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January 14, 2006

Comments

Are there people who really believe that Iran wants only a non-military nuclear program? If so, who are they? Felixrayman perhaps?

I'm wishing you a speedy recovery from whatever it is that is wrong with you, Sebastian.

This situation has been an obvious problem for at least 3 years

uh huh

Various authors on this very blog, for example, have said as much for more than a year.

a quick search shows that it hasn't been a very hot topic here - there are no more than a handful of comments that directly address Iran's weapons program. and, certainly the world's sudden excitement over the 'breaking of seals' shows that what just happened is new, different and a change from what had been happening before.

you'll have a hard time convincing me that the level of Iran-related rhetoric is the same today as it was two weeks, two months or two years ago.

The idea that the "Iran wants nuclear weapons despite international 'pressure' that they don't get them" is a new situation is completely wrong.

i'll let you battle your own strawmen.

Whores for war will do anything to kill.

Von: "Better, of course, would be if the Demcratic leadership organically recognized that there are bad people in the world and that it's not automatically GWB's fault that they exist. "

Von, are you still claiming to have voted for Kerry?

Various authors on this very blog, for example, have said as much for more than a year.

we have always been at war with Iran

"we have always been at war with Iran"

Then explain why Iran helped the US in Afghanistan.

Then explain why Iran helped the US in Afghanistan

i recommend reading some of my other posts in the thread.

What I don’t get is this:

Many folks got all crazy when Edward made certain observations concerning Mao, healthcare and the lives of the “average” Chinese.

Yet, many of the same critics, on the right, embrace a banality">http://www.iep.utm.edu/a/arendt.htm#H6">banality of evil when it comes to the Middle East.

Advocating the death of hundreds of thousands of Middle Easterners, because the latest right-wing paranoia concerning geo-strategic theories demands it, is not exactly the best way to represent “democratic values” and national security. Our existential safety is contingent on the lives of a few hundred thousand Third World corpses?

No wonder the Iranians are acting like Bush and Cheney!

And Bin Ladden gets away with mass murder.

It’s like we got Dale Gribble and Eric Cartman running foreign policy.

"a quick search shows that it hasn't been a very hot topic here - there are no more than a handful of comments that directly address Iran's weapons program. and, certainly the world's sudden excitement over the 'breaking of seals' shows that what just happened is new, different and a change from what had been happening before.

you'll have a hard time convincing me that the level of Iran-related rhetoric is the same today as it was two weeks, two months or two years ago."

I'm not sure how much you want us to talk about a topic before it counts as a hot topic, but it was the main topic of conversation:

Here

Here

Here

Here

Here

Here

Here

Here
Here

I think there are a bunch more if I look harder, and I know that the issue comes up in side-discussions in the comments to other posts all the time.

Pretty much the only thing new about the current situation is that some European countries are finally waking up to how bad the situation has been for the past five years. As far as new developments go it is welcome. But the Iranian part of it isn't new.

Sebastian: Pretty much the only thing new about the current situation is that some European countries are finally waking up to how bad the situation has been for the past five years.

Oh, for heaven's sake. Pretty much the only thing new about the situation with Iran is that the whole world including Iran knows any threat of US invasion is futile: the US has no military options left, and George W. Bush has no credibility with anyone outside the US.

Most Republicans - at least, the Bush supporters - seem to have been pretending that Iraq was the big issue because that was the Middle Eastern country Bush wanted to invade, and it was impossible for them to say "Bush is wrong", either then or now. So, lay blame for the escalating situation in Iran somewhere else. Anywhere else. Von lays blame on the Democrats; you lay blame on the Europeans: neither of you want to lay blame where it rightfully belongs, with Bush and with the Republicans who have blindly supported Bush and savaged his critics.

I'm not sure how much you want us to talk about a topic before it counts as a hot topic, but it was the main topic of conversation

ten posts over three years ? sounds pretty stable to me.

the US has no military options left, and George W. Bush has no credibility with anyone outside the US.

The latter is pretty accurate, but the former isn't. I know that the Pentagon (specifically under Rumsfeld and, I think, Bolton's (?) direction) were exploring the idea of tactical nuclear weapons with a specific eye for preemptive strikes against Iran. [I don't have any cites off-hand, I'm afraid, so you'll have to dig around for those; if memory serves, it was circa September 2002.] I haven't heard anything about those programs in the interim, but it's conceivable that progress on them has continued unabated for the past few years. Even without tacnukes, though, we've got the airpower to pretty much flatten Iran if we really really want to.

IOW, don't confuse our inability to orchestrate a coherent invasion (let alone occupation) with an inability to pursue military options...

Anarch: but the former isn't. I know that the Pentagon (specifically under Rumsfeld and, I think, Bolton's (?) direction) were exploring the idea of tactical nuclear weapons with a specific eye for preemptive strikes against Iran.

When I wrote "the US has no military options left", I did think of adding "aside from escalating the situation to nuclear war" and then cut it out because it seemed unnecessary doom-mongering.

Silly me.

IOW, don't confuse our inability to orchestrate a coherent invasion (let alone occupation) with an inability to pursue military options...

Well, yes. The US could just decide to bomb the hell out of Iraq, with or without the use of nuclear weapons. And might, I suppose, if Bush thought it would help the Republicans in the 2006 elections.

to bomb the hell out of Iraq

*blushes*

"...to bomb the hell out of Iran."

Your initial comment was "how do you make a "policy" when the situation is less than a week old and still unfolding?"

Then some people pointed out that it has been obvious for at least three years.

Then you suggested that if it was so obvious it didn't make sense that there was very little talk about it.

Then I pointed out that, at least here, there was quite a bit of talk about it. And if you read any of the posts, which I doubt, you would notice that many of them mention the exact same things a year or more ago that are being talked about know. This suggests that the same issues were noticeable earlier than "less than a week" ago. This would presumably be especially true for Congressmen who specialize in foreign policy and military issues.

"ten posts over three years ? sounds pretty stable to me."

The Iran situation sounds stable or the posting level is stable? If the latter, doesn't that support the idea that people could have easily noticed the Iran nuclear problem before "less than a week" ago? If the former, the situation is stable only in the sense that Iran has been constantly pushing for a nuclear problem for decades and the major change will occur when they actually have them or when someone acts to stop the programs. I would tend to prefer the latter, especially since (unlike many on this thread) I actually think they may be serious with the threat to wipe Israel off the map with nuclear weapons. As I mentioned before, they could almost certainly kill or seriously injure more than 2/3 of the population of Israel by hitting only three targets (Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Be'er Sheva).

As far as military responses, the US is pretty much in no worse a position than it was 5 years ago. An invasion of Iran isn't likely now and it wasn't likely then. In all cases a bombing strike or series of bombing strikes was much more likely. They are still very much possible. The question is whether or not we will be willing to do them, and whether or not much of the international community will support them. The answer to the second question appears to be no, in as much as the international community doesn't even appear to be willing to try sanctions--much less more direct action.

Sebastian,

"As far as military responses, the US is pretty much in no worse a position than it was 5 years ago."

May I have some of what you're smoking? Do you serious mean to say that breaking the back of the army to the point that maintaining the level of forces we have in Iraq is becoming unsupportable leaves us in no worse a position as to military responses?

As far as military responses, the US is pretty much in no worse a position than it was 5 years ago.

Aside from (as Dan already pointed out) breaking the US army, and the Bush administration making an enemy of the CIA, and ensuring that the US has no credibility with other nations so long as any remnant of the Bush administration is in power...

...but if your first thought is just to kill Iranians, lots of them, and to hell with what anyone else in the world thinks about the US doing this, no, that's not important.

Of course, you might ask yourself why, in 2006, mid-term elections coming up, Bush suddenly perceives a need to kill lots of Iranians in some spectacular manner.

Or you might not.

von, are you or are you not implying that it is more important for Dems to enunciate a policy on Iran than for Repubs to do so?

I honestly don't know how else to interpret your post and your comments on this matter. And no, I don't think the Repubs have enunciated a policy on Iran. Rhetoric yes. Policy? Show me some and we'll talk.

