Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Now or Never

Some more developments of note on the regime that will be the fuse of Armageddon....

Cap'n Ed cites All Things Beautiful pointing to a Ha'aretz report on the Iranian nuclear program that shows Iran has not only used the ostensible effort for domestic nuclear power as a front for its weapons program, but that the Iranians have been developing this weapons program for longer than first thought - a decade at least. Which shouldn't be any surprise, since I recall vividly Bill Clinton confronting Boris Yeltsin over Russia's assistance to Iran's nuclear ambitions in 1995 and Yeltsin retorting that Clinton should talk after giving North Korea two nuclear reactors.

Thus, there is nothing new about Iranian nuclearization, the length of time they've been at it already blows the recent "ten year" estimates for Tehran building the Bomb straight out the nearest airlock, and this is one more national security disaster that can be accurately blamed on Sick Willie.

But not entirely, as George W. Bush seems determined to avoid doing anything about it.

Remember his post-9/11 declaration that "either you are with us or you are with the terrorists"? Not only have the mullahs, by definition, been at war with us since 1979, but they may have clandestinely entered our war against the Taliban less than a month after Unholy Tuesday:

Iran secretly agreed to assist the Taliban in its war against U.S. forces in October 2001, according to the transcript of a high-level Taliban official's tribunal session at Guatanamo Bay, Cuba….

[T]he recently released transcript corroborates earlier reporting on Iran's cooperation with the Taliban, as well as al Qaeda. Afghani opposition sources reported in early 2002 that the Iranians helped Taliban and al Qaeda members escape approaching U.S. forces through the Herat province.

For example, Time Magazine reported:

An adviser to [Herat] warlord Ismail Khan told Time that shortly before the U.S. bombing campaign began in October, a high-ranking Iranian official connected to the hard-line supreme leader Ayatollah Khameini had been dispatched to Kabul to offer secret sanctuary to Taliban and al Qaeda fugitives. The Iranian official was apparently trapped in Kabul during the bombing, and remained there until the Northern Alliance took control of the city. Although the Iranians despised the Taliban for their persecution of Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan, their hatred for the U.S. may have run deeper.And, according to sources in Herat, the Taliban and al Qaeda took the Iranians up on their offer. Shortly before Herat's Taliban garrison fled in November, a convoy of 50 off-road vehicles carrying some 250 senior Taliban and al Qaeda members allegedly crossed over into Iran, using a smugglers' route through the hills about 20 miles north of the city. A Western diplomat in Afghanistan claims that groups of Taliban and al Qaeda are still threading their way through the mountains of central Afghanistan and heading for the Iranian border. "The Iranian Revolutionary Guard has an eye on everything that happens along the border," says the diplomat. "Of course they know that Taliban and al Qaeda fighters are getting across."

Iranian assistance to and collaboration with al Qaeda continues to this day. That would certainly seem to bring Iran under the umbrella of the post-9/11 congressional war resolution authorizing the President to wage war against al Qaeda and all state sponsors. Add their brazen, unconcealed drive to join the "nuclear club" and giving the mullahgarchy the war they think they want becomes a no-brainer.

Instead, as Brother Meringoff marvels, doubtless with a horrified wonderment, the Bushies is "concentrating on diplomatic initiatives":

The Administration has succeeded in advancing the ball on the diplomatic front. As the [Washington] Post notes, it has brought the issue to the Security Council, which is expected to declare Iran in violation of nuclear traaty obligations and demand that it suspend uranium enrichment. If Iran fails to do so, the next step would probably be an attempt to impose economic sanctions. Here, however, difficult questions arise - will Russia and China support tough sanctions; would even tough sanctions be enough to cause Iran to forego the development of nukes?

Was twelve years of it enough to cause Saddam Hussein to forego his WMD? Do chickens have lips?

Even as a rhetorical question this is an insult to the intelligence of the reader. Indeed, reading the commentaries even on center-right megablogs gives me the creeps-inducing premonition that viewers used to get from the standard Twilight Zone episode, like I'm the only person on the planet who can see what's really going on and everybody else is wallowing in a collective self-deluding psychosis.

