Iran, Obama, AIG and Britt Hume

250px-Fox_News_Sunday "Fox News Sunday" (FNS) is always fun for the feeble minded.

Chris Wallace, the ringmaster for this circus, went on and on and on today about his "concern" that because the Congress is taxing away the bonuses of failed but still rapacious AIG executives, private money will not be committed by other rapacious executives (some of whom are with AIG counterparties in the CDS racket) to a scheme in which they have a good chance of making a lot of money in a partnership with the government in which most of the money will be government money, i.e., buying the trash paper from the banks.  Having been a "visitor" to the world of international business for ten years I find that amusing.  Businessmen are about making money, and that is all.  They are no more "concerned" for the fate or public humiliation of other businessmen than sharks are "concerned" over the blood of other sharks in the water.  If there is a reasonable chance of personal profit, businessmen will swim toward the money.  Is the bonus tax unconstitutional? Probably.  The courts will settle that and the business sharks all know it.

President Obama has now made some significant gestures toward Iran.  These should be seen as alternative to the drift toward eventual war with that country that was the basic Bush Administration policy.  The Iranians do not seem to be responding favorably to those gestures.  This is foolish.  The danger to Iran of continuing evasiveness over the exact nature of their nuclear program is suicidal.  The Iranians should insist that the IAEA pursue unlimited inspections of ALL facilities and atomic programs in Iran.  To do otherwise is to weaken all those in the West who want to see reasonable relations between Iran and its potential enemies.  When the opacity of parts of the Iranian nuclear program are coupled with continuing expressions of hostility by Iranian officials toward both the US and Israel, an atmosphere is encouraged in which eventual military action becomes probable.

The Israelis are pushing hard for this, as are their overt and covert allies in America.  Britt Hume of FNS was very open today in saying that "the worst thing that could happen would be for the Iranians to respond positively to Obama's gestures toward them."  Why? That is simple.  He believes that the iranians are utterly untrustworthy and that any temporary improvements in relations will be mere deceptions and delays in what he sees as the inevitable outcome.

This situation has nothing to do with ancient history about Mossadegh and the Iran-iraq War and everything to do with what the future will hold for all concerned.  If the Iranians do not want to find themselves fighting an air and missile war against the United States and Israel, they should take care over what they say and do.  pl

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71 Responses to Iran, Obama, AIG and Britt Hume

  1. James Montgomery says:

    Col. Lang—
    Please take a look at Juan Cole today.

  2. Patrick Lang says:

    OK Dippy
    I don’t usually read other blogs. I don’t have time to do so, but I read Juan’s comment on this today.
    I think thst JC is being overly kind to the Iranians. They have to meet us half way. Khamenei needs to understand that the illusion that the Iranians may have of their own fearsomness was once shared by the Qaddhafi and Sadddam. It is currently indulged in sporadically by the Israelis.
    The basic truth remains that in the international power game the United States has trhe power and the Iranians have the illusion of power relative to the United States. The relationship between the US and Iran will NEVER be a relationship between equals. If we Americans had a taste for mass murder there would be no Iran. The situation will NEVER be reversed. That is the basic truth. The opportunity is here to make noce and pretend that this is a relationship between equals but we should always remember that it is not.
    The economic catestrophe? It is meaningless in the context of what the US could do to the Iranians with assets long paid for.
    They should remember that. pl

  3. J says:

    We could stomp a Mississippi mudhole in most nations ‘if’ we took a hankering too. Just ‘one’ of our subs could turn Iran into green glass at the drop of a hat. We could also do the same to the Israelis, and the ‘troublesome’ Israelis ‘need’ to understand that since Israel has spilled American blood on more than one occassion and ‘on purpose’ with their murderous Israeli malice and forethought. Israel has no value (to U.S.) other than simply an affair of the heart, and could go ‘poof’ if we the U.S. so desired. And the sooner we drive that point home, the better off for the entire Mideast. The Mideast needs to become a ‘quiet neighborhood’ without all the Israeli mischief.

  4. b says:

    The Iranians should insist that the IAEA pursue unlimited inspections of ALL facilities and atomic programs in Iran.
    They did that while the negotiations with the Europeans where ongoing and the results was that the U.S. still worked aggressively against them.
    Why should they repeat that experience?
    I find Khamenei’s stand quite correct. Obama has changed nothing yet but the tone. Unless there is some tangible move from the U.S. site, there will not be one from Iran’s side. Even a small move would be sufficient to get the talking started.
    For was with Iran – I do not think the U.S. population is currently in favor of any additional adventure.
    Obama’s popularity already gets hurt by the hapless Geithner. Him starting a war would make is presidency rather short.

  5. eakens says:

    The Iranians have historically overplayed their hands in these type of diplomatic situations. They have been extremely effective out of the gate, but at the end of the day it is not worth anything if you can’t “close the deal”.
    Sadly, this time may be no different. I suspect Iran will meet some of the overtures of this administration, but that they hope to do it behind the scenes. I agree with you Col that it is time for Iran to put the chess pieces away, they have already won that game.
    The next game up is charades, and the media are going to try and get the public to guess War.

  6. Patrick Lang says:

    After all these years you still expect justice in international relations.
    This has nothing to do with that. Khamenei’s stand is “correct?”
    So what? pl

  7. John Howley says:

    Crazy Iranian policies probably have as much to do with internal Iranian politics (i.e., who holds power?) as crazy American policies have to do with our internal politics. In each case, the domestic side of things is opaque to the other.
    Competing to see who can be tougher and more intransigent vis a vis the Evil Foreign Power that is the Source of All Our Problems is a time-honored tactic for winning votes.

  8. R Whitman says:

    Reading both the Reuters stories and J Cole, I would say the mating dance is in its early stages.
    I would like to hear from other SSTers and PL as to what the US eventual goal should be with Iran. Do we want them to be an ally like Pakistan, France or Japan or do we want them “out of the way” like South Africa, Argentina and Costa Rica?

  9. Norbert M. Salamon says:

    With due respect to President Obama, as a Canadian citizen reading US & international news and numerous blogs, I yet have to find any REAL change from the Bush years in foreign effairs.
    While Mr. Obama two speeches were nice [Muslim/Arab and IRan], the actions were non-existent [new West BAnk settlement is “unhelpful”, and absolute quiet while Israel destroyed GAZa].
    Talking THOUGH as J does above can start WWIII – Russia will not look kindly to radioactive fallout, nor Kazastan, nor China loosing precious oil the world needs.

  10. Mongoose says:

    If it were Ahmadinejad who pooh-poohed the initial overtures from the Obama administration I would brush it off as electioneering on his part. But we all know that most real power resides in Khamenei’s (apparently clinched) fists and his clerical allies rather than Iran’s president. I’m thus inclined to think that powerful forces in Iran have miscalculated their hand, much as did Bush with his fantasy that the road to Jerusalem went through Baghdad. If anything, Obama may eventually feel pushed in a direction he doesn’t want to go, especially given the non-power of Israel’s non-lobby in the U.S.–war with Iran. Hopefully, playing chess won’t lead to either state trying to checkmate the other. It seems to this non-expert that reasonable assessments of both state’s long-term interests means that the U.S. and Iran could find some areas of agreement. In particular, it seems logical to me that Iran would like us to “succeed” in Afghanistan (at least to the extent of neutralizing Taliban-Sunni extremism), and the same could be said of our soon-to-be limited presence in Iraq. The flip side would mean that we would find it beneficial to quiet things down on either side of Iran’s border as well, leaving behind an Iraqi state that is too strong to be an Iranian cypher but just strong enough to dissuade the Iranians from thinking they can turn it into their cypher. Of course there are several wild cards in all this, including how much drama the Iranians are willing to tolerate in terms of their nuclear program.

  11. ISL says:

    Should any empire begin to act in the way you suggest, the natural status of the world is such that other nations form a block that overwhelms/isolates the nation (this has happened numerous times in history). I do not believe for a second that the US does not do any of those things because we are “good.” Our last president redefined good to include numerous actions that were termed evil when performed by our non-allies, and did not turn any country into glass (even when his military dreams of US mideast domination crashed into reality). Why not?
    I think the US has not gratuitously turned other nations into glass for the same reason the Soviets did not randomly genocide nations outside their borders. It is not in the US long-term self interest. And other nations know this, too. And if one makes a threat like that continuously and does not follow through occasionally, the threat all effects.
    Colonel: while I think Khamenei’s public statements are “correct” for his own politics,” I sincerely hope he is going far more than half way in private. I just don’t see how any progress can be made in US-Iran relations if negotiations the public (media) eye.

