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February 11, 2007 12:49 PM   Subscribe

One more time? It looks like the case against Iran has begun publicly. Unfortunately, this seems eerily familiar. Unnamed officials with unverified claims are holding press conferences - on a Sunday, no less. Is this an attempt to explain our difficulties in Iraq or a prelude to retaliation with Iran? Worrisome, or not?
posted by Benny Andajetz (145 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not.
posted by keswick at 12:50 PM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Hidden War with Iran

"[George Bush's advisors] intend to be as provocative as possible and make the Iranians do something [America] would be forced to retaliate for," says Hillary Mann, the administration's former National Security Council director for Iran and Persian Gulf Affairs....A second Navy carrier group is steaming toward the Persian Gulf, and Newsweek has learned that a third carrier will likely follow. Iran shot off a few missiles in those same tense waters last week, in a highly publicized test. With Americans and Iranians jousting on the chaotic battleground of Iraq, the chances of a small incident's spiraling into a crisis are higher than they've been in years.
posted by empath at 12:51 PM on February 11, 2007


I can't believe the NY Times is falling for this bullshit AGAIN.

People should be screaming LIARS LIARS LIARS at the top of their lungs about this.
posted by empath at 12:52 PM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Juan Cole rips those reports to shreds.

The vast majority of American casualties have been caused by Sunni insurgents, who are being funded and supplied by Saudi Arabia, not Iran.
posted by empath at 12:58 PM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Reiterating: Remember the Maine!
posted by taosbat at 1:00 PM on February 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


Target Iran: US able to strike in the spring

"Colonel Sam Gardiner, a former air force officer who has carried out war games with Iran as the target, supported the view that planning for an air strike was under way: "Gates said there is no planning for war. We know this is not true. He possibly meant there is no plan for an immediate strike. It was sloppy wording.

"All the moves being made over the last few weeks are consistent with what you would do if you were going to do an air strike. We have to throw away the notion the US could not do it because it is too tied up in Iraq. It is an air operation."

posted by madamjujujive at 1:02 PM on February 11, 2007


Rather than use the term "falling for this bullshit again," I would say that the NY Times is one of the prime movers behind the bullshit. "Falling for it" seems to imply that they are passive and innocent recipients of propaganda rather than active disseminators of it.
posted by blucevalo at 1:03 PM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Eerily familiar?" I would say "horrifically familiar," as though we were having the same nightmare about plunging off a cliff one night after another.

I use this particular example because I've heard the Bush administration's situation compared to the climax of the film "Thelma and Louise." It seems apt enough, except that when George "Thelma" Bush and Dick "Louise" Cheney drive the U.S. off of the precipice into their canyon of ultimate destruction, they'll be taking all of us with them.

Isn't it clear that our leaders are insane? Isn't it time we impeach, indict, convict, and permanently incarcerate them? Even if there isn't an actual law about destroying the reputation and safety of this country -- not to mention its economy -- shouldn't transparently, psychotically irresponsible action be enough for the people of this country to march on Washington, D.C. and demand an end to the madness?
posted by bshock at 1:04 PM on February 11, 2007


This central front in the war on terror could be much more profitable if the US cornered the market on exporting arms to the insurgents.
posted by peeedro at 1:04 PM on February 11, 2007


What I want to know is where the Democratic presidential candidates are on this? None of them seem to want to get out in front on this.
posted by empath at 1:05 PM on February 11, 2007


Spot the logic flaw: "Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Is Made by Iran, U.S. Says". Hmm.

Would the American people really be willing to go to war over some IEDs? That's utterly idiotic. Iran is making insurgent attacks more deadly, so the answer is to attack a whole other country? There is no way that would result in a lower morbidity rate for US troups.

Oh well, G.W. Bush is determined to destroy as much of this country as possible. Lets see if Peloci has the thatchers to stop this.

Although frankly, they can pressconfrence all they want to, people are never going to support a war with Iran.
posted by delmoi at 1:05 PM on February 11, 2007


They'll always support a war. The people are stupid.
posted by empath at 1:08 PM on February 11, 2007


Firstly, is anybody even surprised by this? Everybody in that region knows what Iran, and Syria are doing. The fact that it is finally coming out in North American media just shows how piss-poor of a job the media, government, and western individual has done in covering, justifying, drawing attention to the Iraq war.

In terms of watching the Bush administration, it's a lot like watching a car accident, a horrendous 6 year long car-accident. One stupidity after another made possible by their absolute arrogance and criminal war-profiteering.

There is no easy way out for those poor americans, and the are still way too powerful to admit defeat. Of course the biggest tragedy is not that of the noble American soldier, but that of the Iraqi people, which even the holier-than-thou-democrats don't give a shit about.
posted by ryanfou at 1:08 PM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


The selective declassification of information that the administration wants to use to support its aims can be used to tell any story it likes. They've been playing this game for a long time.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:08 PM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


So much for "saber rattling." This administration clearly wants to leave as a big a mess as possible. The Dems just can not stay silent over this.
posted by maryh at 1:08 PM on February 11, 2007


err, I believe the metaphor is train-wreck, not car accident, my apologies
posted by ryanfou at 1:09 PM on February 11, 2007



Spot the logic flaw: "Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Is Made by Iran, U.S. Says". Hmm.


Yeah, going by that logic, in 2003 they should have invaded France, Brazil, and the former Soviet Union.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:13 PM on February 11, 2007


Pushing this shit most prominently is Michael "Aluminum Tubes" Gordon, on the New York Times front page.

The man who typed wolf.

Fucking shame on him and the NYT.
posted by Anything at 1:15 PM on February 11, 2007


"Unnamed officials with unverified claims are holding press conferences - on a Sunday, no less."

Government officials publicly profaning the Lord's Day? So much for the U.S.A. being a Christian country!
posted by davy at 1:16 PM on February 11, 2007


just wanted to repeat this

Rather than use the term "falling for this bullshit again," I would say that the NY Times is one of the prime movers behind the bullshit. "Falling for it" seems to imply that they are passive and innocent recipients of propaganda rather than active disseminators of it.
posted by cell divide at 1:22 PM on February 11, 2007


Does it really fucking matter if the 'people' support the war or not? This is the administration and president who, facing ruinous approval ratings (in the 20s, I think), asked us to support their decisions on the war that's already gone wrong. And has been going wrong. For years.
posted by ninjew at 1:31 PM on February 11, 2007


Even if bomb components do come from Iran, this doesn't mean that the Iranian government has anything to do with their supply.
Most of the handguns used in Toronto street crime are smuggled from the US; is anybody going to suggest that the US government is actively supplying Canadian criminals with handguns?
posted by Flashman at 1:31 PM on February 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


You know what I'm getting royally sick of?

This:

The Times-"The officials, who insisted on anonymity as a condition of the briefing..."

The Herald- "The experts, who spoke to a large gathering of reporters on condition that they not be further identified..."

At least the Post seems to feel they need to explain why-

The Post- "The officials said they would speak only on the condition of anonymity so the trio's explosives expert and analyst, who would normally not speak to reporters, could provide more information. The analyst's exact job description was not revealed to reporters. Reporters' cell phones were taken before the briefing, and the officials did not allow reporters to record or videotape the proceedings."

It's flippin' government by Kafka. If your guy can't be identified because of security stuff, you have him brief a briefer who CAN be identified, so you associate yourself with the statement. But NOOO!

I mean, if there's anything an "explosives expert and analyst" can tell you that some flack can't, aren't the odds good that it's going to be the sort of thing that he can't talk about anyway? Anonymous or not?
posted by Trochanter at 1:36 PM on February 11, 2007


Firstly, is anybody even surprised by this? Everybody in that region knows what Iran, and Syria are doing.

Yes, but do you see any "officials" calling out Syria or Saudia Arabia? No. As crazy as it may seem, my gut tells me Iran was the end game all along. Iraq just turned out to be a little more difficult than we planned.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:36 PM on February 11, 2007


Someone commented on the Juan Cole post that the numbers are not wrong because while they claim "significant portions", they claim only "under 25%".

So it's an unfalsifiable shock factor they've tweaked as high as they can get away with.

From what I gathered, the only "evidence" that the public can judge for itself is that these things are supposedly so sophisticated that they can only be built in Iran. I call bullshit.
posted by Anything at 1:37 PM on February 11, 2007


He still needs congressional approval to attack Iran, right? I don't see the current congress standing behind the prez on another foray in the middle east.
posted by knave at 1:37 PM on February 11, 2007


..and with Iranian government support, no less.
posted by Anything at 1:38 PM on February 11, 2007


"Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Is Made by Iran, U.S. Says"
I wasn't aware that the United States military purchases its munitions from Iran. I think we should think about not doing that.
posted by Flunkie at 1:39 PM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


flashman, but missiles, rpgs, etc are different from handguns (which have civilian uses hence the private sector industry). Iranian arms companies are state-run, not private sector.
posted by ryanfou at 1:41 PM on February 11, 2007


Even if bomb components do come from Iran, this doesn't mean that the Iranian government has anything to do with their supply.
Most of the handguns used in Toronto street crime are smuggled from the US; is anybody going to suggest that the US government is actively supplying Canadian criminals with handguns?


This is utterly silly, and will remain so until the handguns that are smuggled from the U.S. are used to attack CFBs and similar targets around the country.
posted by oaf at 1:46 PM on February 11, 2007


American weaponry is used in every conflict everywhere in the world. By that rationale, every country on earth has cassus belli with the United States.
posted by empath at 1:54 PM on February 11, 2007


my gut tells me Iran was the end game all along. Iraq just turned out to be a little more difficult than we planned.

