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March 14, 2005

Comments

Will someone please remind me again why it's okay for Pakistan to have nuclear weapons, but not Iran?

Or, failing that, query to Sebastian: What do you think the U.S. should do if Iran clearly persists in its nuclear-weapons program? I'm curious whether you think invasion is on the table.

It doesn't really matter what the US wants, at this point, does it? We're too engaged in Iraq to do anything about Iran without the EU with us.

Well, Anderson, Pakistan hasn't attacked the U.S. several times in the last few decades. Iran (mainly via proxies) has.

Pakistan hasn't attacked the U.S. several times in the last few decades. Iran (mainly via proxies) has

i forget, who were the main backers of the Taliban ?

Lets see, Pakistan was allowed to go nuclear without too much fuss under Reagan because it counterbalanced India, a semi-client of the USSR at the time, and because Pakistan was engaged in the effort to dislodge the USSR from Afghanistan on behalf of the US. What a tangled web we weave.

I'm afraid preventing Iran or any nation that has the technical capability to go nuclear from actually going nuclear has always and will always be dependant on voluntary renunciation.

Invading and occupying the country next door does not help in that regard, not one bit.

Forget about Europe's diplomatic will for a moment. Where is ours? Just about everyone, the Europeans included, agrees that these talks won't work if we don't get involved, so what are we playing at? It seems like either we want them to fail so we can invade, or more likely, we don't think they'll work in any case and we want someone else to blame if Iran goes nuclear, just like the attempt to blame Clinton for North Korea going nuclear which Sebastian swallowed hook line & sinker.

And I'm glad they may finally be dealing with the Russian nuke problem, but they're still being idiots to overlook the dangers of the AQ Khan network. I don't want Iran to go nuclear at all, but the Pakistan-based black market is what makes me really afraid.

"Just about everyone, the Europeans included, agrees that these talks won't work if we don't get involved, so what are we playing at?"

I don't understand your question. The Europeans insisted that our opposition to Iran in the WTO was hampering the talks. We signal willingness to drop our opposition if the talks go well. Iran responds by signalling its intention for the talks to go poorly. What were we supposed to do. If we didn't suggest we were willing to drop our opposition to Iran in the WTO we would be accused of obstructing the negotiations.

How will "talks" go well in any event, when Iran has no good reason *not* to pursue a nuclear bomb? I imagine myself being the Grand Poohbah of Iran, and I can't think why I wouldn't have my eggheads working 24/7/365.25 on a nuclear bomb, to give the Americans something to think about should they consider pouring over the border, and to keep up with Pakistan, Israel, etc.

As Postit remarks, if we want country A to refrain from building the Bomb, occupying its neighbor is a dubious tactic---unless we're using the neighbor for a jumping-off point. Which Rumsfeld's criminal negligence in planning has made hard to imagine Iraq's being, now. (Hey---we should be *grateful* to Rumsfeld> My head hurts already!)

Or, failing that, query to Sebastian: What do you think the U.S. should do if Iran clearly persists in its nuclear-weapons program? I'm curious whether you think invasion is on the table.

I second the question.

As long as the Bush regime holds sway the Iranians have legitimate reason to go nuclear. The nuclear option is the last defense against an agressive foreign power out to dominate the world.

Get rid of Bush and then the Iranians may be persuaded. Otherwise they would be dumb to forgo the only thing the Bushies respect and fear.

I'm also at a loss as to why possible future membership in the WTO would be any kind of a carrot to an oil-producing nation. They'll do much better without it.

Speaking of Iran's motives ... Brian Leiter quotes the Times (London):

Israel has drawn up secret plans for a combined air and ground attack on targets in Iran if diplomacy fails to halt the Iranian nuclear programme.

The inner cabinet of Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, gave “initial authorisation” for an attack at a private meeting last month on his ranch in the Negev desert.

Israeli forces have used a mock-up of Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant in the desert to practise destroying it. Their tactics include raids by Israel’s elite Shaldag (Kingfisher) commando unit and airstrikes by F-15 jets from 69 Squadron, using bunker-busting bombs to penetrate underground facilities.

The plans have been discussed with American officials who are said to have indicated provisionally that they would not stand in Israel’s way if all international efforts to halt Iranian nuclear projects failed....

Silvan Shalom [!], the Israeli foreign minister, said he believed that diplomacy was the only way to deal with the issue. But he warned: “The idea that this tyranny of Iran will hold a nuclear bomb is a nightmare, not only for us but for the whole world.”

As opposed to "the tyranny of Pakistan," "the tyranny of Soviet Russia," etc.
Dick Cheney, the American vice-president, emphasised on Friday that Iran would face “stronger action” if it failed to respond. But yesterday Iran rejected the initiative, which provides for entry to the World Trade Organisation and a supply of spare parts for airliners if it co-operates.
Surely the Iranians may be forgiven for suspecting that, if they had the Bomb and a way to deliver it, the Israelis wouldn't be so cocky?

(N.b. that I'm playing realpolitik here, & not condemning the Israelis for pursuing what they conceive as their national interest---though I think they're gravely mistaken. Right now, all I'm asking is, How is it *not* in Iran's interest to have the Bomb?)

"(N.b. that I'm playing realpolitik here, & not condemning the Israelis for pursuing what they conceive as their national interest---though I think they're gravely mistaken. Right now, all I'm asking is, How is it *not* in Iran's interest to have the Bomb?)"

It is absolutely in Iran's interest to have the bomb. Europe is totally willing to trade with them while they pursue it. Russia is totally willing to trade with them and help them pursue it. They probably see no down side whatsoever if Europe is all talk and continued trade.

That is the problem with phony non-proliferation agreements. If most of the international community doesn't care enough to cut off trade--much less consider military action--they can't potentially work. It is an ugly cycle. The reason why military options come to the fore is because the international community doesn't take things seriously.

Iran has pretty much said that it could destroy Israel with nukes and survive the exchange if Israel used its nuclear weapons in a dying strike. That doesn't inspire me with much confidence.

