OK, what are you going to want to do if…?

Soviet_Troops_in_Hungary_1956[1] In my opinion, McCain went too far, and Obama so far has the amount of expressed concern about right.  McCain foolishly indicated in his statement that we Westerners should seek to end the theocratic regime in Iran and Obama expressed a kind of vague concern.  Does McCain think that the mullahs are going to do anything that will tend toward an end to their power?  What does he want us to do, invade the country?  Silly.

On "Hardbrain," David Ignatius and Bob Baer held forth on the need to avoid "telegraphing" American support for the incipient change in Iran.  Could that be more obvious?  I doubt it.  All the while, the childlike Matthews gushed about Obama's stylishness, wisdom, wit, etc.

Ignatius and Baer hinted at the underlying dilemma.  Let us assume for a minute that the street demonstrations do not die out, that they become more violent and that Musavi does not accept whatever kind of deal Khamemei, the pseudo grand Ayatollah eventually offers, what then?

Does the United States stand by for weeks or months while the Bassij and the police stamp out resistance?  This is what we did to the Hungarians in 1956, or do we seek to use every diplomatic and information tool at our disposal to support them?

I can hear it now, the plaintive bleating…  Oh, no, not interference in Iran's internal affairs, not that!!  pl

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82 Responses to OK, what are you going to want to do if…?

  1. J says:

    In pre-election polls, found Ahmadinejad consistently running 20 points ahead of Mousavi. This poll was conducted before the televised debates in which Ahmadinejad was perceived to have done well.
    I think the Iranian people have spoken through their vote, irrespective if Mousavi and his supporters (and Western backers) like it or not.
    Ahmadinejad won, and I think we the WEST have to ‘get over it’.

  2. Jimmy says:

    I disagree with you on the rhetoric side. Right now, the Iranian military (as opposed to the IRGC) has a chance of siding with the protesters. We need to back off, rhetorically, so that we do not push the Iranian military to come down on the students.
    The Iranian military probably views this protest as having American/Israeli conspiracy elements. We cannot feed into that perception with all of that democratic talk right now.
    Instead, we should start confidence building measures with the military, and Obama needs to get on the TV and tell them that we respect their constitutional process. We need to start a rapprochement, and tell them that, regardless of who wins the election, we will continue.
    I just wrote a post for this:

  3. Matthew says:

    Help them? Or apply “The Shock doctrine”?
    Iraq proved the two are mutually exclusive.

  4. J says:

    Ahmadinejad won. Get over it
    Without any evidence, many U.S. politicians and “Iran experts” have dismissed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection Friday, with 62.6 percent of the vote, as fraud.
    They ignore the fact that Ahmadinejad’s 62.6 percent of the vote in this year’s election is essentially the same as the 61.69 percent he received in the final count of the 2005 presidential election, when he trounced former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. The shock of the “Iran experts” over Friday’s results is entirely self-generated, based on their preferred assumptions and wishful thinking.
    Although Iran’s elections are not free by Western standards, the Islamic Republic has a 30-year history of highly contested and competitive elections at the presidential, parliamentary and local levels. Manipulation has always been there, as it is in many other countries.
    But upsets occur — as, most notably, with Mohammed Khatami’s surprise victory in the 1997 presidential election. Moreover, “blowouts” also occur — as in Khatami’s reelection in 2001, Ahmadinejad’s first victory in 2005 and, we would argue, this year.
    Like much of the Western media, most American “Iran experts” overstated Mir Hossein Mousavi’s “surge” over the campaign’s final weeks. More important, they were oblivious — as in 2005 — to Ahmadinejad’s effectiveness as a populist politician and campaigner. American “Iran experts” missed how Ahmadinejad was perceived by most Iranians as having won the nationally televised debates with his three opponents — especially his debate with Mousavi.
    Before the debates, both Mousavi and Ahmadinejad campaign aides indicated privately that they perceived a surge of support for Mousavi; after the debates, the same aides concluded that Ahmadinejad’s provocatively impressive performance and Mousavi’s desultory one had boosted the incumbent’s standing. Ahmadinejad’s charge that Mousavi was supported by Rafsanjani’s sons — widely perceived in Iranian society as corrupt figures — seemed to play well with voters.
    Similarly, Ahmadinejad’s criticism that Mousavi’s reformist supporters, including Khatami, had been willing to suspend Iran’s uranium enrichment program and had won nothing from the West for doing so tapped into popular support for the program — and had the added advantage of being true.
    More fundamentally, American “Iran experts” consistently underestimated Ahmadinejad’s base of support. Polling in Iran is notoriously difficult; most polls there are less than fully professional and, hence, produce results of questionable validity. But the one poll conducted before Friday’s election by a Western organization that was transparent about its methodology — a telephone poll carried out by the Washington-based Terror-Free Tomorrow from May 11 to 20 — found Ahmadinejad running 20 points ahead of Mousavi. This poll was conducted before the televised debates in which, as noted above, Ahmadinejad was perceived to have done well while Mousavi did poorly.
    American “Iran experts” assumed that “disastrous” economic conditions in Iran would undermine Ahmadinejad’s reelection prospects. But the International Monetary Fund projects that Iran’s economy will actually grow modestly this year (when the economies of most Gulf Arab states are in recession). A significant number of Iranians — including the religiously pious, lower-income groups, civil servants and pensioners — appear to believe that Ahmadinejad’s policies have benefited them.
    And, while many Iranians complain about inflation, the TFT poll found that most Iranian voters do not hold Ahmadinejad responsible. The “Iran experts” further argue that the high turnout on June 12 — 82 percent of the electorate — had to favor Mousavi. But this line of analysis reflects nothing more than assumptions.
    Some “Iran experts” argue that Mousavi’s Azeri background and “Azeri accent” mean that he was guaranteed to win Iran’s Azeri-majority provinces; since Ahmadinejad did better than Mousavi in these areas, fraud is the only possible explanation.
    But Ahmadinejad himself speaks Azeri quite fluently as a consequence of his eight years serving as a popular and successful official in two Azeri-majority provinces; during the campaign, he artfully quoted Azeri and Turkish poetry — in the original — in messages designed to appeal to Iran’s Azeri community. (And we should not forget that the supreme leader is Azeri.) The notion that Mousavi was somehow assured of victory in Azeri-majority provinces is simply not grounded in reality.
    With regard to electoral irregularities, the specific criticisms made by Mousavi — such as running out of ballot paper in some precincts and not keeping polls open long enough (even though polls stayed open for at least three hours after the announced closing time) — could not, in themselves, have tipped the outcome so clearly in Ahmadinejad’s favor.
    Moreover, these irregularities do not, in themselves, amount to electoral fraud even by American legal standards. And, compared with the U.S. presidential election in Florida in 2000, the flaws in Iran’s electoral process seem less significant.
    In the wake of Friday’s election, some “Iran experts” — perhaps feeling burned by their misreading of contemporary political dynamics in the Islamic Republic — argue that we are witnessing a “conservative coup d’état,” aimed at a complete takeover of the Iranian state.
    But one could more plausibly suggest that if a “coup” is being attempted, it has been mounted by the losers in Friday’s election. It was Mousavi, after all, who declared victory on Friday even before Iran’s polls closed. And three days before the election, Mousavi supporter Rafsanjani published a letter criticizing the leader’s failure to rein in Ahmadinejad’s resort to “such ugly and sin-infected phenomena as insults, lies and false allegations.” Many Iranians took this letter as an indication that the Mousavi camp was concerned their candidate had fallen behind in the campaign’s closing days.
    In light of these developments, many politicians and “Iran experts” argue that the Obama administration cannot now engage the “illegitimate” Ahmadinejad regime. Certainly, the administration should not appear to be trying to “play” in the current controversy in Iran about the election. In this regard, President Barack Obama’s comments on Friday, a few hours before the polls closed in Iran, that “just as has been true in Lebanon, what can be true in Iran as well is that you’re seeing people looking at new possibilities” was extremely maladroit.
    From Tehran’s perspective, this observation undercut the credibility of Obama’s acknowledgement, in his Cairo speech earlier this month, of U.S. complicity in overthrowing a democratically elected Iranian government and restoring the shah in 1953.
    The Obama administration should vigorously rebut any argument against engaging Tehran following Friday’s vote. More broadly, Ahmadinejad’s victory may force Obama and his senior advisers to come to terms with the deficiencies and internal contradictions in their approach to Iran. Before the Iranian election, the Obama administration had fallen for the same illusion as many of its predecessors — the illusion that Iranian politics is primarily about personalities and finding the right personality to deal with. That is not how Iranian politics works.
    The Islamic Republic is a system with multiple power centers; within that system, there is a strong and enduring consensus about core issues of national security and foreign policy, including Iran’s nuclear program and relations with the United States. Any of the four candidates in Friday’s election would have continued the nuclear program as Iran’s president; none would agree to its suspension.
    Any of the four candidates would be interested in a diplomatic opening with the United States, but that opening would need to be comprehensive, respectful of Iran’s legitimate national security interests and regional importance, accepting of Iran’s right to develop and benefit from the full range of civil nuclear technology — including pursuit of the nuclear fuel cycle — and aimed at genuine rapprochement.
    Such an approach would also, in our judgment, be manifestly in the interests of the United States and its allies throughout the Middle East. It is time for the Obama administration to get serious about pursuing this approach — with an Iranian administration headed by the reelected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
    Flynt Leverett directs The New America Foundation’s Iran Project and teaches international affairs at Pennsylvania State university. Hillary Mann Leverett is CEO of STRATEGA, a political risk consultancy. Both worked for many years on Middle East issues for the U.S. government, including as members of the National Security Council staff.