All anyone needed to do was look at a map. After we had Afghanistan, and once we were in Iraq, was there any doubt that W would be tempted into Iran?

Isn't this Game ever going to end?
posted by dilettante at 1:56 PM on February 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


"Real Men Go To Tehran"
posted by empath at 1:59 PM on February 11, 2007


The perverse genius of this propaganda offensive is that it relies on Americans not knowing the difference between Shia and Sunni, which they definitely don't. There is evidence that Bush himself didn't know there were two competing groups in Iraq until last year.

And that the WP and NYT, who _do_ know how silly this is, carry the story straight anyway is appalling. But not surprising.
posted by words1 at 2:08 PM on February 11, 2007


With all due respect, the NY Times does not endorse this or use it as proof of anything bujt rather they are presenting what they consider news given them by the govezrnmenbt. They note with care that those presentying etc are anonymous and wish to remain so. It is thus up to the reader to decide if this is just further bullshit designed by Bush to get us into yet another war. This news item is NOT an editorial and the paper would be not doing its journaloistic duty if they sorted through everything that has to do with possibloe news and decided what they would and would not print because they thought it nonsense or a lie or not convincing.The comments thus far are a clear indeication that readers can detect and decide that this seems but another attempt by our president to go to war again. If all such items werez kept from the public, we would find ourselves in a war and wonderwhat got us into it. Read. Decide. and then let the powers that be--your congressmen--know how you feel
posted by Postroad at 2:09 PM on February 11, 2007


OK, where are the quotes from skeptical sources, such as Juan Cole, a recognized expert in the field?
posted by words1 at 2:11 PM on February 11, 2007


Bearing in mind diplomacy's lack of success, what alternatives to carrier-group sabre-rattling do the preceding 36 commenters see?

That's not a snarky comment — I'd be genuinely interested in what strategy other Mefites propose to avoid a nuclear-armed Iran.
posted by matthewr at 2:17 PM on February 11, 2007


Last month, U.S. officials in Baghdad put out word that they were planning a press conference in which they would make public intelligence substantiating Iranian involvement in stoking violence against U.S. forces. However, the presentation was indefinitely postponed, apparently because U.S. agencies could not agree on what information should be made public. Stephen Hadley, the White House national-security adviser, publicly acknowledged last week administration concerns about the material in the proposed briefing, telling reporters: "The truth is, quite frankly, we thought the briefing overstated. And we sent it back to get it narrowed and focused on the facts."

Even among U.S. intelligence agencies, there are disagreements over the significance and extent of Iranian involvement in stirring up trouble in Iraq. The latest U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq, whose principal findings were made public by the administration last week, states that because sectarian antagonisms among Iraqis themselves are so intense and "self-sustaining," Iranian or Syrian involvement is "not likely to be a major driver of violence."

The NIE is also known to contain three "dissents" in which one or more of the 16 agencies who contributed to the document state their disagreements with the estimate's majority finding. NEWSWEEK has been informed that one dissent relates to Iranian involvement in Iraq and Iranian dealings with Al Qaeda, though further details remain classified.

Another classified dissent relates to disagreements among U.S. agencies over how deeply the government of Syria is involved in protecting, encouraging or supporting Iraqi insurgents. Some analysts believe the Syrian government is actively supporting the insurgency, while others believe Syrian president Bashar Assad is a weak leader who may not have full control over what goes on in his country.

The third classified dissent in the NIE relates to disagreements among U.S. agencies over the role of the remnants of Saddam's Baath Party in driving violence in Iraq. The argument is over whether the Baath Party itself is still capable of directing violence, or if attacks are being carried out by individuals who happen to be Baathist. The fact that U.S. agencies disagree among themselves on these subjects only complicates the dilemma the Bush administration faces in trying to make their case about Iran.
Terror Watch: Doubts About Iran Intel
posted by y2karl at 2:17 PM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Benny,
When I was a kid I allways thought the line was
"She had electric boobs."
posted by MapGuy at 2:17 PM on February 11, 2007


She did.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:21 PM on February 11, 2007


last time i watched, there were an awful lot of american weapons in iraq.
posted by Substrata at 2:39 PM on February 11, 2007


He still needs congressional approval to attack Iran, right?

Nope. He's the Commander In Chief of the United States of America, and if he gives an order, it will be obeyed. Hell, he can order Minutemen ICBM nuclear missiles to be launched at any time. And I don't think that there's a darn thing that Pelosi can do to stop him. Now I'm not saying that he definitely will do that - but he could.

How's that grab all you prog-dem-libs?
posted by davidmsc at 2:42 PM on February 11, 2007


While I'm not thrilled with the Times' coverage of the story, it's unfair to say they're simply presenting the Administration line:
Today’s presentation of evidence is bound to generate skepticism among those suspicious that the Bush administration is trying to find a scapegoat for its problems in Iraq and, some political analysts and White House critics believe, is looking for an excuse to attack Iran.
That's a hell of a lot more balance than they provided last time around.

I wasn't aware that the United States military purchases its munitions from Iran.


OK, that gave me a chuckle.
posted by languagehat at 2:43 PM on February 11, 2007


He still needs congressional approval to attack Iran, right? I don't see the current congress standing behind the prez on another foray in the middle east.

BIDEN :“Do you think the president has the authority to invade Iran tomorrow without getting permission from the people, from the United States Congress, absent him being able to show there's an immediate threat to our national security?”

ALITO: “Well, that's a question that I don't think is settled by -- the whole issue of the extent of the president's authority to authorize the use of military force without congressional approval has been the subject of a lot of debate.
The president has the power of the commander in chief. And I think there's been general agreement and the Prize cases support the authority of the president to take military action on his own in the case of an emergency when there is not time for Congress to react.
posted by Huplescat at 2:44 PM on February 11, 2007


You know I read that in a magazine.
posted by MapGuy at 2:45 PM on February 11, 2007


He still needs congressional approval to attack Iran, right?

all he needs is a telephone and a bottle of jack daniels
posted by pyramid termite at 2:46 PM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


How's that grab all you prog-dem-libs?

Psychotic, perhaps?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:56 PM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Bearing in mind diplomacy's lack of success, what alternatives to carrier-group sabre-rattling do the preceding 36 commenters see?

How can you say diplomacy hasn't worked, when it hasn't even been tried? And how exactly do you think bombing Iran now would stop their weapons program?
posted by delmoi at 2:59 PM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Although frankly, they can pressconfrence all they want to, people are never going to support a war with Iran.

I don't think it matters if the public supports it or not. Bush things he is doing the right thing and that history will redeem him. He can also say he is going for broke, it's not like his poll numbers are going to rise if he doesn't go into Iran.

Also, remember that this is something that has been pushed hardest by the pro-Israel lobby since some in Israel fear a second Holocaust (although many Israel policy analysts say that the threat is being overstated on purpose in order to create fear and motivate action.) The Israeli public overwhelmingly supports attacks on Iran.
posted by bhouston at 3:29 PM on February 11, 2007


They don't need to go to war, they just need to keep Americans scared enough to justify what they are doing (stealing your money).
posted by furtive at 3:30 PM on February 11, 2007


Real Men Go To Tehran

I was trying to find the origin [?] of that quote, which I thought was "Wimps go to Baghdad, real men go to Tehran." Google said "Did you mean to search for: 'wmds go to Baghdad, real men go to Tehran'"

He's the Commander In Chief of the United States of America...How's that grab all you prog-dem-libs?

As either mistaken or misleading, depending on your level of ignorance about the Constitution. "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States."
posted by kirkaracha at 3:36 PM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


How can you say diplomacy hasn't worked, when it hasn't even been tried?

What about Britain, France and Germany's negotiations? They broke down, with little progress made. I doubt America is any better at negotiating with hardline Middle-Eastern countries than Europe is.

I'm hardly 100% confident that American military posturing will persuade the Iranians to abandon their nuclear weapons programme (and neither is the administration, by the sound of things). But, really, what better ideas are you, or anybody else, putting forward?
posted by matthewr at 3:38 PM on February 11, 2007


matthewr wrote "Bearing in mind diplomacy's lack of success, what alternatives to carrier-group sabre-rattling do the preceding 36 commenters see? I'd be genuinely interested in what strategy other Mefites propose to avoid a nuclear-armed Iran."

Is a nuclear Iran the end of the world? Unlikely. Iran has been motivated in part to acquire nuclear weapons because of the threat the US poses to it and its nature resources. Iran is unlikely to use a nuclear weapon preemptively as MAD is likely to be as effective in the Middle East now as it was during the cold war years. It's also not about democracy because as you'll remember Iran has one of the more functional democracies in the region, especially compared to US allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

It is better to understand current events through the perspective of the US and Israel trying to maintain regional hegemony and to prevent the rise of an Iran that has a sphere of influence in the region.
posted by bhouston at 3:39 PM on February 11, 2007


Didn't most of the materials used in IED's come from ammunition dumps abandoned by the Iraqi army in 2003....and looted by whoever as American troops stood by?

This NYT reporting is pretty atrocious. And the worst thing is, there is no pragmatic reason to go to war with Iran. At least Iraq had oil to control. But attack Iran and who knows what could happen.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:40 PM on February 11, 2007


KokuRyu wrote: "And the worst thing is, there is no pragmatic reason to go to war with Iran."

There are some reasons. Israel and the US want to maintain regional hegemony, in other words, they want to maintain the current balance of power that tilts in their favor.

KokuRyu wrote: "At least Iraq had oil to control."

Iran has a lot of oil, but that would only be a factor if there was an invasion, which is unlikely. It is likely to be a series of air attacks if it happens.
posted by bhouston at 3:43 PM on February 11, 2007


bhouston: Iran has been motivated in part to acquire nuclear weapons because of the threat the US poses

Sure, but that's got nothing to do with whether or not we ought to let them acquire nuclear weapons.

