February 27, 2007

The Iranian Analysis

Nice. Memri has a video clip of Iranian Majid Goudarzi offering the following bit of "political analysis" on Iranian TV on February 20:

I don't believe that a regime like the Zionist regime is legitimate, let alone that it will ever accept peace. Its very existence involves aggression, war, terrorism, and killing. It cannot stop these methods. This is even repeated in their Torah several times. In the Book of Exodus and the Book of Numbers, it is said several times that Moses called this people corrupt. They are genetically bloodthirsty and criminal, and therefore, they cannot give up their criminal character.

February 02, 2007

Terror Inc.

In addition to conducting a proxy war against the U.S. in Iraq and supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon, guess who appears to be working closely with Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza?

Fatah-affiliated Palestinian security forces arrested seven Iranian weapons experts - including an Iranian Army general - during a raid Thursday night at the Islamic University, a Hamas stronghold in Gaza City, a security official said. [snip]

In the university compound, the Fatah gunmen also found 1,400 Kalachnikov rifles, rockets, as well as several RPG and LAU missiles.

Iran has supplied Hamas with funds, but there have been no previous claims of Iranians working with Hamas in Gaza.

However, Deputy Defense Minister Efraim Sneh told Army Radio that Israel was fully aware of the presence of Iranian officials in the West Bank and Gaza, who were assisting Hamas and Islamic Jihadf with money, weapons enhancement and training."

"Iran is fighting Israel all the time, on every front," said Sneh. "But Israel is prevented from fighting it directly and only hits its agents," he added.

January 24, 2007

Axis of Evil Update

Con Coughlin of the Daily Telegraph reports that two members of the Axis of Evil are busy collaborating:

North Korea is helping Iran to prepare an underground nuclear test similar to the one Pyongyang carried out last year.

Under the terms of a new understanding between the two countries, the North Koreans have agreed to share all the data and information they received from their successful test last October with Teheran's nuclear scientists.

North Korea provoked an international outcry when it successfully fired a bomb at a secret underground location and Western intelligence officials are convinced that Iran is working on its own weapons programme.

A senior European defence official told The Daily Telegraph that North Korea had invited a team of Iranian nuclear scientists to study the results of last October's underground test to assist Teheran's preparations to conduct its own -- possibly by the end of this year.

January 06, 2007

Israel's Strike Plans

Sarah Baxter and Uzi Mahnaimi have the scoop in the Sunday Times:

ISRAEL has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran's uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons.

Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear "bunker-busters", according to several Israeli military sources.

The attack would be the first with nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Israeli weapons would each have a force equivalent to one-fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb.

Under the plans, conventional laser-guided bombs would open "tunnels" into the targets. "Mini-nukes" would then immediately be fired into a plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce the risk of radioactive fallout.

"As soon as the green light is given, it will be one mission, one strike and the Iranian nuclear project will be demolished," said one of the sources.

Read the rest.

January 05, 2007

Going Wide at The Corner

Yesterday we carried a piece by Robert Tracinski advocating a military strike against Iran:

But these leaders have so far avoided advocating the use of military force against Iran. No one is willing to follow the implications of the big picture to the only rational conclusion: we are already in a regional war with Iran, and we need to start fighting it as a regional war. And the most effective place to fight that war is at its center, by targeting the Islamist regime in Tehran.

Tracinski goes on to cite an article by Michael Rubin that appeared in the NY Daily News on Wednesday:

Instead, our current policy is a bizarre, irrational holdover from the Cold War. In a New York Daily News op-ed, for example, Michael Rubin assures us that confronting Iran "need not mean military action." Instead, he advocates a policy of stronger words, from beefed up Radio Free Europe-style broadcasts to rhetoric such as the "Axis of Evil." His most telling recommendation is this one: "Just as Ronald Reagan championed striking shipyard workers in Poland in 1981, so too should Bush support independent Iranian trade unions."

Rubin is advocating a strategy I have called Cold War II: fighting Iran the way we fought the Soviet Union, through indirect battles against insurgent proxies (the real parallel between Iraq and Vietnam) and through moral support for Iranian dissidents. But this is brinksmanship without a brink. The reason we had to fight the Soviets indirectly was because they had thousands of nuclear weapons aimed at us. There is no reason to fear such an escalation in a battle against Iran. In fact, the gruesome irony of today is that Iran may soon be able to threaten us with nuclear weapons--but only if we continue to act as if they already possessed a nuclear deterrent.

