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A Moment of Clarity

Well, you puts your incentives on the table and the Iranians tell you to get lost. Wouldn't it have been nice if we'd just done this months ago instead of having an endless argument about whether or not making the offer would produce a deal? It's the Europeans' turn now, it seems, to see whether they're serious about wielding some sticks. Teheran is making it pretty clear that they're deadly serious about building a nuclear bomb.

March 12, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

Well, these aren't the incentives that might do the trick. Offering to remove all US and international trade sanctions and a US non-aggression commitment would be serious incentives for Iran. WTO membership many years in the future and spare parts for civilian aircraft are not. So there's no clarity resulting from offering de minimis incentives.

Posted by: Otto | Mar 12, 2005 12:54:56 PM

"they're deadly serious about building a nuclear bomb."

really ? Any actual evidence for that assertion ?

Posted by: kb | Mar 12, 2005 12:57:29 PM

And if they are serious about building a nuclear bomb, it seems the only logical response to the Bush administration's different responses to Iraq and North Korea. If you have a bomb, you don't get invaded.

Posted by: Robert Silvey | Mar 12, 2005 1:03:20 PM

kb

I think the logic goes:
1. Iran has lots of oil and therefore does not need neuclear technology for energy purposes.
2. Iran faces many security threats, from neighbours, US and Israel.
3. Given 1 and 2, it seems very likely that nuclear research by Iran is driven by the desire for neuclear weaponry.
4. The fact that the Iranians deny that is their goal should be discounted, because governments routinely use deceit in international affairs.

Posted by: Otto | Mar 12, 2005 1:05:07 PM

" If you have a bomb, you don't get invaded."

There must be a hundred or so countries that don't have nuclear weapons, but which we haven't invaded. The key reason for wanting the bomb isn't to avoid invasion, (Which they could do simply by holding free elections.) but to be able to avoid invasion while still lording it over thier own subjects, while remaining a threat to the neighbors.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Mar 12, 2005 1:22:42 PM

The key reason for wanting the bomb isn't to avoid invasion, (Which they could do simply by holding free elections.)

Tell that to Chavez. Or Allende, for that matter. In addition, the threat of invasion is almost as bad as actually getting invaded. Iran has an absolute security need for a nuclear arsenal, caused by the fact that it has strategic interests in conflict with a batshit insane superpower which now has bases in a neighboring nation. The talking is a way to keep things from getting bad while they finish the job. They're obviously stalling, and what we need to do is establish that beyond a doubt quickly, then decide what to do about it. But Iran's building a bomb. Iran needs the bomb to protect itself.

Posted by: Kimmitt | Mar 12, 2005 1:48:01 PM

Imagine yourself sitting at the table with those empowered to decide whether to proceed apace with the Iranian atomic bomb project. Any objection you might raise could easily be thrust aside. Your opponents would say
a. the Americans are on record, most recently be labelling us an outpost of tyranny, as regarding our regime as illegitimate.
b. the Americans have shown that they'll take down regimes they don't like in disregard of international law and world opinion.
c. the Americans have large number of troops deployed just across our western border.
d. the only effective way to deter an attack by the Americans is to enable ourselves to threaten retaliation by means of the dominant weapon of these times.

Posted by: Advisertomullahs | Mar 12, 2005 1:56:08 PM

Imagine yourself sitting at the table with those empowered to decide whether to proceed apace with the Iranian atomic bomb project. Any objection you might raise could easily be thrust aside. Your opponents would say
a. the Americans are on record, most recently be labelling us an outpost of tyranny, as regarding our regime as illegitimate.
b. the Americans have shown that they'll take down regimes they don't like in disregard of international law and world opinion.
c. the Americans have large number of troops deployed just across our western border.
d. the only effective way to deter an attack by the Americans is to enable ourselves to threaten retaliation by means of the dominant weapon of these times.
Mr. Bellmore:
In free elections, the regime would change. The regime--the mullahs in power--don't favor this change. As they see it, Allah wills their continuance in power.
But there's little reason to think an elected regime would not continue the atomic-bomb project.

Posted by: Mullahsadviser | Mar 12, 2005 2:01:40 PM

Brett

Sorry, but you're not thinking this one through. There is no incentive that we can possible give the Iranians to stop building a bomb. They will have it within 2 years thanks to our own actions. They know we're bogged down in Iraq for a while, and they won't miss their window of opportunity. For those to dense to see it here's how the Iran-Iraq-NK WMD situation has played out over the last six years. In 1999, the United States attacks Serbia, surrounds it by air, and pummels it into submission without losing a single soldier. NK looked at that and said to themselves, if we don't have nukes, we're just another Serbia. So they restarted their nuke program. They fired a missile over Japan to show their missile range, and when they had two bombs, they announced to the world that they had nukes. What did we do in response - nothing. We had no viable military option against them. Now they are now churning out nuclear weapons, and our only response is to deploy a missile shield that everyone in the world knows doesn't work.

Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein did nothing to restart his nuclear program. You'd think this would earn him points, but it was the stupidest thing he ever did. It left him open for a US invasion any time we liked. Iraq was militarily weak, and when it suited us, we took out Saddam.

So looking at this from Tehran, the Iranians have done what any rational person would do. They have sought to build a bomb as fast as possible, and when they have it, they will announce it to the world. If they comply with UN inspectors, they would just give the US a chance to digest its Iraq debacle and take Iran out on a timetable favorable to the US.

Once Iran has nukes, they will be safe from our military threats, as NK is. We can't put 200,000 american troops on the Iranian border, exposing them to nuclear annihilation. Sure we'd counterstrike, but remember, we'd be the aggressor, so the world would see it as the US starting a nuclear war.

Iran will have the bomb within two years, and George Bush has made it happen.

Posted by: pj | Mar 12, 2005 2:09:53 PM

And why shouldn't they be? I think the most lasting damage that's been done by the Iraq war is that we essentially told every country in the world that we don't like that they'd better build nukes quick, or risk being invaded by us. This risk alone should have been reason enough to avoid the Iraq invasion, but of course it wasn't. Given the war on the one hand, and our total lack of response to N. Korea's bomb building on the other, I think it's perfectly rational for a country like Iran to conclude that they need nukes to guarantee their security.

Posted by: Rebecca Allen, PhD | Mar 12, 2005 2:26:36 PM

"Sorry, but you're not thinking this one through. There is no incentive that we can possible give the Iranians to stop building a bomb."

Who's disputing that? Not me.

The Iranian mulahs' desire for nuclear weaponry is perfectly rational. Yes, they could prevent us from invading by simply holding free elections, and ceasing to be a threat to their neighbors. But they don't want to give up power. Nuclear weapons give them the ability to deter us while continuing to behave in an abusive manner.

They don't want what's best for their country, they want what's best for THEM. No "incentives" can change that.

I think the military situation, on the other hand, is rather different from what you think. With North Korea we faced a serious problem: Those mortar batteries they have targetting Seoul are capable of killing millions at a moment's notice. That's one hell of a lot of hostages, in the very country we'd have to do our staging in if we were going to invade. And NK is allied with a nuclear power, China, right on it's border. A full out invasion hasn't been feasible for a LONG time, and the NK leadership knows it. I'd say, based on their past behaivor, that THEY wanted nukes not as a deterent, but as an extortion weapon.

War with Iran, on the other hand, is more feasible. We already have access and military staging areas, and our forces aren't nearly as tied down as you want to think. I do agree, however, that the window for military action is going to close within a couple of years.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Mar 12, 2005 2:47:42 PM

Can someone tell me why we (the US, Europe, developed world) have the moral authority to tell the leaders/people of another state whether they should or should not possess nu-kular weapons? And don't use the non-proliferation treaty trope--we noisily subvert international laws/treaties when it is in our interest.

Posted by: mrjauk | Mar 12, 2005 2:51:36 PM

This is not just a matter of security, it'll create balance in the region.

Look at the bright side: it'll effectively put a stop to most (if not all) radical American and Israeli expansionist projects. All those 'New American Century' and 'Greater Israel' megalomaniacs will have to crawl back under the rock where they belong. This can't be all bad.

Posted by: abb1 | Mar 12, 2005 2:55:25 PM

In reply to Mr. Bellmore's dreams of further conquest, it's perhaps sufficient to note that Iran is three times as populous as Iraq, that its strength has not been sapped by sanctions, and that the Bush administration has drawn down heavily its political credit for foreign adventures.

Posted by: Advisertomullahs | Mar 12, 2005 2:57:07 PM

Actually, Bellmore, think of it this way.

Say Iran gets the bomb (or at least latent nuclear capacity).

Suddenly, all those scare tactics used to shore up public support for the regime don't resonate any more ...

Posted by: praktike | Mar 12, 2005 3:04:17 PM

"Can someone tell me why we (the US, Europe, developed world) have the moral authority to tell the leaders/people of another state whether they should or should not possess nu-kular weapons?"

Um, because we don't stone to death 13 year old incest victims?

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Mar 12, 2005 3:26:14 PM

Matt, while there are lots of reasons to doubt this administration's competence (forget intentions for the moment) on a whole host of issues, you still might pause to think, are there any plausible reasons why the US would have thrown support behind the European strategy now, rather than months ago?

