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Iran's Spoiling Attack

| 128 Comments | 10 TrackBacks

It is the nature of men that when faced with an impending doom, they will do something, anything, to avert it, even if that brings doom down upon themselves sooner and more surely then if they had done nothing. Such was the case in ancient Greek tragedies. So it was with the World War Two Nazis and Imperial Japanese. So it is now with Iran's Mullahocracy in their "spoiling attack" on America in Iraq.

Dan Darling, Michael Ledeen, and Wretchard of Belmont Club (here and here) have all recently gone on documenting at length the size and scope of the Iranian and Iranian hired Syrian attacks in Iraq, and in Ledeen's case what needs to be done about it. What they haven't done is explain the wider pattern in terms of the Iranian objectives for their spoiling attack.

Spoiling Attacks

A spoiling attack in military terms is when one side attacks the other while it is preparing to launch an offensive in hopes that its attack will disrupt and or permanently delay the inevitable. Spoiling attacks are normally aimed at major boundaries between units or forces as this causes the most confusion due to separate chains of command stepping all over each other trying to coordinate their superior forces to deal with the attack.

Napoleon was famous for winning this way over over. A modern and less successful example was World War Two's Battle of the Bulge, wherein Hitler intended to separate the British from their American allies and take back the major seaport of Antwerp. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor exploited the "unit boundary" split in America's Pacific chain of command between the Army and the Navy over the defense of Hawaii, and let them run wild for six months in the Pacific.

In Iraq we are seeing multiple "unit boundaries" struck by the Iranian inspired attacks at once. America's Spanish, Ukrainian, Polish, Bulgarian, and Italian allies have all been struck by either the Ba'athist remnants or the Sadr militia with the result being that the Spanish Socialist government is cutting and running. Many private military corporations have been hit with K.B.R., for example, suffering 30 dead, missing, or captured for future 'snuff video' production.

The ultimate "unit boundary" that the Iranians are striking isn't tactical, operational or even in Iraq. It is strategic - the "unit boundary" between American Presidential Administrations.

The Mullahs' Goal

Iran's Mullahocracy has been America's enemy since 1979. They have learned that America alternates between weak/malleable and strong/bold executive leadership, having faced both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. The former President it held hostage for over a year while the latter President traded arms for hostages, then turned around and broke the Mullah's will to fight against Iraq with a "secret" naval war, the downing of an Iranian Airbus by an Aegis cruiser and intelligence assistance for Saddam's reconquest of the Iranian Al Faw peninsula with chemical weapons.

The one thing the Mullahs have leaned in all of this is that American Presidential Administrations have an extremely difficult time doing new foreign policy or national security policy an election year or during the first six months of a new Administration. They are now taking advantage of this to strike, and hopefully cripple, the Bush Administration's reelection chances or failing that make America abandon its plan to democratize Iraq and destabilize their theocracy.

As Amir Taheri notes in the New York Post:

"The Iranian analysis is simple: The Americans do not have the political stamina to stay the course in Iraq. Negative polls could force President Bush to withdraw his troops into bases in the Iraqi desert, allowing the cities to fall under the control of Iraqi armed groups.

In such a scenario, pro Saddam groups would seize control of the so called Sunni Triangle while Shiite groups beholden to Iran would dominate central and southern Iraq, leaving the Kurds cantoned in their two mountainous enclaves.

The Tehran leadership is also certain that John Kerry, if elected, will abandon Bush's plans for a "democratic" Middle East. "The United States has become vulnerable," Rafsanjani told his cheering audience in Tehran. "The Americans do not know which way to turn."

Behind the scenes of revolt in parts of Iraq lies the broader picture of the war that various brands of Islamism have waged against the United States for almost a quarter of a century.

Tehran leaders believe that the U.S. defeat in Vietnam enabled China to establish itself as the rising power in Asia. They hope that a U.S. defeat in Iraq will give the Islamic Republic a similar opportunity to become what Rafsanjani calls "the regional superpower."

The Khomeinist mullahs believe that an American defeat in Iraq will destabilize all Arab regimes, leaving the Islamic Republic as the only power around which a new status quo could be built in the region. "Here is our opportunity to teach the Americans a lesson," Rafsanjani said."

In short, the Iranians mean to defeat America, "Lebanonize" Iraq and dominate its various factions. Al Sadr was only the first Iranian sock puppet. There will be many others. Iraq cannot be pacified as long as terrorists attack us from secure bases in Iran, and the mullahs are both providing those and funding terrorists against us, including Al Qaeda as well as Al Sadr.

4th Generation Warfare

As Joe's piece on "Iran's Great Game" noted, the mullahs correctly believe they have to do this to retain power in Iran. America's goal of creating a successful democracy in mostly Shiite Iraq means the end of the mullahs' rule in Iran - they can't keep their own people from making religious pilgrimages to Shiite holy sites in Iraq, which means they can't stop the effects on their own unsettled population. Democracy next door is an immediate threat to tyranny. Russia's former Communist regime created the Iron Curtain to block freedom in Western Europe from menacing their Communist tyranny in Eastern Europe.

Joe Katzman and a number of others have made much of "4th Generation Warfare" and "asymmetric attack" as a way for the weak to defeat the strong. The key thing about the concept is that the stronger party has to submit to the ground rules of the weaker party in order to be defeated.

America does not have to play by those rules if it doesn't want to, so why are we?

First, Kerry and the Democrats want to believe that 9/11/2001 didn't happen and that everything wrong in the world is Bush's fault. They are worse than useless in facing up to the Iranians.

Bush on the other hand is playing the part of the Wizard of Oz, telling us not to see the Iranian Mullah behind the Iraqi curtain until after the election. When it comes to political choices about the war and the Presidential election, a friend of mine put it this way:

"Given a choice between a f*** up whose heart is in the right place and a Hamlet who hasn't got a program, Americans are gonna go with the f*** up."

So where does that leave the rest of us? Demanding "Faster, Please" will not cut it.

The Stakes

More than Iraq is at stake here there are other players, notably Israel.

Iran's mullahs are developing nuclear weapons, which they view as a magic shield against America and a sword to destroy the Jewish state. They have made overt threats to nuke Israel as soon as they have nuclear weapons, and said they believe Iran would survive any exchange of nukes with Israel. The mullahs do not at all understand that their inflammatory rhetoric intended for domestic political effect has a whole new meaning for other countries when backed up with nuclear weapons.

This brings up the following question:

Does anyone doubt for a moment that Israel will, absolutely, positively WILL preemptively destroy Iranian nuclear facilities, with nukes if necessary, to prevent another holocaust?

Since Iran has taken steps to see that an Israeli conventional air attack, such as that against Osirak, Iraq http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/iraq/facility/osiraq.htm can't work, Israel must use nuclear ground bursts, producing highly radioactive short term fallout, against Iran's hardened nuclear facilities.

But it won't be just against those. The remorseless logic of nuclear conflict with an irrational opponent will force Israel to eliminate Iran as a strategic threat for the long term. That entails hitting more targets than just those currently known to be working on Iranian nuclear weapons.

A Democratic President would create this worst of all possible worlds, where pre-emptive nuclear attack is used as a tool of state policy. It is not a world we want to live in.

Iranian casualties (@10 - 20% will be dead) would range from several hundred thousand to several million, depending on the target set, weapons selection and local weather patterns. In short, welcome to the world of Wretchard's "Three Conjectures." The EMP from this attack (high altitude bursts to disrupt Iranian C3I) will affect American forces in the area, including in Iraq, and devastate Persian Gulf oil production.

It is therefore unlikely that the USA will let this happen by doing nothing. A friend I spoke to thinks that Iran will have domestic nuclear weapon production capability by spring 2006. I agree. He is also in print that nuclear weapons will be used in anger by 1 Jan 2006 unless we invade Iran first. The only way I can see to prevent this future from coming to pass is with the near term conquest of Iran.

Bush will do this in time, if reelected. Kerry won't. Even Thomas Friedman of the New York Times recognizes the willingness of Bush foreign policy to destroy unacceptable status quos.

Given the certainty of Israel's nuclear preemptive attack on Iran, I don't see America waiting for an Iranian revolution. We will do it ourselves no later than my friend's fall/winter 2005 prediction. We both feel that the deal between Sharon and Bush on this has already been made. If a successful Iranian revolution makes the invasion unnecessary, fine, but we won't take the risk of delay.

Iran is at war with us whether or not we want to be at war with them. Nukes are on the table now, and they are not our nukes. We are on a count down to invasion to keep the nuclear genie from escaping.

Much more is at stake in November's presidential election than President Bush is willing to admit.

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128 Comments

You have raise a fantastic number of debatable points, which one do you want to discuss ?

I doubt Trent's assessment of Israel's intentions and likely actions.

Though I believe your words are true, Trent, I don't believe that Israel shares your assessment of what "prevent another holocaust" means. At the same time, the possibility of an nuclear volley is real. Let me explain.

First, understand that the use of nuclear weapons, especially on this scale, almost certainly ends the state of Israel. This is true regardless of whether or not the other state has nukes itself. Israel cannot survive totally isolated from the rest of the world, and this would be its almost certain fate.

Which means use of nuclear weapons by Israel is restricted to the "Samson option," i.e. if you're definitely about to lose the game, blow up the stadium. And "about to lose" means "we think they've just launched missiles," or "imminent military defeat on the battlefield," or something of that magnitude.

Even an Iranian regime with nukes can be destabilized and overthrown, after all, then persuaded to relinquish them. No point blowing up the whole stadium until you're absolutely certain that you really have lost.

As such, a likelier response by Israel would be to make its possession of nuclear weapons open by assembling its warhead components, and placing them on instant availability status by mounting them on missiles and having aircraft ready to go.

This nuclear hair trigger is itself profoundly dangerous, as the combination of warning time measured in minutes plus no ability to absorb attacks = no margin for error. A full nuclear volley could eaily be launched based on a glitch or mistake, therefore - and even the elaborate US/Russian confrontation had a number of those over the years.

So no, I don't see a pre-emptive nuclear strike. But I DO see the potential for the scenario you raise, and thinking about worst cases like this is a useful exercise.

The Iranian regime is exactly the kind of global actor who must never, ever be given access to nuclear weapons. Deeply factionalized (and hence unstable, with a fragmented chain of accountability and command), possessed of a martyrdom/messiah complex and the #1 supporter of terrorism world-wide... this is a recipe for the most profound disaster.

Kerry's contemptible sucking up to the mullahs in Iran should render him unfit to hold office as the President all by itself. But that isn't my choice to make. As for Bush, if he has a plan for Iran, I suggest that he get started before the election. Time is running out, and the consistently mixed signals and half-hearted support for regime change in Iran has been both confusing and counter-productive.

"Faster, please" assumes an effective plan. Instead, I'm at the point where I'm saying "Get serious, please."

for once, i agree with you completely trent.

what can be done to move the best possibile results foward?

I think Joe is right on Israel's nuclear motives. They can't use nukes pre-emptively, not unless they know they are doomed otherwise. Now the case may be that the current Israeli government feels that Iran possessing nukes might meet that criteria, but I don't think so. Rather, I suspect that Joe is right that a nuclear Iran will force Israel to announce its nuclear program in order to deter any agression, if that is possible. They will likely do all they can to gain a second strike capability as well. But politicially, a pre-emptive nuclear strike will be suicide. I just don't see it happening.

you can say israel gone do this or gane do that .the point is israel gone do nothing .beacuse if it could it would do it long time ago.
israel can not do a surgical strike like beacuse iran is much far away.nuclure industru is all over the place .and most of them are underground os all about the surgical strike is just shit.they just want to make you the jew feel safe .second before any action israel must first think about hizbulah their neighbur who is gon edemolish all of northn israel.israel can not nuke there .it is too close.syria and iran just sign agreement that any attack on any of them would be the same .the back lash from syrai also be felt in your cities.syria also have chemical weapon.os when your tv told you put your mask on maybe somthing is up.and syria is close to you than you to iran.about america invade iran that is shit as well beacuse america does not have enough troop to put in iraq set aside iran with 700000 regular armi.400000 revelotionar gaurd and lots of milita .wishing is good but somtimes it does not work like in iraq.so just pray maybe god will hear you .

So Israel is doomed if it uses its nukes pre-emptively, and doomed if it doesn't. I seem to recall that someone once said,

"It is the nature of men that when faced with an impending doom, they will do something, anything, to avert it, even if that brings doom down upon themselves sooner and more surely then if they had done nothing."

Get real, guys. Israel KNOWS Iran's mullahs will nuke Israel immediately given the opportunity. This means that Israel's only chance for survival means nuking Iran first. If Israel does not survive the short term, there is no long term.

Joe, what is your definition of a proper scale Israeli pre-emptive nuclear strike on Iran? I ask to deter you ((grin) from moving the goal-posts.

Trent pointed out that any Israeli nuclear attack on Iran's nuclear capability entails groundbursts on hardened targets causing significant short-term fallout. Given that, why shouldn't Israel be as thorough as its nuclear resources entail? IMO that means using 30-60 of its 300-400 nukes. Given Israel's scarce aerial refueling tankers and limited long-range capability, several days of strikes would be required, with each strike involving 15-30 aircraft. Things would get kind of lively en route - Syria, Jordan, Iraq, etc., lie in the way.

All of which is conjecture if Bush wins re-election. We'll take the mullahs out on the ground first.

osrry about spoiling your weblog but do not cry they always somtimes you lose smetime you win .you just brking beacuse you know you are loosing.

