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Gnomemoot 0: Iran - what is the problem?

by Colman Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 05:01:28 AM EST

A comment of wchurcill's got me thinking this morning, which is always a bad thing. He suggested that it would be interesting for us to think about how we would handle the situation in Iran if we were in charge. This suggests a game to me, albeit a deadly serious one.

I hereby institute the Gnomemoot, a formal event where the assorted site gnomes, elves and fairies1 can meet to determine the suggested community response to a situation.

The rules are simple: first we determine the problem, then we decide the acceptable and possible outcomes, then we determine possible solutions that could lead to those outcomes. A different story will be used for each stage: today we are only examining the problem. Someone will write up a summary at each stage. In fact, I suspect that several summaries will come out.

Our first topic is the case of the Iranian Nuclear Threat™.


The US contends that the Iranian government are developing a nuclear weapons programme behind the cover of a civilian programme. It Is further contended that Iran cannot be allowed develop such a capability as it will pose an unacceptable danger to the peace and safety of the region. It is proposed that to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons all solutions are acceptable, up to and including nuclear strikes.

I refuse to accept this narrative at face value. Let's deconstruct it and see if we can get a better picture of what's really going on. Who are the players? What are their motivations? What do they want? What do we know for sure and what is unsubstantiated nonsense? What is the real problem here from Europe's point of view? Is there even a real problem?

I'd envisage each stage taking a couple of days - we can move the story into the debates box. I'd also suggest only trying one of these at a time. People are finite.

  1. I suggest that the discussion of whether you classify as a gnome, fairy or elf be left until the evening open thread.

Display:
Of course, every game needs a prize: I'll think of something if this takes off.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 05:06:55 AM EST
In the land of fairies, gnomes and elves there are also goblins and <gasp> trolls.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 05:09:35 AM EST
Goblins are welcome. Trolls aren't invited - too expensive in goats.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 05:10:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah. Except that I'm Big Billy-Goat Gruff and I bop trolls up in the air and clean out of sight.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:24:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I propose that the Debates box be rename Gnomem00t, or else that a separate Gnomem00t box be created.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 05:13:59 AM EST
Might do in longer term ... see how it works out.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 05:24:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't even know where to start with Iran. We have the following

  • An ostensibly crazy prime minister who has gone out of his way to appear militant and anti-semitic.
  • A reform movement in retreat since the last elections, partly due to the advantage given to the conservatives by the spectacle of the invasion of Iraq.
  • A religious head of state who in theory holds supreme power and is the one who has the authority to declare war and so on.

The wikipedia article on this is here.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 05:24:26 AM EST
As Soj says in the wrong place below:

What's almost never mentioned is that the religious head you mentioned in Iran has issued a fatwa which forbids Iran not only building a nuclear weapon but also using one or possessing one.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:40:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm aware of that and was coming to it. So we have what is on one hand accused of being a fundamentalist state acting under the terms of a fanantical and dangerous religion and a religious injunction issued by the highest authority forbidding the behaviour it's being accused of.

What are the odds that this is a pretend fatwa to confuse the enemy? Anyone know if that's permissible in the version of Islam in question?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:42:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which is to say, are there grounds for discounting the edict?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:44:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A fatwa not a law, it is a legal opinion. Wikipedia adds:

Because Islam has no centralized priestly hierarchy, there is no uniform method to determine who can issue a valid fatwa and who cannot, and upon whom such fatwas are binding. Some Islamic scholars complain that too many people feel qualified to issue fatwas.

<snip>

In nations where Islamic law is the basis of civil law, fatwas by the national religious leadership are debated prior to being issued. Thus, they are rarely contradictory. If two fatwas were contradictory, the ruling bodies (combined civil and religious law) attempt to define a compromise interpretation that will eliminate the resulting ambiguity.

Multiple contradictory fatwas are possible. All Ahmedinijad would have to do to get around an anti-nuke fatwa is to find a compliant cleric/scholar and then build a consensus around his "bespoke" fatwa.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 10:58:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which is great, except in the case of Iran the clerical authority is centralised and this is true in some other countries.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 11:12:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure this is entirely true. There is a central authority, true, but it's not like the Catholic church, it's more like the Anglican synod. In "religious" terms there isn't a full "chain of command."

Discipline has been exercised by force/blackmail/discreditation, but mostly using "political" enforcers (e.g. Police, TV, Secret Services.)

Thus, the Iranian Preznit is likely to be able to go against the heads of religion if he can hold on to popular religious support.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 11:39:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It did until 1922. The Shiites still have one to some extent. The Imam Ali Khamani is the Shiite "pope" although Sistani might have a presige close to that.
by messy on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 02:47:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"the religious head you mentioned in Iran"

Should we allow them to develop missiles with religious heads only?

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 09:23:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Useful wikipedia article on Iran and WMD.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:47:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Melo says:

iran wants to sell oil in euros, which will upset the dollar-hegemony, whose inflation also weighs on us in europe.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:51:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting. This is what I have heard not so long ago as an alternative explanation for the American attacks on Iran.

See the last 3 comments here.

A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government -- Edward Abbey

by serik berik (serik[dot]berik on Gmail) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 07:41:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes. I've heard it too. I know that Jérôme and several other people expert in this area consider it far-fetched.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 07:44:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See this comment (copied below, but there is a long thread over there with good input from HiD)


The Iranian exchange will NOT work because nobody will trade on it:

  • traders need a common currency to work together. Once they've set on one, it's really hard to make them change - hence the fact that a number of commodities are still traded in pound sterling despite the fact that the UK hasn't been the main market for quite a bit of time. The existence of a standard is more important that which one it is. Cf the dominance of Windows as an operating system: it's used because it's used. To switch, you need everybody to switch at the same time. Only a monopolist (or a monopsonist) can force that, and Iran is far from being one;

  • in addition, the oil market is not just about oil, today it is about all the financial instruments derived from oil - term sales, derivatives, structured products, etc... The same constraints as above apply to these markets, which are even more diverse and globalised than the oil markets. Also traders have all their references, price histories, and standard trading instruments based on the dollar. To change all this, again, would require massive effort and coordination (remember how much effort it took to switch to the euro in 1999);

  • the other thing you need to have a market is a stable and trustworthy regulatory and legal system. People will not go trade in Iran because the risks or abitrary interventions and meddling are too high. The euro can be an alternative to the dollar as a reserve currency because European rule of law and regulation is seen as acceptable, and the currency is backed by a real economy, but Iran stands no chance to impose any switch of any kind for trade, financial instruments or anything else.

Please forget these ideas, they are totally cut from the reality of financial markets.


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 05:59:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is it possible that the Prime Minister is acting mad on purpose as a tactical move? It seems that being crazy has worked as a strategy for North Korea. Maybe they hope it will confound US strategists?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:58:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not PM, President.

Hm. Give his domestic performance, i.e. even enraging the conservative clergy establishment with his appointments of unqualified but faithful people for top jobs, I'd vote for at least partially mad. On the other hand, just in the internal battle in Iran, the President is certainly relying on populism - so it may be both, but the tactical purpose is not only foreign-policy-wise.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 07:11:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're right: I was thinking of his function rather than his title.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 07:12:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So he's not a total puppet of the clergy, not is he necessarily speaking on their behalf.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 07:14:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He is definitely not a puppet of the clergy. He is more of a fundie than most of the ruliong elite clergy. What everyone expected before the previous elections was that the so-called 'pragmatic conservatives' will win, a faction that sought to give some concessions to the masses while going on with strong theocracy. Their candidate was a heavyweight: the predecessor of Khatami the outgoing reformist President. From what I read, the support Ahmadinejad got from influential clerics was meant to weaken rivals in inter-conservative tussles, but he got 'too much support'. A further angle of Ahmadinejad's victory which I hinted at was that he is also a man-of-the-people populist, an Islamic fundie saviour of the proletariat, who blasted corruption and the rich lifestyle of the ruling elite.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 07:24:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He's not a clergy mouthpiece. He's a populist and is no doubt attempting to build himself a popular base (by projects to help young couples afford housing and thus marry earlier, for example).

His anti-Israel and Holocaust provocations may be seen in this light, as an attempt to raise his popular profile, not only in Iran, but elsewhere in the region. (He's not an Arab, but this is a way for him to appeal to Arab opinion and bridge the Arab/Persian split). They (provocations) have something of the nature of before-battle taunts, as if he were trying to whip up enthusiasm behind his leadership by yelling to Israel and the US, "Bring it on!"

I don't think he's totally bonkers, and this rhetoric proceeds from a calculation (right or wrong) that Iran is in a strong position following the disastrous invasion of Iraq. That strength may be put down to:

  • Iran's oil;
  • capacity to disrupt shipping in the Persian Gulf;
  • (alleged) capacity to impact the dollar through a currency switch on the oil market;

and to the weakness of his designated opponents caused by:

  • resentment in the region of the Iraq invasion;
  • fairly global unease and disapproval of same;
  • fact that the invasion is a flying fuck-up;
  • consequent fact that Iran has considerably increased its influence in Iraq;
  • other consequent fact that the US can neither build a coalition nor convincingly draw up major battle plans alone;
  • leaving, as only military option, air strikes Ahmadinejad (and others in Iran) doubtless judge of little long-term importance.

I'm just trying to read in the tea-leaves here. If Ahmadinejad's thinking goes as I suggest, he may be wrong on a number of counts, just as he may well be right (sez me) on some of the big ones.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:27:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
with his appointments of unqualified but faithful people for top jobs, I'd vote for at least partially mad

nepotism, or empire building, are not de facto grounds for a diagnosis of madness... though perhaps they should be (ah, if only I got to write the DSM).  on this issue the US regime is in a very weak position for commenting on the blackness of the other guy's kettle -- given BushCo's consistent track record of stuffing high positions with incompetents, ideologues and sycophants.  if the Iranian premiere's nepotistic or grace&favour tendencies are evidence of madness and an incapacity to handle nuclear arms wisely, the same should be said of BushCo, no?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:19:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have not meant nepotism. I meant chosing people on grounds of dogmatic purity, i.e. adherence to his version of Islamic fundamentalism.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 04:35:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]

 his appointments of unqualified but faithful people for top jobs

We,ll, that didn't work too well. His first 3 (yes, three) nominees for the job of oil minister were blocked by the (conservaticve) Parliament on the gorunds of nepotism and incompetence.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 06:04:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Remember Nixon's "madman theory"?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:15:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I wasn't born yet.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 06:04:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The "crazy" president is not in charge of Iran's foreign policy, military, intelligence agencies or judiciary. He's also not in charge of Iran's nuclear program, which predates his election back to the 1970's when the US and UK and France and Germany encouraged and supported Iran's acquisition of nuclear technology.

However, since he's a loudmouth, he naturally makes for a good bogey-monster. But Iran is not his little fiefdom, and he doesnt' rule as some sort of North-Korea like cult of personality. He was elected, has 4 years in office, and then will leave office (unless relelected for a final term.)

The prior president was Khatami, the "smiling reformist" who didn't say controversial things -- and the same people who are playing up Ahamadinejad as a "threat" that has to be taken oh-so seriously used to say that Khatami & his effort to reconcile with the US shouldn't be taken seriously since the position of President in Iran was only symbolic anyway....so which is it?

by CyrusI on Fri Mar 10th, 2006 at 05:28:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Any thoughts on what's going on in their heads?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:27:13 AM EST
The intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:32:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Demonstrate that (in summary!).

Why are they doing that? What do they hope to gain? For who?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:33:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good thing we have a weekend coming up.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:33:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's start with the policy the intelligence and facts are being fixed around.
Project for a New American Century: Rebuilding America's Defenses (PDF, September 2000)

I'll digest it this weekend as it relates to Iran. But meanwhile there's this summary (my emphasis).
Information Clearinghouse: "Rebuilding America's Defenses" - A Summary (05/06/03)

Individuals who now belong to PNAC have been influencing White House policy since the Reagan era, calling for coups in Central America and claiming that a nuclear war with Russia could be "winnable." Richard Perle is one of their most prominent spokesmen. He and Michael Ledeen (of the American Enterprise Institute), who is currently lobbying for war with Syria and Iran, have adopted a stance that they call "total war" -- the ability to wage multiple simultaneous wars around the globe to achieve American ends. Recently Perle commented on America's war on terrorism: "No stages," he said, "This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq . . . this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war . . . our children will sing great songs about us years from now."

Members of PNAC are so self-assured they are advancing America's best interests that they publish policy papers specifically outlining their plans, plans that many fear may be laying the groundwork for a third world war. Their ideas are peculiarly atavistic, considering the friendly ties that have been forged between most of the major nations during the past ten years.

Their central policy document is entitled "Rebuilding America's Defenses (RAD)," published on their website at http://newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf. It outlines a plan for American hegemony in the coming years, pinpointing "problem areas" of the world and suggesting regime change of unfavorable governments so that eventually the whole world will be unified under the banner of American democracy.

Already we are seeing evidence of PNAC influence on U.S. policy. For instance, the concept of "Homeland Defense" comes straight from "RAD." Iran, Iraq and North Korea, nations that George Bush calls the "Axis of Evil", are listed together in "RAD" several times as possible military threats to the U.S. There is a suggestion that military spending be increased to 3.8 percent of the GDP, exactly the amount (over and above present expenses for the Iraqi campaign) Bush has proposed for next year's budget. Its basic statement of policy bespeaks and advocates the very essence of the idea of preemptive engagement.

