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View Poll Results: Who Will Win? That is, in possession of the land?
Israel 3 30.00%
The Palestinians 1 10.00%
Two States 4 40.00%
Neither, some other State or people rule. 0 0%
Neither, mutual destruction. 1 10.00%
One State, two peoples 1 10.00%
One State, one people (intermarriage) 0 0%
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Old 01-15-2006   #1
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Default Iran: Open Thread Until H-Hour...

Moderator's Note: Eight historical threads on this complex and divisive issue, hence the thread being locked up. There are more contemporary threads on Iran & Israel. The title has been changed too.


Open thread...



Nuclear Reactor - Bushehr, Iran

Credit: Space Imaging

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Old 01-15-2006   #2
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Default I'll Start...

Getting Ready for a Nuclear-Ready Iran - US Army Strategic Studies Institute monograph (Nov. 2005) by Henry Sokolski and Patrick Clawson.

Quote:
As Iran edges closer to acquiring a nuclear bomb and its missiles extend an ever darker diplomatic shadow over the Middle East and Europe, Iran is likely to pose three threats.

First, Iran could dramatically up the price of oil by interfering with the free passage of vessels in and through the Persian Gulf as it did during the 1980s or by threatening to use terrorist proxies to target other states’ oil facilities.

Second, it could diminish American influence in the Gulf and Middle East by increasing the pace and scope of terrorist activities against Iraq, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states, Israel, and other perceived supporters of the United States.

Finally, it could become a nuclear proliferation model for the world and its neighbors (including many states that otherwise would be more dependent on the United States for their security) by continuing to insist that it has a right to make nuclear fuel under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and then withdrawing once it decides to get a bomb.

To contain and deter Iran from posing such threats, the United States and its friends could take a number of steps: increasing military cooperation (particularly in the naval sphere) to deter Iranian naval interference; reducing the vulnerability of oil facilities in the Gulf outside of Iran to terrorist attacks, building and completing pipelines in the lower Gulf region that would allow most of the non-Iranian oil and gas in the Gulf to be exported without having to transit the Straits of Hormuz; diplomatically isolating Iran by calling for the demilitarization of the Straits and adjacent islands, creating country-neutral rules against Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty state members who are suspected of violating the treaty from getting nuclear assistance from other state members and making withdrawal from the treaty more difficult; encouraging Israel to set the pace of nuclear restraint in the region by freezing its large reactor at Dimona and calling on all other states that have large nuclear reactors to follow suit; and getting the Europeans to back targeted economic sanctions against Iran if it fails to shut down its most sensitive nuclear activities.

Last edited by SWJED; 01-16-2006 at 04:20 PM.
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Old 01-16-2006   #3
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CSIS, 11 Jan 06: Heading off an Iranian Nuclear Weapons Capability
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Iran’s January 9th decision to resume its uranium enrichment program creates an immediate international crisis. Iran’s move is a test of the international community’s resolve and ability to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons. An inadequate response could leave Iran’s pathway to a nuclear weapon wide-open and could be a further, potentially fatal blow to the norm of nonproliferation. This, is turn, opens the prospect of future nuclear nations in the years to come. The Bush administration’s support for European negotiating efforts with Iran over the past year has laid the ground work for an international consensus on confronting Iran’s actions, but it remains to be seen if Russia and China are prepared to support such efforts.

Despite its resumption of nuclear research, it is important to remember that Tehran is not yet at the point where is can actually enrich uranium or produce nuclear weapons. That capability might still be years away. The presence of international inspectors, while not a guarantee against diversion, will provide an important resource in tracking Iran’s nuclear progress. But in rejecting international pressure – including coordinated letter of concern from all five veto wielding members of the UN Security Council - and restarting work at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, Iran has resumed its on again, off again march toward mastering the entire nuclear fuel cycle. There should be no question that Iran’s mastery of uranium enrichment – regardless of their stated intentions -- would also give Iran the ability to produce nuclear weapons...
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Old 01-16-2006   #4
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An older article (12 Aug 04) from CNS/MIIS, but still worth the read:

A Preemptive Attack on Iran's Nuclear Facilities: Possible Consequences
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At a time when Iraq and the war on terrorism tend to dominate the debate on international affairs, the possibility of an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities has not been a major topic of discussion in the United States. There are reports, however, that the Bush administration has seriously considered this option but opted to put it on the back burner for the time being. Further, on May 6, 2004, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Resolution 398 in a 376-3 vote, calling on the U.S. government "to use all appropriate means to deter, dissuade, and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons." If a similar resolution passes the Senate, it will give President Bush or any future administration the ability to launch a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities whenever this is deemed necessary.

