Sunday, April 16, 2006

Political news of the week, take 9b - Iran special edition

[See also: political news of the week takes 9a, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1.]

The Iran Plans: Would President Bush go to war to stop Tehran from getting the bomb? - An article by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker that started many discussions about Bush's policy towards Iran.
The Bush Administration, while publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack. Current and former American military and intelligence officials said that Air Force planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups. The officials say that President Bush is determined to deny the Iranian regime the opportunity to begin a pilot program, planned for this spring, to enrich uranium.


There is a growing conviction among members of the United States military, and in the international community, that President Bush’s ultimate goal in the nuclear confrontation with Iran is regime change. Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has challenged the reality of the Holocaust and said that Israel must be “wiped off the map.” Bush and others in the White House view him as a potential Adolf Hitler, a former senior intelligence official said. “That’s the name they’re using. They say, ‘Will Iran get a strategic weapon and threaten another world war?’ ”

A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was “absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb” if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do “what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,” and “that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.”


One of the military’s initial option plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites.
U.S. Is Studying Military Strike Options on Iran:
Preparations for confrontation with Iran underscore how the issue has vaulted to the front of President Bush's agenda even as he struggles with a relentless war in next-door Iraq. Bush views Tehran as a serious menace that must be dealt with before his presidency ends, aides said, and the White House, in its new National Security Strategy, last month labeled Iran the most serious challenge to the United States posed by any country.

Many military officers and specialists, however, view the saber rattling with alarm. A strike at Iran, they warn, would at best just delay its nuclear program by a few years but could inflame international opinion against the United States, particularly in the Muslim world and especially within Iran, while making U.S. troops in Iraq targets for retaliation.
We are children of the Cold War, and we learned nothing - An opinion piece by PZ Myers responding to the two articles above.

Bush: Talk of Iran attack 'wild speculation':
Bush addressed the issue [of his administration planning to attack Iran with nuclear weapons] during comments at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.


"... We hear in Washington, you know, 'prevention means force.' It doesn't mean force necessarily. In this case, it means diplomacy.

"And by the way, I read the articles in the newspapers this weekend. It was just wild speculation, by the way. What you're reading is wild speculation. Which is, kind of a -- you know, happens quite frequently here in the nation's capital."

Earlier Monday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan used the same term as president to describe a New Yorker magazine article that said the White House has considered striking underground nuclear sites in Iran.


McClellan called Hersh's article "hyped-up reporting based on anonymous" former officials outside the White House who are not familiar with the administration's thinking on Iran.

When pressed on whether the Bush administration has left nuclear strikes on the table as an option, McClellan declined to confirm or deny the essence of the New Yorker report.
Rumsfeld: Iran attack talk in 'fantasy land':
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday he would not engage in "fantasy land" speculation about a possible U.S. attack on Iran, though he said the Bush administration is concerned about Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

"The United States of America is on a diplomatic track," Rumsfeld said.
U.S. intelligence agencies say Iran is years away from building nukes:
U.S. intelligence agencies say Iran is several years away from being able to produce enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear weapon, the nation's chief intelligence analyst said Thursday.

The nation's 16 intelligence agencies haven't changed their view of Iran's capability, said Thomas Fingar, chairman of the National Intelligence Council.

That's despite Iran's announcement Tuesday that it had mastered the ability to enrich uranium for a civilian nuclear reactor, raising the possibility it could make a bomb.

"Our timeline hasn't changed," said Fingar, a top analyst for intelligence chief John Negroponte.


White House spokesman Scott McClellan said President Bush was skeptical about a peaceful resolution to the standoff with Iran, "given the regime's history."
Bombs That Would Backfire - An editorial in the New York Times by Richard Clarke and Steven Simon that looks at why the US decided not to bomb Iran in the 1990s, and draws parallels to today's conflict:
So how would bombing Iran serve American interests? In over a decade of looking at the question, no one has ever been able to provide a persuasive answer. The president assures us he will seek a diplomatic solution to the Iranian crisis. And there is a role for threats of force to back up diplomacy and help concentrate the minds of our allies. But the current level of activity in the Pentagon suggests more than just standard contingency planning or tactical saber-rattling.

The parallels to the run-up to to war with Iraq are all too striking: remember that in May 2002 President Bush declared that there was "no war plan on my desk" despite having actually spent months working on detailed plans for the Iraq invasion. Congress did not ask the hard questions then. It must not permit the administration to launch another war whose outcome cannot be known, or worse, known all too well.
Talking Sense On Iran - A Nation blog post by John Nichols (sent to me by my dad - thanks!) about a congressman with a very level-headed view of the situation in Iran:
What will the U.S. do about Iran? Sanction? Bomb? Invade?

How about... nothing.

That's right, nothing.

So suggests a Republican member [Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas] of the U.S. House who has been sounding the alarm in Congress about the rush to act against what he dismisses as nothing more than "the next neocon target."

... [what follows are excerpts from a speech Rep. Paul gave to the House last week.]

Iran does not have a nuclear weapon and there's no evidence that she is working on one -- only conjecture.

If Iran had a nuclear weapon, why would this be different from Pakistan, India, and North Korea having one? Why does Iran have less right to a defensive weapon than these other countries?

If Iran had a nuclear weapon, the odds of her initiating an attack against anybody-- which would guarantee her own annihilation-- are zero. And the same goes for the possibility she would place weapons in the hands of a non-state terrorist group.


There's been a lot of misinformation regarding Iran's nuclear program. This distortion of the truth has been used to pump up emotions in Congress to pass resolutions condemning her and promoting UN sanctions.

IAEA Director General Mohamed El Baradi has never reported any evidence of 'undeclared' sources or special nuclear material in Iran, or any diversion of nuclear material.

We demand that Iran prove it is not in violation of nuclear agreements, which is asking them impossibly to prove a negative. El Baradi states Iran is in compliance with the nuclear NPT required IAEA safeguard agreement.


Anti-Iran voices, beating the drums of confrontation, distort the agreement made in Paris and the desire of Iran to restart the enrichment process. Their suspension of the enrichment process was voluntary, and not a legal obligation. Iran has an absolute right under the NPT (nuclear proliferation treaty) to develop and use nuclear power for peaceful purposes, and this is now said to be an egregious violation of the NPT. It's the U.S. and her allies that are distorting and violating the NPT. Likewise our provision of nuclear materials to India is a clear violation of the NPT.

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