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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Iran, al Sadr, and the endgame? 


Even the New York Times, which has done its level best to promote the myth of Iraqi incompetence, acknowledges that the government has won the battle of Basra...

...but only after air and artillery strikes by American and British forces cleared the way for Iraqi troops to move into the Hayaniya district and other remaining Mahdi Army militia strongholds and begin house-to house searches, Iraqi officials said. Iraqi troops were meeting little resistance, said Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, the spokesman for the Iraqi Interior Ministry in Baghdad.

Ah, yes. Iraqi ground troops wiped out the Mahdi Army in Basra, but they couldn't do it without our Air Force. Quagmire!

Anyway, it really does not matter what the editors on 43rd Street think. Iran knows a battlefield defeat when it sees one, and has obviously decided that Moqtada al-Sadr is such a loser that it rewrote history:
Why his fighters have clung to those fight-then-fade tactics is unknown. But American military and civilian officials have repeatedly claimed that Mahdi Army units trained and equipped by Iran had played a major role in the unexpectedly strong resistance that government troops met in Basra.

Whether to counter those allegations or simply because, as many Iraqis have recently speculated, Mr. Sadr’s stock has recently fallen in Iranian eyes, the Iranian ambassador, Hassan Kazemi Qumi, on Saturday expressed his government’s strong support for the Iraqi assault on Basra. He even called the militias in Basra “outlaws,” the same term that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has used to describe them.

“The idea of the government in Basra was to fight outlaws,” Mr. Qumi said. “This was the right of the government and the responsibility of the government. And in my opinion the government was able to achieve a positive result in Basra.”

So why did Iran turn on al-Sadr, who is, after all, a volatile guy?

Iran has two great ambitions for post-occupation Iraq. First and foremost, it needs to ensure that the Shiites will remain in control in Baghdad so as to minimize the risk of another ruinous Iraq-Iran war. Second and less essentially, it wants sufficient freedom to operate in Iraq that it can use it as a base against other perceived threats to its security, including from Israel and Saudi Arabia. (Note that neither goal requires "stability," which everybody from the Iraq Study Group to the New York Times claims Iran wants without any actual evidence.) The best result from Iran's standpoint, then, is a Shiite government in Baghdad that is strong enough to keep the Sunnis in check and to prevent Kurdish independence but too divided to sustain Arab nationalism against the Iranians or to keep Iranian agents from having their way inside Iraq.

The United States responded to this by building up the Sunnis. We promoted and funded the Sunni "Awakening Councils," which had two benefits. Yes, they were critical in the defeat of the jihadis, without which there could be no peace in Iraq ever. The Councils also serve an important function in the semiotics of the war, for they signal to Iran that no Shiite government in Baghdad can be too weak, lest the United States supports a Sunni restoration. Iran seems to have understood this point, and from among the various Shiite factions it has chosen the government. Assuming that the Times article is factually sound, Kevin Drum's speculation seems right to me:
This gibes with other recent evidence (see here) that Iran might finally have decided to stop playing both sides and instead abandon Sadr and throw more of its weight behind ISCI and the current government. The current government is, after all, more pro-Iran than Sadr has ever been, so this is hardly unthinkable.

As always, it's hard to say what's really going on here. But it's possible that the ground is shifting. This might be good news, or it might be in the "be careful what you wish for" category. Stay tuned.

The United States also has two great (remaining) interests in post-occupation Iraq. The first is that the government of Iraq be sufficiently strong that transnational extremists cannot use Iraq to launch or otherwise sustain international terrorism. The second is that Iraq returns to its former position as a counterbalance to Islamic Republic. We would also prefer that the government of Iraq be fairly pluralistic and representative by the standards of the Arab world and that it permit permanent American bases, both of which would help interdict jihadis over the long run.

Given all of this, one can peer through the mist and discern the outlines of an endgame. Iran gets a relatively pro-Iranian Shiite government in Baghdad, but one that treats the Sunnis sufficiently well that they continue to play ball (and the Sunnis Arabs in the region do not fund a Sunni restoration). The United States promises not to support a Sunni restoration or Kurdish independence. In return for those promises, Iran and the government in Baghdad concede a substantial indefinite American military presence, the purposes of which would be to keep the Sunnis and the Kurds quiescent (by reassuring them), to interdict jihadis, and to guarantee Iran's implicit promise that it will not use Shiite Iraq to project power further into the region.

