Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Centrifuge As Vortex

What links fifteen British sailors, 3,000 centrifuges and an Iraqi ground battle? Iran. Let's start with the centrifuges. Former Spook believes that Iran's recent announcement that it is ready to begin the "industrial" scale production of enriched uranium is a dangerous step towards attaining a nuclear weapon. They aren't there yet, but they are working on it -- and by inflating his country's nuclear capability Ahmadinejad, in the absence of a will to use force -- simply increases the amount of concessions he can extract from a terrified West by his bluster. Former Spook writes:

As we've noted in the past, there are still a number of unanswered questions about Iran and its HEU production capabilities. While a 3,000 centrifuge cascade could eventually produce a nuclear weapon, that process will take time, and only if the array is operating properly and generating HEU at sufficient "purity" levels for weapons production. Uranium enriched at low levels (around three percent) can be used to fuel a nuclear reactor; it takes a much higher grade of HEU (90% or higher) for weapons production. At this point in its nuclear development, it's doubtful that Iran has achieved that latter benchmark. There are also questions about how long it might take Tehran to get the larger centrifuge cascade to operate properly, creating more delays for the nuclear program.

But today's announcement was less a demonstration of Iran's nuclear prowress, and more about President Ahmadinejad's continuing propaganda campaign. Using his "good cop" routine last week in "pardoning" the British hostages, the Iranian leader is now back in his "bad cop" role, reminding adversaries that Tehran will continue to pursue its nuclear options, whatever the cost.

In this scenario both the seizure of the British hostages and the blustering over the centrifuges are calculated ploys to advance Teheran's plans. Preposterous? Can humiliating Britain and thumbing its nose at the Security Council actually make the West more obsequious towards Teheran? Captain Ed finds evidence that it does in a Guardian op-ed arguing that the tale of the British hostages must be suppressed to avoid angering Iran, the better to "dialogue" with the Ayatollahs. The Guardian says, "we need dialogue with Iran. By pumping up the propaganda war with the sale of captives' stories, that only becomes harder."

As long as the Iraq occupation continues, Iran is bound to treat Britain and the US as hostile intruders. The west is fighting counterinsurgency wars on Iran's eastern and western borders. Iranian politics is awash with sympathisers for the insurgents. Moderate leadership is blighted by daily atrocities to coreligionists in and around Baghdad. While Tehran has no interest in the Taliban in Afghanistan, it has emotional and religious attachment to the Shia cause in Iraq. No government can stand aloof from the invasion and occupation of a neighbouring state by a foreign power. To expect otherwise of Iran is naive.

This of course, would be like arguing that Stalin was upset that Hitler was toppled. Sometimes the Guardian argues that Iran is delighted that America disposed of its arch-enemy Saddam and is patiently waiting to take over a state that was once its mortal enemy. But today it is convenient to argue the opposite: that Teheran is outraged, outraged there is a new government of Iraq is dominated by a Shi'ite majority. Both work so long as America can be tarred.

Stratfor thinks the British hostage-taking and the nuclear bluster are both part of a steady Iranian drive to power and a reponse to American countermoves against it. In Stratfor's view, Iran is engaged in a deadly struggle against the United States in which possession of Iraq is the key to promoting -- or frustrating its regional ambitions.

The Iranians tend to promote their nuclear program one step ahead of what they have actually achieved. That is, the nuclear announcement a year ago was likely indicative of what the Iranian scientists had achieved in a test run, and Monday's announcement is the culmination of experiments conducted over the past year that have brought Iran to a stage at which its perfected enrichment is around 3 percent to 5 percent with two cascades of 164 centrifuges -- still well below the needed threshold for a solid weapons program, much less a power program that would take dozens of times more.

... it is important to examine the purpose of Iran's nuclear program in the context of the ongoing negotiations between Washington and Tehran over Iraq.  ... Iran and the United States are both aggressively moving to try to gain the upper hand in these talks. The Iranians played their most recent hand, the British detainee incident, quite skillfully. In what was seen as a risky maneuver, Iran in one swoop called the U.S. and British bluff that military force is a viable option against Iran, humiliated the British government through the public confessions from the detainees and, finally, demonstrated that it can effectively negotiate and deliver -- just as it could in a potential Iraq deal. Though the British detainee incident helped strengthen Iran's bargaining position, it provided Iran with only a minor advance. The United States did not waste time in making its next move with a new military offensive called Operation Black Eagle against Iran's Shiite militant allies in the town of Ad Diwaniyeh south of Baghdad, Iraq.

This is why Iran relies heavily on the nuclear card in these negotiations. When Iranian dissidents leaked details of Iran's covert nuclear program in 2002, Iran's chances of achieving full nuclear capability without facing a direct threat from Israel or the United States were severely crippled. When Washington made clear that it did not feel the need to negotiate with Iran over the future of Iraq in the spring of 2003 -- when the war was still in its early stages and the United States was still denying a Sunni insurgency existed -- Iran made the strategic decision to ratchet up the nuclear threat and utilize its militant assets throughout the region to bring Washington back to the negotiating table on Iran's terms.

The Washington Post recently described the return of American troops to Injun country, Sadr City in Baghdad, with the establishing of a Joint Security Station there. The Post argues the Shi'ite neighborhood is still Sadr's and Iran's outpost, and the Shi'ite militias fired an EFP warhead at the police station to remind them of the fact. Not that they need reminding. ""We need to bring a bunch of troops into Sadr and [expletive] this place up," said Spec. Josh Saykally, 25, of Minocqua, Wis., meaning soldiers should be living in the center of the district, not just on the edge." Bill Roggio provides some clues into what Operation Black Eagle in Diwaniyah and maneuvers near Sadr City may be up to.

Operation Black Eagle, the security operation against Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army in the central Shia city of Diwaniyah, has entered its fourth day. The last news from the city indicates 39 fighters have been captured and "several" killed. Two known insurgent leaders have also been captured during the operation.

The Diwaniyah operations demonstrates how the Baghdad Security Plan is now expanding beyond Baghdad and even the Baghdad belts. Diwaniyah is about 90 miles southeast of Baghdad. While the city is much more distant than other cities and regions where the Coalition is focusing operations, such as Baqubah and the Diyala River Valley, it still has a strategic importance.

Preparations for the Diwaniyah operation could be seen in the central and southern regions of Baghdad. Omar at Iraq the Model reported an unusual influx of armored vehicles in Rusafa, just south of Sadr City on April 5. It appears U.S. and Iraqi forces positioned armor to both block reinforcements from Sadr City as and act as a quick reaction force support operations in Diwaniyah if the need arose.

The events in Sadr City, Diwaniyah and the fifteen sailors may be part of some larger but deadly minuet. A minuet which could be about to get more complicated. Iran's recent show of strength, or rather the West's recent demonstration of its weakness, means the situation may be ripe for Russia to play the spoiler's game. Pajamas Media reports that Moscow may be playing both sides of the street.

Pajamas Media has information – via its Special Correspondent Ardeshir Arian who monitors the BBC Persian Service - that Russia is already violating the United Nations sanctions against Iran that the Russians themselves voted for and supported. Mohammed Bagher Zolghadr, one of the 15 top Islamic Republic officials specifically designated by the UN for travel limitation (among other sanctions, including blocking of bank accounts), has traveled to Russia without incident. (A letter to the Security Council is required for such trips, but was never sent.)

Zolghadr is no harmless minor official. Currently Deputy Minister of the Intelligence Department (overseeing the police, etc.) and formerly Deputy Commander of the Revolutionary Guard, Zolghadr is associated with Mustafa Pour-Mohammadi and the notorious 1998 “serial murders” of dissident intellectuals.

Iraq, far from being irrelevant to the War on Terror is apparently an inner cog within a greater wheel, one which spans not only American domestic politics, but geopolitical rivalry. April may be the fourth anniversary of the fall of Saddam, but as noted in earlier posts it is also the third anniversary of the Shi'ite uprising. Perhaps future historians will conclude that the phrase "Iraq War" will be the least descriptive term of all.


Blogger Reocon said...

All our efforts in Iraq are for nothing if we can't find allies to fill state and municipal positions. Here's a quote from the WaPo article Wretchard linked to that shows the utter perversity of our mission:

The [American] soldiers said they do not know which police officers are involved with the Mahdi Army. Their Iraqi interpreters, who also serve as cultural barometers, tell the soldiers that all the police officers are.

"That's why they're still alive," said interpreter "Adam" Abdul Kareem, 29, who uses a false first name and covers his face to conceal his identity while working.

Outside, the U.S. soldiers asked some policemen to accompany them on a patrol. The Iraqis initially refused, saying they would be kidnapped by the Mahdi Army if seen with the Americans. Mixon insisted. So they tagged along in a beat-up SUV -- placed second in the convoy, Hansen explained, so they could not lead the Americans into a trap.

Yes, that's the sort of state we're wasting our soldiers lives to build. It's treasonous.

4/10/2007 07:53:00 AM  
Blogger Chavo said...

It has been my opinion that Iran was testing the "waters" of the resolve of US and Britain during the 15 sailors incident. Iran now knows Britain will not stand up to them, and the US (Bush)is in no political shape to bring much pressure on them either. As I said in an earlier post, they found out what they need to know and could be found magnanimous by letting the sailors go.

Meanwhile, our erstwhile politicians (Pelosi & Co)and MSM are doing their two bits to further weaken the President and the Armed Forces. It's pretty discouraging really.

I'm 50 and never in my life have I seen anything approaching this level of self delusion.

Is it a boomer thing?

4/10/2007 08:37:00 AM  
Blogger Tarnsman said...

I think it time to retire the term The Iraqi War, and replace it with the more correct term: The War for Iraq. Make no mistake about it, the battle in Iraq is over who will control Mesopotamia.

4/10/2007 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger Fen said...

that's the sort of state we're wasting our soldiers lives to build. It's treasonous

No. Treason is giving comfort and aid to the enemy, deliberately souring the faith of those who would stand beside us with talk of surrender.

The audacity of the Left - poisoning the well and then damning those who are wary of drinking from it.

4/10/2007 08:48:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Who is the enemy?
The Sauds?
RICH LOWRY: The U.S. border is a lot like Iraq.
Defeatist at the Border” 04/10

BYRON YORK: Robert Rector tries to nail down numbers. “What Does Illegal Immigration Cost?” 04/10

4/10/2007 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 04/10/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

4/10/2007 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger Eggplant said...

It's clear that the Iranian mullahs want us to whack them. An attack by a foreign aggressor is the only thing that would bring Iran's young people back under the theocracy's control. However it is also clear that the theocracy is developing a nuclear weapon's capability. If we knew the theocracy would implode before they completed their nuclear weapon's development then the obvious strategy would be to wait them out. However what if they achieve strategic capability (nuclear RVs on ballistic missiles) before the regieme implodes? What's the line-in-the-sand that they have to cross before we say: "We're done waiting, we have to take out their nuclear capability now"?

4/10/2007 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger Reocon said...

Fen said...

No. Treason is giving comfort and aid to the enemy, deliberately souring the faith of those who would stand beside us with talk of surrender.

Really Fen? Pray tell, then, who do you think we are fighting for in Iraq? It wouldn't happen to be a bunch of Shiite Islamists who control the government, are allied with Iran and are busy imposing Sharia! Souring the faith, Fen? You mean faith in the present Iraqi governmet that is doing the following:

For a woman in the Iraqi capital four years after the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein, these emergencies can include passing unlawful checkpoints manned by armed militiamen, impromptu forays through neighborhoods controlled by religious zealots and taxi drivers who refuse her fare unless she covers her hair.

In addition, Mrs. Abdal-Majeed's job with Iraq's women's affairs ministry frequently brings her into contact with government officials, police officers and Muslim clergymen who insist that she cover up before they speak with her.

"Some clerics and politicians are forcing religion into our lives," said Mrs. Abdal-Majeed, 45. "We're being pushed back 1,000 years in time." . . .

"The government differs on all issues except women's rights," said Yanar Mohammed, the president of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq. "They're using the new constitution to impose Islamic law and reduce women's rights."

Note that last part about "using the constitution". I repeat the charge using Fen's nomenclature: to give aid and comfort to a bunch of pro-Iranian, pro-Hezbollah, Sharia imposing Shiite Islamist thugs is treasonous.

4/10/2007 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger Lord Acton said...

Great Steyn Article

It's often said that Canada came of age at Vimy, in northern France, in the Easter of 1917, when a nation of seven million lost over three-and-a-half thousand in a few days. Ninety years later, a nation of 30 million cannot absorb four dozen dead in half a decade without recoiling from the very notion of soldiering.

4/10/2007 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger Lord Acton said...

I fear Iran has an off the shelf (made in Russia? Pakistan?) nuke. They want to provoke us into attacking, then they will nuke isreal, then we or Isreal will go ape shit....and then they are hoping that the entire world, including many here in the U.S., will blame us for the whole catastrophe. They won't try to nuke Isreal (London/Washington/NYC?) until they provoke us or Isreal into "starting" a war with them.

A bit hard to see how this cascade is a winning strategy for them in the end, but that is where their apocolyptic delusions probably figure in.

4/10/2007 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Just kill Sadr already. Damn. Isn't anyone but me interested to see what happens? What's the point of all this ludicrous espionage & etc. We'll never out-maneuver the Arabs AND the Russians - never. It isn't possible. So just do everyone a favor and at least kill Sadr. C'mon. Pretty please? We've been trying all the other strategies for years, years!

4/10/2007 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger Fen said...

fen: Who is the enemy?

Radical Islam. And nations that support terrorism, including those that would anonymously hand-off WMDs for proxy attacks against the West.

4/10/2007 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Fellow Peacekeeper said...
Yes, that's the sort of state we're wasting our soldiers lives to build. It's treasonous.

Doug, its worse than that.

Some of the cops are Mahdi army / Sadr associates, but I understand that most are Badr brigades / SCIRI associates (ie Iranian proxies). The Badrist militia got wise early and legalized.

Ergo, the best case is the Mahdi army is driven out (by us) and replaced by Iranian proxies. Thats it, thats the plan, that would be counted as a win.

Tue Apr 10, 03:46:00 PM EDT

4/10/2007 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger Fen said...

Pray tell, then, who do you think we are fighting for in Iraq?

Ourselves. We are fighting to preserve the principles of The Enlightenment and Western Civ, to reform the Middle East before Islamic Theocracy couples with Nuclear Proliferation. To give the suicide bomber a reason to live - reform his civilization or he will tear down yours. Iraq and Afganistan are merely the first battlegrounds.

4/10/2007 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Will Black Eagle help to ease the attacks on Camp Echo?

Short term while the operation rolls and heavy outside security remains probably so.
Long term (>month) I have doubts. There were similar operations just six months ago (October). The locals have to take charge again sooner or later, and up to now they've been good Sadrists. The local police were useless and unable to maintain control, and will continue to be so. The Iraqis would need to import a crack police brigade or so from elsewhere to significantly change that (and Diwaniyah is not that important in the big picture). Killing off some 100 Sadrist militia in a city of 500 000, where 10% or more may be potential militia fighters changes little. The supply of weapons likewise is unchanged (though with any luck key IED makers/cells have been nailed, and that would make the whole operation worthwhile). I fear the net effect, with bodies and city center airstrikes, may just be buckets of bad will from the remaining locals.

None of this changes Camp Echo's inability to act as more than a static mortar range target, or MND(CS) inability to conduct meaningful operations.

Fellow Peacekeeper/

4/10/2007 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Third Internet Bombing in Gaza in a Week

(IsraelNN.com) Gunmen Monday night bombed a Gaza Internet cafe, the third such attack in a week. Firemen put out a resulting blaze, and no injuries were reported.

A bomb exploded in a cafe in Jabalya earlier in the week, and a third was detonated in a cafe in Khan Yunis in a continuing escalation of criminal and rival terrorist battles.

These are the freedom loving people that George Bush wants to give a state too. He is making himself and his whole "war" on terrorism look to be foolish. How can the President of the United States take his nation to war to destroy a terrorist State in Afghanistan, while at the same time reward a bunch of terrorist with a State.

How is the bombing of an internet cafe any different than the bombing of the statues of Buddha in Afghanistan?

4/10/2007 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger Pangloss said...

Is it the war for Iraq? Not really. It isn't a full-fledged war these days, but rather a police action. I'd still dignify it as the Battle of Iraq. As far as renamings go, how 'bout renaming the whole shooting match the War against the Assassins?

We might even get some Syrian, Arab and Egyptian assistance.

4/10/2007 09:24:00 PM  
Blogger blert said...

Lord Acton: pretty much on target.

Iran has the bomb... but not a delivery system. It would be to their delight if we were to invade and advance upon one of their nuclear mines. Yes, their strategic assets are booby trapped.

Such atomics that they have are kluge ups from black market purchases.

Once Iran solved the first cascade, they pretty much solved all of them. It's pure scale up after that.

BTW, getting to LEU is MUCH harder than taking LEU up to HEU. Talk to a chemical engineer: it's the mass transfer problem.

Getting up from natural concentrations to LEU is the crux of the challenge. HEU is a walk in the park after that.

4/10/2007 09:26:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Doug - How can the President of the United States take his nation to war to destroy a terrorist State in Afghanistan, while at the same time reward a bunch of terrorist with a State.

It is not up to Bush to "reward" people with a state that is already agreed to under treaty and law for the people of Palestine. Returning the stateless Jews after 19 centuries to the long-settled lands of Palestine
is now thought to be among the British Empire's greatest strategic mistakes.

On the other hand, Doug seems to be pretty right about Iraq from his posts here over the last year or so. America created a massive power vacuum thinking it would lead "noble, liberated Iraqis" to fashion a secular democracy that above all else, at least in necon eyes, would show how Arabs could become friends with Israel. We turned over sovereignity and saw nothing but further chaos, further Islamization, catch and release.

The die is cast. The Iraqis are untrustworthy and their own worst enemy. Petraus's effort might partially succeed with the military, but it looks bound to fail with the police and civilian administration officials - given the level of Islamist inflitration that went on under our clueless noses. (see reocon's 1st post)
It appears to be a question of when the Surge fails if Petraus is not empowered to purge the cops and elected government. That is what Congress is waiting on now....The General has assured Congressional leadership in private and in open session that while he reports to the President - he is obligated by his word now to say if the Surge is working or not. Even if it is before the year is up. Then a substantial number of Republicans will join with the Dems and march up to the Oval Office to say what has to be done next as the withdrawal must start, our military rebuilt, and the Iraq Civil War really gets going.

The only way out would be if we magically found another 300,000 troops and got regional and 1st world buy-in to cancel Islamic Republic of Iraq sovereignity and took control of the country again.

None of that will happen.

Iran shapes up to be the big winner of what Bush and the neocons did.

As for wanting nukes, it is rational. Traditional enemies Pakistan and Russia are nuclear powers on Iran's borders. The Zionists have missiles targeting Iran now. They lost over a million to the Sunnis of Iraq, many by poison gas.

What would discourage Iran is a security guarantee, final ME borders...in return for them to renounce violent Jihad directly or by proxy. Many of the Mullahs now, because Iran is in such a position of strength die to the bumbling Bush and the suicidal Western Left...will feel they don't have to take such a deal..

Bad times lie ahead. After 10 years of drifting that way, all the major problems America faced and refused to deal with are intensifying and will reach crisis, soon.
Our failure to have an energy policy. Failure to compete. Failure to have a coherent Islamist strategy 6 years after 9/11, 25 years after the Beruit bombings and the rise of "Holy Muslim Freedom Fighters" in Afghanistan. Failure to control our BOrders from mass invasion. Failure to stop rising income inequality and more Americans losing health care and well-paying jobs. Failure of Congress and the Courts to end their gridlock and address problems in a timely fashion.

Say hello to 3.50 a gallon gasoline this summer, and think how that likely that amount will be considered a bargain by the time Bush leaves office.

4/11/2007 12:25:00 AM  

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