Bush's National Security Strategy of September 20, 2002, adopted PNAC ideas and emphasized a broadened definition of preemption. Since we are already hearing accusations against regimes in Iran and Syria, will they be slated next for invasion?

"RAD" takes the posture that only the U.S. should manipulate international relations and points out "trouble spots" that may cause future problems, like Iraq, Iran, Korea and all of East Asia. There is concern that several nations might come together to challenge U.S. interests. Consequently any nation that produces nuclear weapons or engages in significant arms build-up will be viewed as a potential threat. (p.5)
"After eight years of no-fly-zone operations, there is little reason to anticipate that the U.S. air presence in the region should diminish significantly as long as Saddam Hussein remains in power. Although Saudi domestic sensibilities demand that the forces based in the Kingdom nominally remain rotational forces, it has become apparent that this is now a semi-permanent mission. From an American perspective, the value of such bases would endure even should Saddam pass from the scene. Over the long term, Iran may well prove as large a threat to U.S. interests in the Gulf as Iraq has. And even should U.S.-Iranian relations improve, retaining forward-based forces in the region would still be an essential element in U.S. security strategy given the longstanding American interests in the region" (p. 17).
"It is now commonly understood that information and other new technologies - as well as widespread technological and weapons proliferation - are creating a dynamic that may threaten America's ability to exercise its dominant military power. Potential rivals such as China are anxious to exploit these transformational technologies broadly, while adversaries like Iran, Iraq and North Korea are rushing to develop ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons as a deterrent to American intervention in regions they seek to dominate" (p. 4).

"The current American peace will be short-lived if the United States becomes vulnerable to rogue powers with small, inexpensive arsenals of ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads or other weapons of mass destruction. We cannot allow North Korea, Iran, Iraq or similar states to undermine American leadership, intimidate American allies or threaten the American homeland itself. The blessings of the American peace, purchased at fearful cost and a century of effort, should not be so trivially squandered" (p. 75).

"...of all the elements of U.S. military force posture, perhaps none is more in need of reevaluation than America's nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons remain a critical component of American military power but it is unclear whether the current U.S. nuclear arsenal is well-suited to the emerging post-Cold War world. Today's strategic calculus encompasses more factors than just the balance of terror between the United States and Russia. U.S. nuclear force planning and related arms control policies must take account of a larger set of variables than in the past, including the growing number of small nuclear arsenals - from North Korea to Pakistan to, perhaps soon, Iran and Iraq - and a modernized and expanded Chinese nuclear force. Moreover, there is a question about the role nuclear weapons should play in deterring the use of other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical and biological, with the U.S. having foresworn those weapons' development and use. It addition, there may be a need to develop a new family of nuclear weapons designed to address new sets of military requirements, such as would be required in targeting the very deep under-ground, hardened bunkers that are being built by many of our potential adversaries" (p. 8).


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:56:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Iran has nukes" is barely even a issue in the bigger picture.

The bigger picture is that Iran has oil. The nuclear talking point seems to be just that - a talking point.

Yes people, it's WMDs all over again.

As for Migeru's looting point - that's pretty much how I see it. They want to make sure they're top of the heap as everything unravels. This also explains Blair's fascination with 'terrorists' and attempts to set up universal monitoring of location, movement, communications and ID in the UK. It's not the terrorists they're worried about. It's what the rest of us are going to do when we (collectively) work out what's been going on.

Unfortunately with proper government, a soft landing could easily be possible and the current looming train wreck could at least have been mitigated - perhaps even avoided.

For all anyone knows they're all members of a Satanic Cult that thrives off death, fear, lies and torture. Of course that's paranoid, but if you look at the facts and try to find evidence that this isn't a reliable MO - just a small counterexample demonstrating truth, integrity, emapthy or honesty would do - it really is depressingly hard to do that.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 09:21:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]

As for Migeru's looting point - that's pretty much how I see it. They want to make sure they're top of the heap as everything unravels. This also explains Blair's fascination with 'terrorists' and attempts to set up universal monitoring of location, movement, communications and ID in the UK. It's not the terrorists they're worried about. It's what the rest of us are going to do when we (collectively) work out what's been going on.

Unfortunately with proper government, a soft landing could easily be possible and the current looming train wreck could at least have been mitigated - perhaps even avoided.

bingo!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 05:17:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Then, how are they fixing the intelligence and facts? By second-guessing, undermining and politicizing the CIA Directorate of Intelligence (i.e., the analysts, as opposed to the Directorate of Operations).

We know about the office of special plans, we know about Plamegate, we know Cheney was going to the CIA to prod analysts with leading questions instead of letting them come to him with independent reports. We know Porter Goss, who once as a member of the House Intelligence Committe said he would not be competent enough to head the CIA, was appointed CIA director to purge it of analysis not politically loyal to Bush... I recommend reading articles by Ray McGovern on behalf of "Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity". For instance, this last one from Tuesday.

Counterpunch: Who Will Blow the Whistle About Iran? (February 14, 2006)

The question looms large against the backdrop of the hearing on whistle blowing scheduled for the afternoon of Feb. 14 by Christopher Shays, chair of the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations. Among those testifying are Russell Tice, one of the sources who exposed illegal eavesdropping by the National Security Agency, and Army Sgt. Sam Provance, who told his superiors of the torture he witnessed at Abu Graib, got no satisfaction, and felt it his duty to go public. It will not be your usual hearing.
Next Challenge: Iran

Anyone who has been near a TV in recent weeks has heard the drumbeat for war on Iran. The best guess for timing is next month.

Let's see if we cannot do better this time than we did on Iraq. Patriotic truth tellers, we need you! In an interview last year with US News and World Report, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel said that on Iraq, "The White House is completely disconnected from reality...It's like they're just making it up as they go along."

Ditto for an adventure against Iran. But the juggernaut has begun to roll; the White House/FOX News/Washington Times spin machine is at full tilt. This is where whistleblowers come in. Some of you will have the equivalent of the Gen. Abrams cable, shedding light on what the Bush administration is up to beneath the spin. Those of you clued into Israeli plans and US intelligence support for them, might clue us in too. Don't bother this time with the once-independent congressional oversight committees; you will have no protection, in any case, if you choose that route--CIA Director Porter Goss' recent claims to the contrary notwithstanding. Nor should you bother with the once-independent New York Times. Find some other way; just be sure you get the truth out--information that will provide the oxygen for democracy.



A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 07:43:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've read some alarming things on BoomanTrib in the last day or so. People are claiming that "terrorist experts now consider" that the USS Cole and some African embassy operations were not Al-Qaeda acts, but financed from Tehran. This sudden reversal of attitude makes me suspicious, both in the content and timing.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 09:24:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Where'd you see that?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 11:16:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
An example here. The point is not that any of this is real or backed up (although you'll see I asked for clarification in this case) but that susanhu is no right wing shill AFAIK and thus this kind of thing indicates the pebbles before the misinformation avalanche.

These rumours were around linking al-Qaeda to Iraq before the tame analysts jumped in to lie their way into PNAC's good books by constructing "think tank reports and evidence" for the big propaganda machine...

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 11:28:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the tame analysts
We wish they were tame. They are the same rabid analysts.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 11:30:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Finally, we know they've done it before. If I had come out in 2002 and claimed that the intelligence and facts on Iraq were being fixed around the policy I could have been accused of paranoia. Not any more.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 07:48:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When in 2002? I think from August on, that was pretty much the received wisdom in circles I moved in.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:00:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But, I hasten to add, this view solidified greatly only towards and during the showdown at the UN in early 2003, when I watched US/UK claims serially debunked in days or hours. In fact, up until early March, I believed that Iraq could have some ABC weapons - altough not ones kept since 1991 but ones made after 1998.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:03:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, yes, but we had no way to prove it. You were paranoid, too.

Remember what a White HOuse official said in September 2002 to justify suddenly talking about invading Iraq? From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in the Summer. It was then that I suspected it was all bullshit, but I didn't know until I listened to the UN Security Council session where the "evidence" was presented in early 2003.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:12:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, yes, but we had no way to prove it. You were paranoid, too.

Cheney1s pre-emptive dismissal of UN/IAEA inspectors and war call (which provoked Schröder's rebellion). "Saddam threw out the inspectors in 1998".

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 05:55:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The CIA infiltrated the inspectors, and then the US forced the UN to recall them in order to get them out of the way of bombing raids. All this was reported by the US press back in 1998, but by 1992 everyone had forgotten who did who, and the newspapers didn't bother being consistent with what they published back then.

You would think propaganda and rewriting history would be a little harder.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 06:17:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The only question I can't even give an answer for is for whom. I have no idea who the puppet master is.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 07:49:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who benefits?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 07:55:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No f-ing clue.

They are looting the US treasury, have the US economy on the brink of depression, the US military on its knees, the UN reduced to "irrelevance", and are doing all they can to turn the middle east into the flare to start WWIII (except that they call it WWIV).

I suspect some very powerful people know the current world order is unravelling (peak oil, global climate change, end of US economic hegemony) and they are looting what thay can in preparation for what will come next. In the process of looting, they may be instrumental in bringing about a crisis faster, but what do they care? They have Blackwater to defend them.

When the system does unravel, they are laying the groundwork to use the apparatus of the state to defend themselves from the angry mob.
Stan Goff: The Global Battlefield: We Are Standing Oon It (8/10/05)

The Evolution of the Bush-Rumsfeld War Doctrine - Roadmap to Martial Law

It's also what allows some of the most mediocre political and military intellects in the last century (and that is a highly competitive claim) to create one of the most dangerous and decisive historical conjunctures we may ever witness... and hopefully survive.

It appeared in the most arcane of headlines, this desperate new phase in the empire that had been gestating in the tense womb of the Pentagon-White House nexus.

"US military rethinking the two-war strategy"

It wasn't actually the military as a whole reconsidering anything, we find upon reading the article. This is a leak from high-level Pentagon insiders to the press, and more than one insider. There is an artful rebellion taking place among generals.

The first line of the article reads: "The U.S. military, under stress from fighting in Iraq and protecting America from terrorism, is debating whether it can remain ready to fight two big wars at once, according to defense officials." Further along, we find out that the "civilian and military officials, who asked not to be identified, confirmed a report in Tuesday's New York Times that top Defense Department planners were challenging longstanding strategy that requires the armed forces to be prepared to fight two major wars at once."

Officials, plural. If the leak were a felony, like the Plame case, this would add conspiracy to the charge.

So what is going on, and why did this leak come at the same time that the Department of Defense published its strange and alarming "Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support"? To answer that rhetorical question, I will have to go to the strategy document itself, hot off the presses.

Department of Defense, Washington, D.C., June 2005 - Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support. From the Executive Summary:

"We now confront an enemy who will attempt to engage us not only far from US shores, but also at home. Terrorists will seek to employ asymmetric means to penetrate our defenses and exploit the openness of our society to their advantage. By attacking our citizens, our economic institutions, our physical infrastructure, and our social fabric, they seek to destroy American democracy. We dare not underestimate the devastation that terrorists seek to bring to Americans at home.

"To defeat 21st Century threats, we must think and act innovatively. Our adversaries consider US territory an integral part of a global theater of combat. We must therefore have a strategy that applies to the domestic context the key principles that are driving the transformation of US power projection and joint expeditionary warfare."

The declaration of martial law after Katrina was a rehearsal. I suppose the DKosopedia would be the place to go for that.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:07:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Blackwater was in New Orleans.

I smell the stink of praetorians on this hired killers.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 09:07:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Did you think I didn't notice?

Another detail: first they hijack the National Guard for duty in Iraq, for which they are neither trained nor equipped. Then they claim the NG is ill equipped and undermanned to take care of disaster management in NOLA, and that "maybe the federal government and the military should take over disaster relief in the future".

Remember, in a hypothetical scenario in which states rebel against the federal government, on whose side is the loyalty of the National Guard (mostly Police and Firefighters looking for an extra buck)?

But now they have planted it in everyone's psyche that the NG is incompetent and that the Army (and Blackwater) should be in charge of disaster relief.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 09:26:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed, in general, the idea left to hang in the air post-Katrina is that federal government services are a total wash-out and only the military can be trusted. Which corresponds to the small-government view that security and enforcement capacities, at home and abroad, are the essential preoccupation of government.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 11:00:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What's almost never mentioned is that the religious head you mentioned in Iran has issued a fatwa which forbids Iran not only building a nuclear weapon but also using one or possessing one.

Pax

Night and day you can find me Flogging the Simian

by soj on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:33:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Melo suggests:

it's personal: iran's loudmouthed leader was one of the kidnappers of the us hostages.
it's blowback from the shah days. karma is a b....
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:51:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The personal argument has been debunked.

It's hard to tell at this point what is blowback from what. Mossadegh, the Shah, the Revolution, the hostages, the Iran-Iraq war, the Iran-Contra scandal...

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 07:54:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We have the EU-3, entrusted with this one by the EU. Do the interests of the EU member states roughly coincide here?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:29:59 AM EST
I don't know about the EU, but I do have a bit of a problem with your singling out of the U.S. in the diary itself.

France has made some pretty "assertive" statements.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4718838.stm
Germany, too. Iran is in the inenviable position of having gotten ALL of the permanent members of the security council upset. Even North Korea has not managed that.