Actually, my point is that Israel is not doomed if Iran acquires nukes - because they do not know to absolute certainty that the mullahs will use their weapon(s) immediately. It's more like "doomed if we do, maybe not doomed if we don't".

But Israel would move to a state in which an all-out nuclear attack is not only thinkable, but possible. And that might happen because of something as minor as a software glitch.

That's risk enough, I should think.

As for targeting, many of Iran's nuclear development sites are beyond IAF range unless they plan on 1-way missions. Plus, they would not be able to count on a blind eye from American AWACS in the current environment, and interception en route by American planes might even be a possibility given the fallout from a successful attack. That means their Jericho III+ missiles, nuclear-tipped, would have to be the core of the strike force.

The IAF would not lack for things to do, however. If Israel does exercise the nuclear option, the fact that this probably means the end of Israel regardless means the targets would NOT be limited to Iran alone.

So in answer to your question, the "proper" scale for an Israeli nuclear strike is: all of them. Pleasant dreams, and have you considered solar panels for your house?

I wish I had your confidence that the mullahs will be taken out before scenarios like this start becoming serious possibilities. Too much time, and too many variables in the way for that. But one can certainly hope.

Are you both convinced the Iranian military would follow-through on such a plan?

The Iranian military wouldn't be used SAO. The Revolutionary Guards would, or most likely of all, Hizb'allah.

Wouldn't it be much more advantageous for Iran to bring the weapons through the West Bank, rather than launch them? That way the weapons used could be construed as originating anywhere from Pakistan to Iran to N. Korea.

Besides "bunker-busters," isn't this situation in-itself a good arguement for the development of a strategic missile defense system sooner, rather than a greater (and questionable) system later?

I believe Israel's policy should remain preemption, be it from air attack or commando raid. Its real defense, however, is the United States and to a lessor extent Western Europe - if Radical Islam is by definition faith-based, militant, and hardline theocratic/absolutists, then the question must be asked why are they seemingly refraining from violenting attacking or combatting/slaughtering ALL of the citizens and peacekeeping forces within Iraq from non-American states, instead of only kidnapping, since these are from international states antithetical to Islam andor Radical Islam? Why kidnap, or kill with minimum or PC discretion, when in the end the paramount strategic objective of Radical Islam is a de facto GLOBAL THEOCRATIC, ISLAMIC, AUTHORITARIAN/TOTALITARIAN DESPOTIC STATE, read non-American states will be inevitably struck! If I were a dedicated revolutionary who proclaims non-compromise with an enemy, the only general order I would give my men is to shoot and kill the enemy on sight, by any means necesary - slowly but surely the evidencia that Radical Islam are just proxies for other state(s)and elements with an anti-American agenda is growing!

Methinks Mr. Katzman is attributing too great a rationality to the Mullahs. Tyrants and the tyrannical are not known for their hold on reason.

Besides which, the Mullahs have problems of their own. They face a low level insurrection, a revitalized Iraq to one side and a reconstituted Afghanistan on the other, plus additional neighbors to the north who are receiving American aid in one form or another.

And here's something that has to be worrying the Mullahcracy... What if America and the Iraqi insurgents are negotiating the latter's switch in allegiance, because the insurgents now see Iran as a bigger threat to Iraqi soveignity than the U.S.?

Israel takes out Syria. We take out Iran. With Iraqi help. And among the Iraqi troops are former rebels fighting to gain amnesty and to keep Iraq free.

A preemptive strike with U.S. air makes more sense. It's cleaner and would take out only nuclear production and military airfields. Several intense bombings over a period of a few weeks. Avoid population centers.

Bush needs a good excuse, something stupid by Iran. The flip side would be the hope that the Islamic state would then implode, spurred on by internal dissidents.

The latter doesn't have to happen right away, but such actions certainly wouldn't hurt their prospects. Conventional bombs are now rather large. And they've had a fair amount of practice with them in Afghanistan.

U.S. cruisers do not deliberately shoot down commercial airlines. Too many witnesses aside from being a bad idea. Their crew is human. They make mistakes.

Israel's nuclear sub fleet will only be used in retaliation. Any number of scenarios, all bad, would occur if they made a preemptive strike on an arab nation. And that's why Iran, no more than Saddam, would never consider a preemptive attack against Israel. I'm skeptical Iran could match the Israeli nuclear arsenal and delivery capabilities anytime in the near term.

I don't buy the idea that groups based in Iran are using the classic strategic plans General Patton would have liked. They're using guerilla tactics, hit and run (they run if they're lucky and not forced to hole up).

There were jungles for guerillas to hide in in Nam. They could live off the local villages plus their own supply lines. No American president is going to sit around very long hearing Iraq compared to Vietnam.

Something especially stupid by Iran could also occur prior to November. They haven't been that successful in Iraq thus far. Terrorists and guerillas are always a wild card. But sometimes they have bad luck as well as good.

Just thoughts.

Your analysis of what John Kerry will or won't do as president aside, I find your analysis flawed: you believe that we should invade Iran. Perhaps to overthrow the mullahs, perhaps to deny terror bases to current Iranian attempts to destabilize Iraq.

Ok. Now I ask you: With what army, precisely, are you going to accomplish this?

The only way we could possibly have a large enough army to invade and hold Iran by January 1, 2006, is if Bush reinstates the draft, cranks it into overdrive, and cranks our military production into overdrive as well, starting the day after the election.

Even if Bush called up the entire Reserves and the entire National Guard (which he can't, seeing as someone has to remain for homeland defense duty), he would not have the force necessary to take Iran -- a country larger, more populous, hillier, and rougher than Iraq. We would need at least five divisions -- five divisions we currently do not have. And with an Army as highly trained and mechanized as ours, you can't call five divisions into existence rapidly.

While the chances of a friendly government coming into being are greater, so are the chances of sniping terror attacks identical to the ones we have today in the Sunni Triangle. Iran is no slam dunk -- if we try to pull an Iraq with Iran, we'll just have another Iraq.

And then we're in charge of three countries, not just two.

I can't see even Bush doing that. On the other hand, I can see Bush -- or Kerry -- authorizing bombing runs (or allowing the Israelis to make bombing runs) to destroy the Iranian bomb plants.

Joe,

Why do you assume that Israel will be "isolated" after nuking Iran?

Israel cannot be more isolated from the Muslim world than they are now and the one thing Arabs respect is the ability of a neighbor to commit mass death.

A large segment of the American public would get up and cheer - loudly - Israel nuking Iran. So Israel would not be isolated from the USA.

As for Europe, the one thing we can count on is their cravenness in the face of ruthless power. Something Israel will have demonstrated and for which Europe will have no defense.

I think at root you are more concerned with the new Jewish identity that a post nuclear Israel would create than the long term survival of Israel.

Joe,

The Israeli Defense Forces are equipped with a locally modified version of the F-15E Strike Eagle. A Strike Eagle with conformal fuel tanks can cross the Atlantic without tanker support.

The issue with the Strike Eagles is that they will need at least two refuelings to effectively strike the full depth of Iranian territory. Given the limits of the Israeli tanker fleet, that limits them to one or at best two strike packages of 15-30 planes per day.

Any Israel ballistic launchers in this scenario would be used to strike Iranian aircraft or missile bases and for the EMP based defense suppression of Iranian C3I.

No, Israel has the means. The Iranian Mullahs are trying their damnedest to provide Sharon the will. The only thing that will prevent this is the American conquest of Iran, which is coming.

Catfish --

Your observations regarding troop shortages are correct, but assume that we'd have similar objectives in Iran as we do in Iraq.

However, given the seriousness of the situation, I wonder if we won't have to limit our objective to taking out Irans nuclear capability. That is something we could accomplish with our available forces.

Trent's analysis was interesting to read, and the same goes for the many comments that have followed, however I feel like this report and thread really miss some of the more important points of analysis in exchange for a discussion about a "nuclear rally"..

Trent, I think for the exception of your talk of nukes and also this concept of "conquering Iran" your points are quite good, but only 50% of the whole story. As I have said in a number of recent articles, the situation in Iraq, or Iran, or anywhere else in the Middle East for that matter simply does not occur within a vaccuum, thus there is a long list of external factors that play a role of equal importance in any theories or prophecy we choose to promote here.

I won't speak for anyone else but me - though I feel you have outlined the WORST CASE SCENARIO, which is not only the scenario with the most disastrous result, but it is the scenario that is most illogical, primative and simply makes no sense. First and foremost, until the end of time or at least for the duration of this decade, Israel will have it's hands full with their Palestinian issue - and major policy/action with regards to the Mullahs will not arise in Israel nor be inacted by the state of Israel - this is the job of the United States. Second of all - the Israeli people as well as the Iranian people would not tolerate a nuclear exchange. Of course I could go on and on about the love many Iranians have for Jews and the love Jews have for Iranians (which is by all means TRUE - check out ancient history, Cyrus the Great - freed the Jews) however any nuclear exchange would conclude, as Joe stated out earlier, the destruction of both Israel and Iran. The Israeli people do not want this - nor would the Israeli officials/politicians want this. Similarily, one important thing you don't mention is that there is something about the Mullahs that you don't state. Forget about all the anti-Israeli hatred that the Mullahs spit all day long - this is merely a show to rally stupid fanatic arabs, the truth is that more important to the Mullahs than the destruction of Israel is staying alive. The mullahs are not real muslims, instead they have used islam over the past 25 years to secure their dictatorship and spread fanaticism around the world - and there number one priority is living. None of the Mullahs trading partners would like the scenario, in which Iran was completely destroyed by nuclear weapons, not because they give a shit about the Iranian people which they clearly don't, but because it would definitely cut into their oil profits..

We protect oil more than life, liberty and happiness ---

This leads to the point about external factors, which I feel if you add to your piece will make it about 95% complete. What about England? What about the rest of Europe? What about China? What About Russia? These countries all have a stake in the long-term hold they wish the Mullahs to have on beautiful Iran. Therefore - when you discuss US/Israel vs. Mullahs it is very misleading. It's more like US vs. England/Russia/China/EU/etc... the best case scenario for the US is that HOPEFULLY prior to next years election - I predict during the July Anniversary (18tir) of regime massacre on students in dormitories all Iranian people will utilize their one last really good chance at overthrowing the regime. If and when this happens - a 'Free Iran' goverment will be allied with Israel and the United States - and I doubt will do much trade with all those countries who screwed over the Iranian people for 2+ decades by making love to the Mullahs and giving a shit for the population and land that was being exploited in the process.

Do any of you realize the significance of an Israel/US/Iran partnership. Undoubtedly Israel and Iran hold some of the GREATEST minds and potential in the Middle East - potential that has been plundered by barbaric Arab-like Mullahs. The remaining regimes in the region will either be overthrown - or in some cases where absolute revolution is less efficient due to it's side effects - thorough reform and restructuring of a country's political system.

Unfortunately the Bush Admin doesn't seem to have made up it's mind about what to do with Iran - and from the looks of it appears to be juggling a number of different approaches and for the meantime has adopted a wait and see policy. Wait and see in my view is completely unacceptable when you are trying to accomplish a specific objective, or several objectives rather, in Iraq, and because the Mullahs have no interest in losing power will do everything and anything to thrwart progress & success.

To believe that we will ever get the Europeans or any other nation who currently does BIG BUSINESS with the mullahs on our side is a joke. If Bush and the US Government truly believe in freedom throughout the world, most importantly the Middle East - and do want to be successful in Iraq, then they will have to take a stand in opposition to what the Europeans and others - and even the British want in Iran.

The best thing that we can all do right now is put pressure on our senators, congressman/women - and other government officials to finally act on behalf of freeom and justice - and defend the Iranian people and to cease delaying the inevitable by failing to see the obvious.

These two articles discuss the external factors involved in Iraq/Iran - as well as a bit of analysis:

Rethinking The Alliance(Are the British really our allies?)

Iran and the Future of Freedom

Remember, the Iranian people are one of freedom's greatest assets.

Take Care -
Dariush

CnC,

America has the ground divisions necessary to conquer Iran. It doesn't have enough to hold Iran -- and Iraq at current force levels -- for more than a year.

Currently we have 500,000 active duty Army troops, 150,000 Marines and 150,000 reservists serving. We are goiong to have to increase that troop level to 1,000,000 (+) for the next 10 years and it has to be all active duty.

babak,

Given America's 10 to 1 to 50 to 1 ratio of combat effectiveness re: Middle Eastern Armies it would take about 30,000 to 150,000 American boots to take Iran.

This is of course assuming that we have to take Iran. It may be sufficient to have a citizen controlled government. In that case 5,000 to 10,000 American boots that included a special forces contingent might be sufficient.

BTW babak just what is it we are losing? The seductiveness of self government? Whiskey, democracy, sexy? The military battle field is not the most important. Islam has to win or die. America and demorcracy need only stay on the field. We proved that with the Russians. Islam will fare no better than communism because of its brittleness in the face of contradictions.

A revolution by the people of Iran, overthrowing the mullahs and creating a democracy is certainly a best-case scenario, and one that I've been hoping to see since our invasion of Iraq. Trent's scenario is a worst-case that we have to consider, though, and I think it's one the Bush administration has considered, but given their fondness for secrecy hasn't talked about. Considering the uproar that would ensue from liberal circles - and isolationist circles - if the Bush administration suggested they should invade Iran, discussing such a thing prior to the election would be tantamount to suicide. Iran hasn't done anything obvious enough, or directly against the U.S. enough, for the general public to accept what will be painted as 'conquering the Middle East' rather than preventing probable nuclear war.