Or maybe I'm wrong.

Your superior wisdom is welcome in the comments.

MORE: Greyhawk has a note on the importance of airpower in Basra and elsewhere, and the Obama campaign's implicit affection for it.

30 Comments:

By Blogger M. Simon, at Sun Apr 20, 09:30:00 AM:

I think you are correct. For the time being. As always in geopolitics the sands of time have a way of shifting things.

Iran also is having internal problems. One of which is that because of their oil socialism they are running out of exportable oil. They are expected to have zero net oil revenues in the 2010 to 2015 time frame.

The recent government imposed rise in the cost of gasoline to 60¢ a gallon helped a little while causing real screams of outrage.

When you consider that Iran has to import 40% of its gasoline it has got to hurt.

Declining oil field output due to socialist mismanagement also hurts.

The period of Iranian financed middle east troubles appears to be coming to an end. The more probable future worry is the problems of an Iranian collapse.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Apr 20, 09:35:00 AM:

Does this mean keeping Mookie alive is in the US interest, at least for now?  

By Blogger Pyrthroes, at Sun Apr 20, 10:13:00 AM:

Counterbalancing political/sectarian forces --a quasi-secular Iraqi State vs. Iran's rampant mullah-dullahs, Shi'ites vs. Sunnis and so on, and on-- seems eminently reasonable in Basra's Sadrist context. BUT: The subtext of this relative equilibrium is Ahmadinejad's accelerating nuclear weapons program.

Mayhap, post-war Iraq will get on with nation-building, boosting its currency and enhancing infrastructure as representative regimes (democracies?) are prone to do. But as a theocratic dictatorship awaiting with bated breath a Twelfth Imam, a Global Caliphate, Iran cannot stand still.

Will Tehran's first silo open to launch a missile against Tel Aviv, perhaps some Central Asian target as a "message" to Peking? Who knows how or when Khomenei's heirs will express their deep-seated monomaniacal convictions... but when they almost inevitably do, the bloom will be forever off their counterbalance rose.

As with so much else these days, only time will tell. In Spring 1914, Foreign Ministries and General Staffs projected detailed, uber-rational scenarios, uniformly based on catastrophically mistaken premises.

Excellent, informed commentary regarding Shia vs. Sunni, Iraq vs Iran, is endlessly fascinating, most probably correct. But in the larger sense, contemporary dispositions are vulnerable to 9/11 redux. Suppose militant Jihadis convert Chicago to a smouldering crater in 2009 - 2011-- does anyone suppose that Damascus, Riyadh, Tehran would not suffer a spot of pother that changed everything?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Apr 20, 10:15:00 AM:

Perhaps analyzing the underlying premises to the present may illuminate:
While Iran was ruled by the Shah, the Iraqi government and people (Baathist and otherwise) were always afraid of "invasion" by Iran. This is why Saddam threw Khomeini out of Najaf in 1978, where he and al-Sistani had hung out together for years. Khomeini was agititating for the Shah's overthrow from Najaf, and the Shah was sick of it.
After the revolution(s) in Iran and the rise of the Islamic Republic, the existential fear of Iran became substantial for all of Arabia, and Saddam launched a pre-emptive war against an Iran that was no longer an allie of (or restrained by) the US. I personally think that most of the Arabs in Kuwait, the KSA, Qatar, etc. were all for Iraq attacking Iran (for several reasons, including the Shia-Sunni schism). However, they were not about to get their hands dirty fighting Iran.
Al-Qaeda was, in being, already existed WITHIN the Saudi Royal family, IMHO. This was probably a dissident faction that opposed making nice with the Christian/secular West. Most of the money for al-Qaeda in the 80's and 90's came from the wealthy "princes" of the House of Saud, and their charity "fronts".