Put differently, you say that "if Democrats want to play the foreign policy game..." as though it's a given that they should want to do so. Why would they? To win elections? Well that doesn't seem like a very good idea, because recent history suggests that Republicans are unconstrained by mere facts or merits. The safe bet is that the GOP will not only grossly misrepresent whatever Democrats say but ratchet up the flammability of the rhetoric without addressing the merits of any policy the Democrats might propose.

That leaves Democrats in an awkward position: They can attempt to insert some actual nuance into the conversation only to see it used against them yet again (think Lucy, Charlie Brown and football); they can abandon empiricism as a basis for policy (at which point it ceases to be recognizable as policy); or they can keep their mouths shut.

So why exactly do you think they are obligated to choose option one? It doesn't do the nation any good, and it certainly doesn't do them any good. As CharleyCarp points out, strategy #3 even has a recent track record.

Remember when the GOP was practically begging the Dems to propose a new SS policy, in a manner disturbingly similar to the pleading you are now doing w/r/t Iran. Not only did the Democratic refusal to offer an alternative SS plan deprive the GOP of talking points, but it actually worked out better for the nation. That decision effectively prevented SS from meeting the same fate that Medicare is meeting right now.

I will note at this point also that your description of foreign policy as a "game" is another word choice that I find rather unfortunate for what it suggests about your internal landscape.

Of the military responses likely--air strikes--no.

to the bomb-'em crowd:

assume that in the fall of '06 the US launches a massive series of air raids against Iran,

what happens next?

a) the iranians dig in even deeper, and the next sign of their program is a nuke going off in a boat coming up the Potomac. (note, here, the ties between Pakistan and Iran and our apparent utter failure to have diagnosed the scope of the Pakistan Bomb program.)

b) nothing except a whole bunch of outraged commentary. (note, here, the Israeli strike on Osirak and US strikes on Libya.)

c) a massive increase by Iran in arms and funding to Hezbollah.

d) oil war? embargoes by OPEC nations?

e) real regional war? a significant attempt by Iran to destroy US forces in Iraq coupled with serious strikes against US naval assets in the Persian gulf?

can we for once in this administration think about the consequences of our actions?

The Iran situation sounds stable or the posting level is stable?

the Iran situation was stable - Iran hadn't nuke anyone or do a test of a nuke or anything like that; and the CIA still says they're basically a decade away from any kind of real nuclear capability. but, yes something small happened recently that might advance them ever-so-slightly towards aquiring nukes.

still, nobody, not even the Serious Hawks, knows if what happened is a tipping point that will inevitably lead to the doomsday scenario all y'all seem so concerned about. it could be just another small move in a long slow game.

but those of you who insist that Democrats need a policy NOW!!! because this is a CRISIS!!!! and if they don't come up with one the party is DOOMED!!! seem to claiming to be able to predict the future. yet i can look to Atrios' prediction and nod approvingly, having lived through nearly the exact same situation four years ago.

i didn't fall for the WMD hype the last time around, and i'm not falling for it now. especially having seem how easily it is to make the smallest nothings seem like EARTH SHATTERING PORTENTS OF DOOM - over and over, for a month, two months, a year - until the mountain of "evidence" seems so huge that only America-hating traitors and Saddamites are left wondering if there might be a problem with all of it. but i expect 70% of the country will fall for it, again, for a time.

you know, back when the first talk of invading Iraq started up, i often asked "why not invade Iran? if going after countries with WMDs and al-Q ties is the goal, Iran country looks like a much better target. Pakistan, too." now, i'm glad nobody listened to my advice: with the Republicans at the wheel, Iraq is a mess; Iran would have turned out much much worse.

finally, CharleyCarp is right, above: "There's no upside for any Dem to propose anything at all with respect to Iran, and plenty of downside. Let the Admin show its cards, and even play a hand or two, first."

In general, it's hard to form a coherent and detailed foreign policy when the situation constantly changes for the worse because the party actually in power completely ignores what you say and f***s everything up. (I realize the world was and will be f***ed up anyway but these guys make it worse.)

The interim suggestions you make WILL be ingored and will very likely no longer make sense by the time when you get in a position to implement them (2009 at the earliest) or even seriously pressure Bush to implement them (2007 at the earliest). Now, you do need to know how you're going to vote on the bills that do come before Congress, and be able to explain your vote, and remain engaged with the situation such that when you finally are in a position to influence policy, you'll know what you're talking about. But to be kvetching that Harry Reid doesn't have a fully developed geostrategic vision on Iran when no one has any clue what the Bush administration plans to do about Iran is nonsensical.

Seriously--what's the administration's policy here? I wish I knew. I remember asking on inauguration day: "does this mean we'll be bombing Iran in time for the midterms? I don't think we can stop it but it'd be nice to know."

If I had to guess I would give 30-40% odds that there's a vote on a blank check use of force resolution before the midterms. Just too good a product to pass up, even if they have no intention of actually calling in airstrikes. So the Democrats need to figure out how they will react to that.

Sebastian, you think the large % of the U.S. army fighting an insurgency/trying to prevent a civil war in Iraq is irrelevant to the plausibility of airstrikes? You really think the the lack of a credible threat of ground troops is irrelevant? Okeydoke.

Do you think non-nuclear airstrikes would actually eliminate the nuclear program? If so I've got to wonder why it took a regime change to eliminate Iraq's nuclear threat when it's always been completely freaking obvious that Iraq's capcacity was much less than Iran's. You're not buying into the harebrained theory Hersh alluded to last year about how people are going to rise up and overthrow the mullahs when they're shown to be vulnerable, are you?

Believe me, I am NOT freaking happy with a nutty Holocaust denier with nukes that could reach Israel, but the president of Iran is not actually the one in charge of the country. Khatami wasn't and I see no reason to believe this guy is. I think they're deterrable. And I don't see any other options. I mean, I'd support sanctions but I don't honestly think they will work. Maybe this could have been stopped if we had an administration interested in stopping nuclear weapons proliferation, but instead we had one that was interested in dishonestly using hyping a nuclear threat as a pretext for an invasion that had other motives.

sorry for the meandering comment above. i prefer one liners.

the Iran situation was stable - Iran hadn't nuke anyone or do a test of a nuke or anything like that

that sentence would've made a lot more sense if i didn't decide to go back and mess with the verb tense for no reason, after finishing the rest of the post.

try it like this:

the Iran situation was stable - Iran didn't nuke anyone or do a test of a nuke or anything like that.

If Israel armed with nuclear weapons doesn't deter them, I'm not sure what would. IIRC Israel just purchased another lot of bunker buster conventional bombs, so it's well within the realm of possibility that they're engineering a raid on either the leadership (the crazies actually in charge, I mean), the facilities or both. And with airbases in Iraq under US control, it's not out of the question that we'd either let them land and refuel or give them tanker support because we own the airspace. They'd have Jordan or Syria to contend with in an air raid, and whether that's a stopper or not, I just don't know.

Israel also has sub-launched nukes, but their range isn't enough (AFAIK) to give them the reach even from the North end of the Persian Gulf.

Josh Marshall sums it up pretty well.

... we have to start from the premise that there is no Iran Question, or whatever you want to call it. There's only how to deal with Iran with this administration in place.

Do you trust this White House's good faith, priorities or competence in dealing with this situation?

Based on everything I've seen in almost five years the answer is pretty clearly 'no' on each count. To my thinking that has to be the starting point of the discussion.

Sebastian,

If "Of the military responses likely--air strikes--no." was directed in response to my comment, do you believe:

a. that Iran has learned nothing in the quarter century since the Israelis stopped the Iraqi program about how to make their program less vulnerable to air strikes;

b. that air strikes alone will end the matter, in that the Iranians being so chastened by our actions, will not attempt to rebuild their program; and

c. that the air strikes will support our long term goal of supporting and encouraging peaceful democratic relations in the Middle East?

It seems you need all 3 of these to be answered in the affirmative for air strikes to be effective, and I can't see any are likely.

