Iran's Nuclear Ambitions

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This is what Iran wants. Will they get it? [Brian Vetter / Flickr]

[Booked for Wednesday February 1]

Iran wants to go nuclear. They want to develop nuclear energy capabilities, and after that, maybe, a bomb. No one knows how close they are, or how long it might take them to get there, but they’re building on a program developed and strengthened under the Shah, and according to our friend Vali Nasr, their goal is to be “one screw driver short of the bomb.”

The E.U. is trying to talk them down. China and Russia are telling them to cooperate, too. And tomorrow the IAEA, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, will hold a special meeting to decide whether to recommend Iran to the Security Council. Which could lead to sanctions.

President Bush used last night’s State of the Union Address, the same speech in which he coined the phrase “Axis of Evil” in 2002, to speak directly to Iran:

Iran [is] a nation now held hostage by a small clerical elite that is isolating and repressing its people…The Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions, and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons. America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats.

President George W. Bush, The State of the Union Address, 1/31/06

The response from Iran was not kind:

I am telling those fake superpowers that the Iranian nation became independent 27 years ago and… on the nuclear case it will resist until fully achieving its rights…Our nation cannot step back because of the bullying policies of some countries in the world.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a speech on state tv, 2/1/06

So now what? As one senior British official once put it, “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.” So is this the last chance for the Bush doctrine of pre-emption, or the place where preemption dies? Or, is peaceful cooperation between Tehran and the West actually a possibility? Is Ahmadinejad – who has called for the destruction of Israel more than once and who is drumming up nationalist sentiment at home – acting on behalf of national sentiment, or is he a wildcard?

And if Iran does go nuclear, what happens then?

Stephen Kinzer

Former Middle East correspondent for the New York Times.

Author of All the Shah’s Men.

Robert Litwak

Director of the International Security Studies program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Former Director for Nonproliferation and Export Controls at the National Security Council.

Karim Sadjadpour

Iran analyst for the International Crisis Group.

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  • And if Iran does go nuclear, what happens then?

    we negotiate.

  • shriber

    After the fact negotiations will be a waste of time since the Iranian leadership has made it clear that their aim is in part of convert the West to Islam and given that they have a Gotterdammerung type regime I doubt that they would be afraid of a nuclear exchange.

  • cheesechowmain

    What is ‘Plan B’ to negotiation breakdowns? Can one assume (always a risky venture) there are planners and analysists mapping out the cost-benefit analysis for a tactical air campaign and potential nuclear exchange with ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons. Any thoughts about what sort of scenarios we’d see play out? What sort of blowback and cooperation would both adversaries expect to see manifest? The arenas of influence that seem of particular interest for careful consideration: military, political, economic, and religious.

  • Nikos

    The World today had an illuminating conversation on this topic with an iconclast Iranian professor.

    http://www.theworld.org/

  • After the fact negotiations will be a waste of time since the Iranian leadership has made it clear that their aim is in part of convert the West to Islam and given that they have a Gotterdammerung type regime I doubt that they would be afraid of a nuclear exchange.

    wow, so many people can read the minds of other people. you would figure that we don’t need a science of psychology.

    the reality is what people say and do is a different thing. the reality is that human psychology is not as easy to predict as we might think. some of the commentators who make inferences based on the what the leaders of iran say should read some cognitive anthropology of religion, which shows clearly that a lot of religious talk is not as transparent as you might think.

    not to be condescending, but a lot of the talk about the iranian nutso-statements read like the analysis of 3rd graders. we need to get beyond elementary school psychology people.

  • maotalk

    In the early 1970’s, Uncle Sam started the Shah of Iran on the path to the develpment of nuclear energy. Don’t be surprised if it becomes known that the Shah’s friend, Isreal, also helped.

    Iran has a right to develop nuclear energy. If the US can call for the abolition of “oil addiction”, why can’t Iran do the same thing? Kinzer is right…..engage Iran.

  • shriber

    This is what I am referring to razib. No need to read anyone’s mind:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/01/14/wiran14.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/01/14/ixworld.html

    ‘Divine mission’ driving Iran’s new leader

    By Anton La Guardia

    (Filed: 14/01/2006)

    “As Iran rushes towards confrontation with the world over its nuclear programme, the question uppermost in the mind of western leaders is “What is moving its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to such recklessness?”

    Political analysts point to the fact that Iran feels strong because of high oil prices, while America has been weakened by the insurgency in Iraq.

    But listen carefully to the utterances of Mr Ahmadinejad – recently described by President George W Bush as an “odd man” – and there is another dimension, a religious messianism that, some suspect, is giving the Iranian leader a dangerous sense of divine mission.

    In November, the country was startled by a video showing Mr Ahmadinejad telling a cleric that he had felt the hand of God entrancing world leaders as he delivered a speech to the UN General Assembly last September.

    When an aircraft crashed in Teheran last month, killing 108 people, Mr Ahmadinejad promised an investigation. But he also thanked the dead, saying: “What is important is that they have shown the way to martyrdom which we must follow.”

    The most remarkable aspect of Mr Ahmadinejad’s piety is his devotion to the Hidden Imam, the Messiah-like figure of Shia Islam, and the president’s belief that his government must prepare the country for his return.”

    Amazing stuff, don’t you agree?

