Monday, April 17, 2006

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Open Edward Luttwak thread

OK, the Mark Steyn thread on what to do about Iran generated just a few comments. So, while Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claims that Iran is now developing really good centrifuges, here's another point of view.

In Commentary, Edward Luttwak argues that there are several good reasons not to attack Iran anytime soon. He gives three reasons. First, geopolitics renders Iran a natural ally of the United States over the long haul. Second, the Iranian regime wants a U.S. attack for the rally-round-the-flag effect.

The third reason is the most convincing for me: despite three decades of effort, the Iranians haven't made much progress at developing strategic industries, much less a workable nuclear device:

[I]n spite of all the industrial assistance it received, it is not clear that the Iranian nuclear organization can manufacture centrifuge cascades of sufficient magnitude, efficiency, and reliability. There are many talented engineers among the Iranian exiles in the United States and elsewhere in the world, but perhaps not so many in Iran itself. Besides, demanding technological efforts require not just individual talents but well-organized laboratories and industrial facilities.

Organization is indeed Iranís weakest point, with weighty consequences: after a century of oil drilling, for example, the state oil company still cannot drill exploratory wells without foreign assistance. In another example, even though the U.S. embargo was imposed almost 25 years ago, local industry cannot reverse-engineer spare parts of adequate quality for U.S.-made aircraft, which must therefore remain grounded or fly at great perilóthere have been many crashes. Similarly, after more than sixty years of experience with oil refining at Abadan, existing capacity still cannot be increased without the aid of foreign engineering contractors, while the building of new refineries with local talent alone is deemed quite impossible. Iran must import one third of the gasoline it consumes because it cannot be refined at home.

In sum, there is no need to bomb Iranís nuclear installations at this time. The regime certainly cannot produce nuclear weapons in less than three years, and may not be able to do so even then because of the many technical difficulties not yet overcome.

Lest one think Luttwak is being too sanguine, here's the closing part of the piece:
There is thus no indication that the regime will fall before it acquires nuclear weapons. Yet, because there is still time, it is not irresponsible to hope that it will.

By the same token, however, it is irresponsible to argue for coexistence with a future nuclear-armed Iran on the basis of a shared faith in mutual deterrence. How indeed could deterrence work against those who believe in the return of the twelfth imam and the end of life on earth, and who additionally believe that this redeemer may be forced to reveal himself by provoking a nuclear catastrophe?....

These, then, are the clear boundaries of prudent action in response to Iranís vast, costly, and most dangerous nuclear program. No premature and therefore unnecessary attack is warranted while there is still time to wait in assured safety for a better solution. But also and equally, Iran under its present rulers cannot be allowed finally to acquire nuclear weaponsófor these would not guarantee stability by mutual deterrence but would instead threaten us with uncontrollable perils.

Read the whole thing. I think Luttwak is underestimating the ability of the Iranian regime to stay in power, but it's food for thought.

posted by Dan on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM




Comments:

Luttwak's article is well written, but may be mistaken in a number of respects

1) He may be correct about the state of Iran's ut a nuclear program, but his arguments are not all that convincing. We know that Pakistan, without much of an industrial base to speak of, developed nukes. Ditto for North Korea. One doesn't need a vast industrial base to produce nukes, one just needs solid focus and some talented scientists, and some smuggling.

2) In particular his comments about Iran's problem getting spare parts for old US aircraft is quite weak. Many countries very often have trouble building spare parts for older weaponry. India has problems with a lot of its old Soviet weaponry and aircraft, and despite its fine air force and training often has crashes of older Soviet aircraft.

3) His comments about Iran being unable to produce anything like a nuclear program after 30 years is misleading and inaccurate at best. Iran's nuclear program actually started under the Shah. However, it went into a long hiatus after the revolution. The Iran-Iraq war also essentially stopped the program till at least 1990-1991. Whether this makes Luttwak's point stronger or weaker is unclear, but he should at least stick to the facts.

4) His assertion that we know a lot about Iran's nuclear program and his attribution of this to the fact that Iranian nuclear scientists probably despise the regime out of a higher nationalism to the world is bizarre. Most of what we know about Iran's nuclear program comes from the MEK. While the MEK almost certainly has good intelligence sources in Iran, it is most odd to consider thase who supply intelligence to this odd, semi-terroristic, semi-Marxist cult as some sort of great benefactors of humanity. Even more importantly, we still don't know how much of Iran's program is hidden.

5) His bold assertions about the regime may be correct, but the election of Ahmedianjiad showed us how little we understand some of the political dynamics of Iran, especially the views of the urban and rural poor.

posted by: erg on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



To add a bit to my previous post -- it would be a mistake to judge Iran's capability to produce a nuke based on its general industrial base or expertise. We know that the Soviet Union could not produce a decent car, or decent toilet paper, but they were able to produce a formidable nuclear arsenal and a solid space program.

posted by: erg on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



erg points out some good weaknesses of Luttwak's article. Still, I find the whole article one of the most readable and immensely insightful. His portrayal of historic context of Iran-USA relations is excellent as well as vivid description about ethnic mosaic is quite right. It correctly takes the reader to a point where the importance of 'what do USA want after the regime change' becomes very clear. On the background of Iraq war, that is probably the most crucial issue.

His is one of the clear descriptions about the political weaknesses of the current regime. To fair to Luttwak he does point that the regime may last just enough to get nuke in next 4 to 5 years and the challenge for USA is to undertake action during that period.

What he has missed is:
- how can the current leadership of Pres. Bush mobilize American public for a war against Iran (it is war effectively - Israeli UN Ambassador effectively called that after the latest suicide attack); i.e. the question of selling the war domestically when Iraq war sale turned out to be wrong; (Andrew Sullivan of Time is the one who is saying Americans will wait till Bush goes)
- how rest of the world is unlikely to come to USA's help and why; and
- the actual modalities of actions and consequences: economic sanctions, Oil going to $100, Global recession possibly and so on.

All these left out issues do matter and are important in influencing America's response and her timing.

posted by: Umesh Patil on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Luttwak writes an interesting piece, but Iran's regime and Iran's nukes are not necessarily linked issues - and the regime issue is diplomatically less important than the nuclear issue. One may or may not like the leadership or politics of Luxembourg, Thailand, the Philippines, Chile, Morocco, Malta, Switzerland, etc, but it would, nonetheless, be undesirable for any of them to develop nukes as signatories of the NPT - like Iran.

Linking the issues could be dangerous for western politicians and diplomats b/c it is somewhat simplistic and likely a losing proposition - seen as transparent external meddling in internal, soveriegn issues (until such time as Iran acts on threats to other soveriegn nations in the region).

Accountability for the NPT is, however, a supranational issue and it ought to be pursued unless Iran invokes article X of the NPT and withdraws. If that happens, then a more difficult issue must be dealt with.

posted by: TN on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Luttwak seems close to right on to me. There's time to attempt other strategies, even if Iran as they intimate has or is perfecting the more efficient type 2 centrifuge - hell, there may even be time once they build a bomb since delivery of it will also involve a technological leap for them that they may not master before other forces come into play. There's time because the military option is absolutely the old Hail Mary - Bush's brilliant work in Iraq has made sure of that.

At the same time it would be naive to believe that the military option won't be the likely endgame here - shifts in military power create treacherous instability that generally can only be settled, like an earthquake, through the violent expression of energy. The Islamic bomb, whether proximate or real, would definitely represent such a shift.

posted by: saintsimon on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



There is a slight irony in reading this from Luttwak. Isn't he the guy who got himself on the academic map by writing "Give War a Chance" some years ago?

Anyway, Luttwak's first argument is that Iran is a "natural ally" of the US. Is that because we put the Shah in power back in the '50s and it was so convenient for us? He goes so far as to state that rejection of a US alliance "violates the natural order of things". Caramba! Once again it seems the Sun revolves around the United States.

