« Iranian Nukes: So What? | Main | Yay! »

Iran Links

Via a commenter, a MEMRI report on Iranian nuclear intentions:

Nuclear Weapons Can Solve the Israel Problem
Rafsanjani said that Muslims must surround colonialism and force them [the colonialists] to see whether Israel is beneficial to them or not. If one day, he said, the world of Islam comes to possess the weapons currently in Israel's possession [meaning nuclear weapons] - on that day this method of global arrogance would come to a dead end. This, he said, is because the use of a nuclear bomb in Israel will leave nothing on the ground, whereas it will only damage the world of Islam.
That reeks of empty talk to me, but if I'm sitting in the Knesset I guess I don't want to blithely dismiss it. There was an interesting New York Times report a couple of days ago on Iranian efforts to influence the course of events in Iraq.

July 5, 2004 | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8345160fd69e200d83456427869e2

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Iran Links:

» Mutually Assured Destruction from Kalblog
The ideas expressed here remind me of Mao, who said that he didn't care if a nuclear holocause killed 500 million Chinese, because there were another 500 million Chinese where that came from. Fortunately, Rafsanjani is a former president of... [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 5, 2004 11:29:06 PM

» Gift Basket from Tom Jamme's Blog
Sweet Blessings, a new Christian-based online shop featuring cookie bouquets, candy bouquets and gift baskets, opens with a campaign to donate a portion of all profits to Habitat For Humanity. The devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, while not a... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 6, 2005 8:12:03 PM

Comments

By my count, "islam' has had a bomb for about 6 years. Is Tel Aviv still standing?

Still, an Iranian bomb would circumscribe Israel's military freedom, as well as US ability to act with impunity in the region. And it may push Turkey to develop a bomb. There are good geopolitical reasons to prevent your neighbours, whether friends or enemies, from getting stronger. (That's why the US has kept Canada down for so many years.)

Posted by: Ikram | Jul 5, 2004 5:22:44 PM

What could Iran possibly do if the Israelis bombed their nuclear facilities? Not much, I would think. Israel would clean their clocks in a war, and they've already got the Lebanese border locked down. Launching Hizbollah attacks would just isolate Iran even further.

Posted by: praktike | Jul 5, 2004 5:36:19 PM

> There was an interesting New York Times report
> a couple of days ago on Iranian efforts to
> influence the course of events in Iraq.

I believe it was you, Matthew, with the rest of your fellow travellers, who proposed to inluence events in Iraq by method of war. The Iranians have choosen a less deadly method to influence events in Iraq.

Next up, war with Iran. You are beginning to look just as trigger happy as the last time.

Posted by: duh | Jul 5, 2004 7:03:28 PM

praktike's likely correct about Iran response to attack on nuclear facilities, but rumors of Israeli activity in Kurdish Iraq (to develop an air base for attack?) appear to be plausible.

However a conventional bomb approach is unlikely to do much to damage the Iranian program, since most of it is reportedly deep underground. Israel will not be the first to use atomic weapons.

If Iran were not torn between extremist Islamists and more moderate forces, their possession of A bombs would be less alarming. But the Paks have even more government issues, and the dangers are just as prominent.

The cat is long out of the bag: Pakistan, India, N. Korea, Israel, South Africa, Brazil?, China, Russia, UK, France, US. One day we will see a real atomic war, that's almost a given. The scale and countries are the issue.

I just don't see how Iran can be prevented from A bombs, unless we are prepared to make global threats of massive retaliation in the event of use. That's a huge risk, and the effect on neighbors and Islam are also forbidding.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 5, 2004 7:10:58 PM

Rafsanjani is perfectly right in reminding us that a nuclear bomb could devastate a tiny state like Israel. But I think the Iranians underestimate what Israel would do if they felt truly threatened. The Israelis completely disregarded Western opinion when the bombed Osirak and I would be very surprised if they weren't already drawing up contingency plans for Iran.

As for Ikram's pointing out that Pakistan already has an "Islamic" bomb, the difference is that Pakistan has never threatened Israel's survival. (His other points are too silly [Canada being kept "down" by the U.S.? In fact the Americans want Canada to quadruple its military spending!] to merit a serious response.)

Posted by: Peter | Jul 5, 2004 7:11:15 PM

One issue that's being totally overlooked here is that the Arab governments greatly benefit from Israel's continued existence. The Arab governments are generally autocratic, corrupt and incompetent. However, they have learned to distract their discontented populations from their own failures by pointing the finger at Israel. (The right wing here does the same thing with "cultural" issues such as abortion and gay rights.) I remember hearing rumors that Syria had threatened to have Arafat assassinated if he accepted Barak's proposal, and I found those credible because the continued Palestinian-Israeli conflict is so beneficial to the other Arab rulers. In other words, Arab countries have no incentive to get rid of Israel--they need her.