  5. McCain as the mouthpiece of the Neocons and Israel…
    Senators Kerry and Lugar of the Foreign Relations Committee so far have remained level headed. I presume they are better briefed. They are certainly more well informed on international affairs than the hothead from Arizona who calls himself a “Scoop Jackson Republican.”
    For Senator Lugar today,

  6. Patrick Lang says:

    Are elections more important than war?
    Why do you think that I want to step up the rhetoric right now? pl

  7. Abu Sinan says:

    Why would we step in on the side of a minority movement? They would be completely unable to form a government that could stand any election. Any government formed from the current opposition would certainly have to be a dictatorship as popular opinion would not support it.
    More to the point, US support for such a minority movement would actually SHRINK their electoral support.
    People who mistake the so called liberal elite for American stooges or supporters of Western policy in the region dont have a clue.
    Like Obama was quoted on CNBC today, he said there is very little real policy difference between the opposing camps in Iran.
    There does need to be a change in US policy towards Iran, but certainly NOT in this direction.
    Realistically Israel and the world needs to be told that as long as Israel has a nuclear weapon countries in the region will seek the same. The only realistic way of keeping a bomb from a country like Iran is to remove nuclear weapons from Israel and we all know what the chances of that are.
    I think we, as a nation, need to accept the reality of an Iranian bomb. Either that or do what we can to force the Israelis to give up their program.
    Nothing short of a full scale invasion of Iran will keep them from getting it. I really hope our government is drafting policy behind the scenes to deal with a nuclear Iran.

  8. Jimmy says:

    My mistake. I thought your Hungarian cite means you’re supporting a more active rhetoric now.
    I agree we need to provide more support when it gets to the street battle phase.

  9. PirateLaddie says:

    It seems to me that we’re being put into a box. Ahmadinejad has been a useful demon in this drama, the hope that he’d be removed “democratically” runs deep, like in the US in 2004. If, as likely, he remains in office, he’s damaged goods, both domestically and abroad — that will play out as more hardline at home and an even more attractive target for those pimping the next phase in the war on Islam. Le jeu continue.

  10. Babak Makkinejad says:

    My caution you strongly against taking sides in the internal political strifes in foreign countires – specially in Iran given the sordid history of the interaction of the United States and Iran over the last 50 years.

  11. Donald Johnson says:

    What sort of support are you (Jimmy and maybe the Colonel, but I can’t tell) advocating?

  12. Bill Wade, NH, USA says:

    Maybe there will be two winners here, the US and Iran, just a while ago we were talking about the topic: “Ahmadinajad wins and so does Bibi.”

  13. Jose says:

    Does the United States stand by for weeks or months while the Bassij and the police stamp out resistance?
    Why did we stand by at the time of Tienanmen Square?
    Does anybody know if the protest a only occurring in the capital?
    If so it would suggest, that maybe Mousavi’s support is not as strong as we imagine or outside forces are trying to influence a desirable outcome.

  14. Simon says:

    Colonel, I am surprised by your response to this situation in Iran.
    It is Venezuela all over again. This idea that these upper class twitter people can overthrow the Iranian government is delusional. The rallies in the street and attempted coup were tried unsuccessfully in Venezuela by the U.S.’s allies. The NY Times, the Washington Post, CNN, etc. all portrayed the coup plotters as the majority leading a revolution against Chavez and his supporters. Only to discover that you cannot force the majority to stand aside during a coup attempt or to support a revolution against the government they elected, especially when the military is on their side.
    When all is said and done, the majority of Iran won’t forget how America’s wealthy and urban stooges tried to steal this election. Tensions with Iran will be even greater. Obama and his minions have got to stop making trouble because trouble with Iran never ends well.

  15. different clue says:

    This little video on Young Turks TV (on You Tube)
    is reporting a claim that Grand Ayatollah al Montazeri
    states the election to have been in his opinion fixed, and that the Grand Ayatollah
    is calling upon the army, police forces, etc.; to treat the demonstrators “with respect”.

  16. confusedponderer says:

    When Ahmedinejad won, and the opposition lost, that would mean that their challenging the result constitutes sedition. That would, from the point of view of the Iranian government, motivate and justify the crackdown. That is no endorsement on my part.
    Imagine Ahmedinejad would have lost and Mousavi had won. Everything would have went peacefully. Would a president Mousavi solve the Iran problem? Iran would still be an Islamic state. Is this about democracy or regime change?

  17. Mark Stuart says:

    War is definitely more important!
    And i say let’s go at it with Twitter if we want to win.

  18. Patrick Lang says:

    Did you call me a pimp?
    A lot of you people are not good at dealing with forced choices among unpleasant alternatives. If, as I think, the real choice is between eventul war with Iran and a government in
    Teheran that will enter into serious negotiations, then the moral choice is clear. pl

  19. arbogast says:

    Wars cost money.
    Discretionary wars can destroy the countries and civilizations that wage them.
    We just don’t have the resources to fight on three fronts.
    Oh, and what about China? Don’t we have a beef with them? I say if we’re going to wage discretionary wars, we start with China. After all, many would say that a reaction to mercantilism caused the Civil War, and that, apparently, was worth 600,000 American lives.

  20. Dave of Maryland says:

    the real choice is between eventual war with Iran
    You have evidence that Iran is planning an attack?
    Or are Washington & Jerusalem? If not with Iran, then with North Korea? Along with continuing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia & elsewhere?
    Rather than a coup in Tehran, wouldn’t coups in Jerusalem & Washington be better outcomes?
    If attitudes towards Iran are anything like attitudes towards the Palestinians, there is no Iranian government acceptable to Washington/Jerusalem. Just as there was no native Iraqi government.
    Short of a formal treaty, ratified by legislatures in all three countries, why should Iran waste time appeasing us? We cannot, will not, be appeased. I thought that obvious.

  21. Matthew says:

    Col: Controlling the “Tiger” is not a problem limited to dictatorships. (That is my understanding of your recent posts.)
    “When tyrants ride the tiger’s back
    Their tigers must be fed,
    On what and where they little care
    If but the meat be red;
    Nor ever do they dare dismount,
    Or stop to count the dead.”
    See http://www.felixdennis.com/poem.php?C=35&T=35&B=2

  22. Larry Kart says:

    Colonel — Many thanks for your “A lot of you people are not good at dealing with forced choices among unpleasant alternatives.” That cuts to the heart of it. Also, having just read T.R. Fehrenbach’s history of the Korean War, it seems clear that people with military training and experience, all other things being equal, often can function better, think more clearly, in “forced choices” etc. situations than most American civilians can.
    Again, the value to all of us of your independence, savvy, and heart is no small thing.

  23. J says:

    My take — It is sooo sad that my fellow Americans know little to nada/squat regarding Iran and the Iranian nation and its interaction throughout mankind’s history. It sad that my fellow Americans have no idea who invented the game of Chess that some so avidly play.
    And it’s sad that sooo many know nothing of the fine Persian cuisine.
    We Americans have much in common with the Iranians, much more than we have in common with the spiteful Israelis, and it’s a pity that few even know it.

