Peace Like A River

It was a wide river, mistakable for a lake or even an ocean unless you'd been wading and knew its current. Somehow I'd crossed it... Now I saw the stream regrouped below, flowing on through what might've been vineyards, pastures, orhards... It flowed between and alongside the rivers of people; from here it was no more than a silver wire winding toward the city. - Leif Enger, Peace Like A River

Friday, August 19, 2005

And Iran, Iran so far away

In recent days there have been signs there might be an effort underway to prepare a foundation for possible action against Iran at some point in the future. Whether this action is military, economic, or diplomatic remains to be seen.

Iran is a charter member of the Axis of Evil. A hallmark of President Bush's policy since 9/11 is to wage a global war against terrorists, and Iran sits at the heart of the terror world. There will be no lasting success in the Global War on Terror unless Iran's support for terrorism is dismantled.

(By Iran's support, I mean the support from the regime in power in Iran. Much of the population in Iran yearns to be free, but they are kept in thrall by brutal tactics.)

However, very little has been done directly in confronting Iran. Military action is problematic, because the US military is stretched so thin in Iraq. Units are on their second and third deployments. Guard and reserve units are overtaxed. Non-combat units find themselves filling combat roles. The US cannot undertake a major military campaign in Iran at this time.

Now, with word that troop drawdowns are being contemplated in Iraq next year, perhaps the Bush Administration is starting to send signals to Iran that those troops might visit Iran, since they're already in the neighborhood.

(Intel Dump looks here at the usefulness of having bases in the region as part of the effort to confront Iran.)

What are those signals?

In his State of the Union address earlier this year, President Bush said "And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you."

These were not idle words. President Bush is well aware of the awful mistake his father made, when he indicated support would be forthcoming for the Shiites in early 1991 if they rebelled against Saddam. The Shiites rebelled, and US forces sat by and watched Saddam's goons slaughter the Shiites. President Bush surely would not want to make a similarly empty promise.

Recently there have been two reports of Iranian weapons being intercepted coming into Iraq. One shipment was intercepted by American forces, the other in British-controlled territory.

In fact, in the first story, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld revealed that Iranian arms have been found in Iraq on more than one occasion in recent months.

Why are we hearing about this now? Because this is one way to put pressure on a nation. By publicly stating 'we know what you're doing, Iran, and you know that we know', the US is putting down a stake in the sand, one everybody can see, and implying action might be taken if Iranian opposition continues.

In the Guardian article, there is this hilarious statement. "Iran has repeatedly denied any involvement in the insurgency or party politics in Iraq."

This is an utter, bald-faced lie. Iran has been deeply involved in Iraq. The invaluable Michael Ledeen has written about this (see here and here).

But why tell the lie? Who is the intended audience? Not the US government and military. Iran knows these entities are well aware of Iran's involvement in Iran.

No, the lie is said to give cover to the pathetic diplomatic negotiations between Europe and Iran, negotiations that feckless Europeans want to undertake in an effort to get Iran to stall its drive for nuclear weapons. Iran goes along with this diplunacy, and drags its feet, in an effort to buy time. By at least publicly appearing to be a good citizen next door to Iraq, the Iranian regime allows European diplomats to say look, we can work with Iran here. And all the while Iran's nuclear arms program continues. Tick tick tick.

Time magazine had a recent article on Iran's meddling in Iraq. It is a must read. The article recounts detailed plans Iran has made as far back as 2002 to affect events in Iraq.

(Hat tip to the valuable RegimeChangeIran blog.)

The article says some information in the article came from "a U.S. military-intelligence document obtained by Time". An interesting question is just how did this document come to be in the possession of Time. Was it leaked to Time, as part of an effort to ramp up the pressure against Iran?

Also, Time spoke to "a senior U.S. officer", and "military intelligence officers". Just how did these sources come to be available to Time? Were they deliberately allowed to speak to Time?

There's more. On August 12, President Bush said that "all options are on the table", if Iran doesn't bow to pressure and halt their nuclear program. Again, such phrases aren't used carelessly.

At an August 9 DoD press briefing, Rumsfeld said, about weapons coming into Iraq from Iran, "ultimately, it's a problem for Iran". Also, he said troop drawdowns could depend on whether Iran is "going to be helpful or unhelpful".

Again, pointed words to put Iran on notice. It matters what is said in public, because it indicates what you are willing to commit to. I hope much stronger things are being said in private, in tony salons in Washington, New York, and across Europe. But, in diplomacy words mean things, and public utterances are instructive.

However, there is a danger in this. The biggest club in the galaxy does you no good if everybody knows you will never use it.

