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The Point of No Return
August 11, 2010 10:37 AM   Subscribe

The Point of No Return. In the gap between Washington’s and Jerusalem’s views of Iran lies the question: who, if anyone, will stop Iran before it goes nuclear, and how? As Washington and Jerusalem study each other intensely, here’s an inside look at the strategic calculations on both sides—and at how, if things remain on the current course, an Israeli air strike will unfold.
posted by lullaby (91 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
You should warn people it's by Jeffrey Goldberg so they won't need to bother reading it.
posted by grounded at 10:52 AM on August 11, 2010 [15 favorites]


From the article:

“You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs,” [Netanyahu] said.

Benjamin, you've got a more immediate problem than Iran.
posted by Shepherd at 10:54 AM on August 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm not familiar with Goldberg, what's the issue with him?
posted by echo target at 10:54 AM on August 11, 2010


Sorry, I don't actually know much about Jeffrey Goldberg... I just thought it was an interesting read.
posted by lullaby at 10:55 AM on August 11, 2010


[A few comments removed. Seriously, cut it out with the early thread-shitting.]
posted by cortex at 10:55 AM on August 11, 2010


If the question here is "will the US sweep up after whatever horrible thing Israel chooses to do, no matter how stupid or destabilizing?" then the answer is yes, of course, always, don't be a dumbass.
posted by Artw at 10:57 AM on August 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that Israel probably will go for a first strike against Iran, but the U.S. will have enough plausible deniability with respect to not supporting it. I also don't think the Israelis will actually be able to do anything about the reactor and refinery sites. I mean, they're buried pretty deep. I hope they won't, though.
posted by delmoi at 10:58 AM on August 11, 2010


Iran is a particularly contentious example of this, but it will not be the only example. When oil and coal and whatnot go away, countries will turn to solar power, geothermal power, and nuclear power. Nuclear is not going away. When you go nuclear with our bog-standard uranium pathway, you must learn to enrich that uranium. You have only to extend and refine that process to build uranium enriched enough to build a decent, simple atom bomb.

What we do with Iran matters because we will come across this problem over and over.

I have long favored dumping an enormous amount of cash, labor, and brainpower at getting small thorium reactors online because they are far away, in terms of technology, from bombs. You cannot build a thorium-triggered bomb because you have to aim a neutron beam at it for it go to critical. You will not have China Syndrome meltdowns for the same reason. Thorium is more plentiful than uranium, and so forth. Some kinks still have to be worked out, but we're basically going with uranium so far because that is what we have always done.

If the United States got a solid, small, easily-serviced thorium reactor design going after working out the bugs, then pushed it out to the world, we'd be doing ourselves and the rest of the world a favor in the long run. Here, Iran, if you want nuclear power, build one of these. We'll help you! If Iran takes the step of continuing to enrich uranium, then they'll have few excuses as to their actual motives.

If we give Iran a different set of rules for nuclear development than other countries, we will be accused of favoritism and anti-Islamic sentiment. The United States, should it continue its already troublesome role as World Cop, must get these things right the first time around.
posted by adipocere at 10:58 AM on August 11, 2010 [20 favorites]


What is more likely, then, is that one day next spring, the Israeli national-security adviser, Uzi Arad, and the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, will simultaneously telephone their counterparts at the White House and the Pentagon, to inform them that their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has just ordered roughly one hundred F-15Es, F-16Is, F-16Cs, and other aircraft of the Israeli air force to fly east toward Iran—possibly by crossing Saudi Arabia, possibly by threading the border between Syria and Turkey, and possibly by traveling directly through Iraq’s airspace, though it is crowded with American aircraft.

Do I really need to read past this? This is not likely at all. This is the same neocon fanfic we've been reading for about six years now, at least.

I'm not trying to shit the thread but I can't not say that the entire premise here is ridiculous. But like most of this stuff this only 50% about actually addressing Iran. The larger element is how there's just a growing fascination from the pro-Israeli-first-strike right because Obama is now president. It takes their earlier fantasy and adds the joyous element of defying the Democratic U.S. leader they hate.

That Goldberg gets off on this idea says pretty much all you need to know about his or any other similar writer's DC equivalent of a Penthouse Forum letter ("I never thought this would happen to me... I've been in a presidency that I can't stand and my leader just won't do anything adventurous... but then I met this army the other day that took charge! Their might was just so much bigger than I ever imagined! " This is Beltway cuckolding fetish porn. It always will be, until someone loses their mind, actually believes it and incinerates hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:01 AM on August 11, 2010 [20 favorites]


Some background on Goldberg.

I'm always fascinated by the utter refusal to see the fact that Iran has merely learned the less of the Axis of Evil: if you have nukes, you're placated; if you don't, you're invaded. Bluster aside, they aren't nearly mad enough to go first strike with these weapons once obtained. There's much more to worry about on that score from our ostensible ally, Pakistan.