Not only did the Democratic refusal to offer an alternative SS plan deprive the GOP of talking points, but it actually worked out better for the nation. That decision effectively prevented SS from meeting the same fate that Medicare is meeting right now.

Another related point that doesn't get made enough is that the GOP doesn't actually produce meaningful policies. It produces rhetoric with the appearance of policy but to end the story there is to miss the point completely. These policy-esque proclamations are primarily a goad to spur Democratic responses which, regardless of their merits, are then used as fodder for Democrat-bashing and repositioning on the issues (often extending into outright co-opting of Democratic ideas, cf the Department of Homeland Security). Those talking points you're talking about aren't symptomatic of the Republican reactionism, they're the hardcoded second level of the Republican strategy for political dominance. Don't get me wrong, it's a brilliant strategy given an uncritical/compliant/complicit media, since it gives the appearance of a debate to the uncritical eye, while sparing Republicans of ever actually doing the hard work of government: coming up with real-world, pragmatic policies that will improve the lives of its citizens (and the world at large) and then implementing those policies effectively.

IOW, Charles Bird was right in that we do have a Party of No: the Republican Party. No ideas, no policies, no substance beyond the eternal struggle for political supremacy. There's no there there. Given this, Democratic temporizing is precisely the right strategy, I'm sorry to say; deprived of its only source of legitimate policies, the GOP might actually have to stand for something, instead of standing against liberals/Democrats at one remove.

NB: I'm referring here only to upper-echelon GOP members, not the wider Republican "penumbra" nor to rank-and-file Republicans, many of whom do have actual policy suggestions. [Most of which suck, of course, but that's neither here nor there ;) ] There's a small caveat in this observation to do with religious issues, but I've neither the time nor the energy to analyze those on these terms.

Cleek:

"the Iran situation was stable - Iran didn't nuke anyone or do a test of a nuke or anything like that."

Statements like this make me absolutely nuts. After Iran has nuked Tel Aviv it is a little bit late to worry about nuclear proliferation. After Iran has conducted a successful nuclear test (and we won't know about the unsuccessful ones) it is too late. It sounds to me like non-proliferation isn't that important to you if that is your threshold of worry. That is a coherent position for opposing action against Iran and not seeing a need for Democrats or Republicans to find a policy for stopping proliferation. But if that is indeed your position, just say so. I'll marshall different arguments against that postion. If that isn't your position, your comments aren't comprehensible to me.

Katherine:

"Believe me, I am NOT freaking happy with a nutty Holocaust denier with nukes that could reach Israel, but the president of Iran is not actually the one in charge of the country. Khatami wasn't and I see no reason to believe this guy is. I think they're deterrable."

What about Rafsanjani's "If one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists' strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality"?

He is one of the most prominent clerics. He is still the Chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council (which "negotiates" [read dictates] conflicts between the legislature and the Council of Guardians [more commonly known as the mullahs]). The only person with clearly more power is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (at least as far as formal power goes, I can't speak to who may or may not be in charge behind the scenes if the Ayatollah isn't really the person in charge of the clerics).

That puts one of the highest level clerics (and former president) and the current president both on record at different times suggesting that the Muslim world should be willing to risk nuclear counterstrike in order to destroy Israel with nuclear weapons.

"I mean, I'd support sanctions but I don't honestly think they will work."

Well they certainly won't work if Europe isn't on board, and it appears from today's news that they probably aren't willing to employ sanctions.

"Do you think non-nuclear airstrikes would actually eliminate the nuclear program? If so I've got to wonder why it took a regime change to eliminate Iraq's nuclear threat when it's always been completely freaking obvious that Iraq's capcacity was much less than Iran's. You're not buying into the harebrained theory Hersh alluded to last year about how people are going to rise up and overthrow the mullahs when they're shown to be vulnerable, are you?"

No I don't particularly buy that theory. It would be nice I suppose, but counting on anything even remotely in that zone would be deeply stupid. I fully expect temporary retrenchment.

As far as the efficiency of airstrikes, I suspect they would be largely effective, especially in destroying the most dangerous piece--reactors. I can't vouch for totally effective, that certainty isn't ever available in such things.

Beautifully nailed on the Party of No, Anarch. There are, of course, quite a few Republicans up to fairly high in the party who do have ideas, often ones founded in principles I respect and may even agree with, who are genuinely concerned with competence, legality, honesty, and efficiency, among other good things.

And their thoughts influence policy just as much as mine do.

Katherine, I forgot to reply to this part of your comment: "If so I've got to wonder why it took a regime change to eliminate Iraq's nuclear threat when it's always been completely freaking obvious that Iraq's capcacity was much less than Iran's."

We tried to deal with Iraq first because it had a confluence of factors which made it more dangerous and it had a history with the international community. It had previously invaded Iran and Kuwait. It had previously used banned weapons. It had previously had an advanced and undetected by the international community nuclear program (found only after it was defeated in Kuwait). It had previously not allowed inspections for almost four years. It was under sanctions at the time. It hadn't accounted for that calutron--interestingly it still hasn't been found. It was easier to deal with than Iran. It was thought that international support would be easier to obtain for dealing with Iraq. There were a large variety of reasons why dealing with Iraq made more sense.

"I suspect they would be largely effective, especially in destroying the most dangerous piece--reactors. I can't vouch for totally effective, that certainty isn't ever available in such things."

unless, of course, you put soldiers on the ground.

i suspect that the occupation argument will follow once the air strike argument has had a chance to marinate for a while.

[btw, didn't SH at one point complain bitterly about operation desert fox, on the grounds that air strikes alone are never enough because you never really know how effective they've been?]

another way to be sure about the destruction of iranian assets is to use nukes. the irony of using nukes on iran to prevent iran from using nukes elsewhere would not, i hope, be lost on the posters here.

Sebastian: We tried to deal with Iraq first because it had a confluence of factors which made it more dangerous

Only in Bush's fantasies. Or, if you're still of the opinion that Bush is honest but dumb, only in the bad intel spoonfed to the honest-but-dumb Bush administration by the evil CIA.

Interesting to see you repeat the list of invented reasons used to justify invading Iraq in 2003, as if you'd learned nothing in the past two years.

It was easier to deal with than Iran.

This was, I think, the one honest reason. And look at the catastrophic results of invading that "easy mark", Iraq.

Statements like this make me absolutely nuts. After Iran has nuked Tel Aviv it is a little bit late to worry about nuclear proliferation.

Ah yes, we wouldn't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud, now would we? Maybe you should have thought of that before Condi decided to use "The Little Girl Who Cried Wolf" as an instruction manual...

In all seriousness Sebastian, step back and look at what you're saying here. You still think Iraq posed a threat? A threat that justified the opportunity cost? Now Iran will get nukes sooner or later, one way or another. Even if you bore no responsibility for encouraging that the milk be spilt in the first place (which you do, whether you see it or not -- and there were plenty of warnings that invading Iraq would make Iran less deterrable if not undeterrable) you cannot unspill this milk. Getting all pissy about how somebody else isn't cleaning it up is just, well, childish.

These policy-esque proclamations are primarily a goad to spur Democratic responses which, regardless of their merits, are then used as fodder for Democrat-bashing and repositioning on the issues

I believe Anarch has stumbled upon half of the man behind the curtain. The other half's got to be around here; I thought I saw a quarter of a man in the market. If we can bring them all together, maybe change will result.

"Getting all pissy about how somebody else isn't cleaning it up is just, well, childish."

Posting rules, probably.

After Iran has nuked Tel Aviv it is a little bit late to worry about nuclear proliferation

more of that future-predicting. is that like the smoking gun in the shape of a mushroom cloud ?

but again, i repeat, the CIA thinks Iran is years (prhaps a decade) from having any weapon at all, let alone one that can be mounted on a missile, let alone in a quantity large enough to serve as a deterrent of any kind.

for your Condoleezish scaremongering to have any effect, you have to convince me that you know the form and attitude of Iran's government a decade from now, the state of their weapon's program, the state of their relations with Israel and the state of their relations with the US (and Europe, Russia and China).

stopping proliferation is not something that needs to be addressed today with military action by the same gang who've proven time and again that they are incompetent when it comes to making predictions about WMD. there are other approaches and there are years to spare.

the Serious Hawks are simply batty.

