April 12, 2010

If You Shoot at a King You Must Kill Him

Last week I spoke with Reza Kahlili, a man who during the 1980s and 1990s worked for the CIA under the code name "Wally" inside the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. He wrote a terrific book about his experience as an American agent called A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran, and today he's issuing a serious warning about his former Iranian masters: they mean what they say, and the West had better start taking them seriously.

He thinks President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei fully intend to use nuclear weapons if they acquire them, either by exploding them in enemy cities or holding the Middle East and the world's energy resources hostage. It's hard, to be sure, for even a well-placed expert to know this for certain. Perhaps not even the leadership knows exactly what it will do with the bomb once it gets the chance. (Either way, a nuclear-armed Iran won't suddenly play well with others.) What happens in the region over the next couple of years may depend in large part on whether the Israelis are willing to chance it.

We should not, Kahlili says, expect Iran's people to applaud an Israeli attack on the weapons facilities. "People in Iran do not sympathize with Israel the way they sympathize with the U.S.," he told me. "They're looking for help, right? But they're not looking for the same kind of help from Israel. So if Israel bombs the facilities in Iran, don't expect people to come out into the streets to celebrate or confront the government forces. That's not going to happen. They're just going to sit at home and pray this thing doesn't get out of hand."

A military attack against Iran should be rolled out only if every conceivable peaceful solution fails first. Striking Iran would, in all likelihood, ignite several Middle Eastern wars all at once. Hamas and Hezbollah would bombard Israel with missile attacks. Lebanon and Gaza would both come under massive counterbattery fire. The war could easily spill over into Iraq and put American soldiers at risk.

The above scenario may sound like the worst, short of nuclear war, but it isn't. The worst-case scenario is a regional war that fails to stop Iran's nuclear program while keeping the regime in place. If the Israelis decide to use force, the nuclear facilities should not be the target. The government should be the target. And the U.S. should back Israel's play and even assist it, no matter how enraged American officials might be. The last thing any of us needs is a bloodied Iranian government with delusions of invincibility that later acquires the weapons of genocide and then sets out for revenge. As Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, "If you shoot at a king you must kill him."

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at April 12, 2010 10:16 AM
Comments
OK, so attacking the leadership is the way to go. Yet why does everyone assume that Israel is up to the task? Israel's air war couldn't destroy the Hezbollah leadership in 2006, nor disrupt Hezbollah's command-and-control. The IRI may be even better protected.

The only country which has demonstrated the necessary capability is the United States, in its wars against Saddam and the Taliban. But the U.S. talks only of "economic sanctions that bite" the Iranian populace and slow the nuclear program somewhat, not force or assassination.
Posted by: Solomon2 at April 12, 2010 10:45 am
Of course you are correct, Michael. The problem, sadly, is that international law defends Israel's right only to remove nuclear weapons which may be used against - if the international community fails to do so. The rule of international law makes clear that in "a case of necessity, of self-defence, a State is authorized to enter and destroy or remove weapons and bases that may be used against it." [Oppenheim L., International Law, vol. 1 par. 130, pg. 266, 6th edition, London, 1944]

An attack designed to instigate regime change is a whole other matter, and is, of course, also an invitation to respond with a counter-attack against Jerusalem. I think Kahlili was on the right track when he advocated the destruction of the Revolutionary Guard. If you can't kill the king, you can at least leave him defenseless. With any luck, the Iranians would seize the opportunity to bring about real change on their own. Mind you, we've all had that wish before - in Iran and elsewhere - and seen nothing come to fruition.
Posted by: Morey Altman at April 12, 2010 10:57 am
Solomon2,

Well, that's why the U.S. should help. Anyway, it's a lot easier to destroy conventional forces than a guerrilla army. Governments can be shattered in a matter of weeks, but guerrilla armies can absorb punches for years or even decades.

Morey,

The Revolutionary Guards of Iran basically are the government at this point. They are the ones with the nuclear program, and they are the ones who would fire the missiles.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 12, 2010 11:03 am
This scares the crap out of me. Our government is shockingly unserious about the Middle East.
Posted by: Zach at April 12, 2010 11:19 am
There's something else that Americans should be worried about. It's that the mullahs want to dominate the middle east, but that they want us destroyed; it's not for nothing that Israel is the "Little Satan" whereas America is the "Great Satan". They could - given Persian history - live with a Jewish Israel as a satellite state. But there is no room for the existence of a powerful America in their desired world-view, whether it opposes their purposes or not.