I think this explains a lot of the stumbling in Bush's response to reporters during his press conference, regarding questions as to why we're in Iraq. He's trying to explain how a democratic Iraq is going to start the ball rolling on a complete remaking of the middle east, without saying that it's going to involve overthrowing the mullahs in Iran as well. Saying it before his second term is secure would prevent our ever doing it, before it's too late, because the democrats would freak out, Bush would be out of office, and Kerry would be crawling on his hands and knees before the UN begging them to pretend the last four years never happened.

At least, I hope that's what the Bush administration is thinking.

Clearly, the best outcome for us would be an Iranian overthrow of the mullahocracy. So I agree with Mr. Ledeen and others who have suggested that the Bush Administration immediately announce a policy of regime-change in Iran.

Unfortunately, I don't share either Mr. Ledeen's or Dariush's optimism. The history of the 20th century is a history of regimes committing incredible atrocities to maintain power. There's no lack of examples. The mullahs have shown the willingness to use force on their own population. Do the dissidents have enough opposing force? Frankly, I doubt it.

I do disagree with Trent's assessment of the casualty level likely as a result of a nuclear attack on Iran. It will be much, much higher. The earthquake in Bam provided us with a benchmark of what we could expect from such an event. Low construction standards, poor infrastructure, and a lack of emergency response along with high concentration of the population in urban centers will contribute. When you add civil unrest who knows how high the casualty level could go?

I fear that babak above is probably typical of what much of the Muslim world feels about us. They simply have no idea of our capabilities.

Joe,

Your comments make it clear that you have major issues with the concept of pre-emption. The tipoff was your statement about Israel not knowing for sure that Iran would nuke Israel at the first opportunity. Pre-emption entails the absence of perfect knowledge. You insist on perfect knowledge.

If you have perfect knowledge, it is a spoiling attack, not pre-emption.

Furthermore your desperate need to avoid Trent's logic leads you to presume that Israel has strategic nuclear capabilities which it lacks. Wishing makes it so for you.

Trent,

Your logic leads to several interesting conclusions, one of which is that Israel will strike Iran shortly after the U.S. presidential election if Kerry wins, i.e., while Bush is still President. The two month period between administrations of different parties is our ultimate strategic "unit boundary".

Trent or Joe, would Israel's only option be a nuclear volley of either their own or American weapons to take out Iranian nuclear capability?

I read a year or so ago a very interesting analysis of Indian preparations for chaos in Pakistan in the event Musharraf falls and there is no central authority to take his place. This analysis suggested India has special forces troops trained for a mission to go into Pakistan and capture the nukes before they can be used. This would not be a full scale invasion but an insertion and extraction, taking advantage of whatever disorder was happening. When you think about what they have at stake, if this is even remotely feasible, the Indians would have to create such a capability.

Given what the Israelis have at stake, and given the bravery and creativity of the IDF, wouldn't they be able to do something similar? Even if it cost the lives of all the commandos involved, it would be preferable to a nuclear exchange which could destroy all of Israel. And wouldn't America give such a mission all the AWACS and other protection it needed en route? Even if the odds against success were huge, wouldn't they at least try this first?

Tom,

I have no issues with pre-emption as a doctrine. Anyone who reads my writings here will be very clear on that. Nor is my burden of proof absolute certainty... again, how can anyone read my Iraq posts and conclude that?

I do have issues with pre-emption if I believe it will almost certainly lead to destruction or inability to continue as a nation. In that case, yes the burden of certainty does rise higher. Especially when that nation is unique in the world, and carries a wider responsibility as the last-resort refuge of the Jewish people. You don't give that up idly, or in a fit of fear.

Israel's "Green Pine" radars would catch any incoming missiles (G-d willing, no false alarms please), and nuclear delivery via terrorism has its own risks, has a MUCH higher interception risk - and would not forestall a full Israeli nuclear response. One way or another, if the mullahs really are that crazy Israel will know. Full nuclear response will indeed follow, and it would follow with everything, and you could kiss most of the Middle East goodbye.

What part of "don't blow up the whole stadium until you're certain you've really lost the game" is difficult for you, Tom?

As for Isarael's strategic nuclear capabilities, the Jerichos are well known. A modified Jericho III even put a satellite in orbit - which means Israel has ICBMs if it wants them. (If I'm the Israelis, and I'm using my nuclear arsenal, Paris and Brussels are definitely on my target list.)

I AM a bit more dubious about exactly where Israeli air tankers could rendezvous with a nuclear strike force - especially after the first strike package drops nuclear weapons, and everyone in the region (possibly including the USA) starts looking for the refuelling aircraft after that with hostile intent.

I'm not avoiding Trent's logic, Tom - I'm disputing it, from his premises re: Israel's intent to his conception of how the strike would have to be carried out, to his limited choice of targets.

The danger is real, but I don't think his scenario holds up. Even so, it's useful as a worst case scenario that makes us think about the stakes here - because they really could be as high he (and you) think they are.

Dariush:
In relation to your assessment of British policy, I think you misunderstand the motivations.

As with Saudi Arabia etc. it's not love of the mullahs or the sheikhs; it's scepticism that they can be replaced readily, (and in Arabia that the replacements would not be Islamic radicals).

The strong 'pro-despot realist' tradition is primarily within the Foreign Office; the Labour Party itself is largely more receptive to the concepts of democratization and popular change.
See Blair's embrace of the Bush strategies in the Middle East; I have my suspicions that a Conservative P.M. might have been less enthusiastic.

However, even Labour ministers are likely to be more cautious and wary of grand designs than their American counterparts. That provides a natural opening for the Foreign Office 'realists' (in quotes as I believe that traditional 'realism' is now unrealistic in the Middle East).
Keeping them in check needs active connections with the PM, Foreign Secetary, etc. on this i.e. by Sec. Powell (unless he agrees with the 'realists' in the first place? if so, Bush needs to settle what policy is in Washington).

And it would be sensible to talk to the Conservative leadership (and senior conservative journalists too), to prevent the 'realists' trying an end run round the Ministers via Parliament and the Media.

The quotes from the Daily Telegraph look like just such a media move by the 'realists'. It looks like Greenstock was being a bit too chummy with the ayatollahs, so he's gone. If he was a problem, this might help. Possibly a conciliatory position let Sadr build his forces, but that was Bremer's policy as well as Greenstock's.

Conservatives have attacked Blair for ditching him. It plays up tensions between Blair and the media left, and Labour antis. And there are old 'establishment' links between the F.O. and Conservative 'Arabists', and some army officers.
Hence, I suspect, this story.
(That it's in the Telegraph is a clue as well).

Actually, there have been some confrontations with Sadr's forces by British units. They have not bee as serious, as Sadr's powerbases appear to be in Sadr City and the Najaf/Kufa/Nasariyah area rather than Basra. In general the Mahdi Army appears to have been ineffective militarily everywhere.

I seriously doubt that any London/Tehran deal is behind any of this.

One British inclination has been, if the policy is to do in the ayatollahs once you stabilise Iraq, its probably not be a good idea to tell them that.
Once Iraq is settled, turn round and say "You know I promised to let you be? I lied."

Sneakiness has its uses. And the FO, for all its faults, can be very good at sneaky.

Their error, I suspect, has been (is?) to underestimate the extent to which the mullahs view Iraq as both a dagger aimed at their heart AND an enormous opportunity.

Don't the new F-16J's that Israel just acquired also have the range to strike Iran?

Trent is correct that no conventional attack short of a full invasion would end Iran's nuclear ability.

But I don't see why the world wouldn't just turn its collective attention away and ignore a nuclear Iran. We've already done it with North Korea.

As for destroying Israel, that war is still being fought by all Arab nations (including Egypt). It's just a proxy war these days. That's working out much better than '67 and '73, so why change? Keep the proxy terrorist war going, but throw nukes into the mix.

So some 12 year girl sets off a nuke in Jerusalem (from the Palestinian side of course). Iran denies responsibility. The bed wetting left claims there's not enough proof (there's never enough proof). End of problem. One or two nukes go off in Israel and that nation is finished. Iran, as it has noted publicly, can handle the retaliation.

Israel does know this, but the Bush administration won't let them nuke Iran preemptively--we won't even let them kill Arafat. So they'll keep building defenses and hope for the best.

But will America fight a nuclear war to save Israel?

Trent has brought up some interesting ideas, as always, much of it concerning the use of nuclear weapons. But confining the discussion to the context of Israel-Iran is too limiting.

Thanks to the perfidy of the Chinese, the loquacity of Khan, the avarice of the Old Europeans and probably the financing of the Saudis, the nuclear genie is out of the bottle. They will be used, sooner or later. This is a real problem for us, as we are at least as likely a target as Israel. The first question we should be addressing is what the U. S. response should be to first use by any party, regardless of who it is.Then our response to the Israel-Iran situation should be made within the context of the generalized policy.

For example, we could consider publicly establishing a no first use policy for ourselves with a commitment to utterly destroy any nation state that is a first user regardless of its reason or target - including explicitly Israel. If the source is not clearly a nation-state, we should state that we will respond against the nation-state(s) we suspect of being most likely of having supported the NGO that triggered the weapon. No exceptions, No debate, No U. N. No further warning.

Having a Doomsday Machine policy is not the only option available and I'd be interested in hearing others, but whatever policy seems best is the framework within which our consideration of the Israel-Iran situation should be evaluated instead of letting the unique specifics of this single instance drive our policy.

It is interesting how the word nuclear changes perceptions. I just reread Trent's post and not "much" but only the last quarter, at most, concerns nukes. Nonetheless, they went to the top of my mind by the end of the comments. I apologize for the mischaracterization, but I suspect the reaction is not atypical.

Joe,

I think Tom has you spot on in this one.

The Israel of today, where Sharon is P.M. and he is regularly assasinating Palestinian political leaders to wide public acclaim, was unthinkable to the Israeli public and Jews world wide in the immediate post-Oslo era.

The Israel of a couple of years from now may be as completely unrecognizable compared to today because of events. Say something of the order of a persistent nerve gas attack by Iranian donated, Hezbollah fired, rockets on Tel Aviv happens. What will Israel be like then and what would it be willing to do in self-defense?

You consistently don't want to follow the "if this, then what next" logic chain that the evolving process of history demands.

History isn't just one damned thing after another. It is a process where events and people interact, closing out some options for the future while making others more likely.

In this case, to borrow a line from the movie ALIENS: "Welcome to the express elevator to hell, going down."

Deal with it.

Joe,

You've lost it. You are flaming bonkers on the subject. You said (my emphasis), "... (possibly including the USA) starts looking for the refuelling aircraft after that with hostile intent."

Stop imitating the other Joe, and we can talk.

Trent, I have wondered what Bush would do if he loses the election in '04. Do you think it is possible that he might use the opporunity to strike Iran's nuclear program in the space between the election and inauguration? Israel would be hard pressed to do it, so I wonder if the US might do it in that instance.

FH:

I've always thought the Somalia engagement was intended as a special present from Bush I to Clinton. But I don't see Bush II being so reckless--starting something serious that his successor wouldn't/couldn't finish.

Would love to know what Trent thinks.

Since the US has a score to settle with the mad mullahs, I would not rule out targetd strikes/special ops against leadershipa and nuclear facilities before Iran goes nuclear completelty. We still have plenty of troops haning around Europe and we are re-positioning our ground troops in Korea (2id and another Marine division) plus Iran has more leadership in country ready to step up and lead after the fall of the mullahs. Obviously one thing we need to do is get ourselves back to 18 fully staffed/functional ready to go Divisions. We need to do this asap. We have the NK problem plus with China and France trying to intimidate Taiwan, we need more of everythingand need to start cutting other spending to pay for it. But Jacksonian Americans do not forget the 1979-80 humiliation and would need little cause to even the score. An about to go nuclear Iran could be that tipping point. Bush sees this, I don't think Kerry does. Hence elect Bush.

ALthough it would probably take 5+ divisions to "conquer" Iran, who says that should be our goal? If we just kill enough of the mullahs, their system would collapse, while pro-democracy Iranian forces rise up.(crossed fingers)
And what about the deep penetrating nukes under development by the US? Could it be that they are closer to entering service than we think? Could Israel be developing the same product in parallel or in consert with the US?
Deep penetrating, low-yield nukes should take out the facilities without nearly as much fallout.

"concert"

my bad.

Phil:

1) A 30 day air war is a bad idea. That sort of thing is great for destroying stuff, but not, as you say, killing off a few Mullahs.

2) Everyone learned the Osirik lesson. The stuff we want to blow up is hidden, protected, buried and redundant. Just don't think we could realistically bomb their nuclear program away with conventional, smart or nuclear weapons.

3) The Iranian people like us. Not productive to make their lives harder through bombing and/or more sanctions.

4) We could certainly destroy the fighting power of the Revolutionary Guards with bombs, but the Mullahs keep power with secret police and brown shirt Basij (sp?). How are we going to bomb them?

That leaves us with a full on ground invasion or a CIA sponsored Afghanistan-like approach. Dunno if there is time for the latter, or if it could even work. Start with Iranian Kurds? We've got a long way to go.

Joe:

Israel cannot survive totally isolated from the rest of the world, and this would be its almost certain fate.

I'm really curious about this statement. Which countries that support Israel now will stop supporting Israel if Israel attacks Iran pre-emptively with or without nuclear weapons? I don't think it's politically possible for any U. S. administration to stop supporting Israel.

Further among those nations that openly disapprove of Israel but deal with them anyway which would stop dealing with them at all on principle? I certainly can't think of any.

To me that's what Iran has to fear most from Israel: minimum downside risk.