"In all seriousness Sebastian, step back and look at what you're saying here. You still think Iraq posed a threat? A threat that justified the opportunity cost? Now Iran will get nukes sooner or later, one way or another."

Yes I still think Iraq posed a threat. The international community was abandoning sanctions. Saddam had a long history of playing the heartstrings of the international community by starving his own people while building palaces. So long as Saddam was in power, sanctions and inspections were going to have to be kept up indefinitely. That wasn't going to happen. In fact, the international community was only interested in inspections so long as Bush had Marines on the doorstep while the will to enforce sanctions had vanished long before.

"Now Iran will get nukes sooner or later, one way or another."

What do you mean by 'now'? Would France have allowed the UN to authorize an invasion of Iran over nuclear proliferation concerns if there had been no Iraq invasion? Hardly. Invasion isn't the question. Hell, couldn't we at least try sanctions?

Sebastian wrote:

As far as the efficiency of airstrikes, I suspect they would be largely effective, especially in destroying the most dangerous piece--reactors. I can't vouch for totally effective, that certainty isn't ever available in such things.

I think you are pretty far off here. Reactors are only necessary to produce plutonium (produced in a nuclear reactor). Once you have produced plutonium, you have to separate it out. This is fairly non-technical (simple chemistry, as I understand it), and doesn't require the sort of physical infrastructure that a reactor does. Moreover, there are two routes to a nuclear bomb: plutonium and enriched uranium. The plutonium route requires a reactor, but the enriched uranium route doesn't. As I understand it, the Iranians are enriching uranium (they claim for civilian reactor/power generation needs; no one believes them), not generating plutonium. Thus, the target of the airstrikes needs to be the centrifuges necessary for enriching uranium. These are harder to find than reactors, and (once Iran aquires the technology to make centrifuges on their own; did they get this from North Korea or Khan in Pakistan?), any embargo wouldn't stop them. For that matter, once they've enriched enough uranium to a high enough degree, they don't even need the centrifuges to make a bomb (though they would need them to make more bombs).

Thus, airstrikes are problematic. What do you bomb? How do you know you've gotten all the centrifuge plants (they can be hidden)? In order to be entirely sure of removing the nuclear option from Iran, you have to put boots on the ground. This is only possible through two methods: (1)Invasion (very problematic when we're tied down in Iraq), or (2)IAEA inspectors (can be fooled, can be denied access, needs diplomacy, etc.).

There is no simple military solution to the problem.

Sebastian: Yes I still think Iraq posed a threat.

To whom? And why?

Hell, couldn't we at least try sanctions?

And kill a million Iranian children like sanctions killed a million Iraqi children? You're awfully insouciant about killing children of other nations, Sebastian.

"Invasion isn't the question."

Not anymore. When the army wasn't broken, it was.

"Hell, couldn't we at least try sanctions?"

Sure. Of course, getting "Old Europe's" necessary cooperation in implementing them may have been easier before we spent the last few years denigrating them.

cleek wrote:

stopping proliferation is not something that needs to be addressed today with military action by the same gang who've proven time and again that they are incompetent when it comes to making predictions about WMD. there are other approaches and there are years to spare.

The argument about military intervention isn't that it is (necessarily) the only option, but that it is (perhaps) the option that affords us the best chance of success, and (if done early enough) at the lowest cost. A crude analogy is: it's better to shoot someone while their loading their gun, than wait until they've already got a few bullets in it.

It is possible that bombing Iran now might be cheaper than bombing Iran later (or failing to do anything later, or any number of other policy options).

I won't however, attempt to argue that this administration has shown much competance. That doesn't, however, remove any military (or diplomatic) effort from the table.

A crude analogy is: it's better to shoot someone while their loading their gun, than wait until they've already got a few bullets in it.

sorry, you can't scare me in believing we can predict the future enough to know Iran is going to shoot anyone.

Whores for war, like it hard!

KILL! KILL! KILL! KILL!

"the CIA thinks Iran is years (prhaps a decade) from having any weapon at all"

The CIA's track record in predicting when countries will get nuclear weapons (in either direction) has been notoriously crappy. Remember India. Right up until India actually tried to detonate a thermonuclear bomb in 1998, they were thought to have pretty much abandoned their nuclear program and have at most a small uranium warhead. (There is still some controversy about whether or not India detonated a low yield thermonuclear bomb or a super-high yield bomb of another type). Then everyone was concerned this would destabilize the region because Pakistan didn't have the bomb, and wouldn't for many years. 15 days later, Pakistan detonated its nuclear test weapons. The CIA was convinced that Iraq was 5-7 years off of a nuclear device in 1989. After the first Gulf War (one year later) the extent of the actual Iraq program was discovered, and Iraq was found to be little more than a year away from having nuclear capability (some UN estimates put it at less than nine months).

The first mushroom cloud doesn't have to be over Tel Aviv. It probably would be over the desert in Iran for a test. It is the location of the second mushroom cloud that worries me.

RE: "Not anymore. When the army wasn't broken, it was."

Don't be silly. Except as a totally unilateral move, an invasion of Iran is politically impossible. We couldn't even maintain international sanctions against Iraq, which had invaded two of its neighbors. We couldn't even maintain inspectors without shipping half the army into the Gulf. Barring a nuclear explosion over Tel Aviv, and perhaps not even then, the international community wasn't going to get behind an invasion of Iran. When people speak of "force" to stop or slow nuclear development in Iran, they are talking about air strikes.

RE: sanctions see Jesurgislac's comment to for an explanation of why not even sanctions are likely from the international community. Europe's idea of enforcing a treaty is glaring at people. They are increasingly finding that their diplomatic efforts are hampered more by the perception of complete lack of will or force behind them than US efforts are hampered by the perception of a not-finely-discriminate use of force. If you want to see the European force which backs up its diplomacy, look at the Sudan or the Balkan disaster before the US got involved. If you think that the US has a diminished credibility because it is stretched in Iraq, I don't see how it is possible to believe that the EU has a credible threat (or will to use any threat they have) of force at all.

cleek wrote:

sorry, you can't scare me in believing we can predict the future enough to know Iran is going to shoot anyone.

Actually, I wasn't trying to scare you. I was only arguing (through a poor analogy) that there is a logic to why military action sooner is preferable to military/diplomatic action later. It is possible that Iran is run by crazed mullahs who will nuke Israel at the earliest opportunity: in that case, military action soonest is likely best.

My overall points was: there are times when military action is correct; is that the case in Iran?

I'm not convinced it is, but I'm also open to the idea that military action might be necessary, and possibly sooner rather than later.

"stopping proliferation is not something that needs to be addressed today with military action by the same gang who've proven time and again that they are incompetent when it comes to making predictions about WMD."

I don't think the incompetence of the Bush administration lets anyone off the hook. If another nation wanted to take the diplomatic lead for bombing I'm fairly sure the US would go along. But that isn't what is happening.

speaking of Iranian response, approximately 15 million barrels per day of oil transit the Straits of Hormuz. A Canadian commenter at Yglesias's website argues that Iran could close the Straits and pretty quickly imperil the entire world-wide economy. While I don't buy all his arguments, some seem pretty compelling.

[too tired for links today. you guys are smart; find it yourselves.]

"Don't be silly. Except as a totally unilateral move, an invasion of Iran is politically impossible."

And defense doctrines indicated that we would be able to fight a regional war and a holding action in another one based solely on the strength of our army. Since we are still fighting the Iraq War, we cannot invade Iran ourselves anymore. That's what radish meant by opportunity costs.

"sanctions see Jesurgislac's comment to for an explanation of why not even sanctions are likely from the international community."

