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Iran’s Leaders Need To Be Attacked To Save Themselves

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Yes, I know, it sounds utterly hare-brained. But hear me out.

Iran has problems. Big, hulking, not going to go away until after they get worse, step in ze huge pile of doggie do-do and right onto the hallway carpet kind of problems.

  • Sanctions have rent asunder their already tattered economy.  Another year or two of this and the people of Tehran might get antsy. If China dumps Iran’s oil, we’re looking at hyper-inflation.
  • Syria is finished so Hizbollah is finished, so Iran’s proxies are cooked, so its ability to be the scary monster who’ll lash out if threatened isn’t quite what it used to be.
  • It’s surrounded by Arab states that have thrown off their dictators, and shown the world how to get it done. Most importantly, they’ve demonstrated there is a tipping point that’s easier to reach than anticipated.
  • Iran’s the only place where there’s no threat of a new theocracy, because they’ve already got one that’s cracking at the seams. So no fear of blow-back for the West if they meddle.
  • It has the most enlightened, liberal, motivated middle class in any Middle Eastern country by far. If they get their chance to strike they’ll take it, and they’ve learned their lessons.
  • After the embarrassing display by the West during the Green Revolution, Washington won’t sit idly by next time the students take up their cudgels and man the barricades.
  • It’s pushing forward with nukes, but even if it gets the Uranium will not have the delivery device. It’s one thing to have a Scud fizzle on launch, it’s quite another if its tipped with a nuke.
  • It’s ability to hit back against a strike is limited. What can it do? A few targeted assassinations? Mining the straits? Ramming the odd tanker with fastboats and human torpedoes?

The Mullahs can’t afford to go on and they can’t afford to back down. The idea that Iran would just capitulate to the West is hard to fathom, but the idea that they can successfully trigger the nuclear power play it desperately needs seems oddly remote too.

See, I told you they were in trouble.

But maybe there’s a way out.

And maybe the way out is to provoke the West into an attack. Maybe that’s what they’re doing.

But, but, but why?

  • Because the West even if attacked would never invade and occupy Iran. That would be impossible and insane. They’d only be there to wipe out the nukes.
  • Because the intense nationalism of the Iranian people would overcome their hatred of the Mullahs who’d wrap themselves in the flag and say “You see! Great Satan was out to get us after all!”
  • Because the Chinese and Russians would be in there in a flash to help rebuild. No more sanctions. No more nukes. No more war.

Just a rejuvenated theocracy that will live to fight another day.

Written by coolrebel

October 31, 2012 at 10:02 pm

American Foreign Policy Has One Priority: No Nukes For Bad Guys

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There’s no such thing as a good nuke.

Militants attacked a Pakistani Nuclear base today, which is enough to give you a warm, cozy feeling inside, isn’t it? It’s also a very good reminder of the single most important goal of US foreign policy; stopping the bad guys from getting nukes. Next to that everything pales into insignificance.

Probably the number one priority is making sure that Pakistan’s militants don’t get a hand on them, probably as a result of an inside-job transfer of weaponry and the expertise needed to use them. If necessary, the US should have no hesitation about using Special Forces to make sure the bad guys don’t get the bomb. Pakistani sovereignty should be ignored in those circumstances.

Then there’s Iran, which has to be stopped at all costs from getting the bomb they so badly want. We need to make sure the Russians don’t trade their stuff either, or that it leeches out to the Chechens or other party-people looking for Armageddon. We need to cordon off North Korea and watch it like a hawk. We need to check ships of all nations with nuclear weapons or ambitions, and make all this priority number one for all US intelligence and military assets.

The United States is still the world’s policeman, still the ultimate guarantor of peace, and stopping nuclear proliferation is the centerpiece of how we preserve that peace.

Written by coolrebel

August 15, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Obama Will Attack Iran In His Second Term

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Before you get on my case, let me explain why this headline is not link bait.

President Obama is a cautious man. Assuming he wins, this is the landscape that he’ll be dealing with.