Did anyone in the current Administration ever consider what America would be like after a successful nuclear terror attack - say four or more cities destroyed? With no clear return address we couldn't justify retaliation internationally even if we wanted to, and we'd be so busy with rebuilding, relief, and maintaining order that a conventional response might be out of the question; the U.S. would be finished, at least temporarily, as a conventional world power, and the middle east thus ready to submit to the mullahs' will.
Posted by: Solomon2 at April 12, 2010 12:00 pm
There are Jews still living in Iran. They don't feel threatened. (It's not like Germany with its crematoria, and "Arbeit Macht Frei" signs over the rail tracks into Auschwitz. Yes, I know it's "news in the press." But the iranians have gotten to own close to everything they've wanted, through American error. And, support of the saud's. Who are hated, almost universally.

So why would iran risk that? They've been "frugal" players. Not like the saud's. And, what if they want to come to the table and be recognized as an Empire?

No one knows the future! But the Oracle at Delphi had a habit of giving answers that were vague enough to please everyone. And, I forget the king foolish enough to sacrifice resources in the temple. Took the advice "there would be one winner." And, ran in the wrong direction. To death. And, loss.

The biggest problem? That the Bush family, along with plenty of pick pockets who grew rich on the saud's payoffs, also controlling Washington, DC.

(It's similar to the Catholic Church. Electing the Pope, most conservative of all. And, then watching it all unravel.) What's "universal" anymore?
Posted by: Carol Herman at April 12, 2010 12:39 pm
Carol Herman: There are Jews still living in Iran. They don't feel threatened.

Everybody feels threatened in Iran.

So why would iran risk that? They've been "frugal" players.

Is the sky green where you live?
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 12, 2010 12:44 pm
Does anyone else feel a little deja vu?

Back in the 1930s we had a Great Depression, and now we have the Great Recession. Back then we had Hitler and the German Aryan fascists, now we have the Aryan Iranian religious fascists. We had FDR and Chamberlain who wanted to keep out of the war as long as possible, and now we have western leaders who believe talking without waving a big stick or helping the opposition will solve the problem. Back then we had the Anschluss and Czechoslovakia, and now we have the abandonment of pro-Western Lebanese to the modern Axis and the foolish push for immediate Israeli concessions.

And last but not certainly not least, instead of bringing Jews to the death camps, we have a regime that threatens to deliver death camps on missiles to the Jews.

Ugh, someone wake me up from this awful B movie.
Posted by: FormerStudent at April 12, 2010 12:46 pm
"If you shoot at a king you must kill him."

In the old days the king was the center of a state's power, but kings, mullahs and even the local military force is not the center of an Arab/Islamist state's power.

Hezbollah in Lebanon is the center of Iran's power. It's the strongest (non Israeli) military force in the area.

When we figure out how to kill (not wound or annoy) Hezbollah and other similar terrorist forces, we'll be ready to deal with this problem.

We learned some lessons in Iraq - the Anbar Awakening was effective at dealing with the sunni terrorists, and Russia and Iran were effective at weakening the Mahdi army, basically by shanghai-ing al Sadr.

I'm not sure how we can apply what little we've learned about defeating these state-funded terror militias, but that's not my job.

When we invaded Iraq, I believed that our leaders had some sort of plan for dealing with the inevitable insurgencies. But they didn't.

Chalabi was a problem, partially because he was corrupt but also because he encouraged our govt. to follow a poorly conceived strategy, a badly planned war. Until we see that our leaders have a coherent, reasonable way of dealing with problems like Hezbollah, we should cool our heels. After all, since the goal is to destroy the oppressive military/government infrastructure in Iran, not to destroy the nuclear program, time could be on our side.
Posted by: Mary Madigan at April 12, 2010 1:43 pm
I still don't believe that an attack on the country would be welcomed by the Iranian people, even if America carried it out. And I don't see how we can remove the government using an air campaign.
Posted by: Ali at April 12, 2010 2:48 pm
Solomon2,

Did anyone in the current Administration ever consider what America would be like after a successful nuclear terror attack - say four or more cities destroyed? With no clear return address we couldn't justify retaliation internationally even if we wanted to...

In such a scenario, the US would be far beyond "justification" of its behavior to the alleged international community. Besides, all the fatass corrupt bastards in the UN would be too busy trying to figure out why they are glowing in the dark to complain. The UN is in NY, you know? That may not be the first on a target list, but it would certainly be in the top two or three.

Ali,

I still don't believe that an attack on the country would be welcomed by the Iranian people, even if America carried it out.