  • digitalcommuter

    “In the early 1970’s, Uncle Sam started the Shah of Iran on the path to the develpment of nuclear energy. Don’t be surprised if it becomes known that the Shah’s friend, Isreal, also helped.”

    It’s always the fault of Uncle Sam, right maotalk?

    Did we also help Mao go nuclear or to kill millions of his enemies?

  • digitalcommuter

    I don’t agree that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is irrational, Shriber. I believe that he knows exactly what he is doing and his use of seemingly irrational imagery is his way of playing to his supporters.

  • Grumpy

    Negotiations? What negotiations? Europeans tried to negotiate, but failed to deliver security guarantees. Remember Bush saying one day that we won’t invade Iran and then the next day saying that “all options are on the table”? _That_ was the reason Europeans failed. Without security guarantees there’s nothing to pull Iranians to the table, same as with North Korea. The point is, USA power elites don’t _want_ to negitiate, they want to dictate, whatever the results for all of us.

  • Speaking of a global negotiation approach, obviously the best gesture would be for the U.S. to stop developing nuclear weapons and actually engage seriously with other nuclear powers and begin to disarm. In many parts of the world, the biggest fear is US nuclear power, not that of Iran, especailly with the pre-emptive approach to empire building.

  • The U.S. seems to be between the scylla of its own aggressive history in the region and the Charybdis of its over-consumption of fossil fuels. What option does it have, besides rhetoric and more threats?

  • kel

    Regarding “Nixon to China” Not only is the bush team worse than Coolidge, but he even makes Nixon look good

  • digitalcommuter

    I missed a spokesperson for Israel on the show.

    It seemed like everyone was talking about Israel but there was no one was speaking for Israel. This was little odd since Iran had made threats to wipe Israel off the map and is hosting a conference on Holocaust denial.

    Ironically, the Iranian speaker was the most realistic of all. While Stephen Kinzer

    was the least realistic.

    The other issue that was ignored was the Iranian regimes support for radical Islam and all that it entails.

  • Nikos

    On the question of Ahmadinejad’s rationality or lack thereof, I can agree simultaneoulsy with both d.c. and shriber in that, yes, he’s fully rational, but the religious ideology underpining his ratiocinations is a fanatasia. Making it all rather decidely irrational. But yeah, within that fantasia, he knows what he’s doing. It’s the Islamist fantasia that poses the most worrisome — not to mention unending — threat to the non-Islamic world.

    Sigh.

  • Nikos

    “…Islamist fantasia of worldwide submission to Allah…” I meant to say.

    (btw sidewalker: nice work with that Scylla and Charybdis metaphor. Enviously yours…)

  • efiladm

    This program would really benefit from guests with different views; in its current form, the guests agree with each other on major points and differ mostly in details. So, when Stephen Kinzer suggests that a way out of this crisis is for US to press Israel to give Iran security guarantees, there’s no one there to say that he’s nuts. Little wonder – they spent the whole hour discussing all sorts of things (eg, Iran’s hurt that America wouldn’t aknowledge it as a regional hegemon) without ever mentioning Ahmadinejad’s deep thoughts on the Holocaust and Israel being a blot on the map. Also, earlier utterancies of their “supreme leader” Khamenei that Iran could nuke Israel and survive the retaliation. And, quite naturally, whatever it is, it’s all US’s and Israel’s fault.

  • jc

    According to the content of shriber’s submission and included link, there seems to be little to distinguish between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Bush. The perceived conflict between Iran and the U.S. is apparently merely power mongering, a tempest between twins.

  • Potter

    From an article in Haaretz writtten in 2000 by Y. Yovel ( a book review on ” israel and the Bomb” by Avner Cohen), Yovel says:

    If, in the context of the peace agreements and talks with the United States, Israel were to confirm its nuclear capability – while committing itself to no nuclear testing and pledging to build its defense system on conventional weapons as in the past – maybe then it might achieve at least de facto recognition, if not international legitimacy, for its nuclear weaponry, to be used only as a “last resort” and a tool for safeguarding peace after Israel withdraws.

    ( After Israel withdraws from the occupied territories I presume) . The article explains how “nuclear ambiguity” morphed into the present “nuclear opacity”.

    Kinzer and others were right to bring up Israel. Israel has something to do with this.

    If the US had an agreement with Israel regarding israel’s security and their nuclear weapons program ( which would mean transparency) and then had agreement with Iran regarding their nuclear program (which included the issue of US or Israeli threats) with all sorts of inspections, assurances and consequences wouldn’t that be the way to go?

    Iran has had good reason to fear us and threaten back rather than negotiate with us. Bush has threatened Iran in more than one way The next thing you know Iran’s president threatens Israel and the issue of developing or threaten to develop nuclear weapons comes to the fore.

    Why not direct negotiations between the US and Iran?

    How is it that Republicans have managed to convince the electorate that they are strong on foreign policy when they have made us less safe in so many ways?

  • shriber

    “According to the content of shriber’s submission and included link, there seems to be little to distinguish between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Bush. The perceived conflict between Iran and the U.S. is apparently merely power mongering, a tempest between twins.�

    jc, I am no fan of Bush’ policies and I certainly didn’t vote for him, but I don’t see any equivalence between Bush and Ahmadinejad. Nor is there any equivalence between Iran and the US.