Tracinski's column set off an interesting discussion over at The Corner, first with Michael Ledeen saying that Tracinski "gets it," followed by Rich Lowry questioning whether Ledeen's comment is implicit support of a military effort to depose the Iranian regime. Ledeen replies here. Lowry again here. Finally, Michael Rubin chimes in here.

All in all a very interesting discussion - to which I'll add my voice (for what it's worth) a bit later.

December 21, 2006

This Just In...

More good news from Iran.

December 18, 2006

Iran and the Bomb

The head of the Mossad, Israel's intelligence service, says Iran will acquire a nuke "within three or four years if its nuclear weapons programme continues to develop at the current pace."

Iran Speaks

Good news from Iran:

Iranians have dealt a blow to President Ahmadinejad's hardline Government, by thwarting his allies in municipal and clerical elections.

According to early results, Mr Ahmadinejad's fundamentalist mentor who espouses cultural isolation from the West, was trailing sixth in the Tehran vote for the Assembly of Experts, Iran's all-powerful clerical council. Reformists were also expected to seize a handful of seats on Tehran city council, signalling a comeback after three electoral defeats in the past three years.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that Iranian student activists who protested President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently have gone into hiding and are being hunted by "vigilantes from the militant Ansar-e Hezbollah group." Here is how one protester described the scene of Ahmadinejad's visit to the university:

"We were chanting, 'Get lost Ahmadinejad!' and 'Ahmadinejad - element of discrimination and corruption.' You could see from his face that he was really shocked. He wasn't flashing his usual smile, and at one stage I thought he was going to cry. He told his supporters to respond with a religious chant hailing Ahmadinejad, but he was so shaken he was actually chanting it himself."

Another student said: "He was trying to keep control of himself, but you could see he was angry and upset."

September 01, 2006

Feingold's Folly

This makes Russ Feingold look rather silly, I think:

Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, in Ames Thursday, raked the Republican administration for fighting a war in Iraq and also blamed the war on growing tensions between the U.S. and Iran over its nuclear energy program.

"We made the situation in Iran worse," Feingold told a packed audience of Iowa State University students, Ames residents and local politicians in the Maintenance Shop in ISU's Memorial Union. "They took this period to develop nuclear capacity."

Feingold said since fighting in Iraq, the United States is in a weaker military and diplomatic position. He said the U.S. should respond by persuading Iran to "back off on nuclear weapons" rather than with military threats.

"It's a far better approach than warmongering," he said.

Where to begin. How about Feingold's suggestion that invading Iraq had anything to do with Iran's decision to "develop nuclear capacity." Iran's nuclear program, including its parallel clandestine operation to develop nuclear weapons, far predates March 2003. Is Feingold arguing Iran wouldn't have taken the period of the last three years to develop nuclear capacity if we hadn't toppled Saddam? That is, to put it mildly, frighteningly naive.

So is the notion that we're going to persuade Iran to "back off on nuclear weapons" by taking the military option off the table. The White House has let the Europeans negotiate until they were blue in the face, it has offered grand bargains, direct talks, and it has worked dilligently through the United Nations, all the while making clear that a military strike is a highly unlikely, though still viable, last resort. That is far from warmongering.

Iran has thumbed its nose at the international community's every offer, how Feingold thinks that a policy of more carrots and less stick is going to magically convince Iran to give up its decades long ambition to acquire a nuclear weapon is beyond me.

August 29, 2006

Bush: Very, Very Unpopular

How unpopular, you ask?

So unpopular that's running an online poll of who would win a debate between Bush and Ahmadinejad, and Ahmadinejad is winning by 63%-37% (with more than 70,000 votes cast).

Yes, yes -- it's an online poll. But would Hitler have out-polled FDR, even on a CNN "QuickVote"?

August 23, 2006

Iran Falls Short

Here's the State Department's terse response to Iran:

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1696 made clear the conditions Iran must meet regarding its nuclear program.

Yesterday the Iranian government conveyed its response to the package of incentives provided on June 6 by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China. We acknowledge that Iran considers its response as a serious offer, and we will review it. The response, however, falls short of the conditions set by the Security Council, which require the full and verifiable suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.

We are consulting closely, including with other members of the Security Council, on next steps.

Meanwhile, a report from the House Intelligence Committee released today says our intel on Iran is so spotty that it's questionable whether the U.S. "could effectively engage in talks with Tehran on ways to diffuse tensions."

August 15, 2006

Political Video of the Day

Here's C-SPAN's unedited "60 Minutes" Ahmadinejad interview (it's broken down into seven parts on YouTube):

I've got to say: This New Hitler guy is testy.

As always, send nominations to:

August 14, 2006

Well, this is a first: The new Hitler has a blog.