Is it really a sound assumption that Iran's only choices are choosing between the US or Russia as their pimps -- I'm sorry, I mean protectors? I would argue that perhaps one of the many reasons we now have the likes of ayatollahs and Ahmadinejads in charge is because of that assumption.

Separately, I wish he'd developed more into what I think is the more interesting question: Why is Iran baiting the US so much lately? It's really getting out of hand. We could do like we do with Chavez, letting him rant and showing maturity by not responding. But sounds like Ahmadinejad is a big believer in an end-of-days cult, and that may be the answer.

Unfortunately, Bush has his own direct line to God, and so does Osama, and He seems to be telling all of them the same thing.

posted by: St. James the Lesser on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Looks like Luftwak and Nanny Man (of the new cartoon, "Nanny Man & Mullah Man') would understand each other.

posted by: gringoman on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



I am totally unconvinced that Iran is trying to make a bomb. The reality of their energy situation makes it perfectly reasonable that they are simply making power and believe that they deserve access to the technology. also, they have said over and over again that they do not want the bomb and that it is unIslamic. It amazes me that most of the people on this site are so convinced that Iran is beyond-the-pale-religious and yet you do not believe when they say it is against their religion to have the bomb. It seems to me that Americans are so war obsessed and so imperial that they can't even consider that other people in the world might not be as violent as Americans.

For example, here is a quote from Ali Larijani in an interview with Time Magazine:
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1167910,00.html
TIME: Convince us that Iran does not want the Bomb.

Larijani: There's no place for nuclear weapons in our national security doctrine. I don't think that nuclear weapons count as a power. The root of regional power is not from the bomb. For example Pakistan: it didn't have nuclear weapons before, now it does. How much did its influence in the region change? Therefore, from a point of view of realities, there's no reason for us to pay the cost and go after it. You may not believe what I'm about to say but I have to say it anyway. When our religious leader tells us that we're not allowed to pursue nuclear weapons, then we can't go after it. In the Islamic school of thought, mass murder is a great sin.
------

It may be hard for you all to believe, because you are so narcissistic and ethnocentric, but the USA is a vicious monster with no morality except its own power. That, my friends, is capitalism. The USA is a power monopoly and it acts like any corporation would given no legal framework to keep it in line. It destroys its competition and fights to dominate the market. Only, it is a market for power and not for some consumer product. Countries like Iraq or Syria and Iran are not actual threats to US security, they are ideological threats to American power and dominance. Then you add the points of Israel and oil and you have pretty much all you need to know about why the USA acts as it does in the Middle East. In the case of Iran, since it is a strong ideological threat, since it represents a growing power in the region, since it has oil and since it believes correctly that the creation of Israel has caused massive injustice to the Arab and Muslim people of the Middle East, you put these things together and Iran becomes the focus of American policy in the region. And since it has all these factors, the most idiotic fantasies about it are developed to give reason for it being a "threat" or for justifying an attack. Iran is not producing nuclear weapons and they couldn't do it for 10 years even if they were trying, Bush and Negroponte admit that. The problem is that they pose an ideological challenge for the USA. They can lead the Muslim world against the USA. Iraq was in that position in the 80's and had to be sanctioned for a decade and finally destroyed to keep American power supreme. likewise, Iran will be destroyed in a way that, once again, shows the USA to be the most violent and vicious country in the world.

oh, and lastly, if the USA uses nuclear weapons to destroy Iran, it will be for exactly the same reason it did in WWII when Japan was already dead and was going to surrender. They will use them to prove that they are in charge and they are the Superpower. They may use them against some Iranian facility that is not near a central city or something, just to show that they are willing and able to do it. And to tell other countries not to mess with them because they are in charge, not because they need to for any strategic reason. Just like in WWII.

posted by: joe m. on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



That's the problem with writing when you're pissed, joe m; you make some good points but few will be inclined to take you seriously because you're lashing out indescriminately.

Plus, you start with a bad premise: You seem to be making the case that because islamic leaders are pious and righteous, they are incapable of having egos or hidden agendas and are entirely selfless. But they are still human beings, no?, and thus very capable of error and temptation. So should Americans -- with no shortage of flaws of our own which you highlight -- simply take their word for it?

posted by: St. James the Lesser on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Joe M, the iranian president (who doesn't have the powers of a US president, I don't see that the position has a good analog in US government but maybe an important cabinet minister would be the closest) has talked as if iran is going to get nukes soon. And he's talked like they'll use them irresponsibly.

Is he bluffing? It would make a certain sense to bluff. If he thought we were going to attack if he didn't have nukes, then it makes sense to get us to think he has them. Of course we use it as an excuse to attack. But then, we used that as an excuse to attack iraq too, and there's absolutely no reason to suppose we wouldn't have attacked iraq anyway if we were 100% sure they didn't have nukes.

I tend to agree with your Lanjani quote. Having nukes doesn't make that much difference. You can't threaten to use nukes for trivial advantage, or you'll come out looking like a maniac. The only thing nukes are really good for is keeping other nations from nuking you, which they mostly won't do anyway. And in war it could encourage other nations to accept some sort of negotiated settlement instead of requiring an unconditional surrender. But it just isn't that important, except for crazy people.

Unfortunate that the USA has had such a series of crazy leaders....

I don't think it does a lot of good to talk about how you disapprove of US goals. The people who agree with US goals will think you're a crackpot. They'll figure that US hegemony is the best thing for the world, we're the good guys and what we do is right. Just like the guys in the british empire or the japanese empire or for that matter the romans. If they thought it was a bad thing they wouldn't support it.

posted by: J Thomas on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Luttwak's basic argument is that we should delay decisive military action for now because (a) the threat posed by the Iranian push to obtain nukes is and will remain manageable for the time being, given how far the Iranians still have to go to develop a Bomb; and (b) time is on our side, in that events in Iran may make such military action unnecessary.

Luttwak is certainly right, for many reasons, in contending that military action is a last-choice option here. Obviously, there are many risks inherent in any military attack on the Iranian facilities, beginning with the risk to American (or Israeli) servicemen involved in any such military action (or an Iranian response to it). Thus, it makes little difference whether one agrees or disagrees with Luttwak's contention that such a military response should be avoided for now because it will entail the loss of some supposed Iranian friends of the US, or may give the Iranian regime the bogeyman it supposedly wants. Quite apart from those considerations, there are many reasons to avoid military action unless and until it is the only remaining available option. Whether time is on our side, as Luttwak contends, seems quite doubtful to me. But I agree with Luttwak that, so long as the best information available to us is that the Iranians are still far from having developed a nuke, it would be folly not to see whether something may develop that obviates the underlying problem.

Luttwak is also right in dismissing two ideas often heard in discussions about the Iranian threat and how to deal with it -- first, the notion that containment based on deterrence of the 'mutual assured destruction' sort is a reasonable alternative option that makes the Iranian acquisition of nukes acceptable; and second, that negotiations or sanctions are likely to prove an effective means of dealing with the Iranian threat. The most important point in Luttwak's piece is his statement that there are no circumstances under which it would be acceptable to the US (or Israel) to acquiesce in a nuclear-armed Iran. For that reason, delaying a military strike to destroy the Iranians' ability to produce a nuke is acceptable only for so long as the passage of time does not allow the Iranian regime to acquire nukes.

Given Luttwak's assertion in the last few paragraphs of his article that a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable to the US (and Israel) and must be stopped by military means if necessary, the issue is essentially one of timing: how far along are the Iranians, and how long will it take them to get from wherever they are in the process of building a nuke, to the development of a deliverable Bomb? Luttwak's answer is three years, but his reasons for that conclusion are quite vague. It may be true, in general, that the Iranian regime has proven corrupt and incompetent in performing tasks that they should have mastered decades ago -- Luttwak uses examples dealing with oil/gas extraction and refining. It may also be true that earlier Iranian efforts to develop a nuclear capacity were hampered by incompetence all around.