Dave,

Joe feels the US will cut off trade and aid to Israel here for the same reason he feels American forces in the Middle East might attack Israeli aircraft nuking Iran - he really, really, dislikes the subject. It threatens his most cherished paradigms.

The US would never allow Israel to attack Iran with nukes pre-emptively. We will not let the nuclear threshold fall, and will do everything in our power to keep it as high as possible. Israel knows this, and we know that Israel, if it feels its survival is threatened, just may strike anyways. Thus the US may feel compelled to launch a conventional attack on Iran, if only to ensure that the nuclear threshold remains high.

Since Iran has taken steps to see that an Israeli conventional air attack, such as that against Osirak, Iraq [URL clipped] can't work,

Trent, can you provide some corroborating evidence and argumentation to back up this statement? The URL provided only gave a history of Israel's 1981 attack on Osirak, which I would in fact point to as example of the correct approach, given that it set Iraq's nuclear weapons development back a decade. It only took a couple of hours and a few airplanes.

Making nukes is very technically difficult. Even if, say, the critical centrifuges are deep underground and Iran has successfully obscured the location of much of the necessary infrastructure, some structures like cooling towers and shipping facilities just cannot be hidden very well, and cruise missiles are very hard to shoot down. Even such "auxiliary", lower-tech facilities are essential to the manufacture of a nuclear weapon.

It should be more than possible for either Israel or the US to disrupt some part of the manufacturing chain with conventional forces, even if it is harder than Osirak. If we have to repeat the process once per year, it would be better IMHO to do that until some kind of reform or revolution happens in Iran (or indefinitely) than to risk sparking a nuclear exchange.

The resulting Islam/Israel war aside, the Iranian deaths from the initial nuclear strike would be astronomical. Dave is correct in that the poor infrastructure which led to the death of 40,000 from a moderate earthquake would fare even worse in a nuclear exchange.

Richard, if the U.S. were to follow your advice and announce that it will annihilate any nation that is a first user of nuclear weapons, regardless of reason or target, and including Israel, doesn't that set up an awfully big carrot for any nations that want to see Israel nuked? Suppose (for example) Iran (a) carries out a devastating attack in Israel and makes it look like a Syrian operation, and (b) one day later nukes Damascus or some other Syrian target, and leaves some sort of evidence that it was the "expected" Israeli response. Wouldn't that sort of danger mean that the policy you recommend would actually make things worse?

Joe makes a valid point. All too often US foreign policy is to fuck our friends and appease our enemies.

Tom,

Why is Joe wrong in thinking that the US would cut off trade and aid to Israel after a preemptive Israeli nuclear attack on Iran, and/or that American forces in the Middle East might attack Israeli aircraft nuking Iran?

Sure, I don't think Bush would, but I'm not at all sure that Kerry wouldn't -- in fact, I'm pretty certain he would cut off trade and aid to Israel after a preemptive Israeli nuclear attack on Iran.

FH:

The US would never allow Israel to attack Iran with nukes pre-emptively.

I've heard things like this said before and I don't believe it for one minute. I believe that the U. S. has almost no ability to prevent Israel from doing something she believes is in her interests or, conversely, to force her to do something she things is against her interests.

Our relationship with Israel is governed first and foremost by domestic political considerations. Second would be that Israel is a reasonably friendly face in a part of the world where those are few and far between.

Israel is no U. S. puppet. If they are, they're not a very good one.

How about we start with the voters in the USA who are going to vote for Kerry because they believe we attacked Iraq out of revenge for the saddam contract on G. Bush Sr. ?

Trying to reason or talk sense with these people proves fruitless. Another strategy is needed.

Fredrik Nyman:

Why is Joe wrong in thinking that the US would cut off trade and aid to Israel after a preemptive Israeli nuclear attack on Iran, and/or that American forces in the Middle East might attack Israeli aircraft nuking Iran?

Because it doesn't sound anything like the U. S. that I've lived in all of my life. We've had some pretty big provocations over the years and they haven't done much to upset the relationship.

If President Kerry were to cut off aid and trade with Israel, he'd have a mutiny on his hands. Plus sniping from the Republican side--Republican party support for Israel is a matter of record.

Since Jews tend to vote Democratic, Kerry would face problems from his own party as well.

"The US would never allow Israel to attack Iran with nukes pre-emptively."

Perhaps allow was the wrong word for me to use. What I meant to say would be that the US would do everything in its power to convince Israel to not attack Iran pre-emptively with nukes. That might, and possibly does, include that the US will attack Iran conventionally, in order to maintain a high thresh-hold for using nuclear weapons.

Dave:

Actually, the US has cut off Israel in the past...

Dave,

Fair point. But (staying with the estimate of several hundred thousands to several million dead from Trent's original post) we also haven't seen massive casualties of the kind a nuclear attack on Iran would cause.

Don't get me wrong here. I absolutely support Israel's right to make such a preemptive (or spoiling) strike if an Iranian nuclear strike on Israel is imminent.

But at the same time, let's look at the political realities here. Consider, for example, the hostility that the European and the American left have expressed towards the US preemptive war on Iraq. Surely that same hostility, multiplied many times over, would be expressed towards Israel, even if Israel was able to somehow prove that the mullahs had just ordered a nuclear strike on Israel.

Bush might stand strong and remain supportive of Israel in that situation, but I don't see Kerry doing that. Surely his core constituency (the left wing democrats) and most if not all his foreign policy advisors would be howling with outrage.

Frederick Nyman,

It's called American politics. If you don't understand that yet, nothing anyone says here could convince you of this. Considerable study of American politics, or living here for some time, is required.

"Tom,
Why is Joe wrong in thinking that the US would cut off trade and aid to Israel after a preemptive Israeli nuclear attack on Iran, and/or that American forces in the Middle East might attack Israeli aircraft nuking Iran?"

Fredrik Nyman:

But at the same time, let's look at the political realities here. Consider, for example, the hostility that the European and the American left have expressed towards the US preemptive war on Iraq.

It's pretty much what Israel gets from the Europeans every day. You can't antagonize an already hostile population.

but I don't see Kerry doing that. Surely his core constituency (the left wing democrats) and most if not all his foreign policy advisors would be howling with outrage.

Who? Name names. I think you'll find a lot of Kerry's supporters--excluding nutcases--and foreign policy advisors are very much pro-Israel and would be hard put to criticize them too harshly.

Further, I suspect that a lot of European leaders would be quietly satisfied at another opportunity to slam Israel for doing something they probably think needs doing.

FWIW I'm not particularly pro-Israel. Pre-9/11 I frequently said "Israel is not our friend; the Arabs are not our enemies." I still don't believe that Israel is our friend. I'll get back to you on the rest.

Tom,

Relax, I am not arguing you are wrong, nor that Joe is right. I just don't see why it's so obvious that we, regardless of who is president, wouldn't cut off trade or aid to Israel.

Later in the thread I elaborated a bit on my thoughts -- that there would be enormous pressure on the president from the left (and, presumably, many moderates) after a preemptive Israeli nuclear strike on Iran; surely the usual suspects would frame it as an "unprovoked attack"? And surely just about everyone would be up in arms about the nuclear first strike?

I do know Israel has considerable, well-deserved support in the US, but wouldn't a nuclear first strike weaken this support? Wouldn't there be endless second-guessing and monday quarterbacking about whether there was another way Israel could have defended itself?

Mr. Nyman,

Check out these URL's
http://denbeste.nu/external/Mead01.html

"The only reason Jacksonian opinion has ever accepted not to use nuclear weapons is the prospect of retaliation."

http://www.strategypage.com/strategypolitics/articles/20021028.asp
http://www.strategypage.com/strategypolitics/articles/20021120.asp
http://www.strategypage.com/strategypolitics/articles/20021128.asp

Iran's mullahs have defined themselves to the American people as America's enemy in a way that Saddam Hussein never, ever, did.

No American President could remain in office after doing what Joe wishes they would do. No American President would do what Joe wishes they would do. It just won't happen.

But we're going to take the mullahs out on the ground before Israel has to do anything. Our way will be much more thorough, and rewarding. We won't stop with Iran any more than we're stopping with Iraq.

Radical Islam and the Arabs' tribal culture will not survive. The real question is how many Arabs survive, period.

Guys,

Anyone who doesn't think that a 50 warhead nuclear strike wouldn't seriously change the political equation around the world, sorry, but you're nuts. Anyone who thinks the Jewish lobby in America is powerful enough to shrug that off, let me suggest that you've been reading too many European and Islamic papers.

And anyone who doesn't think there's a serious and very possibly fatal downside to be had by Israel needs to look closer. The truth is that despite boycott rhetoric, a lot of countries do trade and interact with Israel. There are circumstances that could stop this, however. Ya think a 50-nuke strike and its attendant deaths (30 million?) just might qualify?

Take a look some day at what total cessation of European trade would do to Israel - the effect would not be minor. Add a few more countries to that list. Oh, and all of a sudden, a lot of the "grey" deals like Israel's oil deals with Nigeria either become impossible or have to go "black" with all the attendant costs.

Oil. Y'know, the black stuff. Where do you think Israel's comes from? And why do you think it couldn't be made unavailable or much, much more costly? Don't militaries kind of need that, as well as economies?

Then never mind the foreign-made weapons, look at the foreign-made parts that Israel's locally-produced weapons need, in order to field weapons up to the standard of its enemies (currently, they're beyond but let's lower the bar). Now imagine those being cut off. Not discouraged, embargoed. From America as well as from Europe. And American military & economic aid to Israel ceases.

You can't run a modern economy on that basis. Or a modern military. That has serious implications. The constraints are real.

I think that's called winning the battle and losing the war. That's not a trigger you pull until there really are no options left.

Having said that, there are situations that might call out an Israeli nuclear response, short of battlefield defeat or reports of incoming missiles. Mega-terror attacks could potentially fit into that category, depending on circumstances. Israel's weapons definitely can be used, and anyone who believes them to be paralyzed by the constraints above is making a hellishly dangerous mistake. But the constraints do remain.

A first strike on Iran is not impossible - I just think Trent and Tom have the threshold set way too low given the real risks and constraints involved. Which is why an announcement by Iran that they have weapons, or even a test of same, or reliable intelligence reports that they will have such weapons by X date, IMO does not meet the standard for Israel pulling a nuclear tigger.

As you might imagine, however, this isn't a discussion that any member of Israel's government would ever have on record.

Trent & Tom think I'm wrong here, based on their analysis and assessments. I think they're wrong, based on my understanding of the Israelis (who are NOT crazy) and of statecraft.

If Iran tests a nuke, we'll know in a hurry who's right. Otherwise, we'll just have to agree to disagree.

A DIFFERENT ISRAEL

" The Israel of today, where Sharon is P.M. and he is regularly assasinating Palestinian political leaders to wide public acclaim, was unthinkable to the Israeli public and Jews world wide in the immediate post-Oslo era."

That pre-Oslo era... wasn't that the one in which every single member of the Munich Olympic Massacre was hunted down, all over the word, and executed? Odd, the calendar says it's the same time period, and I seem to recall feeling very satisfied with that one. It sure seemed thinkable enough. In fact, I'd argue that Sharon's campaign is more a continuation and slight escalation in tempo than a policy change from "unthinkable" to "thinkable".

The Israelis are patient and pragmatic. They tried a few things, decided it wasn't working, went back to the old ways and stepped it up a little. That's all.

STRIKE INTERFERENCE

"Bonkers," eh? Consider... what's the fallout from a 50-warhead strike in Iran that is heavily weighted to ground strikes? How much of that might endanger U.S. forces in the region? What complications does this create for America's grand strategic aims?

The answers to those questions could indeed lead a U.S. President to order the interdiciton of Israeli strike assets on a mission he believed to be nuclear. Because at the end of the day, if the damage is high enough the President has to do what's best for the USA. Friendship, alliances... these things only get you so far in the real world.

Example: The British Navy sank the French fleet and killed more than a few French sailors following France's WW2 capitulation. A lot of people died in that one. Why?

Because their aims had diverged. The French were too proud to hand over their navy, and the British thought it was necessary, and they believed the cost of leaving their allies alone would be too high.

So the guns fired, the fleet sank, and people died. Tant pis, mes amis, c'est la guerre.

Anyone who believes the USA would just stand by while groups of Israeli planes left day after day for nuclear missions in a region with all those U.S. troops is, I submit, more bonkers than someone who thinks that hostile interference by American planes is a real possibility.

Tom,

Thanks for the links! I'd actually read them before -- I check out Strategypage fairly frequently, and USS clueless daily.

But. (you knew this was coming, didn't you? :-)

I understand and generally agree with the "neocon" strategy for the middle east as expressed and explained by you, Den Beste, the Stratfor folks, and the good folks here at WoC.

Problem: the Democrats and their allies in the media have done everything they can to sabotage the prosecution of the war and undermining the President's standing. "Bush knew! Bush lied! The terror threat is exaggerated! And Bush isn't doing enough! Quagmire! Vietnam!"

Problem: the Bush administration has done an absymal job explaining the war strategy to the general public; the two best speeches Bush did -- the AEI one and the Churchill one -- are ones the general public never heard, and that the media makes sure nobody hears about. We're at war with an enemy the administration doesn't dare name, for crying out loud.

Given these two problems, I don't think the public really understands the war strategy; how Iraq fits in. It is a miracle that support for the war remains as strong as it is given the administration's failure to state its case coherently and repeatedly.

Worse: time and again, the administration has declined to finger Iran beyond calling it "unhelpful".

So I just don't see how the general public perceives Iran as a threat right now.

