they could get aggressive and move on the basis of it. But they don't actually know what we think, which keeps them off guard.

What our administration is actually thinking and planning is nothing you will ever hear anything about in a public statement.
posted by Nicholas West at 9:09 AM on April 28, 2006


"all options remain on the table".

You know, it's kinda sad how the Iranian president has run rings around Dr. Rice, John Bolton, and the rest of the Bush administration when it comes to diplomacy.

This "crisis" is making the blacksmith's son increasingly popular at home while doing nothing to lift the Bush administration out of the low 30 percentile.

Ahmadinejad talks about wiping Israel from the map and plays to an audience outside his own borders. Bush's tough talk hardly plays at home.

Iran has all its options left. The Bush Administration's ham fisted approach to diplomacy is increasingly painting it into a corner of no options at all.

I don't know what everyone else thinks, but as I see it the first half of this game it's been all Iran. Offensive yards, time of possession, penalties... it's all Iran.

One thing's for sure, Condolezza ain't no Henry Kissinger. She may not even be as clever as the feckless Madeline Albright.
posted by three blind mice at 9:17 AM on April 28, 2006


Pat Buchanan's article, posted by empath above, is right on the money as far as I'm concerned.
posted by Nicholas West at 9:20 AM on April 28, 2006


This animation depicts a proposed weapon with a one megaton yield. The funding for this weapon was cut in 2005 defense appropriations. However, the United States still has a B61-11 nuclear 'bunker buster' in its arsenal which has a 340 kiloton yield, which could still cause hundreds of thousands of deaths and spread radiation to other countries.

Why animate a megaton yield weapon when our current capability is 340 kilotons? I'm not saying that the 340 kiloton weapon would be any more effective or advisable, but is someone making a slight misrepresentaiton here?
posted by clearlynuts at 9:22 AM on April 28, 2006


I agree, the only loser here is the US.

From taosbat's link above:

A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was “absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb” if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do “what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,” and “that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.”

Saving Iran? By nuking it?

Also:

The lack of reliable intelligence leaves military planners, given the goal of totally destroying the sites, little choice but to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons. “Every other option, in the view of the nuclear weaponeers, would leave a gap,” the former senior intelligence official said. “ ‘Decisive’ is the key word of the Air Force’s planning. It’s a tough decision. But we made it in Japan.”

Words fail me.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:22 AM on April 28, 2006


For once I feel the president's pain. Iran is likely violating the NPT

He has no such pain, it's a show.

If he felt the pain, why is he cutting deals with non-signatory India when, as NPT signatories, we are not supposed to deal with non-signatory nations in this way?
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:22 AM on April 28, 2006


I'm concerned that too few people are taking this seriously. The consequences of a nuclear strike as an offensive action (which is what this would be) are just too horrible to contemplate. Russia and China are bound to respond in some way and the world could descend rapidly into global conflict where the taboo of using nuclear weapons no longer exsists. Almost nobody I know seems bothered, we should be marching on our capitals and doing everything possible to stop this insane idea ever becoming a reality.
posted by piscatorius at 9:39 AM on April 28, 2006


Just as a side note, for some reason I seem to be sucked into Ultimates 2 from Marvel comics. The basic premise of the runs like this:

The unilateral use of force by the U.S. to disarm an unnamed mid-east country of nuclear material in violation of international law leads to an invasion by a coalition of countries. The political commentary is unfortunately tainted by the portrayal of the U.S. heros as hyper-violent anti-heros, and everyone else as just hyper-violent sociopaths.

sonofsamiam: I don't know what everyone else thinks, but as I see it the first half of this game it's been all Iran. Offensive yards, time of possession, penalties... it's all Iran.

I saw this picture and thought that whoever choreographed this image managed to create some of the most brilliant propaganda of this decade. This will be an image that people will remember for years to come.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:41 AM on April 28, 2006


N.B. that was three blind mice not me.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:43 AM on April 28, 2006


Whoops, sorry bout that.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:51 AM on April 28, 2006


It's really too bad that humans are too stupid and infantile to learn the lessons of war and murder. It's really too bad. Doomed to repeat the same cretinous cycle until we kill ourselves off. What a bunch 'a maroons.

But that's the way it goes. Maybe the next "race" to inhabit this planet, if there is one, will be a little smarter. But it seems that in general, we suck, and deserve what we get. Simple cause and effect.
posted by Nicholas West at 9:53 AM on April 28, 2006


we should be marching on our capitals and doing everything possible to stop this insane idea ever becoming a reality.

This bears repeating. It is up to the people to change the course of action. Once the bomb drops, it's far too late. We have more power than this administration...we just have to use it.
posted by NationalKato at 9:53 AM on April 28, 2006


He has no such pain, it's a show.

What I mean is that Bush genuinely thinks nuclear proliferation in Iran is a Bad Thing--rather than using it to bolster support at home by demonizing the Islamic Republic--and for once he'd like to resolve a crisis diplomatically. Yet there seems to be no diplomatic means of doing so. Of course, the diplomatic isolation of the United States is largely Bush's own making. (And if the military wasn't already tied up in one unpopular, unending war, a conventional attack on Iran might have been a viable option rather than a hollow threat.)