I don't think so, either. The question in my mind is whether or not the Iranian people would capitalize on it to take over, or whether they'd lay low and wait to see what happened next.

And I don't see how we can remove the government using an air campaign.

I think it would depend how much of the element of surprise we have on our side. Government apparatus that's engaged in it's day-to-day activities is a pretty easy target. A government in hiding, not so much. Human intelligence would help a lot too. Getting updates from people on the ground in realtime is a lot better than analyzing satellite data.
Posted by: Craig at April 12, 2010 4:35 pm
Israel's failed at removing Hamas from power, what chance do they have of toppling Iran's government?

Were Israel to launch an attack against US wishes and fly over US controlled air space, we should do exactly what Zbigniew Brzezinski suggested: order IAF planes to stand down or else.
Posted by: tg at April 12, 2010 6:07 pm
tg: Israel's failed at removing Hamas from power, what chance do they have of toppling Iran's government?

They didn't try to remove Hamas from power. I was in Israel during that war, and Israeli government officials I spoke to were quite clear on this point. They'd rather have one terrorist army in control of Gaza than three because it's possible to make agreements with one that has a monopoly on the use of force.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 12, 2010 6:20 pm
What is Chalabi up to these days? I heard he was working for the Iranians?
Posted by: Cassius Corodes at April 12, 2010 7:31 pm
What is Chalabi up to these days? I heard he was working for the Iranians?

Pretty much.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 12, 2010 7:40 pm
I don't understand how you believe Israel could force regime change in Iran. That is pretty ambitious. I know you have written off American military action, but I have not. I view a large-scale American air war as the only solution. And I do not believe the Obama administration will allow Iran to go nuclear under its watch. It would be a political disaster for the Democratic Party. The promised year of diplomacy has already come and gone. An attack on Iran is the politically safe move. It seems American intelligence believes that Iran will not have a bomb this year, so nobody in the U.S. is really pounding the table yet. As long as the economy continues to recover, I expect that Republicans will push for an attack once they have the red-hot intelligence reports to back them up, which just don't exist yet. After the mid-terms, as the economy recovers, and the GOP presidential primary begins, the debate about Iran will start.
Posted by: Jeff at April 13, 2010 1:36 am
Jeff: I do not believe the Obama administration will allow Iran to go nuclear under its watch. It would be a political disaster for the Democratic Party.

Jimmy Carter impaled his presidency on Iran, and I don't see any evidence whatsoever that Barack Obama won't do the same exact thing.

If the Bush Administration wouldn't stop the Iranian bomb, there's very little chance Obama is going to do it.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 13, 2010 1:42 am
Jeff, I don't share your belief that Obama won't allow Iran to build a nuke. In fact I think a containment strategy has always been what he expects, regardless of what he's said in public.

And re "political disaster" for the Dems? Nope. I think you're underestimating the permanent grip that isolationism has on many Americans. Most Americans will come to accept a nuclear Iran and life will go on. Now I also believe a nuclear Iran will probably be a catastrophic development over the long run; the point is that no one is going to try to prevent this train wreck.
Posted by: Gene at April 13, 2010 5:42 am
There has been nothing in Obama's foreign policy thus far that leads me to believe he would use military force against Iran's nuclear program.

I think Israel will eventually strike, and it will do so whether or not it can completely obliterate Iran's nuclear program. The Israelis won't walk silently into the death chamber, not without dealing a few good blows first.
Posted by: semite5000 at April 13, 2010 5:50 am
I don't see any evidence either Michael. Pakistan is starting new facilities and India is furious. Think about that in relation to Iran or Israel.

My concern is that the logistics of an Israeli strike is staggering. (see my post at you Khalili article below) Israelis likely have MRRs and what their tactical use is, is anyone's guess. The Arabs seem to be preparing a strategy should Israel hit Iran.

Have US supplies to Israel been cut off since Obama entered the WH? How would this effect an Israeli strike? Sarkozy is quite vocally against an Israeli strike. Seems Iran thinks a strike would help them in world opinion.

