Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Iran Again

I am growing more and more concerned about US policy toward Iran and the influence Israel may have over our decisions. The NYT ran an article on Friday about Israeli war games that were evidently aimed at practicing a potential bombing against Iranian nuclear sites.

Because of the nature of my work, I know that demand for Persian-Farsi linguists is very high now and it is growing very rapidly. McCain singing "Bomb Iran" rather than "Barbara Ann" and his hard line on the GI Bill, tells you what his mindset is. Some have said that the firing of Adm. Fallon was in party due to his reluctance to consider air strikes against Iran.

One parlor game that I like to play is to take various news stories and see if they might be linked. So I was quite interested when a spate of stories starting coming out over last couple of weeks about all the work Israel is suddenly willing to do to make peace with its rivals. Suddenly, thanks supposedly to Egypt, they are willing to talk to Hamas. They are is serious negotiations over the Golan. And they are cutting deals with Lebanon. Now, we know that Hamas is funded by Iran. We know that Hezbollah in Lebanon is funded my Iran. So is Israel suddenly interested in cleaning things up prior to launching some sort of attack on Iran? Is this the pre-work needed to make an attack more possible?

And we know that one reason violence is down in Iraq is because Iran has asked its proxies to agree to a cease fire. And we know that Iran really pulls the strings in southern Iraq. We also know that our refusal to talk to Iran means that other nations like China and India are free to cut oil and natural gas deal there.

So would Bush dare, in Dec or Jan, after elections to launch a war that his successor would have to deal with? Would he wait to see who won? If it was McCain, it is a go because McCain would keep it going? If it is Obama, would he do it just to force Obama into a bad situation or because he knows Obama wouldn't agree?

Any strike against Iran would be deadly and stupid. We have a population that is pro-American, even if they can't scream it at the top of their lungs. They may not like their government, but they love their country. Brute force will turn the population against us. If we are willing to take the long view, we might be able to gain the upper hand by Obama's method of talking and cutting deals, slowly integrating Iran into the global trading system.

We should just accept that they will have nukes. Non-proliferation needs to move away from containment to mutual agreement not to strike. The containment strategy is now dead. That may make illegal trade in nuclear arms and technology less lucrative and threatening.

Saber rattling against a country like Iran is a poor strategy. Through sheer stubbornness (Same method used by Saddam, mind you) Iran has managed to get the West to promise all sorts of things while maintaining their ability to say "no thanks" and giving up very little. Thus, they not us control the situation. It's an old negotiating technique that has been successful throughout history. They have turned what appears to be a weakness into a strength.

What do you all think?


Raised By Republicans said...

First of all, I completely agree with you that getting increasingly agressive with Iran is not helping the situation. The more agressive our foreign policy, the more rational it seems for Iran to get a nuclear bomb. We should instead engage Iran diplomatically, acknowlege that they have a role to play in the region but also state firmly that we have an obligation to play a role as well. We should, where possible, encourage moderate elements within the Iranian government. We should be open to the idea that the best thing to do sometimes will be to ignore them (or at least appear to do so).

As for what will happen? I have no idea. When Bush won in 2004, I was convinced we would have bombed them by now. From what I hear it is only because of the increasingly open resistence of the military itself that we have not. I think this really depends on the willingness of the top military brass to defy the Commander In Chief. I don't know much about the military brass but my impression is that counting on the military to resist concerted and sustained pressure from the White House is not a recipe for a happy ending.

St. Michael Traveler said...

The Blockade and Start of a New War Front

Republican and Democrats are often deluded during election and not smart. How could we be smart if we elect the same type of people over and over again? We are fooled by their appeasing words, the words we like to hear. For example, we don't like to kill and make wars on other nations. We are good people. We have problem housing, feeding, and educating our children. We tell our problems to our congressional representatives. But what do they do; authorize more war borrowing money from other nations expecting our children and grand children to pay for it. Is that smart?

Some congressional representatives have singed to vote for Bill Number: H.CON.RES.362. The bill authorizes Navy to blockade Iran in Persian Gulf; you know this is declaration of war.

Israel suggested the idea of blockade to President Bush during his recent visit to Israel. AIPAC (Israeli Lobby) urged our congressmen to vote for the blockade bill. The representatives got the message; yes they want to get reelected.

Are you ready for another extended war, $10 per gallon gas, and more pain and suffering for all of us?

Dr. Strangelove said...

USWest: I agree that we should accept that Iran will get nuclear weapons if they want it. And I also agree with your lager contention that non-proliferation as a whole needs to move away from a containment strategy toward an agreement not to strike. In practice, I think that means multilateral assured destruction.

I am much more concerned about terrorists getting their hands on fissile materials than whether or not Iran gets the bomb. Non-proliferation should focus on making sure that all nuclear materials are accounted for.