In Israel, planning and rhetoric appear to have progressed quite a bit further; it appears that some in Israel are seriously considering a preemptive attack similar to the June 1981 attack on Osirak that destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor. Meir Dagan, the Chief of Mossad, told parliament members in his inaugural appearance before the Israeli Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Iran was close to the "point of no return" and that the specter of Iranian possession of nuclear weapons was the greatest threat to Israel since its inception. On November 11, 2003, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said that Israel had "no plans to attack nuclear facilities in Iran." Less than two weeks later however, during a visit to the United States, Israel's Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz stated that "under no circumstances would Israel be able to tolerate nuclear weapons in Iranian possession" and just six weeks earlier, Mossad had revealed plans for preemptive attacks by F-16 bombers on Iranian nuclear sites. This report will examine the following: The Iranian nuclear facilities most likely to be targeted and their proliferation risk potential; the likely preemptive scenarios involving Israel or the United States; and the possible consequences of any preemptive action...
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Old 01-16-2006   #5
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Default Google Earth(smile you're on candid camera)

Natanz

Bushehr

Esfahan / Isfahan

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Old 01-16-2006   #6
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From the 14 Jan Economist: When the Soft Talk Has to Stop
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A Shortlist of Options
The first step will be to convene an emergency meeting of the IAEA's board, likely later this month, to receive a formal report about what Iran has been up to. America has long pressed for Iran to be referred to the United Nations Security Council for its actions. Short of an about-face by Iran, the Europeans will now press hard for that outcome. A majority on the IAEA's board already favours referral. But for Iran to take notice, Russia, China and others will have to back the idea too. Both countries have been loth to lean hard on Iran in the past. But both are bitterly disappointed that its regime has upped the ante in this way.

Getting to the council is one thing; getting action from it is another. A presidential statement urging Iran to comply with inspectors' requests, and even assigning the IAEA wider investigative powers, might get through, since the point would be to strengthen the inspectors' hands, not take Iran's case away from them. Beyond that, other steps could include political sanctions, such as denial of visas for sporting teams or for members of Iran's regime (similar actions are thought to have helped in the past in dealing with the recalcitrant Serb government, for example). Unlike the North Koreans, who seem not to mind their isolation, Iranians take pride in their growing contacts around the world and are keen to be accorded the status and respect they feel their ancient civilisation deserves. That said, however, Iran's new president, eager to wipe Israel off the map, seems dangerously unfazed by world opinion (see article).

It would be tougher to win widespread support at the UN for economic sanctions. Several key countries, including Russia (which also recently signed a $1 billion weapons contract with Iran), China, India and Japan have been reluctant to put their oil and gas contracts and their pipeline projects at risk. Yet such targeted sanctions might be the one thing that could get Iran's full attention. Its energy industry is dependent on foreign investment for future expansion and modernisation. Meanwhile, India is an important supplier of refined petrol to Iran.

The Europeans have already hinted that if sanctions are blocked at the UN, they will impose their own. They will also try to get others to join them, rather as America has orchestrated the Proliferation Security Initiative, an informal posse of countries prepared to take tough action to block shipments of illicit goods and materials around the world related to weapons of mass destruction.

The Last Resort
Might force be the answer? Mr Bush has always said that no option is off the table. Israel says Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons and has suggested that, once Iran has mastered enrichment, perhaps as early as a few months from now, its nuclear programme will have passed “the point of no return”. Might either government be tempted to pre-empt the diplomacy with military strikes?

