Sunday, January 29, 2006

Our Bad Iranian Options

I'll admit that I like this column because it echoes what I've been saying for a while. Still, it's a good piece worth reading. Robert Kagan, author of one of my favorite short books on recent US-European relations, writes about our Iranian options in the Washington Post.
If an air and missile strike could destroy Iran's nuclear weapons program, it might seem the best of many bad options. But the likely costs outweigh the benefits. ... Unless we were prepared to escalate, ultimately to the point of taking down the regime, we could end up in worse shape than when we began.

Then Kagan entertains a little wishful thinking. Maybe, just maybe, if we keep our fingers crossed and eat all our vegetables, we can support domestic regime change. [If you listen closely, you can hear me laughing.]

Still, Kagan is a smart guy. He returns to the real world.
But we shouldn't delude ourselves. Efforts to foment political change won't necessarily bear fruit in time to prevent Iran from acquiring a bomb. That may be the risk we have to take. But if this or the next administration decides it is too dangerous to wait for political change, then the answer will have to be an invasion, not merely an air and missile strike, to put an end to Iran's nuclear program as well as to its regime.
Now more than ever it is important that we not delude ourselves. The stakes are too high and the threats all too terrible.


The Anti-Jihadist said...

I think the Bush Administration has pretty much shot its political wad with the whole Iraq intervention, which means there's no political cred left to use for moving against Iran in any meaningful way. In other words, American pre-emptive military action is, at this stage, politically impossible.

Despite GOP "control" of the Congress, it's quite possible (and likely) that Bush couldn't get a "attack Iran" resolution passed or approved by that esteemed body even if he tried.

Britain has already ruled out using force against the mullahs, and the Aussies couldn't contribute anything more than battalion strength. So much for building another "coalition of the willing".

Condi's State Department seems to be leading the charge to use diplomacy at all costs (i.e. appeassement) with Teheran. I don't understand this suicidal foolishness, as it takes two parties acting in good faith to ever have effective negotiations. How can a regime like Iran ever act in good faith with parties they have long deemed to be enemies? Iran has already issued defacto declarations of war against Israel, the US, and the Anglo-Saxon world. It's nothing new--it's been Iranian government policy for many years.

Diplomacy is worse than useless -- it gives the 'international community' a false sense of progress, and provides the mullahs a means to stall and buy time for their Manhattan Project.

Israel is the wild card. With a nuclear strike force of their own, their very national existence at stake, and a history of acting pre-emptively against their enemies, Israel can be expected to not stand idly by as they are backed up against the wall.

However, any operation against Iran by Israel will have significant challenges. Iran is at the extreme range for the IAF, accurate and up-to-the-minute intelligence is going to be critical and probably lacking, and Israel would have to hit 100-300 targets simultaneously and/or repeatedly. Just getting to the targets (the near impossibly of obtaining overflight permission, or sneaking assets 2000km to the target zones) is going to be a tall order, to say the least.

Regardless of what happens, it's going to be interesting. How's that for an understatement?

David Schantz said...

The cost of attacking Iran could outweigh the benefits because our back door is still wide opened. Before we even think about attacking Iran or changing it's policies we must secure our own borders.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

Pastorius said...

Of course, the anti-Jihadist is not American, so he/she, is not aware that there was a poll, publishied yesterday, which shows that Americans overwhelmingly support military action against Iran.

On the other hand, I agree with Thomas the Wraith, there is very little chance that "regime change" will work in Iran.

I'm sick of listening to such calls. It ain't gonna happen.

Jason Pappas said...

First of all, Iran isn't holding back because we haven't attacked. The idea that Iran is peaceful but will change is just not true. They will use their military and terrorist tools eventually—on their time scale if not ours. These tools are not for defense.

Secondly, Kagan, who I enjoy reading, is wrong that a failed uprising will leave Iran no worse off. Most European countries (Hungry, Czechoslovakia, China) tried only once in a lifetime. When we failed to support the Shiites in Iraq in 1991, we destroyed any ability to getting the Shiites to step up and take the reins from that point on. This is one of the problems today. It’s taken a long time to get them to believe they won’t be slaughtered for trying to assume power.

Of course, Kagan is right, you don’t know how far you’ll have to go if you start military action. But you also don’t know if the regime will crumble from internal forces if you start such action. There is no way of planning military action in any place of the world and take for granted the human factor. People aren’t machines.

Israel is a likely choice to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and we’ll allow it to fly over Iraq. But Israel will be seen as part of our effort. We’ll have to be ready to be ready to respond militarily if Iran decides at that point to move forward with plans already in place. But we’ll have to do that anyway, eventually. Right now Iran is only holding back because we are getting rid of their enemy: the Sunni Iraqis. I suspect that they are asking the Iraqi Shiites to hold back while we finish the job of weakening the Sunnis. We’ll know for sure after Israel attacks.

With a nuclear umbrella, Iran can support a conventional incursion into Iraq without the worry of an invasion. My guess is that after the Shiites in Iraq are confident they’ll ask us to leave. At some point a pro-Iranian faction may get power but refuse to relinquish it in another election. They will ask for help from Iran. This is similar to the Soviet invasions. They were often requested by domestic Communists to secure or regain power.

Destroying Iran’s nuclear program may push it off for another decade (like it did in Iraq) and that will buy time. Iran’s acquiring nuclear weapons will give it control of most of the region. The cost of fighting limited-wars against a nuclear power or their allies is far greater than the current war (see Korea or Vietnam, for example.) It won’t happen.

Bush will most likely let the problem fall to the next administration, which will take action even if it is a Democratic one.

Buying time is important as people need to learn about Islam. However, Iran's gaining control of a major part of the Middle East will also shock people as Hitler's invasion of Poland and the USSR's conquest of Eastern Europe. It's a more costly way for people to wake up. I'd prefer we buy time.

Epaminondas said...

I keep reading that any action will drive oil prices out of sight. I keep reading that the best we can do will be to delay, not end the nuke building by the Khomenoids.

I also agree that IF domestic regime change, or regime change via special forces + laser guied daisy cutters properly used in repeated decapitation attacks was to occur this would be the best answer.

I also read in Timmerman's tomes that the Iranian oil fields are like the Iraqi ones - rusting infrastructure, and that was a major reason they tried to get Conoco-Texaco to come back during Clinton.

Let's think outside the box.

We have approached the Rubicon in the war against jihadi salafism in Afghanistan and Iraq, but we haven't yet even named the river, let alone cross it.
We're going to have to. Let's be sure we do it at a time and place of our choosing