Iran has been committing acts of war against the United States since 1979. Then, revolutionaries took our embassy, held hostage our diplomats and citizens for 444 days, and we did very little about it. (Never mind President Carter's failed mission with 8 helicopters.) What kind of message did that send? What kind of country allows its people to be held like this, with no response?

The message is: we're weak and vulnerable.

(Have you ever wondered why the Soviet embassy wasn't attacked? Perhaps because Iran saw signs of Russia's resolve, and their preparations for an invasion of Afghanistan, which would come a month later?)

And indeed, in 1983, Iran, through its client agent Hezbollah, blew up 241 of our Marines in Beirut.. This was not President Reagan's finest hour. America's response was to withdraw from Lebanon. What kind of message did that send? What kind of country allows its soldiers to be murdered like this, with no response?

The message is: we're weak and vulnerable.

Iran was involved in the attack on the Khobar Towers in 1996, an attack that killed 19 Air Force personnel.

While covert action was taken, another message was sent. The United States will not act publicly and militarily against Iran in response to these acts of war.

There are other examples of Iran's involvement in terrorism. Iran is named in the Axis of Evil for a reason.

President Bush and the United States government have now put a lot of chips on the table. If Iran calls our hand, will we respond with force? At this point, we have to. Over the past 25 years, we've already given Iran, and Al Qaeda, too many reasons to think we won't stand up to them. We cannot capitulate in this war against the terrorists. They will not stop. They have stated, explicitly, they want us dead. When will we believe them?

The Fourth Rail has no illusions about Iran's nature.
The Belmont Club correctly worries that the anti-war Left may have already made it impossible for the US to use military force against Iran.
Austin Bay points out a defensive capability is also useful.
Captain's Quarters looks at the inept European diplomatic effort.
Michael Ledeen has another excellent piece on Iran.
Hugh Hewitt links to a warning that things can get even worse in Iran.
The Counterterrorism Blog points out Iran is gathering its allies.
Michelle Malkin links to an article about the recent rocket attack on a US Navy ship. One wonders if Iranian weapons were used. (HT: Terrorism Unveiled)
Austin Bay links to a Strategy Page article that also wonders if Iranian weapons were involved.
California Conservative looks at diplomatic options.
Dan Darling has more excellent work, this one on Iran's involvement with Al Qaeda.


  • At Thu Aug 18, 06:37:00 PM, johngrif said…


    You read more than I. I have often wondered how much 'real world' political manuvering occurs in the daylight. Talk, talk, talk. Today's media puts some issues 24/7 in the spotlight, but the shadows are always nearby.

    Despite Germany's bluster, France's self importance--they along with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, much less other smaller countries (Jordan) have a stake in a nuclear free ME.

    War game novelists have raised the spectre for years of a super Islamic state armed with nuclear weapons. I cannot believe that Western government war gamers have not mapped out the same.

    I was amazed recently to catch CSPAN presenting the tumultous Congressional reception given the Indian head of state.
    It exceeded anything given to Blair.

    And what is the smartest women to see the White HOuse in recent memory (C. Rice) doing with her time?

    So wheels within wheels are always moving. Iran is being studied, perhaps encircled, actively prepared for. Yet the media circus never stops, for a hostile--and rather inept--MSM continues to mangle the Iran story, as it indeed it does all national security issues. And most foreign issues.

    (MSM's TV foreign coverage has been mocked by Tom Fenton. While CBC broadcast via DirectTV, I often chose foreign news services to hear the world's events. ABC and CBS weren't going to tell me. They stonewalled Bush's visits to Europe; I tuned to hostile but factual DWTV (Berlin) for the real story!)

    Perhaps that is to Bush's advantage. This scorned figure has successfully mounted the democratic challenge to Islamicfascism, earning blind bitterness from the world's liberal elites. While liberals everywhere have ZERO answers to the terrorists and spend all their time attacking HIM, Bush continues to make foreign policy decisions that are strong and decisive. Our world now is the result--with terrorists as the hunted.. and not the hunter.

    It is not Bush I's New World order, but it IS a world order. Large scale panic and terror are for the moment on the backburner, except where the MSM despicably exploit Iraq.

    (The MSM have very much to answer for.)

    Then why not a super optimistic stab: A future Iran, like North Korea, stays a rogue state. A prospering ME surrounds her and alert Europe and India watch nearby. Isolated she is an Islamic storm that has not necessary conditions to let her grow.

  • At Fri Aug 19, 09:07:00 AM, Jeff said…

    Good comments, John. You're right Europe should worry about a nuclear-armed Iran. Europe could be within range of missiles. Egypt would be nervous, they might be tempted to consider a nuclear program, same with the Saudis.

