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Tag: "iran"

Hey; Is Something Going On?

[ 0 ] June 14, 2009 |

So, I’m trying to find out something about what’s going on in Iran, and on CNN I can watch a rerun of Larry King interviewing several gentlemen without shirtsleeves who apparently assemble choppers. On Fox Mike Huckabee is trying to explain why Jesus hates credit card relief. MSNBC is rerunning something about a prison in New Mexico. CNBC is evaluating whether college students should be able to afford Chanel tote bags.

Media fail.

…Mideast Analysis has a good rundown of possible scenarios.


The Revolution Enters its Next Phase

[ 0 ] June 14, 2009 |

Great post on Iran by Gary Sick. Hat tip to Ackerman.

Iran Election Thoughts

[ 0 ] June 12, 2009 |

Mahmound Ahmadinejad is a billion times worse than Hitler, unless he loses the election, in which case he was always irrelevant.

… each major candidate seem to believe that he won by forty points. Such views are not, as they say, reconcilable. Could be trouble on the streets of Tehran tonight…

Moussavi continues to claim victory, while Iran’s state controlled media claims that Ahmadinejad has won. Obviously, suggestions of election fraud on the part of pro-Ahmadinejad forces should be treated as plausible. At the same time, polling bounced around enough (and was questionable enough in method) to suggest the possibility of an Ahmadinejad victory.

If Ahmadinejad forces did steal the election, or if they are widely perceived to have stolen the election, then violence seems possible. Indeed, even if Ahmadinejad won legitimately by taking large margins in rural areas, the Iranian regime still has a major problem. If Mousavi’s mostly urban supporters believe that they’ve been cheated, then they may well take to the streets, forcing the regime to respond. And then all bets are off.

"Be Very Afraid" Idiocy of the Day

[ 0 ] March 17, 2009 |

Kevin Coleman at Defense Tech:

In any contest there is an outside chance a long-shot could come from behind and win. The race for cyber warfare dominance is no different. In the recently updated “Cyber Warfare Capabilities Estimate” (2009 version) those who could break out of the pack and come from behind and take a leadership position for cyber dominance are listed below.

Wait for it…. wait for it….

1. Iran
2. India
3. North Korea


One of these is not like the other two, in that one of these has a non-absurd prospect for “a leadership position for cyber dominance.” Let’s repeat that for effect: “Cyber dominance.” North Korea and Iran could break out of the pack and take “a leadership position for cyber dominance” ahead of the United States, China, and Russia (not to mention Japan, Canada, Taiwan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, France, and about forty other more plausible countries) if they just try hard enough. Yep.

Here’s a tip; if you have a metric that produces a list of leaders for cyber dominance, and North Korea is near the top of that list, then there’s something wrong with your metric.

Bush Denied Bunker Busters to Israel

[ 0 ] January 10, 2009 |

Much of interest here:

Early in 2008, the Israeli government signaled that it might be preparing to take matters into its own hands. In a series of meetings, Israeli officials asked Washington for a new generation of powerful bunker-busters, far more capable of blowing up a deep underground plant than anything in Israel’s arsenal of conventional weapons. They asked for refueling equipment that would allow their aircraft to reach Iran and return to Israel. And they asked for the right to fly over Iraq.

Mr. Bush deflected the first two requests, pushing the issue off, but “we said ‘hell no’ to the overflights,” one of his top aides said. At the White House and the Pentagon, there was widespread concern that a political uproar in Iraq about the use of its American-controlled airspace could result in the expulsion of American forces from the country.

I always knew that George W. Bush was a raving lunatic anti-semite who doesn’t believe in Israel’s right to defend itself. More importantly, I’ll give hearty thanks to a God I don’t believe in for postponing these requests until after the firing of Don Rumsfeld:

The interviews also indicate that Mr. Bush was convinced by top administration officials, led by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, that any overt attack on Iran would probably prove ineffective, lead to the expulsion of international inspectors and drive Iran’s nuclear effort further out of view. Mr. Bush and his aides also discussed the possibility that an airstrike could ignite a broad Middle East war in which America’s 140,000 troops in Iraq would inevitably become involved.

…some additional thoughts. The article indicates that the Israelis made the request in early 2008, but had pretty much given up on making the strike work by July 2008. Maybe so, maybe not, but I suspect that the expiration date on this was 12/31/2008, when the UN multinational force mandate ended. Up to that point, the Israelis could make at least a semi-plausible (with squinting) case that crossing Iraqi territory with US permission would not have meant an act of war. Now, not so much. This also renews my fascination with the development of a new Iraqi Air Force. Whatever the legal questions, Iraq can’t do anything right now to prevent Israel from using its airspace. The Iraqi government has, however, made known an interest in purchasing F-16s; whether it’s allowed to do so will tell us a lot about how comfortable Tel Aviv feels about the prospect of a rearmed Iraq. Such aircraft could certainly interfere with an attack on Iran, and (in the long run) could potentially strike Israel.