If Obama thinks China and Russia will help, he's dreaming: http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/04/13/obama.hu.nuclear.meeting/?hpt=T2


Russia?: http://rt.com/Politics/2010-04-13/roar-medvedev-abc-nuclear.html

Opinion in Israel is not as absolute as one imagines: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1162669.html

Well there's always this marvelous plan: http://www.debka.com/article/8712/
Posted by: Maxtrue at April 13, 2010 5:56 am
Could they be any clearer? Iran has now created a "National Nuclear Day" timed to basically coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day.

http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?id=172995

"BERLIN – Where do Iran’s quest to speed up the production of uranium centrifuges for its alleged nuclear weapons program and global anti-Semitism cross paths? Both processes are proliferating at an astonishingly fast pace, and are not being met by fierce resistance. Just days before Israelis observed Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Islamic Republic marked its National Nuclear Day last Friday, proclaiming its accelerated drive to go nuclear."
Posted by: semite5000 at April 13, 2010 6:13 am
The actual quote is from Omar Little in The Wire:
"You come at the king, you best not miss."
Posted by: Ivan N at April 13, 2010 6:38 am
The wire was a great show, Ivan :)

Gene,

I think you're underestimating the permanent grip that isolationism has on many Americans.

I'm an isolationist for the most part. I'm the most "isolationist" person I know, at any rate. I don't think that applies to the Islamic Republic. I don't think it has ever applied, as one of the IRI's very first acts upon coming into being was to commit an act of war on the US.

I cannot overstress the degree to which I oppose this regime obtaining nuclear weapons. I think preventing the IRI from getting nukes is (or should be, at least) America's #1 foreign policy objective. And I've felt that way for years. I think war is inevitable. It became clear to me that the regime was just playing games and stalling way back in Bush's first term. I think Obama is going to have a war on his hands no matter what he does, and so he should at least try to make sure that happens on his (our) terms. At least Obama will be able to say he did everything he could have possibly done to avert war. And he'll be telling the truth.
Posted by: Craig at April 13, 2010 6:48 am
They'd rather have one terrorist army in control of Gaza than three because it's possible to make agreements with one that has a monopoly on the use of force.

Terrorists and their supporters are the 'kings' of the Middle East. This kind of policy shows that our goal is not to kill the king - it's to annoy him, then beg for favors and deplete our economies in efforts to legitimize him. Not a really swift idea.

These kinds of policy decisions explain why terrorism will be a very large problem for a very long time.
Posted by: Mary Madigan at April 13, 2010 7:07 am
Craig, you're the kind of isolationist who would nonetheless act halfway across the globe in certain circumstances. The kind of isolationism I'm talking about is one that would not. In other words, horrific as a major Middle East war would be, I think there are a lot of Americans who would advocate doing essentially nothing, arguing that nothing that could happen in the M.E. would so alter the world that we couldn't cope with it "well enough" in North America. Is our President's base likely to view things that way? I believe so (and the same is true of some parts of the right as well). Is our President himself likely to adopt that policy? Probably not, though I wouldn't bet my life on it.
Posted by: Gene at April 13, 2010 7:36 am
Gene, I'm the only kind of isolationist there is as far as I'm concerned. Telling people "Leave me alone and I'll leave you alone" only works if you are prepared to do something about it when they *don't* leave you alone :)

In other words, horrific as a major Middle East war would be, I think there are a lot of Americans who would advocate doing essentially nothing, arguing that nothing that could happen in the M.E. would so alter the world that we couldn't cope with it "well enough" in North America.

I'm not sure what you are getting at, there. My concern in regards to Iran is not because I want to prevent a war in the ME, but because Iran has already committed numerous real acts of war against the US, has been demonizing the US to the exclusion of virtually everyone else for decades, and is promising to do us violence in the future.

To ignore that wouldn't be isolationism, it would be either pacifism or apathy, or both.

Is our President's base likely to view things that way? I believe so (and the same is true of some parts of the right as well).

I don't believe Obama is an isolationist. I believe he is very much an interventionist. Even his domestic policies here at home indicate that he thinks the role of government is to be very... "pro-active" is probably what he'd call it. I call it intrusive :)

Ron Paul is an example of the kind of isolationist you are referring to. One who believes the US should mind its own business no matter what happens. That's a suicidal type of isolationism, in my opinion. And one that's obviously unsustainable, if somebody spends even a few minutes thinking about how various scenarios might play out.

Is our President himself likely to adopt that policy? Probably not, though I wouldn't bet my life on it.

I wouldn't want to predict what somebody like Obama might do. I've never been that brand of democrat, and I can't relate to that type of thinking.
Posted by: Craig at April 13, 2010 8:26 am
Forgetting the Israel factor, Americans need to ask themselves how secure they'll feel when a country whose motto is "Death to America" has nuclear weapons.
Posted by: semite5000 at April 13, 2010 8:29 am
Michael,

"The Revolutionary Guards of Iran basically are the government at this point. They are the ones with the nuclear program, and they are the ones who would fire the missiles."