But my knee is jerky on this subject, and my understanding shallow at best, and much like Goldberg I am blinded by preconceptions. Any such airstrike on Iran is going to destroy a house I used to live in, and so I tend to take this sort of talk personally.
posted by kipmanley at 11:06 AM on August 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Never heard of the author either. Wikipedia says:

"In "The Great Terror", the article that Goldberg wrote for the New Yorker in 2002 during the run-up to the Iraq war, Goldberg argues that the threat posed to America by Saddam Hussein is significant. The article opens with a vivid description of Hussein's Al-Anfal Campaign, including his regime's use of poison gas at Halabja. Goldberg goes on to relate detailed allegations of a close relationship between Hussein and Al Qaeda, which Goldberg claims he "later checked with experts on the region."

So, that's some fairly terrible reporting about an important subject.
I can understand why some are dismissing him outright.
posted by anti social order at 11:08 AM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is Netanyahu a "Bomber Boy"? and re Goldberg.
posted by adamvasco at 11:11 AM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


The first is that Israel would get only one try. Israeli planes would fly low over Saudi Arabia, bomb their targets in Iran, and return to Israel by flying again over Saudi territory, possibly even landing in the Saudi desert for refueling—perhaps, if speculation rife in intelligence circles is to be believed, with secret Saudi cooperation. ...“The Saudis can let us go once,” one general told me. ... Our problem is that the Saudis will look very guilty in the eyes of the world if we keep flying over their territory.”

This is a telling comment -- hadn't occurred to me that the Saudis might be tempted to, if not cooperate, then look the other way.

This would be a Very Bad Thing heaped on top of other Very Bad Things.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:14 AM on August 11, 2010


Foreign Policy's response, by Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 11:21 AM on August 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't know enough of the details and background on the writer or the situation to make an informed comment; I do know enough to say that the idea of this is frightening, and I'd also like to add that I'm thankful I don't live in the Middle East.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:27 AM on August 11, 2010


I'd also like to add that I'm thankful I don't live in the Middle East.

So is Jeffery Goldberg. Because if he did he would never write shit like this. And ultimately that's why it's so insulting.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:29 AM on August 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Goldberg is a fairly doctrinaire neo-con, though he soft-peddles it a lot more thank Kristol.
posted by fatbird at 11:31 AM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


“You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs,” [Netanyahu] said.

Good point! States based on religion who are charged with having "The Sampson Option" should be looked at closely eh?

I guess if you can make the label "messianic apocalyptic cult" to stick then the idea of MAD is off the table.

(and while you might dislike the tea party Sheperd - I don't think the label sticks.)

When oil and coal and whatnot go away, countries will turn to solar power, geothermal power, and nuclear power. Nuclear is not going away

At some point the solution to keeping civilian atomic power - "the Peaceful Atom" will have to be re-examined as to its success or failure. It would be nice if that happened BEFORE another fission plant gets bombed.

The Shaw had fission plants on order back in the 1970's. What would have been the reaction to a working plant or 2 and then the change in government? What is the gameplan Shepherd if "the tea party" becomes in charge of the US - gonna demand the removal of the fission plants/weapons? (I've heard a claim the Shaw also had his own nuke weapon program *BUT* I've not seen anything to back that up. But having a fission weapon program was all the rage for a while.)

"The Peaceful Atom" idea needs to deal with nation states who are willing to get into a fista-cuffs. And if it can't, the idea needs to be scrapped, as a world with haves and have nots WRT sources of energy will only lead to strife and asymmetric warfare VS the energy system.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:39 AM on August 11, 2010


The scenario I've always heard tossed around, and which seems somewhat more plausible than a spontaneous Israeli 'first strike,' is that the Iranians will test a bomb, and the Israelis will retaliate immediately. The theory being, if Iran follows the path that other countries have taken, there will be a gap between their first device and second, third, fourth, etc.

You don't know you have a working weapon until you detonate it, and most people aren't willing to go into balls-out production-line mode until they know they have a design that actually works. Plus, if you're rushing to let the world know that you have a Giant Atomic Dick, you don't want to delay that first live shot any more than you have to.

This, assuming that the Iranians don't anticipate the exact same thing and decide to sit on that first bomb until they have another 5 or 10 strapped to the top of IRBMs, gives the Israelis or whomever else would like to play the game a short window of opportunity after a test shot to come in and absolutely plaster anything that looks like it could be proliferation-related. In theory, that first weapon becomes their last, at least for a while. But it's a much less narrowly-targeted mission than what you'd have to do before a weapon actually exists: you don't need to just destroy a few production facilities (even deep underground ones); you'd be talking about potentially a sustained air campaign to destroy everything related to the program, any other weapons, any stockpiles of material, tooling, delivery systems, etc. I'm not sure how different it would look from just breaking all the industrial infrastructure in general. And honestly I'm not sure how that doesn't degenerate into a regular old shooting war. I guess it probably does, and the logical Israeli course of action is just to devastate Iran's ability to respond as quickly as possible.

Of course, the risk is that afterwards nobody (except the Iranians) would know whether it worked, in terms of destroying all the weapons and capability of producing more, at least not without some sort of ground invasion -- which doesn't seem likely, a few nutters in the US to the contrary.

But since it removes the first strike problem and gives the Israelis (or whomever) a casus belli, it's always seemed more likely to me than the Israelis just waking up one morning and deciding to start blowing things up. The outcome is worse for Iran, particularly Iranian civilians, but might be diplomatically preferable for Israel.