Iran is unlikely to use a nuclear weapon preemptively

But how confident can anyone ever be about the 'unlikely'? It's better for the West to try to act now to halt Iran's nuclear programme than to end up having to conduct foreign policy in the Mid-East with a nuclear Sword of Damocles, in Iran's unstable hands.

Israel and the US want to maintain regional hegemony

Sure. And that's a perfectly good reason for stopping Iran's nuclear ambitions. It's hardly in the West's best interests for anyone else to have 'regional hegemony'.
posted by matthewr at 3:53 PM on February 11, 2007


I just finished watching my local news, and it went just like I suspected. They covered this topic, but never mentioned the sources' anonymity or opposing experts' views. This is a military town, and they even drove the "seriousness" home by showing the names and pictures of local servicemen who died from IED injuries.

So much for full disclosure.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:53 PM on February 11, 2007


But, really, what better ideas are you, or anybody else, putting forward?

here's my better idea - do nothing ... that's right, do nothing

we can't stop every little podunk country in the world from getting nukes ... especially when we have them ... especially when we have already demonstrated our willingness to invade countries before we attack them and other countries reckon the only way to stop that nonsense is to have a nuke or two ... especially when the country we want to stop can put a chokehold on a good part of the world's oil supply and make life a living hell for 120,000 of our troops

forget armies ... forget all the jets and military toys, including bunker nukes ... iran has us beat in a major war before we've even fired a shot

logistics, regional knowledge, sympathy of the populace and their weapons overseeing part of our supply chain ... that's all the superiority they need

bush is foolishly trying to "teach them a lesson" without a) being seen as the aggressor b) having it blow up into a major conflict ... he's trying to provoke them into doing something that he can use as an excuse to bomb their nuke programs ... and the iranians are trying to push us as far as they can without starting a war

someone's going to miscalulate and then all hell will break loose
posted by pyramid termite at 3:53 PM on February 11, 2007


we can't stop every little podunk country in the world from getting nukes ... especially when we have them

Why does the fact that the US has nuclear weapons mean we should sit idly by and let virulently anti-Western, anti-Israeli countries obtain them? International politics isn't some playground game, where 'George and Tony have nukes so why can't Mahmoud have them too?'

someone's going to miscalulate and then all hell will break loose

Perhaps. If, in the future, Iran 'miscalculates', I'd really very much rather they didn't have nuclear weapons at their fingertips.
posted by matthewr at 4:00 PM on February 11, 2007


Why does the fact that the US has nuclear weapons mean we should sit idly by and let virulently anti-Western, anti-Israeli countries obtain them?

what's more important ... getting rid of the weapons or ideology?

If, in the future, Iran 'miscalculates', I'd really very much rather they didn't have nuclear weapons at their fingertips.

they will only be allowed to miscalculate with nuclear weapons once
posted by pyramid termite at 4:09 PM on February 11, 2007


This is pretty disturbing. I hope people and the congress will respond differently than they did in 02/03, if the administration indicates it's interested in doing anything military against Iran. I'd like to think that they will.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 4:11 PM on February 11, 2007


posted by KokuRyu there is no pragmatic reason to go to war with Iran.

There was no pragmatic reason to go to war with Iraq, either. Pragmatism has very little to do with the wars we decide to wage.
posted by fandango_matt at 4:11 PM on February 11, 2007


what's more important ... getting rid of the weapons or ideology?

Not sure what you mean here, but I don't think ideology has, or should have, much to do with it. Clearly preventing the nuclear weapons programmes of anti-Western states is more of a priority than those of pro-Western states. That's pragmatism, not ideology.
posted by matthewr at 4:15 PM on February 11, 2007


And as for the chilling "they will only be allowed to miscalculate with nuclear weapons once", once is one too many, donncha think?
posted by matthewr at 4:16 PM on February 11, 2007


it's pragmatism, only if you can actually do it ... we couldn't do it with pakistan ... we haven't done it with north korea ... and unless we want a major war that will throw the world for a loop, we can't do it with iran

THAT'S pragmatism

once is one too many, donncha think?

yes ... but the iranians may not think so ... rest assured that other countries afterwards will
posted by pyramid termite at 4:19 PM on February 11, 2007


kirkaracha, WTF?
posted by davidmsc at 4:24 PM on February 11, 2007


Given that a nuclear Iran seems like a really spectacularly Bad Thing, surely we should be doing everything we can to prevent this, while we still can. Comparisons with North Korea are not entirely relevant, since Iran has strong regional enemies (Israel, unlike the relatively weak South Korea) and no major power as a backer (unlike North Korea's support from China).

yes ... but the iranians may not think so

Again, I'm not following the train of thought here ... the fact that Iran could one day use nuclear weapons seems to be an argument for doing something to prevent this from happening.
posted by matthewr at 4:33 PM on February 11, 2007


matthewr wrote: "And as for the chilling 'they will only be allowed to miscalculate with nuclear weapons once', once is one too many, donncha think?"

That is the case with all nuclear nations. Including the US which almost did miscalculate badly with Cuba back in the day. I seem to remember the US pulling out of a bunch of international nuclear disarmament agreements.

Matthewr is just playing rhetorical games on a sea of shifting rationals and double standards.
posted by bhouston at 4:39 PM on February 11, 2007


...Iran's Recourse

IN THIS atmosphere of building tension, Iran is not going to sit idly by and wait for America to crush it. Tehran has nearly achieved the installation of a friendly government on its western border. While U.S. bases in Iraq could potentially be used to infiltrate Iran with spies and commandos and, more importantly, to support and launch air strikes, those bases are vulnerable politically, not to mention logistically. The supply lines of food, water, fuel and bullets to U.S. bases run from Kuwait to the north and through the Iraqi Shi'a heartland. Iranian intelligence agencies have given Iraqi Shi'a massive support since the U.S. invasion. The Shi'a are well organized and control the country through which U.S. supplies are moved. Islamic militants loyal to the likes of Ali al-Sistani and Moqtada al-Sadr could easily cut vital supply lines.

Iran can also play the oil card. If Iran were attacked, Iran could half its oil exports and thereby immediately impact the global price. It would be unwise to hope that Iran, as part of its national security plan, is not willing to shut down Persian Gulf oil exports. Iran is well equipped to shower Persian Gulf states and oil fields with missiles, or to shut down exports with a variety of other military, terrorist or political methods. At a minimum, a U.S. military air campaign, even if successful in wrecking the Iranian nuclear program, would severely disrupt oil markets for at least six months. Such a disruption would hurt the world economy, not just that of the United States. In addition, there are countries sympathetic to Iran, such as Venezuela, that have indicated they are more than willing to cut off their oil supply to the United States. The United States could find itself facing a 20-30 percent shortfall in oil imports (and that estimate assumes that the Saudi fields are untouched and that oil imports continue to flow unimpeded).

Finally, Iran can play the global terror card. Unlike Al-Qaeda, groups tied directly to Iran continue to have robust capabilities and could cause a lot of trouble over the short term. Hizballah in particular has a significant presence in South America. U.S. commercial and transportation assets there would certainly be targeted, further inflicting damage to the U.S. economy.

The latter point raises an even more intriguing question--what would the Chinese do? They hold a substantial amount of U.S. debt. What happens if they decide to find some other currency to hold instead of the dollar? This could add an entirely new and dangerous dimension to an attack on Iran. Put simply, the United States spends too much and saves too little, and Asia saves too much and spends too little. The Chinese would view a disruption in the flow of oil out of the Persian Gulf as a damaging blow to the U.S. economy. Although the dollar traditionally has been the currency people seek during a crisis, the growing imbalance with China creates new dynamics that could convince the Chinese that holding dollars no longer made economic sense. Under such a scenario, dumping dollars on the international market would trigger an inflationary spiral in the United States.

The scenario of an inflationary spike triggered by China's dumping of dollars may strike some as fanciful. The point for U.S. planners and policymakers, though, is to recognize that war brings unintended consequences that go well beyond the tactical realities on the ground where the fighting occurs. At a minimum, we should contemplate how a pre-emptive military strike in Iran could harm other U.S. foreign policy interests.
Comtemplating The Ifs
posted by y2karl at 4:42 PM on February 11, 2007


A senior Foreign Office source said: "Monday's meeting will set out to address the consequences for Britain in the event of an attack against Iran. The CDS [chiefs of defence staff] will want to know what the impact will be on British interests in Iraq and Afghanistan which both border Iran. The CDS will then brief the Prime Minister and the Cabinet on their conclusions in the next few days.

"If Iran makes another strategic mistake, such as ignoring demands by the UN or future resolutions, then the thinking among the chiefs is that military action could be taken to bring an end to the crisis. The belief in some areas of Whitehall is that an attack is now all but inevitable.
Government in secret talks about strike against Iran
posted by y2karl at 4:46 PM on February 11, 2007


matthewr has another great gem here: "Clearly preventing the nuclear weapons programmes of anti-Western states is more of a priority than those of pro-Western states."