And yet sanctions were, to a greater, if not perfect, extent, maintained against Iraq for more than a decade, without Iraq having defied the IAEA by openly working on a nuclear weapon. Even now, I think we could get a sanctions regime in place. However, needlessly insulting our putative allies in the sanctions is not the way to get a forceful one in place, unless we give up something our allies want to get them to save face in domestic politics. It's yet another opportunity cost of the way the Bush Administration handled Iraq.

Yeah, it's the Europeans that have problems with sanctions.
-------------------------------------------

Firm's Iraq Deals Greater Than Cheney Has Said
Washington Post
June 23, 2001

During last year's presidential campaign, Richard B. Cheney acknowledged that the oil-field supply corporation he headed, Halliburton Co., did business with Libya and Iran through foreign subsidiaries. But he insisted that he had imposed a "firm policy" against trading with Iraq.

"Iraq's different," he said.

According to oil industry executives and confidential United Nations records, however, Halliburton held stakes in two firms that signed contracts to sell more than $73 million in oil production equipment and spare parts to Iraq while Cheney was chairman and chief executive officer of the Dallas-based company.


Halliburton, Dick Cheney, and Wartime Spoils
By Lee Drutman and Charlie Cray,
Access to Evil -- business dealings in Iraq, Iran, and Libya: News reports suggest that Pentagon is currently using the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) to draw up a blacklist of non-US companies that have done business in Iran. Yet, Halliburton has conducted Business in Iran through subsidiaries. When Cheney was CEO of Halliburton, he inquired about an ILSA waiver to pursue oil field developments in Iran. In 1997, Halliburton subsidiary Halliburton Energy Services paid $15,000 to settle Department of Commerce allegations that the company had broken anti-boycott provisions of the U.S. Export Administration Act for an Iran-related transaction. Halliburton recently agreed to evaluate its operations in Iran, after the Securities and Exchange Commission rebuffed the company's request to dismiss a New York City police and fire pension funds shareholder proposal for the company to examine its role in Iran.

Cheney & Halliburton: Go Where the Oil Is
by Kenny Bruno and Jim Valette
Multinational Monitor magazine, May 2001
Probably the most entertaining exchange in the vice-presidential debate last year occurred when Joe Lieberman, referring to the millions of dollars Dick Cheney had made as CEO of Halliburton Co., noted that Cheney was considerably "better off" than he had been eight years earlier.

Cheney, refusing to give the Clinton administration any credit for his own prosperity, or the nation's, replied that his new wealth "had nothing to do with the government."

The assertion was disingenuous, as in fact Halliburton's growth and Dick Cheney's own $37 million stock and option windfall were directly related to profits made with the help of foreign aid packages and military contracts. Cheney's own connections from a long career in government clearly played a role in the company's success. Moreover, the chuckling after this understated paean to private sector superiority helped to obscure the fact that Dick Cheney's Halliburton has succeeded by partnering or engaging with governments around the world-including some of the most repressive regimes in the world-and its complicity with egregious human rights violations.

More:
Cheney & Middle Eastern Sanctions

If you think that the US has a diminished credibility because it is stretched in Iraq, I don't see how it is possible to believe that the EU has a credible threat (or will to use any threat they have) of force at all. [Emph added]

If another nation wanted to take the diplomatic lead for bombing I'm fairly sure the US would go along. [Emph added]

Talk about framing the issue...

Sebastian: Europe's idea of enforcing a treaty is glaring at people. They are increasingly finding that their diplomatic efforts are hampered more by the perception of complete lack of will or force behind them

Heh.

than US efforts are hampered by the perception of a not-finely-discriminate use of force.

Over a hundred thousand civilians dead is your idea of "a not-finely-discriminate use of force"? This is meiosis.

US efforts are hampered primarily by the conviction in the international community that if it is possible for the Bush administration to do something incompetently, it will; by the sure knowledge that the Bush administration will not stand by the US's historic allies - not even those who go along with what the Bush administration wants (Blair has got nothing from Bush for being Bush's most loyal ally in the war on Iraq); and by the simple fact that no one can trust the current administration or its representatives to give an honest assessment of a perceived threat.

In C.J.Cherryh's Alliance/Union novels, more than once a merchanter captain makes the point to a crew member/family member: that being born to a ship gives each family member one judgement call. The right to cry havoc in an emergency and bring their entire crew and the authority of their ship to their defense. And each time they make the right judgement call, they earn the right to make another judgement call - just one more.

The US had the right to make just one judgement call. Bush made it: he claimed Iraq was an international threat and the US had to invade. (He also claimed he intended to rebuild Iraq and foster it as a free democracy - but made no plans for the occupation of Iraq, demonstrating that he was either stupid, or lying.) If the US had found significant stockpiles of WMD, or any evidence at all that Iraq posed a threat to any other country, the US would have won one more judgement call. But too bad: Bush lost.

Even if this were an honest lapse of judgement - and who believes it was, except the Bush loyalists? - it would be such a gross lapse in judgement, killing so many, causing such chaos and destruction, that the Bush administration (and therefore the US) would have lost any right to make another judgement call.

Given that to anyone except a Bush loyalist, it's evident that Bush & Co never believed there were WMD in Iraq, never believed Iraq was a real threat, any claim now that the US sees no alternative but military action on Iran is not going to be greeted with skepticism, but with simple disbelief.

You wanted this administration, Sebastian: you apparently even voted them back in in 2004. Well, this is the result: if the US wants to attack Iran, it will do so with no world support at all. Bush blew it.

"And yet sanctions were, to a greater, if not perfect, extent, maintained against Iraq for more than a decade, without Iraq having defied the IAEA by openly working on a nuclear weapon. Even now, I think we could get a sanctions regime in place."

They were falling apart by January 2002 with four major countries pushing for a removal of sanctions (France, Germany, Russia and China), despite the fact that Saddam had kept out inspectors for four years. They had already almost fallen apart twice, once leading to the atrocious Food-for-Oil disaster-area. There are already diplomatic rumblings (only a week later) that the UN has no stomach for sanctions against Iraq.

Saddam had a long history of playing the heartstrings of the international community by starving his own people while building palaces. So long as Saddam was in power, sanctions and inspections were going to have to be kept up indefinitely.

Sorry to be rehashing old arguments, but this doesn't fit (to me) with what we found once we invaded - namely, an Iraq with no remaining WMD. His weapons programs were completely dismantled; he had not redeveloped them in the absence of inspectors. If Saddam was as keen as you say on reconstituting his nuclear development program, I would have expected him to still be hiding something of value. Some physical evidence that he was both interested and capable in reviving these programs. Perhaps I missed such evidence.

For talk about bombing to make any sense, you must assume that the US has good enough intelligence to pick out worthwhile targets. Does anyone really believe that? Since I don't, it seems to me that the best policy is to negotiate for a good inspections regime. If nothing else it might give the CIA better opportunities to spy.

But since negotiating means offering something to Iran, which would enrage America's hawks, that policy is unlikely to be tried.

Sebastian,

Yes, and 2002 is how many years from the end of Gulf War 1 in 1991? I stand by saying sanctions were to a greater extent in place for more than a decade.

US efforts are hampered primarily by the conviction in the international community that if it is possible for the Bush administration to do something incompetently, it will...

Uh, no. They're hampered primarily by the fact that if it's possible for the Bush Administration to do something incompetently, for whatever reason, they will. [Domestic political jujitsu being the primary exception to this.] International conviction of this fact doesn't really feature.

I don't think the incompetence of the Bush administration lets anyone off the hook.

since they are the people impelementing whatever "solution" they come up with, their incompetence means nobody should give them any encouragement.

They're hampered primarily by the fact that if it's possible for the Bush Administration to do something incompetently, for whatever reason, they will.

That supposes that the chaos in Iraq wasn't intentional. Jeanne at Body and Soul points out that it begins to look as if causing chaos was at least a secondary purpose of invading Iraq.

So long as Saddam was in power, sanctions and inspections were going to have to be kept up indefinitely.

Uh-huh, so? You say that like it's a bad thing. The humanitarian consequences of the sanctions were admittedly high, but I'd sorta assumed you were okay with them because they were certainly less than the humanitarian consequences of invasion, and you don't seem to have been opposed to that. Look, the bombing that Clinton did was not strictly legal any more than the invading that Dubya did. But me personally I'd take the former over the latter.