Posted by: Rebecca Allen, PhD | Jul 5, 2004 7:20:30 PM

"(His other points are too silly [Canada being kept "down" by the U.S.? In fact the Americans want Canada to quadruple its military spending!] to merit a serious response.)"

Irony is just lost on some people, it seems.

Anyway, I think the proper course is easy to figure out here. You do what you can to prevent Iran from getting the bomb, short of going to war. Non-profileration is always nice, especially if your country's already in the club. But war is just flat-out unacceptable.

Posted by: JP | Jul 5, 2004 7:28:41 PM

Rebecca: I'm not overlooking that point, I think it's a good reason to discount Rafsanjani's statement. Iran and the Arab states like to talk a big game about Israel, but it's been a long time since any of them have shown any real interest in doing anything about it. I also note that you could hardly destroy Israel with a nuclear bomb without killing a very large number of Palestinians and delivering a rather nasty dose of radiation to the rest...it probably wouldn't play very well.

Duh: Have I been advocating war with Iran? I feel like I've been doing the reverse.

Posted by: Matthew Yglesias | Jul 5, 2004 8:15:42 PM

> Duh: Have I been advocating war with Iran? I feel like I've been doing the reverse.

Your doing a Cheney act here. Ofcourse I don't know what you really think. But some choice quotes:

act 1
> Perhaps there's something more nefarious afoot,
> and I'm open to suggestions. Is the thought
> supposed to be that Iran would help Hezbollah
> smuggle a nuke into Tel Aviv?

act 2
Quoting Rafsanjani from a MEMRI piece.
Not very original. A comment from Juan Cole on a previous occasion:

http://www.juancole.com/2004_04_01_juancole_archive.html
> Although former Iranian president Ali Akbar
> Hashemi Rafsanjani did praise Muqtada
> as "heroic" and made no secret of his hope that
> the US would leave Iraq, Rafsanjani no longer
> has any executive power and is known for
> shooting his mouth off and saying wild things
> he never follows through on. The MEMRI/ Likud
> crowd in Washington tried to use Rafsanjani's
> statements as proof that Iran was backing
> Muqtada's insurgency, but even Rumsfeld
> admitted he had no proof for that.

MEMRI/Rafsanjani/Iran. Your quote is even from 2001. Hardly relevant except for the following:

act 3
> if I'm sitting in the Knesset I guess I don't want to blithely dismiss it []

In the US/Iraq case this kind of reasoning led straight to war. Maybe you don't think so this time. But why quote Rafsanjani without providing any context? It's like quoting Carter for the US intentions in Iraq.

It is silly. And it makes me distrustfull.


Posted by: Duh! | Jul 5, 2004 9:49:05 PM

he he
loooooosers
you poor jews you can not even beat palestinian
you gews bark alot.but you pretty ruoghed up in iraq.ha ha.

Posted by: bob | Jul 5, 2004 10:07:09 PM

Ooh, a troll! Don't they turn to stone in the sunlight?

Anyway, is this a fresh Rafsanjani quote or the same one Memri and Likud have been passing around for the last 3-4 years? I take it from Duh!'s comment that it's the same old quote. Has there ever been any follow-up? Any attempt to clarify the accuracy of the report? I gather Rafsanjani loves to talk - surely he would expand on any point he was making if someone asked him. Even the evasions would be telling. That's assuming that it was something close to an accurate translation in the first place.

Posted by: Jim Henley | Jul 5, 2004 10:14:22 PM

The Iranian government wields support from a mere 10-15% of it's population. Having visited the country several times i can tell you that the population a) is loathing for a free, democratic society b) is very young and energetic and c) is very pro-American.

Rebecca,

It's interesting that you have a Phd, yet you don't even know that Iranians aren't arabs. Majority of Iranians are ethnically Persians and do not share the same blood-line nor history as the arabs. In fact, there's a strong prejudice between the two ethnicities so the comparison will likely not be appreciated.

Regards.
ARya

Posted by: Arya Bakhtiar | Jul 5, 2004 10:41:53 PM

It's traditional to demonise enemies this way. We quoted Chairman Mao saying that a nuclear war would destroy the americans and the russians but the chinese would survive. He had people learn how to make steel in their backyards, possibly with the intention that nobody could bomb china back to the stone age. Some of us thought that china would try to start a big nuclear war because they believed they'd survive and we wouldn't. But they didn't.

