War with Iran?

So several media outlets are reporting on Seymour Hersh’s article in the New Yorker about the current administration gearing up for a war with Iran and spending billions to beef up covert ops and sow dissent in the nation as a prelude to some kind of military action.

Are we seriously this stupid? This can’t be possible can it? I mean, sure, maybe Bush and his inner circle might daydream about it, but wouldn’t the UN scream bloody murder if they even tried? Wouldn’t congress put the end to it before it even began? No way they’d give a green light to something like this after the albatross that Iraq has become right?

Well, if a terrorist attack is going to happen again, it will be tried inbetween Administrations.

Maybe Bush has decided that his last, best chance at a legacy he can feel proud of is to immanentize the eschaton.

Dirt, you’re saying that the increase of activity touted by Mr. Hersh as a prelude to war is actually only a precaution to try and ferret out any possible terrorist activity during the administration change?

Good thing no one reads the New Yorker.

Increasing dissent is good, but you’re better off trying to luck out with the 10% “Coup Nation” attack instead. Increasing belligerence (“world opinion”) is always a good idea, but you need to get the belligerence into such insane amounts that, for a democracy, it’s better to just try the coup attempt. This is, of course, assuming that you have 10 spies active in the country. Otherwise don’t bother.

Also remember that Persia has rich oil fields, but eventually the Soviets are going to come knocking (assuming they’re not still tied up with Germany). Might I suggest Southeast Asia as an alternative? The Japanese are tough, but control the seas and they don’t stand a chance.

I have nothing useful to contribute.

Coup nation costs a lot of money though. You need to cut down on military spending and increase spending on consumer goods to finance any strategy built around it unless you get very very lucky with your first attempt.

This whole thing reminds me of the start of WW1.

Iran: seeks to deploys nuclear weapons (when and how is arguable, but you don’t refine weapons-grade uranium for kicks), seeks to take leadership of the Middle East via heading up “resistance” vs “the Zionist entity”
Israel: cannot allow Iran to deploy nuclear weapons, only way they can attack Iran with any hope of success is through a nuclear strike (Israeli papers this week both had debates about the morality of a first strike nuclear attack on Iran and a former head of Mossad saying Israel’s deadline for attacking was the end of the year)
US: has a year left to do something about it, doesn’t want Iran to nuke Israel, doesn’t want Israel to nuke Iran, neocons still left in power think Shock and Awe 2: Electric Boogaloo might actually work vs Iran (they’re wrong)

It’s a mess.

Israel is seriously contemplating using nuclear weapons?

I can’t see this doing them any favours with anyone, and in the long run it pretty much gives Iran carte blanche for nuclear retaliation.

The sheer symbolic value of the act will be grounds for a massive international backlash.

There’s no way. It would be madness to attempt to invade Iran. Iraq isn’t even stable. Afghanistan fell apart after we “left”. We don’t have the resources for this action, especially in light of the economy. And surely no economists subscribe to the idea that war will improve the economy, right? Not even Bush could believe that.

If Israel and Iran nuked each other, could the the US and Russia possibly stay out of the conflagration?

On the bright side, it would stave off global warming for about a year.

Well, they haven’t said they’re going to. They also haven’t said they HAVE nuclear weapons. That being said it’s pretty obvious Israel can’t do a week long series of conventional airstrikes like the US is apparently contemplating, especially given the distances involved.