As for the controversial deal with India, I don't know of any provision of the NPT that forbids it. Article I states that signatories will not 'assist, encourage or induce' another state to acquire nuclear weapons, but considering that India already had them, the point seems moot. According to this, the IAEA was in favor of it.

But it seems that in general, we suck, and deserve what we get.

The paradox of electoral politics: none of the qualities that compel a person to strive after power make it likely that they will exercise that power wisely.
posted by Makoto at 9:59 AM on April 28, 2006


Gerard Baker of the Times of London says, Not to worry. I think he overestimates the administration's rationality and underestimates the temptation of going to war as a political expedient.
posted by blucevalo at 10:00 AM on April 28, 2006


makoto: For once I feel the president's pain. Iran is likely violating the NPT...

Oh sure, he's full of pain. After all, if he wasn't allowed to violate the NPT when he wanted, why should Iran get to?

Not that I like anyone having nukes, but the US really doesn't have the moral authority to say who should and shouldn't.
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:02 AM on April 28, 2006


Makoto writes: "The paradox of electoral politics: none of the qualities that compel a person to strive after power make it likely that they will exercise that power wisely."

Precisely and exactly. People who strive for vast power and dominion over entire populations cannot by definition be good people.

Truly good people are practically invisible; people you wouldn't look at twice in the street. Truly good people have two defining characteristics as far as I can see: They help out when really needed, and they leave other people alone and mind their own business when not.
posted by Nicholas West at 10:05 AM on April 28, 2006


Bush genuinely thinks nuclear proliferation in Iran is a Bad Thing--rather than using it to bolster support at home by demonizing the Islamic Republic

Why do you think this? My impression has been that the immediacy of the Iran situation has been almost entirely manufactured, and I can see no reason to step things up unless they are trying to goad Iran into something the way they tried to goad Iraq.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:07 AM on April 28, 2006


The only positive thing I could see about attacking and/or possibly nuking Iran (holy SHIT!) is that it will make the colossal fuckups of the Iraq war simply dissapear from the annals of Bad Horrible Stupid Mistakes that could possibly bring the US to its knees.

It would be like saying "Wait, I didn't quite fuckup the world enough on that last one, lemme get a do-over, I know I can bring about armageddon this time."
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:14 AM on April 28, 2006


I really fucking wish they would take that option off the motherfucking table. I consider myself a calm person. The actions/policies of America are something that strain my patience sometimes, but that people are talking about nuclear bombing even purely as a political tactic sometimes makes me feel like I might become livid with fury. Can't people see that this is exactly the kind of shit that makes even otherwise reasonable, peaceful, unassuming people want to pick up a gun or make an IED? This is, of course, naturally, leaving aside that this swaggering, smirking machismo gets foreign people killed by the thousands.

I wish people would recognise that politics is filled with monsters, and stop voting for them.

*spit*
posted by Drexen at 10:21 AM on April 28, 2006


What really pains my heart is that the US was, all things considered, viewed as a force of "good" and hope in the world until say, 4 years ago.

That's all gone. All gone. The world now sees us as an incredibly dangerous bully, and we are making more enemies than we ever had in our entire history. Most of the world, and that includes the people of Britain, Tony Blair notwithstanding, would like to kick our ass big time.

If we nuke anyone, that's it. WE might be considered, by China for example, as an intolerably dangerous presence in the world, precisely as we claimed to view Iraq before the war, and they, or a coalition of countries, might consider it necessary to try to take us out.

If that happens, you can forget about Tivo and Brangelina.
posted by Nicholas West at 10:21 AM on April 28, 2006


You couldn’t send SF in there without good intel. Also you couldn’t bust up that much infrastructure (such that Iran couldn’t recover and restart their program) that fast (such that Iran couldn’t prohibitively fortify the installations or change the locations) with just SF teams.
If there was internal chaos - say like in the Soviet Union before the fall - and you had the logistics and the gonads you could do it. But you lose surprise and stealth without that internal distraction. Speed isn’t enough by itself.

Also, not that I’m a Bushco fan, but I think the article makes a fair point here:
“There is continuity in US Middle East war plans, from the Democrats to the Republicans. The essential features of Neoconservative discourse were already in place under the Clinton administration. US Central Command's (USCENTCOM) theater strategy in the mid-1990s was geared towards securing, from an economic and military standpoint, control over Middle East oil:
"The broad national security interests and objectives expressed in the President's National Security Strategy (NSS) and the Chairman's National Military Strategy (NMS) form the foundation of the United States Central Command's theater strategy. The NSS directs implementation of a strategy of dual containment of the rogue states of Iraq and Iran as long as those states pose a threat to U.S. interests, to other states in the region, and to their own citizens. Dual containment is designed to maintain the balance of power in the region without depending on either Iraq or Iran. USCENTCOM's theater strategy is interest-based and threat-focused. The purpose of U.S. engagement, as espoused in the NSS, is to protect the United States' vital interest in the region - uninterrupted, secure U.S./Allied access to Gulf oil.”


