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Tidbits from Turkey on Iran

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CIA Director Porter Goss and FBI Director Mueller's visits to Turkey received extremely little attention in the Western press, but from the stuff that's leaked out in the Turkish press, there is reason to think that it might do well for all of us to pay attention to what's going on there.

According to this summary of Hurriyet's reporting, a major topic of the discussions centered around the PKK, which is currently subsisting in their Brave New World-style communes in northern Iraq and has launched a number of attacks into Turkey since the 2003 US invasion. Most Turks (correctly) regard the PKK the same way that most Americans do al-Qaeda, so this is understandably a big issue in Turkey and one that we have been trying to resolve together with them and the Iraqis for some time now, particularly because we do not want the Turks sending the several thousand troops and support personnel into Iraq that it would take to finally wipe out the PKK.

For those who are curious about this passage:

Turkey will warn that such a development would increase the influence of al Qaeda terror network.

What the Turks are referring to here is the various Kurdish Islamist groups that once banded together under the aegis of the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan during the early 1990s but have since splintered into a number of different factions, one of which was Ansar al-Islam. I should stress that we are talking 5,000 Islamist fighters at the absolute maximum, as opposed to the 100,000+ peshmerga now fielded by the various Kurdish factions. With the exception of maybe Komala Islamiyyah (which jointly garrisoned Sergat together with Ansar al-Islam prior to the war), none of these other Kurdish Islamist factions have overt ties to al-Qaeda, but they are still a security concern for the Turkish government.

Then from Zaman we get a look at some of the Turkish pressure on the US to stop what they see as European tolerance for PKK activity in Europe, some of which more or less resembles the way that Israel criticizes the Europeans for drawing a distinction between the military and political wings of Hamas and Hezbollah. It also seems that Mueller raised the issue of Louai Sakra, which suggests that the CIA agrees with the Turkish assessment of him as a senior al-Qaeda leader.

The most interesting details of the meeting seem to have appeared in Cumhurriyet, which states the following:

During his recent visit to Ankara, CIA Director Porter Goss reportedly brought three dossiers on Iran to Ankara. Goss is said to have asked for Turkey’s support for Washington’s policy against Iran’s nuclear activities, charging that Tehran had supported terrorism and taken part in activities against Turkey. Goss also asked Ankara to be ready for a possible US air operation against Iran and Syria. Goss, who came to Ankara just after FBI Director Robert Mueller’s visit, brought up Iran’s alleged attempts to develop nuclear weapons. It was said that Goss first told Ankara that Iran has nuclear weapons and this situation was creating a huge threat for both Turkey and other states in the region. Diplomatic sources say that Washington wants Turkey to coordinate with its Iran policies. The second dossier is about Iran’s stance on terrorism. The CIA argued that Iran was supporting terrorism, the PKK and al-Qaeda. The third had to do with Iran’s alleged stance against Ankara. Goss said that Tehran sees Turkey as an enemy and would try to “export its regime.”

The implication here is that the US believes that it'll be using Incirlik in any aerial operations against Iran and wants to secure Turkish cooperation on that score - the visit of Turkish Chief of Staff General Yasar Buyukanit to DC is likely related here. I would also note that the issue of Iranian support for the PKK has long been the official position of both the US and Turkish governments, as can be seen in this excerpt from the 1999 Patterns of Global Terrorism that was completed during the Clinton administration:

Tehran still provided safehaven to elements of Turkey's separatist PKK that conducted numerous terrorist attacks in Turkey and against Turkish targets in Europe. One of the PKK's most senior at-large leaders, Osman Ocalan, brother of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, resided at least part-time in Iran.

With the Turkish capture of Abdullah Ocalan ("Apo"), Osman is now the de facto head of the PKK. As for Iranian support for al-Qaeda, revelations that al-Qaeda leaders based in Iran helped to finance the November 2003 Istanbul bombings (the "Syrian" referenced in the article is Louai Sakra) in direct contradiction to Iranian claims that such individuals are in detention and unable to direct or support terrorist operations.

I would note that for Turkey, Iranian support for Sunni Islamist terrorism against the Turkish state is not nearly as controversial an issue as it is in say, Europe. Since 1979, Iran has deployed every means at its disposal in an effort to undermine or otherwise destroy the secular foundations of the Turkish state. Indeed, the unyielding Iranian hostility towards Turkey is one of the reasons that the country has no problems maintaining close military ties to Israel - the two nations share pretty much the same enemies. Whether it's recent events or past ones, Turkish military and intelligence officials will have no trouble believing the US on this one - it's simply been part of their daily lives for the last 25 years.

Please note that what the Turks think is a different issue altogether from whether or not airstrikes against Iranian nuclear facilities are prudent or even wise at this point. I should note that myself am skeptical of the idea that limited airstrike on Iran would deter their nuclear program. Rather, I think that most likely outcome of such an attack would be to push back the date nuclear program with the unintended consequences of shoring up domestic support for the regime, an event that would but ensure the emergence of a nuclear Iran a little further down the line.

I see that Mehran Riazaty, a former CPA analyst now blogging out of Regime Change Iran, has some thoughts of his own on Iranian support for terrorism in Turkey, which he ties back to the Qods Force unit of the Revolutionary Guards that we've mentioned before.

1 TrackBack

Tracked: January 3, 2006 1:14 AM
More Indications US Planning Air Strike in Iran from Shining Light in Dark Corners
Excerpt: The American and Israeli war drums are sounding. War with Iran is threatened. This is the new years hottest story with daily changes occurring. Iran said on Sunday it had developed machinery to separate uranium from its ore in it's drive to acquire ind...

118 Comments

I wonder if anyone knows enough to predict the reaction of the Iranian people to a strike against the regime's nuclear facilities. I hasten to add that I would be surprised if we did strike, adding to that that if we were sure that Iran did have atomic weapons, and was mounting them on the new longer-range and much more accurate missiles they are getting from the Russians and North Koreans, I might change my mind.

Anyway, if the cold war is any sort of model for analysis, we know that Russian dissidents were very pleased when Russian troops were attacked with American weapons in Afghanistan. If WWII is any model, we know that the prisoners in the Nazi death and concentration camps wanted the camps bombed, even it it cost them their lives.

So why should the Iranian people, who overwhelmingly oppose the regime--which is getting more oppressive--rally to Ahmadi-Nezhad if we take out the nuclear sites?

I don't have the answer, and I don't think anyone knows enough to have it.

Mr. Ledeen,

I suspect the answer depends on the circumstances. If the airstrikes were done by American aircraft accompanied by an American ground invasion intended to overthrow the mullah regime, with our President telling the Iranian people on television, "You will be free", the Iranian people's response would be enthusiastic agreement.

If the airstrikes are by Israeli aircraft, which probably will refuel either at American bases in Iraq or from American KC-135 tankers over Iraq, sullen acquiesence is more likely.

As a practical matter, I think it will be the latter followed in time by the former. Israeli strikes would probably release enough radioactive particles into the air for American sensors to determine exactly how far the Iranian enrichment process has progressed, and identify the countries which have given the mullahs pre-enriched fissionables to shorten the duration of their enrichment process.

The political situation in America will determine what happens in this regard. I expect an Israeli attack would focus debate here on the consequences of mullah nuclear weapons enough to provide adequate public support for a ground invasion of Iran. And that an Israeli attack would delay Iranian production of locally-enriched weapons-grade fissionables long enough for this political process to occur. Dan Darling can confirm that this has been my opinion for some time.

Dr. Ledeen:

Well, attacks on facilities where the nukes are already in place and ready to be fired strike me as a lot easier for us to explain and justify to our allies among the Iranian people than Osirak-style bombing runs on the Bushehr and Natanz plants as are usually discussed. If there are a lot of civilian casualties in the process (and I have no problems whatsoever of believing that the mullahs would use their own people as hostages), that could complicate matters considerably.

I don't have the answer for what'll happen with the Iranian people if we bomb Bushehr and Natanz, but since we do know that the destruction of those two facilities will be insufficient in and of themselves to stop the program and could quite potentially push the Iranian people away from where we want them (internal revolution, since I think that the alternative is us having to invade Iran) and prod up, even incrementally, the Islamic Republic, I think that a fair bit of prudence is called for. As with you, that position changes if they have the nukes up and ready to go - at that point, you drop the bombs and let the cards fall where they may.

Tom Holsinger:

I'll gladly endorse the point that this has been your position for awhile, but I still think that it's a lot easier to have the Iranian people overthrow their own government than to just let us do it for them.

I disagree that having the Iranian people overthrow their own government would be easier, due to the factional disputes and turf wars President Bush tolerates in the national security community. He won't fire anyone for offenses less than overt public disloyalty.

It should be easier, but it isn't.

And we no longer seem to have the time to foster a revolution in Iran before the mullahs have home-grown nukes.

"I disagree that having the Iranian people overthrow their own government would be easier, due to the factional disputes and turf wars President Bush tolerates in the national security community"

And it would have to happen before Iran goes nuclear. Once they have a nuclear arsenal we have no choice but to encourage stability, however terrible. The absolute most dangerous thing is to have a dying regime led by a madman with nuclear weapons and terrorist allies. That is another moral reason to disarm Iran, to do otherwise forces us back into bed with fascists. And doubtless somewhere down the road the opposition party will trot out photos of Condi Rice shaking hands with some Mullah as evidence of the evil that is the United States.

Dan Darling:

I'll gladly endorse the point that this has been your position for awhile, but I still think that it's a lot easier to have the Iranian people overthrow their own government than to just let us do it for them.
Easier, perhaps, but possible? From my poorly-informed standpoint 8,000 miles away, the “Iranian dissidents” appear to be Westernized in more ways than one. They appear to have the same kind of magical thinking that Western Europeans seem to have (peacekeeping via the “think system”).

Mark Buehner:

And it would have to happen before Iran goes nuclear.
I don't know whether this is true or not. A large number of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons is a deterrent; 1-10 nukes sounds more like a target.

Tom Holsinger:

And we no longer seem to have the time to foster a revolution in Iran before the mullahs have home-grown nukes.

Do we really even know? What are all the estimates - 6 months, 1 year, 2-3 years, 5 years, 10 years? I've seen them all floating around and I very much doubt that you can get a definitive figure from anyone in the IC as to where the mullahs are now and where they'll be 6 months from now. Especially after what happened WRT Iraq.

Dave Schuler:

The regime clearly fears its dissidents, otherwise they wouldn't work so hard to make sure that they don't unite against them. As far as the 1-10 nukes goes, there are two problems with those kinds of assumptions: that the regime plans to use them the same way that most nuclear powers do (traditional deterrence) rather than in some kind of non-traditional deterrence or even an offensive capacity, suppose they hand 1 or 2 of the 10 nukes produced over to Hezbollah? What do we do then? In addition, if the regime manufactures nuclear weapons but doesn't test them in favor of using simulators, how are we supposed to know when they move away from possessing 1-10 nukes vs. say 50-60 later down the line? For that matter, can anyone definitively knock down the idea that they haven't already produced a nuke? I know that most experts consider the possibility unlikely, but can anyone definitively knock it down?

Support of a Iranian revolution after they get nukes will be impossible how could you assure a more radical group pissed at losing power would not give a nuke to AQ and of course who would we retaliate against the new free Iran. It will be like Pak stability with negotiation to change. And short a major air effort Dissedent uprising being sucessfull is nill see 91' Iraq.

I think what we will see will be massive air campain decapitation of Mullahs and leadership and thier Nuke and WMD facilities. That will be continued right into military targets secret police ect weaking the gov ability to keep control followed by a No-flyzone all over Iran while we send in SOF and weapons to give the dissedents a chance to stand up and take over. If the dissedents dont stand up at some point we will need to invade but either way in our current postition on surrounding Iran we can contain the choas to Iran while we urge the revolution we all want, also once it is started they may even request our ground support. Decapitated at will, military forces pounded and pinned down, all aircraft grounded or destroyed, thier will be a vacum of power for the dissedents to stand up into with a handfull of SOF and US air support a city will become states and states will spead to nation, the Mullahs pushed underground will play hell to keep control of the diffent factions that will try to fill the new void.

Mark: I don't understand why a nuclear Iran is any more difficult to overthrow (politically; as you know I'm opposed to invasion as to military force vs Iran generally), than a non-nuclear mullahcracy. It just makes the mission more urgent.

I mean, the Soviet Union had a few nukes as I recall, but we managed to support political revolution throughout the empire, including the homeland.

Yeah, but even the communists in the Soviet Union didn't want to nuke themselves. OTOH, the Mullahs seem to have no problem with suicide bombing for matrydom, and suicide bombing with a nuke seems quite within their way of thinking.

We know what you've done, Mr. Ledeen.

Soon everyone will

As much as I would support a military invasion of Iran, I just can't see it happening, for reasons both political and military.

Politically, Iraq was a much easier tarket given the situation that had persisted since 1991 and given the Clinton Administration actions toward Iraq. Nevertheless, the political cost to the Administration of going into Iraq has been immense. I can't see how it is politically possible to invade Iran when our grounds for war are less than what they were for Iraq.

