CHESTER HAS MOVED!: LA Times thinks we have no Iran options

Monday, December 13, 2004

LA Times thinks we have no Iran options

The latest mainstream press story on Iran's nuclear program, U.S. Options Few in Feud With Iran, sticks to the script that we have little leeway in what happens.
Facing diplomatic gridlock, unappealing military options, internal ideological divisions and major domestic and foreign political constraints stemming from the Iraq war, Washington has little choice but to watch and wait.
If this is true, it is a result of either a lack of imagination, or the personnel changes within the administration. But I doubt it's true.
Washington's war planners have updated their scenarios for a possible showdown with Iran. The national security bureaucracy has conducted war games, and officials have been "gaming out" other ways the United States could respond if diplomatic efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon were to fail. But they describe the efforts as "prudent contingency planning" that should not be interpreted as saber-rattling. If anything, the process of studying a potential conflict with Iran seems to have made some Bush administration officials more cautious. One possible outcome that alarms planners, senior officials say, is that Tehran might order terrorist retaliation if the United States were to strike Iranian nuclear targets. U.S. officials are particularly worried about the potential for Iran to use the militant Lebanese group Hezbollah, which it funds and supports, to hit American targets in Iraq, step up attacks in Israel, target U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, or even to strike inside the United States. American officials have called Hezbollah "the A-team" of terrorism, potentially more deadly than Al Qaeda, with possibly dozens of cells around the world. "Hezbollah gives Iran a global weapon that we need to understand," the second senior administration official said.
If we are concerned about Hezbollah now, how much more concerned will we be if it has access to nuclear weapons at the whims of the mullahs? Is it not possible to launch raids on Hezbollah in conjunction with attacks on Iran? Hezbollan as it stands today will look like child's play compared to the threats and coercion it is capable of after Iran goes nuclear – just one of the many reasons for Iran to do so.
Any scenario under which the U.S. attacks Iran, overtly or covertly, will have to include plans to batten down the hatches at myriad American diplomatic targets overseas where retaliation could be expected, the official said.
Easily enough done. Quietly evacuate non-essential personnel and move the Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Companies into reinforcement roles in the areas in the region that are vulnerable. Use a battalion or so of infantry if necessary.
U.S. economic targets abroad could also come into the cross hairs. And some think a cornered Iran could launch preemptive strikes of its own, as some Tehran officials have threatened recently.
Let's get this straight: Tehran has warned about launching pre-emptive strikes of its own and we're still talking to them? The next conversation should use Margaret Thatcher's response to Saddam when he mentioned using WMD: tell them to take a Polaroid of Tehran because there will be nothing left but glass when the shooting's over. Here we have a regime that – even the Europeans think – is clandestinely pursuing nuclear weapons, and it is warning us of its pre-emptive capabilities? What will it warn us of when it has nukes? Will it warn us?
Several American officials have said they believe Hezbollah has "sleeper" cells raising money in at least five major U.S. urban areas. The question in officials' minds is how those cells might react if the U.S. were to clash with Iran.
"Five major urban areas" seems a bit too specific for mere whimsy. If the cells are there, we must be watching them and it is a small step to arrest them. Certainly we can do so before making any strategic moves? Arrest them all and then arrest everyone in their cell phone lists. See what shakes out. If they are innocent, let them go.
The Pentagon, officials said, is paying less attention to Iran than it is to Syria, which the administration believes is the source of much of the funding for the Iraqi insurgency. With 150,000 U.S. troops deployed in Iraq for the foreseeable future, top military officials rule out the possibility of a large-scale ground offensive against Iran.
Hear ye, hear ye! The Adventures of Chester will soon publish its series on right-wing critiques of the war, and the first will examine the size of the US military, among other things. We should be ashamed that after putting 500,000 troops in the Arabian desert for upwards of 12 months around 14 years ago, that we now struggle to maintain 150,000 there for two years. The US military is too small and this fact is already constraining our options and threatening our security. The left decries Iraq as breaking our current forces – in hopes of giving one more reason why the invasion was a poor idea. Instead, they are strengthening the claim that our military is too small.
Airstrikes could set back any nuclear program temporarily, but a determined Tehran government could rebuild it in as little as three years, outside experts said. Some warned that Iran had learned the lessons of the Israeli airstrike that destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981, after which Tehran dispersed its nuclear activities and fortified its facilities to thwart an air attack.
Who says we can't then hit them again? We'll return to these options soon in the Iran series. Overall, this LA Times article shows the administration conveniently split between those who think military action would work, but is a bad idea, those who think military action wouldn't work, but that we have no other options, and those who think we have no options period. If any of this is true, it is not the Bush Administration that I voted for. But I'm doubting that it is true.


