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Thread: Iran, Nukes, Diplomacy and other options (catch all thread 2007-2010)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    I'm very far from a Kissinger fan, and as has been apparent on this board I've been critical of (bellicose) Administration handling of Iran (nuclear and other issues).

    His editorial does point out an important issue, however.

    The enrichment issue is an absolutely key aspect of a weapons programme, and also relates directly to future Iranian strategic power. It is also the hardest part to crash-start, and the hardest part to do covertly.

    The unclassified portions of the NIE seems to suggest that it is the weapons design/weaponization portion of the programme has been stopped. Whether the enrichment programme is meant to have civilian, military (immediate weapons production), or strategic-scientific-technical (future weapons potential) goals is still unclear. I suspect the third is at least as important as the first.
    But no one has denied that there's still an enrichment issue. It is the single greatest fault that the IAEA has with Iran's other-wise more or less acceptable compliance, and it's still being negotiated as far as I know. Neverthelessr, I don't know of any credible experts who claim that Iran has anything other than ancient centerfuges which might be able to generate enough HEU in 18 months to produce one nuclear warhead - and that's a big "if".

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffC View Post
    The 3000 centerfuge cascade, working properly with no downtime, would at best create enough HEU in one year for ONE nuclear warhead.
    Given the nature of the Shi'a Twelver regime in Iran, that's one nuclear weapon too many for a regime which has declared its intent to wipe another sovereign state off of the face of the earth.

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffC View Post
    Nevertheless, I don't know of any credible experts who claim that Iran has anything other than ancient centerfuges which might be able to generate enough HEU in 18 months to produce one nuclear warhead - and that's a big "if".
    Graham Allison had a good article in the YaleGlobal back in June 2006.

    He wrote:

    The dog that hasn’t barked is Iran’s covert programs for acquiring nuclear weapons. Four huge “known unknowns” lie at the heart of judgments about the threat posed by Iran.
    But on the specifics about Iranian centrifuges Allison wrote:

    ...the father of the Pakistani nuclear program, Dr. A.Q. Khan, sold Iran advanced P2 centrifuge designs that are still unaccounted for.
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 12-23-2007 at 02:05 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sean Osborne View Post
    Graham Allison had a good article in the YaleGlobal back in June 2006.

    He wrote:



    But on the specifics about Iranian centrifuges Allison wrote:
    "unaccounted for" and "unknown" are all that anyone has on this issue. That being the case, the most reasonable action is to let the designated international body, the IAEA, do its work and to act in collaboration with other nations to encourage Iran to comply with the IAEA. Every nation involved is willing to do that, including, for a change, ours (a vocal minority who still want to bomb Iran notwithstanding). The only exception is Israel who already possesses a developed nuclear capability.

    Let me ask you, Sean. If you discovered that your neighbors were Satanists, and that they held rituals in their backyard to glorify Satan and blaspheme Jesus, how would you feel (this is a purely rhetorical question - please don't answer and convert this thread into a religious discussion). My point is that nuclear proliferation is not a simple black and white issue because nobody wants their neighbor who they don't get along with to possess a weapon that they have no defense against. They'll only feel safe if they can have that same weapon to offset their neighbor's possession of one.

    That being the case, threats issued by the world's preeminent superpower, not to mention the nation which has more nuclear weapons by a factor of 10 then any other nation except Russia, are counter-productive to say the least.

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Default Good point

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffC View Post

    My point is that nuclear proliferation is not a simple black and white issue because nobody wants their neighbor who they don't get along with to possess a weapon that they have no defense against. They'll only feel safe if they can have that same weapon to offset their neighbor's possession of one.

    That being the case, threats issued by the world's preeminent superpower, not to mention the nation which has more nuclear weapons by a factor of 10 then any other nation except Russia, are counter-productive to say the least.
    I think your point about nuclear proliferation is extremely valid in that it is the major reason to confront and keep that one neighbor from working so hards towards it rather than not and ending up with twenty neighbors all working towards it with almost impossible odds at stopping them all.

    As to who's doing the threatening who else should it be?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post
    I think your point about nuclear proliferation is extremely valid in that it is the major reason to confront and keep that one neighbor from working so hards towards it rather than not and ending up with twenty neighbors all working towards it with almost impossible odds at stopping them all.

    As to who's doing the threatening who else should it be?
    It should be no one. Threats as a negotiating tool are counterproductive in general. Threats by the U.S. are inflammatory. If we want to reduce our number of enemies in the world, we need start exerting our influence in quieter, more effective ways. Otherwise, we as a nation will become more and more isolated, and eventually irrelevant, thanks to Globalization and the burgeoning markets of China and India (2.5 billlion people combined).