Militarily (and I freely admit that I'm no expert and have never served in the military), I just don't see how we have enough troops to take on Iran. The Iraq campaign appears to have strained the capacity of the Army, given our other commitments around the globe. While we likely will be able to reduce our troop levels in Iraq during the coming year, we will still have a lot of troops there and won't be pulling out that many troops. I just don't see how we have the troops to take on Iran, which is much, much larger than Iraq. As we have learned in Iraq, you have to have enough boots on the ground to control the territory. I don't see where those boots are going to come from.

I wish be had begun an expansion of the Army after 9/11 so that we would have those boots now, four years later, but we didn't. So now we are stuck with not many good options.

so while it's nice to talk about an invasion as an option, I just don't see it as a real option.

Maybe those of you with more military experience than I can convince me I'm wrong.

As far as the 1-10 nukes goes, there are two problems with those kinds of assumptions: that the regime plans to use them the same way that most nuclear powers do (traditional deterrence) rather than in some kind of non-traditional deterrence or even an offensive capacity, suppose they hand 1 or 2 of the 10 nukes produced over to Hezbollah?
That's precisely the reason I suggested that a handful of nuclear weapons is not a deterrent—it's a target.

Atlanta Lawyer,

Even the Democrats' military experts agreed in an Atlantic Monthly article that eliminating Iran's mullah regime with a ground invasion is feasible - they were actually much more optimistic about it than I am. Here is the link:
http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200412/fallows

We all agree that the occupation campaign afterwards will be much worse for us, in terms of intensity and required manpower, than the occupation campaign in Iraq. The question is whether it will last as long. The Democratic military experts in the Atlantic article didn't discuss that issue.

IMO the occupation campaign in Iran will take much less time than the one in Iraq for these reasons. (1) Iran has a functioning civil society and democratic tradition while Iraq didn't. The mullahs veto candidates they don't like, more in the past few years than earlier, but the systems and mindset for a functioning democratic society are present.

(2) We can use the most of the Iranian army's junior officers, non-coms and enlisted personnel as a cadre for the new democratic regime's security forces. We couldn't do that with Iraq's army as the officers and non-coms were almost exclusively Sunni Arabs aka Baathist regime loyalists.

3) Iran has at least one order of magnitude, and probably several orders of magnitude, less loose explosives than were present in Iraq, to use in improvised explosive devices. The mullah regime die-hards will die much faster than the Baathist die-hards in Iraq, because the ones in Iran will be attacking our forces mostly with direct-fire weapons. That is suicidal against American forces.

4) Language and ethnicity differences mean that Al Qaeda's purely Sunni foreign terrorists won't be able to operate much in Iran. The latter operated only briefly in Shiite areas of Iraq - those that didn't leave quickly died horribly at Shiite hands. While there are a lot of Sunnis in Iran, few of those are Arabs - they're Kurds, Azeris, etc.

a couple of questions for anyone here;

1. How do the above issues fit with Turkey's refusal to allow U.S. forces into Iraq at the opening of OIF? Did they believe Saddam was a better buffer viz. Iran?

and

2. What if the mullahs' idea is to (merely) use their new nuclear capability to raise the stakes against interference with more conventional adventures, e.g. more direct support of factions in Iraq, border issues to undermine Pervez Musharraf, obstruction of gulf shipping, etc.?

Tom,

Thanks for the link. An interesting article but I didn't see where they concluded that eliminating the mullah regime with an invasion was feasible. As I read the article, when presented with the military invasion plan, the consensus of the panel was that the plan was not workable and that it need to "go back to Tampa." The experience, both political and military, of Iraq loomed large.

The article reinforced my concern that the military invasion option is really not there. Less drastic military options don't really solve the problem and increase the likelihood of Iranian retaliation. Finally, the lack of the military invasion option, as the article makes clear, renders our non-military options ineffective.

I agree with the theory that Iranian development of 1-10 nukes means a great likelihood that they will be exported. The mullahs are not toy collectors like so many dictators are.

I would suggest that untested devices "may" be far less reliable than the mullahs believe. My only example is the lackluster condition of the Soviet nuclear force after the fall of communism. Heck, even our bombs require extensive and frequent maintenance, and problems have cropped up since the beginning in that regard.

Israel cannot risk a nuclear war with its immediate neighbors. There just isn't room enough. OTOH, Iran is far enough away...

Stephen:

1. I think Turkey's behavior WRT to Iraq has more to do about a combination of domestic and international politics rather than a Turkish preference for Iraq to serve as a counter-balance to Iran. Saddam, for all his atrocities against the Kurdish people, wasn't exactly their best friend against the PKK either.

2. An overtly nuclear Iran probably necessitates Saudi Arabia calling out all the stops as far as Pakistan (whose own nuclear program they helped to underwrite) is concerned out of the fear that the mullahs will move to support the Shi'ites in their Eastern province. Ahmadinejad's speech to the UN Security Council also stopped just short of overt advocacy of what Abdul Qadeer Khan did.

But what will the Shiites in Iraq have to say about our attacking their old refuge? And if it's Israel that leads the assault I wonder if that won't be the end of all the work and investment we've made thus far in Iraq.

The Atlantic article concluded that eliminating the mullah regime was feasible, but that the consequences had too high a price. Note that it did not consider the consequences of the mullah reigme producing its own nuclear weapons. My emphasis:
"In all their variety, these and other regime-change plans he described had two factors in common. One is that they minimized "stability" efforts—everything that would happen after the capital fell. "We want to take out of this operation what has caused us problems in Iraq," Gardiner of CentCom said, referring to the postwar morass. "The idea is to give the President an option that he can execute that will involve about twenty days of buildup that will probably not be seen by the world. Thirty days of operation to regime change and taking down the nuclear system, and little or no stability operations. Our objective is to be on the outskirts of Tehran in about two weeks. The notion is we will not have a Battle of Tehran; we don't want to do that. We want to have a battle around the city. We want to bring our combat power to the vicinity of Tehran and use Special Operations to take the targets inside the capital. We have no intention of getting bogged down in stability operations in Iran afterwards. Go in quickly, change the regime, find a replacement, and get out quickly after having destroyed—rendered inoperative—the nuclear facilities."
IMO the durations mentioned should be at least doubled (more likely x3 or x4). Significant military resistance is not likely, as effective Iranian ground forces are just as much a threat to the mullahs as effective Iraqi ground forces were to Sadaam (neither capable of real combat), and American forces are just too deadly. The principal obstacles will be logistic, and those are far, far, greater than in Iraq. It's called mountains vs. desert and broad river valleys.

Stephen #15,

"1. How do the above issues fit with Turkey's refusal to allow U.S. forces into Iraq at the opening of OIF? Did they believe Saddam was a better buffer viz. Iran?"

The situation about Turkey's refusal has a lot to do with Turkey's internal political sensitivities. I was in Turkey at the time...plenty of news footage of US military equipment being refused entry at the port of entry(Turkish government standing up to the US), then US military equipment being "deported" via Kurdistan(Turkish government being a good ally).

The port of entry problems got a lot of press coverage in the West...the "unceremonious deporting via Kurdistan" was the main story in the turkish press.

Excellent discussion here regarding how far Iran may be from getting a nuke. But what if Iran has already purchased nukes from China or Russia? That possibility might help explain those countries persistence in assisting Iran with its nuclear development. After all, the only way to cloak such a sale is to aggressively build up Iran's nuclear tech. Then, when Iran announces it has a bomb, the world will conclude that it miscalculated a la North Korea.

If, on the other hand, the world were to stand united against Iran's nuclear aspirations, Iran would likely back down from its tech drive. If they were then found to have a bomb or five it would invite an investigation into where the bomb came from.

Tom Holsinger # 20:

I don't really think there are any obstacles, substantial military resistance or not, to American soldiers arriving at Tehran very quickly in consderable numbers. If the last two efforts (Iraq and Afghanistan) have proved anything, it is that general capacity in areas like logistics and deployment is phenomenal.

But I think, in I think agreement with you, a lot more time would be needed before they could get out without risking what they had won. Iraq provides a useful example, since I really think there was room for much greater western involvement or 'interference' in the institutions of government there.

Of course, if the Europeans wanted to help, they could contribute usefully there...

The Apologist:

Jaafari and presumably his backers in the UIA said they didn't care last summer, but I really don't think that anybody knows for sure. I don't see Sadr being quiet (or Brigadier General Suleimani letting him), for instance, if things start to get nasty.

C-Low, the iraqi insurgency was winning in 91. But they were the wrong people so bush the wisher allowed Saddam to use helicopters and if the rumours are to believed poison gas.

Bush the unwise then invaded Iraq in 2003 so those wrong people would be able to get into power. But i seriously doubt that that was the plan.

"Anyway, if the cold war is any sort of model for analysis, we know that Russian dissidents were very pleased when Russian troops were attacked with American weapons in Afghanistan. If WWII is any model, we know that the prisoners in the Nazi death and concentration camps wanted the camps bombed, even it it cost them their lives."

Russian dissidents and the man on the street were entirely different matters. It isn't clear that everyday Russians, who had a very distorted worldview, applauded US aid to kill Russian draftees.

I'd also say that the Iranian nuclear program is also key to their current economic plans. The plans are to export oil while using nuclear power for domestic power sources. Iranian oil reserves are easier to access than others, but not as deep. If you torpedo Iranian economic plans and kill Iranian soldiers [for whatever reason], I don't think it would be that hard for the Mullahs to spin it. Plus there's the natural [sometimes irrational] patriotism that causes Iraqis to resent our occupation even as we rebuild their country.

If you follow Regime Change in Iran often you will find that the Iranians would much prefer to do that themselves, no Western troops on their soil. If we invaded following a bombing campaign our forces would face an Iranian insurgency larger than in Iraq. We have too few troops as it is and can expect no help from the EU, even if it is in their best interest.

There is another article online about Iranian officials signing an agreement with Syria to store nuclear warheads and missiles in Syria in the event of an Israeli/American attack on Irans facilities. Further, the agreement includes Iranian military missile teams launching attacks from Syrian bases.

With this tactic in mind, it's obvious Iran knows how to play chess. We invaded Iraq amd Afghanistan to put Iran in a pincher situation, now they are playing the game with a one-up on us in Syria.

Only a sustained air assualt knocking out nuclear facilities, anti-aircraft defenses, and military bases over an extended period may not require ground invasion. Iran is a big country, but most of it is desert where little exists in military targets. Following the air assaults the Iranian civilians may decide to INVITE foreign ground forces as police until they can create a new government.

And with foreign ground forces i assume you mean the Peoples Liberation Army

Tom,

Clearly, if the US military moved into Iran, no one could stop them. Whether capturing Tehran amounts to regime change, however, strikes me as another question entirely. If we don’t kill or capture the existing regime elements (i.e., the mullahs), then we can’t pull out quickly or we won’t have achieved regime change – the mullahs will just come back and re-establish their rule. We also can’t count on killing or capturing all of the mullahs in any event as finding specific people in a war zone is a chancy thing – look how long it took us to find Saddam.

Moreover, even if we kill or capture all the regime elements, the quick exit and minimization of “stability efforts” also strike me as a huge problem. One of the arguments advanced (correctly IMHO) in recent days is that if we pull out of Iraq prematurely, then al-Qaeda will simply take over Iraq and re-create a base from which to operate, just like they had in Afghanistan. Even if we successfully removed the mullahs, once we pulled out there would be chaos. I can’t think of any reason why we shouldn’t assume that some terrorist group, whether it be al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah or someone similar, would do the same in Iran, especially since they will likely have no reticence in using violence to achieve that goal.

Either way, it seems, we lose.

I also think comparing Iranian forces to Iraqi forces is dangerous. The Iraqi Army we fought was one crippled during GWI and then not allowed to be rebuilt through sanctions. It was also heavily demoralized to a point we have no reason to expect in Iran. The Revolutionary Guard alone will fight more effectively than the Iraqi Army. Throw in the same fanatical militias the Iraqis had to deal with and we'll have some big problems.

The Iranians vote may have been corrupted, but the Mullahs probably still have a larger degree of internal support than Saddam, and a population 3 times the size. Our own forces have more experience, but have also degraded logistically since 2003. We also have to replenish weaponry stocks. Last but not least, Tehran is not a short hop from the Iraqi border, and the territory in between it and Iraq is hills and mountains, not the optimal desert terrain we fought through on the way to Baghdad.

#22: If, on the other hand, the world were to stand united against Iran's nuclear aspirations, Iran would likely back down from its tech drive.

This is a pretty big 'if,' to the point, I think, of 'aint ever gonna happen.' The world is yet to stand united on anything, let alone something that would be of benefit to Israel (however much it might be to everyone else's benefit, as well). All the mullahs would have to do is hop up and down and scream Zionist plot, and the Durban 'anti-racism' signatories, along with most of the leftists in the West, would go rushing to their rhetorical banner.

The Mullahs tried in the 80's a guerilla war to destroy the US Navy and take over the Gulf. Guerilla wars don't work on the Ocean. They got clobbered. Well, wiped out. THAT goal has not changed.

