Bombing Iran (04/21/06)

The above illustration is from Global Security.org, which maintains a list of links on military operatons in Iran–both government and anti-war sites.

I first started thinking about Iran when I read Mathew Rothschild’s ( Editor of the Progressive) article, “The Human Costs of Bombing Iran” posted on April 11. He posted a second article today, “Slighting Chining, Threatening Iran.”

The State Department held a briefing today with with Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Bob Joseph. Burns represented the US in Moscow at talks among the P-5 ( Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) and the G-8. He described Russian attempts

to try to get Iran to return to its senses and to return to a rational discussion with the international community about its very obvious attempt to create a nuclear weapons capability for itself.

Burns claimed that

Each country said that we all ought to act now collectively to ensure that we speak with one voice and take one series of actions designed to isolate the Iranians and, if necessary, to think about punitive diplomatic, economic measures for Iran to stop its current efforts. And I was struck by the change in atmosphere and, if you will, the sense of urgency as we think about the actions in the Security Council in May and June to make sure that we are operating together.

He added,

A number of countries in the P-5 and G-8 spoke up against Iran’s leading support for terrorism in the Middle East, as well as a concern about its more aggressive policy in the region, as well as concern about the human rights situation inside Iran.

One reporter, identified only as Peter, asked exactly the question that came to mind as I read the transcript.

The Russians, for one, are saying that they’re not going to apply sanctions because they see no proof that Iran is heading towards a nuclear weapon, so it seems like that international consensus is not as solid as you might suggest.

Burns claimed secret information,

It’s always interesting to match what you hear privately in negotiations versus what people say publicly….Russia and China have not agreed to what that specific action should be. But they said to us in private that they believe that there should be some kind of effort made by the Security Council beyond where we’ve been. A reporter identified only as John asked another good question.

How do we know if we can believe the statements that are coming out of Iran and that their claims are — how do we know that they’re not exaggerating and how much confidence do we really have in our intelligence on Iran, any more than we had with Iraq?

Burns claimed the situation was different because

not a single country of which I’m aware believes that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. is trying to achieve a nuclear weapons capability.

we’re just judging Iran on what it’s saying it’s doing. It’s crossing every international red line, which has produced this movement against and back — I think backlash against Iraq — Iran, excuse me.

A Freudian slip?

*

As for Joseph, he returned last Friday, having visited the Gulf states and seeks to scare us about Iran.

First, in terms of activities on the ground in Iran, it’s fair to say, I believe, that the Iranians have put both feet on the accelerator….

The Iranians claim that they had converted enough uranium for 110 tons of UF-6, UF-6 being the feed material for centrifuges. This is enough material for more than 10 weapons. The Iranians have said that they actually produced enriched uranium to 3.5 percent. If you can produce to 3.5 percent, you’re well on your way to producing enriched uranium at a much higher content, including weapons grade material.

Perhaps most disturbing, at least in my calculation, is the announcement that they are operating a centrifuge cascade consisting of 164 centrifuges. Now, I’m a political scientist, not a nuclear physicist, but every nuclear physicist that I have talked to in the past has always suggested that 164 is a key number, because once you’re able to operate, over a sustained period of time, 164 centrifuges in cascade and feed into that this material, this UF-6 that I talked about, you’re well on your way to an industrial scale capability in terms of the production of enriched uranium. …

Iran has clearly demonstrated that it is not willing to cooperate and that it is determined, despite calls for compromise and despite calls for negotiation, determined to move forward in complete defiance of the international community.

Joseph talked to Bahrain, UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt about

financial measures…to disrupt the proliferation activities…banking transactions or closing front companies…[to affect]Iran’s ability to acquire more technology and expertise from the outside.

And we also talked about other defensive measures…including greater cooperation on missile defense [against Iran’s] ballistic missile offensive capability…that’s growing significantly. …

We also talked about…training and exercising in the area of chemical and biological defense.

*

Global Security’s Executive Director, John E. Pike, worked for nearly two decades with the Federation of American Scientists,. In December 2000, he founded the new organization to

reduce reliance on nuclear weapons and the risk of their use — both by existing nuclear weapons states and those states seeking to acquire such capabilities. GlobalSecurity.org aims to shift American conventional military forces towards new capabilities aligned with the post-Cold War security environment, and to reduce the worldwide incidence of deadly conflict.

On of the spookiest items from his list of The spookiest is a Target Iran countdown timeline.

The election of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad as Iran’s new president would appear to preclude a negotiated resolution of Iran’s nuclear program. The success of strikes against Iran’s WMD facilities requires both tactical and strategic surprise, so there will not be the sort of public rhetorical buildup in the weeks preceeding hostilities, of the sort that preceeded the invasion of Iraq. To the contrary, the Bush Administration will do everything within its power to deceive [my emphasis] Iran’s leaders into believing that military action is not imminent.

Compare this with the State Department briefing. Burns says,

So we haven’t given up on diplomacy. We have not given up on the Security Council. And the largest part of our effort is going to be through the Security Council.

Hm-m-m.