That wasn't going to happen. In fact, the international community was only interested in inspections so long as Bush had Marines on the doorstep while the will to enforce sanctions had vanished long before.

Hm. Again, I don't see how this qualifies as a hellish nightmare full of flying demons rather than an irritating and complicated diplomatic problem. Are you saying the level of sanctions which the UN was falling back towards would have proven inadequate in light of the condition of Saddam's military capability as it was in the period 2001-2003? Are you saying that once the original sanctions were withdrawn all international leverage with respect to Saddam's military capabilities would suddenly be null and void?(*) Are you suggesting that Iraq was actually closer to having major nuclear/biological weapons in 2003 than Iran was at the same time? Are you suggesting that the "we'll be greeted with flowers and create a foothold for democracy" scenario was the most likely one? What was the risk or benefit that outweighed the opportunity cost?

In particular, I am now perplexed about your view of the relationship between force projection and diplomatic leverage: is it inmportant to have spare Marines available with which to project force or is it tangential? Because one thing we definitely don't have now -- which we did have then -- is spare Marines.

What do you mean by 'now'? Would France have allowed the UN to authorize an invasion of Iran over nuclear proliferation concerns if there had been no Iraq invasion?

Uh, wait a minute. That begs the question of whether Iran would be equally belligerent if we had not invaded Iraq. I'm not at all convinced that that's the case, but arguendo I am also not convinced that the French are quite the idiots you make them out to be here. Corrupt, yes. Venal, sure. Idiots, no. If Iran posed a real threat, even if it was only a threat to Israel, then yes, I reckon they would support sanctions and if necessary an invasion. We would of course have to persuade them that they would be allowed to share in the spoils. Now China and Russia I don't know about. They might have had some concerns about the reintroduction of US/British hegemony in Iran that wouldn't be as easy to assuage...

(*) Ah, I see that you are indeed saying almost exactly that in your 9:38 comment. Duly noted.

Since the flavor of the day is to criticize Dems because they allegedly lack an Iran policy, I suggest that someone who supports Republicans articulate the strategy of the Bush administration over the last five years to prevent a nuclear Iran (or for that matter, the Iran policy in general).

Right. The Party of Ideas hasn't had one. But somehow its more important to fly-speck the party out of power for their alleged lack of a plan.

Better, of course, would be if the Demcratic leadership organically recognized that there are bad people in the world and that it's not automatically GWB's fault that they exist.

Better, of course, would be that Republican supporters recognize that it is GWB's fault that we have such crappy choices in dealing with Iran, and also recognize that GWB will continue to articulate crappy choices. Then perhaps we can think about what to do in view of the deceitful incompetence of those in charge, instead of make-believe scenarios about what this crew might do to protect the USA.

Iran is the next great challenge, and it is (and should remain) a nonpartisan one.

* * *

What policy do the Democrats offer on Iran? Because I'm not seeing much from them but snarkettes in the mold of Atrios.

I can see you missed Atrios' point, and well as the essential truth of his "snark." He linked to this post by Marshall to make his substantive point. You should read it.

There is no chance in hell that GWB and Republican leadership will allow the Iran policy to be nonpartisan. Also, there is every reason to expect that policy to be laced with large doses of dishonesty and incompetence.

Therefore, an essential aspect of dealing with Iran includes how to deal with the bitingly partisan, deceitful and incompetent plan that will be advanced by GWB and crew. And that is Atrios' point, which is not "snark" but the sad truth.

Please deal with it realistically.

I have to press on this point: what will happen if we do strike? We launched one major military operation without adequate planning for possible responses; we cannot afford to do so again.

Keep in mind, please, that we have 130,000 troops who are a lot closer to Iran than they are to home (targets? occupying force? both?), and that the world really needs the strait of hormuz to stay open.

A couple of points on the Iraq sanctions.

First, they were originally meant to hurt the civil population. I can go hunt up that Barton Gellman June 23 1991 Washington Post article if I have to, the one about how the Gulf War bombing of civilian infrastructure was meant to work with sanctions in hurting Iraqis, but people can google for it themselves.

In light of that, it's a little tiresome to hear Sebastian tell us how Saddam starved his people with sanctions we imposed with the original intent of causing harm. Saddam was partly responsible for the suffering and so were we. The US relented to some extent and supported the Oil for Food program because it turns out that pesky Arabs and Eurowimps were getting upset over the dead babies. At any rate, it'd be nice if Americans could get into the habit of acknowledging some responsibility for the deaths we inflict. If we did, maybe God would give us all ponies.

Now because of the civilian suffering, the Bush Administration was moving towards smart sanctions in early 2001. You can google that too. It was thought that smart sanctions would enable us to keep the lid on Saddam while ending most of the civilian suffering. Some anti-sanctions activists (David Cortright or Cortwright?) were for this and others suspected smart sanctions would have been just as indiscriminate in practice as the ones already in place, because the US would choose to make it so. But in principle that doesn't have to be the case. If we ever were capable of having a serious policy discussion in this country, one that took ethical considerations into account , then maybe Democratic policy wonks could suggest some version of targeted sanctions which would slow down Iran's nuclear program, or even hurt the economy in limited ways, rather than bringing the entire economy crashing to the ground as the Iraqi sanctions did.
But we don't do serious policy debates in this country, not on any level that matters--the runup to the Iraq war demonstrated that.

On second thought, strike the "hurt their economy" notion. I don't see that we have the right to do that. Slowing down their acquistion of nuclear weapons--sure. I wish someone would have slowed us down.

Much of the move toward 'smart sanctions' was to try to salvage some small bit of European support for the sanctions regime which they were intent on getting rid of. It pretty much didn't work, and sanctions were well on their way to the dustbin by the time Bush started moving troops into the Gulf.

"At any rate, it'd be nice if Americans could get into the habit of acknowledging some responsibility for the deaths we inflict."

As far as sanctions go, it would be nice if critics of American policy could get in the habit of acknowleging the nonexistance of cost-free diplomatic options. All-talk diplomacy doesn't work anywhere and it never has. If you can't wage war, and you can't implement sanctions, there isn't much left to threaten with. Maybe that is ok with you, but personally I doubt that the all-carrot approach works for all (or even nearly all) situations. Saddam could have ended sanctions under Bush I or certainly the first term of Clinton by fully cooperating with inspectors for a couple of years in a row. He never did that. He wanted to outwait the international community, and other than the US he succeeded completely.

Jonathan Schwartz found this helpful little comment from a Canadian responding to Matt Y--

http://www.tinyrevolution.com/mt/archives/000749.html#more

Donald Johnson: Holy mackerel, that's some mighty fine rantage. I wish I'd written that. Word on the street is that Gore's speech blew the roof off the hall as well.

I'm glad we taught those radical crazy Iraqis a lesson, concerning diplomacy.

Who cares that the Islamofascist dictator Hussein was more truthful than Bush!

9-11 changed everything!

Only the children of the Saudi aristocracy can kill our people!

The CIA's track record in predicting when countries will get nuclear weapons (in either direction) has been notoriously crappy.

which part of the US government predicted that india and pakistan were close to testing nuclear weapons in early 1998? which part of the US government knew saddam was in 1990 merely months away from getting nuclear weapons? the answer, of course, is that all US intelligence agencies failed here, and not just the CIA.

the lesson one might draw from these failures [not to mention what happened most recently in iraq] is to treat with extreme scepticism all claims made by all branches of US intelligence on the issue of iran's nuclear capabilities, whether these claims tend toward apparent fearmongering or complacency. i mean, if you favour airstrikes, is it not problematic that the CIA and other agencies with "notoriously crappy" records on proliferation issues would likely be involved in selecting targets?