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffC View Post
    It should be no one. Threats as a negotiating tool are counterproductive in general. Threats by the U.S. are inflammatory. If we want to reduce our number of enemies in the world, we need start exerting our influence in quieter, more effective ways. Otherwise, we as a nation will become more and more isolated, and eventually irrelevant, thanks to Globalization and the burgeoning markets of China and India (2.5 billlion people combined).
    ,but using quiet interaction behind the scenes least out one big part of the picture. The message to others that we are not only serious about something but that we back up what we say. Considering how often the lack of that understanding on the part of others has caused us to get dragged into areas we didn't want to go don't you think a little bluster might not hurt to make sure theres no mis-calculations out there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post
    ,but using quiet interaction behind the scenes least out one big part of the picture. The message to others that we are not only serious about something but that we back up what we say. Considering how often the lack of that understanding on the part of others has caused us to get dragged into areas we didn't want to go don't you think a little bluster might not hurt to make sure theres no mis-calculations out there.
    An unknown entity might have to show a demonstration of power to be believed. The U.S. no longer has to do that, so why choose a strategy (threats and bluster) that enables our enemies and doesn't further our interests? We can, instead, adopt a different strategy that will yield what we want without adding more fuel to the fire.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sean Osborne View Post
    Given the nature of the Shi'a Twelver regime in Iran, that's one nuclear weapon too many for a regime which has declared its intent to wipe another sovereign state off of the face of the earth.
    What is the expression "to wipe [something] off the map” in Persian? I have been told that they do not even have such an idiom. There are some SWC members with significant Iran experience, hopefully they can help here.

    Where in the history this “Shi'a Twelver regime in Iran” have they acted not in their interest, and acted irrationally? I am not speaking of rhetoric, but of behavior.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffC View Post
    "unaccounted for" and "unknown" are all that anyone has on this issue.
    Yes, and that gets to, pardon the pun, the fissile core of the covert Iranian nuclear weapons program.

    Every nation involved is willing to do that, including, for a change, ours (a vocal minority who still want to bomb Iran notwithstanding).
    Can you offer some specifics on who in the United States is the vocal minority who want to bomb Iran?

    From my vantage point I see that there are, on one side, those who stand foresquare with outright appeasers, and on another side those who see a window that is inexorably closing to prevent Iran indigenous nuclear weapons production capability. I don't see anyone clamoring to bomb Iran regardless.

    The only exception is Israel who already possesses a developed nuclear capability.
    Without the 'Sampson Option' Israel would have zero strategic depth. I don't blame them one iota for pursuing and achieing nuclear weapons capability. However, in the 40 years since most assessments have awarded them a nuclear weapons capability - is there any real proof that it exists? Has Israel ever conducted a verifiable nuclear weapons test ala Pakistan, India, U.S., U.K., Russia, France, China and, most recently, North Korea.

    Let me ask you, Sean. If you discovered that your neighbors were Satanists, and that they held rituals in their backyard to glorify Satan and blaspheme Jesus, how would you feel.
    My "feelings" would be irrelevant. Under the Constitution those neighbors have every right to practice their worship within the laws of the land.

    More importantly your selection of the above is the worst possible analogy to attempt. It's a non-starter.

    It would have been better to ask a question with a couple of "known knowns" in this manner:

    1. I'm a Jew and I possess a hand grenade. But I wish my neighbors no harm from my handgrenade. I have it for purely defensive purposes.

    2. I know my Iranian Twelver neighbors hate my family and wish to harm us to the point that they'd blow up our home and kill all of us (INTENT) if they had the CAPABILIY.

    3. My friends, other neighbors, and my own sneaky little snoop of a son tell me that my neighbors are building a grenade and they plan to toss it into my backyard at the first OPPORTUNITY during a family meal.

    So, I sit with my thumb stuck where the sun don't shine and allow this to happen?

    What would you do Jeff?

    A. Call the police who sympathize at every turn in townhall meeting with my evil neighbors?

    B. Be proactive and begin preemptory planning to ensure that that genade is never built?
    Last edited by Sean Osborne; 12-15-2007 at 09:36 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bourbon View Post
    What is the expression "to wipe [something] off the map” in Persian? I have been told that they do not even have such an idiom. There are some SWC members with significant Iran experience, hopefully they can help here.
    Okay, would the Farsi translation of the following suffice instead?

    "They are angry with our nation. But we tell them 'so be it and die from this anger'. Rest assured that if you do not respond to the divine call, you will die soon and vanish from the face of the earth," he said.