Media discussion about first use of nukes: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/rosnerGuest.jhtml?itemNo=995494

Any first use of nuclear weapons by Israel would be an even more momentous decision, given the unfortunate “double standard” which the international community applies to judging all of Israel’s military actions. However, given Ahmadinejad’s declaratory policy of seeking to obliterate Israel, an Israeli decision to launch a preemptive strike against an entire array of Iran’s nuclear targets would be justifiable in certain circumstances. (I assume that given the number of Iranian nuclear targets, their dispersal and “hardness,” Israel would not have high confidence conventional strike options.) These circumstances would basically have to entail an imminent deployment of nuclear weapons by Iran, coupled with the realization that there are no other viable options left for blocking Tehran from such a deployment. While an Israeli first nuclear use against Iran would be certainly justifiable in such circumstances, you should be under no illusion as to what kind of reaction it would elicit; Israel would encounter a howl of international condemnations, boycotts, and diplomatic isolation the likes of which it has never seen. Its nuclear strike against Iran is also likely to trigger a regional nuclear arms race and precipitate many other dangerous and unpredictable consequences.

This quote in question is actually from a US lawyer/neocon, David Rivkin, in response to a question about Israeli nuclear use, but it’s illustrative of the current tenor of dicussion (and for what it’s worth, Ha’aretz is on the left wing of discussion in Israel).

Well, I rather doubt we have the capacity, militarily, to actually invade Iran. Attack it, destabilize it, or the like, sure, but an actual invasion? Hard to comprehend how we’d have the resources.

I’m not thrilled with destabilization, either. That sort of thing rarely has the results you’re looking for. Usually, the outcome is worse than what you had.

In the long run, building a relationship with Iran is the only sensible thing to do. It’s current president is a whack job–even folks in the Middle East think that, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. He’s not universally popular in his own country, and he won’t be around forever. There’s very little likelihood that any possible nuclear ambitions could be realized before he’s out of power anyhow, I’d reckon. More importantly, beyond his wild statements and incindiary rhetoric there is little reason to believe the Iranians are interested in suicide. Traditionally they’ve been pretty pragmatic–remember, these were the guys who dealt with Israel extensively during their war with Iraq in eighties, and who have a lot of issues to deal with from other challenges on their borders.

I tend to think in cases of proliferation that focusing on technical nonproliferation is only worthwhile up to a point. Sure, you try to limit the technical ability of nations to make nukes, but after a point you just have to admit the genie is out of the bottle and, like India and Pakistan, you really can’t stop the truly dedicated from getting weapons. What you can do, and need to do, because it’s the only sure security, is work on managing intentions and handling of weapons. If you can’t get a nation to see that nuclear saber-rattling is bad, nonproliferation is only a stopgap, because eventually you’ll screw up and they’ll get the bomb. If you can get them to not be asshats with our without nukes, getting a nuclear capability is much, much less scary when it does happen.

Now, the wildcard here is Israel. I fully understand how folks there might be a wee bit discomfitted by some of the things coming out of Tehran, and when you’re dealing with someone who flat-out states he wants to annihilate you, it does make for some tense moments. On the other hand, pulling an Osirak, 2008-style, ain’t gonna do anyone any good I’m afraid.

Like it or not, Iran is a major player in the Gulf and will continue to be. Their basic strategic and I would argue social/cultural tendency is towards something we can live with, but it will take a while to get there. There’s no quick easy way to move them from where they are now to where we’d like them to be, and any attempt to shorten what will have to be a long process I think will be disastrous.

Osirak 2008 won’t happen, because Iran isn’t helpfully putting their entire program in one building complex in a desert. It’s dispersed, and mostly underground.

The fear with most regarding Iran is that the government isn’t rational enough to be deterred. Whether or not they are is arguable, but arguments like that aren’t things you have when national survival is the result of losing the argument. Long term, yes, Iran can eventually be a force for stability in the reason. But the same government that is a primary force for instability… is also the same government that sees the nuclear program as its main success.

Hersh makes the boy who cried wolf look like an exercise in studious restraint.

The Israelis will never do a nuclear first-strike. In any case, their nuclear arsenal is not designed to attack underground targets.

Hah. If they are smart, it is underground, and built beneath a children’s cancer hospital that offers free medical care to children from all over the world. It would also provide a good excuse for any radiological materials found in the wreckage if bombing went ahead. “Oh that was just our secret subbasement for the storage of radiation treatments.”