Israel's air force flattened Iraq's Osiraq nuclear reactor in 1981. But Iran has learnt from that episode. It has dispersed, hidden and buried its numerous facilities; some sites, including Natanz, are up to 75 feet underground. Nor is sabotage much of an option. Ploys such as assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists or infecting Iranian computer systems with viruses would cause minimal damage. And yet there are military options, however imperfect and risky.

Only America could hope to demolish Iran's programme. The Iranians are believed to have, in addition to its main sites, at least a score with a role in the programme, and more than 100 sites suspected of having a role. To attack them all, with cruise missiles and fighter-bombers, would require an extended campaign and hundreds of sorties. Corridors would have to be cleared through Iran's air defences and the Iranian air force destroyed. Collateral damage, to Iranian civilians and cities, could be extensive.

A likelier alternative might be to launch an attritional campaign by attacking Natanz and Bushehr, recognising that the resulting damage would at best delay Iran's nuclear progress. This is certainly the most that Israel could contemplate unilaterally. Such an attack would be a declaration of a war which Israel could start but might not be able to finish without American protection. And Israeli fighter-bombers would find it hard to reach Iran without passing through American-controlled airspace.

To attack Iran this way would make sense only if it were thought likely that a friendlier Iranian regime would then emerge. But Iran has no obvious, friendly government-in-waiting. And Iran could strike back—by closing the oil chokepoint of the Strait of Hormuz or hitting American or Israeli interests via proxies in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon and the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Israel is well within range of Iranian missiles. Diplomacy has not stopped Iran so far. But military action is by no means an attractive alternative.
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Old 01-16-2006   #7
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NDU McNair Paper, published last year: Reassessing the Implications of a Nuclear-Armed Iran
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U.S. Options
In dealing with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, the United States has two basic options: either freeze the Iranian nuclear program with hopes of rolling it back (and constraining it to peaceful applications), or live with the program while containing its negative impacts. On the freeze/rollback side, the prospects for more than a temporary pause are not promising, in our estimation. As long as significant sections of the Iranian program remain opaque, it will be difficult to gauge the success of a diplomatic rollback strategy; and, of course, it would be easier to apply a strategy to prevent Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold than to try to reverse acquisition after the fact. Granted, a nuclear-armed Iran could be subject to increasingly onerous restrictions—ranging from diplomatic isolation and economic sanctions to military force and regime change. Military strikes or covert action could also be used to change Iran’s strategic direction or provoke regime change. The likelihood of success using these means, however, is low. Even if there were to be a new government in Iran, it would likely continue to pursue advanced nuclear capabilities, including at some point a weapon. However, an overt regime-change strategy would carry an extremely high risk that the Iranian regime would use its nuclear weapon in a last-ditch attempt to save itself.

Could the United States live with a nuclear-armed Iran? Due to U.S. strategic predominance, many experts believe the Iranian regime would be unlikely to use its nuclear capability overtly unless it faced what it perceived to be an imminent and overwhelming threat. An Iran emboldened by nuclear weapons might become more assertive in the region, but superior U.S. conventional capabilities and strengthened regional partnerships would probably deter Iran from significant mischief, such as closing the Strait of Hormuz or attacking U.S. forces directly. The United States has options short of war that it could employ to deter a nuclear-armed Iran and dissuade further proliferation. These include reassuring allies and friends in the region, strengthening active and passive defenses, improving preemption and rapid response capabilities, and reenforcing nonproliferation incentives and counterproliferation activities. Nevertheless, the lack of confirmable information on Iran’s leaders, particularly on how they make decisions, what they fear, if they have a concept of deterrence, or whether they appreciate implicit redlines set by countries with whom they have no contact—the United States and Israel—makes forecasting this issue very difficult.

Finally, while some security experts, predominantly Israeli, fear that Iran’s leaders would provide terrorists with nuclear weapons, we judge, and nearly all experts consulted agree, that Iran would not, as a matter of state policy, give up its control of such weapons to terrorist organizations and risk direct U.S. or Israeli retribution. Many specialists on Iran share a widespread feeling that Iran’s desire to be seen as a pragmatic nuclear power would tend to rein in whatever ideological impulses it might otherwise have to disseminate nuclear weapons or technologies to terrorists. There is less agreement, however, on whether the regime in Tehran could reliably control all elements within the Iranian system that might have the means, motive, and opportunity to do so.