The rise of the Islamic Republic (Shia) and its agents (Hezbollah, Qods force, etc.) also, symetrically, spurred the rise of al-Qaeda (Sunni). I think it is a somewhat mistaken notion that the rise of al-Qaeda represents some kind of "civil war" within Saudi Arabia, and the House of Saud. Al-Qaeda exists and grew strong to counter the shadow war with Iranian influence groups, and was financed all along by rich Saudis. Prince Bandar, our longtime buddy at the KSA embassy, is just such a money source for AQ. Presently, they are caught in a quandary of facing an angry US and supporting their cousins in AQ. Then, in post Saddam Iraq, al-Qaeda became all too real, and their psychotic violence became a liability for many of the connected people in the KSA.

Lastly, Saddam promoted the WMD "disinformation" throughout the 90's to deter Iran and also to encourage support from "brother Arabs", meaning Sunnis, to financially and politically support Saddam during the embargo years. Their own weakness and stupidity lead the US to finally deal with this existential threat.

Iran still dreams of empire spanning the Arabian peninsula, and the Central Asian 'stans, for various reasons, especially as per M. Simon's point; their oil exports are falling. Stalling them in Iraq is playing for time. They might implode based on their own economic weakness, and vulnerability in the world of oil economics. Or they may get nukes next year and incinerate Tel Aviv AND Riyad.
The wild card in the near future is the shape of the Iraqi government. IF the Iraqi voters choose to throw off pro-Iranian Shia politicians in Iraq, Iran may feel compelled to once again wade into Iraq with covert violence. But I agree, that Sadr is being thrown over the side by the Iranians, in the belief that they can "win" by subverting the Iraqi political process (ISCI and Dawa).

Probably the best (economical) bet for the US in the short to middle term (2-25 years) is to play them both off against each other, until the oil runs out and they are no longer a threat to disrupting world trade and business. We should refrain from using force against Iran unless
1) we really mean it
2) they make such an obvious mess of things that they must be stopped.

-David  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Apr 20, 10:16:00 AM:

You are implying a "grand bargain" between the players which is quite a leap given Iran's desire to wage war against the US and Israel over the last 30 years. More likely Iran is remaining patient while refusing to back the wrong horse.
They have a nuclear program to nurture and weaponize so they shouldn't go too far just now to provoke the US or Israel.

For them a Democratic President offers dazzling opportunities to recast Iraq into an ally and permanently reduce US influence in the Gulf states, once American forces have been withdrawn from Iraq. Iran is permanently in the Middle East while the US has just kicked itself out by an Obama or Hillary Administration. Time works well for the Mullah's, they can find as many Al Sadr's as they need.  

By Blogger Neo andertal, at Sun Apr 20, 10:35:00 AM:

Can I be the first to invoke the “Iran supports the winner rule”.

After all Iran at least attempts to arm, bribe and influence all sides to the conflict, so supporting the eventual winner when you had a hand in creating the looser isn’t completely illogical. If picking the winner is the sole objective, why not bet on all the horses! Of course the payout for betting on all the horses kind of sucks.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Apr 20, 11:00:00 AM:

M. Simon brings up an important point. As Hugo Chavez is finding out, you can't use the oil infrastructure solely as a cash cow to fund adventurism and expect it to go on forever just because you have reserves in the ground. High technology requires high maintenance.

But, the Mullahs days are also numbered because the upcoming generations do not want them. It may be that we are in a race against time to see whether the Mullahocracy fails before they get the bomb. Or, it is highly likely it will turn out like North Korea. Continuing the high tech - high maintenance theme, the quality control required to field a maintainable, workable and reliable nuclear program may not exist in a country that is not known for manufacturing high tech goods. Personally, I would rather have one Israeli nuke than 10 Iranian duds.  

By Anonymous feeblemind, at Sun Apr 20, 11:04:00 AM:

'The United States also has two great (remaining)interests in post-occupation Iraq. The first is that the the government of Iraq be sufficiently strong...' 'Sufficiently strong' is a pretty vague and subjective term TH. What yardstick or litmus test can we employ to measure whether ot not the Iraqi government is 'sufficiently strong'? Or will we just know it when we see it?  