  12. somebody says:

    Dear Colonel,
    the US is neither independent of the world’s economy, nor of the world’s opinion, nor of the opinion of their own population. what do you think would happen if the US bombed Iran? do you think the US could win the ensuing arms race with the economy being what it is? don’t you think it is futile to prove to countries that they need nuclear power to protect themselves by bombing them? why do you not mention the Koreans? Iran has been threatened by the US for a long time, why should they believe it now, when the US army is still stuck in Iraq and has a problem in Afghanistan and Pakistan? do you really think they would sit back and do nothing whilst being bombed? what do you think would they do?

  13. Will says:

    a smart audacious American move would be a surgical strike on BOTH Israeli & Iranian ballistic and air assets as well as known new-clear sites not disclosed to to the IAEC.
    A commander in chief could do a lot on his own. The national security of the U.S. demands it. Otherwise we would allow Israel to lead us into a war. A balanced strike at both nations new-clear assets would be applauded by the whole world as the only way out.
    new-clear* that is the way it is spelled out on the teleprompter I kid you not.

  14. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    You wrote: “This situation has nothing to do … the Iran-iraq War…”
    I think you are only partly correct; correct about Mossadegh, incorrect about the importance of Iran-Iraq War.

  15. Babak Makkinejad says:

    George Perkovich had presented some useful ideas back in 2005 in regards to improving the relationship between Iran and the United States. He had enumerated a number of unilateral moves that the President of the United States could take which did not require approval of US Congress.
    The Treaty of San Francisco, which settled all outstanding issues between Allies and Japan, was concluded in 1957 – 12 years after the end of WWII. And that was with a defeated country.
    I should expect that there will be a Treaty of XYZ or Agreement ABC that will settle all outstanding issues between US and Iran. However, such a thing, in my opinion, will take years (if not decades) to negotiate and conclude between Iran and the United States. [Specially since the US Congress has passed so many laws against Iran.]

  16. Matthew says:

    Col: a counterfactual point…If the Iranians do what you say, how can they trust that they won’t be attacked anyway. Being defenseless draws predators, doesn’t it?
    Look at NK. We are really reluctant to take them on–and we know they have have nuclear weapons.
    It’s not about justice. It might be that the Iranians understand humanity’s simian nature.

  17. Ken Hoop says:

    Mr. Lang, did you ever read Phil Giraldi’s “world war” scenario re Iran?
    Perhaps if you did you would be sonmewhat more subdued.

  18. Cloned Poster says:

    Why can’t USA acknowledge Israel as a Nuclear Power?

  19. b says:

    pl: “So what?”
    Sure, that is what Geithener is thinking when he empties your pockets. That doesn’t make it right nor does it mean you won’t fight back.
    After all these years you still expect justice in international relations.
    As a (former) “tool(?)” of U.S. imperialism, you indeed may wonder about that.
    But yes. There are still people who expect justice and respect in international relations. Many people. It does not mean they will get justice, but they strive for it and, more important, fight for it.
    Remember, how the U.S. was born?
    Some of those people who believe in justice kicked my ancestors out of their countries. Some of these people kicked the U.S. out of Vietnam. Some are right now shifting the U.S. out of Iraq and out of Afghanistan.
    They all payed a high price. But the got some justice.

  20. PirateLaddie says:

    An air/missile war is one thing. The Iranians most likely can’t defend their airspace well enough to avoid a severe thrashing — one that could set back the “forces of moderation” for quite some time, and might even negatively impact their nuclear program. By the way, does anyone in the room recall how a similar engagement “played out” in the hands of Paul van Riper? Just asking.

  21. mo says:

    re. Iran, I would suggest we hold off any interpretation of Iranian responses until after the June elections.
    I would not expect conciliatory noises that would encourage a “reformist” candidate from Khamenei.

  22. zanzibar says:

    Joe Stiglitz points out in this interview with Josh Marshall at TPM that one of the reasons why Obama/Geithner want the taxpayer to overpay for the toxic assets on bank’s balance sheets is because only Wall Street is at the table. There is no one representing the taxpayer’s interests despite what Obama claims.
    Another fallacy is the notion that bank’s are not lending and such lending if restarted by bailing out bank counterparties and bondholders would cause the economy to recover. What Geithner and Bernanke I suppose fail to recognize either intentionally or unintentionally is that US households have too much debt relative to their disposal incomes and not enough wage growth – so even if bank’s have the ability to lend, households will likely not further increase their indebtedness and in fact will start the long process of shoring up their own balance sheets as they have been doing over the past few months. And bank credit has increased by $300 billion (3%) year over year.
    If their theory that problems of insolvency and indebtedness can be cured by more debt is proven correct then we have reached financial nirvana. The free lunch is it.

  23. Patrick Lang says:

    Some of you live in a world reminiscent of a college bull session/seminar.
    My comment had nothing to do with the justice of Iranian complaints about the US and everything to do with what would be in their best interest.
    “imperialist tool?” I envision you as sitting around in coffee houses holding court for the young at heart.
    Economic competition? wow! you don’t really understand how much instantaneous power the US has. Arms race Against who” Iran” What a joke!!!
    We have just been through a period in which the United States chose to fight the most expensive possible kind of war far away. We may do that again in Afghanistan. There are other possibilities. pl

  24. curious says:

    “President Obama has now made some significant gestures toward Iran. ”
    Khamenei himself answer Obama’s TV address. I think that’s quite a gesture. That’s the equivalent of somebody talking to a congregate, skipping the entire church hierarchy, and the Pope himself answering. We are talking about a revolutionary body that was created out of a reaction to Shah/US intervention in Iran. The Iranians are engaging.
    I sort of have the feeling state department still believe the little BS that, there is significant legitimacy problem between the Iranian people, the government and supreme council. (eg. state dept. believes their own BS. So close, yet so far away. Not quite getting the whole thing down correctly)
    The Iranian equivalent would be Khamenei talking on TV addressing US audience with a speech directly to AIPAC regarding middle east foreign policy as if they are in charge. (tho’ that would be hilarious, and I would pay good money for that show.)
    Second. Now that Obama has put his own words to the Iranian people at the level of revolutionary council (eg. think religious speeches internal coherency) State dept. better knows that they are putting US entire credibility in line. Obama speech now has moral dimension to the Iranian public. It’s not going to be the usual mea culpa DC game when things go wrong. Cause a speech will be cited over and over again as if it has moral authority. It doesn’t matter much in Iran, but will matter a lot to US image in the middle east.
    But more serious question that Iran probably wants to know. What good is talking to Obama if he a)has a crew that plays neocon game and b)He can’t control Israel and congress and ultimately has to put US foreign policy and defense posture on Israel side in an international incident. In the ends it’s all the same anyway.
    That’s the real politics.
    Which comes to basic Iranian demands a)recognize US past interventions b)not doing it again (basically non hostile treaty of some sort, lay off nuke, gimme back my frozen money, bla bla. the usual junkets) .. then maybe cooperation in return. (energy stability, persian gulf, Afghansitan route, Iraq)
    But everybody knows that’s not going to happen. US foreign policy is in schizophrenic mode. It can’t reconcile between Israel alliance vs. national interest. (aka. the Condi’s clown show.)
    So. it’s pretty much more of the same. managing Israel aggression fallout. And perpetual damage control and propping regime/regime change game.
    So what is Iran’s logical move? Play the bullshit and say whatever. They ware winning entire middle east audience by doing nothing and stand up to their basic demand. All they have to say “Saudi – when are you going to quite becoming a zionist stooge.”
    next up: Israel launching attack, Saudi’s King dead, Palestinian PM dead/west bank flip, another Lebanon war, Egypt transition of power, Iraq, Iran’s nuke, Afghanistan/Pakistan collapse ripple …
    same BS, different days.