Perhaps the discussion could be changed from "It's all America's fault" to "There is a global problem here." It seems to me that not only do the interests of the EU and the EU-3 coincide, but those of everybody else, too.

It might not be the short term issue of whether Iran can assemble a nuke in the next, say, five years, but what is needed to enable long-term stability in the Middle East given the many problems including widespread poverty, economies based on resource extraction, religious fundamentalism, corruption, etc.

That doesn't seem to be an issue that is specifically related to America's currently poor international relations...

by asdf on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 09:13:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the problem is Islamic Imperialism. Since the Shah was overthrown in 1979, the Radical mullahs ruling Iran have been trying to take over the region.

The first began to attack Iraq just prior to Saddam's takeover of Iraq, then they began to fund Hisbulla and other groups in Lebanon in order to reduce the Christians to dhimmintude (it worked) and covertly were helping the Afghan puppet govenment to resist it's Soviet masters, thereby prompting the Russian invasion.

The real first gulf war (eight years, one million military dead) was a way to consolidate power on behalf of the Ayatollas. Also the institution of a toy government and fixed elections gave the illusion of democracy on the world stage.

The reason that there's so much yelling and screaming about the nuclear program is international law. Iran signed a number of treaties concerning the subject and they appeared to be violating them. Same with North Korea.

Now before you ask "what about Israel?" here's the answer: Israel never signed any nuclear treaties. If you don't sign a treaty, you cannot violate the international law created by the treaty. It's called "soveregnty." When people attack the Bush administration for "breaking treaties" don't believe them. The treaties in question were either never signed or never ratified. Kyoto, for example was rejected by the Senate by a vote of 98-0.

Just after the Ameican invasion of Afghanistan started in 2001, the Iranians invaded too. It was in TIME magazine and everything. They withdrew just after Bush's notorious "axis of evil" speech, which was primarily a warning to Iran to get the hell out of Dodge.(we were going after Iraq anyway, and let's face it, the government of North Korea IS evil)

There have almost been two nuclear wars between India and Pakistan in the last ten years and Europe knows that if Iran has the bomb, it's going to be used and Israel is going to retaliate, killing millions and millions (even Tel Aviv isn't very far from the Palestinian territories, and an iranian nuke-tipped missile could wipe out much of Palestine by mistake), the French and Germans don't want that.

The cartoon riots are another reason. Islamic imperialists have been whooping up the people in a frenzy over the fact that Denmark is refusing to institute Shihara. The riots in the Paris suburbs have had their effect as well.

The US has little to do with it.

by messy on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 10:14:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Since the Shah was overthrown in 1979, the Radical mullahs ruling Iran have been trying to take over the region.

The first began to attack Iraq just prior to Saddam's takeover of Iraq

Wikipedia: Iran-Iraq War

The war began when Iraq invaded Iran on 22 September 1980 following a long history of border disputes.

The Iran-Iraq was was a proxy war waged by Saddam on behalf of the US.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 10:20:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wikipedia: Iran-Iraq War

The war began when Iraq invaded Iran on 22 September 1980 following a long history of border disputes.

According to Efriam Karsh's The Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988 Iran's army began shooting at Iraq's in May, and on 4 September 1980 Iran shells Ihanaquin and Mandaili in Iraq followed by a small battle. This was all prior to the big invasion on the 22nd of September.

I've always thought that two legally authorized armies shooting at each other for an extended period of time was a war.

by messy on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 03:04:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From Dilip Hiro's Iraq: A Report From The Inside:

The rise of an Islamic republic in the Shia-majority Iran under Khomeini in early 1979 provoked militancy among Iraqi Shias, to the extent that the increasingly powerful first vice president of the republic, young Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, acted severely against them, much to the unease of the oder President Bakr.  While Khomeini took to appealing to Iraqis to overthrow the "non-Muslim" Baathist regime, Baghdad encouraged the ethnic Arabs in the oil-rich Iranian province of Khuzestan to demand autonomy and sabotage oil installations.  The differences between Bakr and Saddam on how to tackle the Shia problem became irreconcilable.  So on July 17, 1979, the eleventh anniversary of the Baathist seizure of power, Saddam Hussein became chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council and president of Iraq after forcing Bakr to step down.

On the fifth anniversary of the 1975 Iran-Iraq treaty of International Boundaries and Neighborliness, Saddam declared in the newly convened Parliament that he was abrogating the treaty forthwith.

This was the prelude to the Iraqi invasion of Iran.

The Iran-Iraq War

On September 22, 1980, Iraq invaded Iran, a country three-and-a-half times as large and four times more populous than itself.  Its army crossed the border at several points while its air force bombed Iranian military installations and economic targets.  Angered by the Iranians' hostage-taking at the US embassy in Tehran in November 1979, the Carter administration had encouraged Iraq, through diplomatic back channels, to attack Iran.  Now, however, Washington declared itself neutral in the war.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 03:21:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh, my comment looks rather redundant now. Thanks for this post, tsp! Useful details.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 03:37:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
oops.  Make that "older President Bakr."

Damn typing gnomes....

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 03:39:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmmm, so India and Pakistan have been at war for a lot more of the last 40 years than most people realize.

Much more importantly, there were numerous border clashes from 1971 onwards which Karsh seems to skip over, which throws some light on his (or is it your?) attempt to rewrite a definitive origin of the conflict.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 03:34:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The beginning of the conflict in Kashmir began when the King of Kashmir decided to join India rather than Pakistan in 1947. That is the definitive origin of the conflict.

The Pakistanis have hated the Indians since well before independance. Aside from the Bangladeshi war in 1971, there's been a constant war on the Kashimiri "line of control" for decades. The Sichan glacier in the Himilayas was the scene of what might be termed "live fire war games" between India and Pakistan during the 1980s and '90s. Every spring the two armies would shoot canon at each other. A couple of dozen people would get killed by the other side's live fire, but for the rest, it was good training.

There were two major crises, Kargil in 1999 and the 2001-02 mini-war. I still remember a report on MSNBC or CNN at the beginning of 2002 when they had an "expert" saying--while video of two side blasting away, mind you--"If things get worse, they might start shooting at each other." Had not Colin Powell and Richard Armitage conducted shuttle diplomacy, there would have been a nuclear war.

In 1999, while Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff was visiting Washington, Clinton learned that the Pakistani General Staff was planning to nuke Indian troops in Kashmir, which was succeeding in pushing the Pakistanis out of the Kargil plateau, which they had invaded a month before. There were already thousands of casulaties. Clinton got Sharif to force the GS to stand down.

Bill Clinton saved the world that day, and nobody knows it. Whatever you think of Bush (and it ain't much in any case) He also prevented a nuclear war in 2002.

by messy on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 09:17:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, messy, you do love to lecture don't you...

It's noticeable that you skip the main point here (Iran-Iraq) particularly avoiding tsp's fine post.

As for your line:

"The Pakistanis have hated the Indians since well before independance."

it certainly sums up well the quality of your information sources.
 

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 02:41:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, messy, you do love to lecture don't you...

No more than anyone else around here. However I've never figured out how to post a diary...

by messy on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 08:40:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just in case you are not joking:

On the right hand side, above recommended diaries is a little box, headed with your username (e.g. Messy). Inside the box is a link "New Diary Entry." Click on there and it's fairly simple.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 08:49:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
thank you very much.
by messy on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 04:27:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The riots in the Paris suburbs have had their effect as well.
The riots in the Paris suburbs have nothing to do with islam. Go here to find a list of diaries on the issue.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 10:25:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It was in TIME magazine and everything.

The US has little to do with it.

I don't know which of these two makes me laugh the most.

messy, you're a riot all on your own.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 11:07:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It was in TIME magazine and everything.
I don't know which of these two makes me laugh the most.

Right. The TIME article was in the 4 February 2002 issue and is titled "Theran's Game" by Romesh Ratnesar, and can be found on pagees 40 to 44.

Apparently, starting about the time the Taliban was thrown out of power, the Iranians began to send weapons and advisors to Western Warlord Ismail Khan. Look it up.

by messy on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:53:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
messy, when you say "Apparently"...

It's up to you to look it up.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 01:46:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 
messy, when you say "Apparently"...

If you can't attack the argument attack the literary style.

by messy on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 08:46:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, you really don't understand. I'm not talking about style, but the meaning of what you say. "Apparently" means that what follows is hearsay. You should first check and offer some evidence for the affirmation. It's not up to anyone else to do that for you.

And, while we're about it, "Time" magazine does not represent a particularly solid reference as to real facts, particularly in the years we're talking about. (At least, you won't find many people here who'll give it an ounce of credit). Also, please try, if you refer to a source, to give people an online link. We haven't all got a pile of old hard-copies of Time to go through...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 11:02:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The UN determined that the war was started by Iraq, when Iraq invaded Iran. The tension which existed on the border before then was neither a legal justification for Iraq's invasion of Iran, nor was it the stated reason by Saddam.
See RK Ramazani, "Who Started the Iraq-Iran War? A Commentary," Virginia Journal of International Law 33 (1992): 69-89
by CyrusI on Fri Mar 10th, 2006 at 05:37:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The US has been seen to be driving this: whether that's a fair assessment or not is another matter. I was merely stating what I saw as the conventional wisdom about what's happening. Relax.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 11:20:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps the discussion could be changed from "It's all America's fault" to "There is a global problem here." It seems to me that not only do the interests of the EU and the EU-3 coincide, but those of everybody else, too.

We're working on that: that's the point. I'm trying to work out what the interests of all the players are.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 11:22:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
call me simple-minded, but I suspect Iran's interest is fairly straightforward.  they've noticed that the US doesn't invade states that have a nuclear arsenal (even a small one).  they've noticed that the US does invade (and interfere with) states that control large oil reserves.  they don't want to be invaded or interfered with, so they want to have nukes.

I can't get past the underlying assumption of much of this discourse, which is that -- to put it crudely - n*gg*rs shouldn't be allowed to have guns.  why is it acceptable for a rogue state like the US to bend other states to its will using the implicit threat of nuclear strikes and the explicit strategy of carpet bombing, yet totally unacceptable for Iran or other ex-colonial countries to own nuclear weapons and negotiate from a position of partial strength rather than abject inferiority?

nuclear weapons are an insane technology to start with.  the size of the US nuke arsenal is evidence of some kind of psychosis (how many times over do you really need to kill every human being on earth, anyway?).  so for me the question of the double standard cannot be ducked.  Iran is a nation plagued by an unstable and repressive state dominated by religious and nationalist extremists.  so, increasingly, is the US.  of the two, the US has committed more recent aggressions, and is currently governed by an zealot-elite whose published documents (PNAC etc) espouse global empire as a desired goal.

it seems pretty clear that the only reason "we" don't want Iran to have nuclear weapons is because we plan to do a bit of B&E and GBH in the near future and would rather the householders were not armed.  my $.02...  that's what at least some of the players are after.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:42:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hey, what's with that anti-vowel discrmination?
"nig**rs" would work too

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 06:08:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, France has made assertive statements. I'm still trying to work out why and on what basis those statements were made.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 11:23:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The import of those statements, and in particular whether they represented a departure from the traditional French nuclear posture, was discussed by Jerome and Francois of the aParis clan.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 11:25:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 11:31:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This basically confirms what Nomad was saying regarding the centrifuges.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 11:37:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do we know what prompted that? Is it the sort of thing Nomad was talking about?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 11:39:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I really agree with this comment.  Some of the recent above discussion has a focus on America has a hidden agenda; discussions such as we are having can't be believed.

It's just a way of "kicking the can down the road"--ignoring what are clearly problems, and putting others who see them as real problems in the position of feeling they have to act.

IMHO, that is a road to another Iraqi style disaster.

by wchurchill on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 02:33:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
what "hidden" agenda?  it seems very public and frankly expressed.  documents from the 70's dwell on the "necessity" of US domination of middle eastern oil reserves.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:44:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In that case, why doesn't the U.S. just take over the Middle East and be done with it? Why all the fooling around and wasting money with building electricity systems and trying to set up elections and negotiating with guys like Ahmadinejad and all that other troublesome stuff? It would be a lot easier to just round up all the locals and put them in a big holding camp out in the desert for 50 years or so, until the oil is all gone. Wouldn't even need nukes, since pretty much everybody lives in a few cities.

In fact, why bother? Why not just go down to Venezuela and do it there? And Canada.

I guess America is just too soft these days--and hopelessly inefficient at building an empire.

by asdf on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 01:09:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Certainly asdf can snark with the best of them.

However, the question can be plausibly answered.

The US is not a totalitarian state and on top of that it thrives on trade, rather than internal production.

Further, this has only really been a unipolar world for about 15 years now. So it's not as though for most of the period of US strength there has been an opportunity to act in a brazenly unjust manner.

To detail a bit: US politicians are held in check by the preferences of their electorate, who are generally decent enough not to believe rounding up locals to steal their oil is wholly just, and also don't like boys coming home in body bags.

On top of this, the dependence on trade means that world opinion of an event of such magnitude matters. (Again, this is linked to democracy. Economic sanctions from around the world on US actions are likely to lead to people losing political power due to economic instability.)