Militarily even with nukes the US Navy can control the Gulf and certainly destroy Iranian attempts to take over the shipping there. You can't just run up to a destroyer in the middle of the Gulf. However, it's my guess that Iran is on the path to using nukes against US cities; in an attempt to force the US out of the Gulf through political blackmail and/or "destroy the wicked great Satan." Bin Laden believed that we were so "wicked" and divided that the 9/11 attacks would cause us simply to collapse. Howard Dean, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Russ Feingold all tend to re-inforce this view IMHO for Ahmadinejad who knows only what he sees on CNN.

Sadly I think we will have War with Iran, and on Iran's terms.

Politically I think the President would be impeached if he tried any military action against Iran, until they nuke us. Which I think they most assuredly will. That's the whole point of their 20 year plus effort, begun under Khomeni.

Here is the URL for the Syrian report:

http://www.worldtribune.com/worldtribune/05/front2453724.9659722224.html

Achillea, #31,

"All the mullahs would have to do is hop up and down and scream Zionist plot, and the Durban 'anti-racism' signatories, along with most of the leftists in the West, would go rushing to their rhetorical banner."

I don't know exactly why, but I believe American liberals just might support a campaign against Iran; there was something about OIF they simply couldn't live with.

Iran recently launched their second home-built submarine capable of launching cruise missiles. Iran also bought a Russian submarine many years ago. They are buying an advanced Russian surface-to-air missile systems, tested in the desert it brought down an F-16 and a cruise missile.

Their plans obviously include more than "Wiping Israel off the map". Our greatest danger is, in the event of nuclear attack on one of our coastal cities, we become completely terrorized and demoralized preventing quick retaliation and annilation of the foe. In that event the Iranian dissidents better dig deep holes to hide in.

there was something about OIF they simply couldn't live with.

Several things, really. A) Old Europe pitched a hissy fit, B) it involved those nasty, noisy bang-sticks called guns, C) it benefited Israel, and D) it was proposed by Chimpy McBushitler. Since all of those things (with the possible exception of D) are very likely to be true of forcible regime change in Iran, I remain unconvinced that they would suddenly drastically remedy their behavior. Especially since they seem to be having way too much fun making those papier mache heads and banging on those drums.

Atlanta Lawyer,

If you think the mullahs could get back into power in Iran after they've lost it, I have some Enron bonds for you cheap.

Please consider that your comment has no relationship whatever to political conditions in Iran. The mullahs are hated. Well, that is an understatement. The ones who are killed quickly after losing power will be lucky. Not as lucky as the ones which manage to leave the country, but still lucky.

Lots of bad things might happen in Iran if we adopt a "butcher & bolt" policy, but the mullahs getting back into power is not remotely one of those.

Cutler,

AFAIK, there are no armed groups in Iran capable of posing significant military resistance to an American invasion. The problem is that much of the terrain is such that insignificant resistance could create inordinate delays for our logistic trains.

The mullahs have a lot less support than Saddam, who was supported by the 15-20% of Iraq's population who were Sunni Arabs. That proportion has since decreased since so many exiles have returned home.

"With this tactic in mind, it's obvious Iran knows how to play chess. We invaded Iraq amd Afghanistan to put Iran in a pincher situation, now they are playing the game with a one-up on us in Syria."

Not only that, they've corrupted the Iraqi election to make sure the Islamist Shiites hold power. Sneaky bastards, those mullahs.

"Not only that, they've corrupted the Iraqi election to make sure the Islamist Shiites hold power."

Clever of them, making Iraq 60% Shiia.

If the Iranians want to launch a nuclear attack on the US, whether from sub or from terror smuggling, you better believe the Chinese are gonna want in on that one. If there is a nuke in an American city or over American soil it won't be but a few minutes bfore the Chinese land invasion begins from whatever point of entry they've secretly chosen. When the final push comes to "neutralize the Great Satan" don't think the jihadis will be working alone.

Reading over all the comments it seems folks with widely varying opinions all seem to assume that the Iranian theocratic class is a monolith - many references to "the mullahs". Ahmadinejad is a child of revolution, but revolutions evolve.

Recall that it was only forty years between the death of Lenin and the ascension of Brezhnev. The Iranian revolution was some 26 years ago, and history seems to move faster these days...

I'm wondering if Ahmadinejad won't soon be removed as Kruschev was. I think there is a rational faction in the Iranian theocracy, I don't think Ahmadinejad belongs to it, and I think that the rational faction is calculating the consequences of this now.

Ahmadinejad a martyr wannabe and true believer in a cadre of looters and cynics, and a p0ker player in a country of chess. He is either going to gain substantial chips by humbling the Satans (great, lesser or both), or he will have his hand folded, and I'm predicting the latter.

[Of course a "new, rational, moderate" theocrat in Iran will encourage the resumption of the "kick the can down the road" policy of recent years with respect to the nuclear issue].

This is the greatest comment string in the blogosphere today. Here's my 2 cents. Maybe, if the US sells out the Kurds and forces a substantial Sunni compenent in the next Iraqi government, the Turks could supply the manpower and logistical base for an invasion of Iran. There's no way the US could invade Iran from positions in Iraq because the Iraqi Shia are likely to effectively oppose such a move. As one commentator said, Israel and Turkey have the same enemies. Next to Israel the Turks may have the most to fear from a nuclear Iran, so they might eagerly support "de-nuking" the mullahs. Only about half of Iran's population is Persian and there are substantial minorities who are related to the Turks. In some provinces invading Turkish soldiers might really be welcomed with flowers. This time, if Iran is successfully de-nuked, maybe we walk away and just let the locals pick up the pieces. That would not be pretty, but, as another commentator pointed out, there is less in Iran for the Sunni Arab Islamofascists to work with. So much for speculation. I'm even more pessimistic than Jim Rockford. By mid-2007 chimpmcbushitler will be in the midst of an impeachment and the congress will have already voted for a return to the post-Watergate era by stopping appropriations for activities in Iraq and imposing Frank Church restrictions on the CIA and FBI. President Cheney might want to take out Iran's nukes but Congress will make sure that he has neither the money nor the troops.

2 more cents. I don't believe any deployable nuclear missile can be hardened against modern weapons. Perhaps they can--perhaps you can build a bunker surrounded by nothing destructable that would inmpede a launch--but I'd have to see it to believe it.

With that in mind, I see only one drawback to waiting for Iran's warheads to be deployable. (I don't fear so much the dispersal of weapons among terrorists because these things are not stable and require maintenence you can't do in a safehouse.)

The problem is that Iran's nukes are not a threat to the U.S., they are a threat to our allies. I can't see how you can destroy them and court Iran's moderates at the same time. It's just too easy to spin that as U.S. support for Zionists.

Seems to me you have to make a solid case these weapons threaten us, not Israel or even Turkey, or you look as if you're a proxy for some of Iran's historical enemies.

Tom,

Enron bonds, hmmmm. Might go well with my WorldCom stock.

I recognize that the Mullahs are hated in Iran. However, they probably can count on the support of those who benefit from the current regime (just as Saddam could in Iraq), and, most importantly, they have shown themselves perfectly willing to kill their own countrymen. That isn't a combination that can be dismissed lightly, though I'll certainly admit it isn't a "slam-dunk" (in the immortal words of a former DCI).

DAN HALUZ, Israeli General staff, arrived today in Ankara for 2 day visit.

In Iran there are living to "official" Mullah Census 20 Mio Azeris. These people are ethnically connected to Azerbaycan and Turkey.

Yes Iran is a threat to Turkey. the last days there was a court decision in the "11th high-crimes court" based in Ankara. There the judge realeased following statement:

"Iran uses Terrorism as legitimate Foreign policy. Iran used this policy against Iran. Iran is since 1979 the centre of Islamic Terrorism"...

Iran is in this court decision, guilty of killing Turkish secularistic Doctors, Professors and Journalists as well as trying to bomb the Israelian Ambassador, the president of the Turk-Hebräic Association and the president of the TURK-ENGLISH Cultural Association during the 90s.

Iran is Terrorist and tries to export its Fanatics to Turkey. But Turkey is militarily much more stronger than IRAN. Iran and Turkey share a 300 year peacefull boarder.

So USA needs Turkey? Not just only because of its Military and its Links to the Azeris. So what has USA to offer to Turkey? More Turkish deads via USA controlled PKK in Iraq, more Talabanis, Barzanis? more deads against Turkoman in Tal-Afar and Kirkuk?

YOU, USA even treated turkish soldiers in sulaymaniyah as TERRORISTS putting them guns on the head and putting them potato-bags over their head. LOOK the pivture:
http://www.millethaber.com/images/stories/gundem/cuval.jpg

Does so allied NATO USA treat its NATO ally? You put them bags over their heads, treat them as Guantanoma terrorists and now you want to march with them into Tehran? Should i cry or laugh? It makes me angry how you Americans behave. No respect to Turkey. Always: "Islamo-fascist blablabla"....

You want us against IRAN? From Turkish view: Who is more a threat to Turkey? A nuclear "will never use on Turkey" Iran or the mighty USA which pisses on turkish soldiers?

You come 5.000 miles away to kill your terrorists in Iran, but you forbid Turkey to kill its PKK-Terrorists 100 Miles away in Iraq.

For 2 1/2 years you are working against Turkish interests. Every step you take in Iraq is against Turkish interest. And now your CIA, FBI comes and says: "My friend Turkey : We can change the World (IRAN)"?????????

We Turks are pride people, we do not forget. You want our cooperation in IRAN? Why sould we trust you? NATO-ALLY doesn't count anymore. You are working against our intersts in IRAQ. You forbid Turkey to have a relation or say to its natural neighbor IRAQ.

No Good will. And DO NOT THINK ANTI-Americanbism in Turkey is based on Religion. It is based on the happenings for 2 1/2 years and your cowboy Mentality.

What would have happened if Turkish soldiers have shot American GI in his head in Suleymaniah Turkiey Building? Think about it.
They opened the door: "It is our Nato ally USA". Afterwards they ended like Guantanamo Terrorists.

Whether they got nukes or not, that's only the pretext for dealing with Tehran , which I fear we must do. The truth of the matter is that we cannot allow all the mid-east oil to fall into the hands of anybody who doesn't love us, particularly not an Iran. In this context, bear in mind that other powerful and growing nations are also very hungry for oil, and might not just stand by and watch the US grab the cookies. So whatever we do, it must be done fast, utterly, and permanently. I would like to think the forcible administration of democracy pills, such as was done in Iraq, will prove the best cure for the fevers of that godforsaken corner of the globe, but I have my doubts...

"No Good will. And DO NOT THINK ANTI-Americanbism in Turkey is based on Religion. It is based on the happenings for 2 1/2 years and your cowboy Mentality."

I always laugh when people think calling an American a cowboy is an insult. When the law is corrupt or nonexistant, you need a cowboy. And dont think we have forgotten that our good friend and NATO partner Turkey denied us passage to attack Iraq, putting our troops in danger and screwing up our plans. How many Baathists escaped and are out running terror cells because of this? So i'll tell you the same thing Turkey told us when we went to deal with the terrorist Hussein, deal with the PKK yourself, its not our problem.

Mark: I don't understand why a nuclear Iran is any more difficult to overthrow (politically; as you know I'm opposed to invasion as to military force vs Iran generally), than a non-nuclear mullahcracy. It just makes the mission more urgent.

I mean, the Soviet Union had a few nukes as I recall, but we managed to support political revolution throughout the empire, including the homeland.

Dr. Ledeen,

The US Air Force has a term for what you are suffering from, it is called “target fixation.” It is when a pilot gets so fixated on a target that he will do anything, including crash his plane into the ground, chasing a target.

The Danger of Iran isn’t the Mullahs with nukes. It is the example for nuclear proliferation they set for everyone else.

Riddle me this, Dr Ledeen, what is the average per capita gross domestic product of North Korea? What is its population size? Now compare that to Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, etc.

Egypt, if memory serves, has at least three times the population and three times the per capita GDP. How much disposable income do they have available for buying off the shelf nuclear weapons is there is booth an overwhelming political need to do so, like Shia Iran being nuclear armed?

There are two providers of turn key nuclear missile complexes in the world – Pakistan and North Korea – and Iran is about to add a third.

There are two more providers of intermediate range ballistic missiles, Russia and China.

Pakistan is an American client and North Korea is almost boxed due to a lack of customers beyond Iran.

Iran joining the club of ‘turn key’ nuclear proliferators means we will face a world with a dozen nuclear armed, unstable, coup prone 3rd world failed states in less than a decade.

Not only will we soon see nuclear weapons be used in anger. We will see them used for Coups by 3rd world factions vying for power.

That makes the conquest of Iran before they obtain nukes an American vital interest if we are to maintain a secure world abroad with the economic and political freedoms we now enjoy at home.

@ Mark Buehner #47

As you don't seem to have the knowledge of what it is all about, listen carefully:

You said:
"deal with the PKK yourself, its not our problem"

Fine. It is anyway this Turkey wanting. We are not needed USA to kill our Terrorists. When you Americans are thinking this way, then you can not expect Turkey on the other side killing Anti-American Terrorists. For example in Afghanistan. So let us seperate. Kill yourself your terrorists when you think so.

BUT. PKK is in North-Iraq. How can Turkey kill them when USA forbids Turkey to enter North-Iraq to kill those Terrorists?
They are on a American-occupied area. You are responsible when there are attacks from this occupied area into Turkey.

