Sunday, October 28, 2007

Iran Thinks Attack Talk is a Bluff

An opinion piece in the Washington Post by David Ignatius, apparently informed by his trips to the Middle East.

Slow down, everybody. The Bush administration should stop issuing warnings and ultimatums that could force military action. Iran should get the message that the West -- including Russia -- is serious about stopping Iran from producing nuclear weapons.

We can start here. I always ask when Western commentators speak of nuclear weapons, is it that they don't understand that this dispute is over a theoretical capacity to make weapons, not nuclear weapons, or is it that they believe it serves some moral purpose to mislead their readers.

I think in this case it is very unlikely that Ignatius has not come across this distinction. Ignatius would rather his readers who do not already understand the core issue find out the difference between a nuclear weapon and a theoretical nuclear weapon capability somewhere else. I can only guess he thinks he is being a good supporter of Zionism this way. Maybe he is avoiding some pressure he would feel if he is not adequately alarmist about Iran.

"Somewhere else" where the distinction is explained may be Time magazine, as I've posted earlier.

But once we get past that we get to the crux of his opinion piece

Here's how one Gulf official sums up the problems with use of force against Iran: "When you look at it seriously, what's the objective and what are the consequences? People talk about a bombing campaign, but in six weeks of bombing in the Gulf War in 1991, you didn't take out the [Iraqi] Scud missiles. If the Iranians fire a missile across the Gulf, what happens to the price of oil? Or suppose they sink a tanker in the Gulf. And then they have Hezbollah, they have sleeper cells. What is your target?"

Many Arabs argue that the Iranians actually want America to attack. Politically, that would help the hard-liners rally support. And militarily, it would lure the United States onto a battlefield where its immense firepower wouldn't do much good. The Iranians could withdraw into the maze of their homeland and keep firing off their missiles -- exacting damage on the West's economy and, most important, its will to fight.

That's the lesson for Muslim warriors of the Iraq and Lebanon wars: Draw your adversaries deep into terrain that you control; taunt them into starting a war they can't finish. I'm told that the Syrian military, for example, is now changing its doctrine to fight an asymmetric guerrilla war against Israel that it can win, Hezbollah-style, rather than a conventional war it would certainly lose.

When Iran says that it expects to hurt the US more than the US hurts it if there is a military confrontation, it is being honest.

It is funny watching everyone in the world panic about a US attack on Iran, except Iran. At least some parties in Iran think that its country, its revolution, the Islamic world and even the Arab world would benefit from a long struggle in which Iran plays Afghanistan and the US loses its capacity to maintain an empire playing USSR.

Another 8 year war will, thirty years from now, produce more Ahmadinejad's. More engineering students-turned-extremists. The US thinks it is making a threat. There are some parties in Iran that hope it is a promise.

The only thing is that Putin knows this, which is why he could say something crazy like Russia would treat a US attack on Iran like an attack on Russia (even though I doubt he said that). US planners know this, even though they think pretending they don't will scare investment away from Iran (which is true, but it raises the price of oil more than enough to offset that). And Iran's planners know the US knows this.

So Iran's military is preparing, because that is what militaries do. But they aren't even thinking about suspending.

3 comments:

Richard said...

I suspect what Putin meant when (if) he told Khamenei that is that Russia would use its "oil weapon" against any parties who joined the US against Iran - such as the EU. Russia might also be able to persuade China to dump the US dollar - not that China would need much persuasion if the US cuts them off from Iranian oil and gas - if the US attacks Iran.

In other words, Putin probably would not directly threaten the US with military action over an Iran attack, but he could easily hint at it while directly threatening unspecified "reprisals" with oil and other economic moves. That alone would be enough to throw the Pentagon and the Treasury into a tailspin and increase pressure on Bush and Cheney not to act. Not to mention completely collapsing any EU support for such a war. Even England, France and Germany, allegedly on board for a war with Iran, would get pretty nervous over taking on Russia economically as well.

Putin is as much a wild card to Bush and Cheney's plans as the Pentagon naysayers.

Arnold Evans said...

Thanks for commenting.