Finally, it is only since the end of the Cold War that the US could conceive of acting in the manner you advocate without risking Cold turning into Hot. The psychology of establishments takes time to change. The US top brass has spent 50 years growing and defending it's empire assets through local proxies. We shouldn't expect a policy sea change without evidence of a sea change in the top brass. Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc. have been part of the defense industry-government merry-go-round since Nixon's time at least. They come up with the odd new idea, but like all of us are unlikely to overturn the superstructure of beliefs they have worked in all their lives.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 02:58:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy suggests:
They want to make sure they're top of the heap as everything unravels. This also explains Blair's fascination with 'terrorists' and attempts to set up universal monitoring of location, movement, communications and ID in the UK. It's not the terrorists they're worried about. It's what the rest of us are going to do when we (collectively) work out what's been going on.


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 09:40:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the problems are...

  1. israel. she cannot afford another muslim country to have nuclear weapons.
  2. iran wants to sell oil in euros, which will upset the dollar-hegemony, whose inflation also weighs on us in europe.
  3. it's personal: iran's loudmouthed leader was one of the kidnappers of the us hostages.
  4. it's blowback from the shah days. karma is a b....
  5. there is a mood in all the muslim world to correct what they see to be a distinctly unlevel playing field, that benefits only a few sunni dictatorships, kingdoms.
  6. america (and europe) are attempting to re-con their populi into accepting nuclear power, and the cognitive disconnect emerging from not wanting iran to prepare in the same way for when their oil runs out, and selling the 'great' idea to our own, is the kind that is so enraging - due to its rational unsolvability, and most importantly the impossibility of spinning it convincingly to an increasingly self-educated public, who are learning, slowly, to read between the lines, thanks to blogs like this, and efforts like jerome's to further the viability of alternate sources, so benign in contrast.

a lot of veiled, vested business interests are trying to delay the moment of truth and reckoning, as the lid come off and the public erupts in fury at having been diddled too long by such greedy idiots.

i am trying to keep my sense of humour as i contemplate the possible scenarios unfolding from this 'perfect storm', whose effects will be global.

another waxing day, another shrinking dollar....

perhaps it can be done gently, with the violence restricted to the plane of rhetoric (and cartoons).

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:47:32 AM EST
  • Connections to Palestinian-Israeli issue
  • Security and regional geopolitics
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:49:40 AM EST
How are they reacting to the idea of Iran with nuclear power? Do they buy the assertions being made by the US?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:50:40 AM EST
How does the secular opposition (such that it is) in Iran feel about civilian or weaponised nuclear capability?

I would expect much of the opposition to be essentially nationalistic and would not therefore object to further development.

by lemonwilmot (lemonwilmot at gmail.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:38:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. There is not an iota of technical proof as of current that Iran does have a nuclear armament programme. There were several points of evidence presented as such but subsequently negated.

  2. If, in theory, Iran does want nukes, the motivation is what the PNAC seems to have acknowledged (see Migeru's quotes): deterrence, not threat. Threat makes no sense when you have a few nukes, and delivery systems that will instantly identify you as the sender, but your opponent has hundreds (Israel) or thousands (USA) of nukes for a counterstrike to eradicate your entire country. On the other hand, since both Israel and the USA do openly threaten Iran militarily, and the USA 'encircled' Iran from all sides, deterrence does very much make sense.

  3. Hence, if Iran does want nukes, it is not a security threat in itself, in fact it could be called the opposite (reducing the chance of another disastrous US intervention a la Iraq). What is a threat, IMO, is a slow spread of nukes to ever more states, which on the lkong run does increase the chances of a nuclear war: it could be (a) between two smaller states, (b) it would be easier to blame a strike on another state, (c) the total madness factor could become non-neglible. But the main obstacle to stopping the spread of nukes is the hypocritical love of nukes by existing nuclear powers (including France, hint hint). As long as they don't show any inclination to plan to dismantle their arsenal (which would be their obligation under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, BTW), others will have a motivation to get ones themselves.

  4. What do the Iranian leaders really want? One possibility is that they do want nukes, and they want to get them after they get the Western powers and IAEA into a situation where they give them a legal excuse to boot out the inspectors, maybe taking a US airstrike as a price (or not even price, but possible outside force that will get the population behind them).

  5. Another possibility is that Iran's leadership doesn't think the West is capable of a serious strike in practice, and wants to get as much as possible.

  6. The no-nukes version is, based either on a similar assessment of Western military capacities or blindness, that for the new Iranian leaders, the issue is one of national pride, a push to get every (civilian) technology the West has and not accept any restrictions the West doesn't apply to itself. I don't think this version is the least likely. One thing rarely noticed in the West about thew Iranian Revolution is that it not only brought social medievalism, but a modernist push in comprehensive and high-quality education (no wonder they didn't like the Taliban) and (not just military) technology (there were Iranian students at my university, including women in head scarfs, BTW). Telecom, cars, railroads, ports, oil industry development.

  7. Finally, I cannot disassociate the question of the "Iranian Problem" from those who want to 'solve it', which makes this wchurchill-inspired exercise a bit nonsensical to me. That is: it is a very big and vague what-if to imagine if Europe would be at the ball and not the USA (does that mean the USA disappears from Iraq, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and the Gulf?), and that doesn't just change the 'solution' but the 'problem' itself, too.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 07:55:45 AM EST
Finally, I cannot disassociate the question of the "Iranian Problem" from those who want to 'solve it', which makes this wchurchill-inspired exercise a bit nonsensical to me. That is: it is a very big and vague what-if to imagine if Europe would be at the ball and not the USA (does that mean the USA disappears from Iraq, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and the Gulf?), and that doesn't just change the 'solution' but the 'problem' itself, too.

I'm not suggesting you should: it is possible that the real problem is that the US wants to exercise control over Iranian resources rather than anything the Iranians are doing.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 07:58:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, where is wchurchill?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:17:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Elsewhere, I assume. I'm sure he'll be along.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:18:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And what do you think? Or are you just going to be umpiring the gnomem00t?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:19:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I'm going to throw in lots more. I'm actually sort of busy today, and on my way out for a while. I'll do some this evening and over the weekend.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:22:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fast asleep. If he drinks Napa wine after midnight, strange and terrible things happen ;)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:44:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
now, now afew.  Play nice.
by wchurchill on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 01:46:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know, I know, I'm a tattle-tale.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 02:10:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But isn't it a good thing if the US does not try to lead everything?  We Americans have done a pretty good job of proving that all great strategic thinking, and diplomatic efforts, don't reside fully in America.  <snark>  I tend to look on the bright side a lot,,,,,but I haven't given up on the North Korean negotiations, that include regional partners who seemingly would have more at stake than the US.  Nor on Iran, where though the process sometimes seems very slow, seems to be building a consensus, at least in the sense of getting to the UN.  Nor on Palestine, where Hamas is now in control, voted in by their fellow countrymen,,,,,so what will happen now that they have that responsibility.  Admitedly a lot to play out in all three of these, but isn't this the way to go, with in many cases countries that seem far calmer and more patient than the somewhat gunslinging style of America.  

The challenge though is that progress must be seen to happen, however slowly.  My sense of the American electorate is that Iran, in particular, if it were to go through a similar process of the 16, or whatever the number, feckless Iraqi UN resolutions (over say a 5 year period from today), that would bring out a "51% gunslinger attitude" in America.  IMHO, America will learn a lot in Iraq, and has.  But I don't think one of the lessons will be to leave a seemingly raving lunatic alone, if he is perceived as arming.  I could be wrong on that of course,,,,but I don't think so.  51% has made tremendous change in the US--Iraq, stategy in the war on terror, appointments to the Supreme Court, tax policy, etc.  

So I sincerely applaud the leadership of other countries on these issues, which after all, have huge impact on all of us.

by wchurchill on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 02:12:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The no-nukes version is, based either on a similar assessment of Western military capacities or blindness, that for the new Iranian leaders, the issue is one of national pride, a push to get every (civilian) technology the West has and not accept any restrictions the West doesn't apply to itse

It seems quite possible that a leadership that was truly patriotic and understood that the oil is going to run out would consider nuclear power a necessary part of long term strategy.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:00:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the issue is one of national pride, a push to get every (civilian) technology the West has and not accept any restrictions the West doesn't apply to itself.

when Pakistan first tested a nuke weapon, as I recall, cheering crowds thronged the streets in major cities, celebrating this step away from colonial inferiority and towards "equality" as a regional or world power.  nationalism and anticolonial sentiment were deeply bound up in public approval for nuclear arms.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:24:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
However, I emphasize that in this context, I did not speak about nationalist sentiment to support nuclear arms.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 04:37:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
1.  There is not an iota of technical proof as of current that Iran does have a nuclear armament programme. There were several points of evidence presented as such but subsequently negated.

That might be, but there are certainly indications pointing towards Iran wanting to conceal parts of their nuclear program and possibly aspiring to widen their program from civilian to military purposes:

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told diplomats that his inspectors had recently obtained documents from Tehran showing that the Iranians had been given various instructions on processing uranium hexafluoride gas and casting and enriching uranium. These had been obtained via the black market in nuclear technology headed by the disgraced Pakistani scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Informed diplomats said the blueprint for casting uranium was required in making the core of a nuclear warhead, although that alone was not enough for the manufacture of a weapon.


And
The story dates back to the Clinton administration and February 2000, when one frightened Russian scientist walked Vienna's winter streets. The Russian had good reason to be afraid. He was walking around Vienna with blueprints for a nuclear bomb.

To be precise, he was carrying technical designs for a TBA 480 high-voltage block, otherwise known as a "firing set", for a Russian-designed nuclear weapon. He held in his hands the knowledge needed to create a perfect implosion that could trigger a nuclear chain reaction inside a small spherical core. It was one of the greatest engineering secrets in the world, providing the solution to one of a handful of problems that separated nuclear powers such as the United States and Russia from rogue countries such as Iran that were desperate to join the nuclear club but had so far fallen short.

The Russian, who had defected to the US years earlier, still couldn't believe the orders he had received from CIA headquarters. The CIA had given him the nuclear blueprints and then sent him to Vienna to sell them - or simply give them - to the Iranian representatives to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Iran has spent nearly 20 years trying to develop nuclear weapons, and in the process has created a strong base of sophisticated scientists knowledgeable enough to spot flaws in nuclear blueprints. Tehran also obtained nuclear blueprints from the network of Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, and so already had workable blueprints against which to compare the designs obtained from the CIA. Nuclear experts say that they would thus be able to extract valuable information from the blueprints while ignoring the flaws.

"If [the flaw] is bad enough," warned a nuclear weapons expert with the IAEA, "they will find it quite quickly. That would be my fear."

Both quotes above points in the same direction, although I really don't know what to make of the alleged CIA covert operation dubbed "Operation Merlin". If true, a rather hazardous and irresponsible operation in my opinion, but it seemingly points to the fact that the Iranian regime were willing to pay/acquire more knowledge on how to develop nuclear weapons.  The fact that the Mujahedin-e-Khalq disclosed the existence of nuclear sites, a uranium enrichment facility in Natanz and a heavy water facility in Arak, in 2002, unknown to the IAEA, doesn't add to the reliability of the regime, when propagating their peaceful intentions.

If, in theory, Iran does want nukes, the motivation is what the PNAC seems to have acknowledged (see Migeru's quotes): deterrence, not threat. Threat makes no sense when you have a few nukes, and delivery systems that will instantly identify you as the sender, but your opponent has hundreds (Israel) or thousands (USA) of nukes for a counterstrike to eradicate your entire country. On the other hand, since both Israel and the USA do openly threaten Iran militarily, and the USA 'encircled' Iran from all sides, deterrence does very much make sense.

I would say both deterrence and threat.  Deterrence against the US and possibly Israel and posing a possible threat to the neighbouring regimes and even the possibility of extending their influence into Iraq, Lebanon and some of the Gulf States under the nuclear umbrella, which could lead to a possible arms race in the region.  

(.....)But the main obstacle to stopping the spread of nukes is the hypocritical love of nukes by existing nuclear powers (including France, hint hint). As long as they don't show any inclination to plan to dismantle their arsenal (which would be their obligation under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, BTW), others will have a motivation to get ones themselves.

Yes, I do agree that the lack of nuclear disarmament is an obstacle to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, but according to the first article of the NPT, the first priority seems to be the issue of non-proliferation.  This because if disarmament was the priority then a dozens of new countries would be nuclear powers before we had finished disarming just a few, and the disarmament would have been for nothing.  

Even so, I do find many of your points intriguing and being quite plausible reasons for the seemingly defiant mood of the Iranian regime.

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 02:04:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
First evidence:

Informed diplomats said...

Where have I seen that before

More from the second:

The Russian soon found 19 Heinstrasse, a five-storey office and apartment building with a flat, pale green and beige facade in a quiet, slightly down-at-heel neighbourhood in Vienna's north end. Amid the list of Austrian tenants, there was one simple line: "PM/Iran." The Iranians clearly didn't want publicity. An Austrian postman helped him. As the Russian stood by, the postman opened the building door and dropped off the mail. The Russian followed suit; he realised that he could leave his package without actually having to talk to anyone. He slipped through the front door, and hurriedly shoved his envelope through the inner-door slot at the Iranian office.

The Russian fled the mission without being seen. He was deeply relieved that he had made the hand-off without having to come face to face with a real live Iranian.

