Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities > Politics & Religion

Iran

(1/208) > >>

Crafty_Dog:
U.N. Official Says Iran Is Testing New Enrichment Device
By DAVID E. SANGER
Published: October 24, 2006
NY Times
WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 ? The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday that Iran had begun testing new uranium enrichment equipment that could double the capacity of its small research-and-development facilities.

The action appears to be a signal to the United Nations Security Council that Iran would respond to sanctions by speeding ahead with its nuclear program.

Since February, when Iran publicly celebrated its first production of enriched uranium, progress at its main nuclear complex at Natanz has reportedly been slow. Iran has sporadically operated a single ?cascade? of 164 centrifuges, the devices that spin at high speed and turn ordinary uranium into a fuel usable for nuclear power plants ? or, at higher enrichment levels, nuclear weapons.

Those reports had prompted speculation that Iranian engineers had run into considerable technical difficulties.

But in an interview on Monday, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the I.A.E.A., said that ?based on our most recent inspections, the second centrifuge cascade is in place and ready to go.? He said that no uranium had yet been entered into the new system, but could be as early as next week.

Even with two cascades running, it would take Iran years to enrich enough uranium to produce a single nuclear weapon.

The United States director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, has said repeatedly that he believes Tehran is 4 to 10 years away from developing a weapon, even though its technology base is far more advanced than that of North Korea, which conducted a nuclear test 15 days ago.

Unlike North Korea, Iran has insisted that it does not intend to build a weapon. Nonetheless, Iran ignored an Aug. 31 deadline, set by the Security Council, to stop enriching uranium.

Since then, European nations, China, Russia and the United States have been debating what sanctions, if any, should be imposed. China and Russia have resisted, and in a speech on Monday at Georgetown University?s School of Foreign Service, Dr. ElBaradei made clear that he believes sanctions are unlikely to work.

?Penalizing them is not a solution,? he said. ?At the end of the day, we have to bite the bullet and talk to North Korea and Iran.?

Unlike American officials, he says that he remains unpersuaded that Iran?s ultimate goal is to build a weapon, though I.A.E.A. officials say they believe that Iran wants to have all of the major components of a weapon in hand so that it is clear that it could build one in weeks or months.

?The jury is still out on whether they are developing a nuclear weapon,? Dr. ElBaradei said at Georgetown, after meeting earlier in the day with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

After the meeting, Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said there was now ?widespread agreement, although not total agreement,? on elements of an initial sanctions package. He did not speculate about when the sanctions might come to a vote; at the end of the summer, administration officials insisted that the Security Council would act in September.

Mr. McCormack said the Iranians seemed to be moving ahead ?inexorably at this point,? so that at some point ?you will have industrial-scale production.?

?You don?t want that,? he said.

Some European diplomats have expressed concern that, should the Security Council act, the moderates in the Iranian government who have been involved in negotiations over the nuclear program could be shoved aside, and that some combination of military leaders and hard-line mullahs would push the country to speed its nuclear production.

G M:
"the moderates in the Iranian Government" :roll:

Crafty_Dog:

Living la vida na levo in Tehran
Barnett
OP-ED: "Iranian Moolah," by Farouz Farzami, Wall Street Journal, 26 October
2006, p. A18.

Sorry, but had to zone out a bit after China. Caught up to my reading last
night, thanks to the extra hour (God, I wish that were every weekend!).

This description reminds me so much of the summer I lived in Leningrad in
1985 (the summer of the great crackdown on vodka, which never bugged me,
because I liked chatting up Russians while standing in line) and spent every
night I could with the blackmarketer "Big Al" and his constant stream of
customers. My big impression from all those nights: the populace had so
effectively opted out of political life and simply made their own
"house-arrest" style economic life na levo ("on the side," or literally, "on
the left" in Russian) that it was like they lived in their own little
universe of close friends, treasured objects, and media content from the
West (everyone in Leningrad seemed to live on American VHS tapes dubbed by a
screaming Finnish guy who did every voice the same--it was mesmerizingly
bad!). Of course, the most treasured objects were forbidden books, which I
brought in numbers with fake dust jackets.