Rafsanjani's remarks could be interpreted to mean that if an arab nation had nuclear weapons israel (and the USA) would be forced to actually negotiate instead of brush off all attempts at agreement. But I tend to doubt that's the case -- it would require an arab nation that would accept the possibility of getting nuked if the negotiations failed. The USA accepted that for israel in 1973, but what arab natio would accept that for palestine? Note also that for six years israel had shrugged off any attempt to negotiate. "What do they have that we want? Peace? They'll never get past the Bar-Lev line." But after egypt and syria managed an attack that cost the USA more than thirty billion 1973 dollars in direct costs and a whole lot more indirectly, we forced israel into a negotiated settlement with egypt.

I think the analysis in Anatol Rapoport's _The Big Two_ is still valid. Nations go to war for a variety of reasons and the more of the reasons that fit this time, the more likely the war. Nuclear weapons increase the cost and reduce the payoff, so some of the reasons to fight are less likely to fit -- unless you think it will stay nonnuclear. Since the cost of nuclear war is so high the main temptation is to do it only when the cost of not doing it is higher -- for example a merciless unconditional surrender.

If the german army was advancing on Paris and the french had nukes, would Berlin get it? Maybe yes, maybe no, who can say? If the german army was taking alsace-lorraine, would Berlin get it? No. Maybe alsace-lorraine would. The more tactical nukes they use there the less value the spoils are to the victor.

Of course, after all the logic is worked out there's still the fact that shit happens.

I can't see iran actually going into a nuclear war just because the israelis refuse to give any concessions to palestinians. I could see them bluffing, though. And the crazier they look to the israelis the better their bargaining position. On the other hand the israelis don't have to do much to look pretty crazy to the iranians. The negotiations could have a whole lot of drama.

Posted by: J Thomas | Jul 5, 2004 11:49:18 PM

This view may be a little further left than Matt seems to like, but I really don't quite understand this general assumption that any desire for nuclear weapons in a Muslim country is based solely on the desire to destroy Israel. I'm sure everyone can cite plenty of foaming-at-the-mouth sermons by fanatical Muslim clerics, right? Well, if you want rants by crazed fanatics, how about this one by Michael Savage? How many loonie-tune right-wing Christians does anyone think are cited in the Muslim press as examples of the "real reason" the U.S. invaded Iraq? Or how about Meir Kahane as a good example of Israel's intentions (he, in fact, might be representative of a larger percentage of Israelis of Israel than Savage is of Americans)? The point here is that there are plenty of perfectly legitimate strategic reasons why a given Muslim/Arab country might want to acquire nukes. So I guess there are really two questions here:

1) Why can we have nukes but they can't?

2) Why should they ascribe any better intentions to us than the Knesset might to them (in other words, wouldn't any Syrian concerns that Israel might someday nuke Damascus be just as legitimate as those of Israel that any Muslim country which acquired a nuke would immediately drop it on Tel Aviv)?

As Matt said, I'm not sitting in the Knesset, so it's easy for me to brush off Israeli concerns, but that's not really my point; I'm suggesting that Muslim countries have the same incentives to acquires nukes as any other country, and it's just a little bit strange that we automatically ascribe the worst possible motivations to Iran.

Posted by: Mike | Jul 6, 2004 12:59:16 AM

> Anyway, is this a fresh Rafsanjani quote or the
> same one Memri and Likud have been passing
> around for the last 3-4 years? I take it from
> Duh!'s comment that it's the same old quote.
> Has there ever been any follow-up? Any attempt
> to clarify the accuracy of the report?

It's the same as ever. But the answers to your questions don't really matter.

Matthew tries to pass off a sermon at a university by a former Iranian president as a statement on Iranian nuclear intentions -

> Via a commenter, a MEMRI report on Iranian
> nuclear intentions:

- and as Juan Cole says

> ... Rafsanjani no longer
> has any executive power and is known for
> shooting his mouth off and saying wild things
> he never follows through on.

More opinion on memri:

http://abuaardvark.blogspot.com/2003_08_24_abuaardvark_archive.html#106201346387090176

Posted by: Duh | Jul 6, 2004 1:13:21 AM

Wow, it wouldn't be a problem if Iran--one of the leading terrorist sponsors in the world--got nuclear weapons.

Huh, I wonder why people think Democrats are soft on foreign policy. I can't understand where they get that idea.

If Iran isn't considered a threat with nuclear weapons, why not just go to the libertarian extreme and let individuals acquire nukes?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw | Jul 6, 2004 2:00:33 AM

"why not just go to the libertarian extreme and let individuals acquire nukes?"

Now we are talking sense. Tho they would be expensive, so a tax credit would be nice. Would you be scared of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet getting a nuke? Not I. Rev Moon might be a problem, tho.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 6, 2004 9:04:38 AM

Historically, we have evidence from many different times and places that assuming that people who talk about killing all the Jews don't really mean it is a bad bet.