Someone should read the history of Iran to understand why it is the way it is. (Hint: The Shah and the deposition of the elected government by the West because of oil and the backlashes) Also, the US treated the Iranian reformers when they were in power like shit, which in part resulted in their replacement by the electorate with more hardline leaders who could stand up to the US. It's call making enemies so one can smite them. You have no grasp on the actual history of the Middle East, you are just spouting off simplistic rhetoric.
posted by bhouston at 4:47 PM on February 11, 2007


Iran has strong regional enemies (Israel, unlike the relatively weak South Korea) and no major power as a backer (unlike North Korea's support from China).

i guess you missed putin's little speech the other day ... he didn't come right out and say it ... but it was pretty much a veiled warning to the u s to not do anything with iran

Matthewr is just playing rhetorical games on a sea of shifting rationals and double standards.

what he is doing is ignoring the likelihood that his course of action will start a major war that we may not win

he needs to address that if he wants to continue this discussion ... he can start by looking over y2karl's link
posted by pyramid termite at 4:49 PM on February 11, 2007


Nope. He's the Commander In Chief of the United States of America, and if he gives an order, it will be obeyed. Hell, he can order Minutemen ICBM nuclear missiles to be launched at any time. And I don't think that there's a darn thing that Pelosi can do to stop him. Now I'm not saying that he definitely will do that - but he could.

How's that grab all you prog-dem-libs?


Davidmsc: I'll tell you how it grabs this conservative-leaning independent: It's treasonous, plain and simple--a violation of the constitutional separation of powers, and a dangerous betrayal of America's most fundamental founding principles.

The President is only commander in chief so long as congress explicitly grants him those powers through a formal declaration of war. Since the Iraq war was concluded successfully a long time ago, according to the President's own public statements, the administration currently has no legal authority to begin military operations in Iran--even if we're attacked.

There's a good reason the executive branch's powers are constitutionally limited--hell, the POTUS wasn't even given the power to create law under the constitution: Because the founders didn't want another goddamn King George running the show. Looks like we've got another one on our hands now anyway.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:53 PM on February 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


bhouston: [The possibility of miscalculation] is the case with all nuclear nations.

Which is another great argument for not letting more countries have nuclear weapons, especially unstable ones prone to sudden regime change.

As for the accusation of double standards (by which I assume you mean the idea that it's OK for the US/Britain/France to have nuclear weapons while preventing Iran from obtaining them), I guess my reply is 'so what?'.

Why should the fact that a foreign policy is hypocritical be a significant argument against it? Of course, if in a particular case hypocrisy incenses America's enemies and spurs them on to damage American interests in the long run, then it ought to be avoided. But only because it harms American interests, not because there's anything inherently bad about foreign policy hypocrisy. We live in a world where foreign policy is conducted, everywhere and at all times, in the national interest.

Again, it's not some childish game where the fact that we have nuclear weapons means we should let everyone else have them.

In the long term, the world is a safer place with a hypocritical American foreign policy than with a nuclear-armed Iran. I know which choice I would go for, and I suspect when it comes down to it everyone else would follow suit.
posted by matthewr at 5:02 PM on February 11, 2007


how about we stay out of it? Because we can't afford it.
posted by Miles Long at 5:06 PM on February 11, 2007


matthewr, you're not addressing the issue of what the consequences could be of military action against iran ... you're evading it
posted by pyramid termite at 5:06 PM on February 11, 2007


Advocates of an air assault tend to take comfort in the proposition that the destruction of a major portion of Iran's nuclear establishment would set back acquisition of weapons by many years. When asked what to do when Iran picks up the pieces and starts over again, they echo the argument of General Curtis LeMay, who advocated the preventive destruction of China's industry in the early 1960s. When Ambassador Averell Harriman asked LeMay what the United States should do when China rebuilt its capability, he said, "Hit 'em again."

Political, diplomatic and military obstacles to taking action in Iran have been well recognized. Strategists who think of themselves as stalwart, steely-eyed and far-seeing regard these obstacles as challenges to be simply overcome or disregarded in order to do what is necessary, even if it is less than a perfect solution. But if bombing known nuclear sites were to mean that Tehran could only produce a dozen weapons in 15 years rather than, say, two dozen in ten years, would the value of the delay outweigh the high costs? The costs would not be just political and diplomatic, but strategic as well. Provoking further alienation of non-Western governments and Islamic populations around the world would undermine the global War on Terror. Inflaming Iranian nationalism would turn a populace that is currently divided in its attitudes toward the West into a united front against the United States. Rage within Tehran's government would probably trigger retaliation via more state-sponsored terrorist actions by Hizballah or other Iranian agents.

The military option that is possible would be ineffective, while the one that would be effective is not possible. The military action that would work--an invasion of Iran--cannot be done, since America's volunteer army has already reached the breaking point in handling missions less challenging than subduing Iran would be. The only means of definitively preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons would be occupying the country forever. This would ensure that the regime we install remains compliant with American judgments about what the country does or does not need for its own security in a dangerous neighborhood. One might note in passing that there is no reason to assume that the reformed Iraqi government the United States is struggling to stand up will not revive a nuclear weapons program if U.S. forces were ever to allow it genuine independence.
The Osirak Fallacy
posted by y2karl at 5:07 PM on February 11, 2007


It's funny that all this talk of "explosively formed penetrators" sounds a lot like the krakatoa (scroll down) weapon featured on the terrible Future Weapons program Discovery is running right now.

When I saw this last week, I remember thinking that this would be an excellent tool for asymmetrical warfare, mainly because pretty much anyone can build it out of very simple materials.

Can't see how anyone could use it to knock down a helicopter, though.

As far as the question of who is most likely to use an atomic or nuclear weapon goes, I tend to look at who has used them before.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:10 PM on February 11, 2007


especially unstable ones prone to sudden regime change.

oh, please ... they're unstable because they didn't like having an american puppet as their dictator?
posted by pyramid termite at 5:11 PM on February 11, 2007


The only means of definitively preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons would be occupying the country forever.

That needs highlighting as well as

One might note in passing that there is no reason to assume that the reformed Iraqi government the United States is struggling to stand up will not revive a nuclear weapons program if U.S. forces were ever to allow it genuine independence.
posted by y2karl at 5:12 PM on February 11, 2007


In the long term, the world is a safer place with a hypocritical American foreign policy than with a nuclear-armed Iran. I know which choice I would go for, and I suspect when it comes down to it everyone else would follow suit.

You silver-tongued devil, you!

Too bad Iran is still many, many years away from having a viable nuclear weapons program (so why the sudden crisis?) and there's not a shred of solid evidence to dispute Iranian leaderships' claims that Iran is pursuing Nuclear technology for peaceful applications. The mere fact that you're about to accuse me of naivety does nothing to change the fact that Iran has been overall a stabilizing force in the region, and Iran hasn't shown even the slightest trace of having expansionist ambitions since the revolution. In other words, there's not really a single good reason (apart from the usual BS about how you just can't trust a country founded by dangerous revolutionaries--which might well be a good point, considering our recent track record as a revolutionary nation ourselves) to see Iran as posing anything more than a threat to US economic interests in the region.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:13 PM on February 11, 2007


bhouston, sure, it's to a large degree America's fault that Iran is the way it is; I don't debate that.

But the question is what do we about Iran now?

That fact that it's all the West's fault doesn't mean we should let Iran get nuclear weapons as some sort of bizarre penance.

I'm all for learning lessons from past incompetence, and it's quite possible that Iran's collapse into extremism should teach us to take a longer-term perspective. But when an extremist state with nuclear weapons is the inevitable outcome of inaction, I think spending more time doing something about it and less time fannying about with moral dilemmas is in order.
posted by matthewr at 5:14 PM on February 11, 2007


But the question is what do we about Iran now?

now how the hell can you answer that question without looking at the possible consequences? ... furthermore, why the hell aren't you?
posted by pyramid termite at 5:18 PM on February 11, 2007


matthewr wrote: "I'm all for learning lessons from past incompetence, and it's quite possible that Iran's collapse into extremism should teach us to take a longer-term perspective."

What are you talking about? Iran's leader is pretty fucked, no doubt about it, but he doesn't wield power like George W Bush and the country itself is not that extreme. I honestly don't think you know what you are talking about.

matthewr wrote: "I think spending more time doing something about it and less time fannying about with moral dilemmas is in order."

Heh, it is obvious you want an attack. I don't think an attack is necessary, although the US can continue to try and provoke and make up a reason for one. You think that Iran is likely to use its nuclear arsenal, while I don't and I think I am justified. India and Pakistan both have nuclear weapons, and Pakistan's populous is significantly more radical than Iran's.

I think you've made up your mind, but it doesn't make sense on the surface, or you are panicking so much that you aren't thinking it through, thus I can only infer you are reasoning from deeper unstated reasons.
posted by bhouston at 5:22 PM on February 11, 2007


I'm not being some uber-hawk and saying we should go around invading everyone. I refer you to my first comment:
Bearing in mind diplomacy's lack of success, what alternatives to carrier-group sabre-rattling do the preceding 36 commenters see?

That's not a snarky comment — I'd be genuinely interested in what strategy other Mefites propose to avoid a nuclear-armed Iran.
I can't take seriously the view that a nuclear Iran is somehow a good thing, or something that we shouldn't worry about. The comments preceding mine all seem to be along the lines of OMG BUSH SENDING ANOTHER CARRIER TOWARD IRAN IS THE WORST THING EVAR.

It may turn out that the cost of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is greater than the benefit. But that's far from clear at the moment. Applying military, economic and diplomatic pressure to Iran in the hope of stopping their programme seems entirely sensible (by military pressure I mean creating a credible threat, in order to influence Iranian policy, not necessarily actually acting on that threat). I'm not saying that we ought to prevent Iranian nuclear weapons at all costs, just that we should continue to work to prevent it up until the point at which the costs outweigh the very significant benefits.

Again, what strategy do you propose to avoid a nuclear Iran?
posted by matthewr at 5:28 PM on February 11, 2007


Why does the fact that the US has nuclear weapons mean we should sit idly by and let virulently anti-Western, anti-Israeli countries obtain them?

