Friday, January 27, 2012

27-Jan-12: Uncommonly plain talk about the nightmare being plotted in Iran

Iran: Messianic, religious, military, commercial
and nuclear issues all rolled into one unholy complex dilemma.  
Richard N. Haass is the former Director of Policy Planning in the U.S. State Department and now president of the Council on Foreign Relations. In a short essay entitled "Answering Iran", he makes some very straight-forward assertions about is being plotted from Teheran. Here's the main statement:
We know quite a bit about Iran's nuclear program, and what we know is not encouraging. Iran is reported to be enriching uranium at two sites - some of it to levels of 20%, far beyond what is required for civilian purposes. The International Atomic Energy Agency also reports that Iran is carrying out research to develop designs for nuclear warheads. In short, Iranian officials' claims that their nuclear program is aimed solely at power generation or medical research lacks all plausibility.
Unless one's head is firmly thrust into a hole in the ground, there are some other aspects of this evolving catastrophe that ought to interest - well, just about everyone, since just about everyone stands to lose if the crazies of Teheran win. Haass points out what we don't know:
We do not know whether Iran is conducting secret activities at undisclosed sites, or when Iran could develop a crude nuclear weapon, with estimates ranging from several months to several years. We also do not know whether Iran’s divided leadership has decided to develop nuclear weapons, or to stop just short, calculating that the country could derive many of the benefits of possessing nuclear weapons without running the risks or incurring the costs of actually doing so.
Whatever we - the free world - decide to do, Haass points out that all the choices are tough or free of risk. And those risks, along with the costs that go along with them, can be calculated with certainty.

What if we accept a nuclear-armed Iran?
Given its use of subversion and terrorism against its adversaries, a nuclear-armed Iran might be even more assertive. It might also transfer nuclear-related material, technology, or weapons to allies (Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, for example) or radical organizations such as Hizbullah and Hamas. Nor can it be assumed that Iran's radical leadership would always act rationally, or that proliferation would stop with the Islamic Republic. If Iran develops its nuclear weapons, countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt would be tempted to purchase or develop nuclear weapons of their own. 
Haass sums it up as cogently as anyone else has so far:
A Middle East with multiple fingers on multiple triggers is as good a definition of a nightmare as there is.
The whole article is worth a close read.

And if you're not sufficiently rattled by it, or if you feel those much publicized sanctions are going to turn the Iranians away from the headlong race into hell, go and read an outstanding piece of analysis, "Sanctions on Iran: Ushering in the post-American world" by J. E. Dyer on the Optimistic Conservative blog site. Commander Dyer applies her acuity to an eloquent description of the Chinese (and to an extent the Russian) business model of geopolitical pressure, maneuver, and intimidation. This is a very frightening scenario.

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