None of that is determinative of the key point --the Iranians' progress in developing a Bomb, particularly given the massive amount of resources the mullahs are throwing into that effort. Luttwak's speculation about problems the Iranians may be experiencing with centrifuges, and the difficulties they may be encountering in separating U-235 from U-238, are interesting, but ultimately remain just speculation. It goes without saying that speculation is an unacceptable basis on which either the US or Israel could delay taking decisive action to put an end to a mortal threat.

In general, Luttwak's piece was a timely reminder, if any were needed, that, before military action is undertaken, the US needs to be as sure as available intelligence permits that there is no other acceptable option. My concern is that the time window is shorter than Luttwak imagines, and that the uncertainties inherent in any intelligence on the point will make it impossible to know how far along the Iranians really are in the quest to develop a Bomb. On that score, it seems to me that doubts have to be resolved in favor of immediate decisive action, since the possible consequences of underestimating the Iranians' progress are, as Luttwak himself acknowledges, dreadful to contemplate.

posted by: RHD on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



"How indeed could deterrence work against those who believe in the return of the twelfth imam and the end of life on earth, and who additionally believe that this redeemer may be forced to reveal himself by provoking a nuclear catastrophe?...."

Cf the book of Revelations, the events of which are eagerly awaited by much of GW Bush's base.

posted by: John on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



J Thomas says:
"the iranian president... has talked as if iran is going to get nukes soon. And he's talked like they'll use them irresponsibly."

This is utterly untrue. Unless you are being very liberal with your use of the words "talked like" and "talked as if". Because, i am 99% use you have never listened to more then three translated words he has spoken. I do not read or understand farsi, but i do arabic and i have seen many of his talks and heard many of his lectures on aljazeera and alarabeya. He says over and over and over again that he has no interest in nuclear weapons. over and over again. they want the technology, they want energy, those things are for sure. but everyone in the west is talking out of their ass when they say he wants weapons. you are inventing that. I can't say for sure whether he does or does not want weapons (obviously, i believe he does not), but it amazes me that people who have never heard more then three words from ahmadinejad have the audacity to think they know anything about him.

and to St. James, i was not making the argument you suggest i was making about Iranians. I was making an argument about Americans who think they know something about Iranians. Americans talk non-stop about how religious Iranian leaders are, but they simply ignore the religious rulings against nuclear weapons as if they did not exist. I agree that Iranians are capable of error. there is no debate there. hell, i may be wrong and they may actually want to produce nuclear weapons. considering how dangerous the USA is and all the talk of attack, they would surely have a reason to want them. but again, my point was not about the Iranians, but about the Americans. and i am totally sick of talk about fantasy "nuclear weapons" that bush and negroponte even agree do not exist and will not exist for 5-10 years.

And lastly, i agree that i am pissed. i also know that it probably turns many people off. but i am totally amazed that 10 out of 10 people on this site (not including myself) accept the most idiotic ideas about iran on the basis of pure speculation, and are even counter to the facts (which show no proof whatsoever of nuclear weapons development, and almost no evidence (the evidence they seem to talk about is pretty weak too) that they even have thoughts about maybe making them some years from now). yet on this basis there is completely serious discussion of attacking Iran. it is insane.

posted by: joe m. on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



that is, i am 99% sure, not "99% use"

posted by: joe m. on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Valid points, joe m. But when the Iranian president talks about wiping Israel (or any other country) off the face of the Earth, you haveta worry. Unless that is simply a bad translation of what he said.

posted by: St. James the Lesser on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



I will just add, i have an family friend in the Iranian Senate and i have been told in good confidence, from someone who knows him, that ahmadinejad is an amazingly selfless and honest man. that he acts so megerly that he brings his own lunch to work because he thinks the prepared meals are too extravagent, that he works 18 hour days and still lives in his old home in a poor district of tehran from before his time as mayor. The problem, so i am told, is that he speaks his mind to such a degree that he knows it gets him in trouble (and maybe killed) and that he has great trust in the military.

posted by: joe m. on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Cf the book of Revelations, the events of which are eagerly awaited by much of GW Bush's base

The difference being that they don't think anything they personally can do will either hasten or prevent those events. It is a doctrine of Christian faith that only God can determine when the apocalypse will happen.

posted by: Dan on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



It is a doctrine of Christian faith that only God can determine when the apocalypse will happen.

What if it's true that Bush believes he is acting on God's behalf?

posted by: MSS on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



@ St James "Anyway, Luttwak's first argument is that Iran is a "natural ally" of the US. Is that because we put the Shah in power back in the '50s and it was so convenient for us?"

Not really. His argument was that Russia borders Iran to the north and is a permanent long-term threat to Iran. I think this is borne out by history - Iran was one of the pawns in the Great Game played by Britain and Russia in the last century.

I could see Iran making an alternate major-pwer alliance with India or perhaps China - but as Luttwak points out the US is the most 'natural' partner.

Luttwak makes a great deal of sense. I think this problem is not yet mature, and many things can yet happen to abort or delay the nuclear plans. Refining uranium is a 'non-trivial' problem in the engineering trade with many a slip between yellowcake ore and bomb. The appeal of the machine is not what it was.

It also appears that some fairly minor actions (such as taking out power plants local to the nuke plant or cutting transmission lines might just throw a huge spanner into the engineering work.....

posted by: Don S on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Is the key variable here the ability of the current Iranian regime to stay in power, or the ability of the current Iranian president to do so.

Iran is internally more plural than we give it credit for. A few years ago it appeared that moderates (dare I say 'liberals'?) had the upper hand. Things have reressed badly. But this regression need not be a one-way street any more than the previous liberalization was.

Consider that Ahmadinejad came in second in the first round of the 2005 election, in a field of seven candidates (all approved by the clerics' Guardian Council). He had only 20% of the vote. He probably would have lost had he faced the reformist who came in a close third (18%). He would not even have been in the runoff had the two main reformist candidates coordnated (they combined for almost a third of the vote).

Instead, Ahmadinejad faced off against oldtimer Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whom he trounced. Even if Rasfsanjani had beaten a reformist runoff candidate, current Iranian policy would be rather different.

In other words, the extent to which Ahmadinejad has inflamed the current situation is partly a product of poor electoral coordination, not of some grand scheme by a unified totalitarian state.

In power, Ahmadinejad has faced severe problems with Iran's elected parliament--which vetoed three candidates for oil minister, for example.

The point of all this is that Iran, while by no means a democracy, has a means for regular turnover. Ahmadinejad's rise has not changed that, and is unlikely to do so.

The worst thing the USA can do as a matter of policy is make Ahmadinejad so popular that he wins reelection easily in 2009 (and in the parliamentary elections that come up before then, that his supporters take full control).

posted by: Matthew on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]




Not really. His argument was that Russia borders Iran to the north and is a permanent long-term threat to Iran. I think this is borne out by history - Iran was one of the pawns in the Great Game played by Britain and Russia in the last century.

Russia does not border Iran to the North any more (although it has influence in the countries that do).

And there were 2 outside parties in the Great Game -- Great Britain and Russia. If you were Iranian you might well conclude that the successor to Great Britain (the US) represented as great or even greater a threat than Russia, given the US's presence in or influence in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq etc.

posted by: erg on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



joe m -- All you say may about Ahmedianjiad may well be true, but I will freely admit that the person who bothers me is not the Iranian cleric who lines his pockets, but the grim ascetic, selfless President. It may be true that he's been somewhat demonized, but its also true that he's given his critics a lot of material to work with.

Finally, I definitely think Iran is working on a nuke. It makes sense, given that they have 5 nuclear powers in close vicinity and another (the US) constantly threatening to attack.