  • shriber

    “Kinzer and others were right to bring up Israel. Israel has something to do with this.�

    Yes, the fact that the Jewish State exists at all is an affront to the Iranian Mullahs and their supporters.

    “If the US had an agreement with Israel regarding israel’s security and their nuclear weapons program ( which would mean transparency) and then had agreement with Iran regarding their nuclear program (which included the issue of US or Israeli threats) with all sorts of inspections, assurances and consequences wouldn’t that be the way to go?�

    The Issue of threats is a threat against a nuclear weapons program of a State that has vowed to� wipe Israel off the map.� It is not a threat against the Iranian State as such.

    “Iran has had good reason to fear us and threaten back rather than negotiate with us. Bush has threatened Iran in more than one way The next thing you know Iran’s president threatens Israel and the issue of developing or threaten to develop nuclear weapons comes to the fore.�

    Would it were that simple, Potter. Iran has been threatening Israel since the days when the Mullahs first took over the reigns of State.

  • joel

    Hi, shriber. Change the words in your prior post that are appropriate to Islam Iran to words that are appropriate to Christian United States and you get what Bush has been saying for years. Just an observation.

    Cheers.

  • shriber

    “On the question of Ahmadinejad’s rationality or lack thereof, I can agree simultaneoulsy with both d.c. and shriber in that, yes, he’s fully rational, but the religious ideology underpining his ratiocinations is a fanatasia. Making it all rather decidely irrational. But yeah, within that fantasia, he knows what he’s doing. It’s the Islamist fantasia that poses the most worrisome — not to mention unending — threat to the non-Islamic world. Sigh.�

    Nikos, I would have put it differently: The Mullahs while following an irrational world view set up a State structure normalizes (rationalizes) their ideology. Ahmadinejad working from within that structure is allowing its irrational side to manifest itself more openly. Hence while the Mullahs urge negotiations Ahmadinejad seeks confrontation and not just of American and Israel but with Europe as well.

  • shriber

    “Hi, shriber. Change the words in your prior post that are appropriate to Islam Iran to words that are appropriate to Christian United States and you get what Bush has been saying for years. Just an observation.�

    Bush and the Christian right are working within a secular context while Ahmadinejad is working within a religious one. This makes all the difference.

  • joel

    In my limited perception, I’d have a hard time telling a red object within the “context” of a can of red paint and a blue object dipped in a can of red paint without some means of scraping off the paint. Most of what I hear from “the Christian right” including Bush sounds very much to be within a religious context. But, to each his own.

    Cheers

  • shriber

    Oh sure the “Christian” US is the same as the Islamic Republic of Iran.

    http://www.geocities.com/richard.clark32@btinternet.com/iranfem.html

    “Under Revolutionary law young girls who were sentenced to death could not be executed if they were still virgins. Thus they were “married off” to Revolutionary Guards and prison officials in temporary marriages and then raped before their execution, to prevent them going to heaven. The Mullahs believed that these women were ungodly and did not deserve paradise in the next life, and that if they were deprived of their virginity it would ensure that they went to hell. Therefore on the night prior to execution, the condemned girl was injected with a tranquilliser and then raped by her guard(s). After the execution, the religious judge at the prison would write out a marriage certificate and send it to the victim’s family along with a box of sweets.”

    http://www.wfafi.org/wfafistatement23.htm

    Ahmadinejad begins 2006 with escalated violence against women and new gender apartheid policies in Iran

    http://www.iran-e-azad.org/stoning/women.html

    “Stoning to Death in Iran:

    A Crime Against Humanity

    Carried Out By the Mullahs’ Regime

    ——————————————————————————–

    Stoning women to death in Iran

    A Special Case Study”

    Let me clear, I don’t care for the Christian Right at all but they are not in power and the US is a secular State.

  • Potter

    Shriber: “The Issue of threats is a threat against a nuclear weapons program of a State that has vowed toâ€? wipe Israel off the map.â€? It is not a threat against the Iranian State as such.”

    You are making a distinction and a rationalization without a difference to Iran using the recent Iranian hyperbole which has nothing real behind it (not even a consensus of opinion) at the moment versus the actual bombs that Israel has and can’t really use until Armageddon.

    It’s all posturing and threatening and puffing up of feathers. Those who fall for it are playing “brinksmanship”. Remember that?

    Israel cannot keep up it’s exceptionalism. Merely having nuclear deterrents is dangerous since there is no good argument why others in the neighborhood should not also have a nuclear weapon to deter threats. And as long as we keep threatening, the situation is exacerbated.

  • shriber

    Me:

    “Shriber: “The Issue of threats is a threat against a nuclear weapons program of a State that has vowed to� wipe Israel off the map.� It is not a threat against the Iranian State as such.�

    Potter,

    “You are making a distinction and a rationalization without a difference to Iran using the recent Iranian hyperbole which has nothing real behind it (not even a consensus of opinion) at the moment versus the actual bombs that Israel has and can’t really use until Armageddon.�

    Your comment is confused grammatically and confusing existentially, Potter.

    The fact that Iran at the moment does not have the means to act on its threats doesn’t mean that the threats shouldn’t be taken seriously. Moreover, I don’t see a connection between Iran’s inability to act on its murderous desires and Israel’s unwillingness to use its own nuclear weapons which are there merely as a deterrent.

