Monday, February 13, 2006

The week in review

Winds of Change has a superlative roundup of news related to international conflict around the world. It's a huge canvas, but a number of subthemes can be highlighted. The first point of interest is the attempt by Russia to rehabilitate Hamas to clear the way for renewed funding from Europe and perhaps even the United States.

The idea behind this is to get the "peace process" back on its track to nowhere by transforming Hamas into a respectable "partner for peace". Both Iran and Syria have historically sabotaged the any possibility of a peace agreement between the Palestinians and Israel for strategic reasons; Iran because it sees peace as a victory for the United States aimed at frustrating the goal of destroying Israel and Syria because a comprehensive agreement will mean Tel Aviv will be free to deal with Damascus; and Damascus is too weak to deal with an undistracted Israel. They've done this by sponsoring terrorist organizations which, when not rivaling Fatah, broke as many ceasefires as possible to keep the pot boiling. Probably nobody in the region except the Palestinians, the Americans and the Israelis actually want a peace agreement. The Palestinian cause is a milking cow of the first order. Supporting the Palestinian struggle provided a source of legitimacy for otherwise illegitimate regimes and an alibi for soliciting money from the oil-rich countries of the Gulf. Palestinians were always far too useful as martyrs to be allowed to become prosperous citizens. But now the danger is that both Syria and Iran have done their work so well that the Israelis may be losing their faith in Roadmap for Peace -- despite the eau the cologne sprinkled spread by Russia and France on Hamas.

Ironically this may encourage what no one really wants -- a regional war -- not only from despair over the Palestinian problem but by the seemingly unstoppable Iranian drive to acquire a nuclear weapon. An imminent Iranian nuclear weapon would come close to realizing Saddam Hussein's greatest fear: an Iranian-driven empowerment of Shi'ite communities throughout Middle East. So great was that fear it made Saddam launch a pre-emptive war on Teheran in 1980, calculating he could destroy Teheran before it's superior potential could be mobilized. Where Jimmy Carter hesitated to pursue a rescue of US hostages the Iraqi dictator had no compunctions in starting the Iran-Iraq war, which was fought to a draw. Now, with a Shi'ite majority government in Iraq, Syria being pushed out of Lebanon and the possibility of an Iranian bomb, Saddam's old fear is close to coming true.

The Winds of Change stories that speak to this issue are:

Al-Qaeda continues its attempts to export terrorism outside the region, direct to America, Europe and other parts of the world. But unlike Hezbollah which could claim it had driven Israel from Lebanon, Zarqawi has little to show for his vaunted insurgency except a lot of videos of beheaded women and Asian contract workers. His Sunnis voted to join an American-sponsored government. And now, despite the odd bomb, his insurgency is old news.

Commentary

The most interesting thing about rogue regimes and terrorist organizations is their ability to form tactical alliances against a common enemy despite daily murderous competition against each other. Jordan might expel hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, Syria jail Yasser Arafat, Iraq and Iran expend half a million lives fighting each other and yet coalesce to unite against Israel and the Danish cartoons.  Through the 80s and 90s the United States tried to manage this toxic stew using diplomacy, sanctions and multilateral action. But after September 11 it decided to acquire what it heretofore lacked: a ground presence in the Middle East and a ready source of proxy combatants of its own. In a way OIF was a buy-out of the Saddam Hussein concern as a way of entering the market.

It would be natural if America also started playing both ends against the Middle. Austin Bay speculated in March 2005 that after Operation Iraqi Freedom Syria might be "next". Why? Possibly to attempt on a regional scale what occurred in Iraq: to disequilibrate balances so that all sides become dependent on America for survival. The stakes are at an all-time high. The Palestinian game may now be at a dead end. Without any real prospects for peace the Arab countries face the possibility that Israel will abandon the search for a negotiated settlement and draw the sword. Saudi Arabia together with Turkey are nervously eyeing Iran as it reaches for nuclear weapons, one from a sense of religious rivalry and the other out of a sense of national danger. Neither wants to see Iran become the regional hegemon. Yet everyone fears the steps that may be taken to prevent it. There has been widespread speculation on the feasibility of Israeli air strikes on Iranian uranium enrichment facilities. But the really effective pressure on Iran will involve what nobody even wants to think about: as Saddam Hussein demonstrated in the Iraq-Iran war, coercing Teheran involves blockading its oil exporting facilities and igniting a naval war the Persian Gulf. One of the most innocuous news items in the Winds of Change roundup is really the most telling.

  • Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami warned on Saturday that world oil prices would rise if the United Nations imposes sanctions on Tehran, saying “the price of each barrel of oil is 70 dollars and this high price has created many difficulties for the industrialised world. The first effect of a sanction against Iran will be that this high price will even increase higher.”

62 Comments:

Blogger Goesh said...

Cash and nukes, a mullah's dream come true. Once armed with nukes and the coffers filling with money from Chinese energy contracts, they can pretty much do what they want - sort of like bringing a sawed-off shotgun to a street fight when the opponents have brass knuckles and switchblades. Let's get real - the West is powerless over the current assault on freedom of expression, let alone being able to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

2/13/2006 05:49:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

I got news for Mr. Mahmud and the rest the Islamic and Russian mafiosis. Should the US will it, the price of oil will be at $5 a barrel. The only reason oil prices are this high, is so as to shore up the Canuckistani economy. Canuckistan happens to be the US's largest trading partner.

2/13/2006 06:30:00 AM  
Blogger Blogonaut said...

Looking ahead, isn't the really interesting question here how will Saudi Arabia deal with an aggressive, nuclear armed Iran? Will there be some sort of cooperation between Wahabbis and Shiites to the detriment of the West, or will the Saudis be backed into an alliance with the sole remaining superpower?

2/13/2006 06:32:00 AM  
Blogger Seismic said...

In the end nuclear weapons will do nothing for Iran. Use them and it will give the west an excuse to eliminate Iran once and for all.

2/13/2006 06:34:00 AM  
Blogger Jamie Irons said...

Wretchard:

seismic wrote:

In the end nuclear weapons will do nothing for Iran. Use them and it will give the west an excuse to eliminate Iran once and for all...

It is often said these days that our stuggle with Islami(ists?) goes back more that a thousand years, but isn't it true that our (the West's) struggle with Iran (Persia) goes back two and a half millennia?

Wasn't it the conflict between a Democratic Athens and a tyrannical Persian Empire that started it off?

Jamie Irons

2/13/2006 06:53:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Completely aside from the immediate concerns, the overall issue is what is the driving force behind actions by countries such as France and Russia.
Are they really seeking to help "aid stability" - that eternal diplomatic goal that the U.S. has come to renounce, at least to a degree?
Are they merely pursuing their short term interests? Or perhaps certain people's personal interests?
Are they simply acting like Russians and French do, with cold calculation but without much real thought?
Or is it the first few dance steps in a new edition of The Great Game?

2/13/2006 07:02:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

Israel and the US made it clear they will not tolerate Iran with nuclear weapons. I would take that as a starting position for any comments to be made on the topic.

Israel has the capacity to terminate Iran's nuclear weapons drive. What it does not have a capacity to do, is limit the danger to gulf oil shipping lanes posed from Iranian shores. That is where the US and her allies come in.

2/13/2006 07:05:00 AM  
Blogger raymondshaw said...

I think they are over-playing the oil card.

In a regional conflict, oil prices will likely increase. They have already tripled in the last 5 years. Doesn't seem to have hurt the US economy all that much. Say the price of oil doubles again and the US economy slides into a recession. So what. The business cycle still exists, another recession is as certain as night following day. Will be far less traumatic than the depression that would follow a nuclear attack on a US or European city & subsequent conflagration. We
need to bite the bullet and get her done.

2/13/2006 07:05:00 AM  
Blogger DaveK said...

Since Iran has all the appearances of being starved for hard currencies, I often wonder just how much of a threat their oil-weapon might be... and to whom.

Were Iran to withdraw their oil from the market, they would be unable to pay off the internal corruption that now exists in that country. Nor would they have any recourse other than brutal supression to control dissent. Considering how fragile their internal control appears, at times, to be, this has all the earmarks of a first step to regieme collapse.

And the industrial West, particularly the United States, would suffer a little under such an embargo, but the West has the resiliance and capital underpinnings that would enable it to survive and again prosper. Yes, our way of life would be disrupted. Yes, we might again be forced to endure lines at the gas stations. But it would also spur the development of alternative energy sources that would then be cost-competitive.

Simply, the West would grumble, suffer some economically, but would pay the price to keep the oil flowing. But not so the less-developed world... Even at $30 per barrel, oil was eating up the gross national product of many little countries. For them, oil at $100 or more per barrel would be simply catastrophic. Even now, I suspect that the $60 barrels are taking a big bite out of the national vitality of many little corners of the world. How can you prosper when you cannot even afford the cost of basic necessities? What do you do when the cost of imported energy is larger than the rest of your economy?

2/13/2006 07:08:00 AM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

In 1976, in my idealistic youth, some friends and I printed bumper stickers that read “Oil $UCK$”. We handed them out at gas stations. It was the closest thing I ever did to protesting. I started studying alternate means of energy production, in particular ethanol. It was a path that led to a life long interest in engineering, but at some point, I lost my way. Now I am here to witness, 30 years later; “Oil $UCK$. Nothing has changed, except that the threat of nuclear destruction has loomed more real.

2/13/2006 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger Starling David Hunter said...

Wretchard said: "In a way OIF was a buy-out of the Saddam Hussein concern as a way of entering the market."

Agreed. And, I might add, this is not entry with the intent of being one of many players in a competitive market. This is entry with the intent of becoming a monopolist. Defanging Iran and destabilizing Syria are meant to achieve the US and its allies in the region a monopoly on large scale violence and, perhaps, to make prohibitive the costs of the small.

2/13/2006 07:16:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

The NYT editorial board does not set policy. For that matter neither does the State Department so what you read in the newspaper or see on CBS has no more to do with the direction of possible outcomes than this post.

The blowback from taking out Iran's nuke building facilities would be huge. Disruption of global oil supples for an unknown period of time with a negative effect on the gloabal economy. All out war against Israel by at least Syria, Hezbullah and Hamas with the assumed use of biological or chemical weapons. There will not be an opportunity to cry uncle and go back to the starting line this time, so for the Palestinian and related explode-a-dopes survival only comes with victory. I think we have to assume that the Muslim population across Europe is, in fact, a fifth column that will attack civilian centers.

Add to that whatever mischief the Russians, Chinese and N. Koreans will cook up, to name a few, and there is a very strong argument for putting off armed intervention against Iran for as long as possible. The future is as uncertain for them as it is for us. Assad could get taken down in a coup leaving Iran's entire Western flank more vulnerable than it is now. Sabotage or accident could wreck the mullah's plans. Who knows?

Of course one risk is waiting too long and suffering an even worse outcome. That's certainly possible and it would not be the first time in living memory either.

2/13/2006 07:37:00 AM  
Blogger fastfoodnationalist said...

Mika and others:

"I got news for Mr. Mahmud and the rest the Islamic and Russian mafiosis. Should the US will it, the price of oil will be at $5 a barrel. The only reason oil prices are this high, is so as to shore up the Canuckistani economy. Canuckistan happens to be the US's largest trading partner."

im unfamiliar with this aspect of the oil market - does this imply there is more spare production capacity than is usually discussed? I had thought production, at least in saudi arabia, was at full production? if this drop in price is garnered from a huge increase in production, where does the capacity lie? is it on the grid presently ready to enter the market at the flip of a switch?

Back before OIF, i recall the FT explaining how rises in oil prices preceded every global recession. Is there something different about our globe presently that would preclude this event in the 21st century?

2/13/2006 07:42:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

Kinch: ..is it on the grid presently ready to enter the market at the flip of a switch?

Short answer, Yes. The US is sitting on the second largest oil reserve next to one in KSA. I've been speculating for a long time here about the state of the oil production industry in Iraq. We know it was in a decrepit state during Saddam's time. You're now how long post that era?! Btw, the cost of oil extraction is about $4 a barrel.

2/13/2006 07:53:00 AM  
Blogger diabeticfriendly said...

to help start this war....

I am going to the grocery store and buy at 3 dollars a gallon some very nice canola oil...

all which will go directly into my diesel tank....

mixed with 10-30% of diesel i shall pay more per gallon for my fuel

f**k opec...

2/13/2006 07:56:00 AM  
Blogger Karridine said...

"We are not fighting you to get anything from you. We are not fighting you to get you to do anything. We are fighting you to enslave or eliminate you." al-Qaeda spokesman

Nazis, the Chosen Race
Muslims, the Chosen Religion...

...its in the Koran!

2/13/2006 08:03:00 AM  
Blogger gmat said...

peterboston says

"Of course one risk is waiting too long and suffering an even worse outcome. That's certainly possible and it would not be the first time in living memory either."

just finished my morning Spengler who said the same thing, but a little more emphatically.

"But if Washington waits another year to deliver an ultimatum to Iran, the results will be civil war to the death in Iraq, the direct engagement of Israel in a regional war through Hezbollah and Hamas, and extensive terrorist action throughout the West, with extensive loss of American life."

2/13/2006 08:05:00 AM  
Blogger Cobalt Blue said...

Do you think Bush's state of the union address where he warned about oil addiction was partly to prepare for a spike in oil price in the event we blockade Iran? What are the prospects of a blockade, by the way? It seems to me that we could control the Gulf pretty easily, but then I'm not a military guy.

2/13/2006 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger Elam Bend said...

Davek,
Hard currency is the key in Iran. It's the only thing that gives them the ability to make nukes and bluster. If they ever did attempt to use the oil weapon, I would suggest that a naval blockade to start with, and perhaps a few well placed strikes (like our naval attacks of some of their oil derricks in the 1980s). This would atleast make sure that they wouldn't benefit monetarily from high oil prices.
Their economy is so brittle, we should be doing our best to disrupt it any way we can, RIGHT NOW.
They're counting on oil hungry China and Europe from preventing that, but I bet the other oil producing nations would be more than willing to fill the gap.

2/13/2006 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger Eggplant said...

Wretchard said:

"Saddam Hussein's greatest fear: an Iranian-driven empowerment of Shi'ite communities throughout Middle East. So great was that fear it made Saddam launch a pre-emptive war on Teheran in 1980, calculating he could destroy Teheran before it's superior potential could be mobilized."

I beieve Saddam launched the 1980 war because he saw Iran (destabilized by the mullah take over) as a target of opportunity. Saddam's later take over of Kuwait and intended invasion of Saudi Arabia are evidence that he intended to establish Iraq as a world energy monopoly. He failed in his ambition because he assumed the United States would only respond through futile efforts of diplomacy.

Wretchard also said:

"But the really effective pressure on Iran will involve what nobody even wants to think about: as Saddam Hussein demonstrated in the Iraq-Iran war, coercing Teheran involves blockading its oil exporting facilities and igniting a naval war the Persian Gulf."

This is obvious. Direct attacks against Iran's hardened nuclear facilities are futile. Regime change is unfortunately not a near term possibility. Iran is too big to conquer and occupy. Diplomacy in this case is only useful as a stalling tactic (We need to stall until Iraq is ready!). Economic coercion is the only tool that is left. The sequence of events are predictable:

1) The United States will ask the UN for an economic boycott of Iran but the UN will refuse (individual Security Council members like China will seek private deals with Iran).
2) The United States will blockade the Iranian oil ports with its naval power and attract genuine and proforma criticism from the world including psuedo-allies and our own left.
3) The Iranians will begin sinking supertankers in the Straits of Hormuz using advanced anti-ship cruise missiles that they acquired from China.
4) Effectively all oil shipping from the Persian Gulf will cease causing major world wide economic problems. Criticism of the United States will intensify.
5) China's economy will start to suffer and the Chinese will start playing hard-ball with the United States (Taiwan?).
6) If Iran has weaponized nukes then they'll start to appear at this point.
7) Anything could happen beyond this point... Iran might back down using a Russian face saving formula --or-- the situation could spiral into a regional war.

2/13/2006 09:12:00 AM  
Blogger StargazerA5 said...

While reading this, I was trying to figure out what the motivations of the current Iran supporters were to figure out why they are making the choices they are.

China: Continued access/control of oil reserves it will need later on. Bolstering of it's credibility as a counter-weight to the US.

France: Not 100% sure. Bolstering its image as a US counter-weight makes some sense, but doesn't feel right as the whole picture. Maybe the riots and the comic jihad have them more scared then they have let on?

Russia: Again, the US counter-weight concept comes into play. Additionally, they would be one of the biggest beneficiaries should Iran come under sanctions. First, Russia is a net oil exporter, so a price hike from disruption of Iranian supplies would be in their interest. Second, like with Sadam, they will likely circumvent the sanctions and sell at a large profit. I suspect that Russia will egg Iran on right up to the brink and then very quietly stab them in the back.

The Great Game is still very much in play.

StargazerA5

2/13/2006 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger Meme chose said...

Since as Wretchard observes in this piece success in politics and warfare is nowadays all about posing and justification, we will have each side shouting at each other until one side gets the 'justification' they are looking for.

Then the bangs will begin. The war has already started (and in fact been declared, via the incompatible statements of irreversible commitment from both sides).

In other parts of the world a negotiated settlement might intervene, but that doesn't seem to happen in the Middle East, where the locals apparently prefer getting creamed, vaporized, blown up, etc.

2/13/2006 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger Goesh said...

I think China will trump any attempts at military action. Don't kid yourselves, half of America would be willing to see their women burqas as long as they could continue to buy cheap chinese merchandise at Wal-Mart, and pay less than $3.00 a gallon for gas. When it comes down to fondling Chinese merchandise in Wal-Mart V buying it, you know the outcome. It's called being free.

2/13/2006 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Some whack job Italian artist has an exhibit in Milan on the "preversity of American life." Who cares. Been there. Seen that.

He did do one piece for the exhibit, however, that will land him alongside Mohammed and Ali in Mr. Alighieri's eighth circle. He decapitated my heroine Oriana Fallaci. Unforgiveable.


FrontPage

2/13/2006 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

"But if Washington waits another year to deliver an ultimatum to Iran, the results will be civil war to the death in Iraq, the direct engagement of Israel in a regional war through Hezbollah and Hamas, and extensive terrorist action throughout the West, with extensive loss of American life. There are no good outcomes, only less terrible ones. The West will attack Iran, but only when such an attack will do the least good and the most harm."

Largely because of European - French, German - bad faith opportunism. Russia is not European, but the Ur-Asian despotism. Without military intervention against Iran, Iran will prevail, and we will be defeated in the War on Terrorism, which will then be postponed, eroding American influence, until it is begun again, yet again at the instigation of the now emboldened, now stronger jihadi imagination as represented by the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Salafi imperative in Arabia, and the Muslim Brotherhood's derivations from Egypt to Afghanistan/Pakistan.

Why don't we do ourselves the long-delayed favor of assasinating al-Sadr and attacking Iran simultaneously - or perhaps take an al-Qaeda tactic and, Massoud-style, set up the cordones, off al-Sadr first, then launch the B2s and cruise missiles? Really this cowering in the face of ghetto machismo is getting pathetic in proportion to its danger.

2/13/2006 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Gene Felder said...

There is plenty to worry about regarding the War on Terror, however as you have noted progress is being made.

Many are concerned about the Hamas winning a majority in the Palestinian parliament, but I see a very unusual event in the Middle East. That is a democratic peaceful transfer of government authority.

Very unusual and very hopeful. Perhaps an example to others. President George W. Bush’s strategy is that all this will help safeguard the national security of the United States as the Middle East moves towards accountable democratically elected governments.

Gene Felder
2680 Park Avenue
Laguna Beach CA 92651
Gene@Felders.Net
949-939-7257
www.FelderLaguna.Blogspot.com

2/13/2006 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger Aristides said...

Who to trust?

Should we trust Amir Abbas Fakhravar, who says he speaks for Iranian students and youth?

"We are lacking elementary necessities, schools, hospitals. These are the things we think of as our national interests, not the nuclear program [...]

Please don't ever say that the people of Iran are going to have resentment or anger in their hearts toward America or Western countries for [military action to remove the regime]. That is 100 percent false [...] They think we have nothing to lose and everything to gain with action that, no matter how long the time period, leads to the downfall of this regime. If you overthrow the regime, we will welcome you with open arms and open hearts.


Should we trust Ledeen, when he says:

"The entire region is awash with revolutionary sentiment, and nowhere more than Iran."

Or what about Bernard Lewis, when he says:

"Why do they hate us?" is the wrong question. The question should be "Why do they not fear and respect us?"

Kissinger once said, "The real distinction is between those who adapt their purposes to reality and those who seek to mold reality in the light of their purposes." What is the 'reality', here? What are we working with? How can we know?

But even Kissinger can be wrong. He once said, "And I believe George W. Bush will quickly unite the American people through his foreign policy." Kissinger thinks big, so his predictions are vulnerable to smallness. And if anything can describe the state of politics in America, it is smallness.

Prior to the poll that killed it, there was an almost universally held assumption that political realities in the US precluded a military action against Iran. This was stated as fact by so many commentators and pundits that when I registered my doubts about it on Tom Holsinger's "Invade Iran" argument, my point was ignored and dismissed. How many other 'received wisdoms' are built on shaky foundations?

As you might have guessed, I am frustrated, and anxious. I am frustrated by how many known unknowns there are. Will Israel attack? How will the Iranians respond? How will the Iraqis respond? How will our economy respond? How will our loyal opposition respond? How will our disloyal opposition respond? How will the Europeans, Russians, and Chinese respond? Will we get sanctions? Will we invade? Will we appease?

My anxiety stems from the unknown unknowns that will surely manifest themselves, whether or not action is taken or avoided. Earlier in this thread, Gmat linked to Spengler, who advocates action sooner rather than later, in the same way a park ranger might make a planned burn to avoid a much larger, and uncontrollable, conflagration in the future. The New York Times advocates diplomacy, Polly Toynbee advocates a parley and surrender. Just because these positions are completely in character--and therefore vulnerable to confirmation bias--it does not follow that we should discount them altogether. There is nothing I know of to make their prescriptions "impossible" to succeed. Unlikely, perhaps, but not impossible.

Since there is no 'answer' that we are capable of discerning, only chimeras for us to chase, we are stuck at an impasse. Justifications and proofs, arguments and assertions--these will not help us decide what to do about Iran. They will only lead to uncertainty and doubt, because we know that we cannot know.

Our choice, if we make one, will be based entirely in faith. Either we make a conscious leap of faith and seek to do what is right, preparing ourselves for the fallout if one should appear, or we make an implicit leap of faith, purchased by indecision. A conscious leap is an affirmative step, and it can be either one of action or one of appeasement. An implicit leap flows from not taking any step at all. It is a bow to reaction: it is the penitence that cowards show to events.

Danger abounds, inhering in every option we have. The only question that matters is this: do we have faith in ourselves, or faith in events. If the former, let's go ahead and get on with it. The alternative is faith in events, and I don't have any.

2/13/2006 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

I wonder whether Sadrist/Iran action won't be preceded by their own Massoud operation against Sistani. Because the rest of the UIA in Iraq don't seem competent to resist the more Islamist elements, backed by Iran, from rising, so one would expect them to take some sort of decisive advantage of what will likely be an increasing ascendancy over the next year at least.

2/13/2006 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Eggplant said...

Goesh said...

"I think China will trump any attempts at military action. Don't kid yourselves, half of America would be willing to see their women [in] burqas as long as they could continue to buy cheap chinese merchandise at Wal-Mart, and pay less than $3.00 a gallon for gas."

Americans won't tolerate having their women in burqas. However Americans do vote for what's best for their wallet. If the American economy had been in recession during the last presidential election then Kerry would now be our President with our prospects considerably bleaker.

The likelyhood of our economy getting hammered by a shutdown of Persian Gulf oil is almost certain. At that point the Democrats could nominate almost any brain damaged moonbat for the presidency with a high probability he would be elected. This cause-and-effect is a real worry and one of the main reasons why the Democratic party needs to reform itself away from its looney left.

2/13/2006 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Ash said...

Aristides, "faith", go on Faith you say. All these known unkowns and you counsel launching an aggressive war based on "faith". Is that what we've come to? Rolling the dice with our fingers crossed. Faith based religious war. So much for progressive thinking.

2/13/2006 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger Eggplant said...

Aristides said...

"As you might have guessed, I am frustrated, and anxious. I am frustrated by how many known unknowns there are. Will Israel attack? How will the Iranians respond? .... My anxiety stems from the unknown unknowns that will surely manifest themselves, whether or not action is taken or avoided."

Audentes fortuna iuvat (Fortune favors the bold).

We'll never have perfect knowledge of future events. All we can do is make the best decision based upon the information that we have.

Of course, the fundamental dilemma of war is past a certain point, one can not see where it will lead. At least by holding the initiative we'll have some control over events rather than responding to the initiative of our enemies.

2/13/2006 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Aristides said...

Rolling the dice with our fingers crossed.

Firstly, what I said was, "A conscious leap is an affirmative step, and it can be either one of action or one of appeasement." I did not mean to be opaque, Ash, so let me lay it out clearer.

No matter what we choose, it will be a leap of faith. Choosing 'containment' would be a leap of faith--faith that the Iranians can be deterred like the Chinese and Russians were. One needs only think about Castro's willingness to die in a nuclear exchange to doubt the wisdom of this strategy. Choosing appeasement would be a leap of faith--faith that the Mullahs can be bought off with inducements and incentives. Since we can never be sure of outcomes, anything we do will have, implicitly, an element of hope in it.

As for your comment about a 'religious war', only a fool would mistake faith and religion. When you board a plane, you are putting your faith in many things, but I wouldn't say flying Southwest is a religious experience.

2/13/2006 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Aristides said...

Audentes fortuna iuvat

"L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace."

2/13/2006 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger bobalharb said...

Audentes fortuna juvat--that's what old Adolph thought too. But since I haven't any answer I'll support Bush in what he does--after all, he might be right.

2/13/2006 12:09:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Adolph? Ah yes, he was the only other person to ever wage war. Useful comparison, as ever.

2/13/2006 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

Re: political will, I posted this at Winds a week before the polls came out showing majority support for military intervention in Iran:

I think we must separate our analysis of "will" into separate categories. The will to continue what appears to the average American to be an interminable, and bloody, stability operation in a foreign country is entirely different from the will to attack and kill those who want to harm us.

The first is largely seen as altruism, and therefore the tolerance level for it is lower. It is instructive, however, that Bush was returned to office even though his tying nation building to our national security was tepid at best. Of course I believe that stabilizing Iraq is necessary to our national security, but for the average American the argument is too esoteric.

The second category of will is as American as apple pie. The gut reaction of most Americans upon seeing Palestinians dance in the street after 9/11 was, I kid you not, bomb them. Play some soundbites from an Iranian parliamentary session, and you will find your will.


I still believe that. Americans are confrontational people. When geopolitical differences become intractable, the instinct of most Americans is the same as Matt Damon's in Good Will Hunting:

But I mean, if you have a problem with that, we could just step outside...and figure it out.

2/13/2006 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

I don't think Iran wants its nuclear weapons so bad that it is willing to go war over them. I believe the Iranian Mullahs will back down as soon as they realize that war is imminent. Of course, by that time it will be too late, as the gears will be already set in motion. However one cares to look at it, it's the Iranians holding the sweaty cards at the table. They have nothing to back up their bluff.

2/13/2006 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Except the prospect of a US quagmire which they are busily engineering through Russian and Chinese sympathy for US deterioration may prove quite seductive. After all, even our own Belmont hawks seem to be resigned to a nuclear Iran. And aren't Saddam's former henchmen, like al-Douri that weird Arab redhead albino sociopath, still at large, probably in Syria - or perhaps sunning himself in France by now?

2/13/2006 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Kill Sadr, bomb Iran, allow operations against Hezbollah close enough to the Israeli border, maybe get someone in the CIA to carbomb Assad.

Depriving the external forces of their internal favorites will 1) immediatley stall the plans, 2) set off dynsatic struggles, enervating the plans, 3) compel and inspire a counterattack we'd rather spend some lives repelling than the alternative.

2/13/2006 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

Dan,
No ground invasion, no quagmire. And I've yet to hear a convincing argument as to why a ground invasion is necessary. The Strait is protected by large mountain formations on the Iranian side. To be effective, Iran needs to move their artillery and missile batteries on to those mountains. The mountains are barren and any vehicular movement can easily be blocked.

2/13/2006 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger bobalharb said...

Cryptic--The dog barks, the caravan passes..

2/13/2006 01:31:00 PM  
Blogger Paul Coyle said...

As I understand it, the oil market already reflects and has taken in disruptions.

How long can Iran disrupt oil shipments? Two weeks, a month? The US Navy, and it's, second in the world air force, and hasn’t had much to do lately. Any bets on Iran vs. the Navy?

China. So, China is going to dump the US, Europe for Iran? Um, I don't thinkeee so. Like the Chinese internally can handle any disruption to the glorious 'we're all going to get rich' gravy train? That's what has them scared. They'll get their oil, trade, some 'atta boys' tickets to be redeemed at a latter date. Russians, like wise, heroes to the rescue for them.

Hammas, Syria vs. Israel? Like what would the Jews do on the second day after they got done pressure washing the goop off their tank treads? Plus I don't think the Syrian Organized Crime Inc. (LLC) likes the idea of those Hellfires through the roof of their M3 BMWs. The Syrians want to retire to France. It will be a race to the door. Hammas is busy wondering what to do this big pile of shit stinking baby, other wise known as the Palestinian population, that the voting stork just delivered on their lap( not to mention that Apache rotor sound that always present)

So, shut down Iran. Things are rough, then what? Somebody has to coup Tehran. Time for the CIA to redeem it self from Mossadegh and deliver Iran to the Iranians. Like, what would it take for Tehran youth to flood the streets, jam the airports and call in, um, the 82nd Airborne Division to, ahem, establish order? Not to mention a flurry of UN, Kofi to the rescue, ‘can’t we all get along’ lectures and maybe a quick check to the help with the new roof on the old East River house. Not that I’m saying the UNercrats can be bought mind you.


My 2 cents, hope for the best and enjoy the show.

2/13/2006 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Speaking of Mossadeq, I noticed on Wikipedia that he was the most prominent member of the Qajari family - as in the Qajari dynasty, as in the dynasty that ruled Iran from the late 18th century to the early 20th century, who called upon Russia to modernize and provide officers for their Army, rather like Prussians/Germans helping the Ottomans. Let's see, no history of democracy, no intellectual infrastructure or cultural habits tending towards democracy... A prime minister - a post chosen by a party or coalition, not by popular vote - rapidly consolidating power, threatening nationalization of the oil... Supposed to be looking to the Soviet Union (aka Russian Empire part deux) for help...

Wow - yeah only a grade A CIA/MI6 moron would conclude that Mossadeq was heading toward authoritarian power with Soviet sponsorship. I mean, people in the Islamic and Persian worlds, especially scions of the most eminent families, are all Jeffersonian republicans, right?

Morons.

Bomb Iran, change the regime, purge Sadr, retreat back to bases, reduce the Iranian navy to coast guard status, bomb Assad.

See how long Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other various terrorist groups last without their Sun. The NorK, Chicom, Taiwan, Japan issue is a separate theater. Russia will find ways to remain an insidious opportunistic parasite.

What's the alternative? Iran gets the bomb in 1-2 years. 10 years my ass. Iran continues the status quo, and provides the filthy lucre to co-opt our last hope of Iraqi democracy sans civil war. House of Saud gets new lease due to anti-Persian, anti-Shia propoganda. Iran increases southern Iraq and NE Saudi agitation, including spasmodic "warning" revolts; ensuing slaughter provides increased PR cover. Increased problems in Afghanistan. Hamas emboldened against Israel. Russia provides backing, intel to all anti-American parties. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt seek nuclear arsenals. US forced to withdraw to peripheral Arabian countries. And so on.

Now, we just have Iranian enrichment, Iraqi party conspiracies, fledgling Hamas, remedial Russian effectiveness, Wahhabi status quo.

Perhaps an attack isn't the answer, but it's hard to imagine how diplomatic efforts can assuage Iran's very rational fear that we are trying to destroy its mullahcracy - rational because it knows what it is doing. And as far as I read the Army assessments provided here and elsewhere, the main problem isn't operational success so much as managing political fallout.

Well, friends, we are in the beginning phases of really f-ing up the status quo. The rock's been pried off, the sunlight is coming in.

2/13/2006 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger Ash said...

mika wrote:

"Dan,
No ground invasion, no quagmire. "

Are you proposing that we withdraw completely from Iraq?

2/13/2006 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger Paul Coyle said...

Mossedegh? It was a quip. A tit twist to Christians In Action. Chill.

Satus quo? Where? When, if ever? If found, take picture and send to, C/O National Enquirer, Lantanna, Florida.

2/13/2006 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger dennisw said...

Good posts Dan. You're throwing out some good theories and solutions there. While others dummy up.

2/13/2006 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger StargazerA5 said...

Mika: The Strait is protected by large mountain formations on the Iranian side. To be effective, Iran needs to move their artillery and missile batteries on to those mountains. The mountains are barren and any vehicular movement can easily be blocked.

Now, I've never been a Private, much less a General (other then the armchair variety), but when things first started heating up with Iran several months back and I started considering that diplomacy just might not cut it, I sat down with what I know of the political situation and a map of Iran and thought through how I would see an invasion of Iran occur.

I won't go into specifics that I came up with since it's beginning to look like this was more then just an intellectual exercise, but I will note a few things:

-The mountainous region starts at the Straight of Hormuz and goes NW along the Iraqi border.

-The region around Jask, Chabahar, and the entire Pakistan and Afghanistan border is relatively flat.

-A good chunk of the northern center of the country is filled with the Desht-e Kavir (salt desert). This would likely be a moderate problem for US forces, but a significant obstacle for Iranian defenses.

-There are other things I noted, but that is enough food for thought right now.

In short there are some formidable terrain obstacles, but they're not as bad as some people make them out.

StargazerA5

2/13/2006 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Mika,

You are right Israel can not defend shipping coming out of and going into the Arabian Gulf.

A buddy of mine told me our Navy and Airforce thumped Iranian ship missile installations along the Straits of Hormuz and that the installations were rebuilt being dug into the mountains. I don't know about the first part of the story but the second part seems something anyone would do.

As it stands right now shipping in and out of the gulf is constricted. My father , fiancee, and myself spent a night in the Fujairah Hilton on the Gulf of Oman and noted quite a large number of vessels awaiting. When a ships turn comes up the dash into the Persian Gulf, take their load and boogie on out. While they are in transit and in the Gulf their insurance payments skyrocket.

2/13/2006 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger Arthur Dent said...

While they are in transit and in the Gulf their insurance payments skyrocket.

---
It seems some Pirate thugs need to be shut down and brought down. We should ask what Putin and whoever think of this, after. Then act on what THEY SAY about U.S. Two birds?

2/13/2006 05:16:00 PM  
Blogger bobalharb said...

Am reading that the USA government is approving a deal allowing the United Arab Emirates to buy out a British concern to run six of the largest ports in the United States. Why worry about affairs abroad when we invite the blowing up of New York, Philly, etc. here. Is this nuts, or what?

2/13/2006 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Bob: seems Nuts to me. I saw that too.

But did you see the giant floating mall and pleasure complex UAE is building off the beach in Doha?

Also nuts, but pretty cool too.

2/13/2006 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

The bitter irony here is that the United States is the ultimate guarantor of the power of Iran and the Saudi Kingdom.

The oil weapon doesn't only belong to the Saudi Kingdom. Or Iran. Or al-Qaeda. It belongs to anybody with the nerve and capability to strike at shipping and oil terminals in the Persian Gulf. That includes India. And China. And Japan. And Russia. And France. And South Africa. And Brazil. And Denmark. And Norway. And Australia. And for that matter, Greenpeace. Anybody with a navy (or air force) and the nerve to shut down the Persian Gulf's oil industry has the oil weapon.

Here's the kicker -- if Israel were pressed to the wall and faced annihilation, Israel may be better advised to attack the oil industries of both Iran and Saudi Arabia than to waste its ammunition on hardened nuclear facilities. And every threat to annihilate the State of Israel effectively makes Israel's use of the oil weapon more likely. Would it be a public relations disaster? Of course, but so what? A nation's threat, even if implicit, to attack oil shipping and key oil industries effectively amplifies its leverage when its fundamental existence is threatened.

Although an Israeli attack against the Saudi and Iranian oil industries (and the attack would need to be simultaneous to keep one nation from profiting from the other's misery) would definitely be a self-defeating public relations gesture, it makes perfect sense in diplomatic terms. The entire point of a deterrent is not so much to win a war (and certainly not win hearts and minds!) as it is to ensure that one's enemy suffers horribly once one is attacked. And a direct Israeli attack on the Persian Gulf's oil industry would strike both against the economies of its enemies and against the complacency of those who would not otherwise care if another six million Jews were massacred.

Of course, the "oil weapon" is a very blunt weapon. The "oil weapon" of 1973 did not win OPEC many friends. And during the American Civil War, the Confederacy's cotton embargo backfired. Britain and France were offended at Confederate attempts to openly bully them into militarily supporting the Southern cause. Moreover, a temporary cotton backlog undermined the "cotton weapon", while the Union blockade of Southern shipping could be said to have turned the "cotton weapon" into a weapon in the Union's arsenal.

My real point is not to recommend the advisability of using the "oil weapon", but rather to illustrate how Saudi Arabia and Iran are far from the only nations that can use it effectively. This is all the more reason why it is in the political interests of nearly everybody in the world economy to shift away from fossil fuels.

2/13/2006 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger Karridine said...

Alexis,
If I understand correctly, the Petro-Euro is a rather sharp and effective anti-American weapon, to be wielded by Iran very specifically against America and (downstream) against dollar-dependent entities.

Iran's nefarious plan is due to be triggered sometime in March.

We gotta move into ACTION!

2/13/2006 08:33:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Good.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/14/international/middleeast/14mideast.html?hp&ex=1139979600&en=d28cff5caa1702fa&ei=5094&partner=homepage

2/13/2006 09:56:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

imho the recent comicbook muhamed bruhaha in the Moslem world had something to do to with the US strike in Pakistan that the Pakistani president recently said took out a couple of key al queda operatives including a relative of Ayman al-Zawahiri.

imho al-Zawahiri's bitter broadcast subsequently sounded diffently to moslem ears than was reported in the west.

imho what the moslems heard was the sound of man who was beaten and knew it--and had nothing left to do but to rage impotently against night/light/machine.

This carried significant weight in the theological disputes of the moslem world that have grown up since the 1970's oil fueled mullah orthodox imman revolutions.

2/13/2006 10:18:00 PM  
Blogger John (Useful Fools) said...

A minor note, but in addition to attacking Iran due to his fear of it, later Saddam, after capture, reportedly said that he bluffed about having WMD's in order to deter Iran. This bluff, of course, failed when the US and the rest of the world fell for it, leading to the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam.

Hence the reason everyone (no matter what they say now) thought that he actually had WMDs, and why he really didn't.

2/13/2006 11:15:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

Rice to be questioned about Iran, Hamas and Iraq:

Rice wants $3 billion (Ð2.5 billion) for the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a hallmark Bush administration program designed to reward developing nations for good governance and a commitment to democracy.

The administration asked for the same amount a year ago, but a skeptical Congress trimmed the request to $1.7 billion (Ð1.4 billion). A fight over full funding for the program is brewing again on Capitol Hill.

Rice to be Questioned

2/13/2006 11:27:00 PM  
Blogger 2164th said...

In the law of unintended consequences, there is a connection between China, with a fist full of US dollars, agressively acquirng oil assets and a new self assured Iran. Chinese demand for oil is indirectly financing Iranian military and nuclear expansion. The US massive trade imbalance with China and a destabalized Iraq are fueling the process. At a minimum, the US will have to further invest in a significant expansion of military assets to offset the Iranians. The Chinese already control both ends of the Panama Canal and continue to make significant inroads throughout Latin America. They will further court and support the Iranians and, as they have with Korea, be indulgent to the Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons. The Chinese have rightly surmised that multiple nuclear states preoccupy the Americans. The Chinese want influence in Iran.

There is significant Chinese espionage and theft of US military technology. It is time for The US Congress to pass legislation where any country that, through espionage and theft of technology, diminishes the value of US military assets will have a tariff placed upon their export items to the US equal to the replacement cost of US military assets. For example, if China acquires US missile defense plans and it is determined the cost to upgrade the compromised system is $25 billion, Chinese exported goods to the US goods will face that tariff. It is time to use an economic weapon of mass instruction.

2/13/2006 11:45:00 PM  
Blogger mledeen said...

"Ironically this may encourage what no one really wants -- a regional war -- not only from despair over the Palestinian problem but by the seemingly unstoppable Iranian drive to acquire a nuclear weapon."

But it IS a regional war, Wretchard, as it has been from day one. a great deal of our current problem comes from the fact that we failed to recognize this hard fact. There will never be decent security in Iraq so long as the regimes in Tehran and Damascus remain in power.

2/14/2006 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Red A said...

How about what happens to Iran's oil exports when we seal the goddamn Persian Gulf?

How is China gonna get their oil from Iran in that case?

A blockade of Iran would really, really hurt them, especially if we linked it with inspections and disarmament.

2/16/2006 01:45:00 AM  
Blogger whit said...

The AP is reporting that a group claiming to represent Iranian suicide bombers has warned the U.S. that it has hundreds committed to suicide operations in the event that Iranian nuclear facilities are attacked.

http://wire.jacksonville.com/pstories/20060218/3660094.shtml

Obviously, this is propaganda, but it may also be true.

A seminar on suicide bombing tactics was presented today at a university in Tehran after which another 50 students committed to martyrdom.

"This is a unique opportunity for me to die for God, next to my brothers in Palestine. That was why I signed up," said Reza Haghshenas, a 22-year-old electrical engineering student.

A 23-year-old woman student, Maryam Amereh, said: "We are trying to defend Islam. It's a way to draw the attention of others to our activities."

2/19/2006 02:53:00 PM  
Blogger whit said...

The AP is reporting that a group claiming to represent Iranian suicide bombers has warned the U.S. that it has hundreds committed to suicide operations in the event that Iranian nuclear facilities are attacked.

http://wire.jacksonville.com/pstories/20060218/3660094.shtml

Obviously, this is propaganda, but it may also be true.

A seminar on suicide bombing tactics was presented today at a university in Tehran after which another 50 students committed to martyrdom.

"This is a unique opportunity for me to die for God, next to my brothers in Palestine. That was why I signed up," said Reza Haghshenas, a 22-year-old electrical engineering student.

A 23-year-old woman student, Maryam Amereh, said: "We are trying to defend Islam. It's a way to draw the attention of others to our activities."

2/19/2006 02:53:00 PM  

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