And between the Iraq WMD fiasco and the Democrats' "Bush said the threat was imminent!!!" nonsense, I don't think that will change, even if CNN was to broadcast live footage of the mad mullahs dancing around a nuke.

So. Pardon me for being a slow learner, but how do we get from here to a situation where there is widespread public support for an Israeli nuclear strike on Iran killing (say) one million Iranian civilians, and inside six months?

Also, your third Strategypage link (rightly) criticizes the Democrats for being unserious. Yet, you maintain that even with a President Kerry, the US would support Israel after a preemptive Israeli attack on Iran. I don't see how that adds up. If the Democrats are unserious, wouldn't they be arguing that the Iranian threat can be contained, just as they maintaned that the Iraqi threat could be contained? And wouldn't President Kerry be the first to run to the UN to condemn Israel after
a preemptive Israeli nuclear strike on Iran?

Joe:

First, I believe that I can give you three examples of the U. S. sticking with an ally too long for every example you can give me of the U. S. turning on an ally without direct provocation.

Second, I'm not arguing "no change". I'm arguing that the change would be likely to be sufficiently less than either you or I might want.

Third, as I said, name names. List the foreign policy advisors in both major U. S. political parties who you believe would counsel President Bush or President Kerry to withdraw support from Israel and why. Use history. It has nothing to do with a "Jewish lobby". It has everything to do with pro-Israel voters, pro-Israel fund raisers, and pro-Israel foreign policy advisors.

BTW if you suggest it's unpredictable then it's equally unpredictable pro or con.

Fourth, you might be right. Israel might become the equivalent of Cuba. Castro's Cuba is still dragging along 40 years later.

I don't want to sound petulant, but nobody here has addressed the issue of the nuclear thresh-hold. That is not something to dismiss out of hand. I believe that my points are valid, Israel might very well "blackmail" the US into attacking Iran in order to keep the thresh-hold high.

Secondly, an Israeli nuclear attack against Iran will almost certainly cause another Arab-Israeli War, one bigger than all the previous. In fact, it would more likely be an Islam-Israeli War. If you think that nominal US allies like S.A. or Kuwait can stay neutral, you need to check in to the doctor. The entire Muslim world is gonna be in arms, and a global jihad is almost certain. Pakistan might get seriously invovled, and station missiles in Saudi Arabia. Hizb'allah won't just sit by either. It is in the US interest to prevent such thing from occurring. Something that I believe Trent is addressing with this piece.

>That pre-Oslo era... wasn't that the one in
>which every single member of the Munich Olympic
>Massacre was hunted down, all over the word,
>and executed? Odd, the calendar says it's the
>same time period, and I seem to recall feeling
>very satisfied with that one. It sure seemed
>thinkable enough. In fact, I'd argue that
>Sharon's campaign is more a continuation and
>slight escalation in tempo than a policy change
>from "unthinkable" to "thinkable".
>
>The Israelis are patient and pragmatic. They
>tried a few things, decided it wasn't working,
>went back to the old ways and stepped it up a
>little. That's all.

Nope.

The Israelis of the 1990s and early 2000's were mind numbed wimps compared to the Israelis of the 1940's through 1970s.

The war in Lebanon changed the Israeli body politic into camps of post-nationalist Europeans and settler neo-rag heads.

The former camp of Israelis latched on to the post-Cold War delusion that they didn't live in the Middle East and didn't have Arabs as neighbors.

The latter camp wanted Palestinian land and Palestinian helots.

It is only the continuous pressure of the Intifhada that has forced some of the older social patterns of Israels founding back to the surface.

It is that pressure and the process of history that will make Israeli nuclear premption of Iran inevitable barring an American ground invasion of Iran.

>You can't run a modern economy on that basis.
>Or a modern military. That has serious
>implications. The constraints are real.

Joe, I have a four word refutation -- Apartheid era South Africa.

>"Bonkers," eh? Consider... what's the fallout
>from a 50-warhead strike in Iran that is
>heavily weighted to ground strikes? How much of
>that might endanger U.S. forces in the region?
>What complications does this create for
>America's grand strategic aims?
>
>The answers to those questions could indeed
>lead a U.S. President to order the interdiciton
>of Israeli strike assets on a mission he
>believed to be nuclear. Because at the end of
>the day, if the damage is high enough the
>President has to do what's best for the USA.
>Friendship, alliances... these things only get
>you so far in the real world.

and

>Anyone who believes the USA would just stand by
>while groups of Israeli planes left day after
>day for nuclear missions in a region with all
>those U.S. troops is, I submit, more bonkers
>than someone who thinks that hostile
>interference by American planes is a real
>possibility.

Envision this, an American President protecting the Mullah's of Iran from Israel.

After 9/11/2001.

Kerry might be stupid enough to do that.

Bush won't be.

The only thing America could do in this case is make Israeli nuclear strikes less effective.

It could not stop them.

You said for yourself that Israel has Jericho III ICBMS. Exactly what does America have in place in the Middle East that could intercept and stop those missiles from striking Iran? Our national missile defenses are in Alaska aimed at North Korea. Our ballistic missile defense Aegis cruisers are in the Sea of Japan for the same threat.

Our Patriot III Scud busters are in Kuwait protecting the port there from the threat of Iran.

If we have Kerry in the White House, Israel's Jericho III EMP defense supression strike on Iran would be constructed in such a way that American air bases and aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf region are under the EMP fan. It would take several days for the spare parts and maintenance to arrive to get American air defense assets up to speed and able to stop IDF strikes.

That is a big enough time window for Israel to do the job on Iran.

FH:

It is in the US interest to prevent such thing from occurring. Something that I believe Trent is addressing with this piece.

I couldn't agree more. The main reason that I've always been skeptical of the neocon plan is that I've always doubted that we had the time for it to work. The current approach being used in Iraq--which appears to me to be running out the clock--concerns me enormously.

And as I said above I'm skeptical about the ability of Iranian dissidents to bring down the mullahocracy without assistance.

The more time passes the greater the likelihood of Wretchard's Three Conjectures scenario coming to pass.

I won't comment on policy issues re: Iran, or on the advisability (or not) of striking their nuclear facilities.

I will note, however, that a few days ago Boeing successfully launched a GPS-guided missile at a truck during an aircraft test, landing within inches of the target.

The aircraft is unmanned and unlike current UAVs, does not require a human operator, although the actual launch of the missile was configured to require human approval.

The UAV in question flies at 35,000 feet and is stealthed.

Worth keeping these sorts of technologies in mind when you think about attack scenarios ....

I won't comment on policy issues re: Iran, or on the advisability (or not) of striking their nuclear facilities.

I will note, however, that a few days ago Boeing successfully launched a GPS-guided missile at a truck during an aircraft test, landing within inches of the target.

The aircraft is unmanned and unlike current UAVs, does not require a human operator, although the actual launch of the missile was configured to require human approval.

The UAV in question flies at 35,000 feet and is stealthed.

Worth keeping these sorts of technologies in mind when you think about attack scenarios ....

"I couldn't agree more. The main reason that I've always been skeptical of the neocon plan is that I've always doubted that we had the time for it to work. The current approach being used in Iraq--which appears to me to be running out the clock--concerns me enormously."

The neo-cons tend to be more idealistic/optimistic than cynical/realistic, and thus they naturally would think that enough time is available to save the Muslim world from itself. Whether that idealism and optimism is well placed shall be made evident soon enough.

Joe,

I never would have thought you'd be one of the nukaphobics who go "Eeek, a nuke!" and turn brains off.

We're not talking about nuking Canada. We're talking about Iran. The ones who've been our self-proclaimed worst enemy for the past 25 years.

If you give a random selection of Americans a list of any countries you care to name, short, long, or all of them, just as long as Iran is on the list, and ask them to name one country on it in response to any of the following questions, a honking majority of those who pick a country will pick Iran:

a) Which country is America's worst enemy?

b) Which country is the world's biggest supporter of terrorism against America?

c) Which country is most likely to use nuclear weapons against America given the chance?

d) Which of these countries is most likely to help terrorists nuke America?

e) Which of these countries is the one you would least like to see develop nuclear weapons?

f) Which country would you most like America to invade?

g) Which country is the most likely to be invaded by America in the next ten years?

h) Which country is Israel's worst enemy?

i) Which country is the world's biggest supporter of terrorism against Israel?

j) Which country is most likely to use nuclear weapons against Israel given the chance?

k) Which of these countries is most likely to help terrorists nuke Israel?

l) Which country is the most likely to be nuked by Israel in the next five years?

m) Which country would you most want to see Israel attack with nuclear weapons?

The American people are determinative here. We're not Europe and we're not Canada. We want Iran's mullahs to be gone. No American government can do what you want.

The American people will support Israel's action, and voluntarily boycott European countries which boycott Israel for this. They'll also force the federal government to act against such boycotts.

Only the EU won't act. It's not what it was. It has many new members who do not agree with the foreign policies of the EU's central authorities.

You also know so little of nuclear weapons that, like Iran's mullahs, you think of them as magic. Trent has never talked about a city-busting strike by Israel. You just up and assumed that because, "Eeek, a nuke!"

Just attacking Iran's hardened nuclear weapons facilities would entail about 10-12 low-yield groundbursts whose direct effects, principally from short-term fallout, would produce at least 50,000 - 100,000 casualties (hair falling out, substantially reduced infection to disease, etc.), of whom about 10,000 - 20,000 would die in the first six weeks. Keep in mind that the Japanese definition of an A-bomb victim is someone who was within @ 10-15 miles of the Hiroshima & Nagasaki nukes and later died.

That would only slow up Iran's program by about five years while antagonizing the Iranian people even after the mullahs are dangling from street lights. Trent feels, and I agree, that Israel might as well be "hanged for a sheep as a lamb", and will instead be more thorough with higher casualties. Increase direct casualties to at least 500,000 and perhaps more than a million (that's casualties, not fatalities). Double or triple that for societal disorganization.

Only this is conjecture as we'll conquer Iran first. Its nukes will threaten us too, and the mullahs are at war with us whether or not President Bush admits us. They are killing our troops in Iraq now and won't stop.

You know as much about Americans as you do about nuclear weapons.

Tom, cool down a bit. Joe is thinking politics, you are thinking militarily.

Interestingly enough, the military is considering what troops it can send to Iraq short notice.

The reason given is to shore up our people in Iraq, but I wonder if it might be an exscuse to get the assets in theater to enable us to move on Iran, starting with Special Ops and Airstrikes, and sending ground troops to occupy key nuclear sites.

Oops, that was the wrong link. That was something about re-instating the draft, I think that it is BS myself.

Here is the correct link.

Mr. Nyman,

The one thing we can count on with Kerry is that he doesn't mean what he says. We can also count on him to give in to whoever is pressuring him at the moment. The American people will always be closer to him than any foreigners, and so more of a threat to him. He'll do what we want on Iran - see my list of questions to Joe.

Only Kerry won't get the chance.

Trent,

You're as loony as Joe if you think there is any chance of Israel not coordinating with us before conducting a nuclear strike on anybody.

I agree that Israel will not hesitate to attack Iran in order to preemptively destroy potential nuclear armaments. Perhaps, in the long run, it would be better for Israel to destroy the theocracy there.

Tom,

Thanks for the clarification. I agree completely with you about the military/strategic value of an preemptive attack on Iran to take out its nuclear capability. I have no illusions that Iran won't use its nukes as soon as they have them, and I'd rather see Tehran than Tel Aviv or Baltimore get nuked, if it comes to that.

In my heart I do cling to the hope that it won't, but my brain tells me it will, and very soon; we're running out of time.

I remain unpersuaded by your political analysis though; I think that Gregg Easterbrook's alternative history is depressingly on the mark.

Nut hopefully you're right and I'm wrong -- just a few months ago I was convinced that the D's would nominate Dean.

Mr. Nyman,

Americans get lots of practice as bullies given craven politicians like Kerry. As an example, I suggest you look up President Clinton's campaigns for governor of Arkansas. He was deemed uppity the first time he ran for re-election, and was beaten for that reason. He learned from the experience, ran again and promised he would do whatever the voters wanted him to do, and wouldn't tell them what he thought was good for them.

Leaders like Reagan are rare.

The current Bush avoids public speaking because he knows how dangerous it is not to tell people what they want to hear. He just doesn't know what they want to hear. His conception of the office is as chairman of the board of a big business, as opposed to being a leader. That might be wise given his diction.

>You're as loony as Joe if you think there is any
>chance of Israel not coordinating with us before
>conducting a nuclear strike on anybody.

Tom,

I never thought any different than you on that particular score re: Israel coordinating with the USA to attack on Iran.

I was merely demonstrating to Joe Katzman that what he thinks the US is capable of doing isn't possible given a determined Israel with the means it has at it's disposal.

The USA would be more likely to nuke Iran WMD first, before Israel, than stop it.

Hells bells, I think it is more likely the USA will invade and occupy Canada -- after a mass casualty terrorist attack staged from there -- than America militarily opposing an Israeli attack on Iran.

I see military and political discussions here. Let me insert another point that most will condider "loony" I am sure.

The final Battle of Armageddon in Christian theology has Israel protected against all armies in the Middle East. It is NOT DESTROYED by Nuclear attack. I believe that it is as True as the other possibilities mentioned here.

Wow, I agree with Joe K. A first. All you guys who can even envision first-use of nuclear weapons by Israel need to get out more.

The civilized world will not stand for first-use of nuclear weapons.

If we try to justify or permit such use, World War III will ensue and the planet goes to the cockroaches. (What do you think would happen with the Russian and Chinese nuclear arsenals if they saw use of nukes was now in play?)