I guess time will tell.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:50 AM on August 11, 2010


Here's the nut (from FP's rebuttal):
Israeli elites want to preserve a regional balance of power strongly tilted in Israel's favor and what an Israeli general described to Goldberg as "freedom of action" --the freedom to use force unilaterally, anytime, for whatever purpose Israel wants. The problem with Iranian nuclear capability -- not just weapons, but capability -- is that it might begin constraining Israel's currently unconstrained "freedom of action." In May, retired Israeli military officers, diplomats, and intelligence officials conducted a war game that assumed Iran had acquired "nuclear weapons capability." Participants subsequently told Reuters that such capability does not pose an "existential threat" to Israel -- but "would blunt Israel's military autonomy."
posted by fatbird at 11:51 AM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just to add to the conversation though, okay, let's pretend that this insane fetish came to light and Israel actually launched a massive airstrike on Iranian infrastructure. Here's what happens, short and long term:

1. Enjoy your $20/gallon gas. Because there's no way OPEC doesn't go apeshit, and even if they didn't they would have to start financing the massive effort to secure themselves militarily. Or are we just assuming blowing up Iran doesn't create regional instability and border crises? Good luck with that.

2. Enjoy all bets off on nuclear treaties. They're gone. The U.S. letting Israel get way with this effectively means that nuclear armament becomes the minimum- minimum- requirement to even think your nation has a military defense. The lesson will be that Iran didn't get nukes fast enough. Which leads to...

3. Enjoy the increased nuclear threat. In addition to everyone on the planet wanting nukes even more, you know what the big problem with blowing the shit out of a nuclear facility is? The scraps of blown-up nuclear facility scattered everywhere. No, taking a loose carton of spent fuel and tying a bomb to it won't create a nuclear explosion, but it's not going to stop people from trying it. Or trying to find spent fuel. Or trying to get information about nuclear technology under the premise of "rebuilding." Which will go hand in hand with:

4. Enjoy the largest recruitment drive in Al-Qaeda history. Seriously? Israel launching a full on attack on a Muslim state? Americans are throwing tantrums because Muslims want to have pilates classes two blocks away from the World Trade Center. This is Al fucking Qaeda.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:54 AM on August 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am charmed byh the Aal fucking qaeda" remark above ...brings me right back to my army days.
Israel has already bombed a muslim state--eliminating Iraq's nukes. and also Syria plant.
What is the difference between a "full attack on a Muslim state" and an "attack" on a Muslim state.

I have no view worth posting on this issue. We seem damned if we do not take out the nukes and damned if we do, as does many another nation in the region. In passing, Saudis and perhaps a few others are also talking developing nukes.
posted by Postroad at 12:01 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]



4. Enjoy the largest recruitment drive in Al-Qaeda history. Seriously? Israel launching a full on attack on a Muslim state? Americans are throwing tantrums because Muslims want to have pilates classes two blocks away from the World Trade Center. This is Al fucking Qaeda.


Al-Qaeda would probably be more pissed off if the Israeli jets overflew Saudi Arabia. Iran and Shiites in general are on their shit list too.
posted by longdaysjourney at 12:05 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Israeli elites want to preserve a regional balance of power strongly tilted in Israel's favor and what an Israeli general described to Goldberg as "freedom of action" --the freedom to use force unilaterally, anytime, for whatever purpose Israel wants.

Replace "Israeli/Israel" with "American/the USA" and "regional" with "global" and you've got our foreign policy down pat, too. Our respective leaderships think very much along the same lines.
posted by AdamCSnider at 12:05 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Israel has already bombed a muslim state--eliminating Iraq's nukes.

And then we never heard from al Qaeda again.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:06 PM on August 11, 2010


In a perfect world, we would could all deal without the nukes.

In an imperfect world, I would prefer if Iran had the capability of nuclear energy. If it just so happens that they get nuclear weapons in the process, well, Israel has them and despite the insanity that happens in their government and the whole victim complex they have going on, they have yet to nuke some other country.

So, I guess what I'm saying is, what's the big deal with Iran and them having nukes? North Korea has nukes and it seems like a far more legitimately crazy government in general.

Oh yeah, Israel, that's the problem. Israel always wanting the free pass and the cake and the eating of said cake. Can't they just have enough and accept to be a non-uber-militaristic country and accept the brain drain and the loss of freedom of action?

Not that the US doesn't suffer from the same problem...
posted by lizarrd at 12:07 PM on August 11, 2010


Al-Qaeda would probably be more pissed off if the Israeli jets overflew Saudi Arabia. Iran and Shiites in general are on their shit list too.

Al Qaeda isn't exactly high on the moralist ladder, obviously. They are however quite successful opportunists. Al Qaeda hated Hussein's Iraq because he was a secular leader. that didn't stop them from creating a massive insurgency under the guise of fighting American incursion into the country.