You can see the actual site here (there's a link in the upper right-hand corner for English).

You can read a Reuters dispatch here.

There's even an online poll:

"Do you think that the US and Israeli intention and goal by attacking Lebanon is pulling the trigger for another word war?" Yes or no.

I voted 'no.' Right now, 'no' is ahead 57-43.

(via Sullivan)

Ahmadinejad's 60 Minutes Interview

I watched Mike Wallace's interview with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with great interest. If the interview were a boxing match, the Iranian President won in a blow out. This is more a comment on Ahmadinejad's skill, however, than a slap at Wallace. In Wallace's defense, as a guest in Tehran interviewing the President of Iran, he has an obligation to treat the man with a certain amount of deference and respect.

But Wallace really isn't the point here. He deserves credit for just scoring the interview. In all likelihood Ahmadinejad is going to have a profound effect on what happens on the world stage these next five years and Wallace's interview was a chance to at least gather more information on this very pivotal figure.

I found the interview itself quite disturbing. Much has been written about the similarities between today and the 1930's in relation to appeasing Ahmadinejad and Iran, but there was something about the man's demeanor and appearance that I found eerily similar to Adolf Hitler. In the late 1920's and early '30's Hitler was written off as a sort of silly looking rabble rouser by the real powers behind the scenes in Weimer Germany. Even as late as January 1933 when Hitler assumed the Chancellorship, much of the German "establishment" thought that he could be controlled. They were, of course, wrong.

We see similar stories today, speculating on how Ahmadinejad is really just a pawn used to placate the masses and really doesn't have control and/or make the actual decisions in Iran. We'll see.

I found his answers to Wallace extremely cunning, crafty and dangerous. You can almost hear Hitler spouting out "grievances" of the Sudentland Germans and the Germans in Danzig when you hear Ahmadinejad take up for the Palestinians, Lebanese, and Iraqis. Granted, Hitler controlled one of the most powerful and advanced societies in the world by the late-1930's, and Ahmadinejad's Iran is far lower on the scale as a threat to project force. However, Ahmadinejad is making a play in many ways to speak for the world's one billion "aggrieved" Muslims, where Hitler only professed to speak on behalf of a mere 100 million Germans.

The solutions here are obviously not easy. No one wants war with Iran or, for that matter, war with a billion Muslims.

This morning the New York Times editorial page unhelpfully seeks to blame the Bush Administration for this growing crisis, insinuating that if only the United States had played nicer with other countries around the world this problem would magically not exist. The Times is utterly naïve and delusional as to what it might take to neutralize Ahmadinejad, but unfortunately their approach and mindset represents the mainstream thinking of most of our allies.

The truth is the relentless advance of technology will make it utterly impossible to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons at some point in the future, no matter what we do. Given that we cannot change the fact that Iran will gain nuclear weapons, if they want them, the serious policy needs to be towards changing the Iranian regime and its current President.......before it is too late.

August 09, 2006

Flattered by Evil

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes Mike Wallace go weak in the knees. Nothing surprising here, folks.

I'll let the Hollywood Reporter tell it:

Wallace dismissed the common perceptions of Ahmadinejad.

"He's actually, in a strange way, he's a rather attractive man, very smart, savvy, self-assured, good looking in a strange way," Wallace said. "He's very, very short but he's comfortable in his own skin."

Despite problems with translation -- there was only one translator for a time during the interview -- Wallace said Ahmadinejad was patient.

"He couldn't have been more accommodating. He had a good time doing the interview," Wallace said. And he believes that it was Ahmadinejad's idea to do the interview. He acknowledged that he had become a much-desired interview subject but told the veteran CBS journalist that he remembered a discussion the two had over a year ago when Ahmadinejad was in New York.

"I don't know if you remember this or not but you and I had a talk over breakfast at the United Nations," Ahmadinejad told Wallace. "Do you remember that you asked me at the time if I would sit down with you ... and I said by all means, let's do it." Wallace said he was surprised that Ahmadinejad had remembered.

Oh my God! Hitler remembered my name!

July 20, 2006

Iran-North Korea: Missiles 'R' Us - Peter Brookes

Iranian presence at North Korea's 4 July missile test was confirmed by Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, Chris Hill, in Senate testimony today. This should come as no surprise as the Iranian Shahab missile is based on the North Korean No Dong missile.

Unfortunately, it's most likely that the Iranian were there not to see more launches of the unsophisticated short-range SCUD or the medium-range No Dong, which is essentially already in Tehran's arsenal, but to see North Korea's new intercontinental range missile, the Taepo Dong II.