Incidentally, Trent, the economic and social isolation is why we don't have apartheid-era South Africa any more. You don't really think FW deKlerk received a divine visitation explaining the equality of Man, do you?

IIRC, something rather bad will happen to, or in, Jerusalem, according to the New Testament. The World is full of possibilities, and many of them are bad.

Andrew, I agree with you as well. The US has NO intention of letting the nuclear genie out of the bottle. Which is why we may attack Iran if Israel threatens to strike if we don't. Whatever we may suffer from invading Iran will be nothing compared to what we would suffer if the nuclear threshold was lowered like an Israeli first strike.

Trent, this is an interesting gedanken experiment, but as a piece of policy analysis - with the exception of dariush's comment (it's a worst-case scenario in a bad ending to a war game) I've gotta tell you it's worthless.

There is a bright line on the use of force, and it involves the splitting (or fusing) of Mr. Atom.

I'd be willing to bet that if Israel preemptively used nukes, the UN would invade - behind US troops. We'd have to, because otherwise we would be isolated from the world economy, just as Israel would be. We're not ready for that, or we'd be leaning harder on the Saudis.

(That's also why Jim Henley's post was dumb.)

A.L.

Ok, let's assume that Israeli intelligence picks up reports that the Iranians are on the knife-edge of acquiring a nuclear device, and fully intend to level Tel Aviv ASAP--in other words, an imminent, apocalyptic threat. Other than Tel Aviv getting nuked without warning, this is the worst-case scenario, yes?

I believe that the Israeli PM (Sharon, at the moment) would be on the phone with the White House in MINUTES. I think he would explain to the President that his finger was on the nuclear first-use button, and that the President has 12 hours (or some other short period of time) to come up with a better option.

I'm reasonably confident that Bush's people would come up with an emergency plan that would take Sharon's finger off the button. I do not know who Kerry's people would be, and some of the ideological options for, say, National Security Advisor frankly scare me under this scenario. The best possible outcome I can see, given the setup, is an out-of-the-blue American strike against Iran that damages the Iranian nuclear program enough to prepare and launch a full-scale invasion.

Now imagine the European diplomatic reaction to this strike. You think they bitch and moan NOW...just add to that the knowledge that the U.S. invaded another country due to pressure from the Israeli government--because that information would get out. The political fallout, both domestic and foreign, would probably be ridiculously bad, and this is the best-case scenario in response to imminent Iranian acquisition of nukes with the intent to use them.

I'm an optimist. I hope we have time to forestall things before they ever get to that point. I am feeling a cold wind down the back of my neck, though, so I'll join the neocons in saying, "Faster, please."

I'd be willing to bet that if Israel preemptively used nukes, the UN would invade - behind US troops.

Have to disagree completely there. The second casualty of an Israeli preemptive strike (behind the Arab world) would be the UN. All the transnationalism and international law would die before all the dust came down.

When the first world really moves the rest of the world get's out of the way. The only players with a voice would be the US, Western Europe (England, France, Germany, Italy), Russia, China, and Japan. Add a few second tier players, I'm thinking Australia and India, and that's essentially it.

Or let me put it this way, the nukes come out from under the covers and you think anyone is going to care what Brazil, Mexico, and Indonesia think? I think they're going to get as far out of the way as they can and stay there till the smoke clears.

Japan, Australia and I suspect India will probably follow the US lead, whatever that is. The Chinese are notoriously parochial, they'll be concerned with the distribution of the oil resources and not much else. You think they'll care about the ethics of the situation? And they have been selling missile tech to the Iranians among others, so non-proliferation obviously isn't a concern - they have plenty of population to absorb a few nuclear strikes if necessary and aren't squeamish about casualties.

The Russians will be more of a wild card. On the one hand I doubt they'd be comfortable with bringing nukes into active play. On the other hand they still have a lot of nukes to play with, and it would mean they would be sitting on the only other really major non-glow-in-the-dark oil in the world (not counting the Alaska oil field). Strategically the destruction of the mideast is good for them, it would give them a free hand with their own extremists and financial wealth for their new oil monopoly. Plus, a number of the old republics may be driven back for protection.

Western Europe is likely to scream their heads off, but what can they actually do? Economic isolation is all they can do to Israel, really. The Israeli military is strong enough to prevent any unilateral European military excursions without US help.

And the idea of the Europeans economically pressuring the US into cracking down on Israel is ludicrous. They need us economically FAR more than we need them. More US trade goes west than east, and they have far more brittle economies (all that regulation remember) than we do. Plus, worst case scenarios remember, the US can survive on domestic oil production if we really go gang-busters in Alaska, Europe cannot, and lacks the military power to seize oil by force, making them dependent on US military power to secure the oil to make their economies run.

As for the US, I can see us going either way. On one hand you'll have a large chunk of the baby-boomers who hear the word Nuke, and promptly soil themselves. Combine them with the Hamiltonians and you have a coalition that will see the need to condemn Israel to attempt to force the nuclear genie back into the bottle, realistic or not.

On the other hand, you'll have the Jacksonians who will just be happy to finally get this whole messy war finally over with.

Could go either way I think. If the US decides to come down on Israel, I suspect we would invade them, not simply embargo them, but why would that be a bad thing for the Israelis? A US invasion may mean the end of an Israeli state, but the Jews would survive, guaranteed by the US in fact.

Unless anti-semitism in the US gets a whole lot worse than I believe it ever could a US invasion of Israel would I think be no real threat to the Israelis, beyond loss of government (and even that's probably only temporary, say 40-60 years tops)

If I were Israel, giving up sovereignty for a few generations is a small price to pay for preventing Tel Aviv from becoming a crater. This is why democracy is so powerful remember, they're nearly impossible to destroy as long as the people and ideals survive.

A.L.,

The problem with your analysis is that the bright line you speak of is in your and Joe's head and not that of the Iranian Mullah's. Nor can it be in the heads of Israelis looking down the missile tubes at the Mullah's latest toys. America will stop Iran via invasion before then, but they are not the only problem.

The odds are better than 50% we will see a "nuke of Pakistani origin" used in the next five years. Only force of American arms could prevent it and we don't have the strength to be everywhere that matters at once.

The bottom line is that "Mr. Atom" is coming out to play because he is now available to effing barbarians and the confidence men that sell them their whiskey and guns.

You and Joe just don't want to go there. Thankfully, other responsible people on our side will.

Andrew J.,

Don't mistake the collapse of elite will with economics. The White leaders of South Africa went 30 years under embargo and could have gone another 30. They lost faith in their system and themselves and surrendered.

They were not defeated by the embargo.

There were far to many people like the French willing to treat economic sanctions as a sales opportunity for South Africa's economy to be seriously hurt by them.

Sam Barnes' scenario is very plausible... and, if things continue the way they're going, very likely.

I will reiterate, once again, that a software glitch of the sort NORAD has had several times over the years would result in a very different phone call given the minutes-long flight time of Iran's IRBMs to Israel. More like "please tell your troops to take cover, it's been nice knowing you, and good luck with solar power."

A.L.... the U.N. would not invade anything. They can't muster the troops, period. They've shown that beyond any shadow of a doubt... and nobody is going to be especially eager to hit the shores against the Israelis, let me tell you. Though it might be fun to have the French try.

As for the USA... Interdicting strike aircraft (or more likely, their refuelling sources) on nuclear missions deemed too dangerous to U.S. forces or interests in the region? I can envision that as possible. Standing aside while the U.N. places very comprehensive sanctions on Israel, with enforcement backed up by both the EU and the Arab boycott, newly effective in an enforcer role? I can see that. Americans in an invasion force against a nominal ally with nukes? Not a chance, no matter what.

Trent,

The problem with your analysis is that the bright line you speak of is in your and Joe's head and not that of the Iranian Mullah's.

I think this phrasing is unfortunate. The bright line doesn't just exist in AL's and Joe's heads, but in just about all of western civilization. We generally respect and value life, and do not want to cause death and destruction on a massive scale. Just how many times have we refrained from using nukes even though it would have been militarily and strategically expedient? You are absolutely right though that the mullahs do not have the same restraint; once they get a working nuke, they will use it.

That said, there is a breaking point where that line will be crossed, and we will use (or accept Israel's use) of a preemptive/spoiling nuclear strike and the US and Israeli public will support it.

The disagreement seems to be how far from that point we are now. You and Tom Holsinger seem to argue we are at that point now because of military realities, while Joe and AL (and I) argue that we aren't close to it because of political realities.

The fact that military and political realities have diverged is a huge problem; I was alluding to it earlier in this thread when I slammed the administrations' failure to state its strategy coherently and the D's for playing games.

Where does all of this leave us?

Sam Barnes:

Who do you consider the most likely candidates for SecDef, SecState and NSA in a Kerry administration? Brookings/Kennedy School of Government types and Dept of State Europhiles?

Also, what kind of "emergency plan" do you see the US undertake that would get Sharon to remove his finger from the button?

You realize, don't you, that the bright line works both ways? If somehow the Iranians developed the bomb and immediately used it on Tel Aviv (why they would do this is very unclear), that would be the end of Iran. We would probably nuke them back, and ours are bigger, better, and not in short supply. (It might also be the end of the world.)

This idea that the mullahs come from some other species that's OK with that has a very strong element of projection. In your own words, your OK with pretty much the same first-strike behavior in Israel that you abhor in the mullahs. You just think your excuse is better. Like, it matters if we all go to Jewish, Christian, or Muslim Heaven when the nukes rain down?

[Trent on SA: what you call loss of will in the elite is what I call the results of sanctions. It was the damage to the economy and harm to the upper-middle-class lifestyle (and even such symbolic acts as the sports boycott) that dismayed the white elite and caused them to lose faith in apartheid. Nobody said that to be effective the embargo had to last until they were eating rats from the sewers. (All your talk about will is pretty interesting psychologically, too.)]

Andrew J. Lazarus:

The mullahs (Rafsanjani) have already expressly declared their intent to use nuclear weapons on Israel as soon as they can.

"If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in its possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world", Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani told the crowd at the traditional Friday prayers in Tehran.

Nobody is claiming the muslims are a different species, but clearly the Iranian mullahs' values are different from ours.

Andrew,

Trent's idea that the mullahs are OK with this comes from statements by senior Iranian government officials. Iran's fragmented system and divided internal authority makes these threats both less dangerous, and more so.

However, it is NOT projection... and if Iran's mullahs make further moves that would lead the Israelis to conclude that they're preparing to carry out these threats (a state of being that goes beyond merely testing a bomb, IMO), then Sam's scenario is very likely and Trent's becomes thinkable if the Americans don't have an acceptable solution.

That last bit, is why the American President will be very, very responsive when the call comes in - no matter who is President at the time.

The one thing that gives us any breathing room in these nightmare scenarios, BTW, is that very thing liberals have done all in their power to stop over the last decade: a missile defense system (Israel's Arrow THAAD system). In an era of rogue states, missile proliferation, and a growing nuclear club, you might ponder the value of ABM defenses as one of the few safeguards that can buy precious minutes in ultra-crisis situations around the world.

Andrew J. Lazarus:

The civilized world will not stand for first-use of nuclear weapons.

That's a really remarkable statement that I sincerely wish were true. What you're saying is that on principle Canada, for example, would cut off all trade with the U. S. were the U. S. to engage in such a first strike even with the certain knowledge that their economy would collapse as a result? And the same for the U. K., France, Germany, etc.? Presumably you have evidence based on statements of intent, past actions, etc. to support this.

On the contrary, I strongly suspect if Iran were to attack Israel with nuclear weapons that France, Germany, and Russia would publicly deplore the action but that's about where it would end.

Dave - big difference between responding to an attack and attacking to preempt.

In case A, all bets are off, and it is ollie ollie oxen free. In case B, diplomacy is going to matter a whole lot. canada may not want to damage it's economy, but the government will also want oto stay in power, and if the israelis are portrayed as having nuked first, the anti-US feelings around the world will get acted on.

As will anti-Israeli feelings. Hence my belief that we'd lead the invasion in order to 'protect' Israel from the other folks who'd like to Invade.

Israel and SA had nukes, and chose not to use them, in times when it would have been useful to do so. The US chose not to use them in Korea or Vietnam. That happened for a reason.

A.L.

I apologize for skipping to the bottom after reading through about half of these comments, but wanted to get this question in, before reading the rest.

Re: "They have made overt threats to nuke Israel as soon as they have nuclear weapons, and said they believe Iran would survive any exchange of nukes with Israel."

Is there a cite for this? MEMRI?

I left a link four posts up.

A.L., the USA would not need to 'protect' Israel from anyone else's invasion following a large nuclear strike on Iran. Even without nuclear weapons, I doubt that the Europeans together could successfully pull of such an effort - hell, they can't even muster 20,000 spare troops for the Congo, or anywhere else. Or put 12 helicopters in Afghanistan. And even if they devoted large segments of their militaries for this purpose, I don't give them good odds when the Israelis resist.

Now think, damn it - in the "50-nuke strike" scenario, Israel still has plenty left. Nobody's going to go within 100 miles of that place with intent to start large-scale hostilities, including the USA. Go up against a nation that (in this imaginary scenario) would have PROVEN its willingness to go nuclear? Are you kidding me?

Sorry, but your corollary is significantly less credible than Trent's, let alone Sam's. The scenario of hostility would be real, but it would play out in other ways.

Dave, you're correct in puncturing that puffery about "the civilized world will not stand..." Complete B.S. of course - for instance, Canada would never cut off the USA economically, for any reason, period. But others have been crippled by sanctions. What's the distinction?