Speaking of which, lets talk about the successful but much decried Mutually Assured Destruction concept. Everyone talks about how Iran would be 'crazy' to use nukes. What if they did against just Israel? Could we count on European support to level the whole country? Could we count on European support to invade Iran? Could we even count on European permission to invade Iran? Look at the Gulf War I precedent. We could get permission to kick Iraq out of Kuwait, but the invasion and massive destruction of Kuwait was not enough to authorize getting rid of Saddam's regime. Would the destruction of Israel, a country much detested in Europe and which could be portrayed as asking for it, without a subsequent occupation by Iran give rise to authorization for the destruction of the Iranian regime?

Are you sure?

I seem to remember reading somewhere that any Israeli plan to attack Iran as described is a logistic impossibility because the aircraft don't have the necessary range. So any such planning or more importantly the leaking of the existence of such planning to the press would seem to be aimed at serving some other purpose.

Re-fuelling in or over Iraq would seem to resolve the logistical problem but that would implicate the US in direct military co-operation with Israel. Gaining overflight permissions or simply giving the finger to Jordan or the Saudis would remain an obstacle.

Anderson,

Outsourcing the bombing runs to Israel would, I think, be too stupid even for this admin,( though I've underestimated them on that score before ).
The problems as I see it for the Israeli option are:

1. The flight path will take them over a few independent nations and Iraq. Presumably they won't be asking for permission from any of them.

2. Reaction in Iraq. Anyone prepared to say how the new sovereign govt will view an Israeli attack on Iran? Anyone think the shiites will stay nice?

3. Irans reaction. It is not wise to start a war with someone you are in missile range with. Irans reaction is unknowable of course but everyone knows that Israel also has a nuclear reactor, and I dont know if it is bomb proof. The nuclear programme is popular in Iran and an attack could also provoke a strong nationalistic response, strengthening the regime.

4. No plausible deniability for the U.S. who sold them the bunker busting bombs and also has a few admin officials on the record saying they would not object to an Israeli strike.

5. They might fail

6. Whose up for a regional war?

All speculation of course, but hey, its the internet.

Despite early reports to the contrary European negotiators have been reminded again that their carrot-only approach to diplomacy doesn't work so well.

Heh. Whereas the Bush administration's stick-only approach to diplomacy was early on proved to be a crashing disaster... as so many people in the right-wing blogodemisphere have already written, yes?

I'm reminded of a quote from a British SF series I'm rather fond of: "Avon's idea of diplomacy is breaking a man's leg and then saying 'Here, lean on me!'"

SH: “It is absolutely in Iran's interest to have the bomb. Europe is totally willing to trade with them while they pursue it.”

I agree. On this issue opinion in Europe divides into two schools: (1) realists who see no reason to subordinate Europe’s interests to America’s (unless there is a quid-pro-quo of course); and (2) idealists who would prefer to see any diplomatic clout Europe may have, used to encourage Iran to show adequate respect for international norms. At a minimum, the sort of thing that idealists want to end forever is the sending of Iranian hit-men to kill artists who offend the mullahs.

Iran’s attitude to America and Israel is a matter for America and Israel to deal with; they don’t greatly need European help, nor do they greatly respect European concerns.

The curious thing about Sebastian’s post is that he understands European thinking well enough (although he doesn’t like it); yet he judges the success of European diplomacy by strictly American criteria.

RE: the dying strike of Israel.

Do we really think that if there was such a dying strike that it would be directed at only Iran (or whoever the Israelis thought were the perpetrators)? Wouldn't a better assumption be that Mecca and Medina would be more likely targets?

I don't think Israel has enough nuclear bombs to choose a large assortment of targets, which is precisely the point of the Iranian idea that Iran could survive the counterstrike.

Speaking of which, lets talk about the successful but much decried Mutually Assured Destruction concept. Everyone talks about how Iran would be 'crazy' to use nukes. What if they did against just Israel? Could we count on European support to level the whole country?

I'm confused. Why does the U.S. need ANY country's support to level Iran? Do we have a nuke shortage?

So I assume you mean "political support." I can't seriously imagine that Paris, London, & Berlin would respond to the destruction of Tel Aviv with "gosh, let's negotiate a peaceful solution."

The only way to make that interesting is to suppose Iran provides a 3d party with the bomb that levels Tel Aviv. But this is old & familiar ground. Given the massive difficulty of producing their Bomb, the Iranians are going to give it to *whom*? How can they trust that it'll be used as they wish? and that it won't be traced back to Iran?

And isn't this a good argument for invading ... Pakistan?

P.S.---Nice comment, Sebastian, but we are still waiting to hear what exactly the U.S. can/should do to avert an Iranian Bomb. This is not a mean-spirited or rhetorical question. We have precious few options it seems, and if you know of one we've overlooked or underestimated, trot that baby out!

Well, sure, I get that. IMHO that makes it even more probable that, if its a revenge strike, they'd spend one on Mecca rather than Iranian city # 3 or 4.

"The curious thing about Sebastian’s post is that he understands European thinking well enough (although he doesn’t like it); yet he judges the success of European diplomacy by strictly American criteria."

No, I judge it by stated European criteria which many on this board take seriously. I'm not totally sure that the European governments are particularly worried about nuclear proliferation. Their actions certainly don't indicate that they are.

Hmm, that is perhaps stated slightly too strongly. I believe that on an abstract level they are against nuclear proliferation. But they don't care about it enough to allow strategies to stop nuclear proliferation to inconvenience even moderate-importance short-term interests.

So long as they claim to think anti-proliferation efforts are important, you have to continually point out that their actions run against their stated aims.

Furthermore, since many in Europe have made a very big deal about the alleged superiority of European (purely) diplomatic efforts, it helps the debate to point out that as purely military efforts have difficulty, so do purely non-military efforts--especially when Europe will not employ economic pressure. If you are left without any available tools to apply pressure, you find that some of your diplomatic 'partners' decide to play you for fools.

Last number I saw somewhere is that Israel was estimated to have 100-200 weapons. Iran is neither going to be able to take out all those devices with one or two bombs or survive a retaliatory strike in any meaningful way. Europe is not required for MAD to work.