While the Taepo Dong II launch fortunately failed, Iran's presence at the test site demonstrates an ongoing security relationship between Pyongyang and Tehran--and Iran's interest in an ICBM-range missile that could someday be mated with a nuclear warhead to threaten the United States.

June 07, 2006

Iran Now Has Time and Validation - By Alan Warms

Interesting analysis of the latest U.S. move with regards to Iran in Captain's Quarters last night. Captain Ed concludes with this paragraph:

I'm not sure that this offer will ever get accepted. It looks more like a final move to show that we would present as much flexibility as possible without giving up on the key goal of stopping Iranian uranium enrichment. In that sense, the offer is brilliant. If Iran accepts it outright along with a verification regime that ensures their compliance, it still gives us a trade-off that will put Iranian nuclear development off for enough time to hopefully see a more rational government replace the mullahcracy. Bush has positioned the US perfectly to either accept this diplomatic solution or to pursue tougher options with little difficulty.

I don't agree. For the last 26 years the United States has refused to recognize the Iranian Government for a variety of very good reasons. More recently, throughout the 90s and today, we have Iran's control of Hezbollah; the bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia; and more recently their statements on Israel, where they take the usual Arab position of non-recognition one step further by proactively discussing ways to "fix the problem." So we have a rogue state that has done absolutely nothing in the past 25 years or the past 2 years to deserve a change in our posture, most recently of course the breaking of the seals of the IAEA.

Our policy has been that we will not negotiate alone, and we will not make concessions without adherence to already existing international law. By breaking this policy, in the absence of any move on Iran's part, we have unfortunately accomplished several things, none of which serve the U.S.'s interest.

First, we've validated Ahmadinejad's entire negotiating position and stature within Iran. He's gotten the Great Satan to "bend to its knees" and to provide him and his country what he wants. More important than any substance of our concession, however, is that we have shored him up within Iran and the fact that we had to deal with them directly at all. Second, and this is where I really disagree with Captain Ed, I have no doubt about Iran's aims: they want nuclear weapons, period. Therefore, Iran will do everything they can to continue to develop nuclear weapons while preventing sanctions. And this concession has bought them another 12-18 months for them to continue down that path, before the next bump in the road, a la the Agreed Framework with North Korea.

If I believed for a second that Iran really just wanted to develop nuclear power, then perhaps it was a good move. But it is exceedingly obvious that is not the case. What Iran needs is time. And we have just delivered it to them, while shoring up an evil regime. As I said in my post yesterday, we need to get tough, and not give Iran the two things they crave most: legitimacy and time. We have failed in that regard.

Have we made the Security Council happy? Sure. Are we now perceived as less "unilateral?' Undoubtedly. But as we know from the run up to the Iraq war, even after Resolution 1441 and all the machinations around it, when the time comes to enforce sanctions on Iran, the criticism from the left will be no less harsh as a result of making the wrong move.

June 06, 2006

The Wrong Approach to Iran - by Alan Warms

Amazing and unbelievable. On the same day I discover the fantastic Pew Forum Q&A with Princeton's Bernard Lewis, (hat tip Hugh Hewitt) we also get news that the United States has made yet another concession to Iran - agreeing to provide nuclear technology in exchange for the abandonment of weapons programs.

Put aside for a moment the Pew session, we already know from Jimmy Carter and North Korea that this approach doesn't work - it just gives the regime more time, money, and skills to continue to develop nuclear armaments.

What's really galling about this move is that we are in fact rewarding Iran and Ahmadinejad for their complete disregard for the U.N. and the IAEA. As Bernard Lewis said in the Pew Forum transcript, this is precisely the WRONG approach:

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Professor Lewis, if this is 1938 -- and I assume your sympathies lie with Churchill (laughter) -- what Churchillian policy would you therefore advocate -- and I'll name three crises -- for the U.S. to follow: one, versus Iran, two, in relation to Hamas and three, in relation to the insurgency in Iraq?

MR. LEWIS: Well, in two simple words: Get tough. I have not suggested that we should launch an armed attack on Iran. I don't think that's necessary. I don't think we should do anything that would either offend or tickle Iranian national pride. We're doing both at the present time. We're offending them by saying you mustn't have nuclear weapons, and we're tickling them by allowing their leaders to present themselves as defying the mighty West, standing alone and successfully defying the United States. I think that's the wrong way to do it. There are other things that one can do to indicate displeasure and to help those there who want a big change.