We’ve got the muscle, they’ve got the goods. Pretty much set in stone there. I don’t have to like it any more than anyone else here, but that writing has been on the wall for some time. They’ve got all the oil. We’ve got all the guns. It’s like a large guy in an alley dressed in all black with a little old lady and her big purse about to walk by.

I think Chossudovsky' is dead on here:
“The "war on terrorism" and the hate campaign directed against Muslims, which has gained impetus in recent months, bears a direct relationship to the "Battle for Middle East Oil".  How best to conquer these vast oil reserves located in countries inhabited by Muslims?  Build a political consensus against Muslim countries, describe them as "uncivilized",  denigrate their culture and religion, implement ethnic profiling against Muslims in Western countries, foster hatred and racism against the inhabitants of the oil producing countries.”

That said one strategic problem, besides the oil, of the coming century is going to be - what to do with upstart nuclear powers?

I think at some point the nuclear powers will make it a policy to destroy anyone who seems to be getting close.
The argument from their POV (stability, security, etc.) will be tautological, but unquestionable since it is backed by undeniable force.

Bit of a gordian knot for me. I don’t see a way around it except instability, which seems to me far more dangerous. Doesn’t mean I have to like the situation though.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:41 AM on April 28, 2006


Uh so they say that a bunker buster wouldn't be effective and then they show a cloud of radiation blanketing the area with a sizeable "combat impairment" zone? How is that not effective.
posted by geoff. at 10:49 AM on April 28, 2006


It's not effective at busting the bunkers, geoff. That's the original target.
posted by NationalKato at 10:56 AM on April 28, 2006


I've tuned out of national news since just slightly before this Iran thing started going around. From that perspective, it seems absolutely ridiculous, like "Are you kidding me?? Ha ha ha." I wish somehow we could make the idea go away by having all smart people refuse to even discuss it and just laugh every time it comes up.

Maybe laughing it down would work -- all the protesting and whatnot I did for the Iraq war didn't do much good.
posted by salvia at 11:06 AM on April 28, 2006


The flash animation is good, but why do they have to make the vastly overinflated claim of 1 million deaths?

I might be wrong of course, but a think 1 million deaths is closer to the number for a 1 megaton airburst over the centre of a large city.

The facts alone demonstrate how obscene the notion of using nuclear weapons is, we don't need the embellishment.
posted by Chuckles at 11:15 AM on April 28, 2006


Chuckles, are you including deaths caused by long-term sickness or cancer-related illness?
posted by NationalKato at 11:22 AM on April 28, 2006


"we should be marching on our capitals and doing everything possible to stop this insane idea ever becoming a reality.

This bears repeating. It is up to the people to change the course of action. Once the bomb drops, it's far too late. We have more power than this administration...we just have to use it."

Unfortunately, millions of people "marched" last time. EVERYTHING POSSIBLE is the question... what is that? Marching won't do. They attacked Iraq without a second thought. Sure, his approval is in the 30s now, but what's that matter to a bullheaded zealot like that?

I'm not as outraged as I was during Katrina, but damned if the bomb does fall there will be some smashing going on... Until then, however, there just seems to be a lot of smoke, and I'm not too worried. Which I think, is why there won't be marches until AFTER the fact, and the left better get it's head out of it's ass and stop acting like a few little protests will save the world. It's gonna take a lot more than that.

Secondly, this post has brought up an interesting question brad hicks had polled in his livejournal (sorry for linking LJ, I hope that's not a violation of MeFi etiquette), where he asks: Your primary ideological opponents, are they primarily based around philosophy, stupidity, ignorance and malevolence. He means that in regards to the leadership and not the people that follow the orders...

So... What about that?

And goddamnit are you ready to stand up against nuclear power if it comes raining down on innocent people? Because I am...
posted by symbioid at 11:24 AM on April 28, 2006


[cries]
posted by orange swan at 11:30 AM on April 28, 2006


Bizarre, what happened there? For the record, I did not post anything but "[cries]" in my previous comment. For some reason my comment has been attached to symbiod's.
posted by orange swan at 11:32 AM on April 28, 2006


The Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP) depicted in the Flash video has been effectively criticized as being ineffective as a "single strike" weapon for "bunker busting." Congress has cut research funding for the publicly identifiable portion of research for such a new weapon.

In contrast, a 1995 GAO report [PDF file linked] summarized effectiveness of the tactical cruise missiles which were the last weapons used in an attack against a nuclear weapons production facility in Iraq. It concluded that such weapons were highly effective, and laid out programs for further improving the range and lethality of successor weapons, most of which recommendations can now be taken as having been completed. In addition, the number and types of U.S. ships capable of delivering cruise missiles to targets in Iran are much, much greater than they were at the time of that report. And long range bombers maintained by the U.S. have always retained a capability for nuclear attack by both conventionally delivered bombs, and by stand-off attack using nuclear capable cruise missiles.