    Where in the history this “Shi'a Twelver regime in Iran” have they acted not in their interest, and acted irrationally? I am not speaking of rhetoric, but of behavior.
    US Embassy, Tehran. USMC Barracks and US Embassy, Beirut, Lebanon. Khobar Towers, Dahran, Saudi Arabia. Or how about the cross-border crap the Qods Force of the IRGC has executed in iraq against US and British troops? There are other examples of irrational Shi'a Twelver behaior, but this will suffice for now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sean Osborne View Post
    Can you offer some specifics on who in the United States is the vocal minority who want to bomb Iran?
    The most vocal champion is Michael "Iran with the bomb or bomb Iran" Ledeen. And there are a vocal minority of folks who agree with him.

    Without the 'Sampson Option' Israel would have zero strategic depth.
    Israel has held her own quite well over the years, and her military and intelligence capabilities are well-regarded and respected. Those merits stand on their own as a deterrent without any need for nuclear weapons, especially since using such weapons would undoubtedly result in both Israel's destruction and a World War.

    Is there any real proof that it exists? Has Israel ever conducted a verifiable nuclear weapons test ala Pakistan, India, U.S., U.K., Russia, France, China and, most recently, North Korea.
    Proof or not; Verifiable or not. Is it your position that Israel does not have nuclear weapons?

    It would have been better to ask a question with a couple of "known knowns" in this manner:

    1. I'm a Jew and I possess a hand grenade. But I wish my neighbors no harm from my handgrenade. I have it for purely defensive purposes.
    You forgot to mention that your house used to belong to your neighbors until they were forced to give it to you by the Home Owners Association. So, naturally, your protestations about wishing your neighbors no harm falls on deaf ears. They've already BEEN harmed. Add to that the fact that you own a hand grenade and they do not, and now they're really mad.

    Even though I'm a supporter of Israel, and I have friends who served in the Israeli Army and Mossad, I think Israel should scuttle her nuclear program. It's a huge barrier to finding a peaceful solution for the Middle East.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sean Osborne View Post
    US Embassy, Tehran. USMC Barracks and US Embassy, Beirut, Lebanon. Khobar Towers, Dahran, Saudi Arabia. Or how about the cross-border crap the Qods Force of the IRGC has executed in iraq against US and British troops? There are other examples of irrational Shi'a Twelver behaior, but this will suffice for now.
    I'm not sure I would put many, if any, of those in the "irrational" column. Certainly no more irrational that the "topple Saddam Hussein's regime with grandiose ideas of establishing a stable, pro-Western free-market democratic ally in its place" (accompanied by "shift focus away from Afghanistan," "dissolve the Iraqi army," and "initially propose a bizarre system of Iraqi caucuses instead of elections"). Indeed, when in Tehran during the summer I was struck by how often I was asked to explain "irrational" American policy, which many interlocutors seem to have understood as reflecting a mix of Bush's personal views, Israeli influence, a cabal of neocon advisors, and Christian fundamentalism.

    One of the most interesting thrusts of the declassified judgements of the NIE is the assessment that Tehran generally does weigh cost and benefit, and thereby acts in a strategic manner. Establishing a potential weapons capability, without actual weaponization, may well be quite rational from their perspective, given both perceived threats and the neighbourhood they live in.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffC View Post
    Even though I'm a supporter of Israel, and I have friends who served in the Israeli Army and Mossad, I think Israel should scuttle her nuclear program. It's a huge barrier to finding a peaceful solution for the Middle East.
    Given the way things went during their last conflict in Lebanon I think that they may feel differently. The Israeli Army may be powerful but it is not invincible. They proved that during that conflict. Their enemies have certainly taken note. In any case I am having trouble thinking of a historical example where a country benefited from make it's military weaker in the face of its enemies.

    US Embassy, Tehran. USMC Barracks and US Embassy, Beirut, Lebanon. Khobar Towers, Dahran, Saudi Arabia. Or how about the cross-border crap the Qods Force of the IRGC has executed in iraq against US and British troops?
    Are you seriously saying that these are not irrational?

    SFC W

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    “In the whole of history, who was more crazy than Josef Stalin?” he asks. “In the whole of history, who was more crazy than Mao Tsetung? I don’t see that Ahmadinejad is more crazy than them. Maybe to the contrary. I listen to Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric, but I cannot think of even one case since 1980 and the Iranian Islamic Revolution that this country has behaved irrationally.” - Martin van Creveld

    Expert: U.S. Attack on Iran Would Have Terrible Consequences. Newsmax, November 28, 2007
    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    Are you seriously saying that these are not irrational?
    What did we do in response to any of these? Little or nothing. They further their interests just enough to avoid punishment. In Iraq, I imagine they could really put the screws to us if they wanted to, say flood the place with MANPADS like we did in Afghanistan in the 80's. But they haven't, why not? I believe it is to able to increase / decrease pressure on us.
    I think this is rational.