My understanding is that the clerics still pull the strings in Iran. You are suggesting, based on Kahlili I assume, that the relationship between the religious authorities and the Revolutionary Guard is not as it was, say, 25 years ago, and that a much more tenuous, (read: dangerous) kind of power-sharing is now taking place. I suppose this is at least true in terms of the declined influence religious authorities have with a new generation of young, modern Iranians.
Posted by: Morey Altman at April 13, 2010 8:46 am
"I think Obama is going to have a war on his hands no matter what he does, and so he should at least try to make sure that happens on his (our) terms. "

If you believe that then you can't wait until war is the last resort, for at that point the mullahs will be best prepared for it. Rather, you need to take them by utter surprise. (That will, of course, shake international confidence in America's predictability, something diplomats value very highly, but IMO no bad thing in the long run - the more predictable the U.S. is, the greater certainty America's enemies have of their security in nefarious activities.)

"If the Bush Administration wouldn't stop the Iranian bomb, there's very little chance Obama is going to do it. "

You're forgetting the slow pace and dispersed nature of the program; no military sense in striking unless a great deal of damage can be done, which means either striking targets with lots of human or material capital invested or of great political importance. (That doesn't stop the mullahs from taking advantage of things years ahead of time.) The political option did not appear practical until the stolen election, and the capital stuff wasn't clear until the secret reprocessing facility construction was revealed. Now that both target options exist Obama has decided not to employ force at all. (For now.)

"Americans need to ask themselves how secure they'll feel when a country whose motto is "Death to America" has nuclear weapons. "

Note that one of Obama's associates is Bill Ayers, former Weather Underground bomber, of whom one FBI agent declared, "They believed they would have to eliminate 25 million Americans who would not conform to the new order." Elected politicians do have to associate with a lot of people - all part of the job - but it does make me wonder...
Posted by: Solomon2 at April 13, 2010 8:55 am
Solomon, what Ayers has to do with anything is beyond me.

Bush had Iraq on his hands and Afghanistan wasn't a complete mess.

Surprise has been compromised for some time. It is the logistics that is daunting and the effective counter-counter strategy.

As for political will, Americans do not get the Iranian terror connection nor the speed of their progress.

They aren't crying about putting Nasa's eggs in a Russian basket or fretting about Pak Fa.

If we were bold we would have announced a joint venture on Thorium power with the Russians. We would have mentioned the delivery systems being sold beside the 120,000 bomb's worth of materials lying around.

http://ericpalmer.wordpress.com/2010/04/11/get-yourself-a-club-to-fight-the-evil-americans/

It is particularly galling the Iranian's announce Nuclear Day the same week as Holocaust Remembrance Week yet America does not get the existential threat as Pakistan builds more nukes. Is any of our money being re-directed? India will respond. Others will see the status of nukes blurring out the Obama summit.

As for the Revolutionary Guard, they seem to control much. I rather doubt the Israelis would hit them more than they have too if they launch a much more important strike on facilities.

Unless some one shows otherwise, I still can't see any strike NOT escalating into a Gulf War. It isn't going to get easier either. Obama has positioned himself to either succeed with something substantial or fail before the election. Even American Jews will respond to the existential. AJC reports 55% of American Jews agree with Obama strategy, but more support Netanyahu.
Posted by: Maxtrue at April 13, 2010 9:25 am
@MJT

What evidence is there that "The Iranian People" will coalesce into an organized government if we take out the current government?

What's to stop an even worse regime from coming to power? Isn't it always the power-hungry madmen that seize the reigns in times of chaos, while the hoi-polloi stumble around in confusion? Are we just hoping for a miracle this time around?

Won't we end up feeling morally obligated to occupy YET ANOTHER COUNTRY to keep total chaos from breaking out?
Posted by: PBcanon at April 13, 2010 9:37 am
What's to stop an even worse regime from coming to power?

PBcanon, from an American perspective there isn't any possibility of a worse regime coming to power in Iran. I can't even imagine what a worse (for the US) regime would be like. Can you? If so, could you please give me some examples? Go back into history if necessary. I'd really like to know how bad things could get in Iran, if there's a possibility they could get worse. Hell, use theoretical possibilities. I'm fine with that, too.
Posted by: Craig at April 13, 2010 10:18 am
This is from Debka today. Something that would make even Ron Paul blink......I will leave it to others with more knowledge as to whether Debka is credible source, but there is some meat to this story. I wonder what is really going on behind the curtain, but Ahmadinejad did not better his hand with this BS.....