  25. Andy says:

    I agree with the thrust of Col. Lang’s comments. Iran and the US have rhetorically painted each other into corners over the past eight years (longer, actually). To reverse that requires baby steps that begin with the moderation of tone before moving onto substantive issues. Obama got the ball rolling and for Iran to let that ball pass by is foolish on their part. They should understand that he cannot offer something of substance for nothing.
    It should also be noted that historically, nations like the US and Iran talk in secret as a preliminary step to reduced tensions. The public face of rapprochement is, historically, coordinated and predicated through secret talks. I hope such talks are occurring and that both sides are committed to them.
    Back when I was in the US Navy, I spent a few years of my life during the 1990s as an Iranian military analyst. I have followed Iranian military capabilities regularly since then as a kind of hobby (yes, I’m a bit weird). In my estimation, Col. Lang is also right about the relative power of the US and Iran, even given the current economic weakness in the US and the strain on US military forces. None of these problems materially weaken America’s ability to wreck Iran should the US choose to do so. It would not even require a long or destructive campaign. To give one example, the Iranian government gets 70% of its revenue from oil exports and 90% of those exports pass through a single oil terminal. Iran has similar vulnerabilities in other areas the US can exploit with a minimal application of force while causing Iran severe problems.
    Iran aspires to be the most important power in the region – it should not risk those aspirations through a hubristic attempt to press a perceived a and illusory advantage against the US.
    I think you raise a good point with the elections. Unfortunately, I think Ahmedinijad and the hard-liners will probably win. That’s my prediction anyway.

  26. china_hand says:

    It seems to me quite clear that the Iranis want nuclear weaponry precisely to protect themselves against this massive imbalance of power that you’re describing, Colonel.
    I would have expected you to view the question of eventual conflict as something more subtle than who kills the most, the fastest.
    Unless the U.S. actually engages in mass murder, then i cannot see any war with Iran holding anything but eventual isolation, ruin, and destitution for the United States.
    The United States has clearly backed Iran into a corner; if they give in to U.S. pressures now, then why should they expect their future to be any different than that of Egypt, Arabia, Pakistan or Lebanon? Yes, they have their oil and wealth and culture, but U.S. diplomatic techniques throughout the region these last sixty years do not seem to hold out any hope for actual independence, peace, and prosperity.
    It seems to me that, from the Iranian perspective, they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Given such a choice, is it any surprise that they’re waiting for better evidence of good faith?
    I believe that the political capital an attack against Iran would cost the U.S. would bankrupt it diplomatically amongst all countries outside of Europe and Arabia (and the other place, of course). I am sure that an attack against Iran would cost the U.S. many dollars and human casualties. “Many” relative to the number of dead Iranians? No.
    But that would make the U.S. position all the more starkly fearsome for the rest of the world, wouldn’t it? Shutting down the Gulf for however long they can, and squeezing oil prices through the roof, would hit the United States in the hardest way at its most financially vulnerable in the last hundred years.
    I don’t see the U.S. use of force against Iran as holding anything but tragedy, poverty, and isolation for both. So yes, the U.S. could get away with it, and still have its massive military dominance. But will that be of any use if the rest of the world simply refuses to play along, any more?

  27. jdledell says:

    Col.- You state it would be In Iran’s best interest to cooperate with the US on resolving it’s nuclear program. My question is why? Ir seems to me, given the power politics you describe, it is in Iran’s best interest to aquire defensive nuclear weapons.
    The down side for Iran is an American military attack. Such an attack would cause massive amounts of damage but given it’s size, terrain and population Iran will probably not be conquered in the conventional occupation sense. But what is the true risk of an American attack?
    We did nothing of significance when Russia, China, Britain, France, Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea developed such weapons. Sorry, but I cannot believe we would go to war with Iran over their nuclear program – not after Iraq and Afganistan. It seems to me containment and MAD will be our response.

  28. curious says:

    My homemade fantasy solution. I think this is actually achievable too.
    1. in exchange for US not acknowledging past interventions, a non intervention treaty with Iran. (not sure if this work, supposedly Bush broke a secret treaty of non intervention that Reagan signed.) This should serve as “non hostility/non interventionist” treaty.
    2. open an official diplomatic channel. This is important because policy in DC is based completely out of think-tank fantasy and dubious dissident input. So policy on Iran can easily be hijacked by putting few people in bureaucratic bottle neck position.
    The steps above should open a real exchange of information and more direct talk, instead of shouting match, media gimmick, and generally being clownish on both side. (jeebus, we are talking about potential arm conflict here. can we get real for once?) Fill the crew with competent people instead of hacks.
    3. Iran-Israel problem is their own to sort. They want to bash each other, it’s their party. US signs “defense” treaty with Israel to limit and define US military obligation when it comes to Israel aggression. (this probably is impossible. They want blank check.) But the big point is to separate US general middle east interest from Israel domestic politics.
    The above should at least provide good foundation to formulate long term policy and define relationship. Formal channel, professionalism and people on the ground. This instead of lobbyists, dubious dissidents, corrupt politicians, TV yakksters and Israel lobby.
    top on agenda Afghanistan/Pakistan stability is in everybody’s interest and should be easy to start working in group.
    Understanding in Iraq would be next. Middle east regional stability and world economy next. And finally, Israel/Palestine problem.

  29. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    The consequences of Iran-Iraq War are, in my opinion, similar to those of WWI. Any engagement with Iran has to take that into account – Justice or Injustice of the case being irrelevant but the security dimension being very relevant.
    In regards to a possible US air war against Iran several things can be stated with certainty:
    1. US has the capacity to destroy all modern infrastructure in Iran.
    2. To realize this, US has to gather all her assets from several places all over the world and organize them for such a war.
    3. There have been political constraints on the United States, even under Mr. Bush, that mitigated against such a course of action.
    Since US cannot occupy Iran and Mr. Khamenei, back in 2006, had stated that “You cannot protect oil assets”, I can only see a stalemate.
    But then again, I am not an specialist in air war.
    R. Whitman:
    US does not have the power to determine the outcome of the internal evolution of the Iranian polity. I should like to encourage you to think, instead, along the following lines:
    Does US want Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia to be more like the Islamic Republic of Iran or more like Afghanistan? Or Pakistan?
    But I do agree with your “mating dance” analogy.
    Mr. Ahmadinejad has been the man most interested in normalizing US-Iran relations. He also has been the man most interested in getting Iran out of a revolutionary phase into a post-revolutionary society.
    His misfortune, in my opinion, has been the Presidency of Mr. Bush with take no prisoners rhetoric and later actions.
    Mr. Obama must be willing to stop the US cold war against Iran. If he is not interested or incapable of doing so – for whatever reason – then war between US and Iran will have a high degree of probability.
    Ironically, as a consequence of such a war, US will be forced to abandon Israel to he own devices since US would no longer be able to bear the cost of protecting that state. Which, in turn, might hasten the settlement of the war in Palestine in more favorable terms to the Palestinians.

  30. curious says:

    “Why can’t USA acknowledge Israel as a Nuclear Power? Posted by: Cloned Poster | 22 March 2009 at 03:00 PM ”
    cause then a) US has to insist Israel sign NPT. Or else be put in trade embargo list b)It changes the power balance in the middle east significantly (even Israel nuke is public secret)
    The minute israel refuses to sign NPT. That treaty will be pretty much a complete joke. (It’s already a big joke with India case)
    Not sure why nobody insist Israel sign NPT tho’. At UN level that is a legit case for world security.

  31. Patrick Lang says:

    There are no offensive or defensive weapons. There are only intentions as to use of particular weapons. i.e., land mines might be seen to be defensive weapons but not if they are ued as an economy of force device as in using them to enable one to reduce forces in an area so as mass one’s armored force for an attack elsewhere. The German 88 mm. air defense gun would be another example. It was equally useful as part of an offensive ground force. In the case of nuclear weapons there are certainly no “defensive” weapons in the sense that you mean. An opponent will not accept your definition of them as such ans so they are not.
    Iran’s danger is that MAD may not be possible to achieve in the absence of Israeli willingness to accept American assurance that Iran is not a hostile nation inclined to a first strike strategy against Israel. The Israelis will increasingly possess a nuclear first strike capability against Iran based on their missile force. This force is not subject to an American veto on their action. Israeli obsession with Iran and its putative nuclear weapons program is growing steadily. The “1% solution” appears to have Israeli roots.
    The influence of the “lobby” is actually irrelevant to the issue of whether or not the US will stand with Israel in any existential cirisis. It will do so.
    It is in the best interest of all concerned that all this business about national grievance be put away before a catastrophe occurs. pl

  32. Gene says:

    Colonel, I now know that you do not usually read other blogs. I think you’ll find this one worthwhile though.
    On a more personal note, I think you may have read only one set of narratives. As ‘b’ mentioned here, there have been two: one obviously trying to show that Iran has humiliated the US (for which the President would be deemed responsible, which would serve the interests of the neocons presumably), and the other more subdued. I hope you do not allow the former to get the better of, from what I’ve seen up to now, your usual good judgment.