By Blogger Edmund Ironside, at Sun Apr 20, 11:22:00 AM:

Having kept current with Iraq in general for the last five years, what does NOT get a lot of airtime is the reality of Iraqi nationalism. Much of the discussion of Iraqs future centers around the factions, many of which are ancient. Since 1924 though, there has been increasing opportunity for all those within Iraqs borders to claim Iraqi national identity, and it seems that many are doing so. This is important because if the Iraqi state continues to succeed, more and more Iraqis will self-identify as Iraqi first and foremost, and less and less as a particular tribe or religious strand. This would be very good news for Iraq, as it would gradually lose its character of a loose confederacy, and move towards full-fledged uncomplicated nationhood.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Apr 20, 11:46:00 AM:

The NY Times is portraying this as Sadr allowed the IA to take Basra. Two quotes:

"Despite the apparent concession of Basra, Mr. Sadr issued defiant words on Saturday night."

“The Iraqi Army entered Hayaniya and the Mahdi Army did not resist because they made a commitment to obey Moktada al-Sadr’s order,” said Harith al-Athari, the head of the Sadr office in Basra.  

By Blogger davod, at Sun Apr 20, 11:55:00 AM:

The British Army has a negative view on the Iraqi operations in the South:
The British-trained Iraqi Army's attempt to retake Basra from militiamen was an "unmitigated disaster at every level", British commanders have disclosed..
The Army does not seem to place any correlation on "British Trained" and disaster.  

By Blogger Pyrthroes, at Sun Apr 20, 12:38:00 PM:

As ifs and what-ifs accumulate, context and perspective remain key. We ask, what was the consensus on Saddam's Iraq ten years ago (Spring 1998)-- what contingency plans, if any, applied against Iran, or to its Syrian proxy for that matter? Not that Clinton's feckless and malfeasant stewardship would have raised an (appropriate) finger anyhow... Benjamin Harrison, Franklin Pierce, come most mind in that respect.

By accident of fate, since 9/11 America has unholstered and stuck to her guns. How far, in what way, will a pro-active national defense proceed from 2009? "Many a knot unravels on the road" (Khayyam), but we like Reagan's hedgehog viewpoint best: We win, they lose.

If only Guns of August do not intervene.  

By Blogger Eric, at Sun Apr 20, 12:55:00 PM:

You know, Iran isn't going anywhere and we aren't going to war with Iran. The fact that the notion that we can go to war with Iran is still taken seriously is an impressive illusion by the Bush administration. Or, maybe it's just a convenient illusion for all involved.

While its leaders are from the revolutionary generation, the thing to consider is whether Iranian society has remained frozen in time since 1979. What will happens to Iran's hard-liners, say over the next 1-2 decades, if the threat of Saddam-led Iraq is gone and replaced by a friendly Shiite-led Iraq? Which, conveniently, is also friendly with the US? How will Iran's economic, political and strategic formulations be affected by a new Iraq that emerges as relatively open, democratic, stable and prosperous ... and is a logical neighbor-partner? Again, an Iraq that is also friends with the US?

At what point will decades-old enemies, both near and across the ocean, have enough common ground to change their ideological hard-wired differences into flexible start points for negotiation? After all, we were allies with Iran in the not-too-distant past and the nation hasn't lost its strategic value (see Russian and Chinese overtures to Iran). Friendship is still more profitable, and concurrently less costly, for both sides. With Iraq transformed into a conduit and middleman rather than a tension-building obstacle, the potential for peace in the Middle East is tantalizing indeed - not by transforming the Middle East in our hegemonic image, but rather by fundamentally rewriting our relationships with the region and changing feuding neighbors' relationships with each other. Ease regional tensions, let economies intertwine, let exchanges of influence flow - let trust and mutual interests build. We can't force a peace. But we can trust that our centuries-tempered liberal ways, when the way is opened and prepped for them to take root, will go viral and incrementally marginalize the radicals, even though liberal ways in the region will not look like our liberal ways in the Anglo-sphere.