The article also describes in vague detail a number of covert operations intended to damage Iran’s nuclear program. I have no problem whatsoever with this; if Iran is attempting to build nuclear weapons (and the jury remains out on that question), then it’s in violation of treaty obligations. In any case, an Iranian nuclear weapon won’t be good for the region (although I hasten to add that war to prevent such a weapon would be considerably worse).

Does Israel Have a Secure Second Strike Capability?

[ 0 ] December 4, 2008 |

Peter Juul makes the case:

Israel’s nuclear deterrent is shrouded in secrecy, but it is estimated to have between 100 and 200 nuclear warheads. Like the United States, Israel’s nuclear delivery forces are structured to form a “triad” of air, land, and sea-based systems. Israel’s long-range F-15I and F-16I strike aircraft are believed to be nuclear capable, and have the range to reach targets in Iran without refueling. More central to Israel’s nuclear forces are its Jericho-series of ballistic missiles. Israel is estimated to have between 50 and 100 Jericho II missiles with a range between 1,500 kilometers and 3,000 kilometers, and in January tested a new 4,000 kilometer-range missile. This new missile puts all of Iran in Israel’s nuclear reach. Finally, Israel’s three Dolphin-class submarines are reportedly capable of firing Harpoon missiles modified to carry nuclear warheads, and in 2000 Israel reportedly tested a 1,500 kilometer range cruise missile from one of its submarines. Two more submarines are on order from Germany. Israel therefore has a mature nuclear deterrent likely capable of launching a second strike against adversaries.

I’ll agree this far; Israel has now and will maintain for the foreseeable future a secure second strike capability vis-a-vis Iran, but that has more to do with the deficiencies of Iran’s program than with the strength of Israel’s. The reason I caveat is that the Dolphin class submarines, while fine and and capable warships, aren’t large enough or numerous enough to provide secure second strike to the degree enjoyed by France, the UK, Russia, or the US. The French Triomphants and the British Vanguards are each 4-6 times the size of the Dolphins, and carry 16 MIRVed ballistic missiles. I can’t imagine that the Israelis would be able to squeeze more than a very small handful of nuclear warheads onto a Dolphin, or keep more than one boat on continuous patrol. What this means in practical terms is that while Britain and France have roughly 180 or so warheads on continuous submarine patrol, the Israelis have maybe about 5. Now, five or so is probably enough, but you’d like to have more for a genuine deterrent relationship.

Of course, since Iran can’t provide any serious threat to the land or air based components of Israel’s nuclear triad, this doesn’t mean very much in practical terms.

Is There a Monkey Gap?

[ 10 ] July 26, 2008 |

Appalling from a variety of perspectives:

Hundreds of endangered African monkeys are being taken from their natural habitat and sold for scientific experiments, as well to a “secretive” biological laboratory in Iran, London’s Sunday Times reported.

In an undercover investigation by the Times, animal trader Nazir Manji said he sells some 4,000 vervet monkeys a year to laboratories all around the world for about $100 each.

The monkeys, although protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species — or Cities — are likely to undergo sometimes painful experiments ultimately leading to their death, the paper reported.

Manji, who has been exporting monkeys for 22 years, said Iran’s Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute bought 215 vervet monkeys from him this year.

The biological research institute, which has headquarters near Tehran, has been accused in the past by an Iranian opposition group of conducting biological weapons testing, it is reported, further fueling suspicions that the monkeys are being used for nefarious purposes.

For Iraq we get yellow cake, and for Iran there’s nothing but monkeys. I have my doubts about the “nefarious purposes”; there’s not much reason to credit the veracity of an unnamed “Iranian opposition group”, but nevertheless it sucks for the monkeys.

The Russians are Apparently Not Idiots

[ 7 ] July 11, 2008 |

I hate to show weakness in front of the Russians, but it’s hard to argue with this:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said the results of Iran’s missile tests prove that US plans for a defence shield in Europe are unnecessary. Mr Lavrov said the tests confirmed Tehran had missiles with a limited range of up to 2,000km (1,240 miles)…

Repeated assurances from senior figures in Washington have failed to convince Moscow that the proposed shield represents no danger to Russia. Mr Lavrov told reporters on Friday the tests showed that “a missile defence shield with these parameters is not needed to monitor or react to such threats”. He said Moscow was convinced that what he called the imagined nature of the Iranian missile threat was a pretext for the missile shield. “We believe that any issue related to Iran should be resolved through negotiation, through political-diplomatic means… and not through threats,” he said.