"Tehran: If Iran is attacked, nuclear devices will go off in American cities
DEBKAfile Special Report April 13, 2010, 6:53 PM (GMT+02:00)

Iran threatens US with nuclear terror

This warning, along with an announcement that Iran would join the world's nuclear club within a month, raised the pitch of Iranian anti-US rhetoric to a new high Tuesday, April 13, as 47 world leaders gathered in Washington for President Barack Obama's Nuclear Security Summit. The statement published by Kayhan said: "If the US strikes Iran with nuclear weapons, there are elements which will respond with nuclear blasts in the centers of America's main cities." For the first time, debkafile's military sources report, Tehran indicated the possibility of passing nuclear devices to terrorists capable of striking inside the United States.
Without specifying whether those elements would be Iranian or others, Tehran aimed at the heart of the Nuclear Security Summit by threatening US cities with nuclear terror.
debkafile's Iranians sources report that Tehran is playing brinkmanship to demonstrate that the Washington summit, from which Iran and North Korea were excluded, failed before it began, because terrorist elements capable of striking inside the US had already acquired nuclear devices for that purpose.
Although Iran has yet to attain operational nuclear arms, our military sources believe it does possess the makings of primitive nuclear devices or "dirty bombs."

In an interview ahead of the summit, President Obama warned: "If there was ever a detonation in New York City, or London, or Johannesburg, the ramifications... would be devastating."
In another shot at the summit, Behzad Soltani, deputy director of Iran's Atomic Commission, announced Tuesday: "Iran will join the world nuclear club within a month in a bid to deter possible attacks on the country." He added: "No country would even think about attacking Iran once it is in the club."

The Iranian official's boast was run by the Fars news agency, published by Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Behzadi further pointed to the construction of 360 MW nuclear power plant and a 40 MW research reactor in Iran's central city of Arak, claiming the projects were 70 percent complete.
This plant is generally believed to have been built to enable Iran to produce weapons-grade plutonium as an alternative weapons fuel to highly-enriched uranium and material for radioactive weapons.
Sunday, April 11, debkafile reported that Iran is making much better progress than Western and Israeli intelligence estimates have held toward completing the Arak heavy water reactor.
Click here
Along with the strides made in its nuclear manufacturing capacity, Tehran's anti-US rhetoric has grown more strident in the past week. Thursday, April 8, Iran's Armed Forces Chief of Staff Maj.Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi said if the United States made any military moves on the Islamic Republic "none of the American troops in the region would go back home alive."
debkafile's military sources report the presence of app. 220,000 US soldiers in the countries around Iran, including Gulf bases and waters, Iraq and Afghanistan. The Iranian general was reacting to US defense secretary Robert Gates' warning that Washington's policy decision to limit the use of nuclear arms if attacked did not apply to Iran and North Korea."
Posted by: Maxtrue at April 13, 2010 10:30 am
Craig, I'm not going to get into a semantic argument about "isolationist." If you want to refer to the people I'm talking about as pacifists or apathetics (apathetes?) instead, that's fine. But your reference to Ron Paulism is apt; though his belief set doesn't much intersect that of Democratic Party supporters, his kind of isolationism is exactly what I'm afraid of. I know plenty of people who have the same attitude, though they are liberal Dems, not libertarians. I think these folks clearly know that a nuclear Iran and a grossly destabilized M.E. will affect us, but they would be willing to put up with a lot--a hell of a lot--in order to avoid fighting.

Obama is very much an interventionist -- but only domestically. Internationally? He treats foreign affairs like a guy who desperately wishes he didn't have to pay attention to it.
Posted by: Gene at April 13, 2010 10:50 am
Debka is not a credible source. It's the Weekly World News for foreign policy nerds, and I won't even read it for entertainment.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 13, 2010 11:12 am
Understood Michael, despite their track record, I'll refrain from linking them here in the future. I am more than skeptical of Debka, but I followed numerous stories of theirs and was surprised that many turned out correctly. They were first in describing the astrike on Syria, the Iranian supplies hit in the Sudan, the Suez passage of subs as well as military sales. Being first however, doesn't always make one right.

Of course they did predict AQ would strike the WTC. It bothers me however, they source nothing and I searched for the article they lifted their headline from. I can't find it.