    Given the attitude of its neighbors toward its very existence and given that they have shown a willingness and an ability to act upon them in 1948, 1967, and 1973, how long would Israel last if it did not have such a deterrent?

    “It’s all posturing and threatening and puffing up of feathers. Those who fall for it are playing “brinksmanship�. Remember that?�

    Iran’s desire to dominate the gulf States is not posturing, nor is its desire to eliminate Israel. I won’t go into its systematic program of Holocaust denial which in essence is an attempt to de-legitimize Jewish history.

    The Nazi State in the 1930’s was also “all posturing and threatening and puffing up of feathers

  • Potter

    How’s this:

    Shriber, You are making a distinction without a difference regarding threats to Iran by reacting to the recent Iranian hyperbole which has nothing real behind it (not even a consensus of opinion).

    In other words, the threats against Iran’s nuclear program are existential threats to Iranians regardless of what is meant by them. Wouldn’t Israel regard threats to it’s nuclear program an existential threat?

    Iran, even if it had nuclear weapons could not “wipe Israel off the map”. That would be suicide. Right?

    I suppose Israel could bomb Iran first but that too would have horrible consequences.

    This is brinksmanship.

    I suggest we go in the other direction.

    I do not see any evidence of Iran’s intentions against Israel other than the hyperbolic rhetoric of their president.

    What deters Israel’s neighbors is not Israel’s nuclear weapons, but their conventional weapons and fighting force, not nuclear weapons that cannot be used. Another deterrence is US support of Israel.

    What could work is negotiations.

    The extra credit reading on the thread here about Hossein is good.

    http://www.radioopensource.org/iranian-blogger-in-israel/#comments

    in particular the Jerusalem Post article and the one written by Hossein in the New York Times that I link on that thread ( from NYTimes January 28th) makes good points along these lines.

  • Nikos

    One last crack at it (for now, anyway):

    Priestess, priests, prophets and prophetesses are all, like it or and believe them or not, voices of their deities. To a secularist like me, it’s pretty darn obvious that these voices create their deities to serve, by sanctification, what they deem to be the needs or morals or righteous causes of their peoples. As I’ve suggested above, ethical interpersonal behavior was surely the mother of ‘morality’, which, as Jazzman insists, is a religious product. That’s fine. Yet the deities live entirely in the minds of their voices and believers, making morality a human product. And therefore evolved.

  • Nikos

    oops! that last one went to the wrong thread! SORRY!

  • Nikos

    Maybe we need an ‘unsend’ option?

  • shriber

    “How’s this: Shriber, You are making a distinction without a difference regarding threats to Iran by reacting to the recent Iranian hyperbole which has nothing real behind it (not even a consensus of opinion).�

    If that is so, I am not the only one. Iran’s violations will be referred to the UN by the IAEA.

    http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/MediaAdvisory/2006/MA200602.html

    “In other words, the threats against Iran’s nuclear program are existential threats to Iranians regardless of what is meant by them. Wouldn’t Israel regard threats to it’s nuclear program an existential threat?�

    Again, as I said above this isn’t just an Iranian vs. Israel issue. This is how the post revolutionary government there would like to frame the issue. I don’t know why you go along with this view.

    “Iran, even if it had nuclear weapons could not “wipe Israel off the map�. That would be suicide. Right?�

    Iran practically invented the suicide bomber, during the Iran Iraq war. Suicide is exactly what we are speaking of. The current President religious pronouncements should make you shudder.

    “I suppose Israel could bomb Iran first but that too would have horrible consequences. This is brinksmanship.�

    Israel has no reason to bomb Iran. It is only interested in stopping this regime from acquiring nuclear weapons. If this can be accomplished through peaceful negotiations that’s all well and good.

    “I suggest we go in the other direction.�

    It’s not up to you, nor is it up to me how the issue will be resolved.

    “I do not see any evidence of Iran’s intentions against Israel other than the hyperbolic rhetoric of their president.�

    As I said above, Iran is actively engaged in a war of words about the Holocaust which it denies happened. It is actively supporting anti-Israel terror groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Their former President Rafsanjani had also threatened Israel with a nuclear attack. We are not just talking about “hyperbolic rhetoric� of one President.

    Of course, negotiations are preferable to war, that’s the whole point isn’t it? The question is how do we get from here to there?

  • Potter

    The suicide bomber, as horrible as this is, cannot “wipe Israel off the map”. You shift the argument now again using “suicide” from the threat of nuclear weapons to the suicide bomber. That’s confused existentially.

    If Israel *has convinced herself* that she actually is going to be wiped off the map then she will feel that she has reason to bomb in defense. That ‘s dangerous.

    If israel has convinced herself that she cannot negotiate OR if she is not a part of the negotiations the “all well and good” is meaningless because it has not even been tried or considered.

    I suggest again you read Hossein’s piece in the New York Times, an op-ed of January 28th linked on the thread I linked to above.

    Regarding Iran’s war of words on the Holocaust, it’s just that, a war of words. It’s about pulling Israel’s chain. if you want to annoy Israeli’s or Jews just say that the Holocaust never happened or some such thing. And it get’s a lot of reaction as you show.

    It can be counteracted with words of admonishment and isolation from the world community.