Turkey defeated PKK on Turkish territory. PKK has left Turkey and is now in North-Iraq. Regaining Strength in the Shadow of USA. From there entering into Turkey with C-4. The last 300 days over 100 Turks died again through this terrorists.

So why are you not allowing Turkey to kill its Terrorists. We do not need your GIs to kill our Terrorists as you need Turkish Soldiers in Afghanistan to kill Anti-American terrorists in Afghanistan.

You are supporting those PKK. Terrorists which are recognized by USA as Terrorists according to Terrorist-List of you.
So it is all only a farce? Again: how can Turkey kill these terrorists when they are in North-Iraq and USA forbids to kill those terrorists in Iraq?

This behaviour is only a sign, that USA is supporting, assisting Anti-Turkish terrorists and has no goodwill on Turkey. So why should we cooperate on IRAN when the situation is so`?
All Life is equal. American civilian dead are not more worthy than turkish civialian deads.

"I always laugh when people think calling an American a cowboy is an insult."

Yeah. Let's get this straight folks. Calling an American a cowboy is like calling a greek a Heracles, a German a Barbarossa, a Spainard El Cid, or a Japanese a samurii - maybe moreso. A cowboy is an American mythic hero, and the virtues it symbolicly embodies are intensely admired over here. A cowboy is regarded over here in mythic terms the way say the Argonauts, the Knights of the Round Table or Charlemange's Peers are regarded.

So when you say things like Cowboy President, and so forth, you are actually offering up an honorific that few if any Americans would dare offer on thier own.

Your stance against Anti-Turkish Terrorists shows everything. We do not have to talk furthermore. Stay happy. And good luck on IRAN. ;)

MAybe you trust AEI
http://www.aei.org/publications/filter.all,pubID.23405/pub_detail.asp

when you do not trust a Turk. This article is cowboy-ism.

No, I don't think so, TURK. American politicians defend American lives, they simply take care of their voters.

Look, in Spain we know what is to have a terrorist group (ETA) based in a neighbouring country (France) supposedly an ally. They also cross the border with high explosives and detonate them in trains, you know... well, in this case invasion might seem the best option, but it is not.

The Iraqi government must agree on and keep its border with Turkey secure, as they demand the same to Syria and Iran. We all know that Turkish citizens are dying, but please understand that until there is a strong Iraqi government and Iraqi armed forces, this objective cannot be achieved.

In addition, Democracy is bringing economic development to that region in Iraq. It will lessen the number of persons willing to join the PKK south of the border.

As this problem must be adressed together with other nations, so happens with Iran and its nukes.

When is America going to say enough is enough in respects to the Iranians? Their national motto is 'Death to America' not 'In God We Trust'. I understand all the sophisticated arguments posted here and the intrique and the calls for finese. I just reject them. Bomb them back into the stone age. Destroy all military and governmental capacities. Have their leaders know we are out to kil them as in YOU ARE DEAD. Shut down Khadaffi. Hold them responsible for every islamic inspired terrorism throughout the world. This oh be nice do not make the terrorist mad dribble is nonsense. I have never felt much fear from a dead man.

I call it the Billy Roy principle. When I was in high school I took a swing at him and he said 'If we tangle only one of us is going to get back up and that would be me'. We may have been two rednecks with too much beer in us but the logic is so flawless even these guys could understand it. You have the count to 3 to turn 180 or die.

Do they really know who they are screwing with? America is being run by the same guys who coined the phrase 'The only good injun is a good injun'. GW would probably consider it an honor to squash this gnat. Time to bring a sledge hammer down on these guys. They have been poking the giant for close to 30 years now. Time to show them it is not a good idea.

War is an ugly thing but it has been proven over and over again as an effective way to settle irreconciable differences. America is feed up, be careful.

TURK: You're absolutely nuts if you think that sending the Turkish military over the border into Iraq would reduce the popularity of the PKK. If you send the Turkish military into Iraq, all you'll manage to do is stir up support for the PKK amongst the larger body of Kurds in Iraq. Instead of having to worry about < 5000 fighters, you'll have > 120,000 fighters to worry about, and you'll have a return to full scale guerilla war on your hands like you had in the '90's.

And let me tell you, the US would not be very happy having to deal with the fallout from your stupidity.

Why don't you secure your border by staying on the other side of it? Let us deal with the Kurds in good time. It's not like Turkey has a good track record in that department. You've been killing Kurds for 100+ years and it hasn't solved the problem. You blame America for the resumption of violence that would have resumed anyway because you haven't fixed the institutional problems that led to that violence. Meanwhile, because of American actions, overall support for the PKK and the goals of the PKK amongst Kurds is way down because we have given the Kurds a viable alternative and something else to be working for.

The PKK is a marxist terrorist organization. It makes absolutely no sense at all to believe that the Americans have any interest in working with or supporting Marxists or terrorists. All your talk of going across the border and killing terrorists is just a fantasy that this is 1915 again and you can deal with the Kurds the way you dealt with the Armenians. It's also an excuse to avoid having to deal with the fact that alot of the terror in Turkey is coming from indigenous Kurds who are tired of your crap. Going across the border and killing a few hundred Kurds isn't going to solve your problems one bit. Pardon us for preventing you from starting up another 15 year long war, and you'll have to pardon us if we don't have alot of sympathy for your whining just at the momment. For one thing, the Kurds have proven alot easier to work with and alot more ammendable to reason.

And while you are at it, why don't you complain equally hard about the PKK coming across the border from Syria instead of making cozy with Bashar. Or do you believe now that the Syrians are better friends to the Turks than the Americans?

TURK, i sympathize with the problem. Much like our Syrian problem, except the Syrians are actively helping. Turkish troops invading Iraq are not going to make anyones lives easier. It could well spur the Kurds to seek independence and their own nation, is that in Turkeys interest?

Btw, somehow i dont think Turkey or any of the neighbors would be any happier if we went into Syria hunting Al Qaeda. Follow the lead of sane nations, build a big wall. You'll probably end up in international court (apparently it is now a human right not to be kept out of a country you cant legally enter), but who cares?

TURK: And another thing. The Kurds are no longer someone's slaves in Iraq. There is a democracy over there in case you haven't noticed, and the Kurds are represented in it. If you come across the border to kill Kurds there's a pretty good chance that the current Iraqi government would frown on that. Again, this isn't 1915. If you come across the border, there is a very good chance you'd be starting a war with the whole of Iraq.

Nothing would make us happier than if the PKK ceased to exist. It would solve many problems. But frankly, we are busy right now, and since you could not help us with our problems you will just have to wait until such time as we can help you with yours.

In the mean time, again, you might think about whether cozying up with the government of Bashar Al-Assad is really such a great idea.

If I understand what TURK is saying, he (and I suspect a lot of other Turks) views the issue of the PKK about the same as the way we view the problem of al-Qaeda (the PKK occupies about the same niche in Turkish society - and entirely justifiably) infiltration from Syria and is pissed that the US won't let the Turkish military head across the border to put an end to them once and for all. I'm not unsympathetic to those concerns, especially given that PKK fighters based in Iraq have killed Turkish citizens since the 2003 invasion. Note that one of the issues that Erdogan discussed with Goss and Mueller was some kind of action against the PKK and I suspect that dealing with them may end up being the price that the US pays if we do in fact want to use Incirlik.

"If I understand what TURK is saying, he (and I suspect a lot of other Turks) views the issue of the PKK about the same as the way we view the problem of al-Qaeda (the PKK occupies about the same niche in Turkish society - and entirely justifiably) infiltration from Syria and is pissed that the US won't let the Turkish military head across the border to put an end to them once and for all. I'm not unsympathetic to those concerns..."

I'm not unsympathetic to those concerns either. I view PKK alongside al-Qaeda as well.

I just do not think that there is such a thing as 'heading across the border to put an end to them once and for all.' If dealing with the PKK were so simple, the Turks wouldn't have to come across the border. If this were simply a military problem, we've got plenty of troops on the Iraqi side of the border to deal with the PKK ourselves.

"specially given that PKK fighters based in Iraq have killed Turkish citizens since the 2003 invasion."

And Irish, Italian, and Dutch citizens as well. The PKK is not merely a Turkish problem, and the Turks are going to have stop dealing with the PKK as if this was the 19th century and all that was required was a crackdown on some tribe or the other within thier empire to bring them back in line. It hasn't worked so far. What are they going to do, chase the PKK into Iran? Then what? Go to war with Syria? Exterminate the Kurds in thier eastern provinces? The Kurdish problem is bigger than just the PKK, and bigger than just Turkey, and dealing with it clumsily is only going to make the situation worse.

"[H]eading across the border to put an end to them once and for all."

Like bombing Iran "back into the stone age," such a strategy carries a certain amount of emotional appeal but, if examined closely, also carries enough problems to make it unattactive.

As I've said before, you can always tell when I'm annoyed because I won't shut up. ;)

Ninety percent of politics is trust. The ultimate solution to the Kurdish problem is convincing them that this fantasy of going to war with all thier neighbors and carving out a nation is just that, a fantasy which would not in fact secure any sort of pleasant future for thier children. I mean, even if they could win in a war against everyone else in the region, then what? They'd have to trade with someone. They'd have to rely on thier neighbors to do business with the larger world, but all thier neighbors would be hostile to them )for good reason probably). What sort of situation is that? They would have a basically land locked country, and all thier neighbors would be pissed. War followed by icy isolation and centuries of bitterness - that's not a future.

Right now we have earned a small ammount of trust from the Kurds. We could throw that away, or we could use it to bring some resolution to the problem. The real future for the Kurds is political reform in the nations in which they live, so that not only do they become full citizens but citizenship is something that has meaning because those nations have freedom and futures. You give the Kurds reason to hope for a future, and then you can deal with the PKK and heck the Kurds might well help you do it. You give the Kurds no reason to hope, if you give them reason to think that they are going to be betrayed, then they'll go back to the old fantasies stronger than ever.

If the Turks want to deal with the PKK, then they are going to have to start dealing with the Kurds in good faith. They are going to have to accept something that is hard for people in that part of the world to except, and that is that to be a full citizen of Turkey doesn't mean that you are a Turk ethnically. This isn't going to be easy for anyone, and it would help alot if the larger Kurdish community made the first moves. But these things are going to take time. Trust is not built in a day, but it can be thrown away in one.

A lesson Turkey might want to recall before it yells at us about how we aren't doing enough to help.

Rather, I think that most likely outcome of such an attack would be to push back the date nuclear program with the unintended consequences of shoring up domestic support for the regime, an event that would but ensure the emergence of a nuclear Iran a little further down the line.
We agree.
Several nuclear research facilities are co-located at universities and under large population centers. While students may dissent from the autocratic control of the mullahs, they do have a nationlistic pride inthe nuclear program.

"Rather, I think that most likely outcome of such an attack would be to push back the date nuclear program"

There are two reasons this is a moot point. First, the Mullahs would almost be forced to respond agressively to such a raid. The Americans would be waiting for this and take the opportunity to smack down the Iranian air and naval assets, and threaten the Iranian oil exports. This would change the dynamic in the region as Iran would find itself conventionally defanged and at risk of losing its oil lifeline. Iran without oil or nukes is significantly less threatening to us.
Secondly, setting back the program is fine, because you can do it again and again until the Iranians give up. I would argue that putting a few tomahawk missiles through a small target list of critical components and then threatening to repeat ad infinitum is more effective than attempting a single massive raid to destroy the entire program.

We don't seem to have many good options in Iran which involve putting troops accross the border. I have always thought about a smaller subset of the "bomb Iran into the stone age" strategy. Our concern is the nukes;to finish the work on the nukes Iran is going to need lots of electricity. Why don't we just eliminate electricity in Iran ? I know this sounds simplistic but large scale electricity production happens three ways, hydro, nuclear, and by burning something to produce steam. All of these methods involve large plants which are relatively easy to find and disable with a few well placed bombs. Even if underground the last two should be easy to find by exhaust plumes. It means taking the losses associated with degrading whatever capability Iran has to stop our planes, and then a steady effort to knock out and keep knocking out electricity generation capacity. We are certainly capable of this. Of course the locals might not be pleased with us, if fact maybe everyone might be upset with us. Whether we can even muster domestic support is an open question. But Iran is not going away, and Iran with nukes is a no brainer...

Good point, Terry. Enriching uranium consumes a lot of electricity, that means power lines or heat released, which can be traced.

"Why don't we just eliminate electricity in Iran? I know this sounds simplistic but large scale electricity production happens three ways, hydro, nuclear, and by burning something to produce steam. All of these methods involve large plants which are relatively easy to find and disable with a few well placed bombs."

Yeah. That's basically the idea. The invasion of Iran is a no go. Iran is 4 times bigger than Iraq, with 3 times the population, 10 times the wealth, and a military which has not been crippled by years of sanctions. And the Iranian regime, while relatively unpopular, is still probably three times as popular with the Iranian people as the Baathist regime was with the Iraqi's. You can forget about a military invasion any time soon. If we go after Iran, it will be with the idea of destroying thier infrastructure, ideally with conventional weapons but if necessary with nuclear weapons. The result would ultimately be a 500,000 or so excess Iranian deaths.