  24. Just out of curiousity on balance did the US help or hurt the Shah at the end of 1978 and early 1979 or were we indirectly hoping for some military coup or other takeover other than by clerics?
    This just looks like the beginning of long-term generational change to me and not pre-revolutionary fervor likely to lead to anything! AM I wrong? There are some really big dogs looking closely at Iran and its resources and policies and they are not behind but ahead of US in makeing crucial policy decisions relating to Iran! I am excluding Israel which finally seems to understand that without the US its cupboard is bare. Same for the SUNNIs!

  25. Abu Sinan says:

    The below comes from the Press TV, an Iranian news source back in April:
    “No one in Iran will accept suspension,” the Financial Times quoted Mousavi as saying in his first interview with the international media.
    He said that Iran halted its enrichment work between 2003 and 2005 in the hope that it would build confidence in the peaceful nature of its program.
    The Reformist candidate described suspension as a “bad experience and a tool to deprive Iran of having access to nuclear technology”.
    Given the fact that he played a role in the start of the Iranian nuclear program, was an early and avid supporter of Hizb’Allah, I dont understand where people are coming from in thinking that he will offer anything different in US/Iranian relations even if he can form a minority government.
    He has stated he will work with international nuclear regulatory bodies, but do you think Israel will believe that the technology he has stated he wants to pursue will not also include a secret weapons program?
    I doubt that this man, supporter and early backer of Hizb’Allah, will be believed by the Israelis, leaving us in the same situation no matter who leads Iran.
    The Israelis are already well aware of this and I think it is pretty clear the installation of Mousavi as leader of Iran will change nothing.
    “IAEA: Ahmadinejad election rival launched Iran nuclear program
    International Atomic Energy Agency documents revealed that Iran began a secret nuclear program during the tenure of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the opposition leader running against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
    The documents, which Iran transferred to the IAEA several years ago, show that Tehran decided in 1987 to purchase the centrifuges it is using to enrich uranium”

  26. Robert Fisk, who is walking around in the streets to observe breaking events and to talk with folks, says:
    “[The protest] is absolutely not against the Islamic republic or the Islamic revolution.
    It’s clearly an Islamic protest against specifically the personality, the manner, the language of Ahmadinejad. They absolutely despise him but they do not hate or dislike the Islamic republic that they live in.”
    Fisk is a seasoned reporter to say the least.
    He seems fairly clear: This is not about regime change, this is not about eliminating a republican form of government, this is not about eliminating the Islamic Republic which has been established, this is not about restoring the Pahlavis or the Qajars or the Safavids. This is about the person of the president and his leadership style and politics domestic and foreign.
    Do note that their president just attended a regional conference in which the various leaders, including the Russians, were clear and correct in their diplomacy toward Iran by recognizing him as the official representative of the Islamic Republic.
    The fundamental issue for the United States with respect to engagement is precisely what Col. Lang has been saying: both sides must make sincere efforts to engage. The challenge for the United States and Iran is to develop the modalities of DIRECT engagement.
    On the US side there is our President, the “supreme leader” of our foreign policy. On the Iranian side there is the Supreme Leader. The Iranian Supreme Leader can certainly authorize and open the engagement and then handle it under his authority through the normal diplomatic channels using his foreign ministry. Who knows, this may already be going on and our President (and perhaps some Senators) may know much more than they are letting on publicly. Perhaps not but there is nothing wrong with secret diplomacy properly conducted through proper channels….this is normal.
    The United States are represented in Iran by the Swiss government. Iran is represented in the United States by the government of Pakistan. We are not in a state of no relations, there have been discussions, there has been cooperation from the Iranian side, and so forth.
    Again I would say that BOTH Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar have been publicly supportive of President Obama’s handling of this difficult and complex situation. This should be the strongest possible indication/signal to the Iranian government that there is a bipartisan consensus that serious engagement should be attempted. Obviously, given the US past policy toward Iran involving the sensitive matter of the Mossadegh issue, for example, there is extreme caution being excercised at this moment. I think this is proper and correct.
    It is self-evident that the malevolent “Zionist entity” and its assets and agents in the United States want to provoke the US into confrontation and war with Iran….this is public knowledge.
    We need to work out a comprehensive agenda for mutual benefit with Iran.
    The malevolent Zionist entity(Israel and the global complex supporting it) wants to prevent this by sabotage of US policy. Or at a minimum it wants to insert itself as a sort of “middleman” between Iran and the US.
    This is not acceptable from the standpoiint of US national interests, vital and otherwise. The malevolent Zionist entity needs to be put firmly in its place. The US needs to move on and forward with its foreign policy in the Middle East and Central Asia and North Africa. Serious engagement with Iran is a key step but it takes two to tango as the Col. reminds.

  27. Dan M says:

    I agree strongly with “as I think, the real choice is between eventul war with Iran and a government in
    Teheran that will enter into serious negotiations, then the moral choice is clear.” I’m a long time admirer of you and your thoughtful analysis, even when i disagree with its conclusions. This is one of the best blogs i’ve ever seen for serious thought and disagreement (without descending into a cess-pool of name-calling and nonesense non-arguments, thanks to your moderating).
    However, sometimes i feel like the dimwitted student in front of a teacher perhaps overly committed to the socratic method.
    In this particular case it is manifestly clear to me that the best “choice” as you’ve framed it is “a government in Tehran that will enter into serious negotiations.”
    What is unclear to me is what exactly you think the US should do to bring about such a government and avoid the horror of another war. I this or another thread you wrote something like “we should use all diplomatic tools and the full force of the US government.” That sounds good, but doesn’t get me closer to understanding of your own opinion or whether i should share it. Obviously, some diplomatic tools when used exclude other diplomatic tools, for instance.
    As to my own opinion — i think obama is getting the tone so far just about spot on. While i lived a long time in Iraq and Egypt and travelled extensively in Arab lands, i have never been to Iran, do not have a deep understanding of its culture, history and current political power struggles. I’m all at sea when it comes to figuring out, precisely, what’s going on right now and whether it’s a good idea for the US to try to catch this still ill-defined tiger (for me at least) by the tail.
    You don’t owe an answer on this (and you may feel you’ve already provided a clear one — like i said i’m feeling a little stupid in this instance) and I will still read often and occasionally contribute either way. But i think a little more clarity from you on what the US course should be (perhaps your next post) would be helpful in sharpenning up the conversation in the ole committee of correspondence.

  28. GulfCoastPirate says:

    Mr. Lang,
    Why do you think those are the two choices? What has Iran done to the US that would cause the US to declare war on Iran? Why would any government in Iran enter into any negotiations with the US over anything? I don’t want to put words in your mouth but it seems to me you are implying that Obama will be forced into war by the same neocon/Likud crowd who wanted war in Iraq and he won’t be able to withstand their drumbeat. Is this what you are thinking?

  29. mo says:

    the moral choice is clear if Mousavi has or had in fact won the election.
    If Ahmadinijad won and foreign interference results in some sort of “coup” then is there any point having a govt. that will enter serious negotiations if it is weak and unrepresentative?
    If this “willing” govt. allows the country to stay democratic, are you not in fact guaranteeing that next time round there will be a sweeping landslide victory for someone even more hardline than Ahmadinijad?
    Until there is, if there ever is, any clarity about the election results, i would suggest that any interference will be counter-productive.

  30. lina says:

    What Babak said. (with an extra dose of plaintive bleating).
    How could anyone in their right mind believe a war with Iran would advance U.S. interests, regionally or globally, whether it’s started by U.S. Neocons or Bibi, et. al.

  31. lowlander says:

    Moral choice??
    How is it moral to interfere with the internal affairs of a sovereign state? Especially when the overwhelming majority within that sovereign state view the US with such disdain. To them serious negotiation is serious capitualation.