Sebastian: I believe that on an abstract level they are against nuclear proliferation. But they don't care about it enough to allow strategies to stop nuclear proliferation to inconvenience even moderate-importance short-term interests.

You can say exactly the same thing about the Bush administration.

Well, you wouldn't, of course, but I mean, generally, that's also true of the Bush administration. And the Reagan administration. (Pakistan got to become a nuclear power with the support of the US because... yadda yadda yadda.)

So I assume you mean "political support." I can't seriously imagine that Paris, London, & Berlin would respond to the destruction of Tel Aviv with "gosh, let's negotiate a peaceful solution."

What peaceful solution needed? If Iran is allowed to go nuclear it will very quickly have the ability to make 100% of Israel uninhabitable. Destroy Israel and you are done. No invasion. No occupation. Simple desolation. No 'peaceful solution' to be negotiated. Israel pretty much done, and maybe 4-6 million or so people displaced some dead of course. Really only twice as many as Darfur. But nothing ongoing. Just a one time strike against the alleged enemies of the Muslim people.

Would it really be fair to the innocent people of Iran to punish them for their leader's misdeeds? Think of all the additional suffering! Iran isn't going to attack any of the rest of us. It was only Israel....

I am not at all confident that Paris and Berlin would support us.

"Last number I saw somewhere is that Israel was estimated to have 100-200 weapons. Iran is neither going to be able to take out all those devices with one or two bombs or survive a retaliatory strike in any meaningful way."

Last I heard it was maybe 50-100, and not enough long range missiles for all of them--they are relying partially on bombers. Furthermore the counter-strike window is incredibly thin because of Iran's proximity--much unlike the US-USSR situation. Also, because of Israel's small size, the number of appropriate locations to store the weapons is incredbily small. This is in direct distinction to Iran. Iran could plausibly try to take out the majority of Israel's arsenal in a first strike--Israel would have no hope of doing that once the weapons are in production. The timing window is most important. Unless Israel had a majority of their weapons online and mounted on missiles 24/7, they could not hope to respond to a strike once Iranian missiles were in the air. They couldn't wait for tensions to be high to ready the missiles, because tensions have been very high for decades.

What do I propose be done? Europe should propose total trade sanctions and see if that gets a response. We don't need to escalate to military options immediately. First we need countries to stop helping them build nuclear reactors. Second we need Europe to think about actions other than mere talk. Then if Iran still won't deal, the UN should order attacks on all the nuclear sites. Hopefully we wouldn't have to go that far.

Wow, 'levelling Iran,' 'nuking Mecca and Medina.' I had to double check the url in my browser to see if I had inadvertently wound up on Little Groin Goofballs.

Iran does not have a history of aggression against it's neighbors. Israel, on the other hand..

And if you're going to try some serious diplomacy, you've got to do a hell of a lot better than WTO membership and "spare parts." Parts is parts. That's chump change. How about some security guarantees from the US? Now we'd be talking.

Personally, I think its hopeless. It actually makes pretty good sense to me that Iran would like to create a nuclear industry to supply power to itself so that it can sell oil to others. Heck, I'd grow it large enough to offer power to others in the region so that they too could sell oil for hard currency.

So, if I'm Iran, I wouldn't ever give up my nuclear program.

SH: "So long as they claim to think anti-proliferation efforts are important, you have to continually point out that their actions run against their stated aims."

Echoing Jesurgislac: "they" could refer to US officials, rather than Europeans, without altering the validity of this statement very much.

The nub of the matter, expressed in sweeping terms for the sake of brevity, is that Europeans think anti-proliferation efforts are important (in general, not just w.r.t. America's enemies); so are global warming, human rights etc. etc.; whereas Americans just want to deprive unfriendly states of nuclear weapons. So it makes sense for Americans to call for drastic measures and for Europeans to reject them.

Ignoring all the other factors, I have to wonder if Iran would use any high number of nukes against Israel for political and religious reason. This is Holy Land for Muslims, and theoretically belonging to the Palestinans(In Iran's ideology), and making the place uninhabitable would be unpopular with any of Iran's friends.

Now, yeah, America is not Holy Land, and I presume a fear of anti-Israeli blackmail.

But the likeliest desire is for deterrence.

"What if they did against just Israel? Could we count on European support to level the whole country?"

It wouldn't come up, since in a worst-case scenario, the Israeli submarine-launched nuclear cruise missiles will have done a sufficient job.

"Do we really think that if there was such a dying strike that it would be directed at only Iran (or whoever the Israelis thought were the perpetrators)? Wouldn't a better assumption be that Mecca and Medina would be more likely targets?"

No, that's completely bizarre. Are they developing nuclear weapons there?

"I don't think Israel has enough nuclear bombs to choose a large assortment of targets, which is precisely the point of the Iranian idea that Iran could survive the counterstrike."

They have at least a couple of hundred, which would seem to be more than sufficient for any foreseeable contingency.

You know, he said in general, the relevant facts about Israel's military capabilities are on the public record all over the web.

You can check the range of the F-15 Ra'am here, for example (note procurement); see estimates of nuclear stockpile here, for example.

"Unless Israel had a majority of their weapons online and mounted on missiles 24/7, they could not hope to respond to a strike once Iranian missiles were in the air."

That makes perfect sense if we were in a different universe, where Israel didn't have three Dolphin submarines, Dolphin, Leviathan,, and Tekumah, with Popeye Turbo nuclear-tipped cruise missiles as a deterrent. Would you like pictures? Or perhaps we should stick to talking about this universe. One doesn't need hundreds of fusion weapons to be a deterrent; a handful will do to ruin one's entire day.

On another topic, since it seems to need addressing to many: "its" is the possessive; "it's" is a contraction for "it is." This is generally taught in fourth or fifth grade; possibly we could bring the general usage rate here all the way up to perhaps that of sixth graders, even?

"Destroy Israel and you are done. No invasion. No occupation. Simple desolation. No 'peaceful solution' to be negotiated. Israel pretty much done, and maybe 4-6 million or so people displaced some dead of course. Really only twice as many as Darfur. But nothing ongoing. Just a one time strike against the alleged enemies of the Muslim people."