Posted by: Crank | Jul 6, 2004 10:02:34 AM

Hi y'all -

I was the commentor who pointed Matt to Memri. Whether Memri can be a trusted source is a matter of debate, but as the link to Aardvark points out, they don't fabricate, but rather are selective.

My point to Matt is that it's a question of intent and capabilities, to repeat the classic theme in assessing military intelligence - not an oxymoron, bye the bye - in threat assessment.

Developing nuclear weapons, I think we all agree, is not a trivial undertaking, especially for lesser-developed countries. Hence there has to be a reason to invest such vast amounts of human and financial capital in order to possess them.

Given that Iran appears to be developing them, what is their intent? Give them the capability, what will they do with them? Given that Iran is a major supporter of terrorism - their financing of Hesbollah can be considered scarcely anything else - then the international community must ask if this can be considered a positive development.

Sure, Pakistan has the bomb, and so does India. The Pakistan nuclear capability (and to a large extent the Indian) is a function of the instability between the two. It's not, in this context, a "muslim" bomb, despite the problems that Pakistan has with infiltration and corruption that might end up with misappropriation.

As others have pointed out, it's a question that is hard to answer unless you are clear on the probabilities of Iran's willingness to use such a bomb on Israel.

Given the risks and the fundamental instability (in rational terms) of the Iranian regime, I have a hard time understanding how acquiescing to the Iranian development of the bomb can be anything but severely negative.

But the Iranians certainly seem to think that not only are they entitled to do so, but that the international community doesn't have a word in edgewise, their treaty commitments to the contrary.

Be worried.

John

Posted by: John F. Opie | Jul 6, 2004 10:26:48 AM

"Matthew tries to pass off a sermon at a university by a former Iranian president as a statement on Iranian nuclear intentions"

WTF? The quote was immediately followed by "That reeks of empty talk to me, but if I'm sitting in the Knesset I guess I don't want to blithely dismiss it." Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

"Given that Iran appears to be developing them, what is their intent?"

Iran probably wants to use the bomb as a deterrent just like everyone else who has it. Which is entirely rational, given that there's a pretty big outside threat that they have to worry about deterring these days, namely us. I seriously doubt that their intent is to start a cataclysmic nuclear exchange in which they would almost certainly be destroyed.

Posted by: JP | Jul 6, 2004 10:36:32 AM

If Iran allowed some terrorists to 'steal' a nuclear bomb and it ended up destroying a huge portion of Israel, I don't see why it is inevitable that they would be destroyed. Not really their fault, dontcha know?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw | Jul 6, 2004 11:36:24 AM

That last is a possibility. Say that terrorists stole an iranian bomb, smuggled it across three borders and set it off in, say, Haifa. They could severely damage a major israeli city, and israel just doesn't have many major cities.

Would the iranian government agree to that? I doubt it. Not least because they'd figure it would have less than 50% chance of success and almost any failure would leave somebody with their bomb that they wouldn't want to have it. They'd be less enthusiastic about that than our government was about israel stealing US nuclear material.

Anyway, my central point is that if you assume your neighbors are going to do something crazy, so you do something crazy first to stop them, then you're crazy.

Posted by: J Thomas | Jul 6, 2004 1:18:33 PM

History is replete with examples of political leaders acting "crazy", otherwise known as massively miscalculating. As the number of political leaders with access to nuclear weapons increases it is a near certainty that this will occur with these weapons as well.

Posted by: Will Allen | Jul 6, 2004 1:42:01 PM

Wait for it to happen once before you go crazy on people to stop it from happening.

"I carry this elephant gun everywhere I go and shoot it sometimes, to deter elephants from attacking me."

"But there are no elephants in 500 miles from here."

"See how well it works?"

Posted by: J Thomas | Jul 6, 2004 2:11:33 PM

The problem, J.Thomas, is that your assumption of elephants being 500 miles distant is as subject to error as the assumption that one's neighbor's are going to do something crazy. I'm not advocating any particular course of action, other than to attempt to gain as much informtion as possible, in order to ensure that one's asssumptions are not wildly off base, and thus to make it more certain that one's policies are tied to observable phenomena to the greatest extent possible. What is observable is that attempts to keep technology bottled up nearly always fail, and that political leaders, given time, will engage in massive miscalculation. This informs me that at least a limited nuclear exchange is a near certainty in the next 20 years, as the number of actors with access to such technology increases. Our policy should be constructed with this phenomena in mind, although it does not inform us as to what the correct course of action is with regards to Iran.

Posted by: Will Allen | Jul 6, 2004 2:36:59 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.