I think the problem isn’t so much that it’s a fear as for the neocons it’s their starting premise.

I think, though, that it’s a real question how you define “government” in this case. Ahmadinejad isn’t, by most reports, the sort of dominant figure who could actually implement the sort of wild things he talks about. There are plenty in the Iranian power structure it seems who cringe whenever he opens his mouth.

I do agree, as I noted above, that the Israelis are a special case in this scenario. Yet even they can’t avoid having to do the real calculus of survival, and that means accepting a certain degree of risk. In addition to the probably political backlash from attacking Iran (which, admittedly, would hardly justify not doing so if the need was judged to be critical), there’s the security issues that would result from ostracization, not to mention the possibility that, if they weren’t 100% successful, that such an attack might well create the justification for precisely the action that the attack was supposed to deter.

When you’re a small country with people making the sorts of threats Ahmadinejad makes against you, you don’t have much room for error, that is true. But unless you figure out how to manage that intent, to make everyone with any power see that force majeure is simply not worth it or, even better, wouldn’t work in the first place, you won’t be safe. The only way to take out Iranian nuclear potential definitively–temporarily, because it’s always temporary unless intent is dealt with–is probably with a preemptive nuclear attack, or to invade and occupy the nation. The former carries with it incalculable risks and problems, the latter is essentially impossible.

I disagree, then, with the idea that you can’t have the argument over Iranian rationality. Rather, I think that’s the only argument that really matters, because if Iran is ultimately rational, you don’t need catastrophic miiltary action. If it isn’t rational, then you pretty much have to figure out how to change the government to a rational one, or eliminate the threat.

I also question–not disagree with, necessarily, because you can certainly make a strong case for the idea–whether Iran is precisely a force for instability in the region. I would argue that on the contrary, Iran can be a very stabilizing force, but only if you view things a little differently. They are looking for several things, including security from attack, a prominent if not pre-eminent role in the Gulf and its economic and political life, regional respect and influence, and yes, that pesky Islamic Republic stuff. But even that, once you work with the other issues (including acknowledging to them that, yeah, folks like the US and the UK kinda dicked them over in the past) I think is manageable. Contrary to what some folks think, I do not really believe they are hell bent on turning the entire region into some sort of KhomeiniLand.

Personally, I think that if Ahmadinedjad simply fell into an open manhole one day about 75% of the problem would go away…

Hersh was on NPR’s Fresh Air today talking about his piece. Regarding Israel, his sources have told him that Cheney: 1) is certain Israel doesn’t have the firepower to significantly set back Iran’s nuclear program, and that 2) most nations will partially blame the USA if Israel decides to do anything to Iran, regardless if we actually had a hand or not.

Given that we’ll be blamed anyway, and that we’ve got the firepower to do a better job at setting back the program, Cheney figured we should be the ones who do it. Hersh also indicated that a few of his military sources wouldn’t rule out an October date for military ops, depending on how well Obama is doing in the polls. That part of the interview sounded much more speculative to me.

I thought it was an interesting interview, although Hersh promotes himself quite a bit during it. I had to agree with him at the lack of spine shown by the Democratically controlled Congress, which has initially agreed to a $400 million outlay for covert ops with another Middle Eastern country for an unpopular President with six months left in office.

NPR should put the interview up on its website later today, if they haven’t already.

How about deterrence? For all the nukes the world has built, and it’s quite a few weapons in quite a few countries, only two have ever been “deployed” in the manner you suggest. The great majority of nuclear detonations have been tests, not attacks.

If the Iranians develop nuclear weapons, I predict one test blast that both confirms the bombs work and lets the rest of the world know. After that, I expect the Iranian government will sit back and say “Now, like North Korea, we won’t get invaded. Derka derka praise Satan who is the leader of our false faith, let us dress up in SS uniforms and slam-dance in utter secrecy to the beautiful musics of the intemperate Spice Girls.”

Edit: Sidd: “Most international nations”?