    About Condi Rice, that's one of things I had in mind about my comment about things being said in private. I hope she is having some frank discussions in the countries she's been visiting.

    As far as Iran being encircled, yes, you can bet Iran is nervous about. See this humorous take on that.

    The outreach to India is *very* interesting, and important. A huge democracy, a nuclear power, India could be a counterweight against China, a stick we could use to beat Pakistan with, etc... Lots of ramifications for a strategic relationship with India.

    He hasn't been perfect, but we can be very thankful Bush is President since 9/11, and not Gore.

  • At Fri Aug 19, 04:21:00 PM, Anonymous said…

    yo. your query about iran and why is it they are doing what they are doing? how baffling at times on the face of it...yet, such intrigues are their specialty for such an ancient empire skilled in such manuevers.]
    see bodansky, i am sure others like cato, brookings, rand etc have all put out opinionated policy papers:
    iran is master of war by proxy. see all their little minions in lebabnon, syria, palestine, afghanistan, chechnya, bosnia, iraq. plausible deniability and all that. everyone has done it.
    what is so odd, is the marraige of convenience of alquada - a sunni arab wahabbi inspired ideology directly oppossed to shia islam, and in this case the hated ancient foe the dreaded persians!. indeed, binladens problems with shiasm is akin to the old protestant/catholic battles of yore, he spits venom at such heretics and apostates as he calls them. yet... here he is, many of his top leutenants and some sons?! in villas in north iran(for the life of me i dont know why a delta or tomahawk strike hasnt rained down like the wrath of allah...?)playing toady to the enemy of my enemy, you see where this is going, suddenly becomes my friend.
    anyway, thats it in a nutshell. iran gets what it wants, a weak, disorganized ancient foe neutralized in iraq and it wants to wear down the US and force a withdrawl leaving them masters of the region. their billions of $ in oil revenues a month buys alot.
    yes, the scenarios have been wargammed. and this is what i think is the crux behind the euro/chinese/russian strategy. i believe they have already concluded that they can and will live with a nook armed iran. strange but true.
    it comes down to MAD theory, they think they can contain a belligerant iran because they know an attack would provoke complete annihilation. and it would. so whats the problem? lets just let everyone have them! take some home for the kids!
    it becomes much much harder to contain threats if there are dozens of armed nations. kissinger wrote a great article last fall? on the issue.
    my opinion, the cats out of the bag, an ancient nation such as the persians are going to see themselves as worthy equals to others around the region and world and as such should be accorded status and trappings befitting their percieved rightful place in the pantheon of nations. in their view, if two bit nations like the paks and north koreans can get and have nooks - with no apparent ill consequences - then they certainly will try for them.
    i personally forsee a serbia type multimonth bombing campaign until they accede to inspection and verification demands. iran is much too large and mountainous and its weapons facilities too spread out to be taken out in one strike and without boots on the ground its unverifiable anyway, so that leaves few "good" options short of letting them get away with it. if that happens, egypt will want the same toy in the playground and the saudis would just try and buy them 'to protect the holy cities'...
    invasion? minimum 5 to 7 hundred thousand troops if you ask me. the iranians are not necessarily fragmented, if read wrong and despite a desire by a sizable majority of iranians to revolt against the current regime, nationalism and patriotism could trump political grievances and they might could rise up against a percieved unjust and unwelcome invader and the current insurgency in iraq might look like childs play to a possible unified iranian insurgency, iran has 60 some million people and a fairly robust military by mideast standards and it would give a us a chore to accomplish for some, perhaps many, months.

  • At Tue Aug 23, 06:21:00 PM, Cutler said…

    Whoever you are anonymous, you think a lot like me.

    I don't think the US is prepared to raise the army it will take to deal with Iran and have control over what comes afterwards. 600-700 thousands troops is more than our entire Army, leaving nothing for contingencies and follow-on forces.

    It would take an effort far beyond what the US is prepared to do. Maybe after another big attack, but I don't see it happening.

    For that reason I think we'll have to deal with a nuclear Iran and the repercussions and continued spread of nuclear weapons.

  • At Tue Aug 23, 06:40:00 PM, Jeff said…


    Thanks for the comment. You are quite correct that a move against Iran would take enormous effort. Like you, I think (and worry, if it came to that) the United States might not be prepared to do that. But I take "prepared" to mean willing. I think it is something we are capable of, if we perceived the threat to be dire enough. I don't think we do, and decades of Iranian support for terrorism tells me we might regret letting the Iranian problem fester.

    (btw, there are some more thoughts from this same Anonymous in the comments for this post)


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