  33. Ingolf says:

    “It is in the best interest of all concerned that all this business about national grievance be put away before a catastrophe occurs.”
    Obviously true, but I can’t see how it’s going to happen, nor can I see how simply wishing that Iran were something that it is not is a sensible policy. Their grievances are genuine and nothing in US policy (past or present, at least so far) provides a reason for them to roll over and play nice.
    Maybe (hopefully) there’s more going on behind the scenes, but for all its fine words and sentiments, Obama’s speech to me felt patronising; surely it would have been better to make quiet lower level approaches, to try to work on a few small practical issues, to allow people from both sides to get to know each other on a day-to-day basis, to gradually build up trust rather than launching into an arguably counter-productive flight of rhetoric.
    In any case, it seems clear from your last comment that the real problem is Israel and its fears. This is the intractable fact that US policy continues to stumble on. Where once they were a much admired and (arguably) valuable friend, they’re now more like a dangerously unstable wild card that has to be placated.
    Isn’t the real issue therefore how they can be sufficiently reassured (on an existential level) to allow the development of a more sensible Middle Eastern policy?

  34. Summers says:

    Does it make sense for the president to conduct his foreign policy via youtube? What happened to the back channels route?

  35. Gene says:

    Dictating to or Dialogue with Iran
    by Rami G. Khouri
    […] the persistent flaw in the Obama approach that might prove to be fatal is a lingering streak of arrogance that is reflected in both the tone and the substance of his message. This is most obvious in his insistence – after telling the Iranians that they are a great culture with proud traditions, which is presumably something they already knew, experienced and felt on their own — on lecturing Iran about the responsibilities that come with the right to assume its place in the “community of nations”, and then linking Iran’s behavior with “terror of arms” and a “capacity to destroy.”
    It is difficult to see how Washington feels the positive gestures of reaching out can be reconciled with the American president’s irrepressible need to lecture others about the rules of righteous nationhood. One of the principal complaints that Iran has against the United States – and this is mirrored in widespread Arab and Islamist resistance to the United States and its allies – is the lingering colonial tendency by the leading Western powers to feel that they write the rules for the conduct of other nations.
    This complaint is exacerbated by hearing the Americans warn against the “ability to destroy” and the danger of using “terror or arms” — while Washington sends hundreds of thousands of its troops around the world on destructive yet dubious missions, backs its allies in various Arab countries with a gusher of arms, and enthusiastically stands by Israel in the latter’s actions in Lebanon and Palestine in what many see as a policy of state terror.
    The whole column is worth a read.

  36. curious says:

    Babak Makkinejad | 22 March 2009 at 02:46 PM
    PS. Can Iran upload the Khamenei speech onto Youtube with “subtitle”? (ie. so average people with no access to iranian TV can actually watch and see what Khamenei is saying without TV yakkster filter?)
    (or whatever other public video upload service out there.)
    Direct Iran news without filter is very hard to come by. (I tend to lump government news service as press office, not news service. A little like VOA/whitehouse press briefing.)

  37. curious says:

    Complete mess. (and nobody can get access to Khamenei speech without media filter. No official transcript/translation and complete video upload.
    PS. Hello Iran? Need to fix your international media access. Need one place where one can get official documents, press release, video upload, important speeches. legal repository, etc. Nobody understand what’s going on in there.
    Did Israel Intentionally Subvert Obama’s Iran Message?
    By M.J. Rosenberg – March 21, 2009, 9:42AM
    Yesterday when the New York Times inexplicably gave Shimon Peres’ threatening and insulting message to Iran equal play with President Obama;s, I thought it might be no coincidence.
    Peres, who is an uberhawk on Iran, suddenly sends “greetings” to the Iran people urging them to rise up against their government at the same moment that Obama respectfully addressed the “Islamic Republic of Iran” with the most conciliatory US message in decades. Coincidence? Maybe.

  38. china_hand says:

    Do you think, Colonel, that the U.S. would condone Israeli use of nuclear weapons?
    If so, do you really think that it could survive the international repercussions?
    And if nuclear weapons aren’t used, then do you really think that Israel and the U.S. could mount a sustained, conventional action against Iran — and survive the repercussions?
    The U.S. economy is collapsing, and Obama’s dawdling and dandering over Wall Street corruption is making it much worse, the sort of dilly-dallying that mass riots are made of. I really can’t see the people of the U.S. accepting a sustained action against Iran while they themselves are being evicted from their homes, while gas prices go through the roof, and all at the same time Wall Street is sucking up their tax-dollars.
    It seems hard for me to imagine any attack scenario — Israelis or no Israelis — that would work in the U.S.’s favor. Wouldn’t common self-interest suggest that it won’t be done?

  39. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    For reasons of state cohesion & security, Iran should have left the NPT back in 1998 when India and Pakistan tested their nuclear weapons.
    This is not an issue of national grievance.
    What is the position of the United States in regards to the possibility of a nuclear attack against Iran by Pakistan, India, or Israel?
    If Tehran is destroyed in a pre-emptive strike, what will the United States do?

  40. curious says:

    k. translation is out.
    If they had not imposed sanctions on us, we would have not reached this level of science and progress. Sanctions constantly made us aware, made us think about ourselves, and be innovative. But they did not mean to serve us like this. They wanted to be antagonist. This is how they treated the Iranian nation for 30 years, and now the new US Government says that they would like to negotiate with Iran, that we should forget the past. They say that they extended their arm towards Iran. What kind of a hand? If it is an iron hand covered with a velvet glove, then it will not make any good sense. They congratulate the Iranian nation on the occasion of the New Year (Iranian New Year started 20 March 2009), but in the same message call the Iranian nation supporters of terrorism, who seek nuclear weapons, and accuse it of such things.
    I would like to say that I do not know who makes decisions for the United States, the President, the Congress, elements behind the scenes? But I would like to say that we have logic. Since the beginning, the Iranian nation moved with logic. Regarding our vital issues, we are not sentimental. We do not make decisions based on emotion. We make decisions through calculation. They tell us to negotiate, to start relations. They have the slogan of change.
    Where is the change? What has changed? Clarify this to us. What changed? Has your enmity toward the Iranian nation changed? What signs are there to support this? Have you released the possessions of the Iranian nation? Have you removed the cruel sanctions? Have you stopped the insults, accusations, and negative propaganda against this great nation and its officials? Have you stopped your unconditional support for the Zionist regime? What has changed? They talk of change, but there are no changes in actions. We have not seen any changes. Even the literature has not changed. The new US President, from the very moment of his official appointment as President, made a speech, and insulted Iran and the Islamic government. Why? If you tell the truth, and there are changes, where are these changes? Why can we see nothing? I would like to say this to everyone. US officials should also know that the Iranian nation cannot be fooled, or scared.

  41. Will says:

    “The Israelis will increasingly possess a nuclear first strike capability against Iran based on their missile force. This force is not subject to an American veto on their action.” Said PL
    My earliear comment about “newking” Yisrael’s new-clear (as W’s teleprompter spellled it for him) and ballistic capabilites in an American first-strike (as well as Iran’s for even handedness) was obviously tongue-in-cheek but the logical necessity is crystal clear obvious.
    Though an audacious act, our own survival is at stake. There is a divergence of unity, ownership, & command. Our gold and goodwill has enabled their mighty buildup and dangerous position to threaten the peace of the world.
    Yet we do not exercise dominion and control over them.
    We have to find a way to bring our wayward child to heel.