It IS significant if true....
Posted by: Maxtrue at April 13, 2010 11:26 am
Maxtrue,

You can post Debka links if you want. It's not like it's Stormfront or anything like that. I'm not banning it from the comments.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 13, 2010 11:29 am
Michael, on this matter I defer to you. I know you don't like censoring input here and it IS important sources have an acceptable weight given the stakes we are discussing.

If I think they are DEAD right and can back it up, I'll post their http. If not, they sit in my quarantine with World Net Daily. Incitement is not what these conversations need whether from Debka or Jihadwatch or evem Kos........

not that I don't glance at them all when I have the time.

Again, IF what Debka says Iran just said is true, this is utterly unacceptable and a political game changer. Let's see if CNN picks up on the latest Debka claims, or it remains unsourced.

Armscontrolwomk won't even respond to Debka claims.
Posted by: Maxtrue at April 13, 2010 12:09 pm
Armscontrolwonk, that is.....
Posted by: Maxtrue at April 13, 2010 12:11 pm
Maxtrue,

Don't worry about what I just said about Debka. Post if you like, not if you don't. It doesn't bother me in the least.

If Debka is occasionally right, as almost every source is, perhaps the best way to proceed is to just see if you can corroborate what they report elsewhere, and cite the second source instead of the first.

I have a few sources like that in the Middle East myself. I won't cite them or quote them because they aren't always reliable, but I will investigate when they say something interesting and see if there's something to it.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 13, 2010 12:15 pm
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2010/04/2010412172459811161.html

But Ahmadinejad, whose country was not invited to attend the conference, called the meeting "humiliating to humanity".

"World summits being organised these days are intended to humiliate human beings," Iran's Irna news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

"These foolish people who are in charge are like stupid, retarded people who brandish their swords whenever they face shortcomings, without realising that the time for this type of thing is over."


He thinks your attempts to prevent terrorists from obtaining nuclear weapons are humiliating to humanity, Obama. He thinks you are a retard. Are you listening? Meanwhile, in other news, Iranian centrifuges are still spinning. New and improved, six times faster!
Posted by: Craig at April 13, 2010 1:31 pm
Just when you think the Iranians can't behave anymore belligerently, they do.
Posted by: semite5000 at April 13, 2010 2:07 pm
http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/4094.htm

View of Iran from Egypt

http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/108/0/4086.htm

View of Iran from the Gulf

http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article42902.ece

no wonder the Saudis prefer Israelis do the dirty work....internationally that is...
Posted by: Maxtrue at April 13, 2010 5:04 pm
http://www.worldthreats.com/?p=2303

The best I could do following up Debka's claims....
Posted by: Maxtrue at April 13, 2010 6:09 pm
"If Iran is attacked, nuclear devices will go off in American cities", "Iran will join the world nuclear club within a month in a bid to deter possible attacks on the country." These sound like more empty boasts than anything. Don't they state this like once a month? I suspect they are trying to bolster local support by talking trash - and the media is eating it up once again.

"our military sources believe it does possess the makings of primitive nuclear devices or "dirty bombs"." Additionally my understanding is that dirty bombs are not effective at all and survive as an idea solely due to the media.

While we need to keep an eye out on the Iranians, we play into their hands by over-reacting to trash talk.
Posted by: Cassius Corodes at April 13, 2010 11:38 pm
While we need to keep an eye out on the Iranians, we play into their hands by over-reacting to trash talk.

That's kinda not the point. The point is (if he actually said those things) that he is admitting that Iran is building nuclear WEAPONS and that he not only has no problem with turning them over to terrorists but in fact that is exactly what he plans to do.

That's a REALLY BIG DEAL. If he said it.
Posted by: Craig at April 13, 2010 11:53 pm
Fair point Craig - I did not see that angle.
Posted by: Cassius Corodes at April 14, 2010 12:05 am
Kinda like Schicklegruber's "trash talk".

(Oops. I keep forgetting that you can't say things like that....)
Posted by: Barry Meislin at April 14, 2010 12:11 am
http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Editorials/Article.aspx?id=173057

Reflects a growing feeling in Israel as Daimler cuts ties to Iran.