Mr. Morrissey, for example, devoted a moderately lengthy post to the unpopularity of the nuclear standoff with the West with the Iranian people. Which may be true, but couldn't be any less relevant to the resolution, or lack thereof, of this crisis, anymore than Russian public opinion had any bearing on the outcome of the Cold War. The Iranian people are slaves, bystanders to their own fate. Maybe that would be different if, over the past quarter century, we had ever rendered them any assistance to overthrow the mullahs - i.e. seeded an Iranian insurgency - but we didn't, and George W. Bush has been no different.

The White House's "diplomatic initiatives," as well as Europe's, are as irrelevant as the Iranian people. What does it matter if Tehran rejects Russian enrichment of their uranium? What difference does averting a Security Council "showdown" make since the Russians will veto any sanctions resolution regardless, and if they don't Red China will? And, again, when have economic sanctions ever successfully coerced any dictatorship, much less one fronted by somebody a couple scarves short of a kaffiyeh?

The only thing these "diplomatic initiatives" are doing is sending a mixed message of confusion and disarray. There's no coherent campaign on the part of the Bush Administration to methodically go through the whole UN process with the certain knowledge that military action will be triggered at the end of it, as was the case with Iraq. The White House is so muddled and cowed about what to do about the spectre of nuclearized Islamism that they're dangling sabers and rattling carrots, and doing an all around convincing impression of how a Kerry administration would have handled things. And that's scary, given that the Iranians are threatening us with "harm and pain" if we so much as get this issue to the Security Council. This could be a new terror offensive or naval action to shut down the Strait of Hormuz in an attempt to inflict an oil supply shock on Western economies. Which would be yet another act of war.

And war is what the mullahs want:

In Iraq, Iran is in control of intelligence and security apparatus in the fledgling, incoherent, compromised Iraqi government. The Shia of Iraq have more weapons than the U.S. forces in Iraq, and Iran, in control of the Shia militants, can adjust to any U.S. plan.

In the nuke confrontation, Iran is indifferent to the UN sanctions because it already is a nuclear armed power and is eager to demonstrate its fierceness in confrontation or in a strike-counterstrike scenario. Iran's surrogates in Iraq, in Al Q, in Lebanon and Gaza and the West Bank are ready to attack Israel and the U.S. to harass and undermine confidence in the American security regimes of Iraq and Israel.

Ahmadinejad, the IRGC and the Council of Elders (mullahs) have prepared the Iran defenses not only to ride out a US/Israeli air strike but also to retaliate with a full range of weapons against the U.S. and against the Persian Gulf shipping lanes.

To this end, Iran declared operational this news cycle an Iran built mini-sub that can hide on the uneven bottom of the Gulf and threaten all U.S. tactics to keep the Straits open for supertankers. Iran has also launched new patrol boats in the Caspian Sea to threaten the strategic oil source of Azerbaijan, now under the U.S. umbrella.

Also, there is much noise on signals about a "big bang" sometime between March 21 and April 6: perhaps a strike on Israel, perhaps a strike similar to the Marine barracks of '83. In any case a strike that will humble the Bush Administration and intimidate the EU.

Iran regards the UN crisis meeting over the next weeks, pursuant to the referral from the IAEA to the Security Council, to be validation of its strategic position to challenge the Great Satan and its allies. Iran regards all condemnations from the UN as an endorsement of its decision to stand and resist. And Iran is assured that in any event, no matter how strong the words at the UN, Russia and China will not agree to sanctions. And even if there is a partial blockade by other means, the borders are porous and/or negligible.

Iran wants oil at $80 to $100 per barrel. At the same time it is hurting the dollar by selling oil at a discount on a bourse in Tehran that accepts Euros, not dollars, for oil. Iran is cocky, apocalyptic, resolute, cunning, disciplined, unafraid of martydom. It will not climb down from the fight. It will challenge the U.S. with words and deeds; it will not surrender.

Not content to pop the Administration's self-deluded bubble with that "war warning," John Batchelor continued, relentlessly, the next day:

There is no visible solution. Those who speak breezily of a diplomatic solution have not read the 1945 UN Charter. Chapter Seven, article 42, looms, a collective action of air, sea, land forces for demonstrations, blockades and interventions to be launched by a vote of the Security Council, with full compliance by five perms. The vote is binding. Getting to the vote will be a struggle, but the vote is the trigger. Jaw jaw leads to war war. Iron tongues followed by iron weapons.