Please clarify if I'm wrong but isn't Sebastian's position basically that, since sanctions don't work erfectly, we should use airstrikes?
Shouldn't we consider the longterm consequences of airstrikes in the contect of the war on terror and the spreading of democracy throughtout the Middle East?
Quite a large percentage of Americans have made a huge fetish out of the tragedy and shock of the 911 attack. We need to consider how much of a tragic shock it would be to Iranians if thousands of their civilians were killed in what the rest of the planet would certainly regard as a terrorist attack if we used airstrikes. They'd hate us for two generations. That's not good if we are trying to get them to be, in the long run, a pro-American democracy (remember all the dreams of destabilizig their govenment and freeing the pro-American masses there?) Also the shock would reverberate around the Middle East, indeed the whole Islamic world, and the message to all would be that the US will kill Moslems to protect Isreal and to get our own way. AlQuaida couldn't pay us to do a better publicity stunt for them. No one, no one outside the US would believe our long term intention for the Middle Eastern countries was to help them shake off their dictatorships and become democracies--after all democracies are self-determing entities and the blasting of Iranian civilians would make it clear that self-determination is the last thing the US wants for an Islamic country.
Sanctions aren't perfect but they are better than the alternative.

I think the Iranians have deliberately placed their nuclear production activity centers in urban areas, by the way. Maybe someone has some iformation about this.

lily: No one, no one outside the US would believe our long term intention for the Middle Eastern countries was to help them shake off their dictatorships and become democracies--after all democracies are self-determing

I don't think many people outside the US believe that the US plans such a complete reversal of its usual foreign policy of supporting dictators and attacking democracies now, Lily. What such a terrorist attack on the US might well do is convince even more Americans that their government prefers dictators to democracies.

I don't think we are promoting democracy either, but democracy promotion is the rationale put forward by many Bush supporters. My point was that an airstrike would be a mistake in terms of their stated goals. Also I was unclear but by "terrorist strike" I meant that an airstrike by us against Iran would be widely perceived by others as a terrorist act or the equivalent thereof.

But one should always be suspicious when military powers claim to be doing weaker states favours by occupying them.

I mean, can we really trust the warmongering right-wing nationalists?

Cheney's Path: From Gulf War to Mideast Oil
In Business, He Benefited From His Pentagon Days
Mr. Cheney called in June for the lifting of U.S. sanctions on Iran. He called relations between Iran and the United States a ''tragedy,'' adding that one of the best ways to improve ties would be ''to allow American firms to do the same thing that most other firms around the world are able to do now, and that is to be active in Iran.''

He added, ''We're kept out of there primarily by our own government, which has made a decision that U.S. firms should not be allowed to invest significantly in Iran, and I think that's a mistake.''

Under Mr. Cheney, Halliburton has become a leading member of USA Engage, a lobbying group that seeks to lift sanctions. Halliburton is also a member of the board of the National Foreign Trade Council, a lobbying group that recently won a victory in the Supreme Court, which struck down a Massachusetts state law imposing state sanctions on companies doing business in Burma.

Mr. Cheney's company has already done business in countries still facing U.S. sanctions, including Libya and Iraq, the enemy Mr. Cheney helped vanquish in the Gulf War.

Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll-Dresser Pump Co., joint ventures that Halliburton has sold within the past year, have done work in Iraq on contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq's oil industry, under the United Nation's Oil for Food program.

From:
http://www.freerepublic.com/forum/a3981d4da7d19.htm

I'm not particularly calling anyone out here, but it is a remarkable link free discussion here, not that links automatically provide truthful information, but it seems that the discussion is much more about domestic politics rather than any 'facts on the ground'.

At HoCB, there are a number of links in the comments if people are interested. I myself twigged onto von's last update (I always am late on these because I go straight to the bottom of the page rather than check the post again, so I would suggest that if you do update, just drop a one line comment as this might avoid food fights. Just a suggestion)

Anyhow, von wrote:
Such strong-arming might include threats of US sanctions against the Russians and Chinese themselves -- sanctions that will be costly to the US economy if actually carried out.

I don:t know if this was before or after Francis pointed out this

approximately 15 million barrels per day of oil transit the Straits of Hormuz. A Canadian commenter at Yglesias's website argues that Iran could close the Straits and pretty quickly imperil the entire world-wide economy. that I think is what Donald linked to here

I would link this to two things pointed out the HoCB thread, that Japanese officials have expressed concern about the possibility of a worldwide oil shortage, which Chinese have cut down on their refining capacity, apparently concerned about over capacity. Couple that with the reports about China's massive foreign currency reserves. Couple that with the fact that China has to be concerned with the possibility of muslim fundamentalism within its own borders (which is why the US won't send back those Uighurs, right?) and there doesn't seem to be the slightest possibility of strong arming China, which is not too terribly concerned about nation states having nukes. I think this suggests that the continued US stance of 'we should have them, you shouldn't, so there', regardless how you view it historically, is simply a non-starter. Of course, as with the Nixon to China thing, there is absolutely no way a Democrat could propose a jiu-jitsu approach such as this.

"Please clarify if I'm wrong but isn't Sebastian's position basically that, since sanctions don't work erfectly, we should use airstrikes?"

I don't need them to work perfectly (in the sense of stopping all trade) But if they are to have any effect they must at least be fairly broad. My point is that they don't work politically through the UN very well. They aren't a serious alternative to airstrikes because they won't make it through the UN. Whether or not they would work if implemented is a tough question which is unlikely to be answered because the countries involved aren't likely to try it. In an ideal world I would love to try sanctions first and resort to air strikes only if they failed.

LJ,

Damn, that Canadian got down.

Sebastian, ccare to comment on the longterm consequences of airstrikes?

Democracy Arsenal has an alternative proposal--too long for me to boil down to a sentence and I'm too tired to do a link. Hint: it doesn't involve sanctions or airstrikes.

If China and Russia can be convinced to join the Euros and the US in economic sanctions, locking down Iran's oil exports shouldn't too much trouble (blockade the terminals around Shatt al Arab and close the Strait of Hormuz). We'd feel the lack of oil, for sure. The Iranians would feel the lack of revenue much, much more intensely.

Those moves might be available to the Euros and the US regardless of what Russia and China think.

Damn, that Canadian got down

and, to echo what the comments he got at
tinyrevolution: that post should end the discussion of Iran there, here, and everywhere in the blogoshpere, for good.

it won't. but it should.

I think lily is referring to the Grand Bargain post, so here, for as a service to the ObWi world, here is the link Interesting stuff.

Opposition parties oppose, Debbie. This is not rocket science.

It would more accurate to say that minority parties oppose, because that's where they'll stay if they're too afraid to present their own solutions. It certainly is not rocket science.

Take it the next logical step. If Democrats acquire enough power succeed in opposing, then what? Without articulating a vision, then it's just power for power's sake, and that's why the people aren't satisfied with promoting the oppositionists to power when they don't have viable alternatives of their own. The lessons of 1994 are still there.

Switching gears, Iran is going to come down to several fundamental decision points, which I think I'll address in a separate post.

Take it the next logical step. If Democrats acquire enough power succeed in opposing, then what? Without articulating a vision, then it's just power for power's sake, and that's why the people aren't satisfied with promoting the oppositionists to power when they don't have viable alternatives of their own.

Untrue, as witnessed by the present Republican Party.

The lessons of 1994 are still there.

Yes, they are. Pity so few are learning from them.

When I suggest that Dems stay silent now, that doesn't mean I think they should/can stay silent when running for election. However, I didn't think the calls last spring for Dem positions on SS was so that voters could make an informed choice in an upcoming election, nor do I think von's suggestion now is such.

There will be time enough for candidates to take positions. In the fall, when it matters. And when the context is such that a voter can make a reasonable judgment.

Calling for positions now else is just misdirection.

I would welcome an explanation of how a clear, moral, obtainable vision expressed by Democratic leaders would make the Bush administration one bit more competent, attentive, honest, or humble. Where are the precedents for such a thing on the Democrats' part affecting Republican policy at all? That is, why do we have any reason to believe it would help? Republicans and sympathizers, please indicate instances of Bush's adopting Democratic proposals.

There's the Department of Homeland Security. After that?

There's the Department of Homeland Security.

And only then with that anti-union poison pill.