Gjermund, this is weaker than weak evidence. The rest of the Guardian article is pure speculation.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 04:46:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
After some digging, I found that the casting argument holds, but it is questionable whether Iran sought it or was it committed nuclear-proliferationist Khan who included them in the 1987 package: no corresponding equipment purchases, or any proof that any Iranian activity (request, further research) was connected to this file.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 05:44:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 (.....)but it is questionable whether Iran sought it or was it committed nuclear-proliferationist Khan who included them in the 1987 package: no corresponding equipment purchases, or any proof that any Iranian activity (request, further research) was connected to this file.

Well, if you had no ambitions of developing nuclear weapons why not be upfront with this information and hand it over to the IAEA at once and not wait almost a decade before you more or less are forced to admitting having such a document?  

The NPT doesn't only prohibit purchasing equipment for nuclear weapons, but also refrain from what can be seen as seeking the assistance of others in developing such weapons:

Article II

Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

 Whether it was intentionally or unintentionally acquired....well....we have to take the Iranians word for them not actively seeking such knowledge.  

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 07:32:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Informed diplomats said..., Where have I seen that before

If you are going to measure every foreign policy issue in the Middle East to what happened prior to the Iraq invasion in 2003 and automatically dismiss it as propaganda, well then it wouldn't be much point in dealing with the Middle East at all and much less trying to uphold the NPT in that region.  

The IAEA has found Iran's failure to inform of its nuclear program, its admitting of acquiring blueprints on how to cast Uranium metal into nuclear warheads and the failure to disclose the nuclear facilities at Natanz and Arak, only admitting it when the secret was disclosed by others, so disturbing that they have found it necessary to report it to the UN Security Council.    

Gjermund, this is weaker than weak evidence. The rest of the Guardian article is pure speculation.

I have to agree that it is certainly no conclusive evidence, but all those incidents but together doesn't paint a to rosy picture of the Iranians intent when it comes to the nuclear question, something which even the IAEA seems to agree with, which was not the case prior to the Iraq invasion in 2003.  That is why their motives have to be scrutinized and treated with utmost suspicion.

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 06:55:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
uranium enrichment facility in Natanz and a heavy water facility in Arak, in Arak, in 2002, unknown to the IAEA, doesn't add to the reliability of the regime

As I pointed out elsewhere in the thread, the IAEA requires notification six months before coming on-line of such facilities. (The IAEA delegation first visiting the facilities in 2003 did point that out.) The heavy water production facility was supposed to come on-line last year. Also note that the Arak facilities were originally to be sited at Esfahan, and the decision to move them seems to be related to the need of much water that is awailable at Arak.

posing a possible threat to the neighbouring regimes

Since those neighbouring regimes are under the US umbrella, in fact the two largest neighbours are under US occupation and two more plus three near-neighbours across the Persian Gulf have US troops stationed at bases, attacking them with nukes would be responded by the USA.

the first priority seems to be the issue of non-proliferation.

I don't think you can deduce the level of importance or the order in time of fulfilling obligations from the numbering of articles. On the other hand, I submit you do have a point in that the wording of Article VI points not to the immediate future, in fact demands a separate new treaty on disarmament - but that "at an early date".

if disarmament was the priority

Disarmament was the end goal, and my argument is that disarmament of existing states and non-proliferation go hand in hand: dozens of new countries would not have the incentive (or at least have lesser incentive and rhetorical excuses) to turn nuclear if disarmament of the rest would be on-going (or at least they stopped issuing first-strike threats).

Even so, I do find many of your points intriguing and being quite plausible reasons for the seemingly defiant mood of the Iranian regime.

Upon re-reading I often find my own words offensive-sounding, while when I wrote them it was just a terse way of putting my opinion, and when there were points of agreement I haven't acknowledged them. So hereby I also state that I, too, find your points, and also points of others I responded to critically, intriguing and worth for consideration.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 05:25:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Since those neighbouring regimes are under the US umbrella, in fact the two largest neighbours are under US occupation and two more plus three near-neighbours across the Persian Gulf have US troops stationed at bases, attacking them with nukes would be responded by the USA.

Well, you seem to have more faith in the US nuclear umbrella guarantee for the Middle East than I have. On the contrary I doubt the US would use their nukes if such a scenario were to happen and if they were to be protected by the US nuclear umbrella it is of little consolation to have that kind of guarantee when been nuked.  The proliferation of nuclear weapons would undoubtedly lead to fear and fear was and still is one of the main components in the outbreak of an arms race.

Disarmament was the end goal, and my argument is that disarmament of existing states and non-proliferation go hand in hand: dozens of new countries would not have the incentive (or at least have lesser incentive and rhetorical excuses) to turn nuclear if disarmament of the rest would be on-going (or at least they stopped issuing first-strike threats).

Yes, I do agree with you when you say:(.....)disarmament of existing states and non-proliferation go hand in hand(.....), still it is a fact that we have been living with nuclear weapons controlled by certain states without them ever being used since 1945, even when the doctrine of first strike was introduced and no European country, except from France and Great Britain, developed nuclear weapons capability during that time even if the threat of war and the level of fear was very real. That is why I find the argument of fear being somewhat circumstantial and possibly being used as a front in covering up other agendas.  

Upon re-reading I often find my own words offensive-sounding, while when I wrote them it was just a terse way of putting my opinion, and when there were points of agreement I haven't acknowledged them. So hereby I also state that I, too, find your points, and also points of others I responded to critically, intriguing and worth for consideration.

Well, I have never found your comments here on ET offensive, on the contrary, I have always read your comments with utmost interest.  

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 08:13:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Supplemental point: Natanz and Arak were known before the Mujahedin-e-Khalq public announcement. (The question left open is whether the intel community left the IAEA in the dark.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 12:00:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Supplemental point: Natanz and Arak were known before the Mujahedin-e-Khalq public announcement. (The question left open is whether the intel community left the IAEA in the dark.)

Well, one important question would be how far in advance did the intelligence community know, before this information reached the IAEA?  If the NCRI came to the US intelligence community with this information prior to informing the IAEA then it could be a matter of weeks or months in advance and that would be just speculation.  More realistically the US intell. community picked this bit of information up from Intellsats.  Still, the failure to inform the IAEA lays not on the US intell.community, but solely on the Iranians.  

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 07:43:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why not let Iran develop their nuclear capability, can we really stop them anyway?

My understanding from speaking to an Iranian friend who regularly returns there is that the stultifying boredom of existence in the Islamic Republic means that Iran's younger generation are among the most committed secular democrats in the region. The lead-in time to any deployable capability must be at least 5-10 years at which point we might be dealing with a democratic Iranian state.

I've heard it argued that possession of nuclear weapons will entrench the regime but peaceful revolutions take place in nuclear armed states - remember 1989.

by lemonwilmot (lemonwilmot at gmail.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:22:49 AM EST
Welcome to ET.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:35:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you. I was lurking at Kos for a while and was for a long time looking for a European/International equivalent. I think there are lots of us over there.
by lemonwilmot (lemonwilmot at gmail.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:42:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
People eventually cross paths with Jerome... That's how I came here.

By the way, you might want to drop by this recent diary.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:45:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I repeat, I mean repeat, what I kept shouting before March 2003:

You think [Saddam/Iran] is a problem? But Bush is not a solution. He is another, bigger problem.


I will become a patissier, God willing.
by tuasfait on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:46:21 AM EST
9/11 turned Bush into a problem. Before that he was a first-term lame-duck president.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 08:49:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd argue that Bush was a problem from the get go.  He was not elected but appointed by the Supreme Court.  9-11 was just a very good excuse (a little too good) to invade Iraq, and invading Iraq was why they stole the Presidency.  

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 09:28:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Except that in his first what? 3 months? Bush managed to piss off Jim Jeffords so much that they lost the Senate majority. So, even in that they were incompetent.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 09:30:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jeffords was already moving in that direction.  He's an old-school, Yankee Republican, sort of in line with Howard Dean.  If we were living in 1905, both Dean and Jeffords would be strong, liberal Republicans.  It's only been in the last three to four decades that the GOP has become a hotbed for extremism.  Even Nixon and Ford maintained some heavily progressive views.

I think he simply found Bush's agenda so irresponsible -- for example, taking us from a record surplus to a projected record deficits (we weren't yet in deficit, but we knew we would be) -- that he decided it was time to leave the party.  There are a few Republicans who haven't left but still hold that sort of view.

Chuck Hagel, who I disagree on any number of issues but greatly admire nonetheless, is increasingly looking that way on foreign policy.  I'd love to see the GOP nominate him in '08, as a safety net to avoid the possibility of more Christian Right influence, but it won't happen.  Lieberman's increasingly right-wing talk sort of cancels out the Hagel effect, too.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:36:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
you got that right regarding Hagel.  I would put him at 100:1 or worse on that.  Personally, I find him clueless--but I would admit there is just something about his personal style that really turns me off.  
by wchurchill on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 02:38:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The New York Times Magazine did a profile on him last Sunday.  A big part of his problem is that he doesn't come off as a very optimistic guy, and, as you know, we Americans constantly need sunshine shoved up our asses from politicians.  (Why that is, I don't know.)  Bill Maher told a hilarious joke about it:

"Like Reagan.  He was sunny!  FDR was the sunniest Democrat, but he had polio, and his wife was a dyke.  There was nowhere to go but up."

FDR would've gotten a kick out of that.

Hagel's a Vietnam veteran, so I'm inclined to listen to him on issues of war and peace more so than non-veterans.  That may be unfair, but it's simply a knee-jerk reaction of mine.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 05:37:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
true, and that sunny thing applies to me as well i'm afraid.
by wchurchill on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:34:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It applies to me a bit.  I'd like to think I'm reasonably optimistic.  But an intelligent pessimist would be an improvement these days.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 12:39:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Americans constantly need sunshine shoved up our asses from politicians.
The Titanic sank during a race to elect the Captain. The guy whose program was to rearrange the chair on the sunbathing deck.</snark>

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 01:59:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
NOnonononononononononononono-NO!!!!! Iraq WASN'T why they stole the presidency. Getting the presidency by any means neccessary is the reason in and of itself.
by messy on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 09:42:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have to agree, a war was their way to shore up Bush's legitimacy after stealing the presidency.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 09:50:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Developments in Iran are likely to affect the viability of the unified Iraq state.

Presumably the Sunnis will view Iran with nukes as a threat and the Shias will see it as an opportunity to leverage more power. Kurdish security I assume would be guaranteed by the US.

Conceivably the Shias might seek to join a kind of 'greater Iran' with the protection of its nuclear umbrella.

by lemonwilmot (lemonwilmot at gmail.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 09:01:02 AM EST
DoDo says upthread that there is no "technical proof as of current that Iran does have a nuclear armament programme".

One of the most worryingly points against that is the recurring (and non-negotionable) urgency Iran puts on having gas (or isotope) centrifuges, those massive uranium enrichers. For the civilian use of nuclear energy, Iran needs centrifuges which can enrich uranium from its natural 0.7% to the necessarry 4 to 5% - after which nuclear fission is attainable.

Iran has and is building bigger gas centrifuges. There is but one goal for bigger gas centrifuges: higher uranium enrichment. There is but one goal known to man for uranium with higher enrichment than 4 - 5 percent: nuclear weapons. Do the math. Alarm bells should be ringing and they do ring in the IAEA.

And in that respect, I think there is a serious problem in Iran and Europe should not accept the way it gets treated. The Iranians even snuffed the perfectly acceptable offer of the Russians.

Having gas centrifuges for 4-5 % enrichment? Perfectly acceptable to me. Go ahead.
Gas centrifuges bigger than that? No, no, no.

In an aside: To other raised points that there would be perfect reasons for Iran to have nukes, as deterrents or such, that doesn't fly with me at all. We want to ban nuclear arms, not promote it.

by Nomad on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 10:11:53 AM EST
So what's your recommended course of action Sanctions, regime change, bigger carrots?
by lemonwilmot (lemonwilmot at gmail.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 10:28:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you don't mind, I reserve my answer to your question to the next installment of the Gnomemoot: The Return. Nor have I finished chewing on it, anyway.
by Nomad on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 05:27:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Russian offer would not be acceptable to a country that wanted nuclear power for strategic reasons: would you give Russia control of your fuel supply in that scenario? Where does Iran get it's uranium from?

The other part of your point is good. Who says that they are building bigger centrifuges? Are there no other reasons for building them?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 11:15:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Agreed. As far as I understand it, the Russian deal dealt in yellowcake - which can also be used for civilian (nuclear fission) purposes. But I did not plunge too deeply into the details on that one.

Who says that they are building bigger centrifuges? Are there no other reasons for building them?

IAEA has released very little substantial materials besides their resolutions on this matter, but the press officer has released tentative hints. We'll have to wait on the IAEA report early March to see what's left of this. Note that the press isn't helpful on the issue as the focus is on enrichment only. Never mind that there's a difference between civilian and military use. Yet now everything that links to enrichment is Bad. Chalk that one up to bad press reporting.

According to the opinion of people working at ECN Petten, one of the two locations in the Netherlands with nuclear technology, bigger centrifuges are only meant for nuclear weapons.

by Nomad on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:09:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Chalk that one up to bad press reporting.

Again?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:15:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, they don't need bigger centrifuges so much as they'd need more of them.  And technically, they don't need more, either.

My understanding of the process is that the difference between enriching uranium to a low level (for energy) and a high level (for weaponry) is simply a matter of scale -- if they are currently enriching uranium to a low level (which they claim that they are) the technology they already have can produce highly enriched uranium, it will just take a lot longer.