  32. jedermann says:

    “I can hear it now, the plaintive bleating… Oh, no, not interference in Iran’s internal affairs, not that!!”
    Is there a bright line here between permissible interference and impermissible interference in Iran’s internal affairs? How do you define the essential difference between McCain’s foolishness and what is implied by not standing by “while the Bassij and the police stamp out resistance”? Is it just a gut feeling about when and how to jump into this? Is this a one-off exception where we sacrifice the niceties of sovereignty and accept the consequences (again) in order to avoid the greater calamity of being drawn or goaded by Israel and our own MSM into a bombing campaign against Iran?
    It is understood that much of the intercourse of nations is conducted in the shadows, particularly with entities like Iran. No one is so naïve as to believe that we are not or should not be looking after our own interests in every situation by both overt and covert means. Those occasions when the interests of a nation are deemed by its leadership to outweigh respect for the sovereignty of another country explain how “rational” decisions are taken to go to war.

  33. zanzibar says:

    As an experienced intel guy in your opinion what kind of forces need to be marshaled here in our country in order to prevent Israeli agitprop from driving policy and actions that are detrimental to our national interests? Or is that a fait accompli?
    Why do you believe that the current Khamanei regime is uninterested in a dialog with Obama? What is in it for them to prevent a reconciliation?
    As a lay person it seems to me that what we are witnessing is a power struggle among the leadership of the Islamic revolution. A battle between the Rafsanjani group and the Khamanei group in the classic sense – a battle for the spoils of power. I have read that Rafsanjani is one of the wealthiest indivduals in Iran with large assets and has significant support among the clergy in Qom and has always had a rivalry with Khamanei who he believes usurped his rightful role as the Supreme Leader and Khomeni’s heir. I am very interested in reading more about this dynamic.

  34. jedermann says:

    It would seem that the forced choice is between doing whatever is necessary to get someone we can talk to in Iran and disenthralling ourselves from the influence of those who see war with Iran as the only way of ensuring Israel’s survival. Has our thinking and policy making really become so distorted by fear that it is now only conceivable to choose the former? If so, this is a colossal failure of self-governance for us that will set off a cascade of ill effects.

  35. Charles I says:

    Re: dealing with forced choices among unpleasant alternatives.
    I’ve been coming here about 5 years, and this has been your constant theme, informed by manifest exemplary honourable long term service.
    You have brought home to me, a complete bleeding heart, that making the unpleasant forced choices, after as flinty-eyed and coldly sober informed analysis of your own ultimate interests possible, ends up being the only clear moral choice.
    Interesting that Ahmedinejad’s sole impact seems whether we have a raving bumpkin held out as an excuse not to engage the very same regime of actual rulers – The Guardian Council of billionaire mullahs – as opposed to swooning over a Moussavi Presidency that as many above noted, likely amounts to as much actual change in core positions as putting lipstick on a pig produces leaner bacon.
    I was stunned to see on Debkafile an hour ago a scrolling squib “Mossad cheif Dagan: Iran will have nuke ready for delivery in five years, barring hitches. this is a real existential threat for Israel and must be stopped”.
    Stunned because I heard the damn missile was pretty well set to go a week Friday, soon as the Mullahs revoke the Fatwa against using nuclear weapons, which would have been the signal to destroy Iran, no?

  36. Charles I says:

    p.s my answer is b: we seek to use every diplomatic and information tool at our disposal to support them

  37. Eliot says:

    Colonel Lang,
    What would an effective intervention look like? What sort of action would help the protesters without delegitimizing their efforts? At what point do you run the risk of pushing the fence sitters into the government camp?
    Thank you,

  38. Ian says:

    Something like half of Iranian voters were pro-Ahmadinejad as of election day. (~45%? Who knows?) The counterprotests have been well-attended. These people who really did vote for Ahmadinejad will need to be won over if substantive change is going to happen from within.
    That weakens the case for intervention. Contrast this situation with Hungary-56 or the Prague Spring. In both cases support for reform was overwhelming. That doesn’t seem to be true of Iran right now.
    To sharpen the question, what if the population is genuinely split as to whether or not they favor the current regime? Should we intervene (how?) to help a not-overwhelmingly-popular political movement take over the country?
    (By the way, why do you think the current Iranian government would be unwilling to negotiate? The Iranians have repeatedly offered to do so, and the US has repeatedly refused.)

  39. N. M. Salamon says:

    Colonel and readers:
    There will not be war with Iran for the elite in Washington knows something similar to:
    At: http://anz.theoildrum.com/node/5490#more
    [and they do not dare too waste more enregy on another war, esp as that might inflame the whole ME -literally and figuratevely]
    Part 3 [of 4 to come] analysis what the world needs to invest yearly to 2052 to maintainthe energy used now having respect that al fossil fuels are going to be near exhausted [or too expesnive to produce: takes more energy to produce than the product of the endevaour]. The study is based on Enginnering study submitted to the Astralian Parliament. 9% of GDP for Australia, somewhere of 5% of WORLD GDP for the world.
    This is not possible, so section 4 will discuss some ideas???
    Read all three sections, they are not easy, but demand attantion

  40. Jose says:

    “If, as I think, the real choice is between eventful war with Iran and a government in Teheran that will enter into serious negotiations, then the moral choice is clear.”
    Col, why do we always seem to demand a government that will enter into serious negotiations every time we lose an election in the Middle East?
    Why can’t we negotiate with whatever government the Middle Easterners elect?
    Hamas, al-Wefaq, or AmADinnerJacket I and II, etc…
    If Obama gets into a war with Iran his chances of reelection are greatly diminished, cut a deal it’s cheaper and in both of our interests.
    So far our record is 2 stalemates (Iraq and Gaza) and 2 tactical defeats (Lebanon and Afghanistan).

  41. LeaNder says:

    I agree with Patrick Lang.
    Obviously much money flows into the Iranian opposition but all the money couldn’t produce what we see without a critical mass yearning for more democracy. Freedom is restricted to inside your home, you aren’t free from control in the streets. Don’t forget, Iran is a young country. I fear religious fundamentalists as much as fascists or red fascists. Remember the Iraq-Iran war? The young know this story and their war commanders then and now.
    Remember Bani-Sadr (Banisadr) was quickly discovered too “moderate” for the religious revolutionaries.
    He was interviewed by a German public channel yesterday from Paris, were he lives heavily guarded. He speaks of a larger democratization movement in Iran, of which he is part. Yes, he says a new “revolution” in Iran is possible. Should I worry that he may be sponsored by the French and US goverment? I supported the Iranian opposition too.
    I transcribed the passage and tranlated it.
    ZDF Bani Sadr interview in German
    Question: You once helped to start a revolution, does what you hear and see now from Tehran have the look-and-feel of a new revolution?
    Bani-Sadr: Now, you can say I have worked towards the current situation, that the current situation becomes a reality. There is a movement within the Iranian people, it could be the beginning of a new revolution maybe not near-term but long-term, there will be a big change in Iran, a change from a dictatorial regime to democracy. This is a process that is currently beginning.

  42. Patrick Lang says:

    I spent the day wandering around in Shenandoah County, Virginia today with my old friend Jim. We visited the Cedar Creek battlefield, had lunch at the Wayside Inn in Middletown and went south to Crabill’s Meats in Tom’s Brook to buy a couple of dry aged porterhouse steaks and a rack of baby back ribs. I bought a country ham there last month. It will hang in the basement until Christmas.
    On the way back I listened to the news about Iran on the satellite radio in the
    Having arrived in Alexandria, I have read all this.
    The last thing I want to see is war between Iran and the US or war between the US and anyone. A lot of you are “new correspondents.” I will tell you again, that it is MY friends who die in wars, and my friends’ children. Unless you are exceptional, your friends and kin will not die or be maimed in our wars. They have better things to do.
    My choice of unpleasant alternatives is based not on anything that the Obama Administration might decide to do but rather what American public opinion might “command” of the American government under the flail of relentless and largely monopolistic “information operations” projected toward an image of Iran as a “global threat,” (Matthews’ words last night).
    Do I think the American public is that gullible and vulnerable? Yes, I do. There is a certain innocence, a certain naivete, a certain ignorance. If your daughter or son wants to study the Humanities, perhaps you should be more receptive.
    You think we are free to act as we choose? God bless you. pl

  43. LeaNder says:

    Abu Sinan, I can understand your argument concerning Moussavi. But it may be bigger than just him. I wouldn’t be on the streets for him but for issues, for more democracy. Less power to the guardians of public morals! Fundamentalist morals are usually accompanied by double standards. What about the trade with girls, children? The oh, so moral 19th century also had the most brothels.
    Strictly Obama addressed the issue to my satisfaction, it can’t be that some may have it and others not. It must be nuclear disarmament and control of all. Israel included.