It's difficult to do this without destroying Noble Sanctuary, and Jerusalem as a whole, as well as the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. This might be slightly difficult to explain to the rest of the Islamic world.

No, that's completely bizarre. Are they developing nuclear weapons there?

Not that I know of, but my assumption is that "dying strike" was meant for revenge, not for future deterrence.

What peaceful solution needed? If Iran is allowed to go nuclear it will very quickly have the ability to make 100% of Israel uninhabitable. Destroy Israel and you are done. No invasion. No occupation. Simple desolation. No 'peaceful solution' to be negotiated. Israel pretty much done, and maybe 4-6 million or so people displaced some dead of course. Really only twice as many as Darfur. But nothing ongoing. Just a one time strike against the alleged enemies of the Muslim people.

I think this has been adequately rebutted above. Jerusalem is Holy City # 3 or thereabouts to Islam, and the country is not large enough to admit of selective destruction. Iran might invite a jihad against itself (esp. since they're Shiite heretics in the minds of most Muslims). Sebastian's apparent ignorance of Islam 101, btw, is not especially reassuring.

Would it really be fair to the innocent people of Iran to punish them for their leader's misdeeds? Think of all the additional suffering! Iran isn't going to attack any of the rest of us. It was only Israel....

I am not at all confident that Paris and Berlin would support us.

We took out a great many innocent Germans without the French feeling too bothered. And Sebastian's failing to remember what a quantum leap the use of nuclear weapons for the 1st time since 1945 would be. 9/11 would dwarf in comparison, and the perpetrator would be an outcast nation, shortly prior to becoming an irradiated waste.

We DO now have Sebastian's last-ditch advice: strikes on all the Iranian nuclear sites.

(1) There's a substantial issue whether we can find & hit them all, or even enough to make it worthwhile. I'm a little surprised they're not all in downtown Teheran.

(2) But leaving that aside, what better way is there to draw attacks on the U.S., and to kill any hope of U.S.-Iranian reconciliation for a whole generation, than Sebastian's plan?

The problem is typically put as this: we can't let crazed anti-American/anti-Israeli Iran to get the Bomb. Well, they're going to get it. So we need to be working on that "crazed anti-" part, and we don't do that by bombing them.

"It's difficult to do this without destroying Noble Sanctuary, and Jerusalem as a whole, as well as the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. This might be slightly difficult to explain to the rest of the Islamic world."

And yet talk of nuking Israel and surviving the counterstrike goes on by high level officials anyway.

Well, high-level officials, be they Iranian, European or American, often talk tough. When Nixon ran as Eisenhower's running-mate, he gave a clear impression that a Soviet invasion of Hungary would result in a forceful American response.

Fast-forward to 1956 and what did they Eisenhower Administration do? Hand the problem over to the UN.

Sound familiar?

And yet Iran funds, trains and arms anti-Israeli terrorists, so they take action against Israel.

Just as Eisenhower didn't hesitate to take action against the Soviets on ground of his choosing. Some threats are credible and others are not.

The problem is that our idea of credible threats and the Iranian idea of credible threats may very well be different.

And really if the Iranian government isn't crazy enough that we should take steps against their gaining nuclear weapons, pretty much no one is. Cuba? Certainly ok. Saudi Arabia? Why not? South Korea? No problem? South Africa? Why did we pressure them? Brazil? Definitely. Argentina? Sure? Libya? Why in the world not? Egypt is an important country.

Basically it makes me wonder why we ever bothered with the NPT anyway. Apparently nukes around the world isn't that scary of a concept. Why was there ever so much whining about nuclear weapons?

Either that or we are going to get boiled alive by the slowing increasing temperature because we don't see any point in hopping out.

Crionna says, regarding Israel nuking Saudi Arabia in retaliation for an Iranian strike: "Not that I know of, but my assumption is that 'dying strike' was meant for revenge, not for future deterrence."

Regardless, doing either would call for striking those who struck you; why would they pick an entirely different set of people? Sheer religious bigotry? WTF?

Sebastian says: "And yet talk of nuking Israel and surviving the counterstrike goes on by high level officials anyway."

Tel Aviv is about thirty miles from Jerusalem; Here is a nuclear blast caluculator. I suggest doing the math. Assume a fission bomb in the neighborhood of Hiroshima-sized, which was about 12.5 kilotons. Be willing to go ten times bigger. Now, it's true that you wouldn't want to go larger than half a megaton, or use a deliberately "dirtier" bomb, if you're concerned about people in Jerusalem and fallout; but even a 120 kiloton nuke hitting Tel Aviv would preserve Jerusalem. Using a 250 kiloton bomb, or hitting a bit off-center, would more or less do so, as well.

This is, of course, not what you were discussing when you asserted that "If Iran is allowed to go nuclear it will very quickly have the ability to make 100% of Israel uninhabitable. Destroy Israel and you are done. No invasion. No occupation. Simple desolation."

Incidentally, Sebastian, while, obviously, you are under no obligation to respond, I note that you cherry-picked my comment, and -- purely through absent-mindedness, I'm sure! -- neglected to respond to this:

"Unless Israel had a majority of their weapons online and mounted on missiles 24/7, they could not hope to respond to a strike once Iranian missiles were in the air."

That makes perfect sense if we were in a different universe, where Israel didn't have three Dolphin submarines, Dolphin, Leviathan,, and Tekumah, with Popeye Turbo nuclear-tipped cruise missiles as a deterrent. Would you like pictures? Or perhaps we should stick to talking about this universe.

Your comment?

"What were we supposed to do."
From Iran's perspective, you were supposed to give Iran the normalisation of relations -- including a curb-kicking of the 'regime change' policy -- that Iran has explicitly (if discretely) told you that it wants. You were supposed to trade Iranian recognition of Israel and Iranian distancing from Hizbullah for Iran becoming a serious power-broker in the Gulf area.

An Iranian policy of nuclear ambiguity is a powerful deterrent against invasion or regime change. Why would Iran give that up without solid assurances of its territorial and political integrity?