Blogger peterargus said...


Quite interesting editorial in NYT today entitled, Foxes in Iran's Henhouse (subscription only). The article discusses the expanding role of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard including their rivalry for power with the ruling theocracy. It reminds me very much of China and the large role the People's Army plays in the Chinese economy and political system. I would love to hear your take on this - perhaps weave it into yesterday's post on Iranian military assets.

Keep up the great work.

December 13, 2004 at 6:24 AM  
Blogger Glenmore said...

How will events in Iraq unfold?
Either elections will be held as scheduled in Jan, or they will not.
If they are not, regardless of the reason, what's left of US and Iraq government credibility will be gone, and anti-American violence will escalate, especially in the mainly-quiet Shia areas, with ultimate US withdrawal (a la Vietnam).
If they are held, the Shia will win big. Most indications are that they will request the US leave. That is the main plank in their election platform. The key question is will they request near-immediate departure or some delay.
If they request immediate departure, will we obey, or stay?
If we stay, expect major increase in anti-American violence, with ultimate US withdrawal (a la Vietnam).
If we leave, expect major increase in Sunni/Baath - Shia violence. Well-armed & militarily competent Baath thugs will flail wildly and desperately. Numerous and dedicated Shia (and some Sunni) will fight back, and also exert revenge for past wrongs. Lots of blood will flow for a while. The next key question is how will Iraq's neighbors react?
Syria and Iran will continue covert support of the Baath and Shia respectively, but will either side gain further allies and/or go more public? If the Baath thugs appear to make headway against the new Shia government I would expect large and overt Iranian assistance. Once invited in, it will prove impossible to invite them back out. A Shia theocratic puppet state of Iran would result. I doubt it would be well-accepted by a majority of Iraqis. I suspect a long but low-intensity civil war, with unpredictable outcome - might well even spread to Iran, and might POSSIBLY be the best long-term outcome for the US. But short term - highly risky. Implications for global terror support, WMD distribution, regional instability, oil supply networks, even Chinese economic development.

It looks like the path of choice REQUIRES an incoming Shia government to request/accept Coalition assistance in building stability. What can be done to improve the likelyhood of the Shia taking that path, and of it succeeding in building stability?

December 13, 2004 at 6:57 AM  
Blogger Vampiel said...

The Shia would never ask the US military to leave until they have the governments has it's own reliable security forces that have proven themselves to stand up to the insurgents (this is beggining to happen BTW). We are the one's that keep them in power. In other words, we leave on our terms -- when the country is stable because before then they wouldnt WANT us to leave.

December 13, 2004 at 1:16 PM  
Blogger Vampiel said...

Sorry for the poor grammer, im running on a few hours of sleep.

December 13, 2004 at 1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, it looks like journalists are simply highlighting an otherwise reasonable long-term goal of Iraqi democrats — Allied draw-down — because it's the closest thing to a pullout they can find, now that Bush has been reelected. The same rumors flew around last June.

Iranian freedom activist Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi sent around a James Fallows piece from Atlantic Monthly. Oh, such a fantasy. Fallows used a wargame as a springboard to not-so-subtly suggest rolling over for Tehran. "Make diplomacy work" was the quote on which he ended. Huh? Regime change for Iran is more dangerous than a nuclear-armed theocracy that's been engaged in a low-level war with us for two decades? Don't the "realists" know how starry-eyed peaceful coexistence with sworn enemies is?

December 14, 2004 at 12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a somewhat different point of view of a potential confrontation with Iran. My comments can be read at

Look for the Nov. 30th blog entry.

December 15, 2004 at 9:50 PM  

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