The key for us in Iraq is to convince its neighbors that what we want in Iraq is in their interest, not just ours, and what we want is not Iraq as a weapon against its neighbors, but as the key to build profitable friendships (of the cost/benefit practical sort) all around.

How are we going to win the Long War? Not by killing an enemy that yearns for martyrdom, but by making the enemy impotent as his world is transformed under and around him.  

By Blogger Dave, at Sun Apr 20, 01:04:00 PM:

Iran gets a relatively pro-Iranian Shiite government in Baghdad

You can safely ignore all the "Maliki is pro-Iranian" stuff; it's just a lefty talking point that doesn't mean anything.

Maliki just spent a month fighting militias armed by Iran. He wants peace and trade with the Iranian people but he has no love for the ayatollahs.  

By Blogger Edmund Ironside, at Sun Apr 20, 01:18:00 PM:

You know, Iran isn't going anywhere and we aren't going to war with Iran.
Iran isn't going anywhere? What does that mean exactly?
If you mean, is the US going to invade Iran and do an exact repeat of Iraq then of course not. I don't know any forum where this has been suggested, nor any knowledgeable military person who has EVER supported that plan. Bombing the nuclear sites and knocking them out to the greatest degree possible, plus targetting the Revolutionary Guards interests, both economic and military, on the other hand, are a distinct possibility. Not only is it militarily possible, given the stated intention of Iran to bomb Israel with a nuke should it get one I'd say its much more likely to happen than not.
Just as the Israeli bombing of Osirak in 1981 didn't bring about the end of the world, a US attack on bully-boy psychopath Iran won't either.  

By Blogger Eric, at Sun Apr 20, 02:18:00 PM:

EI: "Iran isn't going anywhere? What does that mean exactly?"

What it means is that Iran has a deep vested interest in Iraq, we can't maintain our current level of presence in Iraq indefinitely, nor does even the most ardent American supporter of OIF want that. Best case is that US/MNF forces in Iraq turn into the kind of limited and affordable security guarantor we became in Korea - strictly defensive and non-deployable. Iran, for their part, is and will be a powerful influence in Iraq, no matter what we do. Our leverage to push Iran is limited, and the international community has proven it will not unite on our side to isolate Iran. A lasting positive outcome for us in Iraq will require conciliation, or at least accomodation, with Iran.

We have to be able to appeal to Iran's interests; in short, we have to be able to make a deal with them. Doing so is not a defeat for us, either. Improved relations with Iran is a victory for us.

If the only purpose of OIF has been to improve our situation with Iraq, then it won't be worth everything we've invested into the mission. If OIF has been a critical step to change our situation with first Iraq, then Iran and the region-at-large, then it makes sense. An imperfect analogy is that the one positive we took out of the Vietnam War was improved relations with Red China (and check out how they've changed since then).

"Bombing the nuclear sites and knocking them out to the greatest degree possible, plus targetting the Revolutionary Guards interests, both economic and military, on the other hand, are a distinct possibility. Not only is it militarily possible, given the stated intention of Iran to bomb Israel with a nuke should it get one I'd say its much more likely to happen than not."

Yep, like I said - impressive. The notion is useful now. I'd just rather we, whether on our own or through Iraq, reach an accord with Iran on mutually beneficial terms before they decide to call the bluff.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Apr 20, 02:30:00 PM:

I don't think there are mutually beneficial terms with Iran; if they get atomic arms, they win. If they don't, we win. If they expand their influence into neighboring nations, they win. If they don't, we win. And so forth.

It's an adversarial relationship, much like we have with Syria.

The idea that everyone can get along is a pleasant, dangerous myth.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Apr 20, 02:49:00 PM:

"unmitigated disaster at every level"

"The net effect of all of this is that the British Army will be forced to remain here for many months longer."

I wonder if the anti-war media will ever figure out that they could make a better case for withdrawing troops by claiming

"all is well, the troops are no longer needed"

alan  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun Apr 20, 04:19:00 PM:

alan -

My reaction to the Telegraph article was similar to yours, I think: If the purpose of Basra was to prove that Iraq's army no longer needed any help from the United States and Britain so that the troops can go home now then I suppose it was disastrous. The question, though, was not whether the operation accelerated the day when the troops could come home, but whether it advanced our interests. I think that it did, but if you define our interests only in terms of getting out of there as soon as possible, no doubt it was a setback.  