The attraction of bigger/more centrifuges is being able to get the uranium to that point faster.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:23:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thankyou! That was my understanding as well.

Obviously, it is possible to build a centrifuge that makes it extremely hard to reach weapons grade, but as I understood it, one of those is so hobbled as to make fuel grade hard to reach too...

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:37:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
References anyone? This is surely a point of contention that can be cleared up by the power of Google. Or a chemist.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:38:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You need a physicist ;-)

The physical principle is to use the centrifugal force to produce an "exponential atmosphere" in order to separate the lighter from the heavier isotopes in gas form. The process of enrichment proceeds by multiplicative increments.

I can write something more detailed if I must.

Larger centrifuges are able to produce higher gradients, so a higher degree of enrichment is possible at each step.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:53:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I would request more detail, if you are willing.

In particular can you comment on Nomad's assertion that there are centrifuges which are useful for fuel creation which are not useful for weapons creation?

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 01:34:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll write more detail when I have time.

To a first approximation, the number of enrichment cycles it would take to reach a given level of enrichment increases as the log of the level of enrichment.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 01:36:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the engineering design side of the question I have little to say. Wikipedia says fuel grade is up to 5% enriched, but weapons grade is 20% (crude weapon) to 85% or more.

Wikipedia has a brief article about Gas centrifuges. I could try to answer questions about that.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 01:42:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...has been lovely. I've been reading for a few hours this evening. Of course Francois pummeled me to the punch, but what gives.
by Nomad on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 05:31:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru,

In practice, the diameter of a centrifuge is limited by the structural strength of material and the dimensional control. The larger, the more stress at a given rotational speed and the harder to maintain geometry (and keep the rotor balanced).

The determining factor for the dimension of a centrifuge is not really the enrichment target but simply technical feasibility.
by Francois in Paris on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 02:01:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, have you seen any report on Iranian technical capabilities for metal work. Are they using aluminium or maraging steel?

by Francois in Paris on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 02:04:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have no idea.

How hard is it to work maraging steel anyway?

Remember I'm not an engineer.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 03:56:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the rumours are that maraging steel is an important smuggling item into Iran. But, I don't know how reliable the rumours are.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 04:05:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I do believe they are using maraging steel at least at the Natanz facility.

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 02:43:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, at least some of them seems to be.....

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 04:10:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're right: it all comes down to a balance between how big the centrifuge is and how fast you can make it spin.

The key parameter is the centrifugal acceleration on the centrifuge's rim: this is proportional to the diameter of the centrifuge times the square of the rotation frequency... or the square of the speed at the rim divided by the diameter. In terms of structural stability, smaller is better.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 03:54:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From Le Monde:

Le début de l'enrichissement a été constaté mardi par une équipe d'inspecteurs de l'AIEA, qui s'est rendue sur le site pilote de Natanz, au sud-est de Téhéran. "Notre équipe a vu que les Iraniens avaient commencé à introduire de l'hexafluorure d'uranium (un gaz) dans des centrifugeuses non reliées en cascade", affirme cette source.

A team of IAEA inspectors, who went to the Natanz experimental site, noted Tuesday that enrichment had begun. "Our team saw that the Iranians had started to introduce uranium hexafluoride (a gas) into non-cascaded centrifuges", said this source.

Le fait que cette manipulation concerne des centrifugeuses isolées, et non reliées en cascade, signifie que l'Iran n'a pas commencé à procéder à un enrichissement d'uranium à grande échelle - procédure indispensable à la production des composantes d'une arme nucléaire, et chose pour laquelle l'Iran aurait encore besoin de plusieurs années, selon des experts. <snip>

The fact that this experiment concerns separate centrifuges, not linked in cascade, means that Iran has not started the process of large-scale uranium enrichment -- indispensable to production of nuclear weapon components, and a process which will take Iran several years, according to experts.

Une délégation iranienne est attendue le 20 février à Moscou pour de nouvelles négociations sur la proposition formulée par le Kremlin de faire enrichir en Russie tout l'uranium dont Téhéran aurait besoin pour un programme nucléaire civil. Les Européens et les Américains soutiennent cette initiative russe, qui n'a cependant, à ce jour, recueilli que des réactions en demi-teinte côté iranien.

An Iranian delegation is expected to be in Moscow on 20th February for fresh negociations on the Kremlin's offer to enrich all the uranium Tehran would need for a civil nuclear programme. The Europeans and the Americans support this Russian initiative, which has only received, up to now, half-hearted reactions from the Iranian side.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 02:03:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Accoriding to the BBC page linked by Metatone Iran has not refused the Russian offer.
NEXT STEPS
20 February, Moscow: Russia-Iran talks on Russia's proposed compromise
March, Vienna: IAEA to report on Iranian compliance; possible Security Council action to follow


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:19:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Huh. I thought they had.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:22:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Chalk that one up to bad press reporting.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:25:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I hadn't heard of Iran rejecting it.  The FT reporters seemed to imply that the Iranians were leaning towards rejection but were reconsidering, given the hardline stances of the EU3 and the US.  I don't think Iran was expecting Germany, Britain and France to come out as close to the US as they have.  I still can't figure out the assertiveness coming out of Paris.  Germany and France's words and actions are a big reason for why I'm even willing to entertain the subject, because it's nearly impossible for me to trust anything out of Downing Street these days, let alone the Bush administration.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:41:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...I thought they had, too. But I guess that in this game the sides quickly change. I'd go with Drew for the most accurate state of things.

My gut (there we go again...) tells me Iran will reject the offer, but we'll see on the 20th.

by Nomad on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 05:22:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nomad,

Attainable enrichment levels are not related with the size of the centrifuges but with how many of them are cascaded. A chain to produce 4% U235 uranium can produce 98% HEU by recirculation. It "just" takes longer (much longer). Ideally, you want more centrifuges, a bigger cascade to maintain acceptable processing times.

The centrifuges are one of the warning signals coming from Iran. The official explanation is that Iran desires to control its own fuel cycle. But this is a huge investment for a very dubious return. Iran's uranium resources are very modest - nowhere near what they need to cover a large scale deployment of nuclear power plants - so they will have to go abroad to buy natural uranium to put in their enrichment cascades. They may as well buy large quantities of reactor-grade lightly enriched uranium to protect themselves from any foreseeable embargo and concentrate on things like fuel conditioning and post-processing.

So, it just doesn't make any sense except if they want to control the level of enrichment, not targeting lightly enriched uranium for light-water reactors, but ultra-high enriched uranium for nukes.


In my opinion, the real give-away is what's going on in Arak. Iran is building a 40 MW heavy water reactor outside the IAEA control.

A slow-burn heavy water reactor has no interest for energy production and doesn't help Iran to design reactors for energy production. There is only one civilian reactor technology using heavy water - the CANDU reactors - and the very point of that type of reactors is that it can use natural uranium as fuel. So, for civilian purposes, it's either heavy water or enrichment but not both. In addition, CANDU-like reactors are technically pretty complex and this is not what a third-world country would start with for an indigenous design. Iran has nothing to learn from a slow-burn reactor which is not already widely available in open literature.

Slow-burn reactors have only 2 uses:
  • As a neutron source for various usages: radionuclide production, material tests, etc.
  • High purity Pu239 production


Iran claimed that the Arak reactor is for medical radioisotope production. The issue is that Iran already has a zero-power research reactor in Esfahan under IAEA control but is not using it actively, so their claim about the Arak reactor doesn't hold. Let's be very broadminded and assume that Iran has legitimate uses for plutonium, such as MOX fuel for light water reactors and get more bang for their fuel buck. That same type of light water reactor, like the 1000W reactor in Bushser, is a good source of plutonium suitable for MOX cycle and, on top, actually produces useful energy. No need for a slow-burn reactor.

But plutonium produced (and used as MOX) by those light water reactors with a normal fuel cycle is not just Pu239 but a mixture of Pu239, Pu240 with bits of Pu241. Those isotopes are produced when Pu239 absorbs more neutrons. Pu240 and Pu241 are horribly radioactive, including spontaneous neutron decay. So, while it still possible to use reactor-grade plutonium to build nukes, those nukes are very dangerous and have serious issues:
  • Explosive yield is very hard to predict and the risk of a complete or partial dude is high.
  • Those weapons are very dangerous to store and manipulate because of radioactive decay heat and radiation exposure to personnel.
  • There is a non-negligible risk of auto-ignition, which would certainly not generate the full yield but still make a fine mess of your cherished nuclear weapon storage facility.

That's where slow-burn reactors kick in. They run on natural uranium (no need for enrichment) and it's the only way to produce high purity Pu239, which is easy to extract from the reactor fuel by chemical process (easy as compared to U235 enrichment).

The enrichment capacity and the heavy water reactor are consistent with a diversified, dual-track uranium/plutonium military nuclear program, similar to the North Korean program, and nothing else.

With the highly-enriched uranium track, the issue is the uranium enrichment, slow and expensive, but the weapon assembly can be very simple, safe and very reliable. The weapon can as simple as a gun assembly, similar to the Little Boy bomb dropped on Hiroshima. There is no need to test those weapons. They work. Period.

For the plutonium track, producing the Pu239 nuke fuel is fairly easy and only involves slow-burn reactors running on natural uranium and a bit of weird heavy metal chemistry for separating the plutonium from the uranium fuel rods. The issue lies with the weapon itself, which must be a implosion assembly, a very complex design. Incidentally, it is that type of weapon the US tested at Trinity before dropping one, Fat Man, on Nagasaki. They weren't sure at all it would work, while the Hiroshima bomb wasn't tested beforehand as the Manhattan folks knew it would work.

Iran is full of shit when it proclaims that its nuclear program is all nice and peacefull. It's plain false (or the Iranians have really no clue what they are putting their money into). Their program is for military use.

Those who proclaim that the sky is falling are also full of shit. Iran is nowhere near having a bomb. At least 10 years away, or, assuming that it throws at it every bit of money and resources it has (and starve its population to death), makes no attempt to hide the program from the rest of the planet and get every technical detail right on first try, a strict minimum of 5 years.
by Francois in Paris on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 01:40:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Iran is full of shit when it proclaims that its nuclear program is all nice and peacefull. It's plain false (or the Iranians have really no clue what they are putting their money into). Their program is for military use.

Those who proclaim that the sky is falling are also full of shit. Iran is nowhere near having a bomb. At least 10 years away, or, assuming that it throws at it every bit of money and resources it has (and starve its population to death), makes no attempt to hide the program from the rest of the planet and get every technical detail right on first try, a strict minimum of 5 years.

This seems well said, and many agree with this point of view.  I'm certainly not knowledgeable enough to take it on.  But,,,,,,one's intelligence is never perfect, and gaining consensus on an opinion will be difficult--so you'll have to have some probability range around this.  Like for example, they can accomplish this under cover in 5 years--maybe people would take that as a worst case option.  I think Colman is looking for a problem statement like that, so we can move on to "now what do we do?"
by wchurchill on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 02:19:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The 5/10 years estimate deserves an explanation.

The 10 years seems to be the general consensus that floats around most experts and intelligence agencies, assuming Iran maintains its program on a steady clip and doesn't hit major technology snags. From what I understand, it's based on what is known of the current state of Iran's nuclear program, reasonable assumptions on resources and know-how, and comparisons with other military nuclear programs in the past. Iranians seem to be serious, competent and well-organized and there is no reason to believe they won't get there if they are decided to get there. But it's going to take time and they are not there yet.

The 5 years lower bound is not really an estimate but more of a standard cover-your-ass disclaimer, based on the 3 years it took to the Manhattan project from its founding to building weapons:
- On one hand, most of the science and technology that the Manhattan project had to invent is now in the public domain.
- On the other hand, the amount of resources and talents the US threw in this effort was absolutely staggering, mind-blowing, earth-shattering (throw in any superlative you want, it deserves it). There's nothing in human history that compares to that, save, may be the race to the Moon.

A third-world country has a strong head start on the Oppenheimer team and doesn't need to reinvent the science behind the bomb. But it cannot replicate the resources. So counting the amount of time to build the nuclear piles, the facilities to reprocess the fuel and extract plutonium, do the research for the weapons, and get the whole thing running, it all comes to about 5 years.
by Francois in Paris on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 10:50:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The latest US NIE seems to put it at 10 years, not 5 (nor 5-10), due to the problems Nomad mentioned. (Not that I believe there is proof that a nuke is the end goal, just sayin'.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 11:55:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's why it's important to stress what the 5 years figure really is : a CYA absolute worst case, not a realistic assessment. I was being negligent there.
by Francois in Paris on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 12:55:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Francois,

I'm not knowledgeable enough about the exact process, and was pretty much hoping my post wouldn't get too much flak, as I would've to bail... Your post is extremely useful and very much appreciated.

The plutonium track & slow-burn reactor was completely new to me; most of what I have informed myself about was on the uranium enrichment controversy.

So, it just doesn't make any sense except if they want to control the level of enrichment, not targeting lightly enriched uranium for light-water reactors, but ultra-high enriched uranium for nukes.

That's similar to my own conclusion pretty much based on what I knew... The plutonium angle adds a whole other dimension. Now it's no wonder at all why the IAEA is at high alert.