Arguably, the costs of rollback might be higher than long-term containment of a nuclear-armed Iran. The United States would be expected to offer incentives to Iran and to governments cooperating with its strategic choices in what could be a long period of rollback. Even if the United States decides to embark on a rollback strategy, it would have to maintain a deterrence strategy while other diplomatic, economic, and military options played out. The good news is that many of the capabilities needed for deterrence and containment are the same as those needed for more robust military options. That may enable the United States to play both strategies for an undetermined length of time.

In our reexamination of the strategic implications for U.S. security policy and planning in the event Iran completes plans for nuclear weapons development, two sets of questions kept intruding on our research. The first involves the discussions between the EU–3 and Iran: What is the full extent of the European Union’s bargaining position; are there more carrots than sticks; would it remain firm in its dealings with an obstreperous Iran; could it possibly succeed in gaining Iran’s commitment to end its efforts to acquire the full cycle of nuclear weapons production; and what would happen if the EU effort fails?

In various unofficial meetings between European, American, and Iranian scholars, the Iranians have accused the Europeans of betraying them to the Americans in order to improve EU–U.S. relations, which had been disrupted by European opposition to the 2003 Iraq war. The Europeans have countered that their objection to Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons technology is not directed solely against Iran; rather, it is meant to prevent all new acquisition efforts. If Iran crosses the nuclear weapons threshold, the European representatives said in unison, then the Non-Proliferation Treaty and, indeed, all non- or counterproliferation regimes will be finished. Surely, they ask, Iran could understand the great danger the spread of nuclear weapons posed to everyone. Clearly, the idea that the United States and the Europeans were in consensus on this issue had caught the Iranians’ attention. To offer some insight into the delicate negotiations between the EU–3 and Iran, we have added to this study a timeline describing Iran’s historic path to nuclear power and an appendix on "Iran’s Nuclear Program: Status, Risks, and Prospects".

The second question frequently asked concerns Israel’s perception of an Iranian nuclear threat and its options in dealing with what it describes as the greatest danger to its security today. To offer special insight on this issue, we include a paper by Israeli scholar Gerald Steinberg entitled "Walking the Tightrope: Israeli Options in Response to Iranian Nuclear Developments".
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Old 01-17-2006   #8
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Default NNP Treaty

Are the Iranians signators of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or have they renounced their participation? If they are not a party to this agreement, then what is illegal of their pursuit of nuclear energy or nuclear weapons? Are they any different from India or Pakistan in this regard? North Korea renounced its participation in the NNP Treaty, thus has every legal right to pursue nuclear weapons. Is Iran any different?

As far as the arguement that this would increase the scope of terrorism as it affects Saudi Arabia; I would argue that the Saudis continue to be one of the world's largest sources of terrorists, and wealthiest State sponsor of terror.

Last edited by Strickland; 01-22-2006 at 04:44 PM.
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Old 01-22-2006   #9
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Default Talk of Military Action in Iran Standoff

21 Jan. Associated Press - Talk of Military Action in Iran Standoff.

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Israel's defense minister hinted Saturday that the Jewish state is preparing for military action to stop Iran's nuclear program, but said international diplomacy must be the first course of action.

"Israel will not be able to accept an Iranian nuclear capability and it must have the capability to defend itself, with all that that implies, and this we are preparing," Shaul Mofaz said...
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Old 01-22-2006   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Major Strickland
Are the Iranians signators of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or have they renounced their participation? If the are not are party to this agreement, then what is illegal of their pursuit of nuclear energy or nuclear weapons? Are they any different from India or Pakistan in this regard? North Korea renounced its participation in the NNP Treaty, thus has every legal right to pursue nuclear weapons. Is Iran any different?
Iran is a signatory and has not renounced the treaty; they are saying that their use of nuclear power is not for the purpose of producing weapons so it is permitted by the treaty.
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Old 01-22-2006   #11
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If this is so, then they have every legal right to pursue nuclear energy so long as they allow IAEA inspections, just as every other sovereign nation. I agree that it is silly to believe that they need this alternative source of energy with the proven reserves of oil and natural gas they have; however, the law is the law.