Whose job is it exactly to stop these virulent countries from infecting the world? Not mine, that's for sure. Why'd we let Pakistan, China, and North Korea go ahead and build nuclear bombs? Shouldn't someone have told them they can't do that? Maybe dropping some bombs on them will help convince them that bombs are no fun, but then again maybe not. Maybe posting comments on the internet will help: People of the world, I tell you, stop building nuclear weapons, they are bad for your health. In reality, the only way to stop the number of states with nuclear weapons from slowly growing is to stop war itself. (Or, just to consider all the possibilities, detonate some of those bombs and put an end to the technological civilization that can produce them. But that, as A Canticle for Leibowitz tells us, is only a temporary solution.) Anyway, going to war to stop Iran building nukes would not be clever long-term thinking, it would be a stupid short-sighted distraction from the real problems the world faces. Seems to me pretty likely that the lesson other states would take is not that building nukes is a bad idea, but that having them probably would've saved Iran. Or maybe something about North Korea would be a more relevant consideration. Anyway, yeah, Iran having nukes would be bad, probably almost as bad as Israel, France, and China having them. Someone really ought to do something about it. Personally, I'd prefer something that has a chance of working.

Again, what strategy do you propose to avoid a nuclear Iran?

Granted, it's a lot easier to shoot down proposals than to think them up. I suspect that any strategy agreeable to me would further the goal of eventually reducing the total number of states that have nuclear weapons by more than one.
posted by sfenders at 5:36 PM on February 11, 2007


matthewr: "Again, what strategy do you propose to avoid a nuclear Iran?"

A nuclear Iran is not the end of the world, or even that horrible, unless you are primarily interested in maintaining the status quo with regards to the regional balance of power. This isn't about threats of megadeath but trying to prevent changes in the regional balance of power in a region that is very strategically important to the US because of its massive dependence on foreign sources of oil and very important to Israel, which wields lots of influence on US foreign policy formation, because Israel is situated in the region and relies on a dominant military stance in order for security and to avoid having to make real peace with its neighbors.
posted by bhouston at 5:38 PM on February 11, 2007


bhouston: When I said "I'm all for learning lessons from past incompetence" what I meant was that I agreed with you that the myopic US foreign policy led to the current situation of an Iran that's very hostile to America and the West in general. We ought to learn lessons from that and, if faced with a similar situation to that of Iran in the 60s and 70s, we should do better.

The fact that our incompetence in the 70s led to today's mess doesn't mean that we should do nothing to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

You think that Iran is likely to use its nuclear arsenal

No, I don't, and you'll notice I've never said that. I said, here, that one can never be entirely confident that a country will not use its nuclear weapons, and, given that, preventing said country from obtaining nuclear weapons makes more sense than letting them get them and just hoping. Similarly, I don't think a post-Cold War Russia will use its nuclear arsenal against America. That doesn't mean I'm OK with Russia having nuclear weapons — even if you don't think they'll be used, wouldn't you rather Russia and Iran didn't have nuclear weapons in the first place, which would remove the doubt.
posted by matthewr at 5:41 PM on February 11, 2007


what strategy do you propose to avoid a nuclear Iran?

If the U.S. is looking out for its own interests, it should just do what France did and declare that if attacked with weapons of mass destruction, even as an act of terrorism and not overt war, it reserved the right to respond with nuclear weapons.
posted by oaf at 5:42 PM on February 11, 2007


matthewr writes "what strategy do you propose to avoid a nuclear Iran?"

Doesn't really matter. Bush has no strategy now in Iraq, and evidence indicates that he'd screw up attacking Iran. There is no good military strategy. It is lose-lose. And you think the world hates us now ... There would be no coalition. There may very well be one aligned against us, however, should the US go through with it. A full scale invasion would probably require a draft, and going deeper in debt with China, who may not allow us that financial avenue. Politically, financially, strategically, the signs aren't good it would even be possible. It might be better to deal with the gaping wounds we've created before moving on, two of them so far, both requiring a fundamentally different approach.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:46 PM on February 11, 2007


It may turn out that the cost of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is greater than the benefit. But that's far from clear at the moment.

it's never going to be clear ... it never is ... but the potential for disaster is there

besides, there's a certain logic to making sure you've won the first war before you start a second war ... especially if the second one's right next door to the first

given this administration's track record, why wouldn't they make a total mess out of this, too?

Applying military, economic and diplomatic pressure to Iran in the hope of stopping their programme seems entirely sensible

diplomacy is being tried ... it's not working

economics won't work ... iran can hurt us more in the short term than we can hurt them

military threats may seem like a good way to pressure them ... (and at least you've decided that threats are as far as we may be able to go) ... but i perceive that both sides are calculating how far they can go

bush is playing a dangerous game here ... i wouldn't do it

Or, just to consider all the possibilities, detonate some of those bombs and put an end to the technological civilization that can produce them. But that, as A Canticle for Leibowitz tells us, is only a temporary solution

unfortunately, when our technological civilization got started, there were easily gotten resources to help us build ... now we've consumed all the "low lying fruit" and the next civilization will find it much harder, if not impossible to start again

A nuclear Iran is not the end of the world

exactly
posted by pyramid termite at 5:49 PM on February 11, 2007


Whose job is it exactly to stop these virulent countries from infecting the world?

It's not America's job in the 'global policeman' sense, but when it's in America's interests to prevent the balance of power in a region shifting toward anti-Americanism, it will act to protect its interests. It's about pragmatism not ideology.

Why'd we let Pakistan, China, and North Korea go ahead and build nuclear bombs?

I don't think it's a case of 'letting' them go ahead and build bombs. The US did what it could to stop North Korea obtaining the bomb, but there comes a point where the costs of prevention outweigh the costs of 'letting' the North Koreans have the bomb. In the Chinese example, clearly taking military action against China is not an option. Similarly, the US should continue to work against the Iranian nuclear programme until the point at which the costs of prevention exceed the benefits.
posted by matthewr at 5:49 PM on February 11, 2007


IIRC, the USA military was selling off surplus F14 parts to Iran. If TDS can be trusted, at least.

Which should make a really interesting press conference in which the government would "...make public intelligence substantiating American involvement in stoking violence against U.S. forces."
posted by five fresh fish at 5:56 PM on February 11, 2007


Again, what strategy do you propose to avoid a nuclear Iran?

First, open up diplomatic relations with them. Try talking nice and respectfully to them. Build a relationship and that sort of thing.

Second, if they really seem intent on getting nukes, then give it to them. Seriously. One of them there Middle Eastern nations is going to get'em, eventually, so lets just get it out of the way, right now.

Mutually assured destruction worked before, why wouldn't it work now?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:58 PM on February 11, 2007


matthewr, there's only one country that's actually used nuclear weapons, and it's not Iran.
posted by languagehat at 6:01 PM on February 11, 2007


From what I gathered, the only "evidence" that the public can judge for itself is that these things are supposedly so sophisticated that they can only be built in Iran. I call bullshit.

So, before the war, according to the administration and associates, the Iraqis had enough inscrutable cleverness and relentless determination to hide almost all traces of their world-threatening WMD programs from the watchful eyes of the International Community, but now, four years later, the Iraqis are too stupid to manufacture their own IEDs?

I guess that means the war has been a success!
posted by notyou at 6:05 PM on February 11, 2007




...many Iranians say the international dispute over Iran's nuclear program has become a rallying point for a president who otherwise would be facing substantial public dissatisfaction over soaring inflation, rising unemployment and widespread censorship.

This has been a source of frustration to Iran's reformists, who dealt the president's party a blow at the polls in local elections in December but complain that the Bush administration's threatening rhetoric has pulled the rug out from under them.
Iran reformists want U.S. to tone it down
posted by y2karl at 6:12 PM on February 11, 2007


languagehat, that's an unusually trite and simplistic contribution. What are you actually saying? That we should allow Iran its nuclear weapons as some sort of meaningless penance for Hiroshima?
posted by matthewr at 6:17 PM on February 11, 2007


The Iranians are far more keen to negotiate than matthewr would suppose. The key thing to understand is that the public statements and public actions of both parties are designed to provide leverage for negotiations. That goes for the carrier group, the Israeli threats, the Ahmadinejad crazy talk, and everything else. No one wants war. No one can swing it, no one can predict the outcome -- no one's regional strategies are well served by a bloody crapshoot -- and every party knows this.

Of course, the consequences of failed negotiations are airstrikes, and that threat needs to be credible to achieve a resolution short of capitulation.

Anyway, don't believe what you read in the papers. As Iran has done in the past, the US has made very recent overtures towards backchannel negotiations -- though on far less favorable terms than it would have enjoyed in the past. The US wishes to limit the scope of any negotiations to issues to achieving an "acceptable disappointment" in Iraq, and suspension of Iranian enrichment. Iran seeks a comprehensive package including non-aggression guarantees, lifting of sanctions, ascension in international circles and other things. Iran is willing to debate the whole enchilada, but nothing less.

Matthewr, it is a mistake to make this debate about nothing but nukes and war. For one, they don't have them yet, and won't for some time. Two, airstrikes are not the answer to that problem and never will be -- they are a negotiating tactic. Three, the issue isn't just the potential of Iranian nukes, but the chain reaction of Arab states that would seek them in response to a nuclear-armed Persian / Shia hegemony.

You asked "who has any better ideas?"...that's the wrong question. The question you should be asking is "Who has a better understanding?"

Better questions: "What are the potential solutions? What does Iran want? What can we salvage out of the FUBAR position into which we've put ourselves in Iraq? How do we avoid a barren outcome for our allies and the greater Middle East?" for starters.
posted by edverb at 6:22 PM on February 11, 2007


What are you actually saying? That we should allow Iran its nuclear weapons as some sort of meaningless penance for Hiroshima?