Gary I'm not sure how your point that a single bomb could go off in Tel Aviv and leave Jerusalem intact is responding to me. Were you responding to your own comment that Iran couldn't nuke Israel because they don't want to hurt Jerusalem?

Am I interpreting the calculator improperly or does it suggest that you can bomb Tel Aviv and the coastal cities while leaving Jerusalem relatively intact?

Gary re submarines:

I had forgotten about the submarines, so my comment about needing to keep all of them on active missiles is incorrect.

Unfortunately that does not deal with MAD, it deals with something more like "Lots of Destruction".

The comment from former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (often called "pragmatic" with respect to the US) was "If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave any thing in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world."

The implication is clearly that Israel could be completely destroyed, and even though some Israeli nukes would hit the Muslim world in a counter-strike (see submarines) that it would merely be damaged and not destroyed.

An observation which is both true and scary.

SH: "Basically it makes me wonder why we ever bothered with the NPT anyway."

If memory serves the NPT was devised when the only declared nuclear powers were the five permanent members of the UNSC. Israel had nukes but that was deniable. Back then, a lot of people thought America was really serious about stopping India from joining the club, since that was the most likely way for the whole thing to unravel. Once India had nukes Pakistan would obviously have to have them, which in turn would kill all hopes of Israeli disarmament.

At this stage the horse has bolted. Not only do several more states have nukes, it is increasingly clear that any enemy of America's must have them.

Good point by Gary on the potential for mini-nukes.

Sebastian: And really if the Iranian government isn't crazy enough that we should take steps against their gaining nuclear weapons, pretty much no one is. Cuba? Certainly ok. Saudi Arabia? Why not? South Korea? No problem? South Africa? Why did we pressure them? Brazil? Definitely. Argentina? Sure? Libya? Why in the world not? Egypt is an important country.

Castro has never appeared "crazy"; the Saudis are wicked, not crazy; etc.

Agree with Sebastian that nonproliferation rests on some assumptions about the Washed and the Unwashed nations (*we're* fit to handle our nukes ...) that don't hold up. It's obviously to our interest to avoid proliferation, b/c the more nukes out there, the more chance they'll get used sooner or later. But where one country's dead-set on making them, there's obviously little we can do.

The goal, then, would be to avoid creating the conditions that lead a country to see a Bomb as crucial to its survival/wellbeing. Which we've signally failed to do in the case of Iran, a serious regional power that we simply couldn't reasonably expect to alienate forever if we want to get anything done in the Mideast.

"Were you responding to your own comment that Iran couldn't nuke Israel because they don't want to hurt Jerusalem?"

No, Sebastian. I was responding to what I quoted you as saying. That's why I used my insidious, little-known, subtle technique of quoting the words I was responding to.

I was responding to your assertion that Iran is likely to "Destroy Israel and you are done" with the fact that Iran would be unlikely to desire to destroy Jerusalem and Noble Sanctuary. Your response to this not-very-complicated point was to assert that, well, "And yet talk of nuking Israel and surviving the counterstrike goes on by high level officials anyway."

But those two things -- "nuking Israel" -- and "Destroy Israel and you are done... Simple desolation...." are, you know, not all the same frigging thing. Pretending they are for rhetorical purposes is, well, feel free to explain that.

Since I explained that those are two different things in what appears to me to be clear fashion in my comment of 05:27 PM, which you are replying to, I'm unclear what you find so inexplicable and perplexing -- "I'm not sure how your point... is responding to me" -- in regard to this point. Which words need further explaining to you?

"...your own comment that Iran couldn't nuke Israel because they don't want to hurt Jerusalem?"

By all means, quote the words I used to claim this. (This might be difficult, since I never, ever, made any such claim.)

I don't imagine you're deliberately distorting what I wrote, or deliberately making up false claims as to what I obviously did write -- I can't imagine you would be either so foolish or deliberately dishonest -- but I'm curious as to how you wound up so confused as to be asserting a flagrant untruth such as this.

Which part of "This is, of course, not what you were discussing when you asserted that 'If Iran is allowed to go nuclear it will very quickly have the ability to make 100% of Israel uninhabitable. Destroy Israel and you are done. No invasion. No occupation. Simple desolation.'" was unclear?


Umm, Gary I don't mean to interrupt a good snark, but the phrase you quote before you mention the nuclear calculator was: "And yet talk of nuking Israel and surviving the counterstrike goes on by high level officials anyway."

If you meant to comment on my other statements, well there we go.

As for: "your own comment that Iran couldn't nuke Israel because they don't want to hurt Jerusalem?"

I was responding to

"It's difficult to do this without destroying Noble Sanctuary, and Jerusalem as a whole, as well as the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. This might be slightly difficult to explain to the rest of the Islamic world."

I see you are taking 'nuke' as a single nuclear weapon. That isn't how I took the Iranian comment. I took it as a large number of nuclear weapons. You seem to pick up on that later, so I'm not really sure about the confusion. But to be clear, I think the former president of Iran was talking about totally destroying the state of Israel. Interestingly, the former president seems to be under the misapprehension that one bomb would wipe Israel off the face of the earth. But I think it is clear that he is more interested in the 'wiping Israel off the face of the earth' part than the one bomb part.

And the fact that he is willing to accept a counterstrike since the Muslim world couldn't be destroyed by Israel while Israel could be destroyed, also adds to that understanding. It also reveals a really scary aspect to nuclear war which was not part of the high level rhetoric in the Cold War. I am unaware of any high level US figures who talked publically about trying to destroy the USSR via nuclear war while accepting a counter-strike since we could survive their bombs while they couldn't survive ours. I wouldn't be shocked to find that some crazy American somewhere said that publically, but in Iran those crazies can be president.


For further context, the slogan emblazoned on the Shihab-3 missile test was "Israel must be uprooted and erased from history".

What would Sistani say about his brothers, in Iran, being attacked by a guess in their home?

Would the students at Najaf and THE SUPREME COUNCIL FOR ISLAMIC REVOLUTION IN IRAQ, understand Israel's rationalization?

That should read guest, instead of guess.

I dropped a phrase. Should read: "...the slogan emblazoned on the Shihab-3 missile on the parade for its test was "Israel must be uprooted and erased from history".