It is true that the targets of the Iranian nuclear materials production program being discussed by pundits are thought to be an order of magnitude, or more, "harder" than those destroyed in the raids on the Iraqi facilities discussed in the above GAO report. Some have suggested that successive waves of attack by nuclear equipped cruise missiles could achieve greater damage to hardened targets than single strike weapons, while offering greater possibility for interim damage assessment, and refined targeting, or that such targets could be successfully attacked by combinations of conventional, electromagnetic pulse, and nuclear type weapons, all of which the U.S. possesses, and can deliver, from inventory.

The critical problem for both the U.S. and Iran at this point is the same, in my mind, as that faced by the U.S. and the former Soviet Union back in 1962, at the time of the Cuban missile crisis. Once nuclear weapons are seriously considered in the diplomatic and military planning of potential belligerents, both sides become involved in a scorpion's dance from which it is difficult to disengage without risking greater injury during a stand down. Add to this problems we have seen with fog-of-war issues, and uncertainties in intelligence gathering, and it is clear that the U.S. and Iran are now, clearly, circling in the beginning steps of a deadly dance. Most analysts agree that the peaceful resolution of the 1962 crisis was as much a matter of luck and personal fortitude by the leadership of the belligerents, as it was of game theory and developed policy operations.

I, for one, am much less sanguine about the intelligence and character of either side's leadership in the current situation, as I was, even as a child, in 1962. To me, this situation seems to have a much greater likelihood of disastrous outcome than was present, even in that terrifying time, more than 40 years ago. And what I remember of that era, was the drawn and worried faces of every adult I saw, and the transistor radios that were suddenly on, everywhere, all the time.
posted by paulsc at 11:40 AM on April 28, 2006


I really hope nobody uses any nuclear weapons. By the way, mediareport, I thought the robotic narration was admirable, stating the facts in that stark manner made the presentation very striking and effective, i thought the narration was perfect.
posted by mokey at 11:58 AM on April 28, 2006


That's a pretty effective short animation, thanks. (Hated the robotic narration, though - whoever came up with the idea that eliminating all feeling from the human voice is the way to go to make a convincing point needs to rethink.)

Eh, I like the narration. How would you have had it done? It makes it seem more matter of factual.

---

Anyway, I just don't see an Iran attack in the near future. I mean I didn't see the Iraq war in the near future either, it wasn't until like November or something it really hit me that we were seriously going to war.

However, at the time the presidents men were really out there promoting the concept, it was totally obvious.

That's not happening now, as far as I can tell. I mean, yeah the admin is complaining about Iran, but they're really not taking the steps needed to convince the public that imminent war is necessary.

Yeah, rice is saying that we're not going to take the military option off the table and we shouldn't.

This whole thing seems like a bunch of liberal paranoia, but it never hurts to be vigilant.
posted by delmoi at 12:00 PM on April 28, 2006


"What really pains my heart is that the US was, all things considered, viewed as a force of "good" and hope in the world until say, 4 years ago.

That's all gone. All gone. The world now sees us as an incredibly dangerous bully, and we are making more enemies than we ever had in our entire history. Most of the world, and that includes the people of Britain, Tony Blair notwithstanding, would like to kick our ass big time." - Nicholas West


Nicholas, have you come to this conclusion after carefully surveying the entire world, or merely absorbing a few too many sermons from the choir bleachers?
posted by Tubes at 12:41 PM on April 28, 2006


free link to 3bm's article
posted by delmoi at 12:46 PM on April 28, 2006


paulsc: Once nuclear weapons are seriously considered in the diplomatic and military planning of potential belligerents, both sides become involved in a scorpion's dance from which it is difficult to disengage without risking greater injury during a stand down.

Decision makers get caught up with measuring difference and marginal advantage, which makes the notion of disengagement hard, but there is nothing technically hard about it. Further, viewed from a distance it is almost always the right strategy. It is just hard for inflated egos to take the loss of face..

delmoi: Anyway, I just don't see an Iran attack in the near future. I mean I didn't see the Iraq war in the near future either, it wasn't until like November or something it really hit me that we were seriously going to war.
...
it never hurts to be vigilant.


Consider that in some sense the Iraq war really got started in August of 2002.. The six months of cajoling afterwards was just propaganda. And back to paulsc's point, one of the truly awful things about that period of propaganda was all the 'pundits' who argued that it is hard to stop an invasion once mobilization is underway - basically trying to convince people that they didn't have a say, but in a truly insidious way, rather than the infantile 'if your not with us your against us'..

It has been suggested that US and British special forces have been operational in Iran for six months or more now.
In Basra on September 19, British troops clashed with Iraqi police and Shi'ite militia, who had ironically welcomed the toppling of Saddam two years ago. The police had arrested two British undercover commandos who possessed suspicious bomb-making materials. British troops launched an armored raid on the jail to free their agents, fighting the same Iraqi police they had earlier trained. Iraqis had thought it strange that British agents would be caught with the types of bombs associated with insurgents attacking "Coalition" troops, and some assumed that the agents were trying to pit Iraqi religious groups against each other.

