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Tag: "iran"

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.

Chuckie Krauthammer: I Can Use Big Words Like "Deterrence"

[ 0 ] April 18, 2008 |

Chuckie Krauthammer comes not to praise nonproliferation, but to bury it:

The era of nonproliferation is over. During the first half-century of the nuclear age, safety lay in restricting the weaponry to major powers and keeping it out of the hands of rogue states. This strategy was inevitabily going to break down. The inevitable has arrived.

The six-party talks on North Korea have failed miserably. They did not prevent Pyongyang from testing a nuclear weapon and entering the club. North Korea has broken yet again its agreement to reveal all its nuclear facilities.

The other test case was Iran. The EU-3 negotiations (Britain, France and Germany) went nowhere. Each U.N. Security Council resolution enacting what passed for sanctions was more useless than the last. Uranium enrichment continues.

Right… well, the North Korea story hasn’t fully played out, but it’s not really fair to say that efforts have completely broke down yet. The Iran situation also has yet to play out, but both share one important commonality; the United States, under the recommendation of folks like Chuckie Krauthammer, decided to reject any and all multilateral efforts at nonproliferation in favor of… well, it’s not even clear that what the US tried can be referred to as a coherent strategy. In short, after the Bush administration spent years efficiently knifing the nonproliferation regime, Chuck is here to pronounce it dead.

Chuck goes on to repeat the “Iraq invasion scared Libya into giving up its weapons” story, a tale that Chuckie himself must know has been debunked so many times that is has ceased to be funny, but at least admits that “pre-emption” as a strategy is dead with regards to Iran and North Korea. So what do we get? Missile defense!

For the sake of argument, imagine a two-layered anti-missile system in which each layer is imperfect, with, say, a 90 percent shoot-down accuracy. That means one in 100 missiles gets through both layers. That infinitely strengthens deterrence by radically degrading the possibility of a successful first strike. Even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, sitting on an arsenal of, say, 20 nukes, might recoil from these odds — given the 100 percent chance a retaliatory counterattack of hundreds of Israeli (and/or American) nukes would make Iran a memory.

Of course, one can get around missile defense by using terrorists. But anything short of a hermetically secret, perfectly executed, multiple-site attack would cause terrible, but not existential, destruction. The retaliatory destruction, on the other hand, would be existential.

Right. But here’s the thing (and I choose my words carefully…) you morally retarded nitwit; if Iran is sensitive to the cost of existential annihilation, then you don’t need even one layer of missile defense. If North Korea doesn’t want to get blown up, then aiming plenty of nukes at it will be more than enough to deter an attack. The “millenarian” line is an extraordinarily weak hook to hang missile defense on, especially WHEN IT STILL REQUIRES DETERRENCE TO WORK. At least Chuckie seems to understand that missile defense doesn’t take deterrence out of the picture; given the unlikelihood that a shield will be perfect, and the (incredibly likely) eventuality that Iran would figure out a means of delivering weapons other than by missile, deterrence is still necessary.

In short, for missile defense to work a deterrent relationship has to hold, but with a deterrent relationship missile defense is pointless. Chuckie would have us waste billions of dollars on missile defense while simultaneously gutting all of the multilateral tools of nonproliferation that have prevented five nuclear powers from becoming fifty.

I shouldn’t be surprised that someone who consistently betrays such monumental ignorance on basic security concepts manages to maintain a position as columnist for one of the two major foreign policy newspapers in the United States, but I am sad. I mean, I know he has the gravitas, and that he has a snide wit, but beyond that, he can have only one of two qualities; either a shameless willingness to deceive his readership, or a grasp on the issues upon which he writes that is so shaky that it crumbles at the first nudge. I’m betting a little from column A, and a little from column B

People Who Have a Better Grasp of Iraq than John McCain

[ 8 ] April 12, 2008 |

Everyone in the Middle East, apparently, but particularly the Saudis:

The administration has long tried in vain to build Arab diplomatic and economic support for the Iraqi government. But the Arabs, led by Saudi Arabia, consider Shiite Iran a competitor for regional dominance and have rejected Maliki as “a stooge for Tehran,” as one U.S. official called him.