Regardless, doing either would call for striking those who struck you; why would they pick an entirely different set of people? Sheer religious bigotry? WTF?

Yeah, I'm pretty much assuming sheer religious bigotry. The same bigotry that would have Iranians, claiming to be "The World of Islam", destroying Israel.

BTW, Gary, did you realize that in your 4:03pm comment you added too many commas in the list of submarine names? It was just before you took us to task with respect to the use of it's/its. I just assumed that it was accidental and that you could indeed count. It's too bad you couldn't grant others (me) the same courtesy of assuming a successful elementary education.

I am unaware of any high level US figures who talked publically about trying to destroy the USSR via nuclear war while accepting a counter-strike since we could survive their bombs while they couldn't survive ours. I wouldn't be shocked to find that some crazy American somewhere said that publically, but in Iran those crazies can be president.

"My fellow Americans, I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes."

/snark

pause for a brief moment of sarcasm
Where the hell are all the Iranian moderates that were yearning for freedom, blued jeans and sitcoms a few months ago? If they can change their minds that quickly, I think we better take care of them now. Who knows what they might think in 20 years? Better that than eating at a halaal McDonalds.
all done

But seriously, this essay by Armin Tarzi provides useful background on the phrase on the Shihab missile as well as the missile program itself.

Whereas nuclear weapons were seen as the ultimate symbol of power, prestige and security, Iranian authorities also began a robust program to develop short- and long-range ballistic missiles during the war with Iraq. In the most intensive periods of strategic missile exchanges between Iran and Iraq, commonly known as the "War of the Cities," hundreds of ballistic missiles were fired on civilian targets by both sides. However, Iraq possessed far more missiles than Iran did and by barraging major Iranian cities had changed the tide of the war in its favor.(37)

While the damage to Iranian civilians and infrastructure was not immense relative to the huge number of casualties in that conflict, the missile attacks on civilian targets had a grave psychological effect, which many analysts believe forced Iran to accept UN Security Council Resolution 598 in 1988, paving the way for a ceasefire. It is estimated that the missile attacks by Iraq on Iranian cities killed around 2,000 people during the entire period of the war. In addition, as Aaron Karp has stated, these attacks "drove half of the people of Tehran out the city and damaged morale."(38) Whereas it is generally accepted by military experts that ballistic missiles are normally produced to carry WMD warheads, Iraq used them with conventional warheads as a strategic weapon against Iran in order to demoralize the country. Iraq also delivered chemical weapons by short-range missiles against Iranian troops, but the impact of the conventionally armed missiles made a pivotal impact on Tehran's decision to accept the ceasefire arrangement.

For Iran, missiles are not just strategic weapons; they are also used to alter their enemies' perceptions. Messages on Iranian missiles serve as important international billboards. During a 1998 military parade commemorating the Iranian victory in its war with Iraq, the Shihab-3, Iran's longest-range ballistic missile, was paraded through the streets of Tehran
with the following messages: "Israel should be wiped off the map" and "USA cannot do anything." In the following year's parade, the Shihab-3 carried only one sign, quoting Khomeini: "We will trample upon the USA."(39)

An Iranian missile known as the Zelzal-1 was paraded in 1999 with placards stating: "Khamene'i is another Khomeini and his rule is the rule of Ali"--a reference to the infallible rule of the first Imam of the Shi'i Muslims. This message, unlike the one on the Shihab-3, was meant for domestic consumption. It was a warning to the reformers from the hardliners that they should not underestimate the military might in the rulers' hands. Unlike other WMD programs that Iranian officials deny having, they actually tend to exaggerate their country's missile power. For example, in April 2001, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) launched an unknown number of unidentified surface-to-surface missiles or artillery rockets against bases of the Iraqi-based opposition group known as the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO).(40) According to MKO, Iran fired anywhere from 44 to 77 missiles, identified by most sources as being Scud-B, on its camps inside Iraqi territory, killing one of its members. Iran's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Hadi Nejad-Hosseinian, stated "These limited and appropriate operations were aimed at halting the attacks against Iran launched by the Munafeqin ['hypocrites,' a term used by Iran to describe the MKO] with Baghdad's support from inside Iraqi soil, but should not be interpreted as a measure against Iraq's territorial integrity."(41)

Iran had no logical reason to waste up to one third of its Scud B arsenal on targets that could be hit with shorter-range and less expensive artillery rockets. However, not only did Iran deny the reports of up to 77 Scud B's being used against the MKO, they actually transmitted these reports through their own media sources. The acceptance of exaggerated claims by the MKO allowed Tehran to showcase that it had the capability to launch more than 70 Scud missiles and as such should be considered a missile powerhouse. It is also important to recognize the importance and power placed on image and perception. According to some Iranian officials, the messages are not written on missiles to be interpreted literally. These missiles have an important symbolic value for society, which is prestige and power projection. A prime example of the effectiveness of the Iranian approach is the prestige that world attention brought to India and Pakistan for their missile and nuclear developments.

So basically Saddam was lobbing V-2's into Teheran, and the Iranians got all wussy? Londoners should be proud.

Why didn't they get the Iranian George Peppard to infiltrate the site so that the allies could bomb it? Then the Allies could have bombed the site? Oh, that's right, the Allies were supporting Iraq...

"Umm, Gary I don't mean to interrupt a good snark, but the phrase you quote before you mention the nuclear calculator was: 'And yet talk of nuking Israel and surviving the counterstrike goes on by high level officials anyway.'"

Yes, I did.

"If you meant to comment on my other statements, well there we go."

Indeed.

"I see you are taking 'nuke' as a single nuclear weapon."

I am taking "nuke," in this case, as it was used, as a verb, as in "to nuke" to indicate, you know, "nuking," as in "use of nuclear weapons." It's a verb in this usage, not a noun, singular or plural.

"I am unaware of any high level US figures who talked publically about trying to destroy the USSR via nuclear war while accepting a counter-strike since we could survive their bombs while they couldn't survive ours."