  44. Amileoj says:

    Assuming the situation does continue to escalate: what sorts of actions can we take to aid the opposition, and how will we know when the time is right to start doing so?
    This is a genuine not a rhetorical question. I don’t have a very satisfying sense of what our realistic options are, or of their sequencing or timing, if things do go this way.

  45. Byron Raum says:

    It seems to me that many have forgotten that before the election, we were being analyzed at that the Iranian election would bring no change whatsoever even if Mousavi won. Now, suddenly Mousavi is the darling of these people, the son of democracy, etc. etc. The best outcome for the warmongers is not either one winning, the best outcome is the ability to throw enough mud to make it unclear as to who the legitimate negotiating Iranian authority is. We have already seen this strategy in effect with the eternally absent Palestinian partner for peace.
    Did Ahmadinejad win? Slate had a very interesting article showing that it is statistically very suspicious for him to have done so. ( http://www.slate.com/id/2220608/ ) This, of course, assumes that the Iranian authorities don’t understand statistics.
    For those who decry the effects of the US 2000 elections, keep in mind that Obama would not have been possible without those results. In an uncertain world, the ultimate results are not only impossible to predict, there are no ultimate results. Without question, when Obama sits across the table from whoever it is from the Iranian side, he is going to wonder whether he is dealing with the legitimate representive of the Iranian people. Be that as it may, what is imperative is that Obama gets the opportunity to be in this situation.

  46. Arun says:

    “The forced choice among unpleasant alternatives” is of our own making. Even a nuclear-armed unfriendly Iran headed by Ahmedinejad does not pose a real threat to the United States. At least, none in comparison with the threat the Soviet Union posed.
    538.com has information from the last election that Ahmedinejad is not weak at all in urban areas; his strong showing there is one of the arguments used to suggest the election was rigged.
    Meanwhile, we seem to be saying, we need the Iranian election overturned because we cannot curb our impulses to war. If that is the case, our moral choice is clear – we should throw ourselves to the mercy of the United Nations.

  47. Jon T. says:

    Col Lang, Good Evening. Your last post is a powerful reality check for me who lives at this moment away from the physical conflict. Often, as now, when I hear the assessment of media control put up against the idea of acting as we choose I consider again Tolstoy’s work “The Kingdom of God is Within You”. He spoke of young men always doing the bidding of unknown, unseen power movers, and often gladly so, until grievously injured or truth encountering when thus ensues the moral wrestling internal. That book prompted Mohandas Gandhi to leave the bar in England and found Satyagraha leading to Indian independence, partition, English diminution and so much anon. We live in a powerfully transformative time. Contemplation of the truth is needed and clear action thus sourced is desired. Thank you for this open forum.

  48. Curious says:

    He speaks of a larger democratization movement in Iran, of which he is part.
    Posted by: LeaNder | 17 June 2009 at 06:42 PM
    I think everybody in Iran is aware that current structure must change. Demonstrations becoming more often and involve more people. That the old suppression techniques is not acceptable and only lead into more public outrage.
    In the meantime technological progress is in the side of students. Soon student can create their own darknet independent of government reach. Once there is secure way to communicate, everything is trivial.
    brief timeline of student protest.
    -1997 Election
    -Iran student protests, July 1999 (1999) (~70 died)
    -18 Tir national day of protest (2003) (?)
    -2009 Iranian presidential election (2009) (<100 died)
    Current big protest will inevitably either push the status quo to seek reform in earnest, face next even bigger public outrage, or new form of continuous attack. And they know they won’t survive the next one without destroying the country. They have to start orderly reform in less than 3 years. Public security organisations are going to be reformed or people will start bombing them. I think they know that. I doubt Iran-US relationship won’t thaw if Iran keep growing at 6% clip another 4 years. (Everybody will say, wtf are we doing? Let’s make money instead. eg.China/Russia) Israel will still be the idiot one out. So don’t worry about that.
    Now, let’s say current regime change happens, clearly the clerical and revolution guardian are not keen of having. That means mousavi has to purge in seriously massive way that will lead into long term structural instability. After he took office, next 2-3 years will be nothing but shooting on the street, then he has to put very repressive police state to suppress all the internal security apparatus crazies who now wants to seek revenge.
    With that we will see all sort of weird stuff in Iraq, afghanistan. We gonna get clever and try to play side. But in the end we are setting up a giant underground intel mercenaries that will make taliban looked like boy scout. All that in pursue of neutralizing nuke and containing unstable Iran under mausavi.
    Bottom line, we want stable and fast growing Iran. Who cares who is in charge. The people of Iran will straighten up their leaders pronto in good economy.
    We will have much faster normal/peaceful/stable relationship that way instead of this stupid regime change gag.
    The student will now all go underground and create invisible network. It’s on. They will realize they need to acquire all necessary skill. Not just writing cute manifesto and clever speech, but real analytical and wide spectrum transformation involving everybody.
    And Obama administraiton/Hillary crew better realize funny gag like regime change won’t solve Israel Palestinian problem. It will lead into Egypt and Saudi destabilization.
    If I were the Iranian, I would start working on that Real-Dollar peg just to stay even with the regime change gag.

  49. Babak Makkinejad says:

    In the late Spring – early Summer of 1948 there was a “Meeting of Great Minds” in Washington D.C. The men attending hold no official positions in the United States Government. Their meeting agenda was to persuade US Government to begin a pre-emptive war against USSR. They believed that they could do so.
    Their representative, a Mr. Bernard Baruch, approached General Marshall to sound him out. General Marshall was against it and that ended that matter.
    A simialr situation had occured earlier with Mr. Hearst and the Spanish-American War.
    I agree with Colonel Lang; it can happen again. And there is no one like Marshall around to prevent it.

  50. rjj says:

    Obviously much money flows into the Iranian opposition but all the money couldn’t produce what we see without a critical mass yearning for more democracy.

    What about money PLUS “Nice little country you have here; it’d be a shame if something happened to it” ???

  51. My brother, an architectural historian was in Isfahan doing field research last November.
    On election day, as he walked through the streets, people would come up to him and ask if he was an American. When he said yes, folks would say how much they liked Obama and how happy they were for the US. He encountered similar attitudes in Shiraz, the other city he visited.
    People he spoke with in the streets, in cafes, in private homes indicated great concern over the economy.
    A number believed a change in leadership was needed at the presidential level to improve economic and social conditions. No one advocated any violent revolutionary action against the government or the overturning of the established Islamic Republic. People were intensely patriotic with respect to Iran and the Iranian nation. People believed change would come slowly and within an Iranian framework.
    Robert Fisk’s reporting this week is consistent with what my brother related to me of his experiences, albeit limited and impressionistic, last November. Despite the current mess there, my brother is very positive on the Iranian people of all walks of life, their courtesy, friendliness, hospitality, ancient culture, respect for tradition, sophistication, and all the rest which is evident to anyone with an open mind when on the ground there.
    I agree with Col Lang that there is massive and systematic psychological warfare/manipulation directed at the American people by those who wish to push the US into war with Iran.
    We have just lived through the demonization of Saddam from Babylon and its consequences which continue.
    The systematic demonization of Iran and its controversial populist president has been promoted through the US “pro-Israel” corporate media. First we had Saddam as Hitler and now, naturally, Ahmadinejad as Hitler painted all over the “pro-Israel” US corporate media.
    This technique was used against Nasser by pro-war British politicians in the run up to Suez as some will recall. Nasser as Hitler blah blah blah…
    I haven’t heard the ravings about Churchill yet…but it will be an indicator no doubt remembering Rummy’s near hysterical nonstop invocation of Churchill in the run up to the Iraq War. I suppose McCain and Lieberman will in due course do the Churchill invocation thing.
    Meanwhile the exact same machinery of corporate media, Neocons, AIPAC, Christian Zionist shock forces, and all the rest are pushing for
    confrontation with Iran.