Yet at the same time, bombs were going off across the border in Khuzestan. In June, a series of car bombings in Ahvaz (75 miles from Basra) killed 6 people. In August, Iran arrested a group of Arab separatist rebels, and accused them of links to British intelligence in Basra. In September, explosions hit Khuzestani cities, halting crude oil transfers from onshore wells. On October 15, two major bomb explosions in an Ahvaz market killed 4 and injured 95. A November 3 analysis in Asia Times blames Iraqi Sunni insurgents for the bombings.


NationalKato: are you including deaths caused by long-term sickness or cancer-related illness?

I'm not including or excluding anything in particular, I wouldn't have the knowledge or tools to do it if I wanted to.. I'm not even sure they were including long term radiation effects because they said 30 million more people would be exposed to fallout..

It is important to remember that the fallout from a nuclear weapon is highly variable, from a relatively clean fission-fusion bomb, to a normally dirty fission bomb, a very dirty fission-fussion-fission bomb and finally an extraordinarily dirty fission-fussion-cobalt bomb (nuclear weapons FAQ).

Finally, the fallout from chernobyl is said to have been 400 times worse than the relatively dirty 15kT bomb used on Hiroshima.

So.. That is the information I have, and I think it suggests that 1 million deaths in total (including long term effects) is a vastly overinflated number.
posted by Chuckles at 12:51 PM on April 28, 2006


Tubes, yes of course, I concede that I have not polled the whole world as to its opinion and that was a pretty unrealistic generalization.

However, the general gestalt I'm picking up from reading the world press and hearing all the talk from my European friends is that the US now has a critically damaged image and we are generally being either laughed at, feared, hated or any combination thereof, including by a large demographic of our own people. In particular, hatred of the US is a very fast-growing crop these days; to the point where the State Dept is now dispersing image experts across the globe to battle the perception of the "ugly American".
posted by Nicholas West at 1:00 PM on April 28, 2006


Many other Iran related MetaFilter posts linked here: Keep an Eye on Khuzestan.
posted by Chuckles at 1:03 PM on April 28, 2006


What scares me is that we might get the notion that limited exchanges are viable military options in ongoing engagements.
That sort of thing can escalate really quickly.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:04 PM on April 28, 2006


Just watched the animation.....gee, I don't find that guy's voice robotic at all.

Just serious and matter of fact. The voice of a professional narrator...the kind of voice you heard on high school educational films.

Thought it was a good choice, rather than someone trying to put an emotional spin on it.
posted by Nicholas West at 1:24 PM on April 28, 2006


To me, this situation seems to have a much greater likelihood of disastrous outcome than was present, even in that terrifying time, more than 40 years ago.

Hmmm. No. The stakes are very high and the strategic consquences grave but the outcome is not likely to be so terminal could have been in 1962. That was a civilization ending crisis. When BOTH sides had thousands of nukes pointing at eachother. In terms of an all out US v Iran war - and nukes are involved - the deaths will likely be decidedly onesided.
posted by tkchrist at 1:48 PM on April 28, 2006


The idea of using nukes against these Iranian sites is so absurd that's it's obviously intended to generate international hysteria. Or hysterical laughter from the Iranian regime.

I think our entire International diplomacy strategy relies on our adversaries buying this premise "HOLY SHIT! Bush is so crazy he just might do it!"

Everyday Bush is painting himself more and more like a James Bond SuperVillian. For fuck sake. Next he will be doing his SOU in a stark-white Nehru suit petting an albino cat.
posted by tkchrist at 1:59 PM on April 28, 2006


clearlynuts: Why animate a megaton yield weapon when our current capability is 340 kilotons?

The narrator says something like "...in this simulation, based on a model developed by the Pentagon..."

It could be that the only available data / estimates / models are for a 1 MT bomb. Or it could be that the guys who put the Flash thing together didn't know that 1 MT was out of the picture when they did it. That is to say, there are non-malicious possibilities.

I found this to be eye-opening because I had assumed a nuclear "bunker buster" would be a really small bomb that penetrated far underground before detonating, posing little risk to the general populace. This idea - dropping much-bigger-than-Hiroshima bombs on a country that hasn't attacked us at all - is unspeakable, immoral, and un-Christian. And stupid to boot.
posted by Western Infidels at 2:33 PM on April 28, 2006


Some background:
Iran is, in accordance with the NPT, entitled to develop civilian nuclear power. There is, as of now, no actual evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.
posted by spazzm at 4:26 PM on April 28, 2006


important to remember that the fallout from a nuclear weapon is highly variable, from a relatively clean fission-fusion bomb, to a normally dirty fission bomb, a very dirty fission-fussion-fission bomb and finally an extraordinarily dirty fission-fussion-cobalt bomb

Also very important is where the weapon detonates. A "kissing" airburst (where the fireball just touches the ground) generates the least.

A short penetration underground before exploding generates the most, since you activate all that dirt, then fling it high into the atmosphere.

So. Drop that 3400kT penetrator on the right place, at the right time, with the right winds, and a large city is covered in a very active fallout plume.