At Crazy George’s, EVERYTHING MUST GO!!!!

[ 0 ] July 9, 2008 |

Dan Nexon has a good post about the frenzy of dealmaking that the Bush administration is pursuing in an effort to “lock in” policy preferences before the transition to a new administration. Unfortunately, the rest of the world is aware that the United States holds Presidential elections every four years, that Barack Obama is currently the favorite, and that even if John McCain wins his administration will like be 10-15% less incompetent than that of his predecessor.

Jeff Lewis notes three negotiations on which the President’s “lame duckitude” is having an impact:

  • India is seeking to cement its nuclear relationship with the United States. Under the assumption that Bush’s successor might actually have a non-proliferation policy, the Indian government is risking fractures within its governing coalition in order to nail down an agreement with the US (and the IAEA) now, rather than in six months.
  • Poland is trying to shake down the Bush administration for extra cash and goodies. While the Czechs have been happy to play ball, the Poles are apparently banking that Bush’s fear of an Obama presidency will make America more generous. I’m guessing that they’re right; Obama hasn’t evinced any excitement about missile defense, and after all the trouble that Bush has gone to on this question he almost certainly wants to leave with a robust agreement in hand.
  • Iran is trying to put off any major diplomatic activity until after the election. I doubt this will matter much, since I still don’t see either a US or an Israeli attack on Iran in the cards, and I doubt that either Obama or McCain (in spite of the former’s professed willingness to meet with the Iranian leadership) will be flexible on the Iranian nuclear program. The elections also won’t slow multilateral efforts to push Iran towards more nuclear transparency.

Nexon concentrates on a fourth, which is Iraq. Matt Duss has some good reasons to take the Iraqi skepticism over the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) seriously, including the apparent support of Sistani for a full American withdrawal. At the same time, I’m inclined to agree with Dan that Maliki really wants a more favorable agreement with the United States, which will perhaps include a timetable but will certainly preserve a tight military relationship between the two countries. The reason for this is obvious; Maliki’s military control over his country is tenuous, and Iraq is utterly incapable of protecting its borders. Still, I suspect that Maliki could get a pretty good deal on military cooperation from Obama, and I suspect that Maliki knows that such a deal is available; as such, he’s willing to play hardball with Crazy George.

Long story short, in a number of areas the Bush administration is going to be pushing (and being pushed) for deals while at a disadvantageous bargaining position. In one case (the Indian) the other side is just as desperate as Bush is, but in the others the lame duck situation is going to damage our standing. Now, as it happens I think that the Bush administration’s foreign policy goals tend to be insane and destructive, and as such I’m hoping that we don’t come to an agreement with India, Poland, or Iraq before (hopefully) the beginning of an Obama administration. Nevertheless, Jeff Lewis make the excellent point that lame duckitude sans obvious successor, while in some ways enabling an administration to pursue the policies it wants, can be a severe handicap in some diplomatic negotiations.

Yglesias vs. Kirchick

[ 18 ] July 9, 2008 |

The main point here seems to be that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says many things about Israel, and that the sum total of these things is incoherent contradiction. As such, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to credit what he says to one audience (the Iranian people) more than what he says to another (the international community), given that he may have incentive to deceive both. Of course, Ahmadinejad’s statements about Israel certainly call for some scrutiny, but I doubt that Kirchick credits the Iranian president’s statements about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program. Moreover, the “You’ve criticized Dick Cheney 103 times, but haven’t mentioned Attila the Hun even once; is Cheney really worse than the Scourge of God?” construction is just about the most useless talking point that Kirchick could have invoked.

The other point seems to be that Yglesias needs to regrow the beard.

Ooh! A Helpful Chart!

[ 45 ] July 8, 2008 |

Is Iran a threat to the existence of the United States? Joltin’ Joe Lieberman says yes:

Obviously Israel is first in the line of Iranian fire. And it represents an existential threat to Israel. But you know who is next? The Arab countries in the Middle East and they’re worried about the Iranian program and want us to ask strongly to stop it. And we’re next! Because Ahmadinejad in Tehran constantly leads the mobs in shouts of death to America. And they mean it.