  42. Patrick Lang says:

    Please try not to condescend to me. I know I am just a simple soldier but you annoy me.
    Also, try not to sound like:
    – Undergraduates filled with baseless platitudes about the efficacy of world opinion and sanctions in situations that threaten of mass casualties inflicted in a moments of human failure.
    – Graduate students or professors who actually believe in the “rational actor model” of human behavior. pl

  43. Patrick Lang says:

    China Hand
    You talk as though the United States controls Israel’s actions. That is not the case. The US has a considerable influence over whether or not Israel would attack Iran using airplanes. Air space control over Iraq is the principle reason for that but there are other factors, tanker capacity, SAR, etc.
    The US has NO control over what Israel does with its missile force. The Jericho 2 and 3 are true IRBMs. The Israelis have had a long time to work on warheads that will fit these. “Condone?” What makes you think that the US would know of an attack in advance?
    The Isrelis fear the aftermath of such an attack. They fear isolation from the world. The US would stand by Israel in a truly existential crisis, but the Israelis are correct in fearing that they would be “on their own” in the aftermath of a unilateral pre-emptive attack on Iran. The basic strategic analytic question is whether or not Israeli fear of allowing Iran to eventually weaponize deliverable nuclear weapons will outweigh “rational” fear of isolation and chaos following a strike on the Iranians.
    The Israelis now see themselves as being in a period analogous to 1945-1949 when the US could have struck the Soviet Union before the Soviets achieved the ability to make fission weapons. They know that once the Iranians achieve a detonation, Israel’s options will be much more limited and they will live in a world dominated by a logic (MAD) that they do not think will protect them. Why? No believable second strike capability. pl

  44. Concerning Iran, I disagree with portions of the post. I’ve, unless I’m missing something, seen no significant gestures as yet. Obama’s message was a rhetorical opening gambit and likewise for Khamenei’s indirect response. Does anyone know of cases where something like this “address to the people of Iran” has led to immediate results? I can’t think of any.
    The situation has much to do with (not so) ancient history.
    A list would include,but not be limited to: the partition and occupation of Iran during the last world war, the American facilitated coup of 1953, The resulting and depised rule by the Shah, the occupation of the American embassy and ensuing hostage crisis, American aid to Iraq during the Iran- Iraq War, the U.S. Navy’s shooting down of Iran Air 655, the last incident was followed by promotions and medals for the responsible officers and a vow by Vice-President Bush that the United States would never apologize for shooting down the air liner, and, finally, the rejection of Iranian overtures in the 2001 and 2002 timeframe.
    I would observe that the Iranians would be as trustworthy as the United States and the other major actors in the Middle East. And, I would ask if anyone can identify competing strategic interests that would preclude a U.S. – Iran rapprochement.
    It goes without sayin that we could destroy Iran or any other country as could the Russians, British, and French. Why would we want to?

  45. Patrick Lang says:

    You live in the world of what “ought to be” rather than “what is.”
    That’s is a good place to live. Without people like you things would never change for the better.
    Don’t let “what ought to be” prevent you from coping with “what is” when survival is at stake. pl

  46. Pat Lang,
    That struck home, as I’ve generally tried to avoid being in the “ought to be” school. To expand a little on trustworthiness, I was referring to whether a nation can be relied upon to rationally percieve and act in its own interest. My view is that the United States hasn’t done well in that regard, particularly in the Middle East but also concerning Cuba and the China policy before Nixon and Kissinger. Is Iran acting contrary to a realistic appraisal of its situation vis a vis the U.S.? That wasn’t a rhetorical question.
    My overall question still is, are there vital interests of each nation that would preclude rapprochement?

  47. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Mr. Obama’s Nowruz greeting, like Dr. Ahmadinejad’s previous letters to the Presidents of the United States, is an attempt to begin a dialogue.
    To wit, Mr. Khamenei has responded that they (the Iranian leaders) are reasonable and calculating when it comes to the interests of the Iranian state.
    He has requested concrete actions from the President of the United States.
    I believe that there are many things US President can do which will not cost much; such as releasing Iranian diplomatic staff in Iraq or termination of the funding for the Junduallah in Baluchistan.
    Now we wait to see what Mr. Obama does concretely.

  48. Iran’s fundamental choice over next century will not be Arab states and it relationship to them, nor Israel and Irans relationship to Israel. No a new rock and a hard place is going to force Iran to decide whether to side with Russia or China because I suspect what I am going to now label The Chinese Condominium” consisting of most of East Asia and perhaps parts of S.Asia will be the dominant economy and foreign policy player for Iran. Hey, the Iranians are smart or their culture would not have made it this far. But they are Persians not Arabs and given Islam’s unwillingness to surrender to the present or future hard hard choices are soon to be made by Iran. What is the number, 70% of the population born 1979 or after? That demographic tiger is almost unbelieveable to the west but not to the east. Put yourself in the way of any Iranian policymaker and what choices will allow Iran to succeed for next two decades much less this century. Of course my analysis is based on watching the US now making choices that are so short term that we won’t have the capability by 2030 to do much but sell veggies and wheat to the China Condominium. Even the Iranians look like thinking long term compared to Israel and US. I will leave key mileposts to later comments. Foreign direct investment is a key milepost for most of the world right now, including US.

  49. Ingolf says:

    According to an article in the Jerusalem Post (August 2006), Israel’s purchase of two more modern Dolphin-class submarines “will, according to foreign reports, provide superior second-strike nuclear capabilities.”
    If you have the time, Colonel, I’d be interested in why you think it doesn’t.

  50. china_hand says:

    Thank you for the response, Colonel.
    Perhaps i should clarify: i didn’t intend to imply that the U.S. could prevent an Israeli first strike (well, not unless our military’s willing to undertake one of its own); only to question if the U.S. wouldn’t undergo a sea-shift of reckoning were the Israelis to use nuclear weapons.
    You have said Israel would indeed be “on its own” in such an event. Do the Israelis really believe they can survive in the face of a massive worldwide backlash? It seems they are barely able to hold their polity together as it is — billions of dollars in aid from the U.S. each year is resulting only in more aggression, more war. That’s not the signature of a healthy state.

  51. fasteddiez says:

    If I may humbly submit an idea.
    The second strike capability from any Israeli subs at sea when/if an Iranian first strike hits Israel is no comfort to Bibi and all his countrymen not abroad.
    The naval lads at sea need only enough fuel (are they diesel/electric boats?), to make it to a friendly/neutral port of call (That might be challenging).
    If, on the other hand, there’s an “On the Beach” scenario, they might get a little liberty call, before calling it a night; so to speak.

  52. David Habakkuk says:

    While the directions in which anxieties about the viability of MAD are leading Israel are catastrophic, it is important to grasp that these anxieties are not actually wholly without foundation, by any means. In fact the whole notion of an assured second-strike capability is acutely problematic, even for countries in a far more favourable position than Israel is.
    In thinking about MAD, it is important to distinguish between two separate things. One is a fact — that given the destructiveness of nuclear weapons, even the prospect of a small number of these hitting one’s cities provide cogent reasons for seeking to avoid war.
    The other is a body of theory, according to which a key requirement for the stability of a nuclear balance of terror is that each side should have the capability to be able to ride out a first strike by the other, and inflict a devastating retaliatory strike.
    Unfortunately, much theorising about this subject suffers from pathologies not infrequently found in attempts to remodel the social sciences — in which I include the study of military strategy — on the model of the ‘hard’ sciences. One of these is a disdain for the dirty work of empirical investigation.
    Consider for example the famous 1958 paper by Albert Wohlstetter entitled ‘The Delicate Balance of Terror’. In this Wohlstetter described six ‘hurdles’ that had to be surmounted if an assured second-strike capability was to be achieved — and remarked that: ‘Prizes for a retaliatory capability are not distributed for getting over one of these jumps. A system must get over all six.’ Among the ‘hurdles’ listed was ‘to make and communicate the decision to retaliate’.
    According to Wohlstetter’s own logic, if it is not possible to design a command and control system which can ‘make and communicate the decision to retaliate’ after an all-out thermonuclear attack, an assured second-strike capability is a mirage: just as if one of the obstacles in a steeplechase is too high or wide for a horse to cross, that horse cannot get to the end of the course.
    But at no point in the paper does Wolhstetter confront the question as to whether the goal is attainable. Remarkably in my view, having painted Soviet capabilities for surprise thermonuclear attack in distinctly alarmist colours, he simply took for granted that it was within the power of USAF planners to devise a command and control system which would still be functioning when the United States was an irradiated wasteland.
    So the problem was, in effect, handed over to those lesser mortals who would have to try to operationalise the strategy.
    According to Bruce Blair, the former Minuteman launch control officer who is one of the world’s leading authorities on nuclear command and control, those who had to operationalise the ideas of theoreticians like Wohlstetter did not think the command and control ‘hurdle’ could be crossed. They anticipated that their command and control system would collapse under the weight of a Soviet attack, calling their ability to make an effective second strike in question.
    The implications were set out by the former commander in chief of the Strategic Air Command, General Lee Butler, in an interview published in Jonathan Schell’s 1998 study The Gift of Time, from which Blair quotes on his website:
    ‘Part of the insidiousness of the evolution of this system … is the unfortunate fact that, whatever might have been intended by the policymakers (who, incidentally, had very little insight into the mechanisms that underpinned the simple words that floated onto a blank page at the level of the White House), in reality, at the operational level, the requirements of deterrence proved impracticable…. The consequence was a move in practice to a system structured to drive the president invariably toward a decision to launch under attack…. Launch under attack means that you believe you have incontrovertible proof that warheads actually are on the way….. Our policy was premised on being able to accept the first wave of attacks. We never said publicly that we were committed to launch on warning or launch under attack. Yet at the operational level it was never accepted that if the presidential decisions went to a certain tick of the clock, we would lose a major portion of our forces… Notwithstanding the intention of deterrence as it is expressed at the policy level – as it is declared and written down – at the level of operations those intentions got turned on their head, as the people who are responsible for actually devising the war plan faced the dilemmas and blind alleys of concrete practice. Those mattered absolutely to the people who had to sit down and try to frame the detailed guidance to exact destruction of 80 percent of the adversary’s nuclear forces. When they realized that they could not in fact assure those levels of damage if the president chose to ride out an attack, what then did they do? They built a construct that powerfully biased the president’s decision process toward launch before the arrival of the first enemy warhead.’
    A submarine based nuclear capability would certainly be more ‘survivable’ than a land-based capability, for the Israelis. But it certainly does not wholly get round the problem.
    None of this should be taken as indicating that I think that Israeli policy is wise. But if we are all to step back from going to hell in a handcart in the Middle East — which is what I very much fear we are doing at the moment — it is important to grasp the rational foundations of Israeli anxieties.
    By the same token, of course, it is equally important to grasp the rational foundations of Iranian anxieties — confronted by an Israel already possessed of a large nuclear arsenal and effective delivery systems, and led by figures like Netanyahu and Lieberman. There are I think, vastly stronger grounds for the Iranians to fear Israeli attack than for the Israelis to fear Iranian.
    But then one also needs to take into account other Israeli fears — including the fear that even more of the young and the educated will decide the Middle East is too dangerous a neighbourhood.

