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09 February 2007 Blog Home : February 2007 : Permalink

Why We Must Attack Iran

Via the Instapundit I see that Michael Barone links to an article in the Grauniad by Timothy Garton Ash explaining why we need to attack Iran ASAP in order to stop it getting a nuclear bomb of its own. Actually I'm being a tad sarcastic here because the headline says "We must stop Bush bombing Iran, and stop Iran getting the bomb" and that seems to be the thrust of Mr GA's article. Unfortunately though the facts he uses to present the case for the second part of the argument (stopping Iran getting the bomb) seem to me to override the facts he uses to claim the first part (that Bush bombing Iran would be bad). He starts off:

We should not bomb Iran to prevent Iran getting the bomb. The consequences would be disastrous. After Iraq, US or Israeli military action against this regionally powerful, oil-producing Shia muslim country would make the world a still more dangerous place. [...] But this is not enough. [...] Anyone who, after a bracing afternoon walk chanting "stop the war" and "stop Bush", goes home thinking they have made the world a safer place needs to think some more.

If we don't bomb Iran, Iran is quite likely to get the bomb. If Iran gets the bomb, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others in the Middle East will be tempted to follow. The last barriers to nuclear proliferation, already breached by North Korea, Pakistan, India and Israel, could rapidly break - in the most volatile region in the world. The risk of nuclear war will then be greater than it was in the 1980s, when CND, END and other west European peace movements marched against new US and Soviet missile deployments. The likely scale of the nuclear conflict is much smaller than a superpower nuclear apocalypse, but that in itself makes it more not less probable that an unhinged leader would take the risk.

On the available evidence, the Islamic Republic of Iran is trying to edge towards a technological position from which it could, should it choose, rapidly move towards 90% uranium enrichment and the production of nuclear weapons. The best analysis we have suggests that Ayatollah Khameini, the supreme leader of the revolutionary regime, has not made a decision to go for nuclear weapons, and it would take a number of years to get there even if he had. But Iran has been doing a number of things that are not explicable simply by a desire to have the civilian nuclear energy to which it is entitled under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

With all this I agree. I even agree that bombing Iran, at least in a Clintonesque cruise-missiles at dawn style, is probably a bad thing. However that doesn't mean I buy the rest of his argument. Shockingly I do find a lot to agree with, particularly this bit:

Last year, when it felt itself strong, with a high oil price gorging its budget, President Ahmadinejad riding high on a populist wave, and Iran rather than the US increasingly calling the shots in the politics of Iraq, it turned down the best offer it had received since the last year of the Clinton administration.

All it needed to do was to suspend uranium enrichment and the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, would have personally joined talks with Iran - something not seen from a senior US official since the Iranian revolution nearly 30 years ago.

And this bit:

If it complies [with the UN resolution], the direct negotiation can begin. If it does not, the indirect negotiation continues. Either way, we need two plans. Plan A involves mustering every peaceful instrument at our disposal to steer the Iranian regime away from its current course. We have not yet done everything we can. Broadly speaking, the US needs to offer more carrots, the EU needs to brandish more sticks. As the Baker-Hamilton commission and many US foreign policy sages have urged, the US should open bilateral talks with Iran, without conditions. It should be prepared, longer term, to offer a "grand bargain", in which it restores the full panoply of normal diplomatic and economic relations, provided Iran desists from developing nuclear weapons and (more tricky to judge and verify) supporting terrorists. We should also establish an impartial, UN-supervised system of supplying nuclear fuel for civilian purposes.

But carrots are not enough. This also needs sticks. If the military sticks are to be taken off the table, what remains are economic ones - and those are in the hands of the Europeans. Because of history and its own bilateral sanctions, the US does very little business with Iran; Europe does lots. Even if we think that economic sanctions would, in the long run, be counter-productive, we in Europe must be prepared credibly to threaten them. Since we already live in a multipolar world, we would still have a big problem bringing an undemocratic China, hungry for Iranian oil, and a bolshy Russia, on to the same course, but the buck starts here.

And this:

We need a skilful public diplomacy, media innovations like the BBC's new Farsi-language television service, people-to-people contacts, and a hundred other initiatives to inform and to open up Iranian society.