Have we learned nothing in the 5 years since September 11th? Earlier in the transcript, Lewis compares today to 1938. Every concession we give Iran leads them to believe that we have more concessions to give. We need to get tough, NOW. The problem is for a long time we've said no bilateral negoations with only the U.S., and certainly no concessions ahead of Iranian concessions. We've now given in on both items; thereby completely validating Ahmadinejad's approach, and no doubt shoring up his support in Iran.

June 02, 2006

US Shows Some Cleverness with Iran - by Ross Kaminsky

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced a shift in the US position on Iran that is both more and less than it seems.

The US has offered to participate in direct talks with Iran for the first time in a quarter century if Iran suspends its uranium enrichment program.

In my view, there is little chance of a US diplomat and and Iranian negotiator sitting across a table from each other anytime soon with such a pre-requisite.

Rice's announcement was thus not a serious attempt to get face-to-face discussions with a country that has consistently asserted a sovereign right to do anything it wants with nuclear technology.

Instead, what we are seeing is the US putting itself in a position to say with some creditiblity "We have tried everything else" when pushing forward with economic sanctions and eventually with military action (which I think is at least a 50/50 proposition on some limited scale.)

There have probably been some truly intense discussions behind the scenes with Russia and China, along the lines of "We'll try the diplomatic route, but only if you will go along with us to harder methods of persuasion of that doesn't work." And there must have been threats of some sort made to Russia and China, roughly along the lines that we will do what we have to with or without them, as we did in Iraq. What I wonder is why those threats would have made any difference, given the mess that is Iraq at this time. I guess Condi came up with more persuasive threats than I have thought of so far, possibly including reminding Russia and China that they both have Muslim separatist minorities who wouldn't mind getting their hands on a nuclear weapon or at least a "dirty bomb" from a newly-proliferating Iran.

The mullahs who run Iran are many things, but they are not stupid. They realize that the US is putting them in a corner...a corner of international isolation, by saying we will participate in diplomatic efforts if Iran stops what can only be a military use of fissile material.

To this point, Iran has consistenly stuck its thumb in the eye of the rest of the world, emboldened by the Chinese and Russian reluctance to go along with "persuasion". (This behavior by the Chinese and Russians is something we should neither forgive nor forget, but which we must put aside until Iran is dealt with.) The shift in US position and rhetoric makes Iran's next step a rather difficult choice.

Two options are the most probable: 1) Just say no, figuring that Iraq has taken too much out of the US for us to respond forcefully, especially given likely continued blockading of the Security Council by Russia and/or China, and 2) Just say OK, and come to the table for long drawn-out discussions of what they can extort from the US for "permanent" cessation of uranium enrichment programs. In all likelihood, if Iran says "OK, we have stopped enrichment", they will be lying. They have no intention of stopping before they have developed a nuclear weapon. The question is whether they will be good enough at hiding from inspectors, satellites, and spies to keep the underground program from being discovered. If I had to bet on it, I'd bet they can and they will.

June 01, 2006

Put Up Or Shut Up

Reuters reports a cause for cautious optimism:

Major world powers struck what a senior U.S. official called a "substantial agreement" on Thursday on a package of incentives for Iran to halt sensitive nuclear fuel work as well as penalties if it did not. [snip]

"We have substantial agreement with the Russians and the Chinese. We are agreed certainly on the need for moving forward in the (U.N.) Security Council if Iran doesn't respond to the offer," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

As Ambassador John Bolton told Neil Cavuto earlier today, "This is put-up-or-shut-up time for Iran." Let's see what they do.

May 12, 2006

This Just In: Iran Is Lying

Over the wire comes a report that inspectors have found "traces of highly enriched uranium at an Iranian site linked to the country's defense ministry." (Via Powerline News).

Also, Reuters is reporting on a draft of a European Union declaration to be issued Monday that will call for Iran to "suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development."

April 21, 2006

Another U.N. Failure

In my post on Iran yesterday I forgot to mention the rather stunning news that despite the fact Iran is under the threat of sanctions by the UN Security Council for refusing to cooperate on its nuclear program, last week it was elected to a vice-chair position on the U.N. Disarmament Commission. Michael Barone notes an additional touch of irony in the press release. Senator Bill Frist, who has been a leader in pushing for serious reform of the UN Human Rights Commission, writes on his VOLPAC blog that this should be the last straw:

The United Nations needs far-reaching reform and it needs it now. The Bush Administration has pushed for reform, but it has fallen on deaf years in New York. Too many countries like things the way they are: fat salaries for large staffs; little or no oversight of UN activities and programs; a complicated and opaque bureaucracy that prevents accountability; committee memberships that allow countries to block criticism of their own actions; indecision or consensus-based measures that amount to little; and so on.