It goes without saying that speculation is an unacceptable basis on which either the US or Israel could delay taking decisive action to put an end to a mortal threat.

I would be fascinated to hear on what basis Iran constitutes a "mortal" threat to the US.


posted by: erg on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



"the iranian president... has talked as if iran is going to get nukes soon. And he's talked like they'll use them irresponsibly."

This is utterly untrue.

I'm sorry. You're right.

Somehow I supposed that the US media wouldn't tell simple lies like that. But they did.

http://www.startribune.com/722/story/378074.html
Here are the statements that got expanded on.

"The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm."

This could be interpreted to mean a nuclear attack. But in context he appears to be talking about the palestinians doing it. OK, that could be interpreted as him giving nukes to palestinian terrorists. (Though setting off nukes in israel when they are so close themselves would be like Samson in the temple....)

There was a second quote that this article missed where he talked about the iranian military using the "latest technology" to repel a hypothetical american attack.

And then he said various things that would make zionists bulge out their eyes and scream.

It was heavy interpretation that made this into any nuclear threat at all. But given his attitude about israel, no zionist could possibly stand the idea that his government might get a nuke.

He was quoted as denying the holocaust.
http://mathaba.net/0_index.shtml?x=533717
Here is a claimed translation of what he said. They translated the sentence in question as

"If there are doubts regarding the Holocaust, there is really no doubt regarding Palestinian disaster and Holocaust. The Holocaust in Palestine has persisted for more than sixty years."

And the first quote above gets translated as

"The Zionist regime is a decaying and crumbling tree that will fall with a storm."

The claim seems to be that they are falling apart in precisely the way that Luttwak claims the iranian regime is.

The clear implication here is, don't trust the MSM for any interpretation.

posted by: J Thomas on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



I would be fascinated to hear on what basis Iran constitutes a "mortal" threat to the US.

Iran is no threat to the US, but they could conceivably become a significant threat within thirty years. This is the sort of nation Bush likes to attack. Hype the threat and then hype the victory. It would be better if the rest of the world would participate in sanctions for a year or so to cripple the iranian military further, though.

Iran might be a serious threat to israel in only, say, 15 years. Of course israel is the same sort of serious threat to iran right now, but somehow that isn't considered a parallel.

posted by: J Thomas on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



I have heard that Ahmadinejad has been spending like crazy on the poor and that you hardly see any people begging in Tehran anymore, that you can see that the oil wealth has been actually getting to the peopel and that even the types of foods that poor people are eating these days has obviously improved over just a few years back. And this is from a liberal who is naturally in opposition to the views of someone like Ahmadinejad. erg, you may not like that kind of thing, or you may not like that the president is actually trying to help his country, but he is. from what i have heard, even people who dislike his politics have no thoughts about him being corrupt or of having bad intentions. the thing is, he is an ideologue, no doubt. but there is a huge difference between him saying that israel doesn't deserve to exist or that the palestinians have suffered or even that Israel should be "whiped off the map", and him actually threatening to kill people. it is inconceivable to me that Iran would ever directly attack Israel unless Israel attacked first. I am a liberal and am sympathetic to the suffering of the Jewish people, but i believe that Israel is a cancer in the Middle East. I wish Ahmadinejad would keep his mouth shut, but what he says is mainstream in the Middle East. In fact, I know dozens of people who have been excited that "finally someone has the guts to talk openly" about moving Israel to Germany. but again, that does not mean he is going to attack Israel. and that is absolutely no reason to think that the nuclear program is military.

I mean, look, i am just trying to be honest about these things. you will probably think i am a nazi or something. but the truth is that just because the Jews have suffered, that does not give them the right to oppress the Palestinians. and the vast majority of people in the Middle East don't give a damn what happened to the Jews BECAUSE they continue to oppress the Palestinians. So, I can't blame Ahmadinejad for expressing these views. It is the reality of what people think. (which reminds me, i am told all the time that i am anti-semitic and that i want to "destroy" israel because i am for a one-state solution. because i am for equality of people in the land of palestine.)

and erg, you said, "Finally, I definitely think Iran is working on a nuke." but I have no idea why you are so convinced. it is unreasonable. it makes no sense. you have no evidence, you have no proof, and you even fly in the face of every statement Iran has made, yet you "definitely" believe it. I just don't get it. Iranians openly announce they are teaching waves of people to become suicide bombers, they openly announce that they want to wipe Israel off the map, they openly announce that have a full nuclear energy program and want the technology, they even agreed to an additional protocol to the nuclear treaty and have allowed inspectors to look their programs for years, it is not as though they are exactly cowering about these issues. Maybe they would try to hide a *weapons* program if it existed, but there has been no proof at all that one exists. yet, based on pure speculation most americans are ready to attack Iran for this. Like i said in my first post in this topic, it is not a matter of weapons, but a matter of power. The USA doesn't even think they have weapons, but wants to destroy them anyway because they want to make sure they have total control of the region.

posted by: joe m. on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



I'm not terribly persuaded by the "natural ally" argument -- a regime that has defined itself politically by its opposition to the United States for over a quarter century will have a hard time accepting it as well -- but the rest of Luttwak's piece makes sense to me.

Some of the discussion on this thread is a reminder of our greatest weakness in making policy toward Iran, that being our very limited knowledge of that country's internal politics and the workings of its government. Coincidentally this was also a problem in designing a policy toward Saddam Hussein's Iraq over the years, but where Saddam's Iraq was a centralized dictatorship in which all authority ultimately came back to one man Iran appears to be very different, much easier to penetrate if we know what we are looking for.

Intelligence work takes time, which I agree with Luttwak we have here. One could argue that a crisis atmosphere, justified or not, could raise obstacles to an effort to fill in the gaps of our knowledge about conditions with Iran and increase our ability to influence Iran's internal politics. But I do not know whether any such effort is being contemplated by this administration.

posted by: Zathras on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Where is the CIA? They used to do a wonderful job in Iran. The Persians are not Arabs and their religion is not same as their neighbors. They are a natural ally of the West in the Middle East.

The industrial capability of the Persian people approaches zero. They are not in the same league with the Russians or Koreans. They are not known for their organisational talents, on the contrary.

The Persians should be our allies. If there was ever a situation calling for the CIA, and not for the military, it is this one. But where are they? Drinking vodka in the jacuzzi in some 5 star hotel in Italy? I am for vodka and I am for jacuzzi, but there is work to be done.

posted by: jaimito on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Iran might be a serious threat to israel in only, say, 15 years. Of course israel is the same sort of serious threat to iran right now, but somehow that isn't considered a parallel.

Israel isn't run by fundamentalist Muslims. Iran is. If only you could pretend that this didn't make a difference. If only you could pretend that fundamentalist Muslims were no different than anybody else. If only you could sell that argument to the American public, George Bush wouldn't be president right now.


Personally, I liked this quote from Ali Larijani: In the Islamic school of thought, mass murder is a great sin.

Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell all those people who strap bombs to themselves, hijack airplanes, fly them into buildings, that sort of thing.


The point of all this is that Iran, while by no means a democracy, has a means for regular turnover. Ahmadinejad's rise has not changed that, and is unlikely to do so.

The problem with that argument is that it mistakenly assumes that the president of Iran runs the government of Iran. Iran has "regular turnover" in a position that has no real power. There's no turnover, except via natural causes, in the actual seat of power in Iran.

posted by: David Nieporent on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



@erg
And there were 2 outside parties in the Great Game -- Great Britain and Russia. If you were Iranian you might well conclude that the successor to Great Britain (the US) represented as great or even greater a threat than Russia, given the US's presence in or influence in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq etc.

Perhaps you would & perhaps you wouldn't. There is one enormous difference between the US and the British Empire geographically after all. From an Iranian perspective, I mean. India is not ruled by the US. It is instead the major regional power and highly independent.