I suggest reading up on Curtis LeMay and Herman Kahn as starters. Thomas K. Jones might be obscure now, despite his former position as Deputy Under-secretary of Defense when he famously spoke on the subject during Reagan's presidency. Richard Perle, however, is not. You might want to argue with Ronald Reagan, in An American Life: The Autobiography (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990), pp. 257-58, 265, 267-68, 550. when he said "...there were some people in the Pentagon who thought in terms of fighting and winning a nuclear war." Generally speaking, looking into the entire history of theory of use of nuclear weapons might be useful. Here's a question from the quiz: "What was Presidential Directive 59?" Here's another: "What was 'counterforce doctrine'?" and which Secretary of Defense is associated with it? (Hint: he served under a famous liberal wimp.)

Crionna says: "Yeah, I'm pretty much assuming sheer religious bigotry. The same bigotry that would have Iranians, claiming to be 'The World of Islam', destroying Israel."

Are you serious? You're asserting that Israel, if attacked by a nuclear launch by Iran, would strike Saudi Arabia out of sheer religious bigotry? You're not being somehow sarcastic or joking?

"It's too bad you couldn't grant others (me) the same courtesy of assuming a successful elementary education."

I don't recall addressing you in regard to use of "it's" and "its" -- probably because I didn't.

However, if you wish to volunteer as one of them, I'll take your word for it, rather than go back and track names than I didn't bother to track in the first place. Would it be more courteous, in your view, to track names, and make it personal, rather than to make general requests and critiques?

"It's a verb in this usage, not a noun, singular or plural."

Correct, and in the context of wiping Israel off the map it should be implied to include more than a single nuclear device, right?

Don't have access to a copy of "An American Life" right this second, but "...there were some people in the Pentagon who thought in terms of fighting and winning a nuclear war." isn't what I'm talking about in terms. That just isn't analogous to a public statement by a high level official that we should be willing to attack the USSR and be willing to take the hit to some of our cities as a result of that attack.

"What was Presidential Directive 59". The one reputed to be leaked by Carter to shore up chances for reelection by showing that we plan both for MAD and intermediate levels of destruction? I never bought the leak story. Surely Carter couldn't have misread the public that badly.


"What was 'counterforce doctrine'?" and which Secretary of Defense is associated with it?" The idea that we ought to target mainly military targets with nuclear weapons in the event of a nuclear war. Robert McNamara. We don't know if his presidents agreed. (Or at least I don't.)

Whew, that was easy.

Are you serious? You're asserting that Israel, if attacked by a nuclear launch by Iran, would strike Saudi Arabia out of sheer religious bigotry? You're not being somehow sarcastic or joking?

Yes, I was being sacrastic.

I was trying to think a bit strategically. I think that were I an Israeli leader looking to deter Islamic agression in a time when suicide bombers are heralded as martyrs, I would have to find something else besides people to threaten as a vengeful, dying gasp. IMHO, that threat should be something highly valued by all Muslims. It's my understanding that Mecca and Medina are most valued.

Would it be more courteous, in your view, to track names, and make it personal, rather than to make general requests and critiques?

In my view, comparing the educations of this site's commenters to 4th or 5th graders is a discourteous way to make a general request or a critique.

Do you think the Moolahs and the other paranoids of the ME believe there is a SAMSON OPTION?

Seymour M. Hersh, the reporter who broke the story of the U.S. soldiers massacring villagers at Mai Lai in Vietnam, published in 1991 the controversial book The Samson Option: Israel's Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy. The Biblical Samson, of course, brought down a temple that killed himself and his enemies. According to the namebase.org "The title of Hersh's book comes from Israel's notion that once they have the Bomb, they are in a position to bring it all down on everyone if ever they feel cornered. It's the ultimate in Israeli security as a nation-state, if not for the security of humankind. Israel used nuclear blackmail to force Kissinger and Nixon to airlift supplies during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and they passed U.S. secrets collected by Jonathan Pollard to the USSR when it served their interests. The Bomb has been a hidden factor in U.S.-Israeli relations ever since the Eisenhower administration, but this is the first book [to] deal with Israeli relations from this perspective."

The Federation of American Scientists site notes: Strategically, Israel uses its long-range missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft (and, some say, submarines with nuclear-armed cruise missiles) to deter both conventional and unconventional attacks, or to launch "the Samson Option", an all-out attack against an adversary should defenses fail and population centers be threatened. In addition, despite Israel's insistence that it "will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East," these systems represent an effective preemptive strike force.

This makes me feel the warmth of freedom marching:

According to Seymour Hersh, "the size and sophistication of Israel's nuclear arsenal allows men such as Ariel Sharon to dream of redrawing the map of the Middle East aided by the implicit threat of nuclear force." .... Ze'ev Shiff, an Israeli military expert writing in Haaretz said, "Whoever believes that Israel will ever sign the UN Convention prohibiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons... is day dreaming," and Munya Mardoch, Director of the Israeli Institute for the Development of Weaponry, said in 1994, "The moral and political meaning of nuclear weapons is that states which renounce their use are acquiescing to the status of Vassal states. All those states which feel satisfied with possessing conventional weapons alone are fated to become vassal states."

..... Seymour Hersh warns, "Should war break out in the Middle East again,... or should any Arab nation fire missiles against Israel, as the Iraqis did, a nuclear escalation, once unthinkable except as a last resort, would now be a strong probability." Ezar Weissman, Israel's current President said "The nuclear issue is gaining momentum (and the) next war will not be conventional." Russia and before it the Soviet Union has long been a major (if not the major) target of Israeli nukes. It is widely reported that the principal purpose of Jonathan Pollard's spying for Israel was to furnish satellite images of Soviet targets and other super sensitive data relating to U.S. nuclear targeting strategy. (Since launching its own satellite in 1988, Israel no longer needs U.S. spy secrets.) Israeli nukes aimed at the Russian heartland seriously complicate disarmament and arms control negotiations and, at the very least, the unilateral possession of nuclear weapons by Israel is enormously destabilizing, and dramatically lowers the threshold for their actual use, if not for all out nuclear war.