By Blogger RightWingNutter, at Sun Apr 20, 04:29:00 PM:

As has been noted above, the window of opportunity is shrinking for the mullahs to expand influence or hegemony, or to attempt to erase Israel. The top down control that they and their political allies keep on the Iranian economy bears the seeds of its own destruction. The Chinese were free to try to adopt a free market while keeping the political lid on, but Islamism allows no such concessions.

So we can expect either the Iranian economy to implode or a restructure of their society. The danger of nuclear attack by Iran is greatest if the first possibility becomes inevitable.

Iran knows that if it attempts an attack using missiles, that the US can stop the attack with its new but demonstrated anti-missile capability. ABM sites in Iraq and Turkey can shield Israel and Europe. They can't hide a nuclear test, and they can't prepare military launch sites without everyone with satellites knowing the fact and exactly where they are. Such preparations would in turn prompt Rumania, Hungary, et al to tell Russia to shove its objections and invite US ABM installations. Iran also knows that if it did prepare to launch such an attack that the US could knock out the launch installations (and likely much else) before they could be used.

As long as the US continues to slap its palm with a big stick, the mullahs are going to stick with bluster and clandestine terror support. There's a slim possibility that enough of them would simultaneously convince themselves that Allah would intervene against the Great Satan, but mass psychosis of that sort is a very slim possibility. Had Briton had been able to demonstrate the will to defend the Falklands back in the early 80's, the Argentinean adventure would not have taken place.

If we can maintain a national will to stare down and undercut the efforts of the Iranian Islamists for 20 years or so, their ability to threaten will decrease as their internal turmoil increases. Waffling on our part can only prolong their intransigence and national agony and increase the chances of a nuclear attack.  

By Blogger davod, at Sun Apr 20, 07:04:00 PM:

WRT to the Telegraph article. Everyone is upset at the "Lousy" preparation and implimentaion of the operations.

Well they still achieved the objective. Short of all out war and demolishing towns their was always going to be some sort of negotiations.

Desertions. Based upon all we know of the tribal/group nature of Iraqis this was to be expected as well. I wonder if these were the British trained troops. What was noticeable was the troopps that stayed and fought well. Some

The US/Brit airpower gibe is a bit disengenous as the Iraqis do not have offensive airpower.

So lets summarize - The Iraqi government and military shows some independance from the coalition in planning and carrying out operations. They did it themselves, with a little help from their friends.  

By Blogger Escort81, at Sun Apr 20, 10:11:00 PM:

DF82 - It's tempting to look at the situation in binary terms, but I've gotta believe, as you say, "if they [Iran] get atomic arms, they win," that it would be the briefest victory in history. The regime ultimately signs its own death warrant by using or even testing atomic arms. The only scenario where the regime (or, possibly, most of the country) survives is one of "plausible deniability" -- one in which there is no test, and the first time use is via a smuggled weapon (which would likely be fairly big in size) taken to within a half a mile or so of its target, with fissionable material that can't be forensically traced. But as I think you have posted before, they may not care about retaliation. That's a problem.

In a "payoff matrix," that outcome would be termed lose-lose, but obviously that is a Western construct that does not account for the carnal pleasures in heaven.

RightWingNutter - a good summary of the benefits of straight-up deterrence in this context. I hope you are right, and that the mullahs can be deterred by the facts as you lay them out. Almost everybody in the West wants to believe that's the case. I am guessing that if push came to shove, Israel would act to pre-empt if necessary (SLBMs and not air strikes?), though the international reaction wouldn't be pretty.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Apr 20, 10:42:00 PM:

'real armies' should be able to do this thing without aircover

and, if the Iraqi Army were so good, they wouldn't need body armor or bullets.

please note sarcasm-

the point being that we have used air support in Iraq, and the effectiveness of our ground forces were never called into question.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Apr 21, 12:16:00 AM:

'...with fissionable material that can't be forensically traced.'