  52. Arun says:

    India surely has more cause for war against Pakistan – need I enumerate them? – than the US has against Iran. But whether it is economic reasons, the difficulty of winning a clearcut victory, or because of good diplomacy on the part of the US and others, that war has not come about. There certainly was considerable internal pressure for belligerency; and Indian leaders must face the electorate like American leaders do.
    What Col. Lang is saying none of these reasons (economics, quagmire, diplomacy, leaders resisting public pressure) are applicable in these US of A. The lobby of a pocket handkerchief of a country half-way around the world, and the fourth estate will inexorably lead us to war with Iran. A sad commentary on the state of the nation.

  53. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I believe Mr. Jimmy Carter assessed the situation in Iran correctly when he observed that Mr. Ahmadinejad must – in effect – find a way to accommodate the aspirations of Mr. Mousavi’s supporters.
    These aspirations, in my opinion, have a lot more to do with social strictures that have been imposed – the Islamic Disaster as one Ahmadinejad supporter once called it – than specific issues with the Constitutional Law.
    For example, last year, the moral police [which does not report to the President of Iran] was harassing young women of Tehran on account of their stylish boots; or the young men who wear their hair in unusual styles.
    Last year, during Ramadan, the Tehran police declared that it will “confront” those who break their fast in public. Now there is no law in Iran against breaking one’s fast in public or in private; it is a religious practice and one does penance by fasting longer, pay alms, etc. But the police create law out of thin air and there is no recourse against this arbitrariness.
    I think clearly many young relatively well-educated people are fed-up with these petite and mean- spirited religious strictures that are being imposed on them.
    The leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in my opinion, cannot afford to ignore the 13 million strong protest votes.
    I suspect that they will do something constructive.

  54. Mark Stuart says:

    Yes indeed the moral choice is clear Sir. I started reading Livy about the history of Rome, and frankly i don’t see much differences when it comes to war between previous centuries and today. Some hard choice had and still have to be made.
    But the question still remains: can we actually do something to tilt the balance at this point w/o the blow back effect of past involvements? (beside the use of Twitters as suggested by some at the administration)
    I am not privy to any high government unofficial decision or evaluation. But i’m just not convinced at this point that we can make a difference militarily, nor through covert operations (but again they would be covert so i wouldn’t’ know).
    Also, when it comes to democracy, we often seem in the west as much as in the east,to have a clear, definite idea of what democracy is! But i’m not sure that Democracy as a political philosophy is a concept so rigidly and eternally defined. Again reading Livy and the History of Rome, it is striking to me how fluid and open a concept it is. The French for example define democracy as a system that gives women the right to abort, bans capital punishment and forbids others the right to wear a veil. In the US the debate on abortion and death penalty is still open. And although i find it abhorrent and highly hypocritical that some could assign a double standard on the value of life, the sheer fact that the debate is open is a sign that the definition of Democracy in America is still in constant evolution and that the American intellectual elite still alive and active. In France, ask anyone in the streets of Paris, it is set: America is not a Democracy! (if it were only the average Pierre that thought this way! Unfortunately, most of the elite does to!)
    And in case we decide to go to war, i still have to read any alnalysis about the dramatic consequences this would have on the potential change of heart of the sunni masses towards the shiites. Wouldn’t an alliance between shiites and sunnis be not only dangerous but also counter productive?

  55. curious says:

    software bug found
    It’s accelerating. The Iranian is systematically decapitating the leadership of khatami faction. If Mausavi vs. government doesn’t look for solution. the death toll will climb to thousands.

  56. Nancy K says:

    Colonel Lang, I so agree with you about the innocence, a kind word, of many of our citizens. They are more concerned about American Idol than about what is happening in the world. They view real life through the glasses of what they see on the TV screen, and there the US always is right, torture is good, and no one in the ME can be trusted except Israel. I work with intelligent people and they have no real concern about world events and our place in those events.
    My husband and I were talking about the Iranians and how we admired them for standing up for what they felt was a stolen election, and we knew that it would not happen here. Americans may get into the streets to see a basketball team, but not to demonstrate for freedom.
    I do not think we are free to choose. I think many of us don’t even care to choose.

  57. lowlander says:

    So, your point Colonel, is the “people” public opinion, dictate policy. However, that public opinion is largely swayed by the corporate, monopolistic, “information operations”/ propaganda networks.
    As a learned military officer who commands men to die it seems you are most influenced by these corrupt momopolistic “information operations” and again, seeemingly, it is your obligation to free up these corrupted “information operations” so as to alleviate the threat they pose to you and your men.

  58. Cynthia says:

    If McCain is really serious about wanting to eliminate theocracies throughout the world, he can start by eliminating all theocratic things here at home — anything from faith-based initiatives all the way to tax exemptions for faith-based institutions. But something tells me that because many of McCain’s constituents view America as a Judeo-Christian nation, he’ll hold back putting the axe to theocracy in America.

  59. I was more skeptical about the purported election fraud before I read this piece (h/t Helena Cobban) linked by Eric Hooglund, a Bates College prof and Iran scholar. I had thought that the Mousavi support was probably light in the rural areas, which had gone heavily for Ahmadinejad the first time around. Not so, according to Hooglund, who asserts that the countryside folks are deeply disillusioned with Ahmadinejad’s failure to come through on his promises. He bases this on recent, personal experience on the scene.

  60. Patrick Lang says:

    I am a RETIRED military officer and no longer command anyone to do anything.
    What do you suppose that I am trying to accomplish in spending so much time answering comments like yours? pl

  61. Mac Nayeri says:

    One of the consequences of the last few days, even if it is crushed, are that there will be no military attack on Iran. The display of people power makes it politically untenable.
    Even if it is temporarily crushed….

  62. From Salon:
    “Beneath their talk of spreading freedom and democracy, the neocons have always hated and feared Iran. There are several reasons for this, including the state of enmity between Iran and America spurred by the Khomeini revolution and the 1979 hostage crisis, but the main one is that Iran is Israel’s most dangerous enemy. Removing Iran as a threat to Israel is the main strategic goal of the neoconservatives, and that goal is far more important to them than “liberating” the Iranian people.” …
    Good stuff.
    For those familiar with the Neocons, it is no secret that their overall program (coordinated with their Israeli counterparts and the cosmopolitan financial-industrial complex supporting Israel) has been according to their own words and writings:
    1) target Iraq for regime change, 2) target Syria, 3) target Iran, 4) target Egypt, 5) target Saudi Arabia perhaps for a carveout of the Eastern Province and so on…

  63. Pat Lang,
    Having been out of the loop while visiting Washington with my two eldest daughters, I missed the rude remarks which caused the termination of the USS Liberty discussion. I’m curious.
    We did the sights, had a fine dinner at the A&N Club,and went to my niece’s ordination at the National Cathedral. While hobnobbing with the clergy, I was introduced to the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, the good work they do, and the obstacles they face from the occupying authority in Palestine. There’s a website, for anyone who’s interested.
    On Iran, I’m with Kiracofe, who didn’t leave much to add, but I’ll try. First, I have a question which is, what vital national interest on either nation’s part would justify a war? Or, for that matter, preclude an agreement, including the establishment of diplomatic relations? To that end, I think that the election or, as some think, the revolution will have to resolve itself, giving us a negotiating partner. Were the U.S. to intrude itself into the process, I believe we’d see a disaster.
    The Hungarian and Czech analogies aren’t appropriate, since they both involved the decisive intervention of a foreign power. As for the notion of war with Iran, particularly as the idea is so obviously being advanced by the same crowd that gave us the invasion of Iraq, its unbelievable that it has any traction. I agree that we have a lot of gullible and vulnerable people in this country, to which I would add, ignorant. As a possible remedy, I suggest that our high school curricula should include include the study of logic and rhetoric.

  64. arbogast says:

    Something is up in Iran.
    Colonel Lang’s question comes from a large knowledge base.
    That question becomes, “Suppose we did want to help an Iranian minority/majority being murdered in the streets, how would be do it?”
    American troops in Iran?
    America = Rome would be the end result of that.

  65. arbogast says:

    One other point.
    The Iraqi leadership that is allied with Iran. Which Iran is it allied with? The looney “religious” leaders? Or the moderates in the streets?

  66. arbogast says:

    A final point.
    Juan Cole, no friend of American Imperialism, has an extraordinary analysis of what is going on in Iran.
    He certainly seems to be saying that this is the real thing and that Obama is doing the right thing at this time…that the threat of an “American presence” on Iranian soil would be disastrous.
    Juan Cole
    I agree, however, that it would be a tremendous pity for an opportunity for rational government in Iran to be lost. Bibi would win big time.
    What to do?