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE63D1CY20100414

China's going to do little Mr. President

http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/middle-east/Report-Iran-to-Join-Nuclear-Club-to-Deter-Attacks-90753384.html

VOA backs up some of Debka's claims.
Posted by: Maxtrue at April 14, 2010 5:46 am
While Israel will not just sit and watch Iran become a nuclear power before its very eyes, it would also be naive to think that an israeli attack on Iran will achieve regime change, even if the leadership was targeted. The iranian people will simply react against it and unite behind their government as their country comes under attack from a regional and much despised foe. This would be a very dangerous development and will cause major hardships for Israel itself, not to mention the whole region going up in flames. I hate to think about it, but we are approaching the day when something needs done to stop the mullahs from acquiring nuclear club membership. I do not expect sanctions to be very effective, nor threats of U.S. strikes on nuclear targets either,so perhaps the window of opportunity has passed and we do have to live with a nuclear Iran, something that Israel wont, and that means a regional armaggedon may be too late to avoid! I am tempted to think that perhaps GW Bush's target should have been Iran as opposed to Iraq back in 2003 as they were already engaged in a nuclear weapons project while Saddam was just pretending to have one!
Posted by: Mason at April 14, 2010 7:56 am
"I am tempted to think that perhaps GW Bush's target should have been Iran as opposed to Iraq back in 2003"

I keep hearing this and it may make sense with 20-20 hindsight. However at the time Iran's president was the moderate Khatami (sp?), not Nutjob and many people had hopes for a peaceful transition to a less antagonistic regime.
Posted by: Gary Rosen at April 14, 2010 8:42 am
Hitting Iran back in 2003 would have been silly. Iran's secret nuclear program had not been fully vetted by Intel, Iran gave some initial signals it would help the US and of course most of the world had little idea how bad this sick regime was and still is.

Bush's biggest mistake once he gave the order to invade Iraq was the horrendous weakness of his phase 4 planning as described by Thomas Ricks in FIASCO. Given Saddam nearly landed a cruise missile on Central command in the opening hours of our attack, we better be wiser this time. Apparently today, Israel made clear to Syria, Scud missiles waiting for delivery to Hizb'Allah will be unacceptable.
Posted by: Maxtrue at April 14, 2010 8:59 am
Like I said before, I think ultimately Israel will strike at Iran's nuclear facilities. It won't completely destroy the program, but it will put it back by years.

The Iranian people will be furious, but after a few weeks and months life will go on and they'll think less about Israel's attack and more about shit-hole they're living in. Slowly, the anger will get redirected back on their leaders.

During these interim years--after the program is crippled and while the regime reinvests in it, wasting more of the country's resources--we can hope that the Iranian masses will finally overthrow the Mullahs.

I know I'm leaving a lot out, but I have to run.
Posted by: semite5000 at April 14, 2010 9:08 am
The following is exactly the kind of rubbish Democrats have been saying for seven years. It is astonishing that the administration would think at this point with my above VOA link, Americans will buy this. It hurts our credibility to say such things and it makes Israel and Iran doubt our credibility. Having flopped in their NIE Report of 2007, the Intel community is setting itself up for another black eye. Are they unaware Iranian, Syrian and North Korean programs are linked? Are they blind to Iran's missile tests? Did they not watch Iran put a sat in orbit and begin testing a cruise missile?

Here, take a look: http://defensetech.org/2010/04/14/obama-administration-says-iran-still-three-to-five-years-from-usable-nuclear-weapon/#idc-container

I guess Strategy Page will have bets against this idiocy. And this forecast follows the spin from the WH on the recent "groundbreaking" nuclear summit.

Holy crap.
Posted by: Maxtrue at April 14, 2010 10:43 am
Maxtrue, I don't put much faith in what the intel says. I'm not sure they even know. And even if they did, there would be an internal dialogue about what they should SAY. The widespread panic in countries that have security concerns about Iran is pretty good evidence that the leadership in those countries is very worried.
Posted by: Craig at April 14, 2010 11:43 am
@MJT

In case my question looked rhetorical:

Are there any specific pro-American Iranian groups or leaders that you can think of within (or even outside) Iran right now that are capable of maintaining order and establishing a government acceptable to the people if the current regime is "taken out"? This would necessarily include military control along with weapons.

Thanks,
Posted by: PBcanon at April 14, 2010 12:41 pm
PBcanon,

No, to my knowledge, no such people exist. That does not, however, mean that they don't. More important, it doesn't mean they won't later.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 14, 2010 1:05 pm
@MJT,

Thank you for your response. I hadn't heard of any, either. We can hold out hope, but it's a gamble.
Without an internal, native force - poltical and military - the US may get sucked into another occupation.
Posted by: PBcanon at April 14, 2010 2:53 pm
PBcanon: Without an internal, native force - poltical and military - the US may get sucked into another occupation.

I'd worry about that, too, if I thought Obama might ever actually do something about this.

He won't.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 14, 2010 3:36 pm
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