Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

Wall Street Journal Overplaying The Iran-Taliban Connection

Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan/Central Asia, Iran by Dan on July 28, 2010

The leak of thousands upon thousands of classified Afghan war documents has created a political firestorm in Washington.  Why is anyone’s guess; most of the information that was leaked is only a confirmation of what most Americans already think about the war.

This is why I’m baffled by conservative news outlets like the Wall Street Journal, whose editors are trying to hype up charges that Iran is working with Taliban insurgents and Al’Qaeda operatives against the United States in Afghanistan.  But, like everything else contained in the Wikileaks document dump, this charge has been floating around for years.

Take this statement by former U.S. Commander Stanley McChrystal as an example.  Or this intelligence official who argued the same thing in early April of this year.