Source says Iran welcomes the confrontation. Source says that Iran will watch the five perms talk, and if there is an indication of collectivity, Iran will act to provoke the US or Israel in order to split the five. Iran is not a rational actor. It is a messianic state. It will shatter the Security Council with falsehoods and cash and intrigue.

When and if the Security Council breaks down, the US is left to defend itself. Iran knows this.

Iran is planning for the necessity of preemption with a surrogate attack on Israel, or with a staged incident over its national sovereignty (airspace, coastal waters) is a credible and effective scenario. Iran knows that the Bush Administration has low approval rate with the American public because of Iran's black hand in Iraq and because of plain clumsy over-promising by the White House. Iran knows that a darting attack on a US target, or on a US ally, that is not answered in kind, will confirm Iran's ascendancy. Meantime, the oil weapon is the flame turned up on the frogs.

Consider this a war warning, 2. The UN is near to joining the League of Nations, ashes. We are in the final days of global trust. Iran is consistent and extremely confident. Repeat, it is not a rational actor. It cannot and will not climb down.

And what is their endgame objective? Once more, Michael Ledeen spelled it out:

Michael A. Ledeen, a former consultant to the National Security Council and to the U.S. State and Defense Departments delivered scathing testimony on Iran to the House Committee on International Relations this week, citing his fear "that the obsession with the nuclear question often obscures the central policy issue: That the Islamic Republic has waged war against us for many years and is killing Americans every week."

The author of the book The War Against the Terror Masters held little back from the lawmakers with such polemics as, "They want us dominated or dead. There is no escape from their hatred, or from the war they have waged against us. We can either win or lose, but no combination of diplomatic demarches, economic sanctions, and earnest negotiations, can change that fatal equation. They will either defeat us, or perish."

Ledeen then brought up something about which I have speculated in this very space:

"They might even be able to direct [nuclear weapons] against American territory from one or more of the Latin American countries with which the mullahs are establishing strategic alliances.

"The mullahs make no secret of their strategy; just a couple of weeks ago, when the leader of Hamas was received in honor in Tehran, a photograph of the event was released, in which there was a colorful poster of President Ahmadi-Nezhad and Supreme Leader Khamenei along with Castro, Morales and Chavez.

"The mullahs would be pleased to nuke Israel, and they would be thrilled to kill millions of Americans."

The cold, brutal reality is, they are going to attempt these things no matter how much we "concentrate on diplomatic initiatives" and try to practice "constructive engagement" and troll for "moderate" mullahs with whom we can "do business." The cold brutal reality is: war with Iran is inevitable. It cannot be finessed, it cannot be deterred, and it cannot be avoided. Not because the mullahs cannot be reasoned or bargained with, though both are true; but because it is too late to stop them. We've had twenty-seven years to put a stop to the Islamic Republic short of all-out war and we have not availed ourselves of the opportunity. Now that they have, or shortly will have, nuclear weapons, that time has run out.

Think about that: the most dangerous regime on the planet since Adolph Hitler's has been allowed - by George W. Bush - to become a nuclear power. And now "regime change" in Tehran has become a whooooole lot more complicated. Yet we have no choice, because the decision of war and peace is no longer in our hands, but is passing into those of the turbaned maniacs who want us all "dominated or dead."

That leaves us with the choice of war on our terms or war on theirs. We had best stop wasting any more time before even that option is taken from us - plus a whole lot more.

UPDATE 3/16: Jim Geraghty is on board the "neorealist" bandwagon:

Does anybody really think that we’ll never be at war with Iran? Prospects for a peaceful resolution aren’t looking so hot. Let’s get our game faces on in case those who would threaten us start testing our wills.

We’ve got the moral high ground, and the world ought to fear Ahmedinijad’s finger on the button a lot more than another American bombing campaign. Let’s lay the groundwork. Let’s be honest with ourselves about our multitude of bad options: chances are, we can have a big, ugly fight in the near future, or a bigger, uglier fight a little later.

The Autolite man couldn't have put it any better himself.