The other bit, which I didn't want to put here since I know even less about it, was that the Iranian yellowcake of U3O8 is not pure grade enough caused by contamination of Be(?)-oxydes, which has a similar atomic weight as 235-U. But this falls into the categorie debunking the warmongers...

by Nomad on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 05:13:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But isn't that possible to separate by chemical means?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 05:21:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I understand it, it is, but it's extremely hard and you need a different apparatus for it - which practically everyone suspects Iran does not have yet. This was one of the main reasons why the 5 to 10 years figure floats up every time.
by Nomad on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 05:26:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The centrifuges are one of the warning signals coming from Iran. The official explanation is that Iran desires to control its own fuel cycle.

To give a criticism from another angle than afew, this has been the publicly stated policy of Iran since at least 1992. You may argue that it is not economic, but such an argument doesn't convince me given my knowledge of the economic irrationalism of another regime. (Hungary was supposed to become a land of steel, altough neither iron ores nor demand was up to it. Later, a grand programme to build lignite-fired power plants was started, only there wasn't enough lignite and mining it was enormously expensive.)

Iran claimed that the Arak reactor is for medical radioisotope production. The issue is that Iran already has a zero-power research reactor in Esfahan under IAEA control but is not using it actively, so their claim about the Arak reactor doesn't hold.

I don't get your argument. What does the current non-use of research reactors have to do with the use of one from 2014 on? And, as said above, as Iran wants to control the full fuel cycle, would building an own reactor with own technology and own-produced fuel, rather than just use Chinese-supplied technology and fuel, be part of that? Especially as the HWZPR is small and not fitted with hot cells.

This also brings me to the question of timing. Arak would not be ready by 2014 - and the EU-3+USA dismissed an Irani offer to suspend centrifuge enrichment for two years, provocately demanding a 10-year moratorium instead (let everything built rust, yeah that's acceptable), as well as Ahmadineyad's offer to let the enrichment facilities be run as joint facilities with foreign provate companies. Thus neither of your two fears would have had to be an issue now, or anytime when there is IAEA oversight. In my opinion, we are seeing a rush towards war, this time with wider European help (government change in Germany comes handy, and Chirac was always a cynic enough).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 05:33:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In my opinion, we are seeing a rush towards war, this time with wider European help (government change in Germany comes handy, and Chirac was always a cynic enough).

Hear! Hear!

This is to me the most disturbing aspect of the whole situation, the one most reminiscent of the Iraq debacle and the most frustrating part of the debate.

I cannot deny that the prospect of Iran with nuclear weapons does not fill me with joy. However, there seems to be an enormous pressure towards military action at the moment. As with Iraq, there seems to be a lot of people advocating a timescale of action which is much more rushed than the "facts on the ground" seem to justify.

Surely even those who claim great faith in the motives of the US and EU-3 at this time would be wary, given the progress in Iraq so far, of rushing into badly planned action?

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:16:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Especially as the HWZPR is small

To quantify this: according to the IAEA, the HWZPR has a mere 10^8 neutrons/cm²/sec flux, the Araz facility was scaled for a 10^13-10^14 neutrons/cm²/sec flux, and the latter is similar to some reactors for similar purposes, including one China built for Algeria - which is on-topic because China was in negotiations in the nineties to export a similar reactor to Iran before the USA intervened.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 04:32:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My issue with Iran is the two-track thing. It's heavy water or enrichment but not both.

Enrichment is legitimate to fuel light-water reactors such as the one in Bushehr. Although, as I mentioned above, it probably doesn't make any economic sense. If Iran wants to secure its fuel supply, it would be much better off by adopting a clear non-proliferation attitude and uses it to justify acquiring a big stockpile of lightly enriched uranium that would protect it from an embargo.

The heavy water reactor in Arak would also make sense if they want to develop a natural uranium track for civilian reactors (google for CANDU). But this is not what they are saying. And no, it doesn't make sense to build a new research reactor when they are not using the one they already have. Developing a sensible and useful research program is not something you pull off your ass like in "Mmmm, lemmesee, what are we going to irradiate today?"

As for Chirac, Bush, Ahmadinejad and assorted psychopaths, I play by Colman's rules of the Gnomemoot. First the facts, discussion of motivations later [thank you, Colman].

Right now, the issue I'm trying to discuss is whether or not Iran is trying to get nuclear weapons. And having looked at the available information, having run reasonable assumptions on said information, having considered the facts in the most dispassionate manner, having thought the expertise of reputable, knowledgeable and unbiased specialists, having maintained a clear-head and reasonable approach in the general assessment of the situation, my answer will be, trying to muster my best imitation of Lewis Black,

Yesssss!!! Yesssss, God damnit!!! Which part of the word "Yesssss!!!" do you fail to understand !?!?!?

[just a sec so I sponge the foaming spit which is dribbling from my mouth]

Yesssss!!! Yesssss!!! Yesssss!!!

Not that I see that as such a big problem, but that will be for another session of the Gnomemoot.
by Francois in Paris on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 12:19:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Supplementing other replies regarding the centrifuges (e.g. no sole use for nuclear enrichment, only enrichment in less steps/faster), one ignored point is that Iran's centrifuges are not an Iranian but an imported Pakistani design. You could argue that the Pakistanis did indeed use their centrifuges to produce bomb-grade uranium. However, given the context that the USA prevented Iran from gaining nuclear technology it was entitled to under the NNPT with diplomatic pressure, getting even China to renege on contracts, the "you get them where you can" argument holds.

Others also addressed the 'acceptable' and 'snuffed' offer from the Russians, and elsewhere I addressed the unreported part of Iranian offers and EU-3+USA refusals.

I add a further point. You acknowledged that the beryllium issue was false. You probably also remember the highly-enriched particles in Iranian centrifuges touted as absolute proof, which turned out to have been contamination from the Pakistani manufacturer. A third example is when the USA touted photos of Iranian nuclear facilities including Arak, claiming they are held secret - despite the facts that (a) under the NPTP, new facilities have to be reported six months before they come on-line - in Arak's case, that would be in late 2013 -, (b) the facilities were, in fact, already known by then, only not visited, (c) Iran has invited the IAEA to inspect those facilities, which then didn't yet happen.

Now, do you see a pattern? One reminding of 2002/3?

We want to ban nuclear arms, not promote it.

Indeed. And the NNPT explicitely involves the promise from existing powers to dismantle their arsenal. But they refuse to do so, what's more they refuse to give up on the first-strike option, in fact issue threats to use their nukes (USA, France), what's more one of them (the USA) wants to build a missile defense system that would strategically weaken rival existing nuclear powers (by reducing their return strike capacity). I don't know about you, but I cannot convince myself that this talk is only empty rhetoric, I do see a spectre of nuclear war. In this context, one possible target gaining deterrence may reduce the threat of a nuclear war.

This is not a promotion of nukes, quite the contrary. This is purely a counter-argument to the threat argument, and points to problems I see as more much serious on the way to ban nukes.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 04:23:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now, do you see a pattern? One reminding of 2002/3?

Of course I'm seeing a pattern, and I've hinted myself that I feel there are warmonger drums being banged. It's just not the main issue I'm addressing. There is propaganda from two sides and right now I'm not going to take any side as the truth. My problem lies specifically with the nuclear facilities of Iran and there it ends.

You acknowledged that the beryllium issue was false.

Where did I do that? I asked for confirmation whether Be-contamination of the hex was true. In what way do you mean it is false? I don't understand at all. Elaborate, please.

In this context, one possible target gaining deterrence may reduce the threat of a nuclear war.

Blech. I can see your reasoning, but I completely disagree. In Chris Kulczycki's diary on the Culture of Guns, you see that lesser weapons around result in smaller numbers of accidents. I'd go with that on this issue as well.

I find the hyporcricy of nuclear nations equally disturbing, but I would go never so far as to knead it into a counter-argument for an increasing nuclear arsenal. I can see why people would use it, but I find it utterly self-destructive. To me, this has always been a two pronged fight: demote the nuclear use in other countries and promote the disbanding of nuclear weapons in those countries which have it.

by Nomad on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 09:36:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is propaganda from two sides and right now I'm not going to take any side as the truth.

The problem is, of course, that you can read the propaganda of the Iranian side and the IAEA's factual assesments only channelled through sources often sympathetic to the EU-3+US side. Which sets the terms of the debate.

Where did I do that?

Sorry, was cursory reading, I completely messed up. I misread your last sentence in that post as an implicit reference that you know the following info: that the US claims that Iran imported large quantities of beryllium were disproved by IAEA a year ago. That one is in line with a series of over-egged to false claims, but not what you were speaking about.

Regarding what you were speaking about, the yellowcake impurities, worth to read this and this.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 11:50:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem is, of course, that you can read the propaganda of the Iranian side and the IAEA's factual assesments only channelled through sources often sympathetic to the EU-3+US side. Which sets the terms of the debate.

Which is why I generally go back to the IAEA as the most reliable source... I take their factual assessment any time above the clamour of Iran or the USA.

Thanks for the links to the UF gas. That's indeed the issue I was looking confirmation for. Unfortunately, nothing is "official". Sources are among others anonymous IAEA diplomats - which at least gives it an appearance of credibility.

by Nomad on Sun Feb 19th, 2006 at 05:23:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Iran's "urgency" in developing nuclear enrichment technology could be for the very reasonable reason that their nuclear program has fallen behind by decades -- remember, it was the Shah that started the program, and Iran was supposed to have 7 functioning nuclear reactors by now.

Since then, Iran's oil production has halved, its population has doubled, and Iran consumes 40% of its oil production domestically.

As for "bigger" centrifgues -- this is the first time that I've heard of this claim, and secondly, so what? Bigger doesn't necessarily mean "for nuclear weapons" -- especially since Iran's enrichment program is under IAEA safeguards.

by CyrusI on Fri Mar 10th, 2006 at 05:33:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Some data points as I see them.

  1. Iran with nukes would be a bad thing.  I don't care about arguments that condemn the hypocrisy of trying to not allow Iran to have them. It is a regional power that is hostile to both the US and Europe, letting it be more powerful would be bad for the interests of both the US and Europe.

  2. We don't know whether Iran wants nukes or not.  Quite possibly they don't either. What we do know is that they have a program that could serve as the basis for nuclear weapons development and that they seem to be intent on at least keeping their options open.

  3. Assuming the intelligence reports are correct Iran is nowhere near actually having the capability to produce its own nuclear weapons.

  4. Under the current Supreme Guide Iran has been quite pragmatic and rational in pursuing its own national interests - witness its cooperation with the US against the Taliban and in creating the Karzai government.

  5. The new president seems less inclined towards pragmatism - more a reversion to the messianic revolutionary spirit of the early Islamic Republic.

  6. Even someone sympathetic to the foreign policy ideology of the current US administration would have to admit that its competency leaves a lot to be desired.

So a few propositions.

  1. Slowly build pressure on Iran, with slowly being the operative word. Thus the referal to the Security Council, but the vague verbal rebuke that is the most that China and Russia are likely to allow is actually just the right step for now.

  2. Later perhaps low level sanctions - e.g. an EU travel ban for senior Iranian officials and their families.  Such sanctions could be gradually ratchetted up over a period of years.

  3. Don't do anything major until this admin is out of office.

A question about the hawks assumptions.

I often read that a military attack will be necessary since the Chinese and Russians won't support a full blown sanctions regime in the Security Council. But nor would they support a resolution allowing military action. If the US is not concerned about having its military actions being legal, it could just as easily block Iranian exports as it could bomb its nuclear program related sites. Now, considering the situation of the oil markets such sanctions would pose their own problems but that's true of both UN sanctions and a unilaterally imposed embargo.

by MarekNYC on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 10:51:58 AM EST
You are of course pre-empting the discussion.

  1. Granted. I think anyone having nukes is a bad idea.

  2. Possibly true, but irrelevant. They might commit a crime is no basis for conviction and punishment.

  3. Can we trust those assessments?

  4. True.

  5. But probably doesn't have the authority to put a weapons programme in place.

  6. Understatement.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 11:30:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great idea this collective information gathering & analysis. Here's a small contribution for now:

National Public Radio (NPR)in the US had a short piece this week by their correspondent in Teheran introducing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It's not deep analysis but it's not cliché. You may find it interesting.

NPR Summary:
World Takes Notice of Iran's Ahmadinejad by Mike Shuster --- All Things Considered, February 13, 2006 · Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been Iran's president for only six months, but he has made a strong impression worldwide. Unlike former presidents of the Islamic republic, Ahmadinejad is not a cleric, he dresses simply, and can talk a language most ordinary Iranians understand.

Here is the link to the broadcast: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5204387

by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:05:33 PM EST
There are two distinct types of nuclear bombs: fissile and fusion, to put it simply.  Fissle bombs are relatively easy to make and I would be surprised if Iran doesn't already have the capability to construct these weapons.  Fissle bombs have the decided drawback that they are extremely 'dirty' producing radioactive particles for relatively long periods of time - think Chernobyl on-purpose.  We are all familiar with fusion bombs so I won't bother to describe them.

The sad fact is only a modicum of effort is required to build nuclear weapons.  If Iran is willing to make the effort there is nothing anyone can do to stop them.  A more intense, time consuming, and expense effort is required to build the Command and Control, targeting systems, launching infrastructure, maintainance and service organizations, and delivery systems to be able to reliably deploy the weapons as an element in the Iranian political arsenal.

Note that!  Political arsenal.  "Warfare is politics by other means," per von Clausewitz and, if that means anything at all, the weapons of war are political tools -- ultimately.