I do not believe we are going to attack Iran. The only way I can see that happening is if there is another 9/11-type strike--of the kind McCain's senior aide said today would be beneficial to McCain's campaign--and there is a clear and obvious link to Tehran.

History Buff said...

I think Jimmy Carter was somehow instrumental in the Isrealis meeting with Hamas. I have heard that there have been other times when an elder stateman has met with hostile groups, been chastised for it publically, but then later the competing groups somehow get together to talk. Using Egypt as the supposed mediator may just be a way of keeping this strategy useful.

USwest said...

Watch things closely: all it will take is a mishap in the Gulf, perhaps during the blockade to give someone a reason to strike. I am concerned about another Tonkin Gulf thing.

Anonymous said...

I have a relative who is an intelligence officer specializing in the mid-east. This relative just told me they have been assigned to travel to Israel on July 19 and to plan on staying for a while. So... watch the news in the week after July 19 and we'll see if it means anything (my relative thinks it could).

The Law Talking Guy said...

I take heart from the national intelligence estimate put out last Fall that showed that the Iran threat was nothing of the kind. I think the military and the intelligence services want no part of war with Iran and will do everything in their power to prevent it. Believe me, there will be Senate hearings before any war, and there won't be just one Eric Shinseki saying we will need a half million troops. It will be all of them, to a man. And the Brits won't be with us.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Just check to see whether the US military is pre-booking commercial imagery satellites over Iran...

The Law Talking Guy said...

July 19th is a bit early for an October surprise.

Anonymous said...

I have a contact in the office of the Director of Intelligence who has been sent to Israel. I have a non-Persian friend who speaks Persian fluently who was offered a post in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence- a high ranking post that would have had him in the Director's office. He turned them down.

They are geering up, or trying to look like it. Don't put faith in the National Intelligence Estimate. No one else does.

Dr. Strangelove said...

You suggest gearing up for an attack, or trying to look like it, but there is another reasonable interpretation of these actions, Anonymous: sensible precautions. The intelligence community has needed a better understanding and presence in the Middle East for some time now. Their efforts have been disproportionately focused on Iraq, for obvious reasons. But we need to start paying attention to the Palestinian and Iranian situations again. (And the recent destabilization of the Olmert government in Israel only makes this need more plain.)

Anonymous said...

Hello, I'm the original "Anonymous" on this post, the one with the relative... the second anonymous is someone else.

I'm not suggesting they are gearing up for an attack (though the other commenter seems to think this is the case). My relative doesn't REALLY think this means an attack is necessarily imminent but this person is quite worried about the situation. They are worried about the Iran issue based primarily on the sorts of work they have been tasked with doing. This relative describes it as prep work for an attack. Obviously prep work is done all the time for "just in case" scenarios but the tempo is, according to this person, pretty high.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Ah... That's the trouble with anonymity! Pseudonymity is so much better ;-)

But seriously, in my line of work I might be expected to have noticed an increased tempo of preparation, and I have not. Of course, the nature of the field is extremely compartmentalized so my observations are of limited value.

USWest said...

The nature of my work shows and increased tempo.

I don't disagree that this may be "precaution" time. I know that we have attack plans in the drawer for all sorts of countries and scenarios. And it isn't unusual to send intelligence folks to Israel. That, is after all, what we pay Israel to help us do- spy on the region. And I find it relieving to think that the director of national intelligence might actually be thinking ahead, presuming that the anonymous poster is legit. If GW and his gang weren't in charge, I would be less concerned. But these guys are salivating over the chance to take an already bad situation up a notch and they want Israel to do it for them since we don't have the money or manpower now.

What worries me is the "tinder" box type situation that is building here. There may or may not be an attack. But as I said before, if you create a climate of heightened awareness in a situation that is already tense, you risk "accidents" that can grow into much larger problems.

You may bomb a few low-value targets in Iran that are linked to their nuclear program as a warning. Then you will see one of two things, an uptick in violence in Iraq or a terrorist attack in the US- some small unguarded place that no one expects, like say a shopping mall.

Iranians are an interesting bunch. They feel insecure; they want you to feel just as insecure. That is how they operate. I laughed whole heartedly recently when I say an Economist headline about Iran called, "Smoke and Mirrors" and the article went on to say that it is very hard to deal with Iran because the real person in charge is always somewhere behind a curtain. Unlike with the Arabs, you can't figure out where the decision making power in Iran really is. This means that you never know what is coming next or from where. Do you write off Ahmadinejad because the ayatollahs are really in charge? Or does the power locus vary from issue to issue?

This sort of hidden agenda behind the hidden agenda has allowed Iran to turn every local conflict in the Middle East into a proxy war. Even on the causal mirco level where I work with Persians, I see this happen. It is how they do business. And that really riles Westerners.

So yes, I'm worried that preaching peace while preparing for war, with this administration in charge, may lead to some unfortunate outcomes- especially in an election season where McCain is not fairing very well.