BTW, I completely missed this somehow but...

Whores for war, like it hard! KILL! KILL! KILL! KILL!

NeoDude, knock it off, ok? That kind of sh** isn't just not helping, it's actively counterproductive. Save it for Atrios or wherever; stick with actually citing articles and making concrete points here.

Not to mention that it was an anti-conservative, anti-practical proposal in the first place.

The "Canadian ranter" is Den Valdron, and his comment was originally posted at TPMCafe, in response to an Yglesias article.

It is indeed a fine rant, and raises some issues I'd appreciate those who're in favor of a war, or airstrikes, addressing.

One, he says the CIA says Iran is five years away from building a nuke. Now, if the pro-war/pro-airstrike folks here don't believe that, fine. The CIA has certainly been wrong before.

But I would like to know what source of information those in favor of a war, or airstrikes, are relying on when they say 5 years is too long, we gotta take out the installations "now!"

Den Valdron also has some interesting things to say about the differences between Iran and Iraq, and the Strait of Hormuz:

" Iran is 70 million people, an area five times the size of Iraq, not disembowelled by 12 years of sanctions and air raids.  On the other side of the coin, America's ground army is busted and tied down in Iraq.  There's no troops to throw at a major Iranian military force, so you have to hope that bombing will do the trick.   The occupation forces in Iraq are in occupation and not territorial defense mode.  And Iraq is 65% Shiites who are probably not going to be happy that you're blowing up their brother Shiites.  

Meanwhile, the straight of Hormuz is so narrow that sinking one supertanker will block it indefinitely, and Iran borders the straight on three sides.  Block Hormuz and any naval groups inside the Persian Gulf are trapped there.  Any naval groups outside the Persian Gulf are trapped outside.  Forget about any oil coming out of the Persian Gulf from Iraq, Kuwait, Quatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or the UAE.  Think about what that does to the price of oil, and to the world economy.  Think about what that does to dependent countries like Japan, India, China and Europe."

I'd be very interested to hear the pro-military folks' comments on this. Because it seems to me the idea that airstrikes alone will be effective depend on Iran reacting to them with, at most, impotent fury. Is that the scenario you've got in mind? It's OK to bomb Iran, because they can't retaliate in any important way?

The democracy arsenal proposal is odd to say the least.

Step one: "We should drastically reduce our stockpile of nuclear weapons and take them all off alert. We should ratify the test ban treaty and commit to serious negotiations for a treaty which bans the production of fissionable material for weapons purposes with effective inspection procedures. We can then move to stigmatize nuclear weapons and insist that no state has the right to deploy or threaten to use them."

Presume for the sake of argument sentence 1. What will be the enforcement mechanism of sentence 2? Unless it involves an international agreement to make war to enforce the inspections it will almost certainly be ineffective as to states like North Korea or Iran. Furthermore, a lack of US nuclear weapons will do nothing to deal with one of the major reasons states like North Korea or Iran want nuclear weapons (ignoring for now the desire to nuke Israel)--to trump conventional force difference. If the US doesn't have nuclear weapons the incentive to have nuclear weapons INCREASES because now you not only have a trump against stronger conventional forces, you also don't have to worry about nuclear retaliation.

In short I find it highly unlikely that such a proposal would actually help in such cases both because there is almost no chance of an enforcement mechanism and because it wouldn't improve the situation without one. No one other than the US seems to even try to enforce the NPT in any case, much less all cases. With weak or even medium level enforcement (probably anything less than serious international commitment to invade countries that break the treaty) the incentive for rouge states to pursue nuclear weapons would increase under the proposal rather than decrease because the benefit of having nuclear weapons would be even greater than it is now.

"But I would like to know what source of information those in favor of a war, or airstrikes, are relying on when they say 5 years is too long, we gotta take out the installations "now!"

We can probably wait a year or so. Sure. But we have to start gearing up now. We have to start showing international resolve now. If there is to be any chance of a diplomatic resolution, Iran has to believe that there is some miniscule chance that there might be slightly bad results from pursuing nuclear weapons. Until very recently the Europeans have signaled that there is no chance of problems for Iran. Unsurprisingly, the diplomatic initiative has been a complete bust.

This may be a good time for Iranian military top brass to die in mysterious plane accidents, and for other terrible accidents to happen to various members of the Iranian leadership, with a restive population mostly under 30 that wants to be free of the religious police state. And I suppose that would be illegal, but is it more ethical to wait for the mullahs to bomb Tel Aviv?

DaveC: And your evidence that this would do anything other than unite Iranians in opposition to the American assassins is what, again?

On second thought...

No, don't bother, the answer would only make me feel even more helpless in an age of crazies.

No one other than the US seems to even try to enforce the NPT in any case, much less all cases.

really?

Last year this coalition of nuclear-capable states - including Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden and eight NATO members - voted for a new agenda resolution calling for implementing NPT commitments already made [to reduce stockpiles]. Tragically, the United States, Britain and France voted against this resolution.

also, pursuant to the NPT, each of the nuclear states, including the US, has given assurances to the

I believe I used the word "enforce".

Not that this will make any difference, but I do think that the Demo Arsenal deserves more than being brushed off like that. Why? Because (and if you disagree with these points, feel free to back up and discuss them) we are currently in a rather dangerous stalemate about Iranian nuclear activity and we need something to unbalance the status quo. I don't think there is any way we can convince Russia and China to influence the situation (I mean, Japan is still planning on developing the Azeghdan oil fields, largely on the feeling that if they don't, the Chinese will), so there are only two directions, one which is to be harder and more ruthless than the mullahs and the other is to take a step back and unbalance them. Of course, imagining this admin doing something like this is impossible, but a new admin might be able to do something.

You may cite North Korean nuclear capacity, but when you have the South Koreans relocating to 6 miles from the DMZ, it is clear that the threat of the nuclear djini is not what it used to be.

This says nothing about the fact that Iran is Shiite and the root of our current problems are supposedly with Sunni extremists, but regardless of who it is, it would be in our interests to try and remove the option to use certain weapons rather than go the route of getting bigger and better versions of those weapons.

I know this is not going to convince some, but the value of this attempt is in capturing the moral high ground, which I think we have lost. If you want to argue that we remain the shining beacon on the hill, you are welcome to, but I don't see a lot of non Americans buying that line.

Sebastian: Until very recently the Europeans have signaled that there is no chance of problems for Iran.

Once again, why do you keep blaming "the Europeans" for what's plainly and obviously George W. Bush's fault?

Also: We can probably wait a year or so. Sure.

Sure. The important thing is to be gearing up for war before the 2006 midterms: actually going to war, which will be catastrophic, had better wait till afterwards.

"but I do think that the Demo Arsenal deserves more than being brushed off like that. Why? Because (and if you disagree with these points, feel free to back up and discuss them) we are currently in a rather dangerous stalemate about Iranian nuclear activity and we need something to unbalance the status quo. I don't think there is any way we can convince Russia and China to influence the situation (I mean, Japan is still planning on developing the Azeghdan oil fields, largely on the feeling that if they don't, the Chinese will), so there are only two directions, one which is to be harder and more ruthless than the mullahs and the other is to take a step back and unbalance them."

I responded with what I thought. Do you disagree with my assessment? If so where? You can't complain about a lack of discussion if I respond to the cite you raise and then you won't address the points I raise.

"Once again, why do you keep blaming "the Europeans" for what's plainly and obviously George W. Bush's fault?"

It is Bush's fault that the French don't want to enforce the NPT? Really? He is so much more powerful than I realized.

Lily: My point was that an airstrike would be a mistake in terms of their stated goals.

Yes. But invading Iraq without either having a plan for the occupation, or a plan and personnel to secure/destroy stockpiled WMD, were also mistakes in terms of their stated goals.

The latter mistake made it clear that Bush & Co were either lying when they claimed to believe there were stockpiled WMD in Iraq, or are so incompetent they couldn't organize a piss-up in a brewery. I gather Charles Bird prefers to believe they're incompetent but honest: I don't know where the other Republican ObWingers stand on this point.

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