*

Global Security’s timeline starts in 2001 with the f
ormation of The Coalition for Democracy in Iran by Michael Ledeen [of the American Enterprise Institute], Morris Amitay [a former director of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC], and James Woolsley [former CIA director]. It has strong ties to the exiled Reza Pahlavi, the deceased shah’s son and works to mobilize support for President Bush’s policies including his designation of Iran as part of the deadly “axis of evil.” Here are the future predictions:

August 2007
Monday, September 3rd is Labor Day 2007, the notional beginning of the 2008 Presidential campaign. If the White House is politically risk averse with reference to striking Iran, the weeks before Labor Day might mark the last opportune moment to do the deed before the Presidential campaign gets under way.

4 November 2008
The US presidential election of 2008 is scheduled to occur on November 4, 2008. If the White House judges that military strikes would rally the country around the President and his party, it would argue for timing strikes as little as a week before the election, a pre-planned October Surprise.

20 January 2009
The new President is innaugurated. Depending on political calculation, a final window of opportunity to strike Iran opens during the transition from the old President the new. If Bush judged that his incoming successor lacked the resolve to take the neccessary action, or if it were judged that blaming Bush would ease the way of the new President, there might be arguments for striking after the election but before the innauguration.

*

After reading Rothschild, I decided to look into the the Brits’ Oxford Research group Iran: Consequences of a War. In this briefing paper, published in February, its globlal security consultant and Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, Paul Rogers concluded:

A US military attack on Iranian nuclear infrastructure would be the start of a protracted military confrontation that would probably involve Iraq, Israel and Lebanon as well as the United States and Iran, with the possibility of west Gulf states being involved as well. An attack by Israel, although initially on a smaller scale, would almost certainly escalate to involve the United States, and would also mark the start of a protracted conflict.

Although an attack by either state [the U.S. or Israel] could seriously damage Iran���s nuclear development potential, numerous responses would be possible making a protracted and highly unstable conflict virtually certain. Moreover, Iran would be expected to withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty and engage in a nuclear weapons programme as rapidly as possible. This would lead to further military action against Iran, establishing a highly dangerous cycle of violence.

The termination of the Saddam Hussein regime was expected to bring about a free-market client state in Iraq. Instead it has produced a deeply unstable and costly conflict with no end in sight. That may not prevent a US or an Israeli attack on Iran even though it should be expected that the consequences would be substantially greater. What this analysis does conclude is that a military response to the current crisis in relations with Iran is a particularly dangerous option and should not be considered further ��� alternative approaches must be sought, however difficult these may be.”

Rogers enumeration of Iran’s possible responses after the initial “victory”

*withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty
*immediate reconstitution of the nuclear infrastructure, developing it wherever possible in a more survivable manner. This would include systems redundancy, dispersal of research, development and production capabilities and the use of deep underground facilities for future work wherever feasible. Furthermore, there may already be elements of redundancy built in to the current Iranian civil nuclear programme and there may be elements of which the United States is unaware. If so, this would aid the reconstitution of capabilities.
*refusal to negotiate in the future
*more militant action by Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon.with a large quantities of surface-to-surface missiles of a range sufficient to
reach Haifa and other population centres in the north of Israel, which would in return attract a vigorous Israeli response
*interference with Gulf oil exports,leading to a formidable impact on oil markets
*sabotage by paramilitary units linked to Iran of oil export facilities in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
*improved morale and greater ability to recruit for the Revolutionary Guard.
*rapid activation of links with the Iraqi Shi���a militias
*criticism by India, China and Russia, given the recent major long-term economic agreements

Does Bush think that if he blows Iran to Kingdom Come, he will avoid another quagmire such as Vietnam and Iraq?

Another interesting article is Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press’s piece, “The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy,” in the March/April 2006 Foreign Affairs. They posit that the current administration may even be planning a first strike on Russian and China.

“The United States already has more than a thousand nuclear warheads capable of attacking bunkers or caves. If the United States’ nuclear modernization were really aimed at rogue states or terrorists, the country’s nuclear force would not need the additional thousand ground-burst warheads it will gain from the W-76 modernization program. The current and future U.S. nuclear force, in other words, seems designed to carry out a preemptive disarming strike against Russia or China.

“The intentional pursuit of nuclear primacy is, moreover, entirely consistent with the United States’ declared policy of expanding its global dominance. “

They also theorize that the current missile defense plans which seem idiotic are part of the first strike strategy.

“…the sort of missile defenses that the United States might plausibly deploy would be valuable primarily in an offensive context, not a defensive one — as an adjunct to a U.S. first-strike capability, not as a standalone shield.

They conclude,

“If Washington continues to believe such preeminence is necessary for its security, then the benefits of nuclear primacy might exceed the risks. But if the United States adopts a more restrained foreign policy — for example, one premised on greater skepticism of the wisdom of forcibly exporting democracy, launching military strikes to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and aggressively checking rising challengers — then the benefits of nuclear primacy will be trumped by the dangers.”

They also have a forthcoming article, “The End of MAD? The Nuclear Dimension of U.S. Primacy,” International Security 30, no. 4 (Spring 2006).

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