The organization's successes are all directly linked to military and political instability in whatever country they operate from. A recently-blown-up Iran does a good job creating those settings. The excuse can come later.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:11 PM on August 11, 2010


Adding, like I and many have noted when the Iraq war started, Al Qaeda and Bin Laden never dreamed of "taking over" the country or "destroying America." Their stated objective was to make countries more Islamic. They certainly would not object to the upheaval of a comparatively secular Muslim state, not would they shy from taking advantage of the opportunity to do their thing. But forgive me for not thinking the U.S. or Israel won't go for the plan that gives them everything they want just because they've, you know, been doing that for the last seven or eight years.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:13 PM on August 11, 2010


2. Enjoy all bets off on nuclear treaties. They're gone. The U.S. letting Israel get way with this effectively means that nuclear armament becomes the minimum- minimum- requirement to even think your nation has a military defense. The lesson will be that Iran didn't get nukes fast enough.

This. The US doctirne of preemptive strikes on pre-nuclear powers means that there are really only two kinds of countries in the world:

1) Nuclear states (safe from open aggression)
2) The client states of nuclear nations (proxy battlegrounds)

There needs to be a name for this situation. "Nuclear Feudalism" or something.
posted by Azazel Fel at 12:18 PM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here's a post explaining the negative consequences of an attack on Iran from the Sic Semper Tyrannis Blog. Worst case scenario is that the US looses it's personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the entire arc from Iraq to Pakistan winds up in arms against it.

It's also worth remembering that even if Iran doesn't retaliate with everything it has, they have the capability to manufacture MANPADs and their copy of the TOW missile (Thanks a bunch Reagan). A few thousand of each in Afghanistan would cause no end of trouble to NATO troops there.
posted by Grimgrin at 12:18 PM on August 11, 2010


Replace "Israeli/Israel" with "American/the USA" and "regional" with "global" and you've got our foreign policy down pat, too. Our respective leaderships think very much along the same lines.

Oh, nonsense. The US has operated for the past 60 years well within the doctrine of MAD. Don't piss off the Soviets too much; don't piss off China too much... This is a far cry from unconstrained use of force anywhere.

Israel's actions are unconstrained regionally because Israel is the sole regional nuclear state. The same cannot be said for the US in global terms. The US isn't even the most heavily armed nuclear state--that title goes to Russia.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:21 PM on August 11, 2010


XQUZYPHYR: No offense, but that's pretty ridiculous.

1. Enjoy your $20/gallon gas. Because there's no way OPEC doesn't go apeshit

OPEC is out of the political game. What does Venezuela care about Iranian nukes? Saudi Arabia would probably be relived They don't want Iran to have a bomb. They don't particularly want a strike (as far as I know), but they definitely support sanctions.

4. Enjoy the largest recruitment drive in Al-Qaeda history. Seriously? Israel launching a full on attack on a Muslim state?

Al-Qaeda hates Iran.

Anyway, The Israelis struck Iraq in the 1980s and nothing much happened. They also struck a building in Syria they thought was a nuke facility just a couple of years ago. Nothing happened, in fact Syria didn't even complain publicly (as far as I recall) because their program was secret, or for all we know primarily non-existent.

Israel bombed the fuck out of Lebanon in 2006 and there wasn't any kind hard reaction from the Arab states, let alone OPEC (of course Lebanon isn't a member). The arab countries can't directly affect us either. The U.S. gets most of it's oil from Mexico, Canada and Venezuela.

---

Anyway I don't think Israel should bomb Iran. I actually don't think it would even do much to dent their nuclear program. But recent history (as in, the past 10 years) indicates that Israel can pretty much get away with bombing whoever they want.
posted by delmoi at 12:25 PM on August 11, 2010


in June The Times stated: Saudi Arabia gives Israel clear skies to attack Iranian nuclear sites.
This was quickly refuted by Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf.
It's difficult to see behind the smokescreen to see what the real game is.
Foreign Policy in Focus on tensions between the two countries.
posted by adamvasco at 12:25 PM on August 11, 2010


Worst case scenario is that the US looses it's personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the entire arc from Iraq to Pakistan winds up in arms against it.

I was thinking total global thermonuclear war featuring EMP blasts in the upper atmosphere that wipe out my mp3 collection about what to do to protect your podcasts collection from EMP effects.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:27 PM on August 11, 2010


what the real game is.

BOHICA, baybeeeeee, BOHICA.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:28 PM on August 11, 2010


There was also the very recent very under reported attack on a Japanese Supertanker in the Straits of Hormuz at the end of July.
posted by adamvasco at 12:29 PM on August 11, 2010


Did you mean Bohica for when you're tired of the same old crap?
posted by adamvasco at 12:32 PM on August 11, 2010


Two Very Different Takes on Iran: "In two major national magazines this week, there are simultaneous articles on the confrontation between Israel and Iran over the latter's probable development of nuclear weapons. The articles in The Atlantic and The New Yorker are written from two separate countries, but they could just as well have come from two different planets."
posted by homunculus at 12:35 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


BOHICA
Bend Over Here It Comes Again.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:37 PM on August 11, 2010


Al-Qaeda hates Iran.

Al Qaeda hated Iraq.

I have no idea why people think that they care about the logic as opposed to the opportunity here.

The Israelis struck Iraq in the 1980s and nothing much happened.