I'm saying there's no reason to consider the U.S. some sort of saintly, trustworthy possessor of nuclearity. I don't think Iran is any more likely to use nukes than the current U.S. administration. I also don't think we can "allow" or "not allow" Iran anything; all we can do is turn a basically pro-American populace against us by bombing the shit out of them in a pathetic attempt to "deny" them nukes.
posted by languagehat at 6:27 PM on February 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


No one wants war. No one can swing it, no one can predict the outcome -- no one's regional strategies are well served by a bloody crapshoot -- and every party knows this.

true ... but one could have said the same about european powers in 1914 ... although some would say that germany actually wanted that war

Of course, the consequences of failed negotiations are airstrikes, and that threat needs to be credible to achieve a resolution short of capitulation.

that depends on whether iran wants to reach an overall settlement with the u s or ensure that the islamic world will turn its back to the u s and look upon iran as one of the leaders of that world

i get the impression that they haven't decided yet, but probably could be persuaded for an overall settlement ... but not with threats
posted by pyramid termite at 6:38 PM on February 11, 2007


edverb, I think I'm being cast as some foaming-at-the-mouth bloodthirsty warmonger (not necessarily by you, but by several other commenters).

You'll notice my first comment asked for alternatives to 'carrier-group sabre-rattling', not for alternatives to some misguided land invasion.

As for asking, "who has any better ideas?" surely this is exactly the same question as "what are the potential solutions [and which solutions are better than the current sabre-rattling-with-offers-of-negotiation strategy]?"

I totally agree with most of your comment, by the way. I can't see how a single one of my comments advocates airstrikes (as opposed to the threat of airstrikes) let alone land invasion. The first 30-odd commenters on this post seemed to think that sending another carrier group was the worst thing ever, and the president has another war in his sights. I merely suggested that you don't have much right to bitch about the sabre-rattling unless you have either a better solution, or a reason why a nuclear Iran is harmless. The ideal solution, as far as I am concerned, is a diplomatic one. The chances of achieving a satisfactory diplomatic solution are, as your comment suggests, furthered by the threat of airstrikes as a negotiating tactic. Many commentors seem to equate a 'diplomatic' solution with friendship and mutual respect, whereas of course diplomacy is merely war by other, non-violent, means.

As ever, Yes, Minister provides an engaging parallel.
posted by matthewr at 6:41 PM on February 11, 2007


"Matthewr, it is a mistake to make this debate about nothing but nukes and war."

It is a mistake to think that a debate at this point is going to matter. There are individuals among humanity who are hellbent on driving us to an extreme upheaval of violence and bloodshed. Those with common sense to know better, are not in places of power to make a difference. Somehow the lunatics took over the asylum, and half the voting populous let one of them in the white house. Twice. And I'll tell ya why.

The Left Behind series. There's too many people in America who are looking forward to armageddon so much, they made the modern day sequels to the Book of Revelation bestsellers. They WANT this to happen. If enough people want the end of the world to happen, it will.

It won't be God doing it either. There are individuals from the president of the United States to a walking bomb in a supermarket who honestly, seriously think they are a living vessel through whom their God manipulates reality. Forming us in His image. As if God gives a crap what happens on this pathetic pale blue dot. I for one am sick of so many humans pretending they matter to their personification of The Almighty, but like you, I am unable to stop these mad insane people from terrorizing themselves, and by proxy, the rest of us.

Why a pre-emptive strike? Simple. One word: FEAR.

Questions? BETTER questions? You got a better question than that?

We're all scared of each other cuz we're too proud or lazy or whatever to try to understand each other. Muslim. Jew. Christian. Aetheist. Pagan. The guy who worships a mole two inches north of his belly button cuz he swears it talks to him at night.

It's too late for debate. Get ready to duck and cover and kiss your butt goodbye. Cuz when we nuke this rock we'll all suddenly realize we don't have another one.

"Oops."

Idiots. I can't believe I'm trapped on this spinning rock in space with so many idiots. Go ahead. Wage war. Enjoy yourself. Sell tickets. We survived all the other world wars, why not presume we'll survive this one? Our grandchildren will mutate gills and multiple penii but why let that stop us?

Bring on the dark horses of the apocalypse! It'll be quite a spectacle. The ratings on Fox News will hit the roof - then the Nielsen families will all be vaporized in mushroom clouds twelve minutes later, but CNN will cover that no problem. They probably already got the title art for the bottom of the screen hammered out on a computer somewhere...
posted by ZachsMind at 6:43 PM on February 11, 2007


The NY Times (and other papers) printed the story given from ujnamed sources. Here, then, is the result. The govt is being challenged
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eason-jordan/stop-this-now-noname-al_b_40967.html
posted by Postroad at 6:45 PM on February 11, 2007


As for asking, "who has any better ideas?" surely this is exactly the same question as "what are the potential solutions [and which solutions are better than the current sabre-rattling-with-offers-of-negotiation strategy]?"

In context, it is not. All the American public sees is the sabre-rattling. Offers of negotiation are routinely derided in the American press -- more than that, the very suggestion that negotiations with were ever a possibility have been censored by the US government. By this, the American public is being prepared to accept war as an inevitable outcome -- even to favor it.

That, and a healthy (in this case wholly justified once bitten, twice shy attitude explain the reaction you're getting, IMHO.
posted by edverb at 6:48 PM on February 11, 2007


I don't think Iran is any more likely to use nukes than the current U.S. administration.

Arguably, Russia was no more likely than the US to use nuclear weapons in the Cold War. Does this mean America should have been OK with Russian nuclear weapons?

You seem to equate America using nuclear weapons with Iran using nuclear weapons. Morally, perhaps there's no difference. A goal of American foreign policy ought to be, and is, to avoid the use of nuclear weapons as far as possible. But surely an American foreign policy of enlightened self-interest should regard nukes landing on America as a worse outcome than nukes landing on anywhere else.

I also don't think we can "allow" or "not allow" Iran anything

Iranian nuclear weapons are bad for America; America ought to work to prevent Iranian nuclear weapons through the threat of force, the offer of negotiations and the use of sanctions. If the ultimate choice turns out to be 'invade Iran by land' or 'admit defeat and let Iran continue', then I would say admitting defeat is the only option. But that doesn't mean we should stand back and do nothing until that choice is forced upon us, if indeed it ever is.
posted by matthewr at 6:57 PM on February 11, 2007


Though I guess its the unpopular thing to do, I side with matthewr.

It would seem to me like its in everyone's best interest to keep nuclear weapons/materials incredibly regulated and protected (with the recent poisoning of a soviet expat being a good parallel).

Personally, I dont trust Iran with this responsibility. Do I think its kinda our fault we are in this mess? Yes of course, but that doesn't dilute my concern.

Another war would be stupid at best, quagmire of our entire military and ecomic capabilities at worst.

So how do we stop them then? I dont know... maybe some kinda of aid package like with Israel and Egypt, give them 3% or &% of Iraq oil revenue if they support (and follow through with) building a stable Iraqi coalition, and abandon nuclear ambitions. Draw China into this somehow and make it their problem? Pour billions of dollars into funding alternative energy revenues to bankrupt Iran's cashcow?

In short, I think a nuclear Iran is bad, but that doesn't mean I agree with Cheney et. all
posted by rosswald at 6:58 PM on February 11, 2007


What does any of this have to do with Paris Hilton or a crazy astronaut?
posted by larry_darrell at 7:03 PM on February 11, 2007


I'm off to bed now. Here is some excellent 'further reading':

This Economist leader is, as ever, interesting and well-written. This article (also Economist) deals with the question of MAD, and this one asks if anything can deter Iran from its nuclear ambitions.

All are more worthy of attention than most Iran coverage.
posted by matthewr at 7:05 PM on February 11, 2007


i get the impression that they haven't decided yet, but probably could be persuaded for an overall settlement ... but not with threats

Iran knows very well that, in what appears to be their finest hour, the US can (and will) turn the tables on them. The US has dealt Iran crushing setbacks from unforeseen angles in the past.

In 1979, after taking American hostages and overthrowing the American puppet government, the triumphant revolutionaries sneered in the face of American impotence to do anything about it.

And then a US regional proxy named Saddam Hussein invaded, setting off an eight year long war of attrition. One million Iranian casualties later, the US didn't appear the toothless tiger of failed rescue operations anymore.

You may think the Iranians remain unbowed by US threats, but you'd be wrong. The current regime have felt the terrible effects of miscalculating and underestimating American guile and force before.
posted by edverb at 7:08 PM on February 11, 2007


Frankly, Molly Ivins death deserves more attention than Iran coverage, but unfortunately Anna Nicole Smith eclipsed that. Whatever.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:09 PM on February 11, 2007


the public statements and public actions of both parties are designed to provide leverage for negotiations.

I dunno about that. Seems to me they're more likely designed for domestic political gain on both sides, as y2karl's latest comment suggests. Or, maybe Iran really does just want a nuclear bomb for some reason and has little interest in negotiating for anything else. If they'd be satisfied with non-aggression guarantees, lifting of sanctions, ascension in international circles then why not just give them that? Doesn't seem so bad. Eh well, whatever. For all I know, maybe they've already come to some kind of agreement and are just putting on a show. It's not like these things have to make any kind of rational sense; look at the US relationship with Cuba for example.

"International politics isn't some playground game."

I'm not so sure about that.
posted by sfenders at 7:16 PM on February 11, 2007


It's not America's job in the 'global policeman' sense, but when it's in America's interests to prevent the balance of power in a region shifting toward anti-Americanism, it will act to protect its interests. It's about pragmatism not ideology.