  • Nikos

    Today on a local KUOW call-in show, the topic was the ‘Mohammed-the-Bomber’ cartoons, and the host interviewed a local Seattle area Imam. Their brief discourse is germane to this thread’s discussion, so I recommend giving it a listen at:

    http://www.kuow.org/theconversation.asp

    For those without the time to listen, I will dare to summarize: Islam, it seems, has no ‘turn the other cheek’ ethic, meaning that any blasphemy demands retaliation. All insults must be countered, or the insulted ‘become nothing’ (that’s a slight paraphrase, I think).

    Now, the Imam suggested that boycotting Danish trade was an adequate retaliation, but he’s an American after all, and I hear little such moderation coming from the heart of Islamism.

    Which leads to this question:

    Even if we dare to agree that Iran has the right to nuclear power, do we dare allow an Islamist government that sees retaliation-against-blasphemy as its sacred duty to possess nuclear weapons?

    Will they fix a warhead to one of their mid-range missiles and target Copenhagen?

    (I think we know what they’d do to Tel Aviv. ‘Israel must be destroyed’ is Iran’s very own ‘Delenda est Carthago’, after all.)

    Or am I overreacting?

  • Potter

    Nikos, anyone who is going to use a nuclear weapon will have to expect retaliation. One thing about suicide bombers is that their dispatchers are cowards. Anyone who dispatches a nuclear bomb will be committing mass suicide. We can argue if MAD works. We can argue the sanity of Iranian’s leadership I suppose. But one loose-lipped leader does not quite make a real enough threat to load the guns though we should sit up and pay attention.

    I don’t think we can deal with Iran from a position of world policeman or bully ot hegemon. I think we have to deal from a position of morality, a common morality. We have to get serious about our own nuclear arsenals as we try to stop proliferation. And Israel has to come clean and transparent about it’s nuclear weapons. I don’t see how we can prevent Iran from having nuclear power. From that point it is up to the vigilance of the IAEA and the world community to keep Iran from making/testing weapons. There is a big issue about Iran’s leadership and the rhetoric and threats to Israel that needs to be dealt with.

    This is the same situation that we have with North Korea.

    Regarding the cartoons, Jews have been the subject of the most vile stuff coming out of this part of the world for years. I do hope this point is being thrown back at them at this time. They can dish it out but they can’t take it.

    I’m okay with their boycott as unfair as it is to the cheese company. I am inclined to buy a lot more Danish cheese and hope that others do too. Danish blue cheese is pretty darn good and alot less expensive than the French blue. What else do they export?

  • Potter

    Ceramics.

  • shriber

    Nikos:

    “Even if we dare to agree that Iran has the right to nuclear power, do we dare allow an Islamist government that sees retaliation-against-blasphemy as its sacred duty to possess nuclear weapons?�

    That was my point, Nikos, that the Iranian desire to go nuclear is not just aimed at Israel. It is aimed at the non-Muslim world, especially the West.

    Potter,

    “Nikos, anyone who is going to use a nuclear weapon will have to expect retaliation. One thing about suicide bombers is that their dispatchers are cowards. Anyone who dispatches a nuclear bomb will be committing mass suicide. We can argue if MAD works. We can argue the sanity of Iranian’s leadership I suppose. But one loose-lipped leader does not quite make a real enough threat to load the guns though we should sit up and pay attention.�

    Potter, MAD only works in a world were people think rationally. I am not sure it will work in the context of a society were the frenzy of martyrdom is on everyone’s mind. The leader’s who send their followers to their death may be cowards, but a vengefully insane coward is just as dangerous as a sane brave leader determined to bring his foes to its knees.

    We need to acknowledge that a large part of Islam is at war with the non-Muslim world. Once this is openly faced then we can begin think about ways of dealing with the challenge.

    Btw: I did read the article you linked above, Potter.

  • shriber

    Have you guys seen this article in TCS Daily?

    http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=020306B

    Nuts with Nukes

  • Potter

    Here’s a good article warning against the Russian offer: Russia’s Sweetheart Deal

    Shriber you say: “We need to acknowledge that a large part of Islam is at war with the non-Muslim world. Once this is openly faced then we can begin think about ways of dealing with the challenge.”

    We also need to differentiate between real and hyped and “framed” threats designed to achieve certain goals other than mutual annihilation. Some nuance please.

    We need to isolate these threats to those who are making them and have an accurate reading of how much of Islam this represents and how much of it is bluster or based on certain fears and imperatives that we need to acknowledge. Ahmadinejad is using this language to get reaction (as Bush does). Once we understand this we can think about sane ways to deal with what may turn into a MAD situation if we help push in that direction.

    Some Muslims feel threatened that we want to dominate them and they make a plausible case.

    You say above:

    “After the fact negotiations will be a waste of time since the Iranian leadership has made it clear that their aim is in part of convert the West to Islam and given that they have a Gotterdammerung type regime I doubt that they would be afraid of a nuclear exchange.”

    They have you wierded out I am afraid.

  • shriber

    If I am overestimating the threat and you are underestimating it.

    Somewhere in between lies the real threat. The question is how to deal with it.

  • Potter

    I agree.

  • Potter

    Thank you for that article Shriber.