That means that the US has only a minimal territorial presence in the region (bases in the Gulf) and no credible argument can be made that the US wishes to conquer Iran - unlike the British Empire - which had a history of such conquests.

posted by: Don S on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



....the truth is that just because the Jews have suffered, that does not give them the right to oppress the Palestinians.

In terms of some absolute morality that's true. But the deeper truth is that israel is the land the zionists want, not some place in the USA or uganda or anyplace else. And they don't want any nonzionists there. If they could pay, say, twenty billion dollars (given to them by the americans) and have all the palestinians just go away, I expect they'd do it. It isn't like they have some deep psychological need to have arabs to oppress. But they haven't found any way to get rid of the palestinians, so the best they can do is put them behind walls and refuse to pay anything to support them and try as much as possible to ignore them.

If palestinians were only completely nonviolent, the israelis would shut them behind walls and refuse to pay anything to support them and would ignore them completely. Palestinians would be better off.

So that answers your question. Zionists have a right to israel because God promised it to them. And in their opinion palestinians give up any rights they might have had because they are violent.

posted by: J Thomas on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



and erg, you said, "Finally, I definitely think Iran is working on a nuke." but I have no idea why you are so convinced. it is unreasonable. it makes no sense.

First, it does make sense. If iran gets a few bombs the USA will probably not attack iran, ever again. But we're making explicit threats to attack now. And implied threats to nuke them.

Second, it particularly makes sense to americans. If mexico, and canada, and the USSR, and china all had nukes and we didn't, we'd do whatever it took to get nukes too.

Third, it would be a big deal to american diplomacy if iran got nukes. Israel could no longer threaten anybody they want with nukes, iran would have a deterrent. We don't want that. We couldn't credibly threaten to attack iran. It would be a great big complication. And for all we know they might possibly attack somebody. And for all we know they might give one of their first 20 nukes to terrorists who might then be competent enough to successfully attack some enemy with it. Even if none of these look likely, it would be a scary chance to take.

Fourth, it would be a big deal to US politicians. We'd go over the history and decide which US political party was responsible for it happening. Of course the natural answer is that it's the Democrats' fault, but any politician who's too soft on iran could get blamed. Anybody who doesn't press for war now could get the blame. So the most a politician can afford to do is argue that yes, iran is hellbent for nukes, and maybe we have enough time to put off the war awhile. (Like, until there's a Democrat as president who can get the credit for bombing iran.)

Fifth, the iranians have hardened some of their sites and they're keeping some of it secret. This is taken as evidence they have a weapons program, since they wouldn't need it for a power program. On the other hand, they might have assumed that we (or israel) would assume it was a weapons program and bomb it either way, and in that case it *would* make sense to harden sites.


Of coure everybody who's had any contact with persians knows they're honorable people who'd never lie. [grin] But we aren't willing to go by what they say. We look at what they do. And in the short run there's no difference between enriched fuel for powerplants and enriched fuel for weapons. So we have to decide based on our predisposition.

posted by: J Thomas on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]




The problem with that argument is that it mistakenly assumes that the president of Iran runs the government of Iran. Iran has "regular turnover" in a position that has no real power.

So Riddle me this -- why are we so concerned about what the President of Iran says if the position has no real power ?


but the truth is that just because the Jews have suffered, that does not give them the right to oppress the Palestinians. and the vast majority of people in the Middle East don't give a damn what happened to the Jews BECAUSE they continue to oppress the Palestinians.

Joe m, The vast majority of people in the ME don't give a flying frick about the Palestinians. Jordan expelled them, Lebanese killed them, most other Arab countries make no attempt to welcome them as refugees. There have been far greater refugee movements (think India and Pakistan after being partitioned) that have been resettled. The failure of arab countries to try and resettle and integrate arab refugees after 1948 has been one of the major factors in the growth of terrorism (Israel's explusion in 1948 being the other one). Other Arabs don't care about Palestinians, they just seem them as pawns.


posted by: erg on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



So Riddle me this -- why are we so concerned about what the President of Iran says if the position has no real power ?

Because he says things we can quote in bad translation that sound ominous.

posted by: J Thomas on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Re: J Thomas post earlier.

I wonder if (for example) Mormons suddenly decided that Utah was their promised land and they "did an Israel" there, claiming it as their own and kicking out whomever happened to be there: Christians, movie stars, everyone. How would we take it? Is this a fair comparison to the situation in Israel and Palestine?

posted by: St. James the Lesser on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



St. James, that may be close. Except LDS is already nearly a majority in utah, if not a full majority. And they'd need extremely powerful support from overseas to have any chance against the US Marines.

Utah has been mostly run by the mormon church since they kicked out the native americans, there hasn't been a chance for nonmormons to move in and take over.

I think your comparison works better if it's a bunch of mormons from australia conquering utah two thousand years from now. Sad for whoever happens to live there. But if they were badly mistreated by the other australians, then they're just passing it on.

posted by: J Thomas on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



erg,
just to point out, every government in the middle east except syria and iran (some factions in lebanon, and of course, saddam's in iraq) is run by the USA. That is why they do not support the Palestinians. the people in the Middle East do support the palestinians (with the exception of racist, ultra-nationalist factions in lebanon). If for example, the Brothers took power in egypt, thing would change over night. in the 60s and 70s when the middle east was run by nationalist and leftist forces, they all supported the Palestinians to a great degree. now that it is run by regressive and american forces, the Palestinians get very little help.

posted by: joe m. on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



First, it does make sense. If iran gets a few bombs the USA will probably not attack iran, ever again. But we're making explicit threats to attack now. And implied threats to nuke them.


...I'm just curious, but how has the US attacked Iran since the revolution? I don't mean metaphorical 'violence', I mean actually killing people and blowing stuff up.

From where I'm sitting, it looks like what the US has done to Iran since the revolution has been pretty much confined to economic sanctions, diplomatic opposition, rhetoric.

Why would Iran need nuclear weapons to protect themselves from these threats?


Second, it particularly makes sense to americans. If mexico, and canada, and the USSR, and china all had nukes and we didn't, we'd do whatever it took to get nukes too.


This is a non-sequitur. Please, explain how it makes sense, because I don't see it.


Third, it would be a big deal to american diplomacy if iran got nukes. Israel could no longer threaten anybody they want with nukes, [...]


This is nonsense.

Israel refuses to confirm or deny that they have nukes, and I've never heard of any Israeli official ever threatening to use them. On anyone. It would be big news if one did.

Besides that, the only circumstance under which the Israelis would use the nukes they don't admit having is if all of their neighbors tried to invade them en masse... which has happened. Repeatedly.

IMO, the Israeli nukes have saved more Arab lives than Israeli.


Fourth, it would be a big deal to US politicians. We'd go over the history and decide which US political party was responsible for it happening. [...]


[sarcasm] Yeah, the condemnations of Jimmy Carter for letting the Iranian revolution happen have just been popping up everywhere... they're almost as common as the condemnations of Reagan for cutting and running when Iran's Hizbullah proxies bombed the USMC Barracks in Beiruit. [/sarcasm]


Fifth, the iranians have hardened some of their sites and they're keeping some of it secret. This is taken as evidence they have a weapons program, since they wouldn't need it for a power program. [...]


Uranium enrichment is allowed under the NPT, provided you allow the IAEA to periodically inspect the facility you're producing the reactor fuel at. There's no need to do it secretly.


We look at what they do. And in the short run there's no difference between enriched fuel for powerplants and enriched fuel for weapons. So we have to decide based on our predisposition.


There is a difference.

Low-enriched Uranium (LEU,

There is very little point in using Highly enriched uranium (HEU, >20% U-235) in a powerplant- the enrichment process is very expensive and requires vast quantities of energy. That's why it's only used in special situations, like the reactor in a nuclear submarine.