Worse yet, the United States pays the largest share of UN dues (22%), followed by a handful of other industrialized democracies that all together provide the bulk of the UN's funding. Meanwhile, US proposals are routinely blocked by those opposed to who or what America stands for, while a host of corrupt or rogue regimes use the UN as a forum to advance their own nefarious interests---underwritten by US taxpayers no less.

One step in the right direction would be to deprive the soon-to-be-formed United Nations Human Rights Council of any American support. Despite superficial "reforms," this new body is all too susceptible to being compromised by the world's worst offenders of human rights. The U.S. has rightly decided - at my urging - not to participate in this body. Now the United States should refuse to provide it any funding.

We should adopt the same approach to the UN Disarmament Commission.

The U.N. seems oblivious to the fact that it continues to shred its credibility (what's left of it, anyway) with such behavior.

April 20, 2006

Iran's Nuclear 'Emancipation'

When George Bush says that "all options are on the table" regarding Iran, the world convulses like an MIT feminist listening to Larry Summers discussing gender differences. Jacques Chirac openly threatens nuclear retaliation against any state that launches terrorist attacks against France (i.e. Iran) and the world yawns. I thought Chirac's warmongering was endearing - in a Vichy sort of way - and wish more leaders would get more serious about saber-rattling with respect to Iran.

I say this only as a segue to news that Mssr. Chirac has again acted properly by telling Al-Ahram (the state-owned paper in Egypt) that Iran's leaders "must understand that, for the international community, the prospect of a militarily nuclearized Iran is unacceptable." Chirac has previously recognized Iran's right to a peaceful nuclear energy program, but he also told the paper that ""The IAEA found that its [Iran's] nuclear activities had been carried out in an underhand way" and also that "Iran is pursuing a worrying missile program."

Let me add one more piece to the puzzle. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not only a dangerous religious fanatic, he is a shrewd demagogue whose exploitation of the nuclear issue among the Iranian people goes beyond calls to national pride or declarations of Iranian sovereignty and taps into the deep-seated culture of victimhood and oppression in the Muslim Middle East. As such, the struggle for a nuclear energy program (and probably shortly thereafter a nuclear weapon) is portrayed as a struggle for "emancipation" from the West, as Mohammad Sadek al-Husseini explained in the pages of Dar Al Hayat yesterday:

Seven countries, before Iran, have acquired Uranium enrichment technology, four of which have monopolized and still insist on monopolizing 'nuclear fuel technology', chiefly the US only because it wants to control the courses of this advanced alternative energy in the world.

This monopoly was and still is in practice with the principle that 'victory' is for the strongest (party) that only trusts the partners that emerged victorious from World War II. They founded the UN and the set of laws and 'standards' which today, against the will of the majority whose rights are violated by the victorious minority, they call the 'international community standards'. [snip]

The recipient citizen in our poor and downtrodden countries, which are dominated by the World War II victorious countries, is that this advanced technology has become necessary, essential and indispensable in more than 200-300 science, industry, field, structure, modern information technology or highly advanced technology, and the equally important state-of-the-art industries that have been giving countries the ability to monopolize 'nuclear fuel', manufactured by enriching uranium, the upper hand in all vital spheres for the contemporary man.

Has it not become clear from the aforementioned why it is not acceptable for Egypt, Saudi, Libya, Iraq, Iran, or any Arab or Islamic country to acquire this advanced technology?

In other words, the issue isn't that the West feels it necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring potentially catastrophic power that could be derived from a uranium enrichment program because the regime gives every indication that it cannot and should not be entrusted with such power. Instead it is a vast global conspiracy to keep Iran - and the rest of the Islamic world - poor and in the technological Dark Ages. It behooves us to recognize and understand just how warped this view is and how the psychology of victimhood plays in this debate.

Once again, our hope lies with the reformers in Iran who seem unswayed by the regime's bogus claims of the need for nuclear energy and who understand that the West has nothing against the Iranian people and wants nothing more than peaceful co-existence.

April 14, 2006

What To Do On Iran

As if the world needed any more reminders about just what a threat a nuclear-armed regime in Iran would pose to the world in general, and to Israel in particular, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad again made it clear at a conference today in support of the Palestinians: "Like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation. The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm." Ahmadinejad also told the crowd that "Palestine will be freed soon" and that Israel represents a "permanent threat" that has "harmed the dignity of Islamic nations."

It is not a stretch in the slightest to say that Ahmadinejad is the greatest threat the world has seen since Hitler. Debates about his mental stability or whether he may or may not be purely full of bluster are somewhat beside the point: the world has no choice but to take his threats at face value.