I thinik there is no way to stop Iran from producing nukes that doesn't involve inflicting massive suffering on the part of the Iranian people. Are we willing to do that? At what point does the risk to the lives of our own citizens become so clear that we are willing to kill thiers? That is the real question here, IMO.

How this plays out is entirely in Iran's hands. If Ahmadinejad is removed from power, we should adopt a policy of nuclear containment similar to that we had with USSR and presently have with the DPRK. But, if the Mullah's have miscalculated with regard to Ahmadinejad the way Pappen, Krupp, Farben, and Hindenberg underestimated Hitler - if Ahmadinejad turns out to have real power in Iran and manages to put down the inevitable coming attempt by the 'realist' faction of the Mullah's to bring him in line - then I believe we have no choice but to destroy Iran for the good of the world. And the sooner the better.

And when I say destroy, I mean destroy. This won't be a namby pampy war of liberation that will be easy (ha?) to swallow because of the relatively low civilian casualties. I mean erasing Iran the way we erased Germany and Japan so that what ever is left will be too utterly dazed and defeated to even consider resistance.

The thing is, I can't even imagine the American people reaching the place at which they are willing to do that - willing to inflict that kind of suffering on even thier enemies - until after the bombs have gone off over here. Much like Hitler, no one is going to take Ahmadinejad seriously until it is far too late. The guy is scary, but he's a smiling scary and people's lizard brain takes over and paralyzes them. You have to be a little bit of a Aspberger's to see what's really on his face.

Mark my words. I mean this literally, and with every bit of cold rationality I can manage. This is a guy that really believes he needs to arrange a mass human sacrifice in a great nuclear conflagration, in order to get Allah to send the 12th Imman and bring about a golden age. This is his all consuming drive, and I really really think that even the Mullah's in Iran for the most part don't realize what they are dealing with here or just how dangerous this man is.

My advice would be to sell whatever property you have in major US cities and move to the country.

Trent is correct that worrying about the Iranian peoples' reaction to American or Israeli air attack on the mullahs' nuclear weapons program is rearranging of deck chairs on the Titanic.

Either the U.S. forcibly overthrows the mullah regime or it doesn't. If it doesn't, there will soon be dozens more countries with nuclear weapons and our world will become a nightmare.

If we do overthrow the mullahs, the Iranian people will be thrilled.

But there are no options between those two. Airstrikes can only delay, not terminate, the mullahs' production of home-grown nukes (unless those airstrikes are done with nukes, which would create entirely different horrible problems).

While Iran is most definitely in a pre-revolutionary state, factional fighting within the U.S. national security establishment prevents us from exploiting that to overthrow the mullahs without invading Iran. We saw in Iraq just how those American factions prevented exploitation of Iraqi dissidents prior to our invasion. This problem is due entirely to the negligence and lack of energy of President Bush.

The only way we can get rid of the mullahs ourselves is by invasion. While I don't doubt that they will be thrown out by the Iranian people within a few years, by then the mullahs will have domestically produced nuclear weapons, and we'll be stuck with the worst possible outcome.

So either we take them out on the ground before they have nukes, or we don't.

The reaction of the Iranian people to airstrikes in the meantime will be mere background noise.

"thinik there is no way to stop Iran from producing nukes that doesn't involve inflicting massive suffering on the part of the Iranian people"

I dont see why that is true. I think the argument that Iran has redundant and well buried components is beside the point. It may be very complicated to build a race car, but if i blow up the engine the need to destroy the rest is academic. A nuclear weapon requires fissionable uranium, and producing any quantity of that requires a whole lot of engineering. I dont know that it can be done in secret under the best of circumstances. If we just keep blowing up Iran's breeder reactors, the rest of the program is moot.

---
"Airstrikes can only delay, not terminate, the mullahs' production of home-grown nukes (unless those airstrikes are done with nukes, which would create entirely different horrible problems)."

But repeated airstrikes (like every 3-5 years) can delay the program indefinately. That gives the Iranian people time to decide just how much they want rid of these bastards.

"But repeated airstrikes (like every 3-5 years) can delay the program indefinately."

Only with accurate human intel, and that's hard to come by. A hundred or so centrifuges can be placed inside what is otherwise an ordinary looking light industrial complex, a university, heck even a mosque. A breeder reactor is a more difficult proposition but not an overwhelming problem. It's a big country. There are alot of places to hide. I don't know what the state of our human intel in Iran is, but I'd be willing to bet that it's as bad (and or non-existant) as our pre-war human intel in Iraq. It would be nice if the only intelligence failures we could have would be to overestimate the state of an opponent's WMD program, but based on past experience it doesn't always work that way.

And extended air campaigns are going to be hard to carry out and politically difficult. Think how long the Serbs held out, and the sort of difficulties we encountered in the Serbian campaign - bombs off target, politically embarassing targets being hit, civilian casualties, pilots shot down over enemy territory, etc. And all that was with special foces on the ground as spotters, in Europe, against a relatively small country that had no real means of striking back and making life difficult on us and had relatively little political clout.

To really insure that we've stopped thier nuclear program, we'd either have to hit alot of civilian infrastructure just to be on the safe side or have really good intelligence from the inside. Unless we have moles inside thier nuclear program, that isn't going to happen.

The problem with the 'air strike' mentality is it gives the illusion of their being a clean solution. When that clean solution fails to materialize, it will undermine political support for continuing the operation.

Mark,

You assume that the mullahs won't hit us back if we repeatedly attack them by air. It's called "war".

Israel does not the military capability of conducting such repeated attacks, unless we overtly, as opposed to covertly, help them. I doubt the mullahs would be impressed by freshly painted IAF decals on USAF aircraft.

celebrim:

The fact that there are ample US troops on the ground in Iraq to eliminate the PKK but that they haven't for a number of quite understandable reasons is one of the major sources of Turkish popular resentment against the US these days, since they see it as a failure to comply with the NATO charter among other things. If we aren't going to do it, the argument goes, then the Turks want to come across the border and do it themselves. I'm not endorsing the argument, just trying to explain it as best I can.

The Turks view the issues of the PKK and Kurdish separatism the same way that we view the issues of al-Qaeda and Islamic extremism. One is made up of people you kill and the other is an ideology that is seen as reprehensible and to be avoided.

What are they going to do, chase the PKK into Iran? Then what? Go to war with Syria? Exterminate the Kurds in thier eastern provinces? The Kurdish problem is bigger than just the PKK, and bigger than just Turkey, and dealing with it clumsily is only going to make the situation worse.

Syria dumped official support for the PKK back in 1999 because the alternative was war with Turkey, quite possibly in conjunction with Israel. Iran continues to sponsor them, just as they sponsor pretty much anybody who wants to fight the Turkish government. While we can debate the issue of Kurdish rights inside Turkey, I think that it's extremely important to distinguish between Turkish Kurds and the PKK, since if I had to make a guess I'd say that most Kurds of any stripe wouldn't want to live in the kind of Khmer Rouge-style society that the PKK advocates. The PUK has fought against the PKK in conjunction with Turkey, for instance, precisely for the purpose of limiting its influence as much as possible.

I think that we should also distinguish between how the Turks deal with Iraqi Kurds (they don't have much of a problem with the PUK as long as they don't declare independence, for instance) and how they deal with their own Kurdish population.

Mark:

I don't think that the mullahs are as stupid as some of the moves you're ascribing to them. They can turn up the heat for us in Iraq quite easily as long as Sadr's still around the Badr Brigades are still in force. Right now I don't think that they're doing everything they want to because they're afraid of what we might do, but targeting their nuclear facilities will eliminate that ambiguity and give them no reason to hold back.

I also don't think there is any action the US will take that can deter the current regime from either developing nuclear weapons or supporting terrorist groups. A series of limited airstrikes would only serve to bolster the current belief in Iranian military circles that the US is too afraid of them to mount a full-scale invasion.

Terry:

See my comment to Mark on the likely outcome of limited airstrikes. I do not believe that containment or limited military action are viable options with respect to Iran - the regime as a whole has to go and I don't think that we need to use military force to achieve that end.

celebrim:

Ahmadinejad and his Abadgaran backers in the Majlis are just the loudest public personalities of the IRGC - if we eliminate them, they'll just be replaced by somebody else. The IRGC has had a long history of engaging in activities that could conceiveably drag the country into a war that would destroy the regime, whether it's support for the PKK, harboring the surviving al-Qaeda leadership, backing Sadr against the US, and so on. Because Iran is an oligarchy rather than a traditional dictatorship and the hardliners have spent the better part of from 1997-2004 cementing their control of the system, the emergence of anything that could be considered an acceptable candidate to the regime is next to impossible, regardless of all the fawning press coverage that someone like Rafsanjani might get.

Tom Holsinger:

Assuming that you're correct in your assessment, isn't it a better solution to get rid of the "factional fighting within the U.S. national security establishment" rather than to get ready for a full-scale war against the mullahs? Goss ended a majority of the factional infighting at the CIA, for instance, which is why a majority of the leaks are coming from former rather than current intelligence officials. It would seem a lot easier to me to take care of what, a few hundred at most Washington bureaucrats and politicos than it would to gear up the country for a conventional war.

Secondly, setting back the program is fine, because you can do it again and again until the Iranians give up.

Nope, I don't buy this argument, Mark. I have seen you make it before. While I agree with you that in principle you're right, I don't think its plausible for two reasons:

1) We don't have the will. We have the ability, sure, but I'm not convinced that we start lobbing Tomahawk into various parts of Iran, especially ones built in populated areas, with regularity, we eventually will find ourselves without the stomach to continue. Mullahs ultimately win that battle because they are willing to sacrifice more of their populace than we are.

2) I don't think they'll be disuaded by pinprick attacks. One because they are more interested in the political clout of being a nuclear power, and two, I think they have learned from the mistakes of Saddam Hussein. I am certain that substantial parts of their program are inaccessible by even our most powerful cruise missiles. Nothing short of overwhelming force is going to setback this program fro ver long. And each subsequent time the west mounts an attack will be exponentially more difficult.

Now in the case of #2, Ahmadinejad's rhetoric works in our favor, because a Security Council resolution might mitigate that somewhat, as even the most reluctant memebers of the Security Council will view persistent insane ramblings from him as more risky than simply sticking with the status quo, which the UNSC loves to do now. But short of that, I don't see how anything other than overwhelming force will dissuade the Iranian junta from their nuclear program. they've said as much.

Dan,

There always a zillion "better" solutions to any problem if feasibility is ignored.

Curtailing the infighting between factions in our national security establishment is not feasible in this Administration. We'll have to wait for another President, because Bush 41 has shown repeatedly that he lacks the inclination, ability and energy to do what you suggest.

By then the mullahs will be producing their own nukes.

"Ask me for anything but time" - Napoleon Bonaparte.

Either we take the mullahs out on the ground before they have nukes, or we live with the consequences of them having nukes. And as Trent pointed out, it won't be just Iranian nukes.

Mark,

Another point. Airstrikes won't delay Iranian nuclear weapons development by 3-5 years at a pop unless we use nukes instead of conventional explosive. Change the interval to every 3-5 months and you'd be right. That is commonly called "war", however, and the mullahs won't just sit there while we bomb 'em. They'll come after us everywhere, including at home.

"Either we take the mullahs out on the ground..."

Please don't chide anyone for ignoring feasibility if you are going to make that the centerpeice of your strategy.

Dan,

Dr Ledeen's touching faith in a "stable" and "eventual" fall of the Mullahocracy to the Iranian people apart, the most likely candidate for the next nuclear weapon used in anger is a cargo truck delivered Iranian nuke going off inside Tehran as a part of a Intra-Mullah factional fight.

Our choices are will we go to war with the Mullahs before or after they get nukes.

A war with irrational religious fanatics with the income of a major oil state, terrorists pawns who can deliver their bomb after they fall and the will to use all those capabilities if they have them.

There are no other choices, however much some people on the thread deny reality about our situation.

celebrim

Go here and re-read the last paragraph, which I repost for your convenience:

http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/007888.php#c2
"The political situation in America will determine what happens in this regard. I expect an Israeli attack would focus debate here on the consequences of mullah nuclear weapons enough to provide adequate public support for a ground invasion of Iran. And that an Israeli attack would delay Iranian production of locally-enriched weapons-grade fissionables long enough for this political process to occur. Dan Darling can confirm that this has been my opinion for some time."
Public opinion is dynamic, not static. It changes based on events. As of December 6, 1941, the American people opposed war with Japan. Two days later they favored it.

Some people can only see things as they are.

Tom: I disagree. Given the current state of the electorate, an Israeli attack on on Iran would only be polarizing. If you want public opinion to shift in favor of military operations against Iran, you are going to have to wait for an Iranian attack on Israel. Otherwise, those inclined to see imperialism in every US action will simply see an attack on Iran by the US or Israel as merely more evidence of US aggression.

Some factual information for those favoring a ground invasion:

Land Area of Iraq: 437,072 km^2
Land Area of Iran: 1,648,000 km^2

Overall Terrain of Iraq: Mostly broad plains with some marshes.
Overall Terrain of Iran: Rugged. Mountainous rim surrounding high, central basin with deserts and mountains. Small, discontinuous plains in deep valleys along both coasts.