Iran does not have any nuclear submarines.

Producing LEU is allowed under the NPT, there is no need to do so in secret. The Iranians were enriching uranium secretly. Do the math.

ps to joe m- "every government in the middle east except syria and iran (some factions in lebanon, and of course, saddam's in iraq) is run by the USA."?

What is the factual basis for this belief?

posted by: rosignol on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Sorry, the bit about LEU got snipped.

Low-enriched Uranium (LEU,

posted by: rosignol on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Let's try that again.

[...]

Low-enriched Uranium (LEU, less than 20% U-235) is sufficent for use in powerplants. Light-water reactors, for example, use uranium that has been enriched to 3%-5% U-235.

[...]

posted by: rosignol on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



If for example, the Brothers took power in egypt, thing would change over night. in the 60s and 70s when the middle east was run by nationalist and leftist forces, they all supported the Palestinians to a great degree.

No, they didn't. The only country that ever supported the Palestinians, in part, was Jordan, which made at least some Palestinians normal citizens. Other countries used Palestinians as propaganda weapons against Israel, keeping Palestinians trapped in refugee camps for generations based on the fantasy that one day Israel would disappear and they could go "home" to a place most of them had never been anyway.

You remember all the German refugees at the end of the World War II? They were expelled from many surrounding countries. Germany didn't put them into camps and pretend that one day they'd reconquer Poland or Czechoslovakia and these refugees could return and call that "support."

posted by: David Nieporent on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



I work with several Iranian's who left after the fall of the Shah, they are both in their late 30's and we discuss the current situtation in Iran frequently.

One thing they consistantly point out to me when I bring up any form of uprising against the mullahs is that the mullahs while not only having the military under their control (though not all of it) have a cadre of hired guns to do their dirty work.

Where an Iranian military member would be hard pressed to fire on its own people, hired Palestinians have no qualms. And when any forms of protest arrise, its these thugs that do the mullahs dirty work. Its pretty much common knowledge throughout the Iranian exile community that non-Iranian arabs/muslims are brought in to supress revolt and use of force is not a deterent.

Compare this to China and Tienamen Square. The first military members to enter the city were locals, they couldn't bring themselves to use force. The second group brought in were peasant military members from the outlying provinces who had no problem gunning down their fellow counrymen.

I just don't see any form of outside support doing much in the way of causing a signifcant change as long as the mullahs have their private assasin army.

posted by: Gabriel Chapman on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Attack Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Genocide or the threat of it is the only way to win. Just like bushido and german nationalism.

posted by: Joshua Betts on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Given the vast amount of petroleum energy Iran sits on the idea that they need nuclear energy to produce power does not pass the laugh test. The petroleum energy would produce power faster, easier, and cheaper then nuclear power plant would.

posted by: TJIT on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



First, it does make sense. If iran gets a few bombs the USA will probably not attack iran, ever again. But we're making explicit threats to attack now. And implied threats to nuke them.


...I'm just curious, but how has the US attacked Iran since the revolution?

We're threatening to do so now. The schedule is uncertain but the attack is anywhere from days to months from now. It could be today.

Second, it particularly makes sense to americans. If mexico, and canada, and the USSR, and china all had nukes and we didn't, we'd do whatever it took to get nukes too.


This is a non-sequitur. Please, explain how it makes sense, because I don't see it.

I have no idea what you're missing here. If the USA didn't have nukes and our neighbors did, would we find that acceptable? No possible way. Iran doesn't have nukes but all of their threatening neighbors (and more distant threats)do. Of course iran isn't like america, we can suppose that they're more peaceful, more pacifistic, less doctrinaire, less nationalist, and so they would accept being nukeless in circumstances where we would find it utterly intolerable. But that isn't the way I'd bet.

Third, it would be a big deal to american diplomacy if iran got nukes. Israel could no longer threaten anybody they want with nukes,

Israel refuses to confirm or deny that they have nukes, and I've never heard of any Israeli official ever threatening to use them. On anyone. It would be big news if one did.

I've never heard anyone who would know deny the story that they privately threatened egypt during the 1973 war. In response the USSR started to send some sort of nuclear material though the Dardanelles, and in response to that the USA publicly declared alert III (which many members of the military said was actually an alert I) and we privately threatened the soviets with total war unless they stopped. And they did stop, those ships were diverted. You can say that it doesn't count because the israelis never publicly declared it just as they have never declared that they have nukes. But that would be rather disingenuous. Not quite a lie.

Fourth, it would be a big deal to US politicians. We'd go over the history and decide which US political party was responsible for it happening. [...]

[sarcasm]

You disagree? If we don't bomb iran now, and they get a nuke later, you think we wouldn't get a perfect firestorm of I Told You So? [shrug]

Fifth, the iranians have hardened some of their sites and they're keeping some of it secret. This is taken as evidence they have a weapons program, since they wouldn't need it for a power program. [...]

Uranium enrichment is allowed under the NPT, provided you allow the IAEA to periodically inspect the facility you're producing the reactor fuel at. There's no need to do it secretly.

True. Are they actually doing it secretly? Or have they announced their production. I think there's been a consensus on a collection of blogs that the iranians have been doing it secretly, but I haven't reviewed the evidence, and now that I've reviewed a different detail and found the consensus was nonsense on that one, I'm not so sure about this one.

We look at what they do. And in the short run there's no difference between enriched fuel for powerplants and enriched fuel for weapons. So we have to decide based on our predisposition.

There is very little point in using Highly enriched uranium (HEU, >20% U-235) in a powerplant- the enrichment process is very expensive and requires vast quantities of energy.

Good point. So how much enrichment have they announced? What evidence do we have that they intend to make HEU?

Producing LEU is allowed under the NPT, there is no need to do so in secret. The Iranians were enriching uranium secretly. Do the math.

Let's see. If they get the technology working to make LEU, that same technology will make HEU with further application. More expense, more centrifuges, etc. Would we allow them that technnology? When they could simply replicated it in secret bases to make nukes?

Then there's the matter of extracting the plutonium from the used LEU reactor fuel. Is there any evidence that the USA would allow iran to make their own LEU? If not, that would be some reason for secrecy.

I think both of us have been using reasoning that's much too simplistic. Instead of using "there is little need to" as proof, we need to dig deeper.

If we bomb iran and don't occupy, there will be no evidence what their intentions were. The facilities that might have proved it will be obliterated, the iranians will control their own documents. Reasonable historians will never know whether our attack was made on false pretenses.

posted by: J Thomas on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Given the vast amount of petroleum energy Iran sits on the idea that they need nuclear energy to produce power does not pass the laugh test. The petroleum energy would produce power faster, easier, and cheaper then nuclear power plant would.

TJIT, how long do you expect their oil to last? Twenty years? Ten?

If they pump it as fast as we want them to and the chinese want them to, it might be gone in ten years. And the more of it they use themselves the less they'll have to sell.

If you wanted to switch a nation to nuclear power, how many years would you devote to setting up the new system?

We should have started somewhere around 26 years ago. At least put a lot of effort into better reactor designs. But instead we chose to encourage war between iran and iraq. They both chose to sell as much oil cheap as they could to finance both sides of the war, and we put off any serious energy program until 2007 or more likely 2009.

But if you were making a sane american policy, or a sane iranian policy. when would you start on a serious alternate energy project? When you think you're 20 years from running out of oil? Or 10 years? Or 5 years? Maybe 1 year?

posted by: J Thomas on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



J Thomas,

The most commonly used figure I have seen for Iran's natural gas reserves is 940 TCF. Only Russia has more natural gas. This figure does not include their oil reserves.

Natural gas can't be transported over long distances without expensive pipelines or LNG plants. Which means a large amount of Iranian gas is "stranded" i.e it has no economic value because it can't be sent to market.