Focusing, for the moment, on delivery systems there are two venues for striking a target: air and land.  The air delivery systems Iran can use are missles and planes.  I dismiss missles as a point targeting system from my feeling Iran does not have the technology, yet, to construct the guidance systems.  They do have the technology to use missles as a area delivery system.  Iran does have the ability to use aircraft as both a point and area delivery system.

Missles have the advantages they can be launched with minimal notice from either fixed (hardened) or mobile launching sites with a short flight time (15 minutes, say) giving a short reaction time to the targeted nation.  The disadvantage, to Iran, of missles (given my assessment above) is if they were launched against Israel, say, they are as likely to hit Gaza, Syria, Lebanon, or Jordan as Israel.  Launched against Saudi Arabia, say, they have a good chance of destroying Mecca as any other Saudi city.  

The same reasoning applies to aircraft as an area delivery system leaving us with aircraft as the only point air delivery system available to Iran.  Aircraft have the decided disadvantage of a long(er) flight time, depending on the target, and, thus, a longer reaction time given to the targeted nation.  Further aircraft are easily and quickly detected giving the targeted nation sufficent reaction time to direct its own Air Force against the Iranian Strike Force making the success of the strike problematic.  

We can now make the tentative conclusion the only practical means for Iran to delivery nuclear weapons is by land: a truck or car.  This method shifts the advantages to Iran.  First, the weapons can be pre-set to achieve a point strike.  Second, it is almost impossible to prevent a weapon from being successfully smuggled into a country.  Third, the weapon can be exploded with no advance warning.  

The downside to pre-sitting is the danger of a security breach allowing the targeted nation to find the weapon.  A continual operating team of technicians have to be able to get to the site in order to do maintainance on the weapon, for example.  The operations team has to maintain strict security.  Iran has to maintain internal strict security to prevent the sites from being blown.  Last, the longer the weapon(s) sit there the greater the odds for disclosure.  Once it is known these weapons have been pre-sited the targeted nation is going to freak-out with unpredicable results.  Also it is possible for security to be blown by a third party, including non-govermental groups, with the potential for these weapons to fall into the hands of a group that would use them against directly against Iran or against the target when Iran does not want them to.

Whether the Iranian political leadership would choose such a delivery system is up to your assessment of the Iranian political leadership.  I doubt it, mainly for the last postulate, but I can be convinced otherwise.

The use of a truck or car to delivery a weapon breaks into two operational methods: intermediate siting in a third country for delivery to the target and keeping the weapons under control in Iran.  The intermediate siting has the same problems as pre-siting, without any of the advantages, so I dismiss it.  Keeping the weapons under control in Iran means land delivery to the target takes more time and becomes much more difficult but it is the method I would choose - sometimes the way my mind works frightens me! - so let's spend some time here.

Land delivery by car, truck, camel ... whatever ... means the weapon can be point targeted with a high degree of security.  Command and Control can be maintained so the weapon can be recalled if the political situation changes, something not possible with any other delivery system, and it gives the Iranians the chance to "use" the weapon without actual detonation.

If it is not known that these weapons have been deployed then it is almost impossible for the targeted nation to prevent all of these weapons from being sited.  Some of the weapons will almost certainly be stopped but the targeted nation can never be sure of interdicting all of the weapons.  Of course once these weapons are sited they cannot stay sited for long otherwise the problems of pre-sited weapons comes into play.  So either these weapons need to be used, in fairly short order, or they must be withdrawn with some of them, perhaps, discovered during the withdrawal and we're back to the problems with pre-sited weapons.  The fact some of the weapons may be halted in transit means more than one weapon must be sent to the target(s) to ensure one of them will get through.  

For a number or reasons the operational teams have to be fairly fanatical as the chances of being detected or killed through an 'Own Goal' are pretty good.  From the Iranian Command and Control perspective this means the team may decide, upon detection, to detonate the sucker no matter where they are.  Which means a land delivery system is not a reliable point targeting system and detonation can occur just about anywhere at just about any time.  Therefore, Land Delivery systems while theoretically point systems need to be considered as potential area systems.

And we're back to that, again.

Given this, superficial, discussion the question now becomes, "With all the problems, why the hell do they want these things?"  

As has been already mentioned, nuclear weapons are a political weapon that, in the last resort, make the statement: Don't Mess With Us.  Whether or no Iran can use nukes they could use them and that's enough.  Once these weapons are operational Iran immediately becomes the Islamic Middle Eastern Power and eventually a Global Political Power capable of forcing the world to its will.  Once they have the weapons the ability to develop a reliable delivery system (missles) becomes a matter of time, money, and effort; this is what is causing the goverments of France and Germany concern.  (Along with a bomb placed on a ship and sailing into Marseille, Hamburg, Jaffe, or New York but this post is already too long to go into that!)  

OK, what are the options preventing Iran going nuclear?

Military:  Forget it.  A conventional bombing campaign will not guarantee destruction of any weapons already existing.  Nor will it guarantee destruction of weapons making material disbursed across Iran.  A pre-emptive nuclear strike won't guarantee destruction either and it ensures retaliation from Iran, if or when.  (And what about Pakistan?  What happens there?  How do you prevent contamination of the Middle Eastern oilfields?  How do you prevent destruction of the ports?)  Military invasion and occupation just makes it easier to target the occupying forces.  Neither does it totally preclude land, or ship, delivery to a target.

A blockade is pointless.  It will not stop development while giving a greater impetus to develop and force an end to the blockade.  

Political:  All we need to do is convince the Iranian political leadership for all time not to make these weapons.  How?

Economic:  I've mentioned several times Iran needs money to successfully complete a weapons program.  OK, all we need to do is (1) stop buying oil and (2) hope like hell they don't have enough money already to fund the project.  H'mm.  That doesn't look so great either.  

Technical:  Prevent Iran from purchasing the required tools.  This one does have some hope of success but they could make them internally, given time and the need.  So it is only a short term solution.

Wrapping this up.

If Iran wants to make nuclear weapons ... they will, eventually.  While they, currently, face severe operational problems if they try to use nuclear weapons these limitations are not insurmountable.  Immediate global prevention options do not seem insurmountable, by the Iranians, either.    

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 02:28:23 PM EST
A lot of informative points, but:

  • aren't you going a bit fast when you jump from Middle Eastern power to "Global Political Power capable of forcing the world to its will"?

  • is it your opinion that that second position is what Iran is seeking?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 03:19:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank You.

To your first query:

Yes.  And No.  And I got a bit 'over the top.' ;-)

Yes.  I'm going too fast, as I understand the situation, Iran has not yet fully developed fusion weapons and a global delivery system - ICBMs.  

No, if one assumes, and it is an assumption, they can low-tech their way through.  What would Germany, or France, or the US do if the goverment was informed: Either X or kiss Hamburg/Marseilles/New York goodbye?  What would happen if they said: Either X or kiss the Iranian and Saudi oil fields goodbye?  This gets into the difference between capability and intension.  

I don't defend 'over the top' use of "forcing the World & etc."  My Bad.  What I should have wrote was, "increasing political stakes such that the decisions of other powers would be more likely to accord with the political position of Iran."  

As to your second query:  I can only speak generally.  To put as much resources into a nuclear weapons program as that program requires intimates a consensus from a widespread, however deep, Iranian political alliance among the Iranian ruling elites.  Which suggests there is not a single but a diverse range of reasons - IF they DO have such a program which is not certain, according to other posts in this thread.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 04:05:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
history abhors hypocrisy; it's no longer sustainable for peoples to be ruled by lying psychopath megalomaniacs.

for progress to ensue, double standards as MO are going the way of the dodo.

watch out for flying debris as the giant morons duke it out.

you owe it to your dna to survive

go gaia!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 05:37:30 AM EST
The US contends that the Iranian government are developing a nuclear weapons programme behind the cover of a civilian programme. It Is further contended that Iran cannot be allowed develop such a capability as it will pose an unacceptable danger to the peace and safety of the region. It is proposed that to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons all solutions are acceptable, up to and including nuclear strikes.

I refuse to accept this narrative at face value. Let's deconstruct it and see if we can get a better picture of what's really going on. Who are the players? What are their motivations? What do they want? What do we know for sure and what is unsubstantiated nonsense? What is the real problem here from Europe's point of view? Is there even a real problem?

<snip>

Someone will write up a summary at each stage. In fact, I suspect that several summaries will come out.

After reading and participating in the discussion so far, I wonder what you would think about writing the summaries in two parts.  With the first part focused on
What do we know for sure and what is unsubstantiated nonsense? What is the real problem here from Europe's point of view? Is there even a real problem?l
After reading the discussion, it seems that this issue may be worth our complete and uninterupted focus as summaries are developed and discussed,,,,, as so many excellent, but complex, points have been brought up about defining the problem itself.  One example for me is that, if one accepts that their is a threat from Iran, defining the timeframe that we have to work with is very important.  And Francois makes a persuasive argument that 5 years is the absolute fastest period that Iran could be successful, and that 5 years is highly unlikely.  (I did note though that intelligence has failed before and we need to build in cushions--but Francois feels the 5 years is that cushion.)  And is there a threat at all?  

This seems to be a discussion that can be more fact based, and provide the foundation for dialogue on the second part and on the following stages.  

I'm wondering about this because when we move to the very legitimate issues of who are the players?  What are their motivations?,,,,this will be a discussion that by its nature is less fact based, less scientific.  It may be that mixing the two discussions will endanger our ability to gain agreement, or at least frame alternative postulates, on the first, more fact based discussion.  I think we can achieve a very meaningful problem definition in that first part, but combining the two may endanger that goal by bringing in more fractious debate in an arena that is less fact based.

Just wondering,,,,what do you think?

by wchurchill on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 01:59:09 PM EST
I hope that is true and that you're having a great time.

I did some organizing, for myself, of the above thoughts, and at the risk of being presumptious, thought this might be helpful to you and others.  My objective was to pick out some thematic themes that develop in the above comments, and group them.

First there were a number of great discussions that focused on whether or not the Iranians are developing a nuclear weapon, and then evolved into some outstanding discussion of the science (outstanding to my admittedly feeble scientific mind, anyway):

What is the problem?  There's not a shred of evidence that the Iranians are developing weapons.

Yes there is a problem and it's likely the iranians are developing nuclear weapons

The Science Angle:  a great technical discussion on the challenge Iraq has in getting Nukes

More good discussion of the science

There was also discussion about the politics in Iran,,,focused somewhat on the interplay between religious zealotry, who really runs the country, and the political system.
Players:Iran  the initial comment by Colman led to a discussion of the risk of religious zealotry and the threatening statements by Iranian leaders
Then there were dialogues about the intentions of the players.
The Americans are setting this whole thing up again, just like they did in Iraq.

The intelligence and the facts are being fixed around the policy

Players:Europe   discussion of Europe motives; assertion that it's all US driven, and some denial of that

And then throughout the thread there were some good attempts at summary, or at solutions, one of which follows:
Let them tool up
I hope this is helpful.
by wchurchill on Sun Feb 19th, 2006 at 01:37:19 PM EST
I was, as usual down at the stables for most of the weekend, and I avoid computers on Saturday to allow my arms and eyes rest. I'll have a look through all of this today and see what the open questions are: thanks for starting the summary off.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 02:46:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
if Iran is the problem. My understanding is:

  1. Yes, Iran is almost certainly working towards nuclear weapons.
  2. It's going to take 5-10 years to build a working weapon, and perhaps 12-15 years to put together an arsenal of weapons that can offer a useful strategic deterrent. (One nuke on its own is hardly useful, except as a suicide gambit of last resort.)

I realise that the concept of non-proliferation is at stake. But military action isn't usually used to deal with proliferation threats.

So where's the problem that supposedly requires military action now?

Meanwhile Korea not only claims to have nukes but is much closer to creating an ICBM system to deliver them, and so realistically has to be considered more of an immediate threat to the entire world.

Also, if there happened to be genuine ex-USSR nukes available on the black market arms dealers' equivalent of eBay, they would offer any rogue state a tempting alternative. So Iran may well have nukes already. In which case it's too late for action.  

This may be too Machiavellian, but I wonder if there's a meta-game being played here by Russia and China, who may want to encourage US military action -  because strategically and politically it's likely to lead to a disastrous weakening of US influence. The US can only consider fighting an extended land war by bringing back the draft, which would be politically suicidal. And the alternative - a nuke first strike - would set the Middle East alight, turn off oil supplies, and leave the Russians holding access to the main reserves.

So I'll suggest again that the problem isn't Iran's nuclear ambitions. The problem is access to oil reserves, and in the bigger picture this is just another variation in the Great Game.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Feb 19th, 2006 at 09:43:48 PM EST
"almost certainly"...
by CyrusI on Fri Mar 10th, 2006 at 05:39:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This just in:

European Parliament: Iranian Foreign Minister Talks to MEPs (20-02-2006)

At a tense moment in international relations, with concerns growing about Iran's decision to resume its nuclear research programme and lack of confidence that the programme is meant for solely peaceful purposes, the Iranian Foreign Minister Manoochehr Mottaki will be at the European Parliament in Brussels on Monday evening to talk to members of the Foreign Affairs Committee. His visit follows hot on the heels of a resolution adopted by the Parliament calling for this issue to be resolved in line with international law, and, specifically, through the avenue of the United Nations.


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 10:39:28 AM EST


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