    Ahmadinejad does not have absolute power to back his threats. Hitler did. Also Bush seems, or seemed just as wacky to them after “Shock and Awe” Afghanisatn, Iraq ( on either side of Iran do not forget) “Axis of Evil” and similar wreckless statements including the use of the word “crusade” the humiliation of Abu Graib, one minute saying we will not attack Iran and another minute saying all options are open. We have actually acted to prove it.

  • shriber

    Haaretz has an interesting article on Hossein Derakhshan.

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/676697.html

    “I’ll blog your house down

    By Koby Ofek

    Last June, after a brief visit to his native Iran, Hossein Derakhshan wanted to return to Canada, but was delayed at Tehran airport for questioning. For seven hours he was interrogated by an Iranian Information Ministry officer concerning the blogs he writes in English and Farsi. He was told that he could no longer criticize the Ayatollah Khamenei and was asked to make a public apology or be banned from leaving the country. Derakhshan apologized but continued his activities undeterred. This week he succeeded in angering the Iranians again, when he decided to visit Israel in order to present Israel to his Iranian readers through his moderate eyes.�

  • shriber

    “Ahmadinejad does not have absolute power to back his threats.�

    Maybe Potter, but we should keep them in mind anyway as we deal with Iran. It’s folly to ignore them, no? he is after all the elected President of the country and not just a blogger.

  • shriber

    “Ahmadinejad does not have absolute power to back his threats.�

    Potter, is a different analysis of the Ahmadinejad threat:

    “Eye of the storm: For Iran, think regime change by AMIR TAHERI”

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1138622529046&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

  • Nikos

    I am consistently, day-by-day and post-by-post, amazed at how I agree with Potter and Shriber simultaneously. Potter’s impeccably principled call for a uniform world morality that doesn’t excuse away the sacred-cow hegemony of the USA (and its clients) matches my own idealism pretty much word for word – just as does Shriber’s incisive realism, as exemplified by this quote from the TCS page he linked us to:

    “A gun being waved back and forth by a maniac is far more disturbing to us than the gun in the holster of the policeman, though both weapons are equally capable of shooting us dead. And what is true of guns is far more true in the case of nukes.�

    This ‘two-mindedness’ of mine might be insoluble—people often hold fast to conflicting notions (such as religious with scientific). So I don’t know whether any of us can ultimately ‘side’ fully with one argument over the other (and thankfully I don’t have to), but I’m grateful for the articulate discourse (and for the many side-links). The passions of your pov’s powers the clarity and persuasiveness of your arguments—and I’m willing to wager that I’m not the only reader gaining from the quality of the exchange. Moreover, when Chris, Katherine, Brendan, and their gang read your offerings, they must do so while beaming, cuz this must be exactly the sort of thing they’d hoped for in the inception of ROS. Thanks guys. Exemplary.

  • shriber

    Nikos,

    “I am consistently, day-by-day and post-by-post, amazed at how I agree with Potter and Shriber simultaneously. Potter’s impeccably principled call for a uniform world morality that doesn’t excuse away the sacred-cow hegemony of the USA (and its clients) matches my own idealism pretty much word for word – just as does Shriber’s incisive realism, as exemplified by this quote from the TCS page he linked us to…”

    I don’t disagree with Potter either, Nikos.

    I am though as you suspected more of a realist than he is. Idealism is a fine place to visit, but you’d get nothing to eat if you lived there.

  • Potter

    Hello Shriber and Nikos.

    Shriber I read that Jerusalem Post article mulling possible “regime change” in Iran. The first half was listing all these reasons why this is a bad regime for it’s people. Iranians are not as oppressed as Iraqi’s were under Saddam. Anyway the article admits is an internal matter. Iran analysts warned not to interfere internally in that country because change was happening naturally. Hossein mentions how Bush urged Iranians not to vote because their election was flawed ( some nerve in the light of our own elections!!) which helped elect this extremist. So much for that wisdom.

    Why oh why are Republicans considered strong on foreign policy?

    The second half of the article gets kind of breathless about the real threats or perceived threats to Israel. I don’t like the odious conferences they are planning. They should be denounced and the west would use this occasion to advantage. That would be wise. Shame and truth can counteract this garbage.

    Sorry to say that I feel that there are some who “get off” on this kind of adversity. They look for it and dwell on it and the Jerupost obliges. It sells papers and adverts. When you examine the ghosts and goblins they evaporate. For instance how would a Shiite caliphate manage all the Sunni’s?

    But it seems to me that by using hatred of Israel, painting dreams of a resurrected caliphate,making pacts with other outlaw countries, having these noxious conferences, they move to gain power over their own destiny and the region and defend against our presence and interference.

    I thought this was an interesting article:Gulf States Join Call For Tougher Action Toward Iran because it shows how complex the middle east is and that it’s not all about wiping Israel off the map. They are afraid of nuclear proliferation. In fact Teheran’s nuclear ambitions are more worrisome to the Gulf states than the fact that Israel has them. Israel has been responsible all these years and they know it. Still the time is coming closer when Israel must be open and transparent about her nukes. Egypt is now proposing a nuclear free Middle East. This would mean that there would have to be agreements between Israel and other states of the region.

  • Potter

    Gee I thought I was being a realist.

  • Potter

    A New Face in Iran Resurrects an Old Defiance

    This is a good article from the good ol’ New York Times. It offers an understanding of the various forces in play within the country.