For the record, both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were airbursts, exploding about 1800' above the ground. Airbursts were chosen to both increase the damage from blast effects, while reducing fallout.
posted by eriko at 4:48 PM on April 28, 2006


Uh so they say that a bunker buster wouldn't be effective and then they show a cloud of radiation blanketing the area with a sizeable "combat impairment" zone? How is that not effective.

No one is saying nukes don't work to kill troups! Obviously they would.
posted by delmoi at 4:49 PM on April 28, 2006


Ultimately the limit of what this Administration is willing to do is limited only by the citizens reluctance to become involved.

Given how plainly transparent the Administration now operates, and yet how utterly complacent and inactionable the US public remains, I do not hold much hope for Iran. Or, for that matter, our collective future.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:16 PM on April 28, 2006


"Combat Impairment" means impairment of our troops if they invade and have to operate in that area after the blast, which would require special protective suits and breathing gear.
posted by zoogleplex at 5:31 PM on April 28, 2006


Oh, this is rich! The Bush administration is questioning someone else's credibility.
posted by spazzm at 5:51 PM on April 28, 2006


"...The stakes are very high and the strategic consequences grave but the outcome is not likely to be so terminal could have been in 1962. ..."
posted by tkchrist at 4:48 PM EST on April 28 [!]


There are several reasons I think the current situation is fraught with more danger than the 1962 standoff:

1) MAD is not assumed by the U.S. In fact, a preemptive U.S. strike is more likely precisely because the U.S. does not believe Iran has retaliatory capability.

2) Without MAD, U.S. planning and operational models get significant internal advancement from many sources that are not publicly discussed. As an example, you can bet that individual crew member selection profiles for nuclear capable crews are currently being individually updated under DoD Directive 5210.42, "NUCLEAR WEAPON PERSONNEL RELIABILITY PROGRAM (PRP)" in order to prioritize personnel selections for attack missions. Career personnel with high reliability for execution of offensive first strike missions are being moved into operational positions by transfer as needed. Mission training profiles for long duration overflight missions by U.S. based strategic assets are being updated, and where possible, test flown.

In short, you do stuff to get ready to throw a haymaker, that you wouldn't, if either you aren't going to throw it, or if you think the other side will quickly pick up on you shifting your feet a bit for a little extra leverage, and throw one of its own. Once you've cocked for throwing a big punch, it's a lot more likely you'll let it fly.

3) For nations that feel a constant pressure of threat, a feeling of inevitability can set in, and even a desire to get the worst over can develop. This can result in rounds of what seem counter-productive goading, yet such goading on both sides comes to serve seemingly sane parties, who argue that it will be better to face the inevitable sooner than later, before the other side becomes better prepared with additional time.

4) As a doctrine, MAD was founded on upon rationalist game theory, and to date it is the only nuclear strike prevention doctrine that is historically known to have worked in practice. It worked, more than once, because each side could act in its own self interest, by assuming the other side would act in a mirror imaged, but equally rationale way. At crucial instances, human intervention for system failures was entirely predicated upon the feeling by individuals that their command counterparts were continuing to act rationally, and would not launch a strike because of MAD. Moreover, because both sides recognized the value and power of MAD, destabilizing strategic initiatives were not employed by either side extensively to attempt to break parity; essentially, MAD came to protect all parties, more than it threatened any of them.

MAD is out the window here. Neither the U.S. or Iran believe that the other party will act predictably, or rationally in extreme instances. Neither side sees a mutually protective policy stance developing that is tenable. Both believe, at some level, the other side is continuing to seek advantage, and increase its threat capability.

5) In trying to maintain the element of operational surprise in the period leading up to an attack against Iran, U.S. military commanders have to manipulate intelligence in ways that are tricky to maintain, and that can easily be misinterpreted by allies and third parties in the region. Some aging Russian missile attack systems might not react well to an unannounced attack of cruise missiles from the south, or launches of submarine based Trident missiles against hardened Iranian targets. In a large series of operations, other nuclear states may lose visibility of threats to their own interests, or misidentify U.S. attacks against Iran (or Iranian retaliations of even non-nuclear types) as threats to themselves.

Operationally, the U.S. can not absolutely count on other nuclear powers to sit by idly while it secretly attacks Iran. Escalation beyond a two-party conflict is far greater likelihood in this situation than it ever was in 1962.
posted by paulsc at 6:08 PM on April 28, 2006


"Escalation beyond a two-party conflict is far greater likelihood in this situation than it ever was in 1962."

paulsc, precisely my thought. Iran itself shouldn't be who we fear if strikes, particularly nukular, are launched against it. It's the other nuclear powers that would consider us a definitive threat.
posted by melt away at 6:43 PM on April 28, 2006


Ah, I can see the banner headline in 40 point type now:

"PHYSICISTS WORRIED, LETTER WRITTEN"

Followed by

"Jolie/Pitt baby to be born in Africa" in tiny little 4 point type.