It's partly pragmatic. Larger states like China, or those with key resources like Saudi Arabia (recall, even South Africa was and is a key source for many strategic minerals), or those who a critical to a particular partner (USA/Canada) can circumvent sanctions. They can even use their clout to prevent them from being imposed, or to get them lifted if imposed.

Israel does not and would not have these advantages. The only reason her situation is not more dire now is that enforcement is spotty, the boycotts themselves are seen as questionable in many quarters, and many have not signed on to boycotts at all. If those conditions change, so does her status and her predicament.

Joe, I'll disagree, but don't have time to expand right now...I owe you one.

A.L.

I would like to point out that my scenario above was what I considered, realistically, to be the worst-case scenario. I cannot imagine a world where Sharon, or any other Israeli leader, would go to nuclear first-use without calling the U.S. President first and trying to solve the Iranian problem that way.

Fredrik,

My fear is that either Kerry's SecDef or NSA (or both) would tend towards the State Department Europhile wing of ideology. I believe that a typical representative of this faction would view the above phonecall with absolute horror and dither on between Israeli first-use of nukes and a no-warning assault on Iran until the choice was made for them. I'm not so worried about the Powell/Rumsfeld/Rice group; I think they are all pretty clear that a no-warning invasion of Iran would entail a horrendous political/diplomatic cleanup afterwards, but letting the nuclear genie out of the bottle would be immeasurably worse.

As far as a seat-of-the-pants assault on Iran goes, well, I have no special expertise here. I assume that the Pentagon has several plans laid out already in their Doomsday file cabinet (updated more frequently than the "armed invasion of Canada" plans that I'm sure also exist). Off the top of my head, I'd expect Air Force bombing runs against every site Israeli intelligence gives us, insertion of Special Forces to wreak havoc and blow stuff up, EMP bursts against every bit of electronics in the country, and more generally, as much chaos as could be thrown at the problem. Simultaneously, every bit of ground hardware we could muster would be airlifted to Iraq or Afghanistan, staged on the border, and then thrown at any available targets. We'd be praying to God that the first Iranian nuke wasn't quite out of production yet.

Again, this is a doomsday scenario, not what I hope and expect to happen. Assuming GWB is still our President, I do not think Israeli first-use is realistic, under any circumstances (except a massive chem/bio attack). If it's Kerry instead, it's more of a toss-up.

I don't accept Mr. Telenko's assumption that Israel would launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Iran. The risks are too great. I also don't accept the assumption that Iran (in the form of Rafsanjani) has actually said they would attack Israel with nuclear weapons. As I read the press-article, Rafsanjani said that if nuclear weapons were used, Israel would be destroyed while the Muslim states would be only damaged. This is a threat but its not an outright statement of "when we get nukes, we will be happy to see Tehran burn so long as Tel Aviv is radioactive."

More at my site: www.teleologic.com
Rakhiir

Armed Liberal said: I'd be willing to bet that if Israel preemptively used nukes, the UN would invade - behind US troops.”

“Eeek! A nuke! Must – Turn – Brain – OFF”

That’s what liberals are for. Merely mentioning the term makes them incapable of rational thought and causes them to utter flaming nonsense. “You and what army, Jacques?”

“Dr. Pavlov, your hot dogs are ready.” Ding! Ding!

“Eeek! A nuke! Must – Turn – Brain – OFF”

Hey, if nukes are magic justifying fantasies, I have much more entertaining, and far more plausible, fantasies. Let’s start with France.

Hundreds of thousands of Frogs will phone Tel Aviv after Israel nukes Iran, and offer to rule France in Israel’s interest if the Jews will put them in charge.

European governments, France’s in particular, will take one look at the EMP results from Iran and discover the virtues of sucking up to Israel. “If the Jews can do it to the Persians, they can EMP us too.” While their economies go Bong Bong Bong! from loss of Iranian oil production and the temporary decrease in other Persian Gulf oil production due to many computer-controlled pumps having their chips fried.

American failure to act as the sovereign will bring Hobbesian anarchy to the world. Read Lee Harris’ Civilization and Its Enemies. Regional conflicts will cause global damage. http://www.techcentralstation.com/1051/defensewrapper.jsp?PID=1051-350&CID=1051-031103A

"And if subjected to enough stress, the liberal system will be set aside and the Hobbesian world will return - and with its return, the Islamic world will be crushed.
… the U.S. must be willing to discard the Clausewitzian goal of making another nation state merely fulfill its political will. It must in fact be prepared to dismantle and reconstruct the other state, if, like Iraq, its behavior poses a threat to the general international system.
This limited negation of the principle of national self-determination, however, does not mean an abandonment of the liberal world order. On the contrary, it is the only way of saving this order from its own internal contradictions. And let there be no doubt about it. If we permit every honorific state to pursue the acquisition of WMD under the cover of national self-determination, this will spell the end of the liberal world order as we now know it, and will mark a steep descent into a Hobbesian world of nightmarish proportions.
This is the problem: We must preserve what is still viable in the old concept of classical sovereignty, and yet we must not allow the unrestricted principle of national self-determination to permit the destruction of the liberal world order. How do we achieve this goal?
There is only one solution, and that is for the United States to consciously adopt a policy of what might be tentatively called neo-sovereignty.
At the heart of the dialectically emergent concept of neo-sovereignty is precisely the double standard that Mr. Butler denounced - a double standard imposed by the U.S. on the rest of the world, whereby the U.S. can unilaterally decide to act, if need be, to override and even to cancel the existence of any state regime that proposes to develop WMD, especially in those cases where the state regime in question has demonstrated its dangerous lack of a sense of the realistic.
What the critics of this policy fail to see is the simple and obvious fact that if any social order is to achieve stability there must be, at the heart of it, a double standard governing the use of violence and force. There must be one agent who is permitted to use force against other agents who are not permitted to use force. The implementation of the fashionable myth that all violence is equally immoral and reprehensible would inevitably result, in a typical dialectical reversal, in the Hobbesian state of universal war.
Every civilized order, precisely in so far as it is a civilized order, relies on such a double standard. The only alternative to this is the frank and candid acceptance of anarchy, the state in which all recourse to violence is equally legitimate. But what Mr. Butler and others fail to realize is that anarchy with clubs and sticks is a much preferable to anarchy with nuclear weapons.
But if this double standard is necessary to avoid inevitable historical catastrophe, it is equally necessary that this standard be imposed by an agent who has the will and the force to do so. Only the United States that can fill this role. It has the force to do so, and it alone has the ability to act alone. A double standard, by its very nature, cannot be imposed by a multi-lateral body; else it quickly ceases to be a double standard.
But this is one of those areas where the habitual reliance on our old concepts can be dangerous. To invoke antiquated concepts like Empire to describe this new stage in world-history is sheer anachronism. For this overlooks a number of critical distinctions.
"...if any social order is to achieve stability there must be, at the heart of it, a double standard governing the use of violence and force. There must be one agent who is permitted to use force against other agents who are not permitted to use force."
An empire acts to insure its own self-interest. But, in this case, the U.S. is rather acting as an agent for the interests of others at precisely the same time it is acting to insure its own national interests. Indeed, this is what Hegel meant by the cunning of reason. No matter how cynically one might choose to view American motives, what matters, at the world-historical level, is the objective consequence. Interpret America's true motives as cynically as you please - let it be the defense of the interest of big business in the stability of world markets - it makes no difference. What counts in the long run is the kind of world that arises out of this subjective intent. And this is where the enormous difference between the obsolete concept of empire and that of the emergent neo-sovereignty becomes strikingly clear. For in its role as neo-sovereign the United States, in pursuing its selfish policy, is also forced to increase the general level of security throughout the world.
First, by closing the nuclear club to any new members, it acts to secure the monopoly of those states that are already members in good-standing of this club. Hence the U.S. is defending its interests as much as its own.
Second, by closing the nuclear club, it takes away one of the main incentives to enter into this club, namely, the fear that your neighbor will get there before you do. Would India and Pakistan have been worse off if such a double standard had been applied to them? And this fear would become endemic in a world in which every state, no manner how marginal, was developing weapons.
And, third, the principle of neo-sovereignty is strictly limited to a monopoly of violence above a certain threshold, namely, the threshold created by weapons of mass destruction. It will only be viable if the U.S. scrupulously refuses to intervene in the self-determination of any state except for the purposes of maintaining the double standards in respect of nuclear weapons. Indeed, neo-sovereignty is entirely compatible with less, rather than more, U.S. involvement in matters like the internal disputes of the Balkans.
These enormous transformations of the world system must be recognized, both by their defenders and their critics, as genuinely world-historical in the full sense of this term. But the critics, if they are to be responsible, must do more than merely apply outmoded labels to the newly emergent possibilities - they must suggest others that realistically grapple with the impasse the world is facing, and with the consequences of failing to act at this time, when it is still possible to prevent the kind of nightmare scenarios that we have explored. They, too, have the intellectual duty to think the unthinkable.”

Wow, Tom, and I thought I was all cool for reading Herman Kahn back when I did.

No, it's that there has been a tacit political understanding among the Great Powers that we don;t use nukes; might I suggest that you reread some histories of the Vietnamese War and the decision not to use them when suggested...

There are several nuclear powers - Russia, China, France, Great Britain (not to mention Pakistan and possibly North Korea) that would see Israel's act as grounds to threaten Israel with retailiation absent some kind of surrender.

Israel lives on foreign oil, American cash, and and Jordanian water.

All of the above would be chancy in the event that they did this without a clear, publicly demonstrable parallel threat. If they can't convince at least Russia, China, and the US, they don't get to go.

"ewww, nukes..." ...pardon me while I go stand on a chair. If we're mocking each other, may I ask you to look in the mirror and see how the Jack D. Ripper uniform is fitting these days?

A.L.

Tom,

If I was totally wrong, and Israel did go to nuclear first-use, I'm not so sure I'd oppose putting U.S. troops in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and every other Israeli population center. I think it's the only way Israel would survive as a nation from the resulting political fallout. Of course, any theoretical U.N. troops that wanted to come along would have to be shot on sight.

Also, switch to decaf, ok? A.L.'s not one of the bad guys, and most people find persuasion more, well, persuasive than insults.

I liked the Harris article, although I'm not perfectly sure about limiting U.S. intervention abroad to WMD issues. Top of the list, certainly, but I think there are other factors that could justify a foreign invasion.

"There are several nuclear powers - Russia, China, France, Great Britain (not to mention Pakistan and possibly North Korea) that would see Israel's act as grounds to threaten Israel with retailiation absent some kind of surrender."

Must – Turn – Brain – OFF

A.L.:

In case A, all bets are off, and it is ollie ollie oxen free. In case B, diplomacy is going to matter a whole lot. canada may not want to damage it's economy, but the government will also want oto stay in power, and if the israelis are portrayed as having nuked first, the anti-US feelings around the world will get acted on. As will anti-Israeli feelings. Hence my belief that we'd lead the invasion in order to 'protect' Israel from the other folks who'd like to Invade.

I was thinking of "protecting Israel" in a somewhat different sense. To a certain extent anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism have similar roots, in the beliefs about the role of "financiers." It would not be in the US interest to allow anti-Israel polemics to mount, regardless of the probability of an invasion of Israel (which is remote). So, in essence, our protection of Israel from the necessity of launching a pre-emptive strike against Iran is self-interest. Our fate is tied to theirs, because we are tied together in the minds of most Muslims.

We could probably throw them to the 'gators in a pinch, though. Which is more important in the War on Totalitarianism 3.x, the existence of Israel or the promotion of democratic open societies in the Islamic world? It's a tough call. I'm not entirely certain that Israel will always get the nod when push comes to shove, especially if democracy in the Arab and Persian world starts to take. The self-interest calculations could actually get pretty murky. Were that the only consideration it might actually be in Israel's interest to remain the only viable democracy in the Middle East, but of course it's not the only consideration. The broader the franchise for democracy the safer Israel is, even if everything else isn't equal.

So, "on the cusp" it isn't really that difficult to conceive a scenario where a short term break with Israel ultimately serves the long term interests of the US, the Arab world, and Israel. The counter-wave has begun...

The key, it seems to me, is whether the Arab world sees this as empowering to them, or not.

Tom --

Taking your analysis of the Iranian situation as a given, what are your thoughts about why the administration has chosen to downplay the problem and, more puzzling, Iran's sabotage of the coalition's efforts in Iraq? About the harshest thing said in public has been to call Iran "unhelpful".

AL is right. The US would never let Israel launch a nuclear first strike if we could help it. We would bomb Iran first, rather than lower the thresh-hold. We can't afford to let the genie out of the bottle. Israel knows this, and if it feel sufficiently threatened, may tell the US point blank that the Iran problem needs to be dealt with.

Mr. Nyman,

"Taking your analysis of the Iranian situation as a given, what are your thoughts about why the administration has chosen to downplay the problem and, more puzzling, Iran's sabotage of the coalition's efforts in Iraq? About the harshest thing said in public has been to call Iran "unhelpful".

Karl Rove, boy genius. The guy responsible for the single most bone-headed decision of the 2000 Presidential campaign - "let's spend money in California instead of Florida".