Again, 1980 was 1980. Yes, the Israelis struck Osirak partially as a portion of their clandestine support for Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. Amongst other great plans at the time included training Osama Bin Laden to conduct guerrilla warfare. 2001 was what happened after 20 years of planning, partially after what was done in 1980. These are silly comparisons in that the actions are in fact linked. It's like saying that tossing a lit match into your garage wasn't going to do anything bad because you poured gasoline all over the floor an hour ago and nothing exploded.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:42 PM on August 11, 2010


I have no idea why people think that they care about the logic as opposed to the opportunity here.

Because they think the Shiites are apostates. They're not going to use the bombing of Iran as a recruiting opportunity.
posted by longdaysjourney at 12:55 PM on August 11, 2010


I might seem stupid but I do know about google.
posted by adamvasco at 1:17 PM on August 11, 2010




They're not going to use the bombing of Iran as a recruiting opportunity.

Sure they will. "The Israelis and Americans have overextended themselves! Join now for the big push!". They don't have to like the Iranians to take advantage of the situation.

I mean, they didn't care about the prisoners at Abu Grahib either, but that didn't stop them from, did it?

I think it's odd that 68% of Americans are afraid that building a mosque in lower Manhattan would become a cause of Islamic recruitment when we are doing very real things right now in the Middle East that actively help Al Qeada in their recruitment goals. It's baffling.
posted by Azazel Fel at 1:33 PM on August 11, 2010




*didn't stop them from using the situation for PR purposes
posted by Azazel Fel at 1:34 PM on August 11, 2010


Also, I have absoutely no idea how we are going to nurture or encourage a moderate opposition to the Islamic hard-liners in Iran after we or the Israelis bomb their country. People do not respond well when you tell them "your country was bombed for your own good. Overthrow your government and the bombing will stop." Just think how well we Americans would respond to a "friendly, helpful" bombing like that.

I can't think of anything else that seems specifically designed to ensure the longevity of the Iranian theocracy.
posted by Azazel Fel at 1:38 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I read the idiotic line " ... who, if anyone, will stop Iran before it goes nuclear ... " my first reaction was: what sort of know-nothing would say something like that.

Then I went to the link and saw that it was Jeffrey "In five years, however, I believe that the coming invasion of Iraq will be remembered as an act of profound morality." Goldberg, I stopped reading.
posted by Relay at 1:50 PM on August 11, 2010


This attack would be an utter fiasco for Israel. The Iranians won't need to retaliate because they will probably knock the IAF out of the sky. This isn't a quick hop to Syria or a sneak attack on Iraq. They will be unlike to catch the Iranians flat footed. The attack is expected, the targets are mostly known. I do not think the Israelis will be able to overcome Iranian air defenses. This is more about pressing the US, China and Russia to do something rather than a real attack plan.
posted by humanfont at 2:01 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is far more important to America's national security and long-term geopolitical self-interest to make peace with Iran than to continue to appease Israeli hard-liners, and if that includes allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons I say so be it.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 2:05 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I say,

Give Iran "The Bomb"
posted by Aetius Romulous at 3:48 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nuclear is not going away.

Nuclear never goes away. That's the problem with nuclear.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:58 PM on August 11, 2010


FTA:

A few weeks ago, in uncommonly direct remarks, the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States, Yousef al-Otaiba, told me—in a public forum at the Aspen Ideas Festival—that his country would support a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. He also said that if America allowed Iran to cross the nuclear threshold, the small Arab countries of the Gulf would have no choice but to leave the American orbit and ally themselves with Iran, out of self-protection. “There are many countries in the region who, if they lack the assurance the U.S. is willing to confront Iran, they will start running for cover towards Iran,” he said. “Small, rich, vulnerable countries in the region do not want to be the ones who stick their finger in the big bully’s eye, if nobody’s going to come to their support.”


Of course the UAE later walked back the Ambassador's remarks (how could they not), but it's a mistake to suggest that only American/Israeli neocons support the idea of a preemptive strike on Iran.

I think it's also incumbent on those who are "shitting all over this thread" to offer practical suggestions what they would do about Iran's nukes. President Obama seems to think it's at least worth spending capital to impose tough sanctions on Iran to hamper/disrupt/slow their nuclear program.
posted by BobbyVan at 5:00 PM on August 11, 2010


Sure they will. "The Israelis and Americans have overextended themselves! Join now for the big push!". They don't have to like the Iranians to take advantage of the situation.

"they" don't even have to attack anything physically.

If "the world" decides the FRN's is no good - aka your money can't buy you anything - what is going to be the reaction of the US? What CAN be an effective reaction? How do you 'punish' someone who decides 'Yea, we ain't buying what you are selling and what you want to give us for what we have we ain't taking'.