    Dr. Trita Parsi has noted that the unstated policy of Iranian leadership is "Simulated irrationality". Reminds me of Nixon's "Madman Theory".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    Given the way things went during their last conflict in Lebanon I think that they may feel differently. The Israeli Army may be powerful but it is not invincible. They proved that during that conflict. Their enemies have certainly taken note. In any case I am having trouble thinking of a historical example where a country benefited from make it's military weaker in the face of its enemies.
    Having nuclear weapons doesn't make a nation stronger, because no one can use them without becoming an international pariah - and that's the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is Israel launches on Iran. Russia launches on Israel. The U.S. launches on Russia. Russia and China launch on the U.S. And the world as we know it is over.

    Israel's only hope for long term survival lies with Israel's conventional military and intelligence services, and those of her allies.

    As to the other quote in your reply to me, I was not the poster who wrote it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffC View Post
    The most vocal champion is Michael Ledeen. And there are a vocal minority of folks who agree with him.
    Michael Ledeen speaks from a postion of significant experience. I also agreed with him 100% when he stated, "I have little sympathy for those who have avoided the obvious necessity of confronting Iran." Exactly correct. He was smart enough to recognize the fascistic nature of the Iranian Ayatollah's from the get-go. Guess that places me squarely in your "minority". In some respects Ledeen reminds me of Churchill warning about Hilter in the 1930's. It's probably 1938.


    Israel has held her own quite well over the years, and her military and intelligence capabilities are well-regarded and respected. Those merits stand on their own as a deterrent without any need for nuclear weapons, especially since using such weapons would undoubtedly result in both Israel's destruction and a World War.
    You appear to be forgetting what nearly occurred in the Yom Kippur War of1973.

    Is it your position that Israel does not have nuclear weapons?
    No it's not. It's very likely IMHO that Israel has a very robust, thermonuclear deterrent. And I would advise the Israeli government to maintain their deterrent at all costs.

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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    So the rationality of their actions is determined not by the actions themselves but by our response to them? This reminds me of a game my kids like to play sometimes called let's see what we can get away with. It's a dangerous game. You have to find the line with out crossing it. To make things more difficult, the line moves. Sooner or later somebody steps across it and ends up in the corner or their room.

    SFC W

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    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    Are you seriously saying that these are not irrational?
    SFC W
    Taking them in order:

    US Embassy, Tehran.

    Largely fueled by the standard hyper-enthusiasm of the early revolutionary stage, this helped to undermine the government of then (relatively moderate) Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan, and helped to strengthen and ultimately consolidate the power of the hardline revolutionaries in the new regime—thus paving the way for the establishment of the Islamic Republic in its present form. In terms of domestic politics, therefore, it paid off well. Also encouraged other Islamist radicals in the region.

    USMC Barracks and US Embassy, Beirut, Lebanon.

    Led to US eventual withdrawal from Lebanon, and removed a critical prop of what was seen as the pro-Israeli government of President Amin Gemayil. Ultimately hastened the collapse of the May 17 (1983) Agreement between Israel and Lebanon, substantially benefitting Iran's Syrian ally. Today, Hizbullah is by far the largest and most influential single political party in Lebanon. From Tehran's point-of-view, an immensely successful set of attacks.

    Khobar Towers, Dahran, Saudi Arabia.

    Complicated one, for a variety of reasons I'll pass.

    cross-border crap the Qods Force of the IRGC has executed in iraq against US and British troops?

    US forces in Iraq are seen by Tehran as a fundamental national security threat, much as Iranian forces in Montreal would be seen in Washington (although at -19 C, I suspect its a bit cold for them today). US casualties have weakened US public support for presence in Iraq, and provision of material support has somewhat strengthened Iranian influence with JAM/Sadr. Has also signaled Iran's ability to retaliate against any US attacks against Iran by targeting US troops in Iraq. Khatemi and Rafsanjani factions argue, in any case, this policy is largely due to Washington's failure to reach a strategic agreement/grand bargain with Iran in 2003.


    I'm not arguing that I think all of these were, on balance, the best possible moves for Iran given the costs of international isolation, etc. However, I certainly don't think they were particularly irrational options.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffC View Post
    Having nuclear weapons doesn't make a nation stronger, because no one can use them without becoming an international pariah - and that's the best case scenario.
    Like Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

    Or what about the implied threat of their use - as caused Nikita K. to pull Soviet missiles out of Cuba (of course we pulled our short range missiles out of Turkey - but that was well after the Russian's had to back down and go home with theirs).

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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffC View Post
    Having nuclear weapons doesn't make a nation stronger, because no one can use them without becoming an international pariah - and that's the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is Israel launches on Iran. Russia launches on Israel. The U.S. launches on Russia. Russia and China launch on the U.S. And the world as we know it is over.
    I am guessing that the way that Israelis see it is that it is better to be an international pariah than to be annihilated by one's enemies. I would tend to agree. In any case your worst case scenario seems a bit far fetched.

    SFC W

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