Or maybe the other way 'round.
posted by Jos Bleau at 7:21 PM on April 28, 2006


How many of you would have different opinion if Iran attacked Israel, and/or the US first? As in a US carrier fleet in the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, or Arabian Sea; and/or US airbases in Iraq and Afghanistan? This is the more traditional American approach, waiting until fired upon, no matter how effectively.

On to more practical matters. The Iranians have only one major threat weapon, their missiles, SHAHAB-3 and 4; and those provided recently from China, Russia and North Korea. This means if there are ways to check these weapons, Iran is utterly vulnerable to conventional air attack.

For its part, Israel has completed its Arrow anti-ballistic missile system, which may reduce vulnerability to all but the most advanced Iranian missiles. US theater layered ballistic missile defenses exist, but have not been clearly enunciated.

A B-2 stealth bomber carries over 100 independantly-GPS-targetted 250 lb. iron bombs. This means a single aircraft could wipe out the assets of an entire Division.

The US also has three of its top Divisions in Iraq, and a heavy armor Brigade in Kuwait, precluding a predicted advance by the Iranian army into southern Iraq to keep the US ground forces bogged down there.

We now have converted two ballistic missile submarines to each carry 154 conventional Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Strategically, even the destruction of Iran's nuclear facilities will not be enough in the long term. Only the solution of partitioning Iran will deny them the assets they need to rebuild their programme.

In the northwest, Kurdish Iran will be added to greater Kurdistan, which may propel Kurdistan to become independant from Iraq. Iraq would get the southwestern Arab region and the majority of Iran's oil production. Iranian Baluchistan would become part of Pakistan. Finally, we have even had discussions with Azerbaijan about the possibility of their absorbing Iranian Azeri lands.

This latter is very important, as Azerbaijan is a very weak country, and could only hope to keep those Iranian lands if the Iranian military and Revolutionary Guard were utterly annihilated. A very real military possibility.

This would leave Persia with little oil revenue, possibly a destroyed infrastructure, and with little else they would need to re-start a nuclear weapons program in less than 20-50 years.
posted by kablam at 8:33 PM on April 28, 2006


Escalation beyond a two-party conflict is far greater likelihood in this situation than it ever was in 1962.

Yes. A nuclear attack on Iran scare Russia, and is a direct economic attack on China. China, in particular, isn't going to react nicely. At best, they destroy our economy by supporting the closing of the Straits of Hormuz, while putting a fire-sale on our debt. This make the dollar worthless, enabling China to buy what oil is still on the market.

At worst, we all die when it escalates into a big slugging match between two countries with ICBMs and thermonuclear weapons.

What I'm hoping for is a treaty similar to the US-Canada defense treaty between China and Iran, which puts MAD back into play. Of course, given that Rumsfeld is stupid and Bush is apparently trying to bring the apocalypse on, that might not help.
posted by eriko at 8:38 PM on April 28, 2006


kablam, first strike/nuclear first use issues don't really come into the most troubling discussions of conflict with Iran, as far as I can see. The moral clarity the U.S. would have in retaliating to an Iranian attack provocation is sorely lacking in the current discussions. And making the whole thing still more murky is the refusal of the White House to take the nuclear first use option off the table, and in fact, to define the strategic goal of eliminating Iranian nuclear materials processing facilities in such a way as to almost require use of nuclear weapons to do it, practically.

"... The Iranians have only one major threat weapon, their missiles, SHAHAB-3 and 4; and those provided recently from China, Russia and North Korea. This means if there are ways to check these weapons, Iran is utterly vulnerable to conventional air attack. ..."
posted by kablam at 11:33 PM EST on April 28 [!]


Perhaps this conclusion is true, perhaps it is not. Frankly, I think we are so blind in terms of intelligence regarding Iranian military capacities, that I think we can't entirely discount the possibility that Iran already has, perhaps, a small number of low yeild nuclear weapons of Russian, Korean or Chinese vintage, which they may attempt to get into the U.S. mainland by commercial trade exploits. Even if they have only 1 or 2 low yeild gun type weapons, if they demonstrate an ability to strike targets on American soil, the political calculus of any conflict changes sharply.

"... What I'm hoping for is a treaty similar to the US-Canada defense treaty between China and Iran, which puts MAD back into play. ..."
posted by eriko at 11:38 PM EST on April 28 [!]


Would that such a straightforward path to MAD parity existed, eriko, but I don't think U.S. planners see Chinese nukes as a significant enough deterrent to invoke MAD doctrine, any time in the near future, and certianly not as a factor in this situation.
posted by paulsc at 9:45 PM on April 28, 2006


Iranian Ambassador to the U.N. Javad Zarif Defends His Country's Ambitions
RAY SUAREZ: Earlier today at the White House, President Bush said that he, his government, and the world don't want Iran to have even the knowledge of how to make a nuclear weapon. If your program continues at its current pace, will you end up with that knowledge?

JAVAD ZARIF: Well, I do not know what President Bush is talking about. Iran has the knowledge to enrich uranium; we do not want the knowledge to build nuclear weapons; Iran is opposed to nuclear weapons, and we have made that extremely clear.