The author of this piece is--natch!--a journalist who is "forbidden to
publish in Iran" (Sound familiar? Everyone I knew in the Russian ex-pat
community in the 1980s was a forbidden author. It was a modest
accomplishment, which is what made it so sad.).

Great story. He talks of coming upon a special stand of imported American
books (authorized by the mullahs, no doubt) in Tehran and notices one about
cocktails. Then he launches in:

I live in a country where alcohol is officially banned, but where the art of
home-made spirits has reached new heights. Sharing my astonishment about the
cocktail book with some friends with better connections to the Islamist
regime, they explained the government had a silent pact with the educated
and affluent in Iran's big cities, who render politics unto Caesar, provided
that Caesar keeps his nose out of their liquor cabinets.

In other words, the well-to-do Iranian drinks and reads and watches what he
wishes. He does as he pleases behind the walls of his private mansions and
villas. In return for his private comforts, the affluent Iranian is happy to
sacrifice freedom of speech, most of his civil rights, and his freedom of
association. The upper-middle class has been bought off by this pact, which
makes a virtue of hypocrisy.

The accommodation runs both ways. A friend who had made a small fortune in
the pharmaceutical business told me that recently the enforcers of Islamist
law appeared on the roof of his condominium in the northwest Tehran suburb
of Sharak-e-Qarb to seize all the satellite dishes. Every household received
an order to attend a hearing of the revolutionary court, where the
magistrate--typically a mullah--will levy fines. The fines help feed the
friends of the courts, while for my wealthy pharmacist friend, erecting
another satellite dish is as easy as refueling his car--and even the
inconvenience of replacing the dish will not be necessary for long.
Technology is more than up to the challenge posed by the morals police. "I
have heard there is a state-of-the-art dish made of invisible fiberglass
that I can install on the window pane of my apartment," my friend told me.
"I'm going for it."

Many Iranians believe the occasional crackdowns are being organized by
corrupt officials who secretly own interests in the new generation of
satellite dishes. The confiscations just create markets for new products.

Sound unbelievable? It isn't. It's exactly what you found in Moscow and
Leningrad back in the 1980s: a huge social network of hypocritical enforcers
and two-faced citizens, and everybody exchanged money in the process. It's
just that no wealth is truly generated, and the people get stupider and more
ambivalent and lazy and disconnected from the future. It's all so sad and
pathetic. I remember crying myself to sleep one night from thinking about
how everyone in the USSR felt like they will just living in some weird
prison and all they could claim for themselves was whatever they could beg,
borrow or steal. It was supremely depressing to see all that talent wasted,
and their profound sense of injustice.

This guy describes the workarounds, but that's not a life, and no one
trapped in that existence pretends it is.

But, of course, this rich guy is trapped by nothing. It's only the lower
classes who really are disconnected from their desires. This rich pharmacist
vacations 2-3 months abroad each year, putting him more in the category of
the KGB general (who, frankly, never had it THAT good).

The saddest part here is that the rich guy expects the revolution will come
only when the masses are disillusioned enough to take matters into their own
hands.

Sounds to me like Iran's rich are about as cynical as the mullahs.

Still, the larger point is this: this is not robust authoritarianism. It's
weak. It's flabby. It hypocritical to a fault. It's not going anywhere. It's
not accomplishing anything.

In short, it's ripe.

buzwardo:
Delay
Has the president made a conscious decision to not act on Iran?

By Michael Ledeen

If the president knows that Iran is waging war on us, he is obliged to respond; the only appropriate question is about the method, not the substance. If he does not know, then he should remove those officials who were obliged to tell him, and get some people who will tell the truth. They are not entitled to withhold information on the grounds that they don?t like the obvious policy implications. He must have that information, and he must be able to get more of it. The people in high positions of the intelligence community have demonstrably acted to limit his full knowledge of the war; the refusal to accept further information from proven sources of reliable information on Iran, all by itself, warrants a significant purge of Intelligence officials. As Bob Woodward suggests in State of Denial, there has been much more of that.