    Here is an excerpt:

    “It is still very early in the president’s term, and there is ample evidence that many powerful people within the establishment are still worried by the tone and direction Mr. Ahmadinejad has taken. And some people speculated that the supreme leader might in the end muzzle him, should consequences turn out to be too dire. But for now, hampered by nationalist reaction to the West’s pressure on Iran, even some of his harshest critics are treading lightly.

    “I am saying that we have reached a sensitive point,” Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the chairman of the Expediency Council, which has oversight of the executive branch, said in a recent speech, referring to Iran’s relations with the West. “There is a need for prudence on both sides.” Mr. Rafsanjani ran against Mr. Ahmadinejad in the election for president, emphasizing a platform of engagement with the West.

    “We all agree in the country that we should have a peaceful nuclear program,” said Kazem Jalali, a member of Parliament. “The difference is over how we can have an effective diplomacy. In the past months we have seen our officials use tough language in the foreign policy. They are adopting a confrontational approach, which does not seem to be acceptable by the international community. This is not balanced. We must pursue our interests in our foreign policy based on balanced relations with all countries.”

    From the sidelines, reformers are now trying to regroup. Many of them say that the best factor in their favor is the president himself. The feeling is that the president can not, ultimately, meet all his economic promises, and that his policy of confrontation will undermine rather than improve people’s lives.

    Abdullah Momenie, a leader within the student movement that called for a boycott of the presidential election, said: “We see the sensitivity of the world community as a positive thing. Although we think it is an unwise action of power which may take the country to destruction, this might produce an opportunity for a democratic movement.”

    But so far the president has the upper hand.

    President Ahmadinejad’s comments at an Islamic conference in Mecca about wiping out Israel brought him international condemnation — and applause from his target audience.”

    (Potter’s note: Like Bush, he has target audiences.)

  • shriber

    “Sorry to say that I feel that there are some who “get off� on this kind of adversity. They look for it and dwell on it and the Jerupost obliges. It sells papers and adverts.�

    Come on Potter, do you really think the JPost loves printing these stories?

    Is that you strongest argument for not taking these threats seriously?

    Excuse me for saying so, but your argument shows the weakness of idealism. Closing your eyes doesn’t make the world go away.

    “Gee I thought I was being a realist�

    Surely, you jest.

  • Robin

    Hi Potter, Shriber, and Nikos:

    I’m glad to see the three of you have been hashing out this stuff all day…a very lively back and forth. But it seems like you’re just rehashing the same old same old at this point. Shriber, we all know how you feel about Iran and Israel. I think it’s safe to say you’re made your point. Please don’t resort to personal attacks on other users. We frown upon that and it will get you nowhere.

  • shriber

    Robin says:

    “Shriber, we all know how you feel about Iran and Israel. I think it’s safe to say you’re made your point. Please don’t resort to personal attacks on other users. We frown upon that and it will get you nowhere.”

    Nikos and Potter: has either of you felt personally attacked by me?

    I intend to stop posting here since I don’t believe my point of view is welcomed on this we site.

  • Nikos

    Shriber, this would surely mean more coming from Potter (with whom you’ve had many more exchanges), but I’ve never felt threatened by anything you’ve posted. I doubt he has either — you seem respectful, and perhaps it’s only my projection, but I sense a geniality behind phrases like ‘Come on Potter…’. Goodness knows I’ve laughed out loud at many replies to my posts — not from scorn, but from appreciation of what I reckon the amusement of others at my frequently meandering near-nonsense. (And that’s fine! SOME-body’s gotta be the village idiot!)

    Look, it’s hard to show geniality in ROS font without silly smileys and suchlike.

    And Robin is probably understandably nervous after some recent juvenalia on another ROS thread, posted by impassioned but frustrated regulars Who Shall Remain Nameless.

    If you missed it, consider yourself fortunate.

    I rather doubt Robin would welcome your loss any more than I will.

    Potter: “Why oh why are Republicans considered strong on foreign policy?”

    My (idiot’s) take:

    I reckon 40% of Americans think otherwise. The 60% remaining are likely either in thrall to the Fictional News Network, or too busy with video games (reality TV is a video game too) to notice the kleptocracy converting the country into a banana republic. A banana republic that alarmingly holds the keys to the worlds biggest arsenal — which somehow seems like ‘strength’ to the innattentive.

  • Nikos

    PS to Shriber: inserting those silly winky-smileys actually DO work wonders. Helps humanize the ROS font.

  • mlnary

    I remember that negotiating with Iran was not impossible during the Reagan administration. It was arms for hostages (Iran-Contra) and the arms came from Israel. So I wouldn’t give up yet on negotiating, even with extremists. I worry about the outrageous rhetoric from all sides, and I’m leery of people who stoke conflicts by seeking out the most extreme expressions and interpreting everything in the worst possible way.

  • Potter

    Minary above says: “I worry about the outrageous rhetoric from all sides, and I’m leery of people who stoke conflicts by seeking out the most extreme expressions and interpreting everything in the worst possible way.”

    I totally agree with that. When people focus on the most extreme positions they fire others up as well and it snowballs unless the brakes are put on using reason and digging for more information. Those who continue to take most extreme positions as Mashaal and Ahmadinejad and Bin Laden are aware of the reactions they will get or aim to get. So I think we have to stop and think and look into things more deeply and intelligently before we react to them because otherwise we will be playing into those hands or, before you know it, we have a conflagration.