  • Iran has an intricate system built over a number of sites, some reinforced and underground, all dedicated to the the likely task of building a nuclear weapons. Those sites were not built to house the Islamic Republic’s extensive model train collection.
  • Most US intelligence agencies believe Iran is building a nuclear weapon, and as a result we are doing our best with cyber-warfare to mess up their centrifuges and slow things down.
  • Negotiations with Iran appear to be in classic stall mode thanks to Tehran. Carrot and stick is not working. 
  • The Israelis are convinced that Iran is building nuclear weapons. 
  • The IAEA is as certain that Iran is building nuclear weapons as they were sure that Iraq (remember Yellow cake?) was not back in 2002.
  • Israel doesn’t blow up Iranian nuclear scientists in its spare time. It takes time and effort to get those guys and it’s a risky business for the agents on the ground. 
  • Obama’s cover is provided by sanctions. It’s very likely that the best sanctions can do is clarify Tehran’s position. There is little chance that Iran – one of the most chauvinistic and determined of nations – will buckle under. In fact, the Revolutionary Guard and the Mullahs just love sanctions. It gives them an opportunity to blame the West instead of their own economic mismanagement.
  • Ayatollah Khamenei has said that the bomb is “Un-Islamic”, but being the Supreme Leader means that “under threat from the Infidel” the bomb could become seriously Islamic in a hurry.
  • The Iranian sphere of influence is about to take a beating once the Assad regime goes bye-bye. Hezbollah will be hung out to dry. The only way Iran can assert its power after that happens (which is the only way it can justify staying in power at all ) is to have nuclear weapons to threaten Israel, control the Straits of Hormuz, and scare the bejesus out of the Saudis. 
  • The United States can not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons. It would undermine our national security interests throughout the region, and beyond. If we allowed that situation to stand, we would signal a level of US weakness that would trigger decades of asymmetric warfare. We could be looking at intolerable threats to international oil prices, the constant threat of nuclear war between Iran and Israel, and even a threat to the Saudi regime, which they’d most likely respond to with renewed export of terrorism, and an attempt to build its own bomb, which would also be unacceptable. 
  • Ultimately, neither Russia nor China will be too upset at the US taking on the heavy lifting. The Russians won’t want a nuclear armed Islamic state close to their own highly restive Muslim populations, nor will they like the idea of Iran essentially controlling world energy prices. As for China, they use Russia for cover, and if Russia abstains in the UNSC, so will Beijing. A further reason is simple. The Chinese Economy is brittle right now. The economic shock caused by Iranian nukes will make a dangerous internal situation worse. They could do without the hassle.
  • Saudi support for a US assault on Iran will be highly likely. That will include flyover and basing rights, along with other strategic support. The Saudis need the US to do the job, and are perfectly prepared to do business with the Israelis to make that happen. The only proviso is that it all happens on the sly. 
  • Israel has vowed from the very beginning to deal with any existential threat to the nation. A state born of the Holocaust can not countenance the possibility of another. Iran has to be neutralized. The Israeli people will demand it.
  • Only the United States can conduct the operations necessary to neutralize Iranian nuclear weapons. Without going into to detail, the Israelis have neither the reach, diplomatic power to engineer overflight rights, nor the strike capacity or the ground and air superiority forces to get the job done at every target, and minimize blow-back.
  • Obama needs to get past November first before he can even begin to consider a full-scale strike on Iran. He also needs to stall Israel, which has almost certainly assured the White House it will not attack Iran before the election. 
  • That strike will only be conducted after the Administration is sure that Iran has a deliverable nuclear capacity, and some key milestones will have to be passed. Those will likely include the expulsion of IAEA inspectors after a UN sanctioned move to enter all Iranian facilities suspected of housing nuclear weapons technology, independently verifiable hard evidence of that activity, the proven failure of sanctions, and the rebuffing of Washington’s diplomatic initiatives. These are all highly likely.

Put all this together, and Obama will attack, probably in 2014.

The attack will be swift and decisive. It will involve massive air, naval, and special force assaults by air and ground, including bunker-busters, and perimeter defenses to help ensure success. It will be done in a way that clearly minimizes collateral damage. US forces will stay on the ground only as long as necessary and no longer. After departing, they will make sure to remind the Iranians that they’ll be back if necessary.

As for the Iranian response, it will be toothless. No Hezbollah, and no nukes will leave the Iranians little means to express their fury. Will they ally with Sunni extremists? Never. Will they infiltrate their own agents into Western countries? Unlikely to be effective or widespread. There will be bluster and little more.