It is more likely that the president knows we are at war with Iran, but has chosen ? wrongly, in my opinion (but then I wasn?t elected either) ? to delay our response. That could be due to any number of reasons, ranging from a belief that he had to give the Europeans every chance to force the Iranians to abandon their nuclear project, to purely domestic calculations that he lacks sufficient political capital to directly challenge the mullahs. But whatever his reasoning, it reinforces the original failure of strategic vision that has characterized the Iraqi and Afghan enterprises from the beginning. Once you see that Iraq and Afghanistan are battlefields in a larger war, you must figure out how to win that war, and not the one that was drawn up on the Power Points before the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, based on the false assumption that we would fight a series of limited wars, one country at a time.

At a minimum, the real war is a regional war, and most likely a world war. That becomes obvious as soon as you see that Iran, sometimes in tandem with Syria and with covert help from Saudi Arabia, is waging war on us in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sponsoring terrorist assaults against us and our allies from Lebanon to Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine, with their preferred instrument, Hezbollah, as the organizing army. But our national debate, with the exception of rare men like Senator Santorum, is limited to Iraq and Afghanistan alone, and thus our war plan is wrongly limited to Iraq and Afghanistan alone. If we expand our vision to the Middle East, current ?hot topics? dissolve, because they are only urgent in answer to the wrong question. Instead of asking, ?How do we win in Iraq and Afghanistan (and these are foolishly treated as if they were separate issues)?? we must instead ask, ?How do we win the real war, the war against the terror masters??

Iraq and Afghanistan are part of that war, but only a part of it. And we cannot win in Iraq and Afghanistan so long as the terror masters in Tehran and Damascus have a free shot at us and our democratic partners in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Israel, which is the current situation.

The debate over the appropriate number of American troops in Iraq is a typical example of how our failure of strategic vision distorts our ability to win the war. So long as the terror masters? killers can freely cross the borders from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Iran in order to deliver money, weapons, expertise, and manpower, it is hard to imagine that any conceivable number of American soldiers could defeat them.

Lacking a regional strategy, our military is essentially fighting a holding action in Iraq and Afghanistan, and there is clearly a premium on avoiding casualties. Some critics have noticed that we have created large bases, complete with astonishing creature comforts including air conditioned tents and Starbucks cafes. The soldiers on those bases are rarely in the field; they wait until they get good intelligence about enemy movements, and then go after them. But that is not the proper way to fight this sort of war, and probably not even the best way to hold down casualties.

The best book I know on counterinsurgency was written by a Frenchman, David Galula, after his experiences in Algeria in the 1950s. He stresses that such a war is won or lost on the basis of popular support and cooperation. If the population supports the insurgents, they will win. Therefore, effective counterinsurgency requires the constant engagement of soldiers with the people, and a durable demonstration that we are there to stay, that once an area has been taken by our forces, it will remain so. That is also the best way to get good intelligence.

But time and again, we have moved into an area, killed lots of terrorists, and created a momentary stability, only to move on. This permits the terrorists to come back in, kill anyone who cooperated or sympathized with us, and compel the survivors to join the insurgency. The monster bases underline the distance between our troops and the people, which is precisely the opposite of a winning strategy. Galula puts the issue nicely: ?As the war lasts, the war itself becomes the central issue, and the ideological advantage of the insurgent decreases considerably. The population?s attitude is dictated not by the intrinsic merits of the contending causes, but by the answer to these two simple questions: Which side is going to win? Which side threatens the most, and which offers the most protection??

But the only way we can demonstrate we are going to win is to defeat the terror masters. Without that, the populations of Iraq and Afghanistan are entitled to doubt our ability to defeat the terrorists. And it is utterly misleading to claim that we will eventually be able to entrust the future of the war to Iraqi and Afghan forces. They cannot win a war by fighting on their own territory alone, any more than we can, no matter how effective they turn out to be.

The hell of it is that we act as if Iran and Syria were imposing regional forces, whereas they are actually very brittle dictatorships. Their tyrants are under constant pressure from their own people, and despite the run-up in oil revenues, both countries are in abysmal economic shape. The Japanese have just withdrawn their participation in a major Iranian oil field, in large part because of the high political risk.