Population of Iraq: 26,074,906
Population of Iran: 68,017,860

My estimate of the percentage of the population who supported the Baathist government: ~10% (essentially, just that fraction of the Arab Sunni's under Baathist patronage), or roughly 2.6 million people.

My estimate of the percentage of the population that support the Iranian theocracy: conservatively 30%, or roughly 20.4 million people. Among other things, this estimate is based on the fact that the existing regime is majority ethnic regime, as compared to Iraq's minority ethnic regime.

GDP of Iraq: ~$50 billion
GDP of Iran: ~$516 billion (Iran's current advantage in infrastructure, particularly in power production, communications and so forth, is even larger than this disparity suggests, perhaps as much as 20 times that of Iraq.)

Now for some subjective assessments.

Iraq's military was largely gutted and dispirited prior to the American invasion. The same is not true of Iran's military in its present state. While the Iranian military is not that impressive, its certainly going to be a far nastier enemy than the sort of cakewalk we had in Iraq. Best estimates are of 350,000 men under arms, plus about 1,000,000 poorly trained reserves. Realisticly they field 1 armored division, 2 mechanized infantry divisions, 7 light infantry divisions, and 3 special forces brigades. Unlike Iraq's forces, I believe these units will fight and will have to be destroyed.

More importantly, my impression is that resistance to an American occupation of Iran would be about 10 times as strong as that of Iraq, and just on the numbers a force of at least 4 times as large would be required to hold the country. This is projection of about 600,000 US troops for the occupation phase, in addition to however many would be needed to maintain security in Iraq. This represents a US troop commitment likely greater than at the height of the Vietnam war. There will be no zero zilch popular support for such action.

Compared to Iraq, Iran has a markedly more ability to influence events outside of its borders than Iraq does. I won't go into the details of what I would do in the Mullah's shoes at all, but I would point out that many of the projections people are making about how the Mullahs would react play right into American hands. One could only hope they would be as stupid as trying to shut the straights of Hormuz or some other ill-calculated action. I think that they've got much much better cards to play, especially when we are dealing with the early game.

The fact that they could make alot more stink in Iraq than they have should we push thier hands is obvious, but should not at all be left out of consideration. Creative minds will probably think of other things that they can do on an international stage which would harass the US without isolating themselves politically.

Folks, its just not going to happen. There is no sense pinning any hopes on preemptive ground action in Iran.

Celebrim--

So what's your solution? Sit back and let them develop nukes?

celebrim,

The Democratic military experts in the Atlantic article felt our overthrow of the mullahs' regime would be less difficult than our overthrow of Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime in Iraq, and would take only about a week longer (four weeks as opposed to three). I feel they were optimistic, but not so much as to make the operation infeasible.

Statistics mean nothing out of context. Iraq's battle-hardened hordes did not throw us back into the sea in 1991. The occupation campaign in Iran will not be a simple scaling up of the occupation campaign in Iraq.

Almost all of our trouble in Iraq's occupation campaign has come from its @ 3.0 - 3.5 million Sunni Arab aka Baathist minority (@ 15-20% of its January 2003 population). There has been quite a bit of off-the-books ethnic cleansing going on in Iraq since then as Sunni Arab minorities leave areas with Shiite and/or Kurdish majorities, and vice-versa. The overall proportion of Iraq's population which is Sunni Arab has decreased a fair amount since April 2003 as exiled Shiites and Kurds come home.

Our troubles in the occupation of Iran will come from those groups who have benefited from the mullah regime. I lack the amount and reliability of ethnographic information concerning Iran which was available for Iraq in 2002-2003, but it is my wild-assed guess that those are nowhere near the proportion of Iran's population which the Sunni Arabs were in Iraq.

Furthermore Iran is much more like a traditional empire demographically - one dominant ethnic group of Farsi-speaking Aryans comprising about 45-50% of the population, and a great variety of other ethnic groups, some of them sizeable (notably Azeris & Kurds).

Iran's minorities have not faired well under the mullahs. We can work with them like we have the Kurds in Iraq - especially with Iran's Kurds and Arabs.

There is an exception to this.

Iran differs from Iraq concerning the demographics of their respective wild & wooly frontier aka "smuggler & bandit" types. Those are Sunni Arabs near the Syrian border in Iraq, and Baluchs near the Pakistani border in Iran. Trust me, Iran's Baluchs make their Iraqi border people counterparts look like pussy cats. The Baluchs are mean.

I expect us to have proportionately (relative to population size) as much or more trouble from the Baluchs as you imagine. Probably a lot more, but not because the Baluchs are pro-mullah. Because they're mean.

The Farsi-speakers, on the other hand, are much more urbanized than the non-Farsis, and the urbanized Farsi-speakers are the second most anti-mullah group in Iran (Iran's Arab minority are probably the No. 1 mullah-haters). The rural Farsi-speakers are, AFAIK, the group most favored by, and favorable to, the mullahs (after the mullahs' relatives and business associates, of course).

So it is the rural Farsi-speaking areas of Iran, and its Baluch-infested eastern areas, which are most pro-mullah.

Those tend to be the places with the most miserable terrain to fight in. I can't emphasize enough that it is Iran's plentitude of awful, militarily unfavorable terrain, inhabited by nasty xenophobic people, which will pose problems for our forces.

Iran's occupation campaign will be similar to Iraq's only at the beginning, and then for a limited period. It is the differences which will IMO pose the worst problems for us. Simple scaling up from Iraq is not an effective guide.

Did I mention that the Baluchs are mean?

Looks like Tom Holsinger is right on the money with this.......the U.S. will retaliate for releasing the terrorist suspect recently........if it heats up, Isreali forces will come in to assist the U. S. Forces.....regardless, Iran and Syria are toast! Isreal is our best and only ally in the mid-east. Maybe Jordan, but I'm not sure....regardless, Netenyahu has recently moved up in Isreali politics, and he has a large set of cahonnas.....Bless him, Jesus, as you have already, and at this time of trial!

Here's an idea:

So we take their oil fields and put all the proceeds in a trust fund until the Mullahs disarm completely. If Iran has nukes and uses them, then they are irradiating their own oil supply. Cut off the money and let them die.

(It might not be a good idea.)

"The prospect of being hanged tomorrow concentrates the mind wonderfully" - Samuel Johnson.

http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/zarate200512221320.asp

"Certainly, if the United States and its allies fail to challenge Iran’s model for acquiring the capability to produce nuclear fuel, the world will soon be faced with the terrifying nightmare of a politically volatile Middle East filled with many more nations — not just Iran but also Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Syria — that have, or are within months or days of having, nuclear weapons."

Geez, I consider myself a hawk, but some of you seem positively gleeful about the possibility of a few hundred thousand dead. Enough already. It's turning my stomach.

"So what's your solution? Sit back and let them develop nukes?"

You've got what I'm saying totally wrong. I'm saying that this is a situation with no clean solution. There is no easy answer.

Any of your ever read Foundation. Right at the beginning there is this scene in which Hari Seldon tells the Galactic Emperor that the Empire is going to collapse, and the Galactic Emperor says basically, "Well, what should I do to stop it?", and Hari Seldon responds with basically, "Stop it? Didn't you hear me? The Galactic Empire is going to collapse."

That's what I'm saying.

I've already said what my preferred solution is. For now, we try to build an alliance to contain Iran. We inform our allies that we are watching the situation in Iran with concern, and that if events deteriate we may have to militarily intervene. If the Iranians hear about this through back channels, then great. Basically, what we want to know is whether the Iranians are rational actors. Rational actors can be detered. If the Iranian mullahs basically just want to acrue power to themselves, then we should adopt a policy of containment try to politically isolate them and wait and hope for an internal collapse - preferably one that occurs after Iraq has stablized.

If on the other hand the Iranian mullahs prove not to be rational actors, which would be most easily demonstrated by someone like Ahmadinjad retaining power and successfully converting himself into a cult figure and/or them test detonating a nuclear weapon (which I hope to God they do on thier own soil and not in say Tel Aviv), then the US will have to seriously consider an actual literal and not merely figurative 'bombing someone back into the stone age'. That gives even me the creeps. It makes me sick to my stomach to even think about it, and I'm near autistic with limited ability to empathize on an emotional level. I know that the American people are not going to like it. So what the American government needs to do know is starting getting video footage of Admadinjad saying his thing in front of the American people NOW, so that they have time to digest that this guy is a really dangerous nutcase if it ever reaches the point that we have to pull the trigger. And it has to be something that is done with bipartisan consensus, because we don't know who might be in the White House when the time comes to pull the trigger, so what the White House needs to do NOW is go behind the scenes with the likely 2008 candidates and say, "Look, I don't care whether you like me or not, but this thing with Iran goes way beyond any political brinksmanship. We need to reach a consensus on US policy so that the ship of state is ready come what may."

In the mean time, we've got to finish up in Iraq. My best bet is that is going to require at least 15-18 more months, even if things go well. By that time, we should have some since of how things are going in Iran.

And another thing, we've GOT to get human intelligence assests into Iran. Satellite's just don't cut it for this. Maybe we could start working with some of the Shia in Iraq to get operatives across the border. I don't know.

But I do know that this whole thing isn't a #$@#% #$@%# #%%#%@#% party, so get serious or get lost.

"Wait for their nutballs to nuke us first, then slaughter them all, including the majority who are innocent."

I think we learned how that goes on 9/11.

That is not a responsible policy. We might follow it anyway, but it isn't responsible.

Quoth Celebrim:
bq. [W]hat the White House needs to do NOW is go behind the scenes with the likely 2008 candidates and say, "Look, I don't care whether you like me or not, but this thing with Iran goes way beyond any political brinksmanship. We need to reach a consensus on US policy so that the ship of state is ready come what may."

In a perfect world, yes. Maybe even in the real word such a thing would be or will be done. But I expect a lot of disappointment. :\ But "some chance" is better than "no chance", I guess.

There is a disturbing arbitrariness to some of the speculation here. As I do not have a satisfactory model of the overall situation myself, I can't counter-post and say, 'You're all wrong, here's where we really stand!' But I can at least flag some of the ideas canvassed, that strike me as seriously out of touch with reality:

John Garry: "What if Iran has already purchased nukes from China or Russia?"

"Jim Rockford" (a 1970s television detective): Iran has been working for 20 years to nuke the USA. (In a post on another occasion, "Jim" said Iran's first priority target would be Los Angeles, because of the Iranian satellite TV coming from there.)

Trent Telenko: We will see nukes used by coup leaders in the Third World vying for power. The next nuke to be used will probably be one mullah faction nuking Teheran itself, in order to defeat another faction.

celebrim: Ahmadinejad wants to have a big nuclear human sacrifice in order to bring the 12th imam.

The Apologist: If Iran plans to nuke the USA, the Chinese will want to follow up with a land invasion!

Yes Mitchell, it's a wonder that these people can even sleep at night what with all the super villians plotting to destroy the entire earth (and they say reading cartoons is harmless. Obviously some kids should get out on the play ground more often).

You should not ignore Tom Hlosinger when making your list. Note his comment immediately above. He is a war monger of the worst sort. He fans the flames of paranoia and suggests pre-emptive strikes against just about every muslim country on the globe.

There are a lot of lunatics on this blog. They reinforce each other to the point where they don't realize how fringe crazy they really are.

You will never see the blogs authors, like Dan Darling, AL, etc, step in and comment regarding the paranoia. However, if you comment from what they call a left perspective then the bloggers will critically comment (which is fine of course).

This blog is all about people like Darling and Hoslicker fanning the flames of fear and then channeling that fear into war mongerring, actions in contrast to the Bill of Rights, etc.

In short, by coming here, one is able to witness embrionic fascism.

Facinating, but disgusting.

Just my $.02 to a very interesting discussion...

I could be wildly optimistic, but suppose Iran really has no intention nuking anyone? Ahmadinejab talks a good game, but several things I've read suggest the mullahs are rolling their eyes and shaking their heads every time he opens his trap. And the mullahs wield the real political power.

Could it be possible that this is all a play to become a regional power and counter the pro-democratic ripples? I say that because, IMO, Iran's smart money lies not in confrontation, but in becoming a somewhat acceptable member, if vaguely retarded, member of the nuclear club. It offers a heck of a lot more long term gain for them.

Confrontation with the U.S. or Israel, while a feel good Islamic Revolution move, would certainly invite massive retaliation. Remember, one or two missile subs could effectively snuff out every major Iranian population center. Even an Iranian EMP attack would have to suppose that counterstrike SOPs were not already in place on our submarines prowling around the Indian Ocean.

Whatever else they are, the mullahs are interested in keeping hold on their power and are certainly aware that the global political tide would be heavily against them in the event NYC or LA went boom. I believe they are far more pragmatic, and far less suicidal than the radical elements like Ahmadinejad, and thus I believe that rational self interest will win the day here. I wouldn't be suprised if Ahmadinejab winds up assasinated at the hands of the mullahs (with the attendant "Zionist plot" rhetoric pushing the population right into the mullahs' arms).

Further, I doubt China will join in any kind of gang-tackle because they make way too much money off of us. It's bad business to kill your largest and best debtor. We're far mor valuable to China as a healthy economic engine than as a Chinese province.