"One British inclination has been, if the policy is to do in the ayatollahs once you stabilise Iraq, its probably not be a good idea to tell them that.
Once Iraq is settled, turn round and say "You know I promised to let you be? I lied."
Sneakiness has its uses. And the FO, for all its faults, can be very good at sneaky.
Posted by: John Farren on April 20, 2004 04:47 PM"

I agree with Mr. Farren that this is a reason, but doubt that it is wise. This is America and it is a presidential election year. From my Giants of Flight 93 - http://www.strategypage.com/strategypolitics/articles/20021017.asp

"Public willingness to initiate and continue conflicts are in most countries the only arenas within which their peoples can affect their governments' conduct of hostilities, but not in America. The American people's proprietary attitude towards their country and in particular, its national government, leads them to additionally demand and get a say in the objectives, scale, scope and ferocity of hostilities."

Tom Holsinger:

I'm inclined to agree on the US politics side of things. I certainly don't have enough understanding to argue anyway; I'm an interested observer, not an expert :)

In any case, as I implied, the Foreign Office policy of either subtlety or 'realistic' accomodation with despotism has probably about come to the end of it's usefulness.

I suspect it's still influential out of a combination of institutional habit, unwillingness of UK politicians to go public (due to the likely media/political storm), and a desperate hope that something will turn up.
Part of the last perhaps being a hope that the Libyan pattern can be repeated with Iran: UK as soft cop, US as tough cop (and in this case Israel as really nasty cop).

I think this in vain for the reasons Trent Telenko and Joe Katzman have pointed out in their articles: the perception by the dominant mullahs of the threat/opportunity presented by both Iraq and their nuclear ambitions.
Though for now both the UK and USA appear unready to make the real issues public.

Another thought. If:
1. Iran is on the verge of nuclear capability;
2. It is known (openly or just in government) that Israel will thereupon launch a nuclear preventive strike;
3. And if that will produce a 6 to 12 month cut-off of Gulf oil;
4. Which means economic collapse of Europe;

Then if these conditions apply, there will be enormous pressure by European states on the US to prevent this, by whatever means necessary.
I would predict a high probability that even the governments of France and Germany return to their senses, and conclude that US conventional premption is preferable.

"Nuclear-Armed Iran Would Be 'Intolerable' - Bush

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A nuclear-armed Iran would pose an intolerable threat to peace in the Middle East and a mortal danger to Israel, President Bush said on Wednesday, adding that any such threat would be "dealt with" by the United States and its allies.

In strongly worded remarks before an audience of newspaper editors and publishers, the Republican president pressed the secretive leadership of the Islamic republic to heed U.S. and European demands not to pursue a nuclear weapons program.

"It would be intolerable to peace and stability in the Middle East if they get a nuclear weapon, particularly since their stated objective is the destruction of Israel," Bush said in answer to a question about international cooperation against militant attacks.

"The development of a nuclear weapon in Iran is intolerable. And a program is intolerable. Otherwise they will be dealt with, starting through the United Nations."

The United States accuses Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons program, but Tehran says its nuclear ambitions are confined to generating electricity. Washington hard-liners have been pressing for U.N. sanctions against the Islamic state."

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&ncid=578&e=6&u=/nm/20040421/pl_nm/iran_usa_bush_dc

John Farren,

I'm inclined to think that given your starting conditions, your outcome is overly optimistic. If both 1) and 2) are true, it might take a while to convince wilfully blind Europe that a snap invasion of Iran is in their best interests. If "on the verge" in 1) represents, say, 1 month plus or minus 3 weeks, then the invasion needed to occur yesterday. If the Europhiles in the U.S. State Department have a problem with dithering, how much more so would that be true of the French diplomatic corps?

The entire crux of the "Iran is on the verge of becoming a nuclear power" scenario is that time has run out, and the least bad option must be found and implemented NOW. Any significant time spent in consultations could spell disaster. It's not that bad yet, but that's where we're headed unless Iran experiences a regime change in the near future, with the U.S. as midwife if necessary.

"It would be intolerable to peace and stability in the Middle East if they get a nuclear weapon, particularly since their stated objective is the destruction of Israel," Bush said in answer to a question about international cooperation against militant attacks.

"The development of a nuclear weapon in Iran is intolerable. And a program is intolerable. Otherwise they will be dealt with, starting through the United Nations."

Someone in the White House seems to be thinking in the same vein I am.

Please note that like Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq, what the USA starts in the UN doesn't end there.

So A.L., are you going to get out the protest signs when Bush lines up to destroy Iran's Mullahocracy?

Trent -

sha-what?

I do think we'd better get our ducks in a better row first in Iraq, but I've got no love for the mullahs. Personally, I'd be sending fit young men with interesting weapons and large bags of cash over the border - I mean what's good for the goose...

A.L.

Sam Barnes:
With 'verge' I didn't mean a timeline of 1 month. Sorry, sloppy writing. I'd agree that that would mean discussion time was all played out.

I was basing my assumption on Trent Telenko's estimate of Iranian weapons Spring 2006, therefore strike deadline-plus-margin of Jan 2006. And assuming the awful reality of impending action really begins to bite between now and, say, mid 2005.

"If ... the U.S. State Department have a problem with dithering, how much more so would that be true of the French diplomatic corps?"

Actually, I have a feeling they might suprise you; they (and the British counterparts) are professionals to their fingertips, and cynical as hell. They don't do conscience stricken nice guy very convincingly at the best of times. And Chirac's straight out of the same mould. (Villepin might have been a differnt matter; his replacement I don't know enough about, but in any case, when the President of France says jump, the minister jumps.)
France didn't develop a sizable nuclear arsenal out of a conviction of the inevitable fraternity of mankind.
They're Europeans, not Europhiles.

If it's a question of, in effect, national survival, then prior declarations of high-flown principle are going to be discarded so fast it would make your head spin.
If anybody has the pacifistic dithers it'll be the Germans; even so, I'd give odds reality would reassert itself in government circles if both Paris and London were saying "Do it! Do it NOW!"

Here are excerpts of the story about a portion of Iran's nuclear weapons program from the link in Trent's original post:

http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/04/08/iran.nuclear.agency.ap/

"VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- Iran will start building a nuclear reactor in June that can produce weapons-grade plutonium, diplomats said Wednesday. Although Tehran insists the heavy water facility is for research, the decision heightens concern about its nuclear ambitions.

One diplomat said the planned 40-megawatt reactor could produce enough plutonium for a nuclear weapon each year, an amount experts commonly say is 8.8 pounds.

The diplomats told The Associated Press that Iran informed the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency last year of its plans to build a reactor, and Iranian officials have previously suggested the reactor was already being built.

But the diplomats said construction had not yet begun and that Iranian officials announced the June start date for the first time during talks Tuesday in Tehran with Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency.

With Iran open about its desire to build the facility, the diplomats said the Iranian decision to go ahead with the plan was not an overt example of Tehran backtracking on pledges to dispel suspicions it is pursuing nuclear weapons.

Still, it "sends a bad signal at a time all eyes are on Iran," one of the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

International scrutiny of Iran's nuclear program has been growing since the IAEA discovered last year that Tehran had not disclosed large-scale efforts to enrich uranium, which can be used in nuclear warheads.

... Iran argues that it needs the reactor to produce radioisotopes for medical research. But spent fuel rods from the planned reactor can be reprocessed to produce plutonium -- also used for nuclear warheads -- although the facility would be subject to IAEA inspections and other controls intended to make sure no plutonium is created.

Still, the United States and other countries may seize on Iran's plans as further evidence that the Islamic Republic is not serious about quelling suspicions about its intentions.

"We feel strongly that there is no need for indigenous heavy water in Iran," said a Western diplomat, also speaking on condition of anonymity. "It's not necessary and highly suspicious."

The reactor site is at Arak, next to an existing heavy water production plant. It is to replace a reactor using non-weapons grade enriched uranium that the Iranians mothballed, saying it was outmoded and lacked fuel.

... Critics say Iran reneged on commitments to win international trust as IAEA inspectors discovered evidence of past experiments that could be used to develop weapons.

Adding to the skepticism was Iran's announcement last month that it inaugurated a uranium conversion facility in Isfahan, 155 miles south of Tehran, to process uranium ore into gas -- a crucial step before uranium enrichment.

Iran insists the move does not contradict its pledge to suspend enrichment. But Britain, France and Germany -- which have stymied past U.S. attempts to castigate Iran -- said the plant sent the wrong signal ..."

John Farren,

Ah, ok, I understand now. I was operating from the "Sharon gets panic-inducing information; calls Bush" premise in terms of immediacy. If you are talking about early 2006, plus or minus a few months, then sure, I think we can plan out a workable strategy in some depth.

The problem I still see is convincing the Europeans to admit in public that the urgency is there. Despite the fact that British/French/German/etc. intelligence were more or less in agreement on the status of Saddam's WMDs, the political fallout post-invasion has focussed solely on the U.S. It would be so easy for the E.U. position to be, "You drastically overstated the case before, why should we believe you now?" The blatant hypocracy of this position doesn't really matter.

I'm not really denying that the Old Europeans are cold-blooded realists at heart. They may well be. The problem is that their track record pertaining to their own best interests is appalling, and looks exactly like a guy with his eyes shut and both hands over his ears shouting LALALALALA. (Welfare state headed for collapse; 15,000 French dead last summer; non-assimilation of immigrants; etc.--a common thread here is failure to recognize predictable outcomes of a trend.)

"Personally, I'd be sending fit young men with interesting weapons and large bags of cash over the border - I mean what's good for the goose..."

Who says we aren't already doing that?

Yes, but Iran's efforts are working. We are no longer in a position to carry out an offensive within Iranian borders effectively without a draft. And if we wait until November, it may take a full mobilization of the Reserves and National Guard to just pacify Iraq.

We will have bet all our kittens on that theatre, leaving our flank with North Korea dangerously exposed. If we can't resolve that situation by 2006 we'd be cooked if China decided to contest for Taiwan.

We'd be looking at WWIII. No not the cold war silly. I mean full scale troop mobilization, drafts of guys who didn't get to go home for the duration instead of a "rotation" schedule - a conflict bigger than Vietnam or the original Korean war.

And yes, it is the neo-cons and Bush Administration's fault for letting us get bogged down in Iraq.

A.L.

Earlier in the thread you were talking about a French lead UN invasion army of Israel attacking a few weeks after Israel nuked Iran into the 10th century with a small fraction of its nuclear stockpile.

I was trying to determine if the sane intelligent Dr. Jeckle "Armed" part of your personality was in the building. Or if the weirded out "Eck a Nuke! - Liberal" Mr. Hyde part of your personality was in control.

A.L.

Earlier in the thread you were talking about a French lead UN invasion army of Israel attacking a few weeks after Israel nuked Iran into the 10th century with a small fraction of its nuclear stockpile.

I was trying to determine if the sane intelligent Dr. Jeckle "Armed" part of your personality was in the building. Or if the weirded out "Eck a Nuke! - Liberal" Mr. Hyde part of your personality was in control.

Oldman, South Korea can take care of itself. Sure, they will be hurt badly, but the North Korean army is a shadow of what it was even ten years ago. As for China, that isn't exactly going to be a ground troop war. Its going to be a naval and air battle.

"Yes, but Iran's efforts are working. We are no longer in a position to carry out an offensive within Iranian borders effectively without a draft."

A draft isn't going to get us trained soldiers any faster than recruiting them will.

Just raise the enlistment caps, run some more ads, and process and train the new recruits. This needs to happen yesterday.

I am familiar with Oldman from Drezner's blog, which is down at the moment. Oldman is numerically challenged.

Wow, you guys are so 'Club of Rome'! (that's a good thing) I've read all the discussion and the references, and the argument is so excellent here, that if I am reading Trent, I believe Trent, and if I'm reading Joe, I believe Joe! Be assured, all these scenarios are being gamed in the black world. I sure hope some of my old customers read this blog, and avail themselves of some free, open-source talent!

FH: You are correct in your conjecture.

twisterella: Which conjecture? I have made several, I believe.

Iran will soon have nukes. Supposing you can stop it this time ... what about next time. Time marches on.

This Genie ain't going back in his bottle. We will have to learn lessons of personal power. Or this will be a sorry world.

A world governement has a chance here ... separate states do not. This because their very existance depends on conflict. When nukes are common, and they will be, conflict becomes a much less attractive option.

PenGun
Do What Now ???

FH: I agree that guys with goodie bags are infiltrating Iran. But I disagree that SK can take care of them selves. NK has two useable nukes, the old adversary gave them those long ago. I don't know the halflife on the triggers. And psych-analysis of Dear Leader has our guys totally believing that he would detonate on the battlefield, if it looked like he was losing.

twisterella, I always figured that the NorKs would use their nukes on Japan, and use bio/chem warfare on the South. I don't think that the South Koreans could "lose", as the NorK army is in shambles. Underfed and poorly equiped, I think that they would most likey start to fall apart after a week, if not less. The South would be in shambles, but I don't see the North winning. And our airpower would help destroy their cohesion even further. But again, as you pointed out, WMD would be the crux issue. However, I don't think that US ground troops would be as nessary as they used to be.

FH: The end game, as I saw it gamed, is one for SK, and one for Japan.

twisterella,

Seoul and Tokyo? By medium-range missile?

DP III's I bet. Makes sense to me...

Yup, you guys are very bright.

I don't understand why the black world is percieved as incompetant or ignorant. It probably has a lot to do with GWB's 'communication problem', that A.L. has drawn our attention to. But Bush is way more competant than Clinton. Consider-- when Kim Jong Il denied the death camps in 2003, Bush just put the eo on cnn. On the other hand, you can see on the discovery channel the declassified CIA eo of the "Search for Noah's Ark". One of Clinton's first acts upon assuming office was to task our national assets to search for a wooden boat that was sawdust and mold eons ago. What a tool!

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