A) They really have to be nuts to use an untested device. If it fizzled, where would they be then? I know, I know, maybe they are really nuts...

B) I think there are always going to be forensic clues, the residual radioactivity, the crater, etc.. that could be used. But, if that's not good enough...

C) The solution is for Israel to proclaim that, in the event of a nuclear device going off in the State of Israel, no matter the source or any other consideration, Tehran will be nuked. I'd send them a picture with some guy, forefinger extended, on 24 hr duty leaning over the launch button marked "Tehran".  

By Blogger davod, at Mon Apr 21, 07:06:00 AM:

A) They really have to be nuts to use an untested device. If it fizzled, where would they be then? I know, I know, maybe they are really nuts...

Why the maybe they are really nuts qualifier.

If the domestic situation in Iran deteriorates the Mullahs will look outside for a distraction.

I do not think any threat to Nuke Tehran will have a calming effect on the Mullahs.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Apr 21, 09:41:00 AM:

I disagree. The Mullahs like to send poor suckers out to self-immolate, but they are not themselves suicidal.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon Apr 21, 10:44:00 AM:

"The regime ultimately signs its own death warrant by using or even testing atomic arms."

Like the North Koreans were promptly destroyed after testing their nuclear weapon? How about the Pakistanis? Indians? South Africans? Even the Chinese.

In every example to date, once a country has obtained nuclear arms it has not been overthrown by an outside power. It seems that the possession of atomic arms is the ultimate insurance against foreign assault. After all, if the government is about to be destroyed what is really stopping it from threatening or using its ultimate weapons to save itself?

If the idea that the leaders of Iran really are apocalyptic crazies who want to trigger Armageddon (which is a possibility) is strong enough to be used to justify a strike upon their acquisition of atomic arms, it would be best not to allow it in the first place. Just because they tested a warhead does not mean that they don't have others waiting. i.e. build, say, 4. Test one of them and if it works, you instantly have 3 functional nuclear warheads.

They already have long rang missiles capable of carrying atomic weapons into Europe and Israel. Do you think that the Euros have the spine to stare down an Iranian threat to launch if their regime were threatened? I sure don't.

The Iranians are certain that obtaining atomic weapons is the best way to guarantee their protection against outside powers while they indulge their mini-imperialist fantasies in the Middle East. I'm inclined to agree, which is why they should never be allowed to complete them.  

By Blogger Escort81, at Mon Apr 21, 12:40:00 PM:

DF82 -

"Like the North Koreans were promptly destroyed after testing their nuclear weapon? How about the Pakistanis? Indians? South Africans? Even the Chinese."

The important difference being that none of these countries directly threatened Israel, itself an undeclared nuclear power. I suppose you could say that Pakistan has no love for Israel, but clearly, the development of the Pakistani weapon was geared toward its neighbor to the east.

In both its rhetoric and its covert and overt support of Hezbollah and other groups, Iran has made clear its attitude toward Israel, and Israel has made clear its view of an Iranian atomic weapon.

I agree with you that "they should never be allowed to complete them."

There are really only two entities capable of enforcing that prohibition -- Israel, and the U.S. (depending upon the POTUS.) I can't think of any others.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon Apr 21, 01:08:00 PM:

Which is all true. I just took umbrage with the 'the regime will fall if they test nuclear arms' line. Being bitch slapped by the Israeli airforce, while unpleasant I'm sure, is a far cry from an overthrow. And as much as I respect Israeli military power, they do not have the ability to topple Iran.  

By Blogger Escort81, at Mon Apr 21, 04:59:00 PM:

DF82 - No umbrage intended, sorry. Here's a link to Wikipedia (reasonably well referenced, including a Jane's estimate in 1997) providing the background and current status of the Israeli nuclear force. While I am sure no Israeli government wants to be put in the situation of ordering a first strike to pre-empt Iranian use of a weapon following a test, the technical capacity to do so most likely exists, and I think may constitute "the ability to topple Iran," in the sense that a building becomes a parking lot. I do not hope for that to happen, for either side.  

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