Cheerful reports from captive Western journalists suggest that the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are popular leaders, but first hand accounts from ?migr?s and bloggers tell a very different story, and there are even online photographs attesting to substantial recent protests against the Iranian president. Like Ahmadinejad, Bashir Assad is not only unpopular, but has become an object of ridicule throughout the region, and there is every reason to believe that Western support for democratic revolution could succeed in both countries. Certainly, both Iran and Syria meet every criterion for social, economic and political revolution: the regimes are hated and despised, the people are suffering, and the denial of elementary human rights is a constant prod to revolt.

Revolutions rarely succeed without an outside base of support; just ask George Washington. Yet there is a regrettable tendency for our policymakers to dream that the Iranians will do it all by themselves. This is bad analysis, and worse policy. If, as Secretary Rice tells us, we do believe in spreading democracy in the Middle East, Iran is, and always has been, the best place to start. Nothing would help the prospects for a reasonable solution to the Arab-Israeli crisis so much as the downfall of the Tehran regime and its Siamese twin in Damascus. Indeed, like Iraq and Afghanistan, it is impossible to imagine freedom and security for the Palestinians so long as Khamanei and his ilk rule in Iran, and the Assad family dictatorships reigns in Syria.

But these considerations belong to a strategy to win the real war. As far as I can tell, we are very far from seeing the war plain and devising ways to win it. The first step is to embrace the unpleasant fact that we are at war with Iran, and it is long past time to respond.

? Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. He is resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute. Ledeen?s wife has worked in the Senate Republican Conference under Rick Santorum.



National Review Online - http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MjkxYmY5MDU5Njg5MDQ3Yjg2ZTcxYTY4NDA0M2MxYTA=

buzwardo:
Getting Serious About Iran:

A Military Option

Arthur Herman

As the impasse over Iran?s nuclear-weapons program grows inexorably into a crisis, a kind of consensus has taken root in the minds of America?s foreign-policy elite. This is that military action against Iran is a sure formula for disaster. The essence of the position was expressed in a cover story in Time magazine this past September. Entitled ?What War with Iran Would Look Like (And How to Avoid It),? the essay focused on what the editors saw as the certain consequences of armed American intervention in that country: wildly spiking oil prices, increased terrorist attacks, economic panic around the world, and the end to any dream of pro-American democratic governments emerging in the Middle East. And that would be in the case of successful action. In fact, Time predicted, given our overstretched resources and an indubitably fierce Iranian resistance, we would almost certainly lose.

Thus, in the eyes of Time?s experts as of many other observers, military action against Iran is ?unthinkable.? What then can be done in the face of the mullahs? implacable drive to acquire nuclear weapons? Here a variety of responses can be discerned. At one end are those who assure us, in the soothing title of a New York Times op-ed by Barry Posen of MIT, that ?We Can Live with a Nuclear Iran.? (Newsweek?s Fareed Zakaria is similarly sanguine.) Others, like Senator Joseph Biden, insist that we have at least ten years before we have to worry about Iran?s getting a working bomb. According to Ashton Carter, who served as an assistant secretary of defense in the Clinton administration, we at least have enough time to explore every possible diplomatic avenue before contemplating any direct military response.

Taking a more openly appeasing line, critics of the Bush administration like Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations and Chatham House?s Ali Ansari urge us to enter into extended engagement or ?dialogue? with Iran, with an eye toward persuading the mullahs to end or at least to modify their nuclear program. This is essentially the tack that has been followed by European and European Union diplomats for the past three years, with notably little success.

Finally there is the tougher solution preferred by the Bush administration: economic sanctions imposed by the UN. The problem here is that the more effective such sanctions are designed to be?proposed measures include freezing Iranian assets abroad and suspending all business and financial ties?the more reluctant have been France, Russia, and China (our partners on the Security Council) to go along. Sanctions that do pass muster with these governments, whose aggregate business dealings with Iran far outstrip those of the United States, are precisely the ones with little or no bite. And even watered-down sanctions, as U.S. Ambassador John Bolton admitted in a recent interview, are ?by no means a done deal.?

To a greater or lesser extent, all of these recommendations fly in the face of reality. Despite Iran?s richly developed repertoire of denials, deceptions, and dissimulations, there is ample evidence that it has no intention whatsoever of relinquishing its aim of becoming a nuclear power. Moreover, this aim may be achievable not within a decade (as Senator Biden fancies) but within the next two to three years. In September, the House Intelligence Committee reported that Iran may have already succeeded in enriching uranium; some intelligence analysts believe that it may already have access to fissionable nuclear material, courtesy of North Korea. If that is so, no diplomacy in the world is going to prevent it from acquiring a bomb.