If America bombs Iran, do you think the region will become pro-American? Wheee! Endless dominos!
posted by stammer at 7:17 PM on February 11, 2007


How much deal making is going on behind the scenes between the administration and the new Democratic power bloc?

OK, we won’t impeach... but only if....

Forget about it, you don’t have the votes to impeach. Shove it where the sun don’t shine.

We have Fiztgerald working on Cheney, not to mention a catalogue of heinous crimes and derelictions too numerous to mention... you name it we got it.

We can start a war with Iran and everybody will forget about it.

If you try that shit we’ll impeach.

You don’t have the votes to impeach. Fagedaboutit....
posted by Huplescat at 7:36 PM on February 11, 2007


A credible threat.
posted by sfenders at 7:37 PM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


You may think the Iranians remain unbowed by US threats, but you'd be wrong.

is that why they have such wide influence in iraq these days? ... yes, you tell me this story about how saddam went and punished iran at the u s's bidding, but look at the end results ... all we really did was convince iran that if it ever got the opportunity to have a heavy influence on the iraqi government, they'd damn well better take it

and what do we do? ... we give that opportunity to them on a silver platter

the iranians are well aware of our guile and force ... they are also well aware that revenge is a dish best eaten cold ... they are also aware that we don't know what the hell we're doing and that good things come to the patient ... not to mention that they've shown a great deal of guile themselves in recent times

they've handed israel a military defeat by proxy, subverted two arab countries and defied the western world successfully while arranging backup from larger regional powers, while ensuring that our iraq adventure becomes a hopeless quagmire

it's a dangerous game they're playing, but so far, they've been pretty good at it and willing to risk u s threats ...

they're getting more of what they play for than we have been getting
posted by pyramid termite at 7:46 PM on February 11, 2007


If Iran detonated a Nuke Test tomorrow I guarantee you after six months of hand wringing and "outrage" with in a 2 years most of the world would clamor to be their new best buddies and America and Israel would suddenly revise their outrageous pre-emptive interventionist strategies.

And soon after that Iran would be saying things like "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad" who?

Iran joining "the club" would not be the end of the world. In fact, at this point thanks to Bush, it may be the better of all the admittedly terrible options.

If history is any indication being put on the list with the big boys tends to stabilize states.
posted by tkchrist at 8:12 PM on February 11, 2007


Everything you say is true pyramid termite, and that advances the point. It is for precisely those reasons that the US seeks to change the status quo. The US's actions can be viewed as a way to challenge Iranian assumptions and cause second guessing -- to bring them to the table and improve US bargaining position at their expense.

It's hard to play a game of patience with twenty thousand additional troops and a carrier group (or three) at your doorstep, with Israel threatening pre-emptive nuclear strikes.

FWIW, Ahmadinejad has been told to tone down the rhetoric, lest his remarks spark a confrontation. His speech at the celebration of the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution reflect a more moderate tone (moderate for Ahmadinejad and such an occassion, anyway): "We are prepared for dialogue but won't suspend our activities. ... The government will defend the rights of the Iranian nation within the framework of the law."

Meanwhile, Larijani (Iran's nuclear negotiator) was said on Friday to be too ill to attend the Munich security conference. And yet, where was he was on Saturday? At the conference, stating that Iran's nuclear program posed no threat to Israel, and contradicting Ahmadinejad by stating that Iran was prepared to curtail enrichment activities to "certain levels".

Point being, there is less reason now than before for Tehran to remain secure in maintenance of it's bargaining position, and they are signaling a willingness to negotiate sooner than later. These are not the moves of the patient and confident.
posted by edverb at 8:25 PM on February 11, 2007


Okay, so Iraq, then Iran -- who's next? Is there an Irad or Irap somewhere? Keep in mind that when it comes to geography, I'm a product of my country's educational system.
posted by davejay at 8:30 PM on February 11, 2007


davejay: "Okay, so Iraq, then Iran -- who's next?"

It's Syria.
posted by bhouston at 8:45 PM on February 11, 2007


matthewr: Bearing in mind diplomacy's lack of success, what alternatives to carrier-group sabre-rattling do the preceding 36 commenters see?

Remind me again why diplomacy failed?
posted by EarBucket at 9:15 PM on February 11, 2007




...For years there has been little or no critical reexamination of how and why the limited, specific, and ultimately successful postwar American policy of "patient but firm and vigilant containment of Soviet expansionist tendencies...and pressure against the free institutions of the Western world" (as George Kennan formulated it at the time) has over six decades turned into a vast project for "ending tyranny in the world."

The Bush administration defends its pursuit of this unlikely goal by means of internationally illegal, unilateralist, and preemptive attacks on other countries, accompanied by arbitrary imprisonments and the practice of torture, and by making the claim that the United States possesses an exceptional status among nations that confers upon it special international responsibilities, and exceptional privileges in meeting those responsibilities.

This is where the problem lies. Other American leaders before George Bush have made the same claim in matters of less moment. It is something like a national heresy to suggest that the United States does not have a unique moral status and role to play in the history of nations, and therefore in the affairs of the contemporary world. In fact it does not.
Manifest Destiny: A New Direction for America
posted by y2karl at 9:30 PM on February 11, 2007


"Worrisome, or not?"

Very worrisome.

Dear God, who will stop these bastards?
posted by rougy at 10:55 PM on February 11, 2007


"Again, what strategy do you propose to avoid a nuclear Iran?"

I'd agree with tkchrist (et.al) that a nuclear Iran, while an unfavorable situation for American interests, might be favorable in terms of limiting American encroachment in the region. Which - debatably - is sapping American power which has always been predicated more on butter than guns. The simple fact is since we've been relieved of the necessity to play nice, we've been straining ourselves a bit too hard, our focus has wandered. Not surprising. I'd gladly argue that the Russians were far far more likely to use nukes first than the U.S. was - and to paraphrase Voltaire - even if they weren't it was necessary for us to believe that. (Yeah, ok, lies were told about how strong the Soviets were - so? It made some defense industry schmoes money, but it keep our heels cooled and made us play nice with, say, France and others).
So right now who, of consequence, really has our back? Who's interests are truly co-mingled with ours, England? Certainly the go it alone attitude reaps the greatest reward, and the greatest risk, but the greater danger lies in the intangibles.
You see, one can argue that diplomacy has been tried, but in fact there are a number of competing interests vyying for Iran's attention. Iran has had the opportunity to ply it's position against a divided front. It is this that has stalled diplomatic efforts.
Why talk when you can set rivals against each other to strengthen your own position?
And that for the most part is the fault of the U.S. and it's current foreign policy position.
So from first principles, diplomacy has failed because there has been no diplomatic position with the united goal of preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons.

I'd also argue some of your premises are based on confrontation of non-rational actors. That's pointless. It should be self-evidently so. No reasonable people allow madmen the keys to the armory and indeed, given they have basic traffic law for example, the Iranian citizens aren't unreasonable in that regard.

The easiest initial strategy would be to find something to replace nuclear weaponry as a symbol of national pride.
(The excitement generated by destructive power, dissociated from potential genocide, has been a historically well-observed psychological state)
India, for example, experianced great euphoria after test detonating their nukes.
Both India and Pakistan have argued against disarmament asking (at the time) why the other nuclear parties didn't disarm.
Their positions remain similar to Iran's in that Iran has no reason to pursue a nuclear policy which worsens their security.

So the dilemma of finding a strategy to avoid a nuclear Iran is a false one. Possession of nuclear weapons, even by both sides, has not prevented conventional military engagements. It is this, that Iran fears. Ergo the question (added to the above national pride one) is: What can the United States do to ensure the security of Iran equal to their possession of a nuclear weapons program.

That answer of course is not much, because treaties tend not to be as long lasting as national interests - or at least the shifting of them.
So where's the flaw in that? Why can't we? Well, again, because we're acting alone. We could find a way to ensure security in Iran if we had a multiple party agreement with leveraged interests and such that there's some tangible carrots and sticks.
I'd like to see - and it would be in the better interests of the current nuclear world powers - to redefine the comprehensive test ban treaty to include a program of denuclearization (dreaming).
But certainly greater interrelated interactions is what we need, and what we don't at all have now. Therefore the question of a nuclear Iran is nearly moot (to the U.S.)in diplomatic terms.

It's the difference between getting in an argument with some jerk who you will never see again and getting in an argument with your neighbor in a close knit community.
Violence is less of an option when you know the guy and you will see him or his kids tomorrow morning and your wives play bridge or whatever.

And certainly some of our interests are there, oil obviously, but there are some interests in the U.S. which are looking for a disproportionate relationship with Iran. Well, that'd piss you off as well if some guy came into your back yard and started syphoning stuff off your property and gave you a pittiance for it.
That it benefits us doesn't justify it morally. Certainly one can argue that's irrelevant because it benefits our position, and indeed, it does. And we've done it in the past. And indeed, so have the others.
Consider - not only were the top five arms-exporting countries in the world the five permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations, but also they were, together, responsible for 86 per cent of all the conventional weapons exported (88-92) and the Security Council has done jack about arms merchants (seen "Lord of War"? fairly accurate in tone)
But given the advances in technology - particularly in transportation - that kind of exploitation carries far too high a price and risk of warfare by other means - 9/11 for example.

To rework an old saw: ignoring the civic side is playing chess while your enemy is playing poker.

If Bremer and Bushco hadn't screwed up the (many, many) ways they did, we wouldn't have a counterinsurgency in Iraq.