  67. zanzibar says:

    Rafsanjani central to struggle within regime
    I don’t know much about Iranian politics, but as I continue to suspect there is a power struggle going on between Rafsanjani and Khamenei and protests against an allegedly fraudulent election is one of the weapons in this struggle.
    Is there a chance that this fight could unravel the political structure created by the Islamic revolution and both these inside the regime groups lose out? I would be very interested to hear from knowledgeable folks about this dynamic.

  68. “Perhaps more significantly, many hawks in the U.S. are already looking beyond the current political crisis — which some argue will inevitably end in defeat for the protesters — to argue against any diplomatic outreach to Tehran.”…
    Good stuff.
    Increased surveillance of the dark Neocon and Zionist forces is essential at this time.
    We can note the role of Cong. Eric Cantor, a hardline Zionist Jew from Richmond. He owes his rise in Republican Party ranks to his alliance with the Christian Zionist wing of the party. Roy Blunt (R-MO), a Christian Zionist, was a key factor in his rise. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Blunt
    Contrast this faction of the Republican Party with the traditionalist foreign policy positions of Senator Lugar.
    William Fitzgerald,
    our diocese in Jerusalem does indeed do good work. I would recommend a book by a friend of mine, an Anglican priest, to your daughter in her new vocation. It is the best analysis of Christian Zionism available from a theological perspective:
    Steven Sizer, Christian Zionism. Road Map to Armageddon? (Leicester UK: Inter-Varsity Press,2004).
    My own book, from a political-historical perspective, Dark Crusade. Christian Zionism and US Foreign Policy (London: IB Tauris,2009) is slated for North American release in a couple of weeks.
    I also recommend The Middle East Council of Churches website:
    and the Sabeel Center’s:

  69. Chinese Curse–Beware you get what you ask for?

  70. Andy says:

    The debate at this event is timely for this discussion. I think everyone here will find value in it and we are sure to hear the various arguments given in this debate again.
    On the issue of current events in Iran, I think that whoever comes out on top in this election is now less important than how the current regime and especially the Supreme Leader handle the current crisis. As it stands, a violent showdown now looks likely and will make war between the US and Iran much more likely as well. Even if war in the medium term is avoided, the consequences of internal political violence inside Iran could be very bad for the US and the region, not to mention Iran.

  71. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    Re: USS Liberty
    I consider myself an officer of the court. And, after considerable investigation much like that of a prosecutor, I am basically in agreement with James Bamford when he writes in Body of Secrets, “…there is certainly more than enough probable cause to conduct a serious investigation into what really happened — and why.”
    Because I am not in the loop — nor do I want to be — I cannot yet conclude definitively that the evidence satisfies a higher standard, such as clear and convincing or beyond a reasonable doubt, although, after reading Neiman Fellow James Scott’s book, I am starting to lean towards a conclusion that the evidence is much closer to the higher standard of clear and convincing than probable cause.
    Regardless, as an officer of the court, certain obligations are triggered when one concludes that probable cause exists that a crime has taken place, particularly if that crime is one of murder, as there is no statute of limitations. ABA informal opinion 1210 articulates such an obligation when it states, “there is a duty on the part of a lawyer as a good citizen to aid in the enforcement of criminal laws, … to report unprivileged knowledge of criminal conduct to the appropriate authorities.”
    Senator Webb is an a graduate of the Georgetown law school, so he too knows or should know of obligations that are triggered when one concludes that probable cause exists that murder has taken place. And at this point, it is worthwhile to quote from a report filed with the Secretary of Army on June 8, 2005 titled “War Crimes committed against US Military Personnel, June 8, 1967. The report refers to the Military Code of Justice by concluding that that attack on the Liberty was one “ where provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice were violated when American naval aircraft sent to the aid of the USS Liberty were called back not once but twice by someone at the White House.”
    It is very easy to analogize what happened to the Liberty crew with a civilian scenario. It is basically one where probable cause, at least as I have concluded so far, suggests the politically connected murdered the politically powerless (the Liberty vets) and the investigation was quashed. Admiral McCain arguably quashed the equivalent of a grand jury investigation (NCOI) much as an ambitious DA would do, following the request of the mayor seeking re-election (that be LBJ) who took the advice of his top aid (that be McNamara) and disregarded the advice of a Scot-Irish Presbyterian Southerner (that be Dean Rusk) who in this instance never sold out, if indeed the conduct is proven to be one of murder.
    Perhaps to look at from a different angle. It is as if “To Kill a Mockingbird” occurred in the in the setting of military and on the world stage with different plot twists. Or perhaps it was somewhat akin to civil rights workers who were murdered with no administration of justice until years later or when the judge out in Oakland was murdered (by Angela Davis?) with no justice.
    So as officer of the court, I am basically obligated to “report unprivileged knowledge of criminal conduct to the appropriate authorities.” In this scenario, there are two appropriate authorities. One is the “People”, as in the “People vs…..”. The second type of authority is those within the establishment. Sen. Webb comes across as a leader in that regard. He was raised within the military culture, is a Vietnam war hero, and he is an officer of the court.
    It should be noted that a few months before Sen. Webb became Secretary of the Navy in 1987, Lieutenant Commander Walter L. Jacobsen, JAGC, USN, wrote an article for Navy Law Review, titled, “A Juridicial Examination of the Israeli Attack on the USS Liberty.”
    In this Navy Law Review article, Jacobsen concludes, that “the
    attack was not supportable in international law and recommends a thorough,
    public investigation into the attack by the United States Congress.”
    Senator Webb is a leader imminently qualified to resolve this issue for the American people and in such a way that the administration of justice is satisfied. Sen. Webb is either in agreement with this conclusion of this Navy Law Review article or is not. Plus much additional evidence has surfaced since the publication of the law review article. As a officer of the court — not to mention from a small Southern town and safe to say “Scot-Irish” — I am obligated to “report unprivileged knowledge of criminal conduct to the appropriate authorities.”

  72. jedermann says:

    With regard to the forced choice: I sense that the continuation of an Iranian leadership that will not do business with the U.S. and one that will not give up its nuclear objectives (whatever they really are) will NOT result in the U.S. initiating a war of choice against Iran. I do believe that AIPAC and the whole Neocon galaxy, including its media allies, will beat the drums of war furiously and ceaselessly. We will be subjected to a deluge of fear mongering that may be unprecedented, but I doubt it will work this time.
    There are important differences between our situation now and the situation that prevailed during the build-up to the invasion of Iraq. Our thirst for revenge for 9/11, while perhaps not exactly satisfied, has at least been exhausted. We are engaged in two wars that are bleeding us of personnel and resources and objectively restricting our freedom of action. The national psyche is not in a state in which we are strutting around looking for a place to assert our power. We are in a mood of retrenchment. We are slogging our way through the worst recession since the Great Depression. People are starting to panic about the fantastic debt we are accumulating. It will be much more difficult to stampede a population preoccupied by foreclosures, job insecurity and prospects of destitution into yet another war on the other side of the world. I do not think it can be done and I predict that if it is attempted the drum beaters will go too far and be exposed as being way out on the fringe, having an agenda that is in someone else’s best interests and beggars our own. If anything this might just usher in an era of neo-isolationism.
    There is a caveat to this assertion and that is if Israel should start a war with Iran. That is the one foreseeable event that could constitute an irresistible casus belli with Iran. I hope that the Obama administration is making it perfectly clear to Israel, and doing so over and over, that we will not be drawn into such an action. I do not have a good sense of the inevitability of such a chain of events occurring and if you surmise that this is ultimately what makes war with Iran the “other” choice, then I must defer, otherwise, as worthy of Mencken’s low opinion of us as we have proven, I don’t think we get fooled again.

  73. rjj says:

    People are starting to panic about the fantastic debt we are accumulating. It will be much more difficult to stampede a population preoccupied by foreclosures, job insecurity and prospects of destitution into yet another war on the other side of the world.

    That’s reason. What about the limbic: Dragon Slaying in the name of liberty is a perfect distraction for a nation of underoccupied, overchattled, chronically anxious, easily spooked, television-addicted debt serfs who after 250 years of freedom-from and freedom-to have chosen to indenture themselves, individually and collectively, to Mister E-Z credit.
    This dissonance+denial+susceptibility is why much of the response (dewy-eyed handkerchief clutching and lofty rhetoric) to the Iranian election scares the crap out of me.