But neither are nuclear weapons the only threat posed by the Islamic Republic. While the international community has been preoccupied with this issue, the regime in Tehran has been taking steady steps to achieve hegemony over one of the world?s most sensitive and economically critical regions, and control over the world?s most precious resource. It is doing so, moreover, entirely through conventional means.

_____________________
To put it briefly, the Islamic Republic has its hand on the throttle of the world?s economic engine: the stretch of ocean at the mouth of the Persian Gulf known as the Straits of Hormuz, which are only 21 miles wide at their narrowest point. Through this waterway, every day, pass roughly 40 percent of the world?s crude oil, including two-thirds of the oil from Saudi Arabia. By 2025, according to Energy Department estimates, fully 60 percent of the world?s oil exports will be moved through this vital chokepoint.

The Straits border on Iran and Oman, with the two lanes of traffic that are used specifically by oil tankers being theoretically protected by international agreement. Since 9/11, a multinational force comprising ships from the U.S., Japan, six European countries, and Pakistan have patrolled outside the Straits, in Omani waters, to make sure they stay open. But this is largely a token force. Meanwhile, the world?s access to Saudi, Qatari, Kuwaiti, and Iraqi oil and gas, as well as other petroleum products from the United Arab Emirates, depends on free passage through the Hormuz Straits.

The Tehran regime has made no secret of its desire to gain control of the Straits as part of its larger strategy of turning the Gulf into an Iranian lake. Indeed, in a preemptive move, it has begun to threaten a cut-off of tanker traffic if the UN should be foolish enough to impose sanctions in connection with the Islamic Republic?s nuclear program. ?We have the power to halt oil supply,? a senior Iranian official warned the European Union last January, ?down to the last drop.?

In April of this year, as if to drive the point home, Iranian armed forces staged elaborate war games in the Gulf, test-firing a series of new anti-ship missiles capable of devastating any tanker or unwary warship. In the boast of one Iranian admiral, April?s ?Holy Prophet war games? showed what could be expected by anyone daring to violate Iran?s interests in the Gulf. A further demonstration of resolve occurred in August, when Iran fired on and then occupied a Rumanian-owned oil platform ostensibly in a dispute over ownership rights; in truth, the action was intended to show Western companies?including Halliburton, which had won a contract for constructing facilities in the Gulf?exactly which power is in charge there.

A 30-page document said to issue from the Strategic Studies Center of the Iranian Navy (NDAJA), and drawn up in September or October of last year, features a contingency plan for closing the Hormuz Straits through a combination of anti-ship missiles, coastal artillery, and submarine attacks. The plan calls for the use of Chinese-made mines, Chinese-built missile boats, and more than 1,000 explosive-packed suicide motor boats to decimate any U.S. invasion force before it can so much as enter the Gulf. Iran?s missile units, manned by the regime?s Revolutionary Guards, would be under instruction to take out more than 100 targets around the Gulf rim, including Saudi production and export centers.

The authenticity of the NDAJA document has been vouched for by at least two defectors from Iranian intelligence. Of course, it may not be authentic at all. And military contingency plans are just that?contingency plans; the file cabinets of defense ministries around the world are full of them. Nor do all analysts agree that the Straits of Hormuz can be effectively mined in the first place. Nevertheless, even the threat of mines or suicide boats would likely be enough to induce Lloyds of London to suspend insurance of ships passing through the Straits, causing tanker traffic to cease, oil markets to rise precipitously, and Asian and European economies to reel.

Something like this very nearly happened in 1987 during the Iran-Iraq war, when only direct U.S. intervention kept the Straits open and the world?s oil flowing. For the United States is hardly the only country with a stake in keeping the Gulf and Straits free of Iranian control. Every country in Western Europe and Asia, including those that complain most bitterly about American policy in the Middle East, depends on the steady maintenance of the global economic order that runs on Middle Eastern oil.