So they have tons of gas that has no current value and could be used to generate cheap, clean, electricity using natural gas turbines.

In other words the idea that they need nukes for power is laughable.

posted by: TJIT on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



read Eli lake's latest article on Iran:
http://www.nysun.com/article/31300

posted by: F on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



A couple of thoughts.

1. The notion that the Persians are not pursuing the atomic bomb is laughable. They've been doing so for several decades now, and will get a weapon if not stopped.

2. They need a bomb, quick. That means U-235 rifle model-"Little Boy". Turns on a dime, works every time. Ask Paul Tibbets. Plutonium comes later. If you want to sit at the top table, you need to say that you've got at lest a half-dozen uranium bombs. One or two won't do it. A half dozen sitting on Shahad III missiles trained at Haifa and Tel Aviv, that's another story.

I don't think we have as much time as Luttwak indicates.

3. Ahmadhi-Nejad enjoys wide popular support among the working class and the peasantry. Iranians are nationalist, and the bomb program is understood in patriotic terms by the workers and peasants. Ahmadhi-Nejad is standing up to the West and the Jews and shaking his fist.

No one ever lost an election in Iran by doing that.

posted by: section9 on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Enriching uranium is just the first step in using uranium for power?

Do you guys have any idea of the difficult metalurgy involved?

For instance the precision machining of zirconium? The precise control of water chemistry. The ability to make and service large stainless steel vessals? The difficulty of making multimegawatt pumps that are totally sealed with zero leakage that can last 10 to 30 years without replacement?

Or perhaps they will go the Chernobyl route. Graphite (very highly purified) moderation with water cooling - a lower technological undertaking that American designs.

Sure they could be setting up a nuke power industry. I just doubt it.

posted by: M. Simon on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



During World War II, the United States needed less than four years to produce a working atomic bomb, at a time when no one knew much about them or even if they were possible. Without an industrial base, Pakistan created the "Islamic bomb" in 15 years. Why can't the Iranian do it in twenty or thirty years? One has to look at the nature of the regime. This is a regime that has contempt for the rules of international relations. Almost the first thing it did was viloate the scantity of diplomatic areas, an act of war. And this when we had the bomb and Iran didn't. Iran has been at war with us for 25 years; we just haven't admitted it. With regard to the idea that Japan was at the point of surrender before the dropping of the atomic bomb, the whole idea is ludicrous. Just read the history. Japan was training suicide frogmen and bomb squads to use against the Americans on the Japanese home islands. Some of the top Japanese generals committed suicide rather than surrender -- after the war was over. As the Emperor said, Japan had to "endure the unendurable" to find peace. Truman dropped the bomb and ended the war, saving thousands of Japanese and American lives, including my father's perhaps.

posted by: Joe McNulty on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



During World War II, the United States needed less than four years to produce a working atomic bomb, at a time when no one knew much about them or even if they were possible. Without an industrial base, Pakistan created the "Islamic bomb" in 15 years. Why can't the Iranian do it in twenty or thirty years? One has to look at the nature of the regime. This is a regime that has contempt for the rules of international relations. Almost the first thing it did was viloate the scantity of diplomatic areas, an act of war. And this when we had the bomb and Iran didn't. Iran has been at war with us for 25 years; we just haven't admitted it. With regard to the idea that Japan was at the point of surrender before the dropping of the atomic bomb, the whole idea is ludicrous. Just read the history. Japan was training suicide frogmen and bomb squads to use against the Americans on the Japanese home islands. Some of the top Japanese generals committed suicide rather than surrender -- after the war was over. As the Emperor said, Japan had to "endure the unendurable" to find peace. Truman dropped the bomb and ended the war, saving thousands of Japanese and American lives, including my father's perhaps.

posted by: Joe McNulty on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



No one favored by the powers behind the throne have ever lost an election in the last 25 years in Iran?

Why?

The candidates are strictly vetted.

The folks in control do the ballot counting. This is the Soviet Model of Democracy.

Ahanutjob may be popular in certain segments of the population. Or not:

Recent reports say that the peasants are not happy about the $50 mil promised the Palis when there are hungry in the Iranian streets.

posted by: M. Simon on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Oil revenues are up in Iran but personal income is declining.

Textile workers demand wages.

Other reports have 95% of brick factories shut down due to a halt in building construction.

Gold and foreign exchange in high demand in Iran

Follow the Gold.

posted by: M. Simon on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



The problem is not one of nuclear weapons, but of what type of regime will have those weapons. As a result, the only true solution to the Iran problem is regime change. Fortunately, there is a substantial amount of time in which this can be affected. Iran simply does not have the scale of development to have the number of centrifuges needed to have a true nuclear weapons program that would count as a strategic threat. In the meantime measures should be taken to (1) inhibit their ability to get a true program going for as long as possible, (2) strengthen our strategic ties with those countries most directly threatened by an Iranian bomb, i.e., Pakistan, India, Iraq, the Gulf States, Turkey, and of course Israel, and (3) ramp up our efforts to effect a domestic movement for regime change.

posted by: BR on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



We heard you the first time, McNulty.

posted by: X on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Kuwait (run by America no doubt) had a large population of Palestinians before 1991.

By 1993 they were gone.

I wonder why?

No doubt they found more and better opportunities elsewhere.

posted by: M. Simon on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Luttwak's article notes that for Iran, Sunni Arabian oil dynasties very conveniently have Shiite minorities to be mobilized. Very inconveniently for Iran, these Shiite minorities are not Persians, but rather Shia Arabs who are much more sympathetic towards fellow Shia Arabs in Iraq than Shia Persians in Iran. Even more inconveniently for Iran, the Persian Empire also has Shiite Arab minorities to mobilize who are also much more sympathetic towards Shia Arabs in Iraq than Shia Persians in Iran. Most inconveniently of all for Iran, the Shiite Arab minorities in Iran are majorities in the provinces where Iran's oil actually occurs.

Given unmatched American military strength in the Northern Persian Gulf and close relations with Ayatollah Sistani, who would no doubt like to see these friendly Shiite Arab populations liberated from their Persian opressors, the US is in a wonderful position to defund the Shiite radicals funded by Tehran. As Laurent Murawiec notes, the Saudi oil provinces also have a majority of Shia Arabs who are much more sympathetic towards fellow Shia Arabs in Iraq than Sunni Arabs in Saudi Arabia.

A couple of American divisions supporting a couple of Iraqi divisions could control the Northern Persian Gulf, not only defunding 12th Imam Persian Shiite radicals funded by Tehran, but also Wahhabi Sunni Arab radicals funded by Riyadh. We defang Islamic radicals of both stripes simply by dismembering the empires created for Persian and Saudi oppressors by British and French colonialists in the aftermath of World War I.

This wouldn't be blood for oil, it would be blood for liberation, since we would be liberating Shia Arabs from the colonization by imperialist opressors. Ayatollah Sistani would bless the Shia Arab divisions that join us in liberating their neighboring cousins from foreign domination out of Tehran and Riyadh, and agree to international administration of the northern gulf's oil resources in return for the opportunity to unite all Shia Arabs with Najaf. With those Shia Arab divisions at our side, liberating the Shia-majority oil provinces from the Persians in Tehran and the Sunnis in Riyadh ought to earn us a very warm welcome.

Defunding both Tehran and Riyadh seems like a geopolitical masterstroke, fixing the leftover problems from the WWI peace settlement created when those older empires thought they would control those territories and resources. This seems like an entirely appropriate response to the threat that radicals from both the Iranian Empire and the Saudi Empire pose to world stability. Once we put northern Persian Gulf oil production under US-UK-Australia-Canada-Japan-India administration, there's no more worries about an Islamic bomb -- neither the Iranians nor the Saudis will have the money to build it. Nor will they have the money to continue funding Shiite and Sunni extremism.