  53. curious says:

    One of Israel biggest strategy problem and they have always been worrying about it in their military doctrine is “lack of geographical depth”
    And we are talking about conventional land battle. If we are talking about nuclear attack, I think one can pretty much figure out how to drop 4-5 nuke that will evaporate state functions permanently. It doesn’t matter how deep of a bunker they build.
    for eg. at radius of 10-20 miles blast taking out 80% Israel industrial base, port and military facility would only take 3 nukes. Iran should be able to achieve such second strike capability in less then 5 yrs.
    Anyway, you can play your own “nuke ’em’ on real map here. Have fun

  54. curious says:

    Israel command and control?
    They can’t even form a government yet. So let’s just say, I doubt they can get their act together if they lost Haifa, Tel Aviv, and all their runways.
    I think the most interesting question at this moment is when will Iran achieve minimum second strike capability? Because at that point, The equilibrium of power between Israel and Iran is achieved. (both sides pretty much know they are at stalemate point without investing in significant technological leap.)
    All the rest are standard song and dance.

  55. Babak Makkinejad says:

    portion of Mr. Khamenei’s speech may be found, tranlsated, @

  56. Ingolf says:

    Thanks, David. This was, for me at least, some very valuable background. The breadth of your knowledge (and interests, it would seem) borders on the alarming.
    Granted, then, that at least some of Israel’s fears in this direction are well founded, do you have any thoughts on what might coax them back from the brink of making truly catastrophic policy decisions? After all, I think there’s at least some truth in the old saying that ” what we fear most, we bring upon ourselves.”
    I’d also be most interested in your take on whether Iran is aiming to acquire nuclear weapons. FWIW, I’ve long thought they probably are, if only because their possession seems to offer the only realistic guarantee against external aggression and for Iran, that must surely seem particularly desirable. In that sense, US policy in recent years has long struck me as unusually counter-productive.
    By the way, like many here I suspect, I’m always pleased when I see there’s a David Habakkuk comment on a thread. It invariably means the calibre of the conversation will take a further step up, even if it’s already exceptionally good.

  57. Gene says:

    Colonel, here is another assessment of that message from Iran … in case you might be interested.

  58. curious says:

    portion of Mr. Khamenei’s speech may be found, tranlsated,
    Posted by: Babak Makkinejad | 24 March 2009 at 03:26 PM ”
    yeah I saw that. Should just post it as subtitle along with the video upload file. Are you guys still blocking youtube? That tool is important, and still relatively open global soap box. Plus, can’t control everything, might as well let it all out.
    People in general figure out which is which with enough information.

  59. David Habakkuk says:

    Thanks for your compliment on the breadth of my knowledge. Unfortunately breath is one thing, depth another.
    Following the 2006 Lebanon war, someone who has real depth of knowledge on the Middle East, the former CIA Saudi Arabian station chief Ray Close, noted that there was a strategic logic behind the Israeli attack on Hizballah, given that developments in missile technology were going to make more and more of Israel vulnerable to missile attack.
    And the same logic created an immense pressure to ‘do something decisive about Iran’, as only by such decisive action, it was believed, could the threat from Hizballah and Hamas be neutralised. And in looking at perceptions of Iranian nuclear threats, one needs to take into account the anticipated effect upon risk-taking, quite as much as any direct threat.
    As a result the possibility of an Iranian nuclear capability is doubly significant in relation to Israel’s most serious vulnerability, which is that the new generation of the educated elites upon whom the country depends may decide they have a better future elsewhere.
    What Close went on to suggest was that U.S. policy was heading into a potentially acutely dangerous blind alley, where the alternatives were either ‘1. War with Iran (with negative consequences beyond anyone’s ability to imagine); or 2. Another humiliating demonstration of impotence.’
    The voices of prudence fortunately prevailed in Washington, with the aid of the November 2007 NIE, which judged ‘with high confidence’ that the Iranian nuclear weapons programme had been halted in fall 2003, and ‘with moderate-to-high confidence’ that Tehran ‘at the minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.’
    Others who have followed this more closely than I have, and have expertise I lack, may have seen evidence suggesting that these judgements were wrong or outdated. But what the NIE argued the Iranians had done is what it seems to me it would be sensible for them to do.
    It is precisely when a state is engaged in a crash programme to develop nuclear weapons and the systems to deliver them that its adversaries are liable to feel that they have a ‘window of opportunity’ of which they must take advantage before it is too late.
    According, even if they are hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons — which they may or may not be — it could very well make sense for the Iranians not to go for an all-out attempt to acquire them until their civilian programme and related military programmes are more developed.
    And this is all the more so as they need to find what counters they can to U.S. and Israeli power in the present and immediate future, and other ways of spending scarce resources may be more promising than a crash programme which could still take years to produce a functioning capability.
    As to the Israelis, I think ‘what we fear most, we bring upon ourselves’ is very much to the point. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy recently produced a document arguing that Israeli leaders believed that they did indeed have a ‘window of opportunity’ to take unilateral action to check the Iranian nuclear programme, which was not dependent upon U.S. assistance, but that they saw this closing rapidly, and so might act unilaterally.
    Of course, this may very well be bluff, intended to convince the Obama Administration that the potential ‘negative consequences’ of an attack on Iran are likely to be less if the U.S. is involved than if Israel goes it alone. But I am no longer confident of this.
    Facing very real security threats, and with no very good options, the Israelis have made matters immensely worse for themselves by seeing Middle East realities through lenses formed by the traumas of the Holocaust. They may indeed have come to see a nuclear Iran as such an apocalyptic threat that they have to try and stop it, whatever the costs and risks — and even if the prospects of eventual success are poor.
    As a result, the current situation is fraught with potential for complete catastrophe. What might coax the Israelis back? Real pressure from the U.S. government might — but that is unlikely for the foreseeable future.
    As to persuasion — the assumption that criticism of Israel can only be a manifestation of anti-Semitism seems widespread in Israel, so persuasion from fellow Jews would be more likely to have traction than persuasion from Gentiles.

  60. FB Ali says:

    I’d like to second your closing remark re David Habakkuk. His appearance on a thread is alone worth the price of admission! We are indeed fortunate to have him on this site.
    I haven’t followed this discussion too carefully, but let me say that this second-strike business is a considerable red herring. For it to function in any way as a deterrent, you have to make a firm assumption that the other side is going to make rational decisions. Anyone who contemplates the use of nuclear weapons today is not rational.
    What is scary about Israel now is that both its political and military leaders seem to display such poor judgement as to border on irrationality. There was a time when one could depend on Israeli generals to be cold rationalists, however feckless the reigning politicians might be. Unfortunately, no longer.
    An Israeli strike on Iran would be an unmitigated disaster for the USA. One only hopes this is realized in Washington.