On the other hand, the president is not in a position to set criteria or guidelines for other countries. There are a body of international rules and norms. I know that the United States has no affinity to international law, but there is a body of international law which defines what constitutes legal activity in the framework of the Nonproliferation Treaty and what constitutes illegal activity. And Iran has been within its legal bounds.

RAY SUAREZ: Is there a legitimate concern on the part of the United Nations that a member state that has a head of government who has called for the wiping off the face of the Earth of another member state, that it should be worried about their having a nuclear program?

JAVAD ZARIF: Well, let's separate the two issues. First of all, as I have repeatedly pointed out, the Iranian nuclear program is a development program, is an energy program. It has nothing to do with security; it is a legal program.

If you want to deal with the other issue, we have never threatened to use force against any other country. Our history, in the past 250 years, we have not attacked any other country.

We have been the subject of invasion; we have been the subject of aggression; we have been the subject of use of chemical weapons. But we have defended ourselves, but we never resorted to use of chemical weapons, even in retaliation. So our record is very clear.

On the other hand, unfortunately, Israel has a record of aggression against its neighbors, has a known nuclear stockpile, is not a member of any international instrument.

The question that needs to be asked is whether Israel and the United States are prepared to make the same statement that Iran has repeatedly made, and that is: We have not and will not attack or threaten to attack another country.

I wonder whether this statement can be made either by President Bush or any Israeli official.
Mark Shields and David Brooks Discuss Iran's Nuclear Program
JIM LEHRER: How do you see it, David?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, they're winning.

JIM LEHRER: You think Iran is winning?

DAVID BROOKS: Iran is winning. I mean, that's why they've ramped up the rhetoric, because this is a good battle for them. It raises their profile domestically, stirs up some national sentiment, raises up their profile with the Arab world, because they are standing down the United States.

We've offer carrots and no sticks. We're having a real tough time getting any sort of coalition together; they're marching along. And, you know, we can't stop them.

JIM LEHRER: What do you make of the ambassador? He said it three or four times. He said: Hey, look, if they just turn down the rhetoric and take the pressure off, we don't want to have a bomb. We don't want to have much problem. Leave us alone, everything will just be fine. We'll bring in the inspectors, and everything will be hunky-dory.

DAVID BROOKS: Right. Well, I think it's completely untrue. But I was struck that he used this theme, "Let's not have a confrontational attitude."

JIM LEHRER: Exactly.

DAVID BROOKS: And I wonder what that theme is all about. Maybe it's the idea and playing to the idea in the United States that most of us don't want a confrontation, especially with Iraq going on. There is a tremendous desire not to get into another confrontation, so I think it plays well here. It's untrue, though.

MARK SHIELDS: I'm not an Iran-ologist. Are there Iran-ologists? I guess there probably are.

JIM LEHRER: Sounds good to me, Mark.

MARK SHIELDS: But I thought it was particularly deft of him, actually, this part, I have to be honest, was he said: We make a pledge not to invade or any hostile act against another country. Will the United States or Israel do the same?

Well, the United States invaded Iraq, and Israel attacked Iraq. And I just wonder if this was an overture to their colleagues in Iraq, I mean, as a way of saying, "Hey, you know, we're not going after you. They're the other guys that have gone after you, these two fellows. Do you want to be on their side?"

DAVID BROOKS: Also completely untrue, by the way. I mean, they fund Hezbollah and everybody else who's bombing people all around the world. They've bombed people in Paris themselves.

JIM LEHRER: And there was, of course, a report today that Iran is the number-one state sponsor of terrorism in the world.
also see, report says iraq becoming terrorist safe haven: "The State Department's annual terrorism report finds that Iraq has become a safe haven for terrorists and has attracted a 'foreign fighter pipeline' linked to terrorist plots, cells and attacks throughout the world." and btw, 9/11 movie sparks media debate :P

cheers!
posted by kliuless at 9:51 PM on April 28, 2006


I see the US now as a giant United Flight 93.

And I fantasize about the American collective Todd Beamer giving a big "LET'S ROLL" and we rush the White House Cockpit Door, all 250 million of us (or whatever it is) and shoulder it down and grab the controls out of the hands of these psychos (while also knocking them unconcious and cuffing them) before we auger in at 580 mph.

'Cause that's what this situation is like. Bushco has unquestionably hijacked this country. Those planes on 9/11 were a symbolic manifestation of what was about to happen to the United States, at the hands of our own leadership.

I certainly hope I'm being way overdramatic. But sometimes I don't think so.
posted by Nicholas West at 10:30 PM on April 28, 2006


I see the US now as a giant United Flight 93.

Your contribution is dead one, West.
posted by NewBornHippy at 12:33 AM on April 29, 2006


"Your contribution is dead one, West."

Er...what does that mean, NewBornHippy?
posted by Nicholas West at 8:58 AM on April 29, 2006


This means if there are ways to check these weapons, Iran is utterly vulnerable to conventional air attack.

Russia is selling 29 TOR M1 mobile surface-to-air missile systems, despite a US appeal to break the $700 million deal. The missiles are scheduled to be deployed by early September.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:18 AM on April 29, 2006


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