Seymour Hersh sites other threats in The Samson Option. Referring to the U.S. failure to support Israel's invasion of Egypt in 1956, including in the face of nuclear threats from the Soviet Union, one unnamed former Israeli official told Hersh in the late 1980s: "You Americans screwed us...We got the message. We can still remember the smell of Auschwitz and Treblinka. Next time we'll take all of you with us."

It is a mistake to conduct foreign like a pissing contest where the most important goal is to appear macho.
Iran has legitimate reasons for developing nukes. The biggest reason is defense. We overthrew their government back in the fifties and subjected them to twenty years or so of police state brutality. Our current leader has referred to them as "the axis of evil' and has stated that we can attack them any time we want, without cause. He has also war-gamed attacks and is in communicaton with Isreal about using them as proxies for an attack. The leadership of Iran would be crazy indeed if they didn't develop nukes.
Also Iran has serious economic problems. They know the oil wil run out. Their population doubles about every twenty five years. They must expand and modernize their economy or face a population bomb meltdown. They need power. Hydropower isn't an option. Nuclear power is logical for them.
After WWI Europe and the US were so deadset on blaming and punishing Germany that we ignored their legitimate needs, forced them into a corner, and pushed them toward the pschotic nationalism of Hitler, with devasting consequences for everyone. Iran's leaders aren't nice guys by any means but their track record is no worse that any number of other dictators, their foreign policy is less crazy than ours, and our historical relationship is one of us attacking them, not them attacking us.
It is quite likely that Iran could give up the development of nuclear weapons if their legitimate need to be safe from attack by us and their need to develop energy sources for their economy is met. Threatening them will only make them more determined.
The mullahs are ancient. In another ten years they will all be dead. It would be a wiser policy if we focused on establishing a reasonable relationship with the up and coming leaders, rather than continuing our policy of mindless belligerence which will only make the new leaders as defensive and nationalistic as the current group.

"They need power. Hydropower isn't an option. Nuclear power is logical for them."

Light-water reactors.

"The mullahs are ancient. In another ten years they will all be dead. It would be a wiser policy if we focused on establishing a reasonable relationship with the up and coming leaders, rather than continuing our policy of mindless belligerence which will only make the new leaders as defensive and nationalistic as the current group."

They aren't old enough that we can count on them being dead in ten years--see Castro. And even if they are gone in ten years, that doesn't help much if they use nuclear weapons against a nearby (or far off) country in the interim.

Iran's leaders aren't nice guys by any means but their track record is no worse that any number of other dictators, their foreign policy is less crazy than ours...

Goodnight, everybody!

How many nations have the Iranian Mullahs invaded?

All in the name of freedom and liberty and love, of course. (Now why does that sound crazy?)

"And even if they are gone in ten years, that doesn't help much if they use nuclear weapons against a nearby (or far off) country in the interim."

But why would they do that? As you noted and quoted, Iran is interested in some form of nuclear capability to achieve a 'stalemate' in what they see as a conflict between Western regime changers and the Islamic world.

Obviously, it would be better for everyone involved if Iran can be convinced that they don't need nukes. That will mean real guarantees from America regarding Iran's security. But it will also (as recently noted in The Economist) require a commitment to a nuclear-free Iran from Russia and China.

"But why would they do that?"

Well they have repeatedly threatened to already. The world has a really bad track record of ignoring what crazy yet powerful people say and pretending that they couldn't possibly mean it. This problem ranges from Hitler to Mao to bin Laden. We don't like to believe that crazy and powerful people mean what they say because once we admit that Iranian leaders might really be willing to nuke Israel even if it means absorbing a nuclear counterstrike, we might have to do something about it. Much easier to pretend that they didn't say it, or that they couldn't really mean it. And Jews have especially had to deal with the aftermath of that problem. There were a lot of people who thought that Hitler was just engaging in a little over-the-top rhetorical Jew-bashing. But he said what he meant, meant what he said and has the millions executed for based soley on their ethnicity to prove it.

BTW, anyone here have any little moral problem with mutual assured destruction when the action it was supposed to deter happens anyway? Do you then go ahead and push the damn button just for the literal hell of it? I remember how the left questioned this at one time, and then Reagan hijacked the moral concern (somewhat hypocritically) to push for Star Wars. (Which would have been great if it had really any chance of rendering nukes impotent and obsolete.)

But anyway, we've got people here cheerfully assuming that the moral and justifiable reaction to a nuclear genocide launched by an Iranian madman would be a nuclear counter-genocide launched by the Americans in case the Israelis couldn't handle it. (I wouldn't expect any country under nuclear attack to behave with any degree of moral sanity, btw. They should, but probably wouldn't.) The Europeans are being criticized as potential wussies because they might not want to incinerate tens of millions of mostly innocent people.

I would think the proper response (morally and pragmatically) to an Iranian genocide against the Israelis (assuming the Israelis had somehow been unable to respond) would be conquest of Iran, with Nuremberg trials for any surviving Iranian leaders. The conquest would presumably be terribly bloody, but fall well short of nuclear genocide. Maybe tactical nukes might have to be used against any surviving Iranian nukes, but you wouldn't just go all out and turn the place into a plain of glass. As I vaguely recall, there's something or other in just war theory about not burning, blowing apart, or otherwise exterminating tens of millions of innocent people unless there's no other choice.

But what the hell. We've taken for granted our right to incinerate innocent people for so long why stop now?

NPT:

The NPT is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament.

NY Times: Februari 2005:

American scientists are designing new generation of nuclear arms meant to be sturdier and more reliable and to have longer lives; federal officials say program could help shrink arsenal and high cost of its maintenance; critics say it would needlessly resuscitate complex of factories and laboratories that make nuclear weapons and could possibly ignite new arms race; federal bomb experts at nuclear weapon laboratories at Los Alamos, Livermore and Sandia are scrutinizing secret arms data gathered over half century for clues about how to achieve new reliability goals; effort so far involves only $9 million for warhead designers at three sites; relatively small initial program, involving fewer than 100 people, is expected to grow and produce finished designs in next 5 to 10 years, culminating, if approval is sought and won, in prototype warheads that will be larger and more robust than earlier models

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