Whoa; that’s, like, pretty scary. We should stop Ahmadinejad before he marches into the Rhineland. But can we? Is it too late to prevent the emergence of this new world power? Fortunately, the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation has prepared a helpful chart:

Population 303,824,646 65,875,223
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) $13.8 trillion $0.75 trillion
Defense spending fiscal year 2009 $711 billion $7.2 billion
Total troops 2,580,875 895,000
Main battle tanks 8,023 1,613
Reconnaissance vehicles 348 35
Armored infantry fighting vehicles 6,719 610
Armored personnel carriers 21,242 640
Artillery units 8,041 8,196
Helicopters 5,425 311
Submarines 71 6
Principal surface combatants 106 5
Patrol and coastal combatants 157 320
Mine warfare ships 9 5
Amphibious ships 490 21
Fighter aircraft 3,538 286
Long-range bomber aircraft 170 None
Transport aircraft 883 136
Electronic warfare/intelligence aircraft 159 3
Reconnaissance aircraft 134 6
Maritime patrol aircraft 197 8
Anti-submarine warfare aircraft 58 None
Airborne early warning aircraft 53 None
Nuclear warheads ~5,400 None

Er… Joe? There seems to be, uh, a discrepancy…

National Suicide, My Ass

[ 33 ] May 23, 2008 |

It’s difficult for me to express just how moronic this column is:

THIS MAY sound like an extreme conclusion but, as Ari Bar Yossef, retired lieutenant-colonel and administrator of the Knesset’s Security Committee, writes in the army journal Ma’arachot, such cases of Islamist national suicide are not uncommon. He cites three such examples of Arab-Muslim regimes irrationally sacrificing their very existence, overriding their instinct of self-preservation, to fight the perceived enemy to the bitter end.

• The first case is that of Saddam Hussein, who in 2003 could have avoided war and conquest by allowing UN inspectors to search for (the apparently non-existent) weapons of mass destruction wherever they wanted. Yet Iraq’s ruler opted for war, knowing full well that he would have to face the might of the US.

• The second case is that of Yasser Arafat in 2000, who after the failure of the Camp David and Taba talks had two options: continue talking to Israel – under the leadership of Ehud Barak, this country’s most moderate and flexible government ever – or resort to violence. He chose the latter, with the result that all progress toward Palestinian independence was blocked. The ensuing loss of life, on both sides, testified to Arafat’s preference for suicide over compromise.

• The third case is that of the Taliban. Post-9/11, their leadership had two options: to enter into negotiations with the US, with a view to extraditing Osama bin Laden, or to risk war and destruction. The choice they made was obvious: Better to die fighting than to give up an inch.

OKKKAAAYYYY…. I have trouble believing that anyone, anywhere, still honestly holds to the first; everything we know now indicates that there was, literally, no way for Saddam Hussein to avoid the US invasion. He surely must have known this, too; the failure to discover weapons of mass destruction would necessarily have been interpreted as a failure on his part to cooperate, and consequently just cause for war.

The second is equally idiotic. Arafat didn’t believe he was committing national suicide; he was perhaps incorrect in his assessment of the situation, but mistaken and suicidal are entirely different concepts. This isn’t hard to understand, and again I’m befuddled that anyone not intentionally obtuse would by into the logic.

The best case can perhaps be made for the third. The Taliban was certainly over-matched, but there are three problems with the “suicide” argument. The first is that turning over Al Qaeda may, itself, have been tantamount to suicide; Al Qaeda made up a considerable portion of the combat strength of the Taliban, and might well have engaged in a campaign of assassination against Taliban officials in case of betrayal. The second is that it was not wholly unreasonable for the Taliban to think it could win the conflict; they may have believed they had reason to doubt the resolve of the United States, and they had a clear memory of another case in which Afghan guerrillas had defeated an invading superpower. Finally, Rubinstein might want to take note of the fact that the war in Afghanistan isn’t actually over; the Taliban continues to exist as an organization, has much of its leadership intact, and has made significant gains in the past three years.

So no, there is no impulse towards “national suicide” in Islam, or anywhere else; Drum concedes far too much to Rubinstein and to Jeffrey Goldberg. The key point, of course, is that what appears to be suicidal in hindsight rarely appears so at the time; in almost every case of purported “suicide” actual examination of the costs and benefits facing actors indicates that the choices made were not, in fact, suicidal. Now, it might be fair to note that certain constellations of cost and benefit, combined with certain cultural tendencies, may work to get close enough to “suicidal” behavior that the distinction doesn’t matter overmuch, but for my part I’m pretty sure that the Iranians (and both Rubinstein and Goldberg are essentially, here, laying the groundwork for an attack on Iran) understand that the nuclear annihilation of their regime by Israel and the United States would, in fact, constitute suicide.

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