  61. Will says:

    After Gaza, it is abundantly clear that Israel is not a country that can be trusted w/ deliverable nukes.
    I understand there are contingency plans to seize Pak nukes to keep them out of the hands of fundamentalist radicals. I pray & trust there are likewise plans to sieze Israeli nukes to keep them out of the hands of the likes of Avigodor Lieberman. (b/ I won’t hold my breath till the near east glows in the dark)
    A way out of this Iran/Israel/conundrum is to declare that the National Security of the United States requires that the Middle East exist as a NewClear Free Zone due to the presence and vulnerability of our troops there, period!
    A little audacity per A. Lincoln pursuant to the War Powers of the Presidency. (See Emancipation Proclamation & Gettysburg Address)

  62. Babak Makkinejad says:

    There is absolutely no possibility of any Israel-Iran war. The leaders of Israel have known, at least since 2006, that the power to prevent the emergence of a nuclear-capable Iran does not exist in the international arena. And Israel does not want to loose Dimona nuclear complex.
    While Don Americo is using the threat of a nuclear rogue state, i.e. Israel, to maintain his position in Eastern Mediterranean and the Levant & Persian Gulf – the self-same rogue nuclear state is trying to manipulate the Don. And the Don knows this too.
    This is patently silly but this is where we are now as far as I can tell.

  63. Patrick Lang says:

    Unfortunately, you are quite wrong. The Israelis believe thatt here is a window if opportunity which has not yet closed. pl

  64. Ingolf says:

    David, the more I read and hear about Israel, the more I wonder if Avraham Burg isn’t right in his dark view of his country. He was (as you no doubt know) Speaker of the Knesset, chairman of the Jewish Agency (and so on) before deciding to leave public life about five years ago.
    There’s a long and fascinating interview available on Haaretz (see below) in which he and an old friend discuss, often contentiously, where things have gone so wrong. Consider this, for example (interviewer in italics):
    What you are saying is that the problem is not just the occupation. In your eyes, Israel as a whole is some sort of horrible mutation.
    “The occupation is a very small part of it. Israel is a frightened society. To look for the source of the obsession with force and to uproot it, you have to deal with the fears. And the meta-fear, the primal fear is the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.”
    That is the book’s thesis [the book is “Defeating Hitler”, written by Burg]. You are not the first to propose it, but you formulate it very acutely. We are psychic cripples, you claim. We are gripped by dread and fear and make use of force because Hitler caused us deep psychic damage.
    Well, I will counter by saying that your description is distorted. It’s not as though we are living in Iceland and imagining that we are surrounded by Nazis who actually disappeared 60 years ago. We are surrounded by genuine threats. We are one of the most threatened countries in the world.
    “The true Israeli rift today is between those who believe and those who are afraid. The great victory of the Israeli right in the struggle for the Israeli political soul lies in the way it has imbued it almost totally with absolute paranoia. I accept that there are difficulties. But are they absolute? Is every enemy Auschwitz? Is Hamas a scourge?”
    You are patronizing and supercilious, Avrum. You have no empathy for Israelis. You treat the Israeli Jew as a paranoid. But as the cliche goes, some paranoids really are persecuted. On the day we are speaking, Ahmadinejad is saying that our days are numbered. He promises to eradicate us. No, he is not Hitler. But he is also not a mirage. He is a true threat. He is the real world – a world you ignore.
    “I say that as of this moment, Israel is a state of trauma in nearly every one of its dimensions. And it’s not just a theoretical question. Would our ability to cope with Iran not be much better if we renewed in Israel the ability to trust the world? Would it not be more right if we didn’t deal with the problem on our own, but rather as part of a world alignment beginning with the Christian churches, going on to the governments and finally the armies?
    “Instead, we say we do not trust the world, they will abandon us, and here’s Chamberlain returning from Munich with the black umbrella and we will bomb them alone.
    ( )
    He’s extremely controversial, of course, indeed many view him as a traitor. Still, much of what he says fits in disturbingly well with some of the points made here. One thing seems clear; discussion of these issues is more wide open in Israel than it is in the US.
    Have you, by any chance, read Walter Russell Mead’s recent essay in the Foreign Affairs journal? He made what I thought was an interesting attempt to reframe the conflict by refocusing on the failure of the international community to provide security when the British withdrew. By doing so, he hoped to strengthen the international will to accept true responsibility for their part in this unfolding catastrophe and also, perhaps, to enable some of the anger felt by both Israelis and Palestinians to be usefully directed somewhere else other than at each other.
    Like Burg, he considers just how badly damaged both these societies actually are:
    “The conflict is not just fiendishly hard to resolve; history and culture make it difficult for both the Israelis and the Palestinians to make the necessary choices. The two peoples had very different experiences in the twentieth century, but both have been left with a fractured national consciousness and institutions too weak to make or enforce political decisions.” (my emphasis)
    Iran, by contrast, seems comparatively well-balanced. Even the occasional tirades appear to be done with a cold and conscious purpose. Rebuilding a relationship with them might require little more than that the US (and much of the rest of the west) acknowledge, and thereby begin to deal with, their pride. Not likely to happen anytime soon, I fear.
    It’s such a shame that Obama didn’t fight for Freeman’s appointment; I sometimes wonder if this may not have been a truly critical crossroads.

  65. curious says:

    There is absolutely no possibility of any Israel-Iran war. The leaders of Israel have known, at least since 2006, that the power to prevent the emergence of a nuclear-capable Iran does not exist in the international arena. And Israel does not want to loose Dimona nuclear complex.
    Posted by: Babak Makkinejad | 25 March 2009 at 11:07 PM ”
    you are definitely underestimating possible US involvement after the initial opening skirmish.
    Nobody in the US establishment dares to think what happen if Israel pulls the trigger and attacks, followed by Iran crossing Iraq to retaliate. In such event, the only thing that can prevent US involvement is Russia. If Israel goes to war and looks under distressed, US military involvement is 100% guarantee. It doesn’t matter if Israel launch 50 nukes against Iran and Iran retaliate using conventional weapon and loosing. US tanks will cross border and go to Tehran. Israel is betting heavily on that scenario.
    It might change a little after Iraq pull out, then there is argument about resending troops.
    Better fix that jundullah problem clean and silently. Iran’s infantry performance is being measured.
    anyway, this one doesn’t look good. I have this bad feeling that afghanistan will once again turn into free for all arena.
    Sectarianism Spreads to the Orakzai Agency
    The sectarian clashes spilled over to the Orakzai Agency where 10 to 15% of the Orakzai tribe is Shi’a. The agency does not share a border with Afghanistan and was at relative peace until October 2008 (Herald Monthly [Pakistan], October 2008). The conflict in Orakzai is mainly over the ownership of Mir Anwar Shah Shrine at Kalaya. This shrine, which originally belonged to the Shi’a, was given to the Sunnis during British rule. Later the Shi’a were allowed to visit and ensure its maintenance. In 2000 the Taliban declared this agreement un-Islamic and warned the Shi’a not to return. The militants occupied a hilltop and fired RPGs and mortars on neighboring villages (Afghan News Center, January 18, 2001). The Taliban also expelled the Shi’a from fertile land and forced them to pay jiziya (poll tax on non-Muslims). In October 2006, the shrine was reduced to rubble after a seven day battle over its ownership. People from both sects were banned from entering the disputed area. The trouble in Kalaya continued, with a suicide car-bomb killing six people at a jirga called by the Shi’a to settle a dispute with the Sunnis in December, 2008.
    The Taliban based in Lower Orakzai have also been stirring sectarian violence in Kohat and Hangu. (Reuters, December 5, 2008). Moreover, access for Kurram is through Orakzai and by blocking the road, the Taliban are effectively putting the Kurram Shi’a under siege.
    complete and total mess. the religious war alone will last for decades, nevermind if the big guys start pouring weapons on each side.

  66. Arun says:

    Iran will attend the international conference on Afghanistan. Is this a step forward?