Our main disagreement on the Middle East is whether or not the US will attack Iran soon.

We can agree to disagree. We'll at least know if Bush made it through the term without bombing as I expect by inauguration day.

But I have some questions about your position:

Do you think Cheney expects a regime change from bombing?

Do you think he expects Iran not to retaliate, or that Iran will retaliate in a way that does not substantially hurt the US?

Do you think Cheney thinks the US can bomb Iran without being drawn into a ground campaign?

Or do you think Cheney is not calculating at all, and will bomb without regard to the consequences?

I've said before that the US really isn't acting like it was acting in 2002 and Iran is definitely acting like Iraq was acting in 2002.

In 2002 Bush said if the UNSC doesn't impose a resolution it will be irrelevant. Today Bush sees sanctions not coming. Sees that Iran isn't going to back down and still says diplomacy is his first option.

Iraq actually complied with the resolutions - a point that is usually missed today. Iran could not care less. Ahmadinejad stood at the UN and said the issue is closed while there are open resolutions.

To me, today does not feel like 2002 at all. You disagree, but we'll know for sure before February 2009.

Richard said...

"Do you think Cheney expects a regime change from bombing?"

I'm not sure, but I doubt it.

"Do you think he expects Iran not to retaliate, or that Iran will retaliate in a way that does not substantially hurt the US?"

I don't think he cares.

"Do you think Cheney thinks the US can bomb Iran without being drawn into a ground campaign?"

I think he wants a ground campaign. We can't get the Khuzestan oil fields without one, and that's what Cheney wants.

"Or do you think Cheney is not calculating at all, and will bomb without regard to the consequences?"

Well, "without regard" is a wide statement. I think Cheney wants the war regardless of what he THINKS will be the consequences. The question is: what does he think the consequences will be? Since he's agitating for war,clearly those consequences are less important to him than the war. That's obvious.

Bush may be another matter, but I doubt that, too. Bush may have some issues with unilaterally declaring war on Iran, but since he made that "WWIII" remark, it seems clear to me that those issues aren't terribly threatening to his purpose.

"In 2002 Bush said if the UNSC doesn't impose a resolution it will be irrelevant. Today Bush sees sanctions not coming. Sees that Iran isn't going to back down and still says diplomacy is his first option."

If you're still accepting what Bush says as relevant, you're seriously in a time warp. Bush can easily say diplomacy is his first option while he's preparing for war. The problem is, we don't know what is slowing down the preparations.

It's not a case of: well, he's decided, so we go to war next Tuesday. I suspect the Pentagon, some of whom, if not all of whom, don't really want another war at this point, are dragging out the preparations and coming up with excuses to slow down the initiation of the war.

We also don't know if Bush and Cheney think they have enough "support" from their base for the war, or even if they care.

There are a lot of considerations they have to take into account before just giving the order. We don't know what those are with any certainty, or how they are making their decisions.

The fact that Cheney commissioned a war game on what would happen if the Israelis did the initial strike and then the US attacked after the Iran retaliation indicates to me that he's seeking an end-run around the Pentagon naysayers.

Maybe that's true, maybe it isn't. The point is we don't know, therefore we can't draw firm conclusions from the fact that the war hasn't happened yet.

"Iraq actually complied with the resolutions - a point that is usually missed today."

And Bush ignored that fact, since it wasn't relevant to his plans whether Saddam actually had WMDs or not. Remember - that was the EXCUSE, not the REASON.

"Iran could not care less. Ahmadinejad stood at the UN and said the issue is closed while there are open resolutions."

Again, if you believe that Iran's nuclear energy program is really the casus belli, you are living in a time warp. The new one - which isn't being played up quite as much, but is still in play - is that Iran is behind the problems in Iraq.

This demonstrates that there IS NO "real reason" for the war in Iran. There is only the "public reason". Therefore, whatever Iran does or does not do is irrelevant. It is only relevant in terms of how it plays in the public media. If Iran can continually game the "public reason", it causes Bush some problems, but in the end, the war will happen anyway, no matter what farfetched reason Bush has to find to justify it.