    I am not unworried about the threats. It’s important not to have a fear reaction to them especially without having a deeper more balanced understanding of the situation and an appraisal as to whether these threats have anything behind them. From that I think we can deal and defuse with what could be a dangerous situation based on our or others perceptions or misperceptions.

    It’s very worrisome to see political leaders so irresponsible. I include Bush as one who uses fear. And some of the press evoke and use fear. It sells. We have to counteract that.

    Nikos, you are a good diplomat. I do not see the foregoing discussion as realist versus idealist. I think it represents different points of view that could possibly find some common ground. The links were very helpful.

    I do feel that I am being a realist not an idealist however if we have to break it down that way because in the end this is what I think will work towards the ends that I think we agree on.

    Have I made Shriber feel unwelcome by disagreeing? If Shriber leaves there will NOT be more from me. Who would I argue with? Shriber did come a little close to the deadly personal attack here and elsewhere by being disrespectful but I would not have complained. I tried to ignore it though perhaps I provoked indirectly in my argument.

  • Nikos

    Potter, thanks. I’ll try to take up the harsher (?) ‘realist’ angle if Shriber doesn’t show up anymore (C’mon Shriber! I can’t do it on my own!), but I can’t hope to match his passion. I’ve a likely reply to mlnary and to you too brewing in the musty nooks of my mind, but it will have to wait until later this evening (if we still have power after the current Puget Sound gale-storm blows itself out).

    Also, you might find interersting a silly little ‘mini-essay’ I gave in a reply to Jazzman on the ‘Morality, GG or E’ thread. (And I’d value your take on it if you have one.)

  • Potter

    Nikos- I am going out of town for the week- so no offense by no answer. Anyway I post too much.

  • gmcampbell

    Chris: I love your show and the format, but I hate it when you only represent one side of an issue. All of your guests for this show have one viewpoint on Iran and although I appreciate their viewpoint, I would also like to hear other viewpoints. Don’t always lean so far left.

  • fiddlesticks

    I agree with John McCain when he says:

    “There is only one thing worse than military action,” he said, “and that is a nuclear-armed Iran.”

  • Peter B

    Anyone have any valuable resources on the Shah and the Mullahs?

    I feel like I need to do some reading on this.

  • Nikos

    Welcome back, Potter!

    To you and mlnary: when viewed from a perspective distant enough to include the side-shadows shrouding Islam’s radical and medieval militants, I worry that idealistic hopes of engaging Iran in negotiation is fool’s gold. (You might find interesting-as-background my posts, especially the third, in the Cartoons/New Zealand thread.)

    Ever since eradicating the Nazis (the real ones, not the play-acting juvenile delinquent American revivalists), the West hasn’t had to assess a totalitarian and would-be genocidal threat like that which seethes in the Muslim lands we so callously manipulated and exploited in the 20th Century.

    Are we culpable? Yup.

    Are we hypocrites? Double yup.

    Does this hypocritical culpability mean we should ignore Iran’s stated intentions to obliterate a nation it considers an abomination, and populated by filthy subhuman vermin?

    Nope.

    Hitler made his murderous intentions plain in Mein Kampf. Europe chose not to take him at his published word, but to view his ‘plans’ to eradicate the Jews and Slavs as a deplorable and jingoistic method to build a party, but not as a real possibility.

    We ignore the Iranian mullah’s stated intentions at our own peril.

  • Nikos

    Here’s a solid rebuke to my ignorant worries that the Islamic Middle East monolithic:

    http://www.metransparent.com/english.html

    (This, at minimum, is an apologetic ‘heads-up’ to Potter and several other advocates for moderation.)

  • tbrucia

    Maybe I’m missing out on the hysteria, but I don’t remember all this hullabaloo about the development of nuclear weapons by Israel, Pakistan, and Indian (and going back further, to China). Iran is surrounded by a ring of nuclear powers, and has US troops to each side: in the West, in Iraq, and in the east, in Afghanistan. — I keep wondering how the US would react if Canada, Mexico, and Cuba all possessed nuclear weapons, and if there were Chinese troops stationed in Quebec, and in Mexico…. If there is a risk of nuclear conflagration in the world — and there definitely is — the match was lit 50 years ago, and the fire has been smouldering ever since. It may well be that only a nuclear exchange (India v. Pakistan?) will provide the object lesson to the world strong enough to make the planet a ‘nuke-free zone’. Unfortunately, this may happen in our lifetimes, rather than in those of our kids or grandkids…

  • Nikos

    Despite the distaste I always feel when recommending a panel of pundits that include an equivocating blowhard propagandist employed by the patently insane and egomaniacal religio-fascist Sun Myung Moon, this weekend’s ‘Left, Right, & Center’ started its 27-minute duration with a great little segment on the Pakistan-India-Iran nuclear triangle.

    http://www.kcrw.com/show/lr

  • Nikos

    KCRW’s 3/7/06 edition of ‘To the Point’ had a meaty segment on the brewing showdown between Iran and the fearful West:

    http://www.kcrw.org/cgi-bin/db/kcrw.pl?tmplt_type=program&show_code=tp