  67. David Habakkuk says:

    F.B. Ali, Babak Makkinejad, Ingolf,
    It is fascinating to look at the undertones of the exchanges between Avrum Burg and Ari Shavit to which Ingolf refers.
    Ultimately this is a dialogue between an Israeli of German-Jewish origin, who has reverted to the assimilationist dream characteristic of so many German Jews before the Holocaust, and an Israeli who believes that the ghetto’s suspicion of the goyim remains valid.
    So Shavit says that history of German Jewry not only ‘ends in Auschwitz’, which is a simple statement of fact, but ‘leads to Auschwitz’ — which suggests some inherent necessity, and implies the possibility of recurrence. In response Burg says that in America ‘the goy can be my father and mother and my son and my partner’, while in Israel, ‘the goy is what he is in the ghetto: confrontational and hostile.’
    Asked by Shavit whether every Israeli should take out a foreign passport, Burg anwers bluntly: ‘Whoever can.’ In response, Shavit accuses him of ‘playing with your multiple passports and multiple identities, which is a course not available to many others.’
    The logic of this situation points towards an Israel which cannot escape from Holocaust trauma, both because those who want to escape will leave — if they can — and because the prospects of long-term survival for an Israel headed in the directions in which it is headed are very poor.
    And I think this may be a large part of the background to the disintegration in the quality of the judgement of the Israeli military to which F.B. Ali refers. When people have no good options, they are extremely prone to retreat into fantasy, and rather than choosing the least worst option, end up fooling themselves into thinking that they can cut through their problems by doing something drastic and daft.
    And there is, unfortunately, a fantasy which is all too readily available: that which one sees in the common mistranslation of Ahmadinejad’s remark that Israel must ‘vanish from the pages of time.’
    And for precisely this reason, I am afraid that on this one Babak Makkinejad may be simply wrong. I think he may be proceeding from the (justified) premise that an Israeli — or indeed American — attack on Iran would be barking lunacy to the (unjustified) conclusion that it will not happen.
    Thanks incidentally to F.B.Ali for his kind words about my comments. I would like to say that a particularly valuable feature of this blog, for someone like myself who has limited knowledge and next to no experience of Islamic countries, are the contributions of people like him and Babak Makkinejad.

  68. curious says:

    To give one example, the Iranian government gets 70% of its revenue from oil exports and 90% of those exports pass through a single oil terminal. Iran has similar vulnerabilities in other areas the US can exploit with a minimal application of force while causing Iran severe problems.
    Posted by: Andy | 22 March 2009 at 07:08 PM ”
    meh this has been discussed. Not going to work.
    1. The oil price spike from taking out some 25% of world oil supply will create serious market depression. As you notice the current economic collapse is a direct result of coordinated $150 oil price by OPEC. (compounded by weak banking regulation, over borrowing, etc, etc)
    2. Iran can certainly blow up few more oil terminal in the middle east (eg. Saudi, Kuwait are easy target) that should exponentially enhance the effect of blown up Iran port. On top of that Iran can play the global market by telling traders exactly when the explosion will happen. The ensuing market speculation and money movement will destroy everything. Nevermind loosing Bear stern or lehman brother. That will create 800-1000 pts dow movement. pension funds will collapse. (specially so close from recession.)
    3. Iran can then start blowing up Gulf coast and west coast oil ports. (what? you think we are the only one who can blow up oil port?) 80% of US oil imports enters through 3 super terminals. I am sure the Iranian can load a torpedo onto a fishing boat and launch it against any oil facilities in the gulf. The Russian will help them providing intel, underwater map and penetration techniques.
    4. then you have the usual old discussion: tanker wars, land battle in Iraq, afghanistan front, etc.
    This all depends how crazy Iran will go after somebody nuke them.
    oh and there is that arab world anger too.
    It is strictly a question of “exactly what is winning” Is blowing up 70% of Iranian cities and military facilities enough to stop entire spectrum of Iranian counter move?
    Imagine this combination:
    After Iran moves to destroy oil ports in Saudi, Iraq and Kuwait (childs play), then they proceed blowing up oil pipe in Mexico and Canada. That should cut down world/global oil input by 60%, we are seeing oil price of $250/barrel. probably add that by blowing up few Canadian electricity grid. That will cascade to Detroit, NYC.
    Next come the market manipulation, amid banking chaos and global money movement. Then Iran park a small container with nuke in either major US port city or simply blowing up headquarter of major US banks.
    Next start flooding low cost manpad and shooting US civilian airlines in major world airports. (the point is to cut world travel in and out of US by maximizing public fear and destroying trade pattern.)
    Then start blowing up fiber optic connection in/out of major middle eastern country (Kuwait, Saudi will be off the international communication network instantly)
    Basically, Iran is going to dismantle the infrastructure of US as a global empire. No oil, disrupted information and money movement, global lost of trust in dollar, etc. (It all happens before, SARS, Katrina, Grid collapse, Enron, BearStern/Lehman, etc, etc) All those facilities, service and trade pattern are critical to US daily functioning and they are beyond the reach of US protection.
    Handing out prepackaged small easy to use plastic explosive to everybody who has something against the US would come handy too. The chaos will be utterly unpredictable. (water purification, phone exchange, gas pipe, refineries, data centers, fat fiber optic pipe, dams, large chemical containers, electric transformer, gas station, truck depot, airport fuel tanks, … you get the point.)
    All of them happens before, most are freak natural accidents. But if somebody is putting it together in a choreography. It will create desired effect. So that would be the battle of attrition look like. A state actor can pull what terrorist organization can’t. we are not talking about exotic technology here, just basic sabotage combined with what a state can do in term of planning, resource and training.

  69. curious says:

    recent developments:
    Israel review of last Gaza operation
    “The impact of the long confrontation with the Palestinians cannot be ignored,” says a senior reserve officer, “and one should also bear in mind what sort of values inductees have when they come to us these days. Every year, the education system produces a significant number of little racists.”
    Periodic studies conducted by the IDF contain soldiers’ testimonies about the use of the so-called “neighbor procedure” (forcing Palestinians to enter nearby houses to ask inhabitants to come out), abuses at checkpoints, shooting at medical personnel and more. In Gaza, too, while the official orders called for preserving the dignity and rights of Palestinian civilians, there were some junior officers who followed their own code and ignored improper actions by their troops. And there were, of course, impressive instances where the opposite occurred, such as the soldiers from a Golani patrol battalion who helped evacuate dozens of wheelchair-bound Palestinians from the combat zone.
    There is a discrepancy between the official military response, of denial and horrified disapproval, the testimonies of the Rabin pre-military preparatory course graduates, and the response to those reports by key officers, unwilling to be identified.
    “What did you think would happen?” a senior officer wondered this week. “We sent 10,000 troops into Gaza, more than 200 tanks and armored personnel carriers, 100 bulldozers. What were 100 bulldozers going to do there?”
    Now the Israelis are reported to have bombed a weapons convoy traveling from Sudan toward the Egyptian border with Gaza. The attack happened in January, and the weapons allegedly originated in Iran. But it’s hard to imagine that the Israelis would have gone to such trouble over a few crates of arms and ammunition. Haaretz speculates that the trucks may have been carrying long-rang Fajr rockets capable of hitting Tel Aviv, and that the secondary goal of the raid was to send a message to the Iranians: Israel can strike at long distances and with precise intelligence.
    But the operation also highlights the still festering problems of Sudan. In the last decade the Sudanese have collaborated with terrorist groups like Hamas and al Qaeda and with terror supporting states like Iran and pre-war Iraq, all while waging a genocide against its own citizens in Darfur. Likewise the statements from the Sudanese government are indistinguishable from the statements made by al Qaeda and its ilk. The New York Times quotes a Sudanese government spokesman pushing back against reports that it was the Israelis, and not U.S. jets, that carried out the raid:
    “We don’t differentiate between the U.S. and Israel. They are all one.”
    Sudan convoy aistrike

  70. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang & David Habakkk:
    I stand by what I have said.
    A possible conventional attack by Israel is certainly a threat but has a low probability.
    Moreover, as long as fine Iranians such as Shaul Mofaz are among Israeli officials I would think Israel will be dissuaded from a course of action that will make it take (some would say its rightful place) among the evil doers of Karbala.
    Some of what you have written is plausible, most not – in my opinion.
    I think it will be a good idea to write up your comments as a film script or a novel – sort of like the book “The Crash of 79”.
    Any nuclear attack against Iran – by any government – will be the last act of that government. In case of Israel, it will be the last act of that state.

  71. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Perhaps the University of Iowa’s Electronic Future’s market can be used more efficaciously in deciding the possibility of war or peace.
    The market may be found @ but is not selling any futures on any wars. Perhaps it should.

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