For a more detailed look at this option, see

http://openerletters.blogspot.com/2006/04/redrawing-map.html


posted by: Mark White on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Sure they could be setting up a nuke power industry. I just doubt it.

I have no doubt they're setting up a nuclear power industry. Why would they not? The question is whether they're also setting up a nuclear weapons industry.

Part of the problem is that if they set up a self-sufficient nuclear power industry that makes it a whole lot easier for them to set up a nuclear weapons project whenever they want. If we (or russia, or whoever) get to supply them with all their LEU and then we get back all their waste products to recycle, and we're sure they aren't doing any other trickery (like mining their own uranium and purifying it and using it for reactor shielding, replacing it every now and then and separating out the plutonium, that sort of thing) then we can allow them to have a power program without worrying it will help them get nukes.

But if they have control of the whole cycle then it's hard for us to monitor it.

Now imagine the shoe was on the other foot. Imagine that we didn't have nukes, but four of our neighbors and our two worst enemies did. And we wanted an nuclear power program -- after all, the more coal we burn the more CO2 we produce, nobody should object to reducing greenhouse gases....

And we have our own uranium, and we know how to do it all. But the chinese have been threatening us in various ways for years, and they say we can't be allowed power plants unless somebody else controls them. We have to sell our uranium to russia and let them process it, and then we can buy it back and then ship the spent fuel rods back to them. And if the russians decide they want an embargo, any time they want they can embargo fuel rods....

Would you agree to that, if it was your country?

But then, if the USA was in iran's position, I have absolutely no doubt at all that we'd have a secret nuclear program too. Not the slightest hint of a doubt.

posted by: J Thomas on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



J. Thomas,

Using uranium as reactor shielding is not a very good way to make Pu. The increased reactivity can cause control problems.

Still as you point out: it can be done.

posted by: M. Simon on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



BTW Resonance absobtion of neutrons by U238 peaks at 6.7 EV while your typical thermal neutron has an energy of .025 EV.

Which is why if you are making Pu you want your U238 actually inside the core where there will be way more 6.7EV neutrons than outside the core.

The lower energy neutrons are excellent for fission while the higher energy neutrons are better for transmutation.

Which means the blanket must be enriched. It must be moderated and it must be cooled.

A simple blanket is not going to work well.

posted by: M. Simon on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Sure, but the point is, one way or another it's possible to add extra uranium to reactors to make plutonium, even when the fuel rods are given up to somebody else to recycle. And inspectors have a reasonable hope of noticing that, but if you're paranoid you'll know the bad guys are trying to make bombs and you won't want to depend on inspectors.

posted by: J Thomas on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



When the stakes are as high as they are with nuclear weapons, the level of toleration for uncertainty becomes very, very low. The Iranians have been a much worse threat to us than the Iraqis since the '70s. It was only because Saddam had the misfortune of already being in a state of longterm military conflict with us that he was the first to go (after the Taliban, of course). It was more convenient to deal with him first. And heck, having US bases in Iraq and Afghanistan must make Iran very nervous.

Iran should have learned from Hussein's mistake, like Quaddafi did. The United States was attacked on its own soil with great loss of life. Because of that, the old rules no longer apply, and we can no longer allow these tinpot terrorists to threaten our destruction, even with empty rhetoric. But apparently, they have learned nothing, and continue mouthing off the old "Death to America" chant.

The fact is when somebody jokes about a bomb in their bag to an airport screener, that person is arrested, and somebody who points a plastic gun at a police officer is often killed in a hail of bullets.

The burden of proof is on the Iranians to prove they are harmless (which is a joke even without nukes). And considering their thumbing of the nose, this is not likely to happen. They still have time, but the trend doesn't look very good for them.

The insistence of Russia and China that the United Nations can't even talk about sanctions, despite Iran's being caught with secret enrichment programs, etc, is a sign that we should not even bother going to the UN this time. The last time, it only gave Saddam an extra year to better hide his weapons, clamp down on potential spies, and prepare for war.

The fact that Russia is also now supplying Iran with anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapons, as they did with Iraq, only means that Russia is just as much the enemy now as they were in the '50s. When this does come down to a real war, these weapons will be killing Americans. Some ally.

Anyway, anybody who claims this enrichment is for "peaceful" purposes is a knowing liar, possibly a paid liar. Especially when they combine their denial with a rant about the evils of capitalism and the "imperialism" of America. Fortunately, such voices become easier and easier to ignore.


posted by: Korla Pundit on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Korla, interesting! A blast from the past. It sounds like you're stuck back in 9/12 and you don't understand that the world has changed for the worse since then.

Of *course* russia and china are saying no sanctions without proof. Last time around we lied to them, and they found out. And we used the sanctions to claim we have UN approval for a war of aggression. Whyever would they go along with that again? So they say they want proof of iranian nuclear irregularities before they'll agree to sanctions. And we haven't provided any.

Of *course* russia is providing weapons to iran. You might not have been around back in those days, but we supplied a whole lot of weapons to afghanistan back when the russians were there, and those weapons killed a whole lot of russians. Whyever would they forget? Did you imagine that after they lost the cold war they'd want to be our bestest friends? About the time things are falling apart you're going to find them giving weapons to our enemies in afghanistan, even though the older among them were the russians' enemies when it was their turn.

See, you're still pretending like we're a superpower, a paranoid, scared-shitless superpower. But those days are gone. In 5 years we've gone from superpower to rogue superpower to rogue ex-superpower. And a lot of us, like you, haven't noticed. It's a great big problem.

The armies of the USSR were just as strong while they were slipping from superpower status. They didn't lose a battle, except in afghanistan and even there they mostly won the battles. They still had their military technology. They had their nukes. But the time came that a soviet colonel couldn't live on a colonel's pay. And the soviet army kind of melted.

Right now we produce around 40% of the oil we use. If things go bad enough we could turn into an oil-exporting country. Because oil is a great source for hard currency....

And you're still scared about poor countries on the other side of the world getting nukes.

I never thought I'd get nostalgic for 9/12. But reading your comment reminds me of the days we could afford your sort of conceit.

posted by: J Thomas on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



Same old lies, Tommy?

Yawn

posted by: Korla Pundit on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



David warns against the "mistaken" assumption "that the president of Iran runs the government of Iran.":

Iran has "regular turnover" in a position that has no real power. There's no turnover, except via natural causes, in the actual seat of power in Iran.

Of course, it is true that the main power center in Iran is one without any electoral connection. But, if the president (and parliament) had no power, there would not be policy changes following from who holds those positions. Yet there are changes. Moreover, the Guardian Council is not as fixed in its membership as the comment implies. It is recruited from a narrow circle, obviously. But there is turnover periodically, and the president and parliament have a role in its composition. (It has been a while since I looked into this, so I am not sure of the specifics.)

The point is that to characterize Iran as if it were totalitarian or otherwise fully closed is mistaken. There are reciprocal relationships of accountability between different power centers. It's not a democracy, but it is more pluralistic than we often give it credit for.

posted by: Matthew Shugart on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]



I would like to point out that in 1948 the vast majority of Arabs left Israel VOLUNTARILY at the behest of Arab governments and Arab radio broadcasts (documented) exhorting them to leave in preparation for a concerted Arab attack on the new Jewish state, much as Al-Qaeda is now telling Muslims to leave the U.S. in preparation for mega-terror attacks they are planning on U.S. soil. Arab leaders later acknowledged that instructing Arabs to leave was an historic error.
Israelis did expel Arabs from 2 villages along the strategic Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem highway because of the fear that their hostile presence could have effectively cut the young nation in two.

The fact remains that the Arabs left on their own, the wealthy Arabs leaving earlier, the poor ones later.

posted by: Eddin on 04.17.06 at 11:43 PM [permalink]






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