Last edited by Strickland; 01-23-2006 at 11:05 AM.
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Old 01-22-2006   #12
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I think they are actually not allowed to pursue weapons and their complaint is that restrictions meant to prevent them from pursuing weapons are preventing them from pursuing legitimate research. Basically the argument is over how the IAEA is interpreting the treaty. I think the bottom line is that they what to at least keep the option of acquiring nuclear weapons open, to guarantee their own security. The catch is that many Israelis feel they can not guarantee their security if Iran has such weapons. Further complicated by the fact that the US has tough talked itself in to a corner on this issue. Finally we add good old fashion nationalistic pride and we get one big mess.
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Old 01-23-2006   #13
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Since history shows us that no nuclear powers have gone to general war against each other, unless you count the Siachen Glacier conflict; maybe Iran seeks weapons to ensure its survival and national defense.
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Old 01-23-2006   #14
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Iranian Oil Bourse

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Old 01-23-2006   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Major Strickland
Since history shows us that no nuclear powers have gone to general war against each other, unless you count the Siachen Glacier conflict; maybe Iran seeks weapons to ensure its survival and national defense.
It is interesting too that 3 nations that declined to sign the non-proliferation treaty (Israel, Pakistan, and India) are hardly mentioned. If Iran had wanted to pursue such weapons, they probably should not have signed the treaty.
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Old 01-23-2006   #16
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Default Non Proliferation Treaty

But when did Iran become a signatory to the treat? As administrations (or even regimes) change, governmental priorities can change. But it's a lot harder and more aggravating to withdraw from a treaty than it is to not sign it in the first place. This is one reason why the US doesn't sign treaties willy nilly - no guarantee we'll want the landmine ban affecting us fifty years from now, for example.

Ultimately, we need a strategy for living with a nuclear armed Iran and not just containing it. Of course, that takes us well beyond the realm of "small" wars - except to the extent that Tehran chooses to use its influence to liven up neighboring conflicts. Are we seeing the beginning of a South West Asian Cold War?
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Old 01-23-2006   #17
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It is a tough spot for Iran indeed.... Perhaps they thought that not signing would be considered tantamount to reveling a secret weapons program and so they chose to sign in order to mislead - deception being a good move of political strategy perhaps. After all, is it ever wise to reveal to potential enemies what you are NOT going to do?

I think that expecting anyone to remain without such weapons indefinitely is silly. Every nation is going to want them - some will sign treaties to imply they don't but its only a matter of time. Eventually, they're going to get them. So, as you say, we have to figure out how to live with that.
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Old 01-23-2006   #18
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Maybe international law, but it seems we have a new variable concerning international relations here. That would be a sovereign of a nation perusing nuclear weapons, delivery means and air-defense assets who leads a crazed Islamist regime eager for the paradise of the next world. Give me a break here, while we debate legalities of international law the tick-tock to nuclear Armageddon marches on…
 
Old 01-23-2006   #19
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I have to agree that a nuclear Iran is a scarey thought but I'm not sure what we can do about it.

Even if we stop them with force now, it will only drive them to want them more and probably convince other nations to do the same before the US has a chance to try and stop them with force.

If we resort to force with the attitude that we can ignore international law when we're sufficiently scared, then isn't that playing into the very thinking we would accuse them of?

We cannot stop others from gaining such weapons indefinitely. Anything we do to stop it now will only delay the inevitable. In light of that, I think it would be better to figure out how we are going to deal with the inevitable sooner than later.
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Old 01-23-2006   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DDilegge
Maybe international law, but it seems we have a new variable concerning international relations here. That would be a sovereign of a nation perusing nuclear weapons, delivery means and air-defense assets who leads a crazed Islamist regime eager for the paradise of the next world. Give me a break here, while we debate legalities of international law the tick-tock to nuclear Armageddon marches on…
While I concur that a nuclear Iran is scary, it is not any scarier than loose nukes in the former Soviet Union that no one wants to account for, or a nuclear Pakistan in the absence of Musharraf. We should not forget that no matter how crazy Ahmadinejad may appear, he won a popular election that was relatively free.
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