But?and herein lies a fruitful irony?so does Iran itself. Almost 90 percent of the mullahs? oil assets are located either in or near the Gulf. So is the nuclear reactor that Russia is building for Iran at Bushehr. Virtually every Iranian well or production platform depends on access to the Gulf if Iran?s oil is to reach buyers. Hence, the same Straits by means of which Iran intends to lever itself into a position of global power present the West with its own point of leverage to reduce Iran?s power?and to keep it reduced for at least as long as the country?s political institutions remain unprepared to enter the modern world.

_____________________
Which brings us back to the military option. That there is plentiful warrant for the exercise of this option?in Iran?s serial defiance of UN resolutions, in its declared genocidal intentions toward Israel, another member of the United Nations, and in the fact of its harboring, supporting, and training of international terrorists?could not be clearer. Unfortunately, though, current debate has become stuck on the issue of possible air strikes against Iran?s nuclear program, and whether such strikes can or cannot halt that program?s further development. Optimists argue they can; pessimists, including those highlighted in Time?s cover story, throw up a myriad of objections.

The most common such objection is that the ayatollahs, having learned the lesson of 25 years ago when Israel took out Saddam Hussein?s nuclear reactor at Osirak, have dispersed the most vital elements of their uranium-enrichment project among perhaps 30 hardened and well-protected sites. According to Time?s military sources, air sorties would thus have to reach roughly 1,500 ?aim points,? contending with sophisticated air-defense systems along the way. As against this, others, including the strategic analyst Edward Luttwak in Commentary (?Three Reasons Not to Bomb Iran?Yet,? May 2006), argue convincingly that it is hardly necessary to hit all or even the majority of Iran?s sites in order to set back its nuclear program by several years.

But, as I have tried to show, the most immediate menace Iran poses is not nuclear but conventional in nature. How might it be dealt with militarily, and is it conceivable that both perils could be dealt with at once? What follows is one possible scenario for military action.

The first step would be to make it clear that the United States will tolerate no action by any state that endangers the international flow of commerce in the Straits of Hormuz. Signaling our determination to back up this statement with force would be a deployment in the Gulf of Oman of minesweepers, a carrier strike group?s guided-missile destroyers, an Aegis-class cruiser, and anti-submarine assets, with the rest of the carrier group remaining in the Indian Ocean. The U.S. Navy could also deploy UAV?s (unmanned air vehicles) and submarines to keep watch above and below against any Iranian missile threat to our flotilla.

Our next step would be to declare a halt to all shipments of Iranian oil while guaranteeing the safety of tankers carrying non-Iranian oil and the platforms of other Gulf states. We would then guarantee this guarantee by launching a comprehensive air campaign aimed at destroying Iran?s air-defense system, its air-force bases and communications systems, and finally its missile sites along the Gulf coast. At that point the attack could move to include Iran?s nuclear facilities?not only the ?hard? sites but also infrastructure like bridges and tunnels in order to prevent the shifting of critical materials from one to site to another.

Above all, the air attack would concentrate on Iran?s gasoline refineries. It is still insufficiently appreciated that Iran, a huge oil exporter, imports nearly 40 percent of its gasoline from foreign sources, including the Gulf states. With its refineries gone and its storage facilities destroyed, Iran?s cars, trucks, buses, planes, tanks, and other military hardware would run dry in a matter of weeks or even days. This alone would render impossible any major countermoves by the Iranian army. (For its part, the Iranian navy is aging and decrepit, and its biggest asset, three Russian-made Kilo-class submarines, should and could be destroyed before leaving port.)

The scenario would not end here. With the systematic reduction of Iran?s capacity to respond, an amphibious force of Marines and special-operations forces could seize key Iranian oil assets in the Gulf, the most important of which is a series of 100 offshore wells and platforms built on Iran?s continental shelf. North and South Pars offshore fields, which represent the future of Iran?s oil and natural-gas industry, could also be seized, while Kargh Island at the far western edge of the Persian Gulf, whose terminus pumps the oil from Iran?s most mature and copiously producing fields (Ahwaz, Marun, and Gachsaran, among others), could be rendered virtually useless. By the time the campaign was over, the United States military would be in a position to control the flow of Iranian oil at the flick of a switch.

Navigation

[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version