What does the US have that you can't get elsewhere? If nukes are allready flying - what more can be done to 'convince' someone to 'trade'?
posted by rough ashlar at 6:18 PM on August 11, 2010


Further context for the portion quoted by BobbyVan:
I was in the audience at the 2010 Aspen Ideas Festival when Jeffrey Goldberg conducted the astonishing interview he recounts in his article with UAE Ambassador Yousef Otaiba who essentially said that if Iran continued on its current course, the UAE would support a military strike against Iran. What Goldberg failed to mention is that Otaiba also strongly emphasized that the most important radicalizer in the region was the unresolved Palestine-Israel dispute and that the smart strategy to deal with the Iran challenge was to unwind the Israeli occupation. He and other senior Arab leaders have told me that in their view, this would neutralize much of Iran's growing power in the region.

In one of my own interviews with a very senior UAE diplomat, I was told that the best way for the US and allies to confront Iran was to deliver on Palestine and then to work with the Saudis, UAE, and other oil-producing Arab states in making the price of oil crash to very low levels. He said that this would generate "humbling conditions" for Iran and "knee-cap Iran's ambitions." And then he said, Iran would work with us "and these games would end."

What is disappointing is that it seems from Goldberg's article—which I think captures correctly the prevailing mood and opinion in Jerusalem—Israeli government officials for the most part are not even thinking about this course while at the same time considering and possibly accepting other high cost collision scenarios with Iran.
That's Steve Clemmons' excellent reaction over at TPM, as posted above by adamvasco, for which many thanks.
posted by kipmanley at 6:23 PM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]




Sorry, that link was meant to go here.
posted by homunculus at 6:58 PM on August 11, 2010


It was clear from the opening paragraph of Goldberg's article that he was channeling Zionist paranoia, with his hyperbolic claim Iran is an existential threat to Israel- the killer of children and high-tech terrorist, weapons depot for covert activity throughout the world, and whorehouse of the middle east. Instead social justice is an existential threat to Israel, the likes of which Israel's financiers of crime and terror are adamantly opposed to, as can be seen in the comment posted by kipmanley, above. That the Iranians are pushing for nuclear weapons is another unsubstantiated myth bruited about to distract the industrial world from the criminality of Zionists pushing for the full expansion of Eretz Israel. If it ever happens it will be because of U.S. and Israeli bullying.
posted by Veridicality at 7:05 PM on August 11, 2010


Veridicality, previously.
posted by BobbyVan at 7:09 PM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Kipmanley, I'm sure that Steve Clemons is correct that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would solve many, many problems, and go a long way towards blunting Iran's ambitions and making the Middle East a much safer, happier place. But since the conflict will likely not be resolved before Iran becomes capable of assembling a nuclear weapon, what then?
posted by BobbyVan at 7:25 PM on August 11, 2010


making the Middle East a much safer, happier place. But since the conflict will likely not be resolved before Iran becomes capable of assembling a nuclear weapon, what then?

Ah, I see what you're getting at! And you're correct, of course. The only realistic approach to "making the Middle East a much safer, happier place" with any immediate chance of success is to plunge even more of the region into open-ended, bloody, brutalizing and dehumanizing warfare until finally, the whole situation becomes so thoroughly fucked up, the only remaining possibility is for the entire Middle East to spontaneously break out in blue bird songs and spectacular, dazzling rainbows.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:28 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think it's also incumbent on those who are "shitting all over this thread" to offer practical suggestions what they would do about Iran's nukes.

Nothing. Iran is hot lava, stay away from the lava. When has US meddling in Iran ever helped anything?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:47 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Out of curiosity, BobbyVan, why switch suddenly to the passive tense when discussing the resolution of the IP conflict? If it's incumbent on those against striking Iran to explain what should be done about the hypothetical nukes, why isn't it incumbent on those in favor of striking Iran to explain what should be done about the hypothetical-but-everyone-agrees-vastly-preferable peaceful solution?

Also, isn't it entirely possible that Otaiba was deliberately overstating the UAE's hypothetical support in order to brinksmanship various parties closer to a more stable posture, much as the bomber boys were used to push various parties into more stable Cold War postures earlier? And doesn't eliding the fact of Otaiba's full statement and missing this possibility raise questions about the nature and agenda of Goldman's essay?
posted by kipmanley at 9:04 PM on August 11, 2010


The only realistic approach to "making the Middle East a much safer, happier place" with any immediate chance of success is to plunge even more of the region into open-ended, bloody, brutalizing and dehumanizing warfare

If only there was a place......a place where nations could all get together and work out their issues with each other. This group of nations, all working in league with each other, would then result in peace among all of mankind.

Or hey - how about we all operate under the rule of law? I'm sure we can all agree on who's law and the interpretation eh?
“Conclusions – Chapter Five: The Killing of Gentiles in War,” which said that in some cases it is permitted to kill the babies of enemy forces “because of the future danger they may present.”
or how about:
"as a violation of international law" VS "acted in accordance with international law"

Yup - this will be easy to solve, well within the power of the Blue.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:05 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


When has US meddling in Iran ever helped anything?

Depends on what ya mean by "help" and who is getting the "help".

I'm betting a number of people are far better off for the meddling. Such may not be the best outcome for the largest amount of humanity - but if it fattens your bank account to meddle - let the meddling begin!
posted by rough ashlar at 9:08 PM on August 11, 2010


BobbyVan seems to be struggling under the onus of some compulsion to do something, as in: "what then?" We are expected to believe that the purpose of Iran's nuclear program is the destruction of Israel, and that we must act now, before all the facts are in, and in a precipitous manner involving high explosives and extensive collateral damage, as if we were Israeli's fearful of starving children throwing stones who occasionally assemble a stovepipe rocket that falls near illegal settlers destroying Palestinian crops.