  74. harper says:

    Well, things have taken a further turn in Iran today, with Supreme Leader Khamenei’s full public endorsement of Ahmadinejad’s victory at the Friday prayer at Tehran University. I suspect that the people around Khamenei and Ahmadinejad concluded that the demonstrations were likely to continue, unabated, through the ten day period of the electoral review by the Guardian Council, and that this would have tremendously weakened the current power structure. They have taken a calculated risk, that the implied threats of crackdown will deter further peaceful demos. I do not see this as a “revolutionary” situation, but, rather, a conflict between two contending factions within the revolutionary class: The hardliners, grouped around Ahmadinejad and Khamenei, with their paramilitary apparatus (Revolutionary Guard, Basij, Martyrs Brigade and a group of radical clerics, typified by Yazdi), versus the more moderate elements. I would not call them “reformers” perse. They have a desire to end Iran’s isolation, and see an opportunity now that may not be quite so available a year from now.
    Tienenmen Square started out in a similar fashion, although cross-cultural analogies are always somewhat dangerous. A reform faction of the Chinese Communist elites tried to use the students as a leverage against a hardline faction. As time wore on, and the demonstrations/sitins continued, outside forces inevitably started mucking around, and the character of the situation changed at that point–weakening the negotiating position of the reformists who had initially encouraged the student demonstrators. They could not countenance an outside effort to stir a destabilization of the whole system, so they wound up having to go along with the crackdown–and take the political hit.
    I am a strong opponent of the doctrine of humanitarian interventionism, particularly as promoted by some in the Obama administration, like Susan Rice and Samantha Powers. It is a slippery slope of its own, reducing the power of national sovereignty, especially when used in excess.
    Iran is a country of strong political institutions, and elections have traditionally been the only true venue for the population to have a voice. Hence, Khatami’s wins, despite the push-back by the parallel structure of IRGC and Basij, which eventually eroded Khatami’s power and his credentials with his own supporters.
    There is strong doubt, among some of the more informed Iranians, allied with the Mousavi camp, that the IRGC/Basij can really launch an allout crackdown. They believe that there will be a strong sense that turning guns on your own people is going too far. I cannot judge whether they are right or not. But a new phase has begun today, with the Supreme Leader clearly deciding that he has to take a strong stand–contradicting what he himself said just a few days ago. The die has been cast, the next act has begun, and the outcome has yet to be written.
    We have a pretty good intelligence picture on the ground–not from twitter and facebook, but from some serious Iran experts, who have moment to moment communication with different factions in the leadership, who are directly engaged in the power struggle behind the scenes. We will have a role to play, but I don’t think the Hungary parallel yet holds. This is not yet about a revolutionary overthrow of the system.

  75. Sidney O. Smith III,
    Thanks for the analysis of the attack on the U.S.S. Liberty. Hypothetically, were there to be an inquiry initiated by Senator Webb and others, what would constitute possible redress for the crew members, the Navy, and the nation? The only course that strikes me as providing a just result would be the issuance of indictments against those Israeli naval and airforce personnel and politicians involved in the attack and arresting and trying them when possible. As for those who prevented planes from the Sixth Fleet from coming to the aid of the ship, I believe that retired military and naval personnel are subject to the UCMJ for offences committed while on active duty. Other government employees could possibly be indicted.
    It all sounds impossible, from a legal point of view, and I suppose that the best that could be hoped for would be the exposure and information coming from the inquiry.

  76. Different Clue says:

    The little I know about Senator Webb says to me that if he thinks we need Congressional Hearings into the attack on the Liberty, then he will push for them. If he does not push for them, that would mean that he really believes they should not happen. Nobody is going to scare him out of
    pushing for hearings if he thinks hearings are called for. So perhaps people who can reach him with a cogent case case for hearings, made on the factual merits, should reach him with that case and convince him on the merits. (If he isn’t already convinced and just waiting for the best time and most favorable conditions).
    The focus on who in particular made the decision
    to attack and down what chain of which commanders in particular that decision flowed would be fruitful, if successfully pursuable. Several threads ago I read in a comment that at least one Israeli flier outright refused the order to attack and flew back home to certain arrest. Who was that flier? Is he still alive? Could he be brought to Congress and asked the name(s) of the person/people
    who passed the order down to him? (And though his refusal did the Liberty no ultimate good; would the Liberty survivors care to meet him anyway? Because at least he tried?)
    Many years ago I read the
    book Spymasters of Israel which offered another possible reason for the attack. The book suggests that Israeli radio experts were broadcasting fake announcements seemingly from Egypt about major Egyptian victories in hopes that the Jordanian Government would hear these broadcasts and King Hussein would feel pressured and lured into attacking Israel from the Jordanian West Bank. An attack for which Israel would be ever-so-ready. And someone in Israel feared that Liberty was overhearing these broadcasts and would warn Jordan saying: “don’t do it! Its a trap!”
    About Iran, as long as the demonstrators say they want twitter and youtube access to the world, we should keep that access open. The more parts of the
    American public see of the protests, the more those parts of the American public
    might resist the idea of bombing the country where all those brave protesters live.
    Separately, I wonder if there is another way to build some vague but real and widespread sympathy for “Iran” in large parts of
    America. There is a whole “middle America press” quite separate and apart from the MSM. 100 million or more Americans read thoroughly apolitical magazines like Gourmet, Cat Fancy, Town and Country, Outdoor Life, etc. If “Iranian protesters” stay in the news for several more weeks, might some of these apolitical magazines feel their apolitical readers might want some apolitical articles about “Iran”? For example, what if Cat Fancy carried a big feature articles about “Iran, home of the Persian Cat”, and “Persian Cats of Iran” and so forth? And if the Bomb Iran Lobby makes wartalk sound likely, the Cat Lovers Of America all screamed at Congress: “we can’t bomb Iran! That’s where the Persian cats come from!” Now picture some version of that happening with magazine after magazine, with mass-readership after mass-readership. I know on its face it sounds silly. But if that process could actually be replicated across several hundred magazines, papers, and newsletters reaching an aggregate readership of 100 million apolitical Americans…would it lead to
    an unpredicted political counter-attack against the War Seekers’ unprotected flank? Is it really too silly and seemingly-frivolous to be worth considering? Or is it one of those off-the-wall ideas that is “so silly, it just might work”?
    I offer that in case stronger brains than mine think it contains something to work with.

  77. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    WPFIII and DC
    Thanks and I tend to agree. But simply throwing everything out on the table via a Congressional hearing would serve the public good and certainly help the Liberty vets and families.
    That said, one aspect of the Liberty incident does pose some interesting questions, at least to me. Using the broadest language possible, suppose a murder takes place and the investigation is intentionally quashed because the murderer is politically connected and the victim is politically powerless.
    If a person, particularly one who is in a position of authority, knows or should know that the investigation was flawed and a murder concealed, then is that person under a legal obligation to come forward? Or, alternatively, does a code of silence constitute an affirmative step in a continuing crime? Under that line of thinking, at some point such a person in a position of authority may expose himself or herself to both criminal and even civil liability.
    One historical reference perhaps is apropos. Back in the 1960’s a few klansmen murdered some blacks and civil rights workers. The investigation was quashed. Does that mean the case is closed? Hardly. And if a local District Attorney years later had tried to prevent the re-opening of the case by arguing “case closed” or by even refusing to respond to inquiries, then certain liabilities may vew well attach.

  78. billmon says:

    “A lot of you people are not good at dealing with forced choices among unpleasant alternatives.”
    It seems to me the same could be more accurately said of those who believe the acquistion of nuclear technology by a potentially hostile state must lead to “eventual war”.
    Because if that’s the doctrine, then the US is going to be fighting a LOT of wars over the next few decades — more, probably, than even the global superpower can hope to win.

  79. Patrick Lang says:

    You still don’t get it. I did not say that posession of a nuclear weapon by Iran or anyone else makes war inevitable.
    What I said was that successful Israeli and neocon political warfare will make war with Iran virtually inevitable for the US.
    Read the data. Read what someone else said, not what you want to think. pl

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