Yesterday's report in the New York Times that Iran is years away from having the capacity to make a nuclear bomb offers some comfort - though not much. As we learned in places like Pakistan, North Korea, and Iraq, it is extremely difficult to get a solid idea of what is happening inside closed, authoritarian regimes where clandestine operations are the norm. It's possible Iran may be much closer to a nuclear weapon than we think, and the bizarre public celebration over a tiny amount of enriched uranium the other day may have been specifically designed to give the world the impression that Iran is further away from acquiring the capacity to build a nuke than is truly the case. The point is that while we can (and should) make our best guess about Iran's potential nuclear capabilities, we can't be sure - and the costs of guessing wrong could be severe.

So what to do? Yesterday in The Australian Brent Scowcroft suggested the following:

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council should be prepared to make the following offer to Iran. Acknowledging that Tehran has every right to exploit nuclear energy for civilian use, Iran should be guaranteed an adequate supply of nuclear fuel for its reactors in return for abiding by all International Atomic Energy Agency regulations. This, in turn, should serve as the basis for a new international fuel-cycle regime that applies to all countries. Any approach to stemming nuclear proliferation that singles out specific countries - such as the Bush administration is doing with Iran - is not likely to succeed.

Today in the International Herald Tribune, Dr. Henry Kissinger discusses America's policy of preemptive force in the context of nuclear proliferation and comes to the following conclusions:

The analysis underlying the Strategic Doctrine document is correct in emphasizing that the changes in the international environment create a propensity toward some forms of preventive strategy.

But stating the theory is only a first step. The concept must be applied to specific, concrete contingencies; courses of action need to be analyzed not only in terms of threats but of outcomes and consequences.

Finally, a policy that allows for preventive force can sustain the international system only if solitary American enterprises are the rare exception, not the basic rule of American strategy.

The other major nations have a similar responsibility to take the new challenges seriously and to treat them as something beyond the sole responsibility of America. The major nations are all dependent on the global economic system. They are all threatened if ideology and weapons run out of control.

The challenge is to build a viable international order without the impetus of having survived catastrophe.

Obviously, Kissinger's last conclusion is key: that other nations take threats like Iran seriously and bear their share of the burden and responsibility for dealing with them. But as Gerard Baker wrote yesterday at RealClearPolitics, the prospects for building a coalition to deal with Iran's nuclear belligerence seem depressingly bleak at the moment.

April 13, 2006

Media Misfire on Iran

Consider the following two headlines appearing today:

"Analysts Say a Nuclear Iran Is Years Away" - New York Times

"Iran Could Produce Nuclear Bomb in 16 Days, U.S. Says" - Bloomberg

Obviously, somebody got it wrong. Turns out it's Bloomberg, which should be excoriated not only for running a factually false headline - Iran could not produce a nuclear bomb in sixteen days - but also for compounding the error with a grossly misleading report:

"Iran, defying United Nations Security Council demands to halt its nuclear program, may be capable of making a nuclear bomb within 16 days, a U.S. State Department official said.

Iran will move to ``industrial scale'' uranium enrichment involving 54,000 centrifuges at its Natanz plant, the Associated Press quoted deputy nuclear chief Mohammad Saeedi as telling state-run television today.

``Using those 50,000 centrifuges they could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in 16 days,'' Stephen Rademaker, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, told reporters today in Moscow.

So what's the problem? The problem is that Iran only has 164 centrifuges in operation today. Rademaker was responding to a question about how quickly Iran could produce a nuclear weapon once it reached industrial scale capacity. As we learn much later down in the Bloomberg piece, experts estimate it would take more than 13 years to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon using just those 164 centrifuges.

There is no mention of how long it would take for Iran to construct and bring online the 54,000 centrifuges needed to build a nuke in sixteen days, though Bloomberg does report that Iran "plans to construct 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz next year" (The NY Times differs by reporting that Iran will begin "operating the first of 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz by late 2006").

So Bloomberg built its news report around a highly sensational, but essentially theoretical, estimate of how quickly Iran could produce a nuclear weapon if it only had 53,836 more centrifuges in operation than it does today. That's sloppy journalism, and it does a great disservice to readers trying to get a better understanding of a most important issue.

March 06, 2006

Cold Warrior Against the Mullahs

More on Iran, this time from Sarah Baxter in the Sunday Times. Baxter reports on the U.S. State Department's efforts to promote regime change in Iran, an $85 million per year program led by "democracy czar" Elizabeth Cheney - also known as the daughter of the Vice President:

The war in Iraq is her father’s business but Elizabeth Cheney, the American vice-president’s daughter, has been given responsibility for bringing about a different type of regime change in Iran.