Unfortunately when we get to Plan B and the conclusion it all goes horribly wrong:

And Plan B? If all this fails, and we're not going to bomb Iran, then Plan B can only be containment and deterrence. The price to Iran of testing, let alone actually using, a nuclear device should be set very high. We should start now taking all measures we can to prevent an Iranian bomb being swiftly followed by a Saudi or Egyptian one. But I wouldn't count on this working either.

So here's the score: if we bomb Iran, the world will be a more dangerous place. If Iran gets the bomb, the world will be a more dangerous place. Conclusion: the world is likely to be a more dangerous place.

The problem is that Europe should undoubtedly do more in the stick line, but Europe flat out doesn't have a credible military to wield its stick and its politicians, not to mention the rest of the Tranzi-Koolaid sipping chattering classes, seem to have a truly amazing ability to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to dealing with genocidal regimes, from Rwanda to Darfur via Bosnia. Hence Iran's leaders can confidently ignore any threats made by European countries as being merely bluster.

Now I sort of agree that bombing is bad, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try for some other sort of attack. For example we could sponsor lots and lots of anti-regime forces and groups. The Kurds, the Azeris and the Arabs in Iran are all persecuted to some degree so and might appreciate our support, as might other minorities and people with grievences from bus drivers to students. This support could include military training and equipment and would be tied to the iranian involvement in Iraq so that it would stop when an agreement was reached that Iran stop meddling in Iraq. Iran is also heavily dependant on external suppliers for basic things like refined petroleum. Enforcing a blockade would definitely hurt it and could usefully be combined with a carrot: if you allow inspections and Russian supply of enriched uranium we'll let you rebuild your refineries.

I expect there are other possibilities: spreading Al-Sistani Shia thought far and wide to combat the more militant version that comes from Iran might be good, but they all need to be backed up by some sort of credible force and that, to put it bluntly, is something that Europe flat out doesn't have, hence bombing by America may be the only alternative.

PS A comment by "Becka" below TGA's article sums up the denial part completely:

Out trot the usual hysterics who probably still believe that Iraq was a menace to the world.

Iran is not going to kill 6 million Jews, they have never killed 6 million Jews. We killed 6 million Jews. Us, we white folk.

We nice white folk who met in Evian, France in 1938 and decided to send Jewish refugees back to Germany to avoid looking after them or avoid causing "racial" problems. No arabs attended.

Iran has never attacked a neighbour, invaded a neighbour, bombed a neighbour or any of the things that the hysterics whine about.

Israel on the other hand ethnically cleansed Palestine and continues to lie about it 60 years later, they invaded the occupied territories and steal land and slaughter the civilians and we must never tell the truth about poor little bully Israel.

WE in the west have invaded and blown to bits Afghanistan who had nothing at all to do with September 11, simply by imagining that the Taliban are Al Qaida which they are not.

Iran is not and has not ever done anything to her neighbours or us so let's all have a cold shower.

Tartanic, you are truly a deranged individual - Israel has enough nukes to destroy the world.

I think this is a recond in that I believe that every single sentence (or at least paragraph) is inaccurate.
  1. The ISG report makes it clear that Iraq had every intention of regaining WMD as soon as it could
  2. "We white folk" did not kill 6 million jews, the Germans did with some assistance from other contintental powers. Many of the rest of "we white folk" fought them
  3. Evian (and related 1938 era appeasement) should be an example of what we won't permit again (PS Iran isn't an Arab country)
  4. Iran has had a tenion filled relationship with Azerbaijan and has most definitely sponsored anti-government organizations in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan and the Occupied Territories. It also blew up Jews in Argentina and possibly elsewhere too
  5. Israel "ethnically cleansed Palestine" is about as wrong as it is possible to be. If it had actually done that then we wouldn't have 19.8% of the Israeli population being defined as Arabs (see Wikipedia and the Israeli CBS).
  6. We in the west "blew to bits Afghanistan" because
    1. Al Qaeda's leadership claimed responsibility for Sept 11
    2. Al Qaeda's leadership were based in Afghanistan
    3. The Taliban who ruled refused to hand over the Al Qaeda leadership
  7. Evidence that Iran is sponsoring unrest in both Afghanistan and Iraq is easy to find on google (links to two simple examples). Iran was also implicated in thr Khobar bombing in Saudi Arabia and proudly sponsors Hezbollah and apparently Hamas
  8. How many nukes does it take to destroy the world? I don't know but I suspect we are talking about hundreds. My understanding is that experts believe Israel has tens of warheads at most.

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin