Thursday, December 06, 2007

Sources and Methods

The New York Times reports:

American intelligence agencies reversed their view about the status of Iran’s nuclear weapons program after they obtained notes last summer from the deliberations of Iranian military officials involved in the weapons development program, senior intelligence and government officials said on Wednesday.

Hmmm. The US has a source who has access to the minutes of meetings by Iranian military officials "involved in the weapons development program". How many persons had this access? Thousands, hundreds? Or maybe a half dozen whose names are on an Iranian counterintelligence list now?



The notes included conversations and deliberations in which some of the military officials complained bitterly about what they termed a decision by their superiors in late 2003 to shut down a complex engineering effort to design nuclear weapons, including a warhead that could fit atop Iranian missiles. ...

Ultimately, the notes and deliberations were corroborated by other intelligence, the officials said, including intercepted conversations among Iranian officials, collected in recent months. It is not clear if those conversations involved the same officers and others whose deliberations were recounted in the notes, or if they included their superiors.

Hmmm ... So communications channels over which weapons engineering questions were discussed were vulnerable to interception. You guys in Teheran, please take note. Make sure you use these channels again.

The American officials who described the highly classified operation, which led to one of the biggest reversals in the history of American nuclear intelligence, declined to describe how the notes were obtained.

But they said that the Central Intelligence Agency and other agencies had organized a “red team” to determine if the new information might have been part of an elaborate disinformation campaign mounted by Iran to derail the effort to impose sanctions against it.

In the end, American intelligence officials rejected that theory, though they were challenged to defend that conclusion in a meeting two weeks ago in the White House situation room, in which the notes and deliberations were described to the most senior members of President Bush’s national security team, including Vice President Dick Cheney. “It was a pretty vivid exchange,” said one participant in the conversation.

I'll bet it was. Still not convinced?

The officials said they were confident that the notes confirmed the existence, up to 2003, of a weapons programs that American officials first learned about from a laptop computer, belonging to an Iranian engineer, that came into the hands of the C.I.A. in 2004. ...

In an article published on Wednesday, The Los Angeles Times said another main ingredient in the reversal was what it called a journal from an Iranian source that documented decisions to shut down the nuclear program.

The discovery led officials to revisit intelligence mined in 2004 and 2005 from the laptop obtained from the Iranian engineer. The documents on that laptop described two programs, termed L-101 and L-102 by the Iranians, describing designs and computer simulations that appeared to be related to weapons work.

Information from the laptop became one of the chief pieces of evidence cited in the 2005 intelligence estimate that concluded, “Iran currently is determined to develop nuclear weapons.”

The newly obtained notes of the deliberations did not precisely match up with the programs described in the laptop, according to officials who have examined both sets of data, but they said they were closely related.

What purpose does the revelation of all this detail serve? It serves to sell the public on the authenticity of the intelligence finding that the Iranians have stopped their nuclear weapons program. Why is it necessary to sell the finding by releasing this detail? Maybe because not everyone is buying it. But what is there to buy into really?

The crucial judgments released on Monday said that while “we judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years,” it also included the warning that “intelligence gaps discussed elsewhere in this Estimate” led both the Department of Energy and the National Intelligence Council “to assess with only moderate confidence that the halt to those activities represents a halt to Iran’s entire nuclear weapons program.”

"Moderate confidence". And it's cleared by the "red team" as not being disinformation. So it must be ... what? Wow. Yet for some, the issue is settled.

“Bush has made a big mistake, and he’s not responding in a way that gives confidence that he’s on top of this,” said David Albright, a former weapons inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency and president of the Institute for Science and International Security. “He isn’t able to respond because he’s not able to say he’s wrong.”

The longer I look at what is presented, the less confidence I have that anybody can answer the requisite question with sufficient accuracy. What's your risk profile? Suppose you had to bet that the revolver you were going to put to your head did not have a bullet in the chamber right before the hammer. What level of proof would you require to snap the barrel to your temple and squeeze? Is it "high confidence", "moderate confidence"? If five dollars were at stake instead of a life, a lot of people would chance it. But with the stakes this high, what is a reasonable level of confidence you will require?

61 Comments:

Blogger What is "Occupation" said...

call me a warmonger....

I dont give a rat's ass IF IRAN has the BOMB....

Iran HAS supplied hamas, syria & hezbollah with training, cash, rockets, weapons, intel and ammo

Iran HAS supplied shaped charges, training, cash, both to the shits and the suns in iraq to promote murder and chaos, this support has MURDERED THOUSANDS of iraqis and hundred of americans

Iran has called for the DESTRUCTION of Israel, in violation of the UN charter.

Iran has LIED to the world in HAVING a nuke program in the 1st place

Iran took British HOSTAGES, American HOSTAGES, snuffed the life out of a Canadian Iran women.

Iran has a shopping list of major bad things.

the fact that the CURRENTLY are not ACTIVE on "A" bomb program means NOTHING to me...

Last time i checked Iran has launched new subs, new ballistic missiles and has directly THREATENED Europe and Arab governments with violence...

Nope, Iran is a major danger, with or with out nukes, the timing of this report is JUST in time for Christmas shopping...

January looks like war to me....

Dont worry, no matter HOW much we appease, the Iranians, Syrians, Hamas, Hezbollah & Palestinians will RAISE their demands to the point of fucking us without vaseline....

point...

already the palios REFUSE to recognize Israel as a Jewish state WHILE demanding 5.6 BILLION in new aid....

Iran refuses to STOP enriching Uranium, all the while they do not even have a civilian nuke electric plant to USE any enriched fuel

nope, war clouds are forming and I see 'em...

12/06/2007 05:02:00 AM  
Blogger lgude said...

I'm with you Wretchard. I just can't swallow this one. Why should they just stop? It has been pointed out that the US invasion of Iraq is the only obvious event in 2003 that might have influenced them. Perhaps they decided to lie low because we had troops on both sides. OK, but why remain stopped while getting involved in the insurgency in Iraq? So perhaps the whole reason for starting a nuke program was to counter Saddam's nuke program and it is just possible that with that threat removed it was deemed not worth continuing, and that a fake program like Saddam had was good enough and a whole lot cheaper. Still, I can't get the smell of fish out of my nostrils on this one.

12/06/2007 06:36:00 AM  
Blogger cooldog said...

What amazes me, and undoubtedly frustrates the hell out of Ahmadinejad (in his quest to hasten the arrival of the 12th imam) is that while Iran has been at war with the U.S. and our allies since 1979, the U.S. is not at war with Iran.

We clearly should be.

12/06/2007 06:37:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

The report deals with incidents which date to 2003. Even if the information presented there is reliable (and I seriously doubt that it is), Israel's defense minister made it clear, this report does not reflect current reality.

12/06/2007 06:46:00 AM  
Blogger slimslowslider said...

In my opinion the NIE thingy was not meant to be taken as fact but rather meant as a statement. The primary target of attack, Israel, "your on your own" (at least publicly). The timing was interesting, to me the report became known right after Olmert stated that the Annapolis resolutions were non-binding. Then the slap occurred. Considering the State Hate, its not entirely implausable.

12/06/2007 07:46:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I think the NIE report is a side show, and that what the *real* trigger will be is the first time Iran has the temerity to publicly test one of their little toys.

Bush and Cheney are sitting back in their easy chairs, watching geiger counters, seismographs, and satellite images, and at the first poof of a nuclear test in the vicinity of Tehran, then the bombs will rain in return. (Here's hoping there's a targeting error using old Chinese maps, and one also gets Mecca by mistake ... ooops.)

What difference, really, does it make if they did stop in 2003, and start up again in 2003.5 given the list of malfeasance "occupation" listed in the first post.

For me, I think we still owe them payback for having started the whole thing by storming an American embassy and holding Americans (and America) hostage back when Carter was fighting off killer rabbits.

The NIE report is just a "tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

12/06/2007 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger buck smith said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12/06/2007 08:51:00 AM  
Blogger buck smith said...

One explanationfor all this. If I want a bomb I can put together a team to design one OR I can buy a design. If what Israel just bombed in Syria was indeed a factory to assemble bombs, then this could make sense.

12/06/2007 08:53:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Interesting article at the Washington Post on the new NIE by John Bolton here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/
article/2007/12/05/AR2007120502234.html

12/06/2007 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger Kinuachdrach said...

Any observer of Pres. Bush would have to acknowledge that he is the kind of person prepared to take a short-term hit in the interests of a long-term win. As secrets are leaked to the NYT (Surprise!), I find myself wondering just who is manipulating whom?

As Wretchard points out, there could be a number of very uncomfortable people in Iran right now. If this is not Iranian deception, then who among the Iranian leadership is the weakest link? Which communication pathways have been compromised? The Iranians will have to waste a lot of time repairing this breach of trust.

On the other hand, if this is an Iranian deception which Bush & Cheney are pretending to accept despite having properly identified it as such, the Iranians might thereby be encouraged to become careless. This could lead to obvious Iranian mistakes -- and retribution.

12/06/2007 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

When interpreting the NIE we need to remember that if it were "suppressed" it would have achieved CODE 10 on the Richter scale of MSM truthiness. It's authors would be whistle blowing heroes of Plame stature. Brad Pitt would play one of them in the movie. But since Bush let it out, doubt is demanded.

The problem with the old approach to Iran is the rest of the world thought the US would take on the mullahs while they scored points at our (or the "warmongers") expense. But in truth the US is less threatened by the mullahs then the rest of the international community--at least in the short and medium term.


China and Russia may seek to frustrate the US while we aggressively try to de-nuke Iran, and thereby make the mullah's dependent on their good graces--but do they want the Iranians to be nuke enabled? Then Iran would no longer need them (and may cozy up to the US to get hegemony in the Gulf). Who does benefit from a mullah bomb? In a sense, not even the mullah's. Once you have nukes, who's going to wait to use nukes on you? Certainly not Israel. You may say, "hit us with 20 nukes, we can take it!" Really? Let's try it and see...

So, Israel gets a "nuke equivalent" attack and you can crawl under your mullah robe and kiss your ass goodbye.

If Bush and Cheney cannot politically go to war with Iran, then they may have created a situation where the next administration may, with great credibility and the backing of the World Community, do exactly that.

If you are running China and want to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, you're going to have to get on the bus, it's that simple.

12/06/2007 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

Two points:
1) If Barack Obama had been president in 2003, Iran would have the bomb today because there would have been no risk associated in pursueing nukes.

2) Did they give up their own efforts to design an Iranian bomb out of the goodness of their hearts, or did they receive detailed bomb plans from Red China via the A Q Khan network, which rendered the design effort redundant? If you accept the latter hypothesis then today Iran would not be pursuing the bomb but WOULD be pursueing a method to produce bomb grade uranium.

Maybe we could send Valerie Plame to Tehran to find out...

12/06/2007 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger blogonaut said...

hdgreene, that is an excellent analysis. Perhaps Bush is, in a sense, climbing down, knowing that his term is coming to an end and the requisite support for action on Iran was never there for the reasons you indicate. But in the void he leaves, it must be recognized that the Saudis and the Gulf states, Europe, and China cannot truly be accepting of a nuclear armed Iran striving for total hegemony over the oil states and lines of transit. As we fall back, someone else will have to emerge to organize a new line of defense. Who that will be and whether they will be anymore successful remains to be seen. Bush would understand an allusion here to the Runaway Scrape.

12/06/2007 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger eggplant said...

You guys are missing the key point. The New York Times (read "MSM") said:

"American intelligence agencies reversed their view about the status of Iran’s nuclear weapons program after they obtained notes last summer from the deliberations of Iranian military officials involved in the weapons development program"

No where in the unclassified NIE does it mention "notes from Iranian military officials". This information was obviously contained in the classified version of the NIE that someone leaked to the New York Times. It's an open-and-shut case. Someone or group of people within the intelligence community sandbagged the President by creating this NIE and then leaking it to the MSM.

12/06/2007 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

eggplant,

It wasn't those that leaked to the NYT that sandbagged the President, it was the Iranians themselves. The report, and the Administration's acquiescence to it, is a quid pro quo for Iranian "cooperation" in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's the reason you no longer hear about Iranian weapons and agents killing Americans in Iraq.

Of course, all this means is that nothing really changed vis a vis Israel. Yet again, Israel is left stranded and abandoned, facing the very real prospect of having to go at it alone. Iran's ambitions have not changed, but now it looks like it has successfully managed to maneuver this Administration out of play.

12/06/2007 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger eggplant said...

Mətušélaḥ said:

"It wasn't those that leaked to the NYT that sandbagged the President, it was the Iranians themselves. The report, and the Administration's acquiescence to it, is a quid pro quo for Iranian "cooperation" in Iraq and Afghanistan."

I disagree. I don't believe the Iranians are cooperating with us concerning Iraq so that is not a basis for rewarding them. I believe President Bush was intent upon going after the Iranians when the timing was right, e.g. after our stock market crashed. People within the Intelligence Community realized Bush's intent and preempted the President by releasing the classified version of this NIE to the NYT.

The President no longer controls foreign policy (he's now a true lame duck). Foreign policy is now being stage managed by back room operatives within the Intelligence Community.

However, Mətušélaḥ is correct in being concerned about the Israelis. It stinks being the canary in a coal mine.

12/06/2007 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

eggplant says: "The President no longer controls foreign policy (he's now a true lame duck). Foreign policy is now being stage managed by back room operatives within the Intelligence Community."

So, are we to believe that the figurehead King of Spain can tell Hugo Chavez "Why don't you shut up?" and cause Chavez to lose his bid to become a true dictator, but the Commander in Chief of the most powerful army in the history of human civilization is powerless to counter the mullahs (who are hated and despised by the vast majority of their own people)?

Wheels within wheels...

12/06/2007 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger Zenster said...

“Bush has made a big mistake, and he’s not responding in a way that gives confidence that he’s on top of this,” said David Albright, a former weapons inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency and president of the Institute for Science and International Security. “He isn’t able to respond because he’s not able to say he’s wrong.”

This from a former participant in one of the most ineffectual regulatory agencies on the face of our planet. ElBaradei won a Nobel Prize for essentially turning his back on, if not openly collaborating with, Iran's nuclear program and—as an Egyptian—still remains unable to detect even a hint of his native country's nascent nuclear research program.

One can only wonder if David Albright has considered that Bush isn't responding because he's right about Iran and damn well knows it.

If this entire debacle serves even a remotely useful purpose, it will have been to instigate a massive putsch amongst those "unnamed Iranian military officials" involved in their nuclear weapons program.

Dont worry, no matter HOW much we appease, the Iranians, Syrians, Hamas, Hezbollah & Palestinians will RAISE their demands

Or, as Pat Condell—better known as Yorkshire Miner—has said:

"... every concession to Islam is the thin end of an even bigger wedge."

... at the first poof of a nuclear test in the vicinity of Tehran, then the bombs will rain in return.

That would be a day late and a dollar short, nahncee. By that time Iran already might have assembled several devices with one on its way to our shores pending a successful test outcome. This is why pre-emption is so vital to countering the Iraninan threat. Keep in mind one single fact:

The Iranians will do anything, repeat ANYTHING, to bring the 12th Imam out of his well and initiating a nuclear apocalypse literally heads the list as a way of doing this.

Remember the words spoken by Ayatollah Khomeini in Qom:

"I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world."

These are the words of a madman and they continue to be followed to this very day by the same sort of glazed-eye believers.

As previously noted, this entire—extremely stale and past its pull date—farce absolutely reeks of truthiness. Electioneering politics and partisan agendas literally drip from this entire NIE. That it was sequestered for this long and is only now suddenly presented as "fresh" evidence strains credibility to its utmost.

Did they give up their own efforts to design an Iranian bomb out of the goodness of their hearts, or did they receive detailed bomb plans from Red China via the A Q Khan network, which rendered the design effort redundant? If you accept the latter hypothesis then today Iran would not be pursuing the bomb but WOULD be pursueing a method to produce bomb grade uranium.

I believe that Peter Grynch may be closest of all to the truth. Given China's extensive history of proliferation to rogue states and their almost obsessive triangulation against American interests, what better way of keeping our country bogged down with more of the usual firefighting than by ginning up yet one more North Koreanesque nuclear threat? I would not be surprised if Russia is knowingly collaborating with China in this by supplying dual use technology to Iran, with ostensible peace time applications, while keeping its hands clean as China does the dirty work behind closed doors.

Again, the timing of this NIE's belated yet abrupt arrival on the scene stinks of partisan politics and little else. Iran must not be let off of the hook for DECADES of proxy attacks against America.

I refer you to a superb treatise by John David Lewis: “No Substitute for Victory”—The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism.

This is what we must regain today: the sense of ourselves as right to drive victoriously over a viciously evil enemy. We must demand the unconditional surrender of the Islamic State in Iran—and of every other Islamic Totalitarian State on earth—to the legitimate laws of man, the laws that protect individual rights. Every Islamic cleric must renounce the goal of inciting his audience to jihad; he must proclaim, loudly and openly, his repudiation of Islamic law; he must state his intention to live under the laws of men in accordance with the requirements of man’s life on earth. Every Muslim intellectual must denounce the Islamic State as an aberration and a monstrosity, as being contrary to the requirements of life on earth. Immediate, personal destruction can be the only alternative.

If it is true that the majority of Middle Eastern people want a decent free life for themselves—as the vast majority of Japanese did after August, 1945—then they will rejoice over the excision of Totalitarian Islam from their midst. They will cheer for the freedom to make their own decisions about their own lives. They will react as the Japanese did—by embracing a constitutional government that renounces war, by purging state religion from the schools, by excising militarism from the media, and by building corporations rather than suicide cults. But if they do not, the unconditional surrender of Islamic Totalitarianism must be taken to mean its political defeat: There will be no negotiations over the place of Islam in government, for it has no such place ...

The Islamic State—Totalitarian Islam—must go. And it is the moral responsibility of every American to demand it.

12/06/2007 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger 10ksnooker said...

I'm with you Wretchard as well. This was a political hit. Within minutes after the release there was dingy taking credit for getting the report out.

Iran is dangerous, they have proved by all their past terror activities -- And then we get to their open threats.

Apparently the UK, France and Germany aren't buying it either, calling for the next round of sanctions. You don't need 50,000 gas centrifuges for electrical power generation, nor do you need a heavy water reactor.

I don't see any change until the mullahs are gone, one way or the other.

12/06/2007 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

The NYT article may tell us less about Iran than it does about the intelligence gathering and analysis system. This is the way our sensors work. While classified stuff has been held back, if the article is broadly accurate then it is also broadly correct about how the intelligence agencies "know" things or don't know them.

The portrait suggests two things. First, these are the kind of sources that intelligence community relies upon. Second, the apparent degree of confidence in any given conclusion is less than one might think.

Let's imagine that there are other sources, whose nature has not been revealed. While we don't know what they are we can be broadly sure that they say -- in all their ambiguity -- what the publicly quoted sources say. The adage in writing reports based on classified information is that you can report the conclusion without mentioning the source if you can quote an open source or revealable provenance which comes to the same result. But it works the other way. If the open source conclusion is used to justify a public estimate, the secret sources -- unless the estimate is intentionally misleading -- cannot fall far from the tree. If you have an estimate based on secret sources whose true value varies from the open source or revealable result, then it would be better not to make any public assertion rather than to knowingly state an inaccurate estimate.

While I would accept that this may be the best that we can do, there really is a need for improvement.

12/06/2007 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

I think Metuselah is correct. The fact that the administration did not challenge the NIE more aggressively (it could have publicly attacked its conclusions - but it did not - it only argues that the conclusions to not eliminate all worries) and the fact that the admin took no meaningful actions to prepare for a war with Iran (increase in the size of the military, etc.) makes me think that this was a face-saving way for the administration to give something to Iran without looking like it gave something to Iran. I don't think we received much in return - perhaps some lessening of Iran's instigation of violence in Iraq as long as we move steadily towards the door. They will still harass us - just to remind us that they can and to keep us moving.

In return, we will allow them to develop nukes and when they do we will have the ready-made excuse that the intel must have been wrong. But, that will be some other president's problem because it won't happen before January 2009(that may also be part of the deal).

Its disgusting and its will create great misery for us (and many others) down the road.

One of the things that is so frustrating about it is that you don't need "intel" to figure out what Iran is up to. They have essentially admitted that they want nukes and their actions align perfectly with their statements. Common sense should be the guide here. It would be utterly incongruous for them to have said the things they have said and done the thing that we know they have done - an not be working towards building nukes. Considering cloak and dagger “intel” in this context only opens us to being misled by counterintel.

12/06/2007 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

The NIE was a political document based on the thinnest of evidence designed to forestall any US military or sanctions-based action. Based on the belief that an Aaron Sorkin world guarantees America can talk it's way out of any problem.

It also guarantees world-wide nuclear war.

Iran now WILL have nuclear weapons (the NIE went only to intent based on thinly-sourced material). Iran now can attack the US with impunity through proxies and point to Pakistan or North Korea plausibly as source material for nuclear weapons.

Of course Israel will have to decide to attack first with nuclear weapons or be destroyed in a second holocaust. That is their choice.

Let's be honest, this is a "peace in our time" moment. And as such it guarantees wider war. Iran will try a decapitating moment with deniable proxies and inevitably the US response will (as Wretchard described) be one of destroying ALL the peoples who might be responsible: Iran, Pakistan, Korean. Because to fail to do so only guarantees more attacks.

That is the wages of cowardice and partisanship.

12/06/2007 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

With so many political risks in this move, there has to be further choreographed steps planned in this unnatural mating ritual between the US and Iran. Bush has a trip coming up to the Middle East, I wonder if a Nixon-style trip to Tehran might not be in the works? To sign perhaps an agreement to supply light water reactors in return for Iran stopping its uranium enrichment program and to resume normal relations between the two countries. I know how politicians calculate and there needs to be a big payoff further down the line for Bush to bear the brunt of criticism he is about to receive from his supporters for changing coarse so suddenly.

12/06/2007 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

Brian said:

"The fact that the administration did not challenge the NIE more aggressively... "

What is the President supposed to do? Is he to announce on CNN that his own intelligence apparatus in league with the MSM produced a bogus NIE to pursue its own independent political agenda? Keep in mind the people running the CIA and DoD are Bush appointees.

What we have here is an example of "political checkmate".

Bush did the best he could by preempting the New York Times with his own unclassified version of the NIE.

12/06/2007 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger Triton'sPolarTiger said...

I see it the same way, whiskey. Tears for the innocents... and may Hell itself swallow alive the guilty.

12/06/2007 02:15:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

The NIE can change headlines in the NYT for a few days but it can't change geopolitics. An Iranian bomb would be still be an existential threat to Israel. And they still believe the Iranians are building a bomb. It would still be a threat to Saudi Arabia and Egypt; they have said they would go nuclear if Iran did. An Iranian nuke would be very disquieting to Russia and China. And lastly, it would pose grave difficulties for the US in the region.

For those long-term, almost unchangeable reasons, a large community in the US government has actively sought to keep Iran from acquiring nukes. Thus the idea that the administration is "giving Iran the green light to build nukes" will certainly be met with resistance by a broad community, who will not be easily convinced.

But it's nevertheless true that another community has long plumped for letting Iran get the bomb and dealing with the consequences on "the day after".

Has the administration now taken the "day after" approach in exchange for Iranian guarantees on Iraq? If so, why now when events on the ground are running the American way? Why will should they quit when they're on a roll? Why wasn't this flip-flop done at around the time of the Baker Commission Report, when it was pushing for a deal? Yet, with the Baker Report practically forgetten history why should it mysteriously rise from the dead reanimated by the NIE?

These are the difficulties in thinking that the NIE is part of package to give Iran a de facto deal. It's in someone's interest, but not obviously in the Bush administration's interest. Which was why the conclusions received a lively response from Dick Cheney et al, apparently.

If we are looking to explain actions based on motive the usual suspects should be those who have always wanted to ease back on Iran; always wanted to make deals with the Ayatollahs.

It might be true that we are watching the administration offer a secret olive branch to Iran, but we are just as likely to be witnessing yet another round in the endless political war in Washington.

12/06/2007 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Kevin -- Bush might propose it, but Tehran is sure to turn it down.

Since 1979 Tehran's government has rested on these pillars:

*Desire to eject the US out of the ME entirely and turn the ME into a Persian Empire (defacto at least).

*Desire to destroy Israel as proof of Tehran's leadership of the Muslim world.

*Desire to attack the US at every turn. Even when it is counter-productive to short-term interests of the State.

Reagan thought he could bargain with Mullahs. Cakes were baked, bibles were sent. The Mullahs betrayed him of course. For any deal on "reactors for compliance" there would have to be go-anywhere inspections and sticks (sanctions to air raids) for kicking inspectors out or limiting what they can see or where they can go.

The regime is intent on nuclear weapons. It has been their policy carried over 27 years and hundreds of billions of dollars. Nukes give them the ability to dominate the Gulf and neutralize the one force standing in their way -- the US Navy.

There is no deal there because there is no Iranian interests that can be served while serving US interests. Only one nation will control the ME -- Iran or the US. There is no deal to be made.

Whereas for China, there was (mutual support against a common enemy the USSR). If anything removing Saddam removes constraints on the Mullahs (along with the loss of the Taliban on their Afghan flank) and allows them even more freedom of action.

This is likely to lead to war. Sanctions and other efforts to rein in the Mullahs nuclear weapons programs are effectively dead. Iran + nuclear weapons = global nuclear war AND the US inevitably (after loss of US cities) wiping out most Iranians, Pakistanis, and perhaps North Koreans. Too much weakness invites Iranian aggression.

12/06/2007 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Eggplant wrote:

"What is the President supposed to do?.....What we have here is an example of "political checkmate"."


Given this administration's inability to communicate, you are probably correct that it would have been political checkmate. But, I do not think that a competently run administration would give up on such an important issue so quickly.

Unfortunately, I think the adminstration wanted this NIE issued as part of a larger deal.

12/06/2007 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger Zenster said...

Bush has a trip coming up to the Middle East, I wonder if a Nixon-style trip to Tehran might not be in the works? To sign perhaps an agreement to supply light water reactors in return for Iran stopping its uranium enrichment program and to resume normal relations between the two countries.

Kevin, you just don't get it, do you? There is no way to negotiate in good faith with an Islamic regime. All they will do is whatever it takes to buy more time for their own agenda. Any pretense of truce is only hudna and absolutely nothing else.

Do you honestly think any sort of goodwill gesture possible on our part would allow for the resumption of "normal relations" with a country that wants nothing less than our destruction and will voluntarily immolate itself in that pursuit?

whiskey_199 is on the money. We pay the butcher's bill now or we pay it later but pay it we must. Any delay multiplies the bill exponentially and begins adding in untold thousands or millions of needlessly wasted American lives.

Iran's tab has yet to be settled. They have much to answer for and it is only lack of American political will that has allowed them to escape paying the piper. Permitting them any sort of free hand in their continued pursuit of nuclear weapons is a fool's errand.

A nuclear armed Iran will go down in history as the single greatest strategic military blunder of this new century.

12/06/2007 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

You can explore the consequences of a nuclear Iran by exploring the consequences of a nuclear Pakistan.

Clinton had to personally intervene to stave off nuclear war between Pakistan and India. Osama exists today because to kill him would require nuclear war with Pakistan. Nuclear umbrellas make mass casualty terrorism risk free -- well up to a point.

If Iran has nukes, they can actively, with Hezbollah, say manage a plot that plunges private planes into filled football stadiums, killing say 50,000. An act of war? NOT if they have nukes. So the aggression will continue not the least of which is that each act of mass casualty terror increases Iran's leadership world-wide of Muslims (who love this sort of thing, look at the Teddy Bear or Pope or Cartoon crises).

That is a guarantee for a nuclear terror act wiping out US cities and the US response eventually of wiping out peoples. I'd rather have avoided it but it's all moot now.

And yes, this smacks of partisan game-ship by Dems and their allies in the permanent bureaucracy.

12/06/2007 04:08:00 PM  
Blogger shivermetimbers said...

This might be overly simplistic, but, if the leak was from a real iranian source(s), wouldn't the mullahs be going on a witch hunt killing possible leakers?

If the mullahs don't go killing people off, wouldn't this be a possible sign that they were behind this misinformation all along?

Would this be a valid test of validity?

12/06/2007 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger TmjUtah said...

Reading the NIE reminded me of this (page 27).

The provenance of the primary NIE authors does not inspire confidence in either the objectivity of the report or probably accuracy of the conclusions contained in the document.

We are discussing a possible (IMO, highly probable) situation whereby state bureaucracies are dictating foreign policy.

State has been On The Other Side politically most of my adult life. Just how many other agencies are traveling with the Foggy Bottom boys and girls?

I would bet a year's pay that the IDF is on DEFCON3 (leaning to 2) right now, with at least two authorized NCA keyholders on direct link to the launchers at all time.

I'd take the NIE a little more seriously if we had any real data on what was bombed in Syria. But I don't see that happening.

What an evil world I've brought my family to. Geeze.

12/06/2007 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger Elijah said...

It could be argued that the latest NIE report complicates the decision making process of the Persians, as the Americans now appear on a diplomatic track.

An IDF attack on Iran would require the sharing of secure IFF (Identification, Friend or Foe) between the air forces of the U.S. and Israel. The Persians would have to decide whether this constitutes U.S. participation.

Of course, Persian aggression
against US navy ships, military command/communications centers in the region, as well as American personnel in Iraq and/or Afghanistan might result in a declaration of war by the U.S. Congress. It would also be difficult to attack U.S. forces without also killing Iraqis, stirring nationalistic animosities.

It such a scenario, a U.S. counterattack would extend well beyond Iranian nuclear sites.
.........

It would be interesting to know if
the massive explosion in Ryongchon, North Korea (2004)
is related to the reported Israeli raid of Syria (a Pyongyang/ Damascus nexus).

12/06/2007 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger LifeoftheMind said...

Can't we find one prosecutor in this country who will move a bill of indictment against Pinch Sulzburger? Any locality where the paper is sold or where someone has a family member whose life is endangered by these people should have a cause of action. It would be wonderful to see him "Frog Marched" out.

12/06/2007 06:27:00 PM  
Blogger section9 said...

A couple of things.

One. Condi Rice was always against an attack because she understood three things.

1. The Revolutionary Guards had cleverly dispersed the R&D and Enrichment end of the business, and the Showpiece Reactor at Bushehr. The actual weapons reactor is actually well hidden, and indeed, is probably near a civilian area to forestall an atomic attack. If the defector Asgari isn't a plant, he has told us this and this is one of the sources of our frustrations.

We're dealing with the Persians, not the Arabs-past masters in deception going back to the time of Cyrus the Great.

2. Rice understood, as did Gates after her, that there existed no political consensus in the United States for a campaign against Iran. People know, intellectually, what happens when Iran gets the bomb, but that is something they can conceive of and consider. It doesn't arouse fear among the people as, say, a surprise attack by foreign aircraft at an American naval base in the Pacific Ocean might.

3. Any campaign against Iran would have to be a complete ground campaign. The notion that an air campaign would suffice is a fantasy. To take Iran down would require a mobilization for a campaign on the order of Operation CORONET. The Iranians are nationalistic, capable soldiers, and operate on interior lines of supply. Plus, much of their country is rugged and mountainous, like the interior of Honshu and northern Kyushu, only far larger. A strike, even one sustained for a month, would only delay the Iranian program for a couple of years, and would do nothing to moderate the regime's course.

People in Washington don't understand what is coming, and I completely concur with the conjectures of "whiskey 1999" and "what is occupation", I simply believe that Rice and Gates were pursuing the course they believed politically possible, given the poisonous political atmosphere in Washington and Europe. Timing is everything.

You simply have no idea what Rummy and Dick did to our credibility. It's shot.

Without it, people won't believe us until the Iranians test. And they will test. Only then will everyone come running to us, but not before.

Only then will the credibility of Bush's critics collapse. Today's critics will run for the tall grass and those who wrote the NIE and cluck today will swear they were misunderstood. Trust me, this will be the biggest slaughter of liberalism since Joe Stalin blew up the Russian bomb. Keith Olbermann will be hunted down like a dog.

But it will be too late, of course. The course for war will be set. Until that time, the wisest course is to wage diplomacy in public, but prepare to wage atomic war in all other ways.

12/06/2007 06:36:00 PM  
Blogger El Baboso said...

1. Perhaps the Iranians will go the South African route and test in the South Indian Ocean tethered from a weather balloon at high altitude... then they have the bomb and some degree of deniability.

2. If these "government officials" and the NYT did burn a source in their "zeal for the truth," then I am very sorry indeed. I really am starting to believe that many if not most of the political animals in D.C. do not understand that lives and trust are at stake when these leaks come out. All they understand is narrative, counter-narrative and the sort of bloodless combat that takes place inside the beltway.

I don't really even know if they are evil. Perhaps sophomoric is the right word. Sad, silly debate club types with J.D.s and "government" degrees, always reaching into the shoebox for the next 5x8 card with the next citation.

At some point, one becomes so tired of Narcissus, one finds himself yearning for Mars. Mars is stupid and bloody, but at least there is a certain finality to war. It's not the endless preening, passive-aggressiveness and co-dependency of Narcissus.

In the Cryptonomicon, Neil Stephenson Enoch Root say that when faced with Mars, we should turn to Athena. I try to keep the faith.

12/06/2007 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger El Baboso said...

Please put "has" between Stephenson and Enoch. PIMF

12/06/2007 07:52:00 PM  
Blogger Pat said...

Perhaps the defecting Iranian Revolutionary Guards General Ashgari is the source of the new intel. James Lewis at American Thinker thinks so. In that case, the "intelligence" community is relying on a poor source. Is Ashgari a true defector or a double agent? Is he a true defector setup with false information? Who knows? Certainly not the hacks who produced the latest NIE.

12/06/2007 09:19:00 PM  
Blogger geoffb said...

According to this,
http://www.newsmax.com/headlines/zogby_iran_nuclear_strike/2007/10/29/44978.html
a Zogby poll on October 30th found 52% support for a strike on Iran and that 53% believed it would happen before the 2008 election. That shows there is/was support among the people of the US for an attack on Iran even if the beltway crowd didn't.

12/06/2007 10:04:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12/07/2007 02:32:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Zenster,

There is no way to negotiate in good faith with an Islamic regime.

My speculations on a replay of Nixon’s trip to China, only this time with Bush going to Tehran, are not based on my personal preferences. I may tend to agree with your statement (I’d have to think about it more), but in the end that is irrelevant. The fact is that our government certainly does think that it can negotiate with an Islamist regime. Not only do we have warm relations with the Saudis (who are as Islamist as it gets) but there are clearly negotiations going on right now between the US and Iran. It seems to me that we are in a “confidence building” stage of the negotiations. Iran has proven it can stop much of the violence in Iraq and the now the US has reciprocated with a climb down on Iran’s nuclear program.

But my theory is that these are just the first tentative steps to a much larger journey. It is not logical to think that we have already reached the end of the road. Surely in the negotiations that have been on going, the goals of both parties are much larger. The US will obviously want to stop Iran from enriching uranium and producing plutonium. Iran wants recognition Bush wants to be able to claim for the history books that he has resolved the “Axis of Evil” countries for the foreseeable future. We certainly are seeing negotiations with North Korea along a similar line.

But the stakes are higher in the Middle East than in Northeast Asia and so the solutions may be more dramatic. Again, I am not advocating for peace with Iran, I am just speculating about the calculations are political leadership are making. And they certainly don’t consult me before making their decisions. But I am certain that an endgame has been planned and in the coming months we will see further steps which bring Iran and the US closer together.

Because what I see right now is a cold war type division in the Middle East between the Sunni and Shia blocs (more or less) with the US stuck with the Sunni side. Of course the corrupt Sunni states know the US has nowhere else to turn so they are not in much of a mood to make any concessions. This split in the Middle East is playing more into their hands than ours.

A breakthrough with Iran would put the US in a powerful position in the Middle East as we could start playing one side off the other. After a dramatic trip to Tehran, who is to say the US wouldn’t start siding with the Iran against the Gulf States? The Sunnis would start treading carefully to avoid this happening. In this situation perhaps the US would have enough leverage against the Saudis to coerce them into shutting down a few Wahhabi madrassas here and there.

But there is also the question of Iraq and its oil. If it is indeed true that Iran holds a veto over peace there, then the US is not going to be able to exploit its apparent position as colonial masters of Iraq unless Iran agrees. There are long term business interests at stake here. Peace with Iran would open new avenues for major oil contracts in both Iraq and Iran for US oil companies. And these companies most certainly don’t buy into the idea that there no way to negotiate in good faith with an Islamic regime. They do it all the time.

12/07/2007 03:09:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Kevin, I have carefully read your well-written thoughts, and considered your background history and your strategy, and have to regretfully say that my conclusion is you're an idiot.

I think sometimes people are so afraid of making a mistake that they refuse to pick an option and go with it. It appears that is what you're doing in your determination that the only way forward is more talk talk ... until we hit a brick wall, the brick wall being an Iranian nuclear strike upon New York City. I wonder if you'd even think a retaliatory strike against Tehran would be preferrable to talk talk if the Persians nuked the Jews.

Some of us prefer to be a little bit more proactive than you're willing to be and to try something different BEFORE we hit the wall. To me, years and years and years of talk talk with Iran have been a total failure. I'm not interested in changing the messenger or altering the message to be more conciliatory or to give them better bribes. And it would be nice while we were chastising the Persians, we were simultaneously protecting ourselves ... which a mushroom cloud (or ten) would do.

12/07/2007 06:12:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Nahncee,

The Iranians have a strategic choice to make, they can come clean with the international community about the scope of their nuclear activities, and fully accept the longstanding offer to suspend their enrichment programme and come to the table and negotiate. Or they can continue on a path of isolation that is not in the best interest of the Iranian people

I'm not the author of those words. They may be idiotic, I will leave that for you to decide, but they sure tell me a deal is in the works with Iran.

And I think your comments have become much more interesting in the last several months (seriously). You used to be a bit of a bully but you put more thought into them lately (not withstanding the idiot comment).

12/07/2007 06:22:00 AM  
Blogger Garth Farkley said...

Kevin obviously has thick skin.

Good show, old boy.

12/07/2007 07:39:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Kevin, obviously, is a true-blue advocate of talk talk, always, no matter what the provocation. I note that he didn't post anything additional that is verifiable nor factoid, and therefore will continue to regard his posts with - you know - disregard.

12/07/2007 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger Zenster said...

It would be interesting to know if
the massive explosion in Ryongchon, North Korea (2004) is related to the reported Israeli raid of Syria (a Pyongyang/ Damascus nexus).


From what little evidence that filtered out of the Hermit Kingdom, the Iranian-style train bomb was an attempt to assassinate Kim Jong-Il. Any other plausible explanations would be of great interest.

Kevin: The fact is that our government certainly does think that it can negotiate with an Islamist regime.

This only goes to demonstrate the incredibly poor judgement displayed by our current crop of politicians. Their Ivy League implanted transnationalist cultural relativism blinds them to the exceptionally deep and unbridgeable divide between high context American and low context Islamic cultures. They simply cannot bring themselves to believe that other people think, not just differently but in a totally alien fashion.

Not only do we have warm relations with the Saudis (who are as Islamist as it gets) but there are clearly negotiations going on right now between the US and Iran.

I'm pretty confident you did not intend to prove my point but that is exactly what you have done. The Saudis don't just play our politicians for suckers at every turn, they also buy tremendous influence inside the Beltway by hiring every influential exiting pol and appointee they can get their claws into.

Try to remember that fifteen of the nineteen 9-11 hijackers were Saudis. With their dissemination of Wahhabism, the House of Saud assumes preeminence in the advocacy of international terrorism and establishment of a global caliphate. Both of these aspects make them the absolute worst enemies of Western civilization.

It seems to me that we are in a “confidence building” stage of the negotiations.

Again, exactly how does one go about building "confidence" with a regime that will just as quickly reneg and cheat upon every single agreement that they put their personal signature to? They could swear to it upon a Koran and taqiyya would still sanctify their duplicity. To have any "confidence" in agreements made with Muslims represents the height of naiveté. To suggest that it is even possible demonstrates a puerile grasp of Islamic culture.

Iran has proven it can stop much of the violence in Iraq and the now the US has reciprocated with a climb down on Iran’s nuclear program.

All that Iran has proven is that they can manipulate Western politicians like so many marionettes. We have yet to make any significant inroads whatsoever with respect to Iran. Only regime change or an intensive campaign of pinpoint aerial bombardment have the least chance of altering what promises to be a MME (Muslim Middle East) trainwreck of stupendous proportions.

But my theory is that these are just the first tentative steps to a much larger journey.

Your "journey" is into a dark alleyway with your very worst enemy when you are armed only with talk.

It is not logical to think that we have already reached the end of the road.

Quite obviously, you neglected to read even the excerpts I provided from John David Lewis's work. Go back and read them, if you would be so kind. Political Islam must die. Theocratic Islam must die. They are inimical to human life and individual liberty. If you cannot understand this one simple fact, then you are utterly opaque.

But I am certain that an endgame has been planned and in the coming months we will see further steps which bring Iran and the US closer together.

Unfortunately, neither you nor our politicians understand the need to keep friends close and enemeies even closer. It requires a special suspension of disbelief to think that there will ever be any amity felt for America by Tehran's mullahs. They hate every single aspect of American life. The fact that our women go about uncovered and unescorted enrages them. The fact that people kiss and make love in our movies gives them fits and starts. None of this addresses the white-hot incandescent fury they feel over our support for the Jewish state, but that's okay, I'm sure we'll find some way of getting along.

After a dramatic trip to Tehran, who is to say the US wouldn’t start siding with the Iran against the Gulf States?

Delusional thinking at best.

In this situation perhaps the US would have enough leverage against the Saudis to coerce them into shutting down a few Wahhabi madrassas here and there.

We are the ones who should be shutting down the madrassas and mosques, regardless of Saudi wishes. And when I say "shutting down", I mean demolishing or bombing them out of existence.

Kevin, asserting that diplomacy is a functional way of dealing with Islamic regimes goes against over a millennia of recorded history. As these barbaric tyrannies amass untold billions of petrodollars and advanced weapons, how is it that suddenly diplomacy will work where it never has before? What you are recommending is that we repeat the same old shopworn experiment yet one more time and continue to hope for different results. I'm sure that we all know what Einstein thought of that.

12/07/2007 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Zenster, in Kevin's defense, I think he is making observations about what he thinks is happening - no agreeing with what he thinks is happening. He wrote that he may agree with you that "There is no way to negotiate in good faith with an Islamic regime."
That does not mean that other people (businesses, our government) won't do it anyway or that Kevin would support trying to make such an agreement (I guess he need to ponder that before he opines).

As to us siding with Iran against the Arabs - I don't think that is a viable proposition - Iran doesn't have the oil reserves that would make them more attractive than the Arab nations. There is no comparison.

I think that what we really have to worry about is that the Arabs and Iran will align more closely against us. Iran has now shown that it has the ability to control events and the Arab nations will be drawn to the strong horse in their midst. We on the other hand have been shown to have great potential power, but lacking in the will to convert it into actual power to control events. If you were a Saudi leader (with a large restless Shiite population) seeing what Iran has been able to do in Iraq and Lebanon, wouldn't you want to cozy up with Ira, if just to keep them from trying to cause problems for you?

This is just one element of the huge changes that I think we will face in the future. Once Iran has the bomb the changes will accelerate and solidify.

12/07/2007 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger Zenster said...

Zenster, in Kevin's defense, I think he is making observations about what he thinks is happening - no agreeing with what he thinks is happening. He wrote that he may agree with you that "There is no way to negotiate in good faith with an Islamic regime."

Perhaps so, brian, but the abundance of other overly-roseate projections made by him coupled with his conspicuous lack of criticism for those who keep presenting a concilliatory posture when faced with irreconcilable enemies belies his own inability to comprehend the scope of Islam's threat.

12/07/2007 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Zenster,

Although I was just trying to predict what was in the tealeaves of the new NIE (thanks Brian), I do need to respond to you as to whether it is possible to negotiate with an Islamist government. In order to answer this question I will look at two examples, Saudi Arabia and Iran, and try to place the discussion within the historic contest of the struggle against communism.

I did read most of the essay by John David Lewis and the first thing that came into my head were the similarities in attitude to the French General Staff in 1914 who loved the offensive and were so fond of quoting the famous words of Georges-Jacques Danton that launched the great terror of the French Revolution de l'audace, encore de l'audace, et toujours de l’audrace (Audacity, more audacity, always audacity) These sentiments always make for great speeches and articles but rarely lead to an intelligent military strategy. Especially not for a democracy. Perhaps I have read too many books by Liddell-Hart but in the world of grand strategy frontal attack usually leads to stalemate whereas the indirect approach -- in the hands of an exceptional commander -- can lead to decisive results. That’s why great strategists make lousy columnists and vice versa.

So while writing about shutting down every Islamist preacher is emotionally soothing and intellectually satisfying in a simple sort of way, the problems of creating the political will, collecting the manpower, and committing the economic assets for such an endeavour are naturally left for others to contemplate.

But what is the real threat level we face in militant Islam? Is it less or more than that posed by communism during most of the 20th century? (Lewis’ essay hardly mentions Communism for some reason) Is there an Islamist military power that is anywhere near to as powerful conventionally as our military might? Is Islam a universalist ideology that potentially has adherents in all societies or is it a localized threat, specific to some countries and areas but not others? Are we soon goin gto be holding Senate hearing about how Islamists have penetrated the top levels of the US government? Do Islamists have the means to destroy the entire earth? Perhaps these are loaded questions so let’s just concede for the basis of argument that Islam poses a similar threat that Communism did although I think a strong argument could be made that it poses much less of a risk.

So what is our strategic goal concerning militant Islam? The absolutist goal of getting every Islamist preacher in the world to shut up? If I were building my own house I probably would start with a similar absolutist goal of 100,000 sq ft. mansion overlooking Pebble Beach. But when I got the cost estimate on this I would probably start getting a bit more realistic, and so will the American people when the realize what it would take to play Spanish King to all the whack-job Islamists in the world.

A more realistic goal would be to overthrow the two main state sponsors of militant Islam, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Given this strategic goal, what tactical steps would I take to reach this goal? Would negotiations be one of them? Well that all depends on who I want to do the overthrowing.

In the case of Iran, my gut feeling is that the Iranian people are basically reasonable and given the chance they could create a decent society. This opinion is thinly based on the perhaps ten Iranian people I know and all the history I have read about them. Remember that back in 1954 they did indeed have a pretty decent society but we felt the need to install a pro-Western authoritarian dictator to rule them. The only way they could eventually overthrow the Shah was through the militancy and irrationality of Islam. Middle class university professors are great at advocating democracy but suck bigtime at overthrowing military dictators.

But one could say that Japan and Germany were also competent societies that were taken over by irrational regimes, why didn’t we just sit back and wait for those people to enact regime change? The difference is that Japan and Germany openly attacked and declared war on us in an unambiguous way. I know many would argue that Iranian attacks (often through proxies) on US troops in Lebanon and Iraq constitute a similar declaration of war. All I would say is that Pearl Harbor had an obvious galvanizing force among “the man in the street” that IED attacks in Iraq do not. In contrast I would indeed say that the attack on 9/11 do fall into the “Pearl Harbor” category but more on that when I get to Saudi Arabia.

So what about negotiating with Islamist governments? My answer is simple, if negotiating with an Islamist government potentially furthers my strategic goals then I most certainly will negotiate with them. My strategic goal in Iran is for the Iranian people themselves to overthrow their Islamist government. If I could get the Iranian government to stop enriching uranium, effectively containing Iran, then I would establish diplomatic relations and give the Iranian people a chance to get the job done. They have a long and proud history. They have a track record of having decent government when left to their own devices. And they even now have the hint of democratic institutions. One might say I am being overly optimistic. But what about the example of communism? The US armed forces most certainly did not sweep through Eastern Europe and individually cut the tongue out of each apparatchik who spouted Marxist slogans. In fact, if you look at the map, the areas where the US fought communism the hardest, either militarily or otherwise, have proven to be the places where communism has most endured: North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba. Places where the US negotiated, contained, and allowed the people to get the job done themselves have been the areas where communism has been most successfully eradicated. In my opinion Iran falls into the Eastern European category. Give the Iranian people the space to get the job done themselves.

In sharp contrast I would say that Saudi Arabia is a totally dysfunctional society, has only a history of barbarism, and has absolutely no hope to ever improve things on there own. We could stratagize and negotiate for centuries and it would do no good. Besides, the Saudis directly attacked us on 9/11. Therefore to make a long story short, I am all for direct military action against the Saudis tomorrow.

12/07/2007 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger Pangloss said...

I think shivermetimbers has it right, arrrrgh matey!

The release of the unclassified NIE had two purposes, to deflate the scoop the New York Traitors was about to release, and to test the intelligence in the NIE. If the NIE produces a new batch of Iranian counter-espionage killings then we know it's valid and everything is okay. If it doesn't then we know that Iran planted the info and can redouble our clandestine efforts inside Iran while preparing for a bombing campaign.

Iran's response so far, "tsk tsk, ho hum."

Who is Keyser Soze? He is supposed to be Turkish. Some say his father was German. Nobody believed he was real. Nobody ever saw him or knew anybody that ever worked directly for him, but to hear Kobayashi tell it, anybody could have worked for Soze. You never knew. That was his power. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.

Does the Devil exist? Is Iran pursuing nuclear weapons intent on using them against Israel, even at the cost of being immolated in its own nuclear holocaust?

Supposedly of Turkish nationality but the son of a German father, Söze allegedly began his criminal career in Turkey as a low-level drug smuggler. The entity that is Keyser Söze was truly born, however, when rival smugglers working for the Hungarian Mafia invaded his house while he was away, raping his wife, and holding his children hostage, killing one of them when Söze arrived to show him they were serious. They then threatened to kill his wife and remaining children if he did not surrender his business to them. Rather than give in to their demands, he shot and killed his family and all but one of the Hungarians, whom he spared knowing that the survivor would tell the mafia gang what he was planning to do.

He lets the last Hungarian go. He waits until his wife and kids are in the ground and then he goes after the rest of the mob. He kills their kids, he kills their wives, he kills their parents and their parents' friends. He burns down the houses they live in and the stores they work in, he kills people that owe them money. And like that he was gone. Underground. Nobody has ever seen him since. He becomes a myth, a spook story that criminals tell their kids at night. "Rat on your pop, and Keyser Soze will get you." And no-one ever really believes.


If Iran is destroyed then Hezbollah is free in the world, armed with nuclear weapons, ready to use them against whoever they want. Fathers, mothers, parents' friends, children, wives, pets, creditors, employers, all become targets to the Keyser Sozes of the world.

12/07/2007 06:10:00 PM  
Blogger Pangloss said...

I revised and extended my remarks here.

12/07/2007 07:28:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

If Iran is destroyed..., then so too is Hezbollah, as well as Syrian hopes of Lebanese hegemony. That would not be a bad thing.

I agree with Kevin, but with a twist. As I read the NIE, I tried to fathom the audience as well as the message. All the US domestic targets and possible replies are too predictable, and no one is helped or harmed. No message in the conclusions as released, apply here in the US. It is not news here, in any way mis-shape or dissin'-form.

12/07/2007 07:39:00 PM  
Blogger Zenster said...

kevin: so let’s just concede for the basis of argument that Islam poses a similar threat that Communism did although I think a strong argument could be made that it poses much less of a risk.

I think we can clarify matters rather well here with one single summarizing question. But first a little background.

During the Cold War America was able to achieve a "balance of terror" with the Soviet Union through a policy known as MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction). However terrible such a strategy might have been, it held in check communist aggression through a method historically known as deterrence.

Ever since the 9-11 atrocity one of my personal pursuits has been devising some effective deterrent to terrorism. I'm not going to ennumerate the various alternatives that came to mind but one single fact emerged no matter what scenario was being considered.

THERE IS NO WAY TO DETER A SUICIDAL ENEMY.

Islam's death cult is an exceptionally deadly foe in that it is largely immune to reason or deterrence. Communism—with its hopes of taking over the world—knew that there had to be something left of itself so that their rule finally could be imposed.

While some within Islam might also understand that corporeal equation, there are many who disregard it in their zeal to kill all the Jews and Infidels. They do not seek an earthly estate and instead anticipate the rewards of paradise. The only functional deterrent against such types is simply to kill them first.

Much of the foregoing is encapsulated in the quote by Ayatollah Khomeini that I cited in my first post. I'll reiterate here for everyone's convenience:

"I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world."

So, kevin, here's the one simple question: How do you deter an enemy of that sort?

12/08/2007 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

So, kevin, here's the one simple question: How do you deter an enemy of that sort?

You talk him to death, being firmly persuaded that as long as YOU are talking, HE won't slit your throat.

12/08/2007 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Zenster,

THERE IS NO WAY TO DETER A SUICIDAL ENEMY.

For the concept of deterrence to function, the situation must involve both conflict and common interest. Generally speaking, in the case of a suicidal enemy, no common interest exists since one side wants to live and the other die. There could be a slight overlap of interest if your enemy has a strong preference in the manner of his death, for example a strong desire to pull the trigger himself or in forcing you to do it for him.

But since the self-inflicted death of your enemy means victory, I’m not sure I would actually want to deter his suicide, just control the place and manner it takes place to minimize my losses.

I could see four ways to limit my exposure to his self-immolatio; protection, diversion, provocation, and termination. In other words I could build up my defences so as to minimize the damage from his eventual suicide attack. I could divert his final attack towards someone else. I could do a calculation as to whether he is getting stronger or getting weaker, If his strength is growing and I am certain he is going to eventually attack then it is in my interests to provoke this attack as early as possible. If he is getting weaking (relative to my increase of decrease in strength) then I sit back and wait. Or I could just kill him outright and get the whole affair over with. But this option contains moral risk since you may be mistaken about your opponents intention. In that case you have just committed murder and your internal moral coherence takes a hit.

But is the Iranian leadership really suicidal? Suicide pacts are traditionally hard to enforce even between a couple; it is hard to imagine such a pact existing between such a large and diverse group of people such as the Iranian leadership. And do the US and/or Israel shore common interests? One way to test for common interests is to see if the combatants are each willing to engage in limited war? That is, intentionally limit their attacks on each other in order to obtain a common good. In the recent war between Iranian-backed Hezbollah and Israel, the Iranian backed side certainly never used its largest missiles and never targeted chemical or nuclear plants. The point of this is not to claim that Hezbollah are therefore great guys, it is to show that they did implicitly acknowledge common interest with Israel in not letting the war get out of hand. They did recognize a certain line in the sand and were effectively deterred from crossing it. Iran’s actions in Iraq are also limited. The best description I have heard is that they treat Iraq like their own personal nuclear reactor, pulling out the control rods when they want things to heat up but plunging them back in when they prefer things to quiet down (as they have recently). This is the very essence of limited war and it shows they again see a line in the sand that they are deterred from crossing.

But the greatest evidence of common interest is the fact that negotiations are on going between the US and Iran.

In terms of Ayatollah Khomeini’s remarks one must distinguish between offensive suicide and defensive. War is all about either imposing your will on other or resisting attempts to have your enemy impose his will on you. It seems paradoxical to try to impose your will on others by means of suicide. One can blackmail loved ones into fulfilling your will but that is totally dependant on the calculation that the loved ones don’t want to see you die. In the case of Iran, their will would disappear with their mortal bodies the second they commit suicide so it would be no longer possible to impose it on anyone.

Defensively though there are plenty of examples of suicidal resistance to accepting the will of your enemy. Thucydides described it best in the Melian Dialogues with the expression, The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must. Of course the weak can choose death and avoid suffering the imposition of slavery. This is actually an honourable attitude, all proud people should be ready to fight to the death to avoid becoming the slaves of their enemies.

And even in the Iranians attempts to build up a nuclear weapons capability they show signs of not being suicidal. Typically a person contemplating taking his own life (and perhaps taking many others down with him) just purchases enough firearms to get the job done. They don’t go through the trouble of opening their own firearms factory. Iran has the means to buy existing nuclear weapons if they really want to end it all and make a huge mess in the process.

So I don’t see Iran as a suicidal entity, far from it. They are clever and cunning, sitting back patiently, profiting from every miscalculation (Israeli invasion of Lebanon 1982, US invasion of Iraq 2003) their enemies make. They are definitely playing a long game. If only they were suicidal then things would be so much easier.

========================

A few notes about the Lewis article. I reread it and I could actually agree to a large portion of it if only he made one small but very important adjustment. Why, why, why, if he openly admits that Saudi Arabia attacked us on 9/11; why is he calling for us to invade Iran instead? This is craven in the extreme. I can at least understand the logic those who deny that the Saudis were involved. But Lewis knows the House of Saud attacked us just as openly as the Japanese did so many years ago. His logic goes as follows. In 1941 Japan attacked us and the correct response was war with Japan. In 2001 Saudi Arabia attacked us but the correct response is go to war against Iran.

War with Saudi Arabia would be a pretty straightforward affair. There are two key strategic assets the House of Saud control, the eastern oilfields and the key religious sites of Islam. We would just grab these two assets and then start the peace negotiations. When the Saudis have satisfied enough of our demands we could start slowly handing assets back to either a reformed regime or some moderate Muslim international grouping.

12/09/2007 01:29:00 AM  
Blogger InternetFred said...

Question: Has Iran begun to build any nuclear power plants to generate electricity? Of what size? When?

12/09/2007 07:35:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I withdraw my previous comment that Kevin is an idiot. If he wants to invade Saudi Arabia and *then* nuke Iran, he's got my vote for Mensa membership.

12/09/2007 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger cooldog said...

NahnCee said...

I withdraw my previous comment that Kevin is an idiot. If he wants to invade Saudi Arabia and *then* nuke Iran, he's got my vote for Mensa membership.

I trust Kevin; I'm sure that if anybody seriously considered invading Saudi Arabia that he'd be opposed to it.

12/09/2007 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger Zenster said...

kevin: Or I could just kill him outright and get the whole affair over with. But this option contains moral risk since you may be mistaken about your opponents intention. In that case you have just committed murder and your internal moral coherence takes a hit.

Your seeming clearcut scenario becomes rather muddled when the putative attacker resides within a civilian population that knowingly and voluntarily conceals his presence. Once you accept the fact that these attackers NEVER wear any military uniforms and rely upon our reluctance to incur collateral civilian casualties, the question of "murder" becomes moot. Especially so in light of how these attackers want nothing more than to inflict maximum civilian casualties amongst our own populace.

As to being “mistaken about your opponent’s intention”: When both the attacker along with his concealing population all adhere to a doctrine of using international terrorism to install a global theocratic totalitarian tyranny, it becomes rather difficult to hit any innocent targets. At present, all that is missing from this equation is America’s political will to comprehend this fact and act accordingly.

But is the Iranian leadership really suicidal? Suicide pacts are traditionally hard to enforce even between a couple; it is hard to imagine such a pact existing between such a large and diverse group of people such as the Iranian leadership.

The problem with your question is that it supposes equal voices amongst Iran's rulers. That is very much not the case. Far worse, the higher up the food chain you go, the more intensely fanatical they become. This is the ultimate danger of theocracy, zealotry at the top.

As I noted before:

The Iranians will do anything, repeat ANYTHING, to bring the 12th Imam out of his well and initiating a nuclear apocalypse literally heads the list as a way of doing this.

How do you deter someone from instigating nuclear war when they regard doing so as a primary path towards fulfilling their religious destiny? Iran's ayatollah believes that the 12th Imam's arrival will herald a precipitous Iranian victory in the face of eminent disaster. That arrival can only happen when Iran is on the verge of total catastrophe. None of this bodes well for any hope of "limited war".

In the recent war between Iranian-backed Hezbollah and Israel, the Iranian backed side certainly never used its largest missiles and never targeted chemical or nuclear plants.

Some notes from Defense Tech about Hezbollah's armaments:

Iran supplied Hezbollah with solid-fuel, Zelzal-2 missiles with a 200-km range, but these are not very accurate, since they do not have a self-guidance system.

The Zelzal-2 missiles, intended to strike broad targets such as communities and cities, are equipped with explosive warheads weighing up to 600 kilograms...

Hezbollah's original Katyusha rockets had a range of 12 kilometers to 22 kilometers. At a later stage, it obtained Iranian Fajar-3 and Fajar-5 rockets, with a range of 45 kilometers and 75 kilometers, respectively. Hezbollah did not use these rockets until the current conflict.

[emphasis added]

A glance at this map shows it is obvious that none of Hezbollah's missiles are suitable for the sort of pinpoint attacks against nuclear or industrial facilities that you are suggesting. Had Iran's proxies exercised the incredibly poor judgment to launch any of their longer range weapons, Israel's response would most likely have been even more devastating. Therefore, your supposition about "limited war" is without merit.

The point of this is not to claim that Hezbollah are therefore great guys, it is to show that they did implicitly acknowledge common interest with Israel in not letting the war get out of hand. They did recognize a certain line in the sand and were effectively deterred from crossing it.

Hezbollah attempted the maximum amount of carnage they could reasonably pursue and got their asses handed to them on a plate. None of this remotely indicates any “common interest” or willingness by Israel’s enemies to engage in “limited war”. If Hezbollah had been in possession of a nuclear device all primed and ready to fire, do you honestly think that they would not have deployed a suicide team to detonate it within Israel’s borders? If anything, it is but one more example of Israel acting with almost saintly restraint in the face of even the most dire provocations.

Iran’s actions in Iraq are also limited. The best description I have heard is that they treat Iraq like their own personal nuclear reactor, pulling out the control rods when they want things to heat up but plunging them back in when they prefer things to quiet down (as they have recently). This is the very essence of limited war and it shows they again see a line in the sand that they are deterred from crossing.

This is only the case because Iran does not yet possess a nuclear umbrella. Iran knows damn well that increasing their provocations in Iraq past a certain point of plausible deniability will result in a casus belli publicly acceptable to America’s people that will authorize the White House to take direct military action against Iran. Do you honestly think that Iran would be showing this sort of restraint if they could rely upon possession of nuclear weapons to shield them from significant retaliation? In fact, this sort of immunity is exactly what Iran is pursuing. Their current lack of punishment for decades of terrorist attacks against American targets is entirely due to total spinelessness among our politicians.

Again, the only reason Iran is showing any restraint is precisely because they do not have a credible deterrent which would allow them to act with a free and far more brutal hand. None of this remotely bespeaks the slightest mutual recognition of any “line in the sand”. It is merely Iran walking a tightrope of continuing its attacks while skirting the threshold of inviting military retaliation. Any deterrence is on our side only and even that is not successfully enough employed against enemies willing to use asymmetrical warfare. This, again, harkens back to my original point regarding a functional deterrent against terrorism.

But the greatest evidence of common interest is the fact that negotiations are on going between the US and Iran.

Once again, I’m obliged to drive this point home. Just because our idiotic diplomats are willing to delude themselves that negotiations with an Islamic regime could be binding or effective in any other way, does that make it proper to impute that Iran is actually going to play fair or even anything remotely resembling it? Answer the question. Iran—along with Islam in general—has demonstrated a lengthy history of entering negotiations for the sole purpose of buying time to gain sufficient advantage. In case you have not been paying attention, this is called hudna and it is exactly what Iran is doing at present. Interpreting Iran’s actions in any other light goes beyond stupidity and into the realm of willful ignorance. It is this cloud-cuckoo-land that our politicians—democrats especially—and diplomats all inhabit and none of them will be shaken out of it until an Ameican metropolis disappears in a nuclear haze.

In terms of Ayatollah Khomeini’s remarks one must distinguish between offensive suicide and defensive. War is all about either imposing your will on other or resisting attempts to have your enemy impose his will on you. It seems paradoxical to try to impose your will on others by means of suicide.

This is only because you utterly fail—or intentionally refuse—to comprehend Islamic doctrine. Islam is a death cult and its precepts all rely upon rewards in the hereafter. No earthly conditions can restrain Islam’s adherents from pursuing their goal, especially so in light of how their dying in pursuit of the cause represents the most glorious—and lavishly rewarded—form of self-sacrifice. It is only because you exist as a free individual within a high context culture that it seems paradoxical to you. To someone within a low context Islamic culture, Khomeini’s abjuration to commit national suicide makes crystal clear sense, however disturbing it might seem to us. Islam seeks global ascendancy and will blanche at nothing in its pursuit of it. Barring success at this task, Islam would just as soon immolate itself in the course of killing every single Jew and Infidel alive by way of a Phyrric victory and—despite its own demise—enjoy the vile fruits of its efforts in paradise. If you cannot comprehend how Islam has this obsessive and highly destructive fixation upon martyrdom, then you are wholly ignorant regarding the most basic and dangerous aspects of this barbaric creed.

This is actually an honourable attitude, all proud people should be ready to fight to the death to avoid becoming the slaves of their enemies.

Something the West has yet to realize in full measure. When it does, be prepared for a sea change in the Global War on Terrorism and woe betide this planet’s Muslim population.

Iran has the means to buy existing nuclear weapons if they really want to end it all and make a huge mess in the process.

Has it occurred to you that only by sinking North Korean vessels at sea and other less well-publicized efforts that your exact scenario has been avoided? You yourself note that Iran has the financial means to buy a nuclear weapon. Fortunately, most countries in possession of nuclear weapons know damn well that handing one off to the Iranians—at any price, or even none at all—will result in they themselves being retaliated against in kind and that means nuclear annihilation. Better known as a deterrent.

In case you are unaware, America goes to great lengths in harvesting specimens of isotopic material from every nuclear-capable nation in this entire world. Most nuclear-armed countries voluntarily submit such samples but special efforts have been made to acquire microscopic amounts of enriched material from even the most uncooperative regimes. This is subjected to extensive spectroscopic chemical analysis in order to derive an isotopic signature. Every single breeder reactor and enriching facility has a distinctly unique signature of extraneous actinides like Americium and Californium. By examining this micro-contaminant fingerprint we can determine exactly which reactor on earth the fissile material came from. This allows us to deter even nuclear attack by proxy.

Perhaps this makes it all the more clear why allowing Iran to enrich nuclear material is such a dangerous proposition. They’ve no intention of showing all their cards and have made this quite clear. Iran seeks to have plausible deniability, even for something so horrific as a terrorist nuclear attack. This is why they must be stopped.

Why, why, why, if he openly admits that Saudi Arabia attacked us on 9/11; why is he calling for us to invade Iran instead?

I’d wager it is because Lewis understands that Iran—as the exemplary case of political Islam and largest sponsor of active global terrorism—must be taken down post haste. Let there be no doubt that Saudi Arabia is near the very top of our Christmas list, but Iran—with its nascent nuclear weapons program—beckons with far greater urgency.

There are two key strategic assets the House of Saud control, the eastern oilfields and the key religious sites of Islam. We would just grab these two assets and then start the peace negotiations. When the Saudis have satisfied enough of our demands we could start slowly handing assets back to either a reformed regime or some moderate Muslim international grouping.

Quite curiously, you have just stumbled upon one of my own suggested deterrents and punitive measures suggested by others in years of discussing these same exact subjects.

I have long advocated seizing the shrines at Mecca and Medina as physical hostages and ransoming the haj (pilgrimage) against all further acts of global terrorism. For the West to deter terrorism, we must somehow reach out and touch some one BILLION Muslims. There are few ways of effectively doing this. Considering that the haj is attended by MILLIONS of Muslims each year, interrupting this pilgramage in retaliation for further terrorist atrocities represents one of the only ways to inflict some degree of reprisal against this world’s Muslim population for their tacit acceptance of Islamic terrorism.

Additionally, I have also suggested that, if terrorists use chemical or biological weapons against the West, first Medina and then Mecca, should be contaminated in a similar fashion. This would serve to make them uninhabitable and also oblige the Islamic world to spend untold billions rehabilitating the sites. Furthermore, staying only with the physical hostage scenario, these shrines would become the ultimate “flypaper”, drawing in the world’s jihadi population in their attempts to liberate these prized sites. Of course, a no-man’s-land of minefields and computer directed automatic weapons fire would surround each shrine.

Finally, as suggested by others I have encountered, confiscating Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar oilfield would be an ideal way to obtain compensation for economic damage resulting from the 9-11 atrocity. It would provide America with sufficient petroleum reserves so that we could make an orderly transition over to alternative fuels and also help us avoid the economic extortion that OPEC currently indulges in.

Kevin, perhaps engaging you at length has been productive. I’m still quite concerned that you continue to regard negotiations with Iran as having the least prospect for productive outcome. This represents a serious misperception upon your part. Similarly, I feel you impute far too much reasonableness to an enemy that has demonstrated a total disregard for reason or logic. Otherwise, why would such a poorly equipped Islam constantly provoke the nuclear-armed West? That you have grasped—in large part—what Lewis is trying to convey is quite heartening. I’m hoping that you can recalibrate your view as to why Iran and not Saudi Arabia remains the primary target. Personally, I feel that Pakistan occupies the number two slot, followed by Saudi Arabia as a photo-finish third.

12/09/2007 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Zenster,

perhaps engaging you at length has been productive.

I would like to thank you (and the other members of Belmont Club) for your courtesy and patience in discussing these issues with me. My views often do not fall into mainstream categories. I must say that discussions of this sort on Left leaning sites are more difficult as they seem to get more threatened by any perceived heresies from established dogma.

With that said I can certainly understand why my view on considering the Iranians in the same light as communism and in combating them through the framework of containment and limited warfare is controversial. I really just came up with this during the course of this thread so I will continue to prod and test this idea.

Where I think we are in total disagreement is the idea of considering the attacks of 9/11 as an attack by “political Islam” instead of what in my opinion it really was, an attack by Saudi Arabia (by means of Saudi-affiliated proxies) with the intent of furthering uniquely Saudi interests (the withdrawal of US troops from KSA). The “political Islam” label is just a dodge to try to cover up our political impotence to respond directly to these attacks. Most observers would have strongly objected if in 1941 someone had tried to call Pearl Harbor an attack by “oriental despotism” and counselled attacking (for example) China because they were actually a larger long-term threat than Japan. Or if the British had refused to retaliate against IRA attacks and decided to label it an attack by “Papist extremism” and targeted Opus Dei instead.

In all the talk of deterrents and strategies there is one basic point we are forgetting. There are certain rules and lines in the sand for relations between states. The concept of limited warfare allows some room for controlled hostilities. For example, during the Cold War, in third countries theatres, US, Soviet, and Chinese soldiers often attacked each other. But direct attacks on the homeland were totally unacceptable and all states involved would expect that they would be directly responded to. The Saudis in 2001 broke this rule. They openly slapped us hard in the face. And we have not responded to them at all. Quite the contrary, we have taken out one of their enemies and many are calling for us to take on another of their rivals. That sends a very strong—and dangerous--message to the rest of the world.

12/10/2007 03:22:00 AM  
Blogger Zenster said...

kevin: I must say that discussions of this sort on Left leaning sites are more difficult as they seem to get more threatened by any perceived heresies from established dogma.

You may wish to remember your words very carefully. Too often I have found that liberals routinely exhibit far more ideological bigotry than most conservatives. So many Leftists hold their views based upon articles of faith—and not reason—that to challenge them simply rocks their world beyond endurance.

Where I think we are in total disagreement is the idea of considering the attacks of 9/11 as an attack by “political Islam” instead of what in my opinion it really was, an attack by Saudi Arabia (by means of Saudi-affiliated proxies) with the intent of furthering uniquely Saudi interests (the withdrawal of US troops from KSA).

Not "total disagreement", in fact, you are largely preaching to the choir. Saudi Arabia is part and parcel of "political Islam". While discernable fractures in Islam's seemingly monolithic façade—namely, Sunni versus Shi'ia conflicts—make possible disputes over where the nexus of its political power lies, the overall process remains unaltered.

Yes, Saudi Arabia is the eminence grise behind much of global terrorism, its erstwhile control over this world's readily available oil supply gives it an undeserved degree of immunity. Especially so when considered along side the Bush family's conflictingly warm relationship with the House of Saud.

This leaves us with few alternatives. While ousting Saddam and quashing Iran might appear to serve the Saudis' best interests, installing democracy in the MME (Muslim Middle East) and poking political Islam in its Iranian eye all continue to advance America's strategic agenda.

The Saudis in 2001 broke this rule. They openly slapped us hard in the face. And we have not responded to them at all. Quite the contrary, we have taken out one of their enemies and many are calling for us to take on another of their rivals. That sends a very strong—and dangerous--message to the rest of the world.

Do not think that you are the only one who is dissatisfied with how Bush's efforts have conveniently suited Saudi Arabia's own agenda. Sadly, that is grist for another administration's rumination.

As of now, it still remains far more important to neutralize Iran's nuclear threat. I suggest that you read the "Footnote" thread currently topping this website for further illumination. There are too many other urgent issues confronting America for it to suddenly set about inflicting great harm to its own and this world's economy by way of Saudi intervention. Welcome to the disgusting world of Realpolitik.

kevin, I can only hope you have overcome any delusions about negotiating with Islamic regimes. There can be no earnest negotiations with those whose goals are non-negotiable. Islam seeks global ascendancy and it is up to the West to crush that effort. Due to lack of support or outright triangulation against us—read: China, Russia and much of Europe—America is obliged to address this issue in an incremental fashion. So be it. I am not a big fan of George Bush but to his eternal credit, at least he has brought the fight into our enemy's neighborhood and given them a chance to savor the bitter fruits of terrorism.

One merely need examine the hue and cry in Pakistan over bomb vest attacks that they have sowed with such glee in other parts of the world. Al Qaeda in Iraq gave a large chunk of this planet's Shi'ite population a dose of its own terrorist medicine as well.

Islam is being read the riot act. Not just by the West but by their own radical elements. If Muslims cannot purchase a clue and set about ridding their mosques of terrorist filth, then Islam will have proven to our world that it no longer deserves to exist. One can only hope that the West will speedily act upon the verdict when it finally arrives.

12/10/2007 11:40:00 AM  

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