Written by coolrebel

August 14, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Making Plans for Pakistan.

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Nothing in Foreign Policy is simple, but problems don’t get any thornier than what do about Pakistan.

One of the most perplexing elements of the discussion surrounding the current hand-wringing over what to do in Afghanistan is how little Pakistan is mentioned as ‘the reason’ for our Afghan policy. This despite the coining of a racy new phrase to describe US policy in that arena “Af-Pak” (mainly for use on Twitter) as well as clarion calls from lots of Foreign Policy Wonks (FPWs) that Pakistan is where the action is.

So why is this? Why is Pakistan the nexus of US foreign policy in the region?

There’s really only one reason for this.  Pakistan has nukes, and the word around Washington is that those nukes are less than secure.

Sure, the rise of the Pakistani Taliban is a deeply unsettling development for the US. But a little perspective is useful here. They are not a threat to the US homeland unless they get access to a usable nuclear weapon. But if they do, they represent probably the single most dangerous threat that the world has faced in this short and already violent century.

The Taliban’s success in sequestering power in Pakistan is a product of many factors, but despite being medieval thugs, we, America are seen in a lesser light. The truth is that body politic in Pakistan is a strange and unpredictable beast indeed. Most Pakistanis distrust the militants almost as much as they hate America or India, while their government stumbles on, loathed, despised and ineffective. It’s hard to for America to make national security judgments when Pakistani society seems to be in constant state of an odd mix of utter and post-colonial good sense.

Meanwhile, the real power broker in Pakistan, the Army, is itself weak.  The Taliban absorb the body blows of their brutal campaigns to quell the insurgency, and attack the heart of the Army establishment at will. The US has tried – rightly – to build a strong relationship with the Pakistani army but the results have and will continue to be disappointing. Distrust reins supreme.

So what’s a superpower to do?  The answer is not too much.

Containment.

Nation building is out. They quite simply don’t want our help. Don’t trust it. Fierce nationalism undermines our ability to buy them the old fashioned way.  The best we can hope for in Pakistan in the short term is to keep a lid on the place and try to make sure it doesn’t blow up in our faces. Keeping the remnants of Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban on the defensive so they can’t export their special brand of fun to the rest of the world is something we can achieve and be proud of

But more important than the export of conventional terror, is nuclear control. We have to recognize that if the Taliban and insurgents get close to control of a nuclear weapon, all bets are off and we have to deal with that, our way.  The word is that the hijackig of a Pakistani nuke might be an inside job, with militants from inside the army staging the heist. That’s quite simply a no-no for us.  So it’s vital that the US establishes and maintains cast-iron intelligence assets in the Pakistani army, and throughout the government, as well as in the hot-spot regions to monitor every hint of that and be prepared to act fast if a threat solidifies.

Containment.

And what of our presence in Afghanistan?  It’s vital. Not so much to secure a better future for the Afghans (which is just not possible right now), but to provide a jumping off point for our forces in case an attack on militants in Pakistan becomes necessary. We must continue to garrison Baghram AFB, and have a Rapid Deployment strike force of at least 2 brigades ready when necessary. We must also boost our Special Forces presence to keep the Afghan Taliban on the defensive – particularly where it hurts them most – in the wallet. America maintains strategic garrisons in many a distrusting or hostile nation (the most famous of which is Cuba), and the Afghan government – like them or not – are going to be quite amenable to a military force that will protect them from the none-too-pleasant fate met by past Afghan leaders.

Containment.

Containment sounds kind of dull. But Pakistan is too thorny a problem to leave alone, and too much of a potential quagmire to jump into feet first.  Containment is a time-honored US strategy that’s used when there are just too many dead ends for anything else to work.  And unlike the Afghan troop surge and the Counter-Insurgency strategy, containment is not a “perfect world” scenario where everything has to go right for the concept to work. Life just isn’t like that.

Containment.

America is still living in the shadow of Bush’s disastrous nation-building dreams. But remember where all that exporting democracy stuff came from. It was only when we didn’t find WMD in Iraq that talk of Democracy became a la mode. It should be put back into the box of bad ideas from whence it came.

Let’s try and be a little less ambitious this time.

Written by coolrebel

November 11, 2009 at 5:30 am