Lastly, I have long been of the opinion that iPods, belly button rings, and suchlike are the keys to toppling the mullahcracy. A contain and engage policy, similar to the what we have done with China could work provided it is backed up with appropriate defensive and non-prolif measures.

Again, I could just be overly optimistic here...

cerebrim:

You wrote:
Geez, I consider myself a hawk, but some of you seem positively gleeful about the possibility of a few hundred thousand dead. Enough already. It's turning my stomach.
It won't be a few hundred thousand. It will be millions. Many of the Iranian nuclear development facilities are located in or near major population centers and the Iranian population has become highly urbanized. Any bomb big enough to affect the development facilities will have lots of collateral damage. Inadequate building standards and lack of emergency response capability (as was seen in Bam) will see to the rest.

Regardless of what Trent believes I don't honestly think we'll ever invade Iran in force with land troops. Raids, yes. And lots of bombing.

That's why I think a military solution is to be avoided.

Unfortunately, the French, Germans, and Russians have their hearts set on a military solution. With visions of Euros dancing in their heads (and possible political consequences at home) they are precluding the non-military approaches that could put enough pressure on the current Iranian regime that it might fall from internal pressures.

But solved the problem will be. An unstable irrational regime with millenial goals and undisputed ties to terrorism can't be allowed to have nuclear weapons.

avedis, it wasn't your political orientation that got you banned from Colt's posts. It was your persistent personal attacks which I see still continue. Attack the argument not the arguer.

Unfortunately, this medium lends itself to agonistic expression. As bad as you find Winds of Change much of the blogosphere is much, much worse. I continue to find WoC as rational and temperate a discussion forum as the blogosphere has to offer. You can help to further and even improve this yourself by tempering your comments and channeling your anger into energetic argument and evidence.

"could be wildly optimistic, but suppose Iran really has no intention nuking anyone? "

Doesnt matter. The alternatives arent much better, at least for the US. Think about how brazenly Iran supports international terrorism and jihadiism right now. Now consider what they would certainly do if they have no need to fear the US military. Disturbing.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, if Iran develops a nuclear arsenal, it becomes in our interest (everyones really) for the regime to remain in power. Should there be a coup or even a more peaceful changeover of government, you leave men like Ahmadinejab with their backs against the wall, their country rising up against them, access to nuclear weapons, and their terrorists allies clammering to 'accidently' walk away with a nuke during the confusion. Think about all the chaos with nukes in the breakup of the Soviet Union. Now imagine if Gorby and the Kremlin were a wild eyed religious fanatic that hated the US and Israel with every fiber. If Iran gets nukes, all our options turn bad, and there is a large chance we end up being forced to shun another democratic movement and brace another fascist government. Which never ends well for us.

avedis,
You've nailed the difference between the Enlightened Ones© and the Chimpy McBush Hitler Fascists©.

The Enlightened Ones© stay awake worrying about their fellow Americans and the Chimpy McBush Hitler Fascists© stay awake worrying about murderous dictators with nuclear arms.

You have come to this forum not to discuss and debate, but to confirm your own prejudices. If anyone needs a little perspective, it would be you.

lurker? WTF?

"...The Enlightened Ones© stay awake worrying about their fellow Americans and the Chimpy McBush Hitler Fascists© stay awake worrying about murderous dictators with nuclear arms..."

Isn't this the same thing? Or am I missing something here? Why would one worry about evil dictators unless it were to have an effect on fellow Americans? For historical purposes only?

Perhaps you meant to the exclusion of all else, which would make a little more sense. I would imagine focusing totally inward or outward is not healthy.

Celebrim said:

If on the other hand the Iranian mullahs prove not to be rational actors, which would be most easily demonstrated by someone like Ahmadinjad retaining power and successfully converting himself into a cult figure and/or them test detonating a nuclear weapon (which I hope to God they do on thier own soil and not in say Tel Aviv), then the US will have to seriously consider an actual literal and not merely figurative 'bombing someone back into the stone age'.

Your policy amounts to

1) Advocating America do nothing,

2) Then advocating America commit nuclear genocide on the Iranian people if America gets nuked...

3) Then advocating the de facto post-nuclear attack establishment of an American secret police state to protect America at home, and an American imperial hegemony abroad, to protect America from further ISO container nuke attacks. Because that is what it would take for America to be safe in a world of 30 plus unstable nuclear-armed 3rd world states.

At worst my plan gets ten thousand of Americans killed and several tens of thousands of Iranian national killed.

At worst you plan gets hundreds of thousands of Americans killed and millions of Iranians, plus other non-Americans, killed and we lose America's soul in the bargain.

The issue here boils down to your denial of reality, namely the repeated and demonstrated irrationality of the Iranian Mullah leadership.

No rational leadership would hide Al-Qaeda and provide them support after 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet, as Dan Darling has repeatedly shown here on Winds, the Iranians do.

I would not trust those men with nukes.

You would.

I am advocating a policy I know for a certainty will kill at least 10,000 American servicemen.

You are advocating a policy that will kill millions of people based on you faith that no one could be that irrationally evil with nukes, despite all the rational evidence about the Mullahs to the contrary.

"Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, if Iran develops a nuclear arsenal, it becomes in our interest (everyones really) for the regime to remain in power. Should there be a coup or even a more peaceful changeover of government, you leave men like Ahmadinejab with their backs against the wall, their country rising up against them, access to nuclear weapons, and their terrorists allies clammering to 'accidently' walk away with a nuke during the confusion.

Buehner:

Well see, this is sorta my point. Ahmadinejab and the mullahs are most definitely at cross purposes in the long run. He's for quick and overt action, they're a bit more circumspect in their craziness. I think the mullahs are in it for the long haul.

At this point, Iran is probably going to have enough time to get a nuke, or several. But this is not the endgame. What happens to those nukes is what is important. So, as you assert, keeping them out of terrorist/rogue regime hands and keeping Iranian submarines out of range becomes the paramount tactical concerns. The strategic concern becomes regime change without setting off nuclear exchange.

With the drawdown announcements, you can almost hear the collective sigh of relief. I don't think there's enough political capital or popular will remaining to invade and occupy. Alternately, bombing campaigns are far less certain to erase the problem (or delay it) due to our lack of human intel on the ground. Finally, joint negotiation/UN sanction is proving itself to be as useless as ever.

The only remaining strategy, IMO, is to exert our uniquely American corrupting influence through decadent culture and filthy lucre and help the Iranian people toss these bastards out themselves. Change the people, change the regime.

Again, I'm the eternal optimist...

"The only remaining strategy, IMO, is to exert our uniquely American corrupting influence through decadent culture and filthy lucre and help the Iranian people toss these bastards out themselves."

Even at the risk of either Ahmadinejab or the Mullahs (take your pick) passing their nukes to terrorist hands with their dying breaths? What is terrifying about Ahmadinejab as you have rightly pointed out is that he's more radical than the mullahs. That on its face is terrifying.

Dave,

Was that really the Dave Shuler I know who said that airstrikes on Iran's nuclear weapons program, using conventional high explosives, would kill millions (see http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/007888.php#c89), or was it someone masquerading as you?

All the Allied bombing of Germany during World War Two, which involved millions of tons of high explosives, killed @ 600,000 Germans. I vaguely recall that the fire-bombing of Japan in WWII killed several hundred thousand - more than the two nuclear weapons used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

So where does this "millions" come in?

As a practical matter, the most likely result of a quick series of Israeli airstrikes on Iran's nuclear facilities, over a period of at most several days, would be "Not Much". If they're lucky, it might delay Iran's production of home-grown nukes by 3-6 months, probably closer to the former.

The only significant result of Israeli airstrikes on Iran's nuclear program would be political - by focusing the attention of the American people on the imminent prospect of Iranian nukes, and everyone else then building some. That might result in building enough political support for an American invasion of Iran to overthrow the mullahs.

But the Israelis plain lack the military capability of delivering enough tonnage of explosives at that range to kill more than several thousand Iranians, and this assumes that they target civilians instead of Iran's nuclear program.

In terms of collateral damage from the nuclear facilities themselves, all of them combined lack sufficient fissionables to pose a material threat to public health. There just isn't enough radioactive energy in them to pose such a threat until there is an uncontrolled chain reaction producing a detonation with a yield of several thousand equivalent tons of high explosives.

The incredibly toxic gases in the gas centrifuges enriching uranium would be at most an on-site threat inside the facilities. See Larry Bond's Vortex. There just isn't enough such gas to pose an off-site threat.

As for attacks by the U.S. Air Force, please. We use the really expensive high-tech stuff against enemy strategic nuclear weapons capability. It would be our most advanced precision-guided munitions all the way. There would be minimal off-site effects.

During President Clinton's intervention in Kosovo, I recall seeing television clips of Serbian civilians crowded together on bridge entryways watching our precision-guided munitions take out the centers of bridges over the Danube in downtown Belgrade. They had great confidence that our PGM's would hit only the centers of the bridges and not stray to the ends where they were.

We definitely have the military capability, with repeated conventional attacks with PGM's, to indefinitely keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Israel can't do that, but we can.

The problem there is political - in particular that the mullahs would retaliate against us in Iraq and even by having terrorists attack us in the United States.

Was that you really you who said "millions" of Iranian civilians would die from conventional air attacks on the mullahs' nuclear weapons facililities?

For your information and comment:

Tick. Tick. Tick.
by Hugh Hewitt
December 22, 2005 03:20 PM PST

From Jane's Defence Weekly:


bq. Iran has acquired medium/ intermediate-range ballistic missiles (MRBM/IRBMs) from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea - DPRK)

Trent,

10,000 US KIA? How did you get that?

I agree with the Democratic military experts in the Atlantic article that the conquest campaign in Iran would, in terms of combat, be little more than the one in Iraq - several hundred allied KIA. I just think it would take longer due to logistic issues. Well, that and the fact that more troops would be involved - perhaps 200,000 in-country for Iran as opposed to 130,000 during the conquest of Iraq - would produce more traffic fatalities, and accidental fatalities in general, but that would be true even in an occupation campaign.

Everyone I know of with opinions on the subject agrees that the occupation campaign in Iran would be more intense than Iraq's, but Iraq's has seen only @ 1700 KIA (or is it total fatalities including accidents?) during the 33 months of the occupation to date. That is about 50 fatalities per month for an average of about 120,000 troops (1 fatality per month per 2400 troops).

If Iran's occupation entails 200,000 men and is twice as intense as Iraq's in terms of casualties, we're looking at 1 fatality per 1200 men per month. 200k x 12 months = 2400k divided by 1200 = 2000 fatalities per year.

We'd have to occupy Iran for five years, and have the whole five years be twice as bad as the occupation campaign in Iraq's to date (which is tailing off fast) to have 10,000 fatalties.

IMO the occupation camapign in Iran will be awful only for the first year, and then conditions will improve much faster than in Iraq for reasons mentioned in my post No. 14 in this thread. My guesstimate at this point is about 3000 American fatalities over two years for both the conquest and occupation campaigns in Iran.

The major cost to us would be financial. In particular, it would make absolute hash of the Bush administration's quite fictitious budget estimates.

Celebrim Said:

Iraq's military was largely gutted and dispirited prior to the American invasion. The same is not true of Iran's military in its present state. While the Iranian military is not that impressive, its certainly going to be a far nastier enemy than the sort of cakewalk we had in Iraq. Best estimates are of 350,000 men under arms, plus about 1,000,000 poorly trained reserves. Realisticly they field 1 armored division, 2 mechanized infantry divisions, 7 light infantry divisions, and 3 special forces brigades. Unlike Iraq's forces, I believe these units will fight and will have to be destroyed.

I find it interesting you skip over the fact that Iraq's 1991 military was far superior to Iran's 2005 military in every catagory. They defeated the Iranian military, and they were little more than live fire targets for America's 1991 military.

America's 2005 military is far more deadly than our 1991 edition.

A for instance that I ran across the other day: In 1991 the US Army used a grand total of 32 ATACMS short range (150-300km depending on the version) ballistic missile. In the 2003 OIF campaign the US Army used 454 of them.

JDAMs did not exist in 1991, today we have tens of thousands, can use tens of thousands and replace tens of thousands in a few months from an open three shift a day production line.

Iraq's integrated air defense and air force of 1991 were superior to Iran's today. Yet compared to 1991, America has both the B-2 and F22 in squadron service.

More importantly, my impression is that resistance to an American occupation of Iran would be about 10 times as strong as that of Iraq, and just on the numbers a force of at least 4 times as large would be required to hold the country. This is projection of about 600,000 US troops for the occupation phase, in addition to however many would be needed to maintain security in Iraq. This represents a US troop commitment likely greater than at the height of the Vietnam war. There will be no zero zilch popular support for such action.

To stand in the open and fight the American military conventionally is to commit suicide.

Tom Holsinger covered the occupation campaign after the defeat of the Iranian conventional forces.

Compared to Iraq, Iran has a markedly more ability to influence events outside of its borders than Iraq does. I won't go into the details of what I would do in the Mullah's shoes at all, but I would point out that many of the projections people are making about how the Mullahs would react play right into American hands. One could only hope they would be as stupid as trying to shut the straights of Hormuz or some other ill-calculated action. I think that they've got much much better cards to play, especially when we are dealing with the early game.