Cheney, a 39-year-old mother of four, is a senior official in the State Department, which has often been regarded as hostile territory by Dick Cheney’s White House team. Nonetheless father and daughter agree it would be better for the mullahs’ regime to collapse from within than to be ousted by force.

The question is whether democratic reform can be achieved before Iran becomes a nuclear power. That is the younger Cheney’s job. In the State Department she is referred to as the “freedom agenda co-ordinator” and the “democracy czar” for the broader Middle East. “She’s fantastic and dynamic,” said a colleague.

Baxter's final graph is also worth quoting:

Father and daughter will be on the same side if Ahmadinejad’s regime sees off its internal opposition and acquires nuclear weapons. “There’s no credibility gap over our willingness to use force,” a State Department official said, “but hopefully it won’t come to that.”

The Showdown With Iran

The world continues to inch closer toward a showdown wtih Iran over its nuclear program, and this week is perhaps the most crucial yet. The 35-member board of the IAEA is meeting this week in Vienna, and Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei said he expects to take up the issue of Iran on Tuesday or Wednesday, at which time the body will vote whether or not to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions.

ElBaradei says he remains "hopeful" that an agreement can be reached this week to avoid a referral, but since Iran has already rejected a deal with Russia (backed by the U.S. and Europe) that could have avoided a showdown, a last-minute deal doesn't seem too likely unless both the Russians and the Chinese (both hold veto power in the UNSC) bring serious pressure to bear on Iran - something neither has been willing to do so far.

Meanwhile, Iran's chief negotiator, Ali Larijani, threatened that Iran would resume full scale enrichment and retaliate economically if referred to the UNSC:

"If we are referred to the Security Council, problems might occur for others as well as us. We would not like to use our oil as a weapon. We would not like to make other countries suffer."

On Saturday, The Washington Post outlined the Bush administration's plan to push the UNSC to commit to issuing a 30-day deadline for Iran to halt its enrichment program before moving ahead with sanctions:

"The idea is to begin slowly, with a presidential statement, set timetables and then give Iran a certain deadline to respond," one senior U.S. official said. "After that we push harder with a resolution."

But the administration has also been issuing warnings of its own to Iran. In widely reported remarks this weeked at the AIPAC conference U.S. Ambassador John Bolton warned of "tangible and painful consequences" for Iran if it doesn't acquiesce to international demands. Today The Guardian reports that Bolton offered an even more frank assessment of the situation with Iran to a delegation of British MPs visiting Washington last week:

However the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, visiting Washington last week, encountered sharply different views within the Bush administration. The most hawkish came from Mr Bolton. According to Eric Illsley, a Labour committee member, the envoy told the MPs: "They must know everything is on the table and they must understand what that means. We can hit different points along the line. You only have to take out one part of their nuclear operation to take the whole thing down."

Bolton's remarks come on the heels of another interesting revelation: the Sunday Times reported yesterday that Israeli special forces are currently operating inside Iran - with the support of the U.S. - trying to pinpoint locations where uranium enrichment is taking place, suggesting that preparations for a military strike are well under way.

As difficult and inflammatory as a military strike against Iran would be, it is a very real option and, depending on what happens this week, could be one of the few remaining options left. As John Bolton said this weekend, "The longer we wait to confront the threat Iran poses, the harder and more intractable it will become to solve."

February 27, 2006

Iran's Big Lie

Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and chief negotiator in the nuclear dispute, told Time magazine:

"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."

Now this is a curious statement, because if Larijani is telling the truth then he's either calling Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a liar or a sinner for professing a desire to have Israel "wiped off the map." Unless there's some sort of Zionist exception to the Islamic rule about mass murder, that is. It's always best to read the fine print.

January 18, 2006

A Difference on Iran?

Would President John Kerry have pursued a different course with Iran?  Dan Drezner says 'no':

The approach the Bush administration has pursued towards Iran -- multilateralism, private and public diplomacy, occasionally deferring to allies -- is besotted with the very tropes that liberals like to see in their American foreign policy. I'm still not sure what the end game will be with regard to Iran, but to date I can't see how a Kerry administration would have played its cards any differently than the Bush team.

I have to disagree slightly with Dan here, only because both John Kerry and John Edwards told us repeatedly in 2004 what their policy toward Iran would be: direct negotiation and the offer of a "grand bargain." It's highly likely we'd be in the same place with Iran today under a Kerry administration, of course, except we would have travelled a slightly different policy road - one a bit more besotted with liberal tropes.