Here's one hypothesis: It took a while for us and the Europeans to negotiate a joint position, in particular, that we would agree to back them in offering Ira positive incentives if, should that fail, they would agree to back us in subsequently offering incentives of a different sort.

Posted by: larry birnbaum | Mar 12, 2005 3:33:44 PM

"...are there any plausible reasons why the US would have thrown support behind the European strategy now"

Maybe the same reasons we went to the UN in the fall of 2002? I would, if I had any, put money down on offensive action (mostly air) against Iran in summer or early fall, timed to coincide with a vote on Social Security.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Mar 12, 2005 3:40:21 PM

Otto, aren't we supposed to believe that the world is running out of oil? If we are, or, more precisely, if Iran believes we are, then building a nuclear power plant is a perfectly logical thing for them to do. I don't trust them and definitely want a strict watch kept over them, but it is completely believable the Iranian government would develop nuclear plants and not nuclear weapons.

Posted by: Maestro | Mar 12, 2005 3:42:06 PM

Of course Saudi Arabia and Jordan lord over their subjects at least as much as Iran - with Egypt in the mix also.

To avoid confrontation with the United States, it is not important to hold elections, it is important to advance US interests - especially being friendly with Israel.

Would a democratic Iran do that?

Or is a "democratic" Iran an Iran into which the United States can dump some amount of millions of dollars to pay for the installation of a friendly government, failing which US access to the military makes it easier for a convenient coup to happen?

Posted by: David Jacobs | Mar 12, 2005 3:42:22 PM

"Yes, they could prevent us from invading by simply holding free elections, and ceasing to be a threat to their neighbors."

Other than Israel, which of Iran's "neighbors" consider it a threat?

Posted by: synykyl | Mar 12, 2005 3:44:53 PM

On our moral authority: Iran has the right to do what it perceives to be in its best interest. The West, by the same token, has the right to do things that might change Iran's perception, if we think that would be in our best interest.

In any case Iran has been sufficiently aggressive in its foreign policy (for example in its support of Hezbollah) that it can't be viewed as simply following the path of cultivating its own garden. If they want to do that, great, they don't need nuclear weapons. If they want to exert more power abroad, as they seem to, well, that isn't in our interest, and we should respond accordingly.

Posted by: larry birnbaum | Mar 12, 2005 3:46:21 PM

"Can someone tell me why we (the US, Europe, developed world) have the moral authority to tell the leaders/people of another state whether they should or should not possess nu-kular weapons?"

Um, because we don't stone to death 13 year old incest victims?

No, we don't. Consider, though, what Pfc. Willie Brand did.
"Pfc. Willie V. Brand, was charged with manslaughter in a closed hearing last month in Texas in connection with one of the deaths, another Army document shows. Private Brand, who acknowledged striking a detainee named Dilawar 37 times, was accused of having maimed and killed him over a five-day period by "destroying his leg muscle tissue with repeated unlawful knee strikes."

The attacks on Mr. Dilawar were so severe that "even if he had survived, both legs would have had to be amputated," the Army report said, citing a medical examiner."

The officers who presided over similar activities transported to Iraq have yet to be punished.

By adding torture to the American lexicon, Mr. Bush and his now Attorney General have not done those of us who would like to defend America in Mr. Bellmore's terms any favor.

Posted by: Advisertomullahs | Mar 12, 2005 3:48:18 PM

Brett

The Iranians do hold elections. It is more of a democracy than any other country in the middle east. And the idea of having nukes is very popular in Iran -- nukes are not a weapon to hold down the populace, you don't use nukes on your own people. They are entirely meant to be used as a deterrent to the United States of America.

Bush blew his chance to intimidate Iran -- back when we had the swagger of effortless crushings of Serbia and Afghanistan, and an army that was meeting its recruitment levels, we could have, and should have, rattled the saber at them. In fact, we could have used Iraq as an example that even when you've been bad, compliance can save you. Instead, we gave the opposite message -- disarming is for suckers.

The frustrating thing is that Iran was harboring fugitive al qeada, Iran was building nuclear weapons, Iran had launched terrorist strikes against the US in 1996, and Iraq was doing none of those things, but we attacked Iraq because Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld et. al. had a hard-on for Saddam. So now we'll have to learn to live with Iran as a nuclear power, and a few years after that, we'll have a nuclear armed Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: pj | Mar 12, 2005 3:52:49 PM

... Um, because we don't stone to death 13 year old incest victims? .../i>

No, but we other things that are just as horrible. We don't usually do them to children in our own country, but we have been known to make exceptions.

Posted by: synykyl | Mar 12, 2005 3:55:04 PM

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