The Iranian Mullahocracy will hit us with terrorism no matter what we do.

Better we kill them first, before they can add nukes to the mix.

A lot of the more frightening estimates of the collateral casualties of a strike against nuclear facilities come, I suspect, from a belief in the hysterical claims of casualties from the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

What almost everyone does not realize is that the high estimates have long since been debunked.

I'm going to try again with my electricity idea (see post 63 above). I think some people lumped this in with a "limited bombing campaign" or some such thing. This was not my intention; since Iran with nukes is not an acceptable option for myriad reasons and IMHO diplomatic means are not going to work, we are going to have to use warlike means to impose our will on Iran. My suggestion was not meant to be a way to avoid war, but rather a way to wage it. Celebrim's comments on the army/population/geography or Iran are well taken; I don't believe we have the oomph anymore to roll into Iran and impose our will. I believe Tom H. is correct that we have to impose our will sooner than later which means no time to develop the oomph needed. I think we hand the ball to the Air Force and tell them to turn the lights out in Iran. I'm not a big fan of the Air Force, we are undoubtedly going to have to scrape assets together to start and maintain a long term strategic bombing campaign. We won't need F-18's dropping a JDAM, we will need B-52's dropping cheeseburgers. Electrical installations are big and give off a lot of heat; we should be able to hit them without too much collateral damage. It doesn't matter that all the centrifuges are underground in urban areas, without electricity they won't run. Its unlikely that the kind of megawattage needed to run the centrifuges can be built and run underground; you always have to get rid of the heat leaving surface targets. Will we kill lots of Iranians ? Yes but c'est la guerre. Will we lose some pilots ? Yes, but see previous sentence. I am not advocating half measures, I am advocating something that will shut Iran's nuclear program down, shut their economy down, avoid killing a bunch of ours or theirs, and give the Mullahs a whole lot of domestic problems. What happens next ? I don't know and I don't think anyone else does. The premise has to be that a nuclear armed Iran is unacceptable.

We'd have to occupy Iran for five years, and have the whole five years be twice as bad as the occupation campaign in Iraq's to date (which is tailing off fast) to have 10,000 fatalties.

Tom,

You just named the worst case scenario in Iran I am willing to accept ahead of time to avoid American nuclear genocide and unrestricted nuclear proliferation.

I would count any American KIAs less than that as a blessing.

A strategic bombing campaign against Iran's electric power grid would produce significant collateral casualties. And the mullahs would counter-attack. They can hurt us a lot.

Your proposal overlooks the fact that the enemy has a vote.

If we want to get rid of the mullahs, the fastest way is to do it with ground forces.

If Iran's occupation entails 200,000 men and is twice as intense as Iraq's in terms of casualties, we're looking at 1 fatality per 1200 men per month. 200k x 12 months = 2400k divided by 1200 = 2000 fatalities per year.

Tom,

Non-combat operation deaths will be far higher in Iran that Iraq due to terrain, weather and 20 plus years of corrupt mullahs not repairing the roads and bridges adequately.

That is exactly where our ground forces logistical tail will run through in both conquest and occupation campaigns on trucks whose suspensions, center of gravity and steering has been overloaded/altered by anti-IED armor.

Remember what happened in that historic Iranian city (blanking on the name) leveled in an earth quake recently (2004?).

Do you expact the Mullah's road and bridge inspectors to be any better than their building inspectors?

The interaction of American armored trucks and Iranian mountain roads will be deadly for a whole bunch of soldiers if it comes to that.

Oh flipping joy.

Iran does not need the American or Israeli air forces to spread nuclear material all over the place from its power plants.

This is clipped from an article in the Jerusalem Post:

Iran's first nuclear power station, expected to go on stream next year, is located at the Bushehr Peninsula on the Persian Gulf. The whole region is one of the most active earthquake zones in the world. A study by Stanford University, conducted in the 1970s under the Shah, warned that tremors measuring more than seven on the Richter scale could destroy the nuclear power station as designed by the German company Siemens.

The project, abandoned in 1978 and half destroyed by Iraqi bombing in 1980, was revived in 1989 with the help of Russian companies. Teheran claims that design changes have been made and that the future power station would resist tremors of more than seven on the Richter scale. That claim, however, is disputed in a report presented by the Seismological Institute in Teheran to President Khatami in 2000. Attempts at holding a parliamentary hearing on the report over the past five years have been scotched by both Khatami and Ahmadinejad on the grounds of "national security."

THE GCC Arabs have every reason to be worried. Between 40 and 100 per cent of the GCC states' population live in areas that would be directly affected by any nuclear catastrophe at Bushehr. Qatar, sticking out like a thumb across the Persian Gulf, is located just opposite the Iranian nuclear power station. More than 80 per cent of the GCC's oilfields are also within the radius of danger.

Since the Persian Gulf is a shallow body of water - nowhere deeper than 90 metres - any nuclear pollution could inflict damage lasting centuries. An "incident" of the kind seen at Chernobyl could halt shipping and cut the flow of almost 25 per cent of the world's daily supply of oil. It could also render the offshore gas deposits of Qatar and Iran, the second largest in the world, unusable for centuries. As al-Attiyah has pointed out such an incident could inflict "incalculable damage" on all aspects of the environment in the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula and parts of the Indian Subcontinent. Iran itself would be less affected because less than 10 per cent of its population lives along the coastline.

Even more worrisome for the GCC Arabs is the fact that all of the 25 nuclear power stations that Iran plans to build in the next decade or so will be located in areas close to GCC territory. The second Iranian nuclear power station is under construction at Dar-Khuwayn on the River Karun in Khuzestan, a stone-throw from both Kuwait and Iraq. The third, still in the drawing room, is to be built on the Jask Peninsula on the Gulf of Oman, opposite the Sultanate of Oman.

Hey Tom,

Did Iran get any 1970's era California nuclear power plant designs to go with these plans?

This development may get Marin County California to go pro-war with Iran.

You may well be right, Tom Holsinger. I'm considering the papier mache construction that seeems to be prevalent in that part of the world and the nonexistent emergency services. Perhaps I'm being alarmist.

Some time ago I posted a map of Iran showing Iran's nuclear development sites and a table showing the population of the cities that they were in. It's my understanding that these sites (or at least some of these sites) are hardened. What kinds of munitions would be required to actually destroy these sites? What kind of damage could be expected to the adjacent areas? What would the casualty rate be in those areas?

Note that I'm not saying that it's impossible or even that it shouldn't be done. But I don't think we should underestimate the degree of calamity that the mullahs are bringing down on themselves and the Iranian people. And that the dilatory behavior of the Western Europeans may be forcing upon us.

Tom, I get what you're saying about half-measures - doing anything less than regime change leaves us open to retaliation. Check.

This doesn't change the fact that there is no political will in this country to do anything like what you are recommending.

You observe that public opinion is fickle and turn positive once the thing starts - but that is a huge risk. I think the Republicans understand that a failure here will result in a generational exile from power. They will not back the president on an invasion should he propose one - which he probably won't, in any case.

Trent, that was my thought too - the mullahs have hired some retired PG&E guys as consultants.

Guys, you have to understand my stories to Trent here.

I grew up on the Point Reyes Peninsula of Marin County, California, just north of San Francisco. While I was living there, Pacific Gas & Electric tried to build a nuclear power plant right ON the San Andreas fault at Bodega Bay just across from the Point Reyes Peninsula. There is still a huge deep hole, now filled with water, PG&E had dug there in preparation for plant construction.

When I was in civil defense training in December 1983, the class members introduced themselves and a surprising number were from the California Department of Corrections (prisons). We asked why and understood when they stated they were all from the prison just downwind of a nuclear power plant one of whose buildings PG&E had mistakenly built from reversed blueprints. It was alarmingly close to an earthquake fault too.

Iran's proposed nuclear power plant sites have an unusually close relationship to those of California's Pacific Gas & Electric Company.

lewy14 said:

This doesn't change the fact that there is no political will in this country to do anything like what you are recommending.

It is not a matter of American poltical will.

It is a matter of American poltical leadership.

There are enough issues between Iran and America for War. Any poll conducted of the American public asking who is America's chief enemy had Iran at the top of the list.

Bush just does not want to go there because the huge governmental institutions he manages -- note, not lead -- doesn't want too.

If Bush lead on Iran, as he lead in the run up to Iraq, the political will would be there.

"Even at the risk of either Ahmadinejab or the Mullahs (take your pick) passing their nukes to terrorist hands with their dying breaths?"

Buehner:

Well, no. But, the assumption here is that once Iran gets nukes, they will immediately use them or hand them off. I can see that in Ahmadinejab, but not with the mullahs. Remember, these are in large part old men leading soft lives. They're not nearly as interested in martyrdom as the younger lunatic fringe. At least not if they follow the pattern of old men leading soft lives everywhere else.

Also, Ahmadinejab's position is at the will of the mullahs, particularly the Leadership Council (or whatever the hell they call it). These guys are the oldest and softest of them all, and I suspect that their main concern is maintaining their power. Picking a nuclear fight, even in the name of jihad, is not the way to stay in power.

There's also something to be said for playing on these guys deep cravings for legitimacy. To that end, let's sell them some Chevys and make it clear we're ready to talk to someone sane on their end. Rafsanjani, for all his warts, was miles ahead of Ahmadinejab on the sanity chart. He also seemed to be able to keep the Iranian stock market and economy from tanking. Perhaps a Dutch uncle type of envoy that explicitly lays out that if the mullahs could see their way clear to ousting Ahmadinejab, we might entertain less violent thoughts.

I'd also suggest that we explicitly lay out what will happen if they attack us, or pass off to someone who attacks us. Enough diplo-speak. Lay it right out with them: If this happens to us, then this will happen to you.

So...

If we can keep the nukes in Iran (and I grant that is a big IF), we can buy time to foment popular uprising. At that point, some time down the road, we can move in with ground troops to assist the populist movement.

Meanwhile back at home, bolster up missile defense, get border and port security squared away once and for all, and most importantly, get the electorate rested up and behind invasion.

It's not that I don't favor military action, because I do. I just think we need an interim plan until we get our ducks in a row, both here and on the ground in Iran. Iranians generally like Americans, but I'm pretty sure if we bull ahead and invade, we'll lose a lot of goodwill. Best to build a popular groundswell we can depend on first, then move in a supporting role to the Iranians themselves.

It is not a matter of American poltical will. It is a matter of American poltical leadership.
You are correct, I had conflated these. Will and leadership are not entirely independent, however.

Whether leadership in dealing with Iran was ever within Bush's modest skill is somewhat moot now I believe. I think the will is so lacking that leading the country to war on Iran is beyond anyone's skill.

lewy,

The phrase, "President Bush", does not belong in the same sentence with "leader" or "leadership".

His phony budget projections are dominant in this. Operations against Iran can't happen before the next election or he won't be able to keep his budget projections nominally going through the election. Our national interest has nothing to do with this.

BTW, those budget projections call for significant reductions in National Guard strength, and moderate reductions in the size of the regular Army and Marine Corps. Not merely with Iran looming now, but with all the intelligence agencies (ours and our allies) saying the Saud regime will go down in no more than five years.

THAT is how unreal President Bush's budget projections are.

Tom, you wrote:
Operations against Iran can't happen before the next election or he won't be able to keep his budget projections nominally going through the election.
So you are of the opinion that these operations will occur then?

lewy,

I am of the opinion that something will happen in the next six months - most likely a set of Israeli airstrikes over 1-3 days. That will likely release small radioactive particles which our airborne sensors will pick up, and subsequent analysis would probably reveal both the degree of enrichment and identify which countries have sold the mullahs pre-enriched fissionables to shorten their weapons-grade enrichment process.

Beyond that, I don't know. I certainly wouldn't put it past the Bush admnistration to sit on such information until after the November election. I hope that we invade Iran during 2006, because I expect the mullahs to have, and announce that they have, home-grown nukes sometime next year.

Winter weather conditions in the Zagros Mountains are such that an American invasion is not likely to commence during the months of November, December, January and February for simple feasibility reasons.

I am "confident" that Trent's worst-case scenario will come to pass within no more than 15 years if we do nothing, and note that it does not entail the mullahs' nuking us before their own people string up the mullahs that don't run away fast enough.

Tom, I don't necessarily disagree, but I think there is something that could forestall those events. If Ahmadinejab falls in a coup and is replaced with a "moderate, rational" leader, and "progress" is made on the nuclear "negotiations", then military action (by anyone) becomes much less likely. And the rational contingent within the mullocracy know this.

I'm wondering if there isn't a market for Ahmadinejab futures somewhere, 'cause I'd be shorting him right now.

lewy14,

And maybe horses will learn to sing, too, but I would not bet that way.

Another thought - Iran is not like North Korea or pre-2003 Iraq, its citizens hidden away from Internet contact. Thousands of Iranians can be found at Orkut.com, for example. I think everyone on this thread who advocates a second preemptive war should first go there and talk to some people in Iran. Raise your concerns. Maybe you can make them understand that a combination of secret nuclear programs and twenty-five years of "death to America" makes you a little nervous.

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