“The Saudis appear to feel that the current Iraqi government is pretty much in thrall to Iran,” said a State Department official involved in Middle East policy. The administration’s hope, “in the wake of Maliki’s decisions on Basra,” the official said, “is that the Saudis will take a step back and take another look.”

Right; they’ll step back, take another look, and note that Maliki is an inept stooge for Tehran.

In a news conference Thursday, Crocker dismissed Arab concerns about a recent visit to Baghdad by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “It’s not the fact of the Ahmadinejad visit, but the absence of visits by other neighbors that it’s important to focus on. There hasn’t been a single visit, even by an Arab cabinet minister, to Baghdad. As Iraq grapples with the challenges Iran is posing, it could certainly do with some Arab support.”

It was obvious to everyone with two brain cells to rub together that the invasion of Iraq might work to the significant advantage of Iran. It became obvious later that US policy in Iraq reconstruction was making this possibility a reality. The only people who don’t understand this are either willfully blind or catastrophically stupid. The idea that Maliki, tightly connected to Iran, might score points with the Saudis by going after a militia marginally less tightly connected with Iran is pure fantasy.

Troubled Times at the Baltimore Sun…

[ 12 ] April 12, 2008 |

Really, was it wise to publish Matt Duss so soon after the Scott Templeton fiasco? Makes me wonder if there’s even a place called “Iraq”; seriously, does anyone believe that “Fred and Kimberly Kagan” are actually real people? Isn’t it more likely that Duss simply manufactured them from whole cloth?

Missile Defense and Iran

[ 0 ] December 6, 2007 |

Michael Goldfarb dissents from my conclusions on the implications of the NIE on missile defense, and further asserts that liberals should love missile defense:

And finally, liberals fundamentally misunderstand the effect of deploying a missile defense system–it would decrease the likelihood of conflict, not increase it. Missile defense would provide decision makers with one more option in a world where options are the scarcest commodity.

Imagine the U.S. intelligence community, or more likely their Israeli counterpart, is able to determine with some degree of certainty that the Iranians are mere months away from an operational nuclear capability. Right now, they’d have two options: bomb or do nothing, aka diplomacy. But if those leaders could have some confidence in their ability to shoot down an Iranian missile, wouldn’t this strengthen the argument for doing nothing–the argument Farley would most certainly be making. As it is, the American people would likely demand military action, but missile defense would give liberals a fall-back position–‘it doesn’t matter if they build a nuclear missile, we can shoot it down.’

Uh… no.

Let me explain the concept of “deterrence”. Deterrence means the creation in the mind of on adversary the belief that the costs of an action will outweigh the benefits. In this specific sense, it means creating in the mind of the Iranians the belief that they’ll suffer drastic consequences for doing things like firing nuclear missiles at other countries. Now, I tend to think that the dramatic military supremacy of the United States over Iran in any conceivable military confrontation is enough to deter Iran from firing nuclear missiles at random European targets. As such, I reject Michael’s premise; because of deterrence, we don’t need to overly worry about the threat of Iran committing national suicide by firing a nuke at Paris or Berlin. Indeed, this has pretty much always been the liberal position on missile defense; even the job it purports to do can be done better by deterrence. Of course, it’s been a wingnutty article of faith that the leaders of Iran are not sensitive to costs, but whatever else it has to say, I think that the NIE has put that argument decisively to bed. Backing me up on that I have no less august authority than Victor Davis Hanson, who noted recently that Iran is not a suicidal state and is sensitive to costs. Now, a sensible reader might reply “but isn’t Victor Davis Hanson an unredeemed hack who can’t be trusted to supply reliable information about his academic specialty, much less the decision-making process of the Iranian state?” The answer is yes, but the point still holds.

So, since in my world liberals are against throwing money away on weapon systems that have dramatic and unsolved technical problems, that agitate foreign countries (while it might be objected that Russia is already irritable, that’s no reason to poke it with a sharp stick for no good reason), that are extremely expensive, and whose flimsy strategic rationale has vanished like an April frost, I’d have to say that liberals like myself are quite rational in our belief that missile defense is a pointless waste.

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