So, in short, if your oppressor wishes to maintain security to further their operations - you create chaos and dissuade others from joining them (a nice car bomb say).
Iran already has the upper hand there, in that the U.S. has no others with them. And if they can deal with Europe or Russia or China, why should they talk to us?

No, we need to talk to the other folks with the nukes and make them realize it's in their interest too to keep nuclear weapons as limited as possible.

Otherwise at some point a nuclear "terror" attack is inevitable. Unfortunately many people making policy refuse to see beyond the "what strategy should we have to avoid Iran getting nukes" rather than rethinking policy. Trying to "win" rather than rethinking the game.
Playing chess instead of poker.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:46 PM on February 11, 2007


y2karl said: Manifest Destiny: A New Direction for America [by William Pfaff.]

Completely excellent article, worth quoting in toto. Thanks for the link, y2karl.

If the Democrats care to present a foreign policy platform that could mop up the current mess (and turn America in a better direction), Pfaff's ideas should be the foundation for it. There's no time to lose.
posted by cenoxo at 11:48 PM on February 11, 2007


A strike on Iran might be intended to be an air war. Iran will make it a ground war. All they have to do is send some troops into Iraq, and then the shit really hits the fan. And they know this.
posted by azpenguin at 12:23 AM on February 12, 2007


It just galls me that anyone would pipe up and support this. It's bad enough not to learn from history, but to not learn from the present? Have you been in a cave for the last seven years?
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:47 AM on February 12, 2007


People are jumping ahead of themselves ... since when has it been proven that Iran has a nuclear weapons program? They already got half of America brainwashed.
posted by cmacleod at 4:55 AM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


A strike on Iran might be intended to be an air war. Iran will make it a ground war. All they have to do is send some troops into Iraq, and then the shit really hits the fan.

Naaaah, I don't think so.

But if any US Navy assets are within range of C-802s (about 120 km) along the Irani coast or offshore islands, I bet there'll be sweat on foreheads in CIC despite all the air-conditioning to keep the electronics nice and cool. I'd hate like hell to be a tanker captain going through the Strait of Hormuz these days.
posted by pax digita at 5:38 AM on February 12, 2007


I'd have to agree that Iran would make it a ground war. One, they have 350,000 - 400,000 troops, against our +/- 150,000 (who are already occupied on numerous fronts). Two, we're literally surrounding with unfriendlies. Three, we suck at ground wars, because we are set up to fight from the air. Four, if we were forced to respond with too much force -say the tactical nukes that Cheney is supposed to be so fond of - we will definitely lose the PR campaign that follows.

Would we win? Probably. Would it be incredibly nasty? Definitely, and what do we have to gain?
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:11 AM on February 12, 2007


Would we win? Probably.

What do you mean by that? Have we "won" in Iraq? Afghanistan? I don't think you can define "winning" as "defeating the enemy's troops"; if that's the definition, we won in Vietnam, and I don't think you want to argue that.

Once again: yes, it would be better if Iran didn't have the bomb. It would be better if Israel didn't have the bomb. It would be better if we didn't have the bomb. But we can't stop Iran from developing it if it's determined to; all we can do is start another expensive, devastating war that will make even more people hate us. You can't make the world the way you want it by waging war. You can only satisfy primitive bloodlust and distract your populace from things that should be more important to them than Evil Furriners.
posted by languagehat at 6:45 AM on February 12, 2007


languagehat:

Agreed.

"Win" was a bad choice. By "win" I meant we have the resources to ultimately pummel Iran to dust - but, again, to what end?
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:54 AM on February 12, 2007


Completely excellent article, worth quoting in toto.

William Pfaff's latest article can be quoted in this context as well:
As a factor in combat, the helicopter may be on its way to the same place the machine-gun sent the horse cavalry. For years advanced armies have operated mainly against guerrillas and third world forces possessing no serious defense against attack from helicopters. They have revamped military doctrine on the unspoken assumption that the helicopter’s relative invulnerability would continue, or could be countered only by the weapons of another modern army.

The only practical challenge to this belief came early in the Iraq invasion, when U.S. attack helicopters massed for a nighttime assault on what was thought the Revolutionary Guard’s main line of resistance. Only Wagnerian music and Francis Ford Coppola were lacking.

But to reach their objective, the helicopter force had to overfly positions held by the lackluster Iraq regular army. The latter’s soldiers, with such an armada passing low overhead, instinctively reacted by firing their rifles and other light weapons at it, as did farmers and villagers. The assault had to be called off in disarray before reaching its objective because nearly every helicopter had been damaged by this improvised resistance...

If the insurrection in Iraq is acquiring the means to counter U.S. helicopter operations this is a matter of potentially large strategic importance. U.S. forces throughout Iraq depend for an overwhelming part of their supplies, gasoline and ammunition on road convoys from Kuwait made up of civilian trucks and tankers.

Those convoys have military escorts but rely on helicopters to scout the route for ambushes and roadside bombs, and to defend them when attacked.

If these convoys were seriously disrupted, it would have disastrous consequences for American troops spread across the country. There are few usable airstrips at American bases, and the Air Force is reported now able to supply something like a quarter of the needed supplies, and to estimate that in an emergency it could increase that to around a third. However cargo planes are also vulnerable to attack. They mainly have to be defended by ground forces patrolling or controlling all the territory around airfields from which missiles could be launched (including Baghdad airport). But if an isolated base is not supplied with fuel and ammunition, it can’t make its air approaches safe.

Little in the Washington debate indicates awareness of the possibility of an American Dienbienphu. The dispatch of up to 50 thousand additional troops to Iraq is debated in terms of whether this will or will not provide an all-conquering “surge” of forces.

Few have noted that it also provides up to 50 thousand more American hostages, should there be a general uprising against the occupation. If Israel or the U.S. attacks Iran – which, as Zbigniew Brzezinsky warned the Senate last week, is where Bush policy is leading – one obvious Iranian means of retaliation would be to promote an expanded uprising in Iraq that offers an opportunity of taking hostage an entire American army.
Helicopters: A Strategic Turning-Point?

Little in the Washington debate indicates awareness of the possibility of an American Dienbienphu :
...Robert Guillain, Le Monde's able correspondent, cabled a bitter valedictory from Hanoi:

" 'Let the enemy come,' said our troops at Dienbienphu, 'and we'll show them.' We'll show them? We'll show what, and to whom? 'We'll show those who face us in battle,' they said. 'We'll show the enemy. And we'll show them in Hanoi. We'll show them in Saigon, the people busy sipping cool drinks on shaded café terraces or watching beautiful girls in the pool at the Sporting Club. We'll show the people of France, the people of France above all. They have to be shown. They have to be shown what their neglect, their incredible indifference, their illusions, their dirty politics have led to. And how best may we show them? By dying, so that honor at least may be saved . . .' Our dead of Dienbienphu died, I claim, protesting, appealing against today's France in the name of another France for which they had respect. The only victory that remains is the victory of our honor."
posted by y2karl at 8:18 AM on February 12, 2007


But surely an American foreign policy of enlightened self-interest should regard nukes landing on America as a worse outcome than nukes landing on anywhere else.

Other than a terrorist group, who the hell is going to throw a nuke at the USA? Certainly not the Iranian government.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:48 AM on February 12, 2007


“Certainly not the Iranian government.”

Indeed, Iran would not have to actually use a nuke to gain an advantage. One might argue that they could nuke invading conventional forces and still retain the moral authority, since the nuke went off within their borders.

We could argue about the actual stability of the cold war nuclear picture vs. the perception - which is that MAD worked far better than it did. And whether such stability is at all acheivable between Iran and rival interests in the region.

But the big fear is no longer the missles (which is why the missile shield thing is so full of ass), but the disavowed fringe group getting a nuke from - whomever - and delivering that package inside the U.S.
Who do you retaliate against? A missile - you know who sent it. You can hit them back. This, not so much.
Particularly in the case of the U.S. - we might have adequate or even solid proof that terrorist group X had connections with and was acting under the orders of Iran or anyone else, but now, who’d believe us?
Makes retaliation problematic at best. And indeed - at what level do you retaliate? Do you level Iran? Do you just drop one in a sort of eye for an eye? What if it’s a false flag op?
All sorts of nastiness here. I’m truly astonished the nuclear powers don’t have a better handle on this. Once it comes down to military engagement, you’ve lost the initiative.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:39 PM on February 12, 2007


Maybe this is a stupid question. I'm totally open to that possibility, and I welcome correction. But if the Iranians were making munitions for Iraqi insurgents, would they really mark the shells in English?

I'm not trying to be snarky. I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation, and I really, really would like to hear what it is.
posted by EarBucket at 6:12 PM on February 12, 2007


But if the Iranians were making munitions for Iraqi insurgents, would they really mark the shells in English?

Apparently English labels are standard operating procedure for armament exports worldwide. See the comments in the Feb 12th FPP, How to use MS PowerPoint to exploit the U.S. (and following the TPM Muckraker story, Iran in Iraq: The PowerPoint Presentation.)
posted by cenoxo at 2:28 AM on February 13, 2007


Gotcha, thanks.
posted by EarBucket at 2:51 AM on February 13, 2007






in other news - nuclear diplomacy in action in
N. Korea
posted by Smedleyman at 1:31 PM on February 13, 2007


davidmsc,

I believe that what kirkaracha was getting at was:

The Constitution declares the President the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, not of the entire United States. As a civilian, I do not have a commander-in-chief.

The delegating of this role to the President was intended to assert the supremacy of the civilian, elected authorities over the military.
posted by action man bow-tie at 3:22 PM on February 13, 2007


OK, but come on - that's a purely semantic point.
posted by davidmsc at 3:12 AM on February 17, 2007


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