Despite all intelligence reports to the effect Iran does not now have a weapons program, that its leaders see such a program as an immoral and costly albatross, and that its uranium refining is a long way from achieving purity needed for weapons manufacture but is good enough for medical and power purposes, BobbyVan promotes the idea that the ultimate goal of Iran is the nuclear destruction of a state that already has, but does not admit to, hundreds of nuclear weapons it is looking for an excuse to use.

In the meantime Mordechai Vanunu is hounded, harassed and imprisoned for bringing this to the attention of the world. His tormentors in the Israeli government, who advocate the breaking of Palestinian bones and the starving of Gazan children able to survive IDF snipers and biblical jet jockeys bearing ordnance, are busy creating more 'facts on the ground' as if this were a good will gesture.
posted by Veridicality at 9:18 PM on August 11, 2010


Strictly for the tinfoilhat brigade: On Aug. 8, Iran announced that four new submarines were added to its fleet.
Also "In 2008 Iran started building a new submarine named Qaem, which is due to be launched within days, Iran's army chief Ataollah Salehi said last week. He described it as "semi-heavy" and capable of operating in the high seas such as the Indian Ocean or the Gulf of Aden"
Would this give Iran the capability to place a missile launching submarine in the Red Sea if it so wanted?
Re the tanker incident here is a photo of Mitsui Star. CSMonitor states the v/l was holed about 4m above the waterline. One theory is that it could have been a mine.
posted by adamvasco at 3:33 AM on August 12, 2010


Actually, the use of "passive tense" is at its most pervasive/insidious when it's employed to reference Iran's nuclear program. Even Goldberg succumbs to it, treating Iran's nuclear effort as more of a force of nature than a consciously controlled human enterprise ("who, if anyone, will stop Iran before it goes nuclear, and how?"). Why isn't everyone on this thread imploring Iran to stop its march toward a nuclear weapon, lest war and pestilence sweep the region? And spare me the protestations that Iran's program is peaceful and innocent - why then the secrecy, the hidden sites, the combative stance with the IAEA, the international sanctions effort, etc.?

Kipmanley, I don't think it's possible the UAE Ambassador was trying to cleverly push the opposing sides toward a more peaceful resolution. Arab diplomats preface nearly every utterance with a statement about the Israeli-Palestinian issue and its paramount importance. It's practically boilerplate. If anything, the Ambassador was trying to scare the world into uniting behind an effort to deny Iran a nuclear weapon through peaceful means, before a military strike becomes necessary.

And of course we should be pursuing a lasting peace in the Levant (we have for decades), but to use the peace process as the only tactic for blunting Iran's regional ambitions would be an abdication of responsibility. Finally, see this NY Times editorial from yesterday... it seems that it's the Palestinians who don't want to come to the table now...

Verdicality, I'm not familiar with Mordechai Vanunu. Is it the person the Israelis are planning to stone to death for adultery? For shame.
posted by BobbyVan at 5:37 AM on August 12, 2010


Why isn't everyone on this thread imploring Iran to stop its march toward a nuclear weapon, lest war and pestilence sweep the region?

Because no other country gaining nukes has caused a war to break out, even in unstable nations like North Korea.

--
After the bombing of the Iraq program Saddam doubled his efforts and dispersed the sites, so I don't know why limited bombing of Iran would solve the problem any better. (Source: Jeffrey Goldberg convincing gullible idiots some other war was necessary.)

Seriously, do nothing, stay the fuck away. Iran won't nuke Israel. Someone will still sell us oil. None of this is our fucking problem, and the official position of our intelligence agency remains that they aren't pursuing weapons anyway.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:39 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]




And Greenwald's one of the best, so he'd know.

Actually, while I absolutely don't trust Greenwald or anyone affiliated with the oil-industry-shilling Cato Institute as a general rule, that's a pretty thorough and convincing take-down of Goldberg. Goldberg has been kind enough, it seems, to have left plenty of evidence of his own moral and intellectual dishonesty strewn around everywhere in print over the years.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:16 AM on August 12, 2010


The US should unilaterally dismantle it's nuclear program. The weapon is useless. Any detonation in the atmosphere will have an enourmous impact on the global environment and on a local area for generations. Occupying troops at any country would be exposed to all kinds of badness.

Furthermore having nukes doesn't protect you. What happens if a dissident group gets a hold of one of these things. I'm not worried about a Iranian bomb as much as I'm afraid of the next McVeigh checking a w80 out of inventory.

Finally the cost of these weapons is enourmous. The US is about to spend 100 billion upgrading the existing stockpile. That's mostly maintenance since the weapons degrade over time.

Even if you accept deterrent effects our current stockpile of 5000+ weapons is ridiculous overkill. We could be more like the uk or china and have an effective deterrent with 100 weapons on submarines.

By unilaterally disarming we would send a message to other countries that these weapons are simply not worth the cost.
posted by humanfont at 11:34 AM on August 12, 2010


furiousgeorge, it's disingenuous to point to the 2007 national intelligence estimate that concluded that iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon. though a new NIE hasn't been released yet, it's widely expected that the US government will change its official position on iran's nuclear program.

and not to get too philosophical on you, but "doing nothing" is a decision/action in and of itself, and if you're OK with israel acting on its own (with tacit support from the arab gulf states and saudi arabia), by all means let's have the US government sit back and "do nothing". the smart course of action would be to put together a global coalition that will use all diplomatic tools and non-military leverage to disrupt iran's nuclear program.

otherwise, an iran with a nuclear deterrent will be emboldened to offer greater support to hezbollah, further destabilizing the region. i'm glad you mentioned the example of north korea: they can now sink south korean ships with reckless abandon, knowing that their conventional (artillery) and non-conventional (crude nuke) deterrent will keep the south from responding.
posted by BobbyVan at 3:51 PM on August 12, 2010


Verdicality, I'm not familiar with Mordechai Vanunu. Is it the person the Israelis are planning to stone to death for adultery? For shame.

You couldn't rebut him without resorting to shit like that? We're talking about nukes here. Adults shouldn't have to be reminded that two wrongs don't make a right.
posted by Amanojaku at 5:10 PM on August 12, 2010


it's widely expected that the US government will change its official position on iran's nuclear program.

An article from February speculating that maybe a report will be issued walking back the conclusions in two weeks.

It is not disingenuous to point out the current official position of the government because there is a possibility that this position is about to change several months ago.

and if you're OK with israel acting on its own'

I'm not an Israeli, I don't speak for them or have any particular concern for their foreign policy unless they are planning to invade the US or something. If they strike or if they don't, Iran isn't nuking them and someone is still selling us oil.


they can now sink south korean ships with reckless abandon, knowing that their conventional (artillery) and non-conventional (crude nuke) deterrent will keep the south from responding.


Shall I point you to previous border incidents and belligerence from NK previous to them gaining nukes to point out this is a pointless straw man, or can we just pretend you didn't try that?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:08 PM on August 12, 2010


Verdicality, I'm not familiar with Mordechai Vanunu. Is it the person the Israelis are planning to stone to death for adultery? For shame.

Mordechai Vanunu revealed to the world Israel's nuclear weapons program.
posted by scalefree at 11:22 PM on August 12, 2010


Jeff Goldberg refudiates himself.

From the OP:
I AM NOT ENGAGING in a thought exercise, or a one-man war game, when I discuss the plausibility and potential consequences of an Israeli strike on Iran. Israel has twice before successfully attacked and destroyed an enemy’s nuclear program. In 1981, Israeli warplanes bombed the Iraqi reactor at Osirak, halting—forever, as it turned out—Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions; and in 2007, Israeli planes destroyed a North Korean–built reactor in Syria. An attack on Iran, then, would be unprecedented only in scope and complexity.
Goldberg in 2002:
Saddam Hussein never gave up his hope of turning Iraq into a nuclear power. After the Osirak attack, he rebuilt, redoubled his efforts, and dispersed his facilities.
If the man's thinking is this sloppy that he can't even agree with himself about the basic facts of the matter, why should anybody take him seriously? (Credit: Balloon Juice)
posted by scalefree at 11:33 PM on August 12, 2010


Impressive amounts of naivety and negative sentiment on this thread ... .

The US naive campaign in Iraq basically left a power vacuum in the region that the fundamentalist Iranian regime is trying its hardest to fill, by increasing its influence (eg Iraq) and recruiting other regional powers in the face of the US. For example, Turkey and Syria have now sided with Iran despite not too recently trying their hardest to appease western sensibilities. The middle east is gradually uniting under an Iranian banner, which symbolizes fundamentalist values and an anti-western mentality.

Concurrently, Iran is doing their very best to constantly mess with Israel. They fund and supply arms to the Hizballah in the north and Hamas to the south of Israel, maintaining a constant missile firing antagonist on Israel's borders and stalling any possible peace process. Concurrently Ahmadinejad repeatedly voices his desire to remove Israel, while bandying Holocaust denying comments. Israel, doesn't take any of these actions lightly and feels justified in dealing with this enemy which is its most deliberate, powerful and dangerous enemy in decades.
posted by blueyellow at 6:56 AM on August 13, 2010


Concurrently Ahmadinejad repeatedly voices his desire to remove Israel, while bandying Holocaust denying comments.

Ahmadinejad is a figurehead with relatively little power. If you want to make a point about Iran's political position on anything, you should use the words of one of the real seats of power: either Ayatollah Khamenei or a member of the Guardian Council.
posted by scalefree at 7:24 AM on August 13, 2010


He speaks for them. Don't think he can voice something that is counter to their beliefs/desires.
posted by blueyellow at 7:33 AM on August 13, 2010


He speaks for them. Don't think he can voice something that is counter to their beliefs/desires.

Like any politician, he can and to some extent must say whatever the domestic politics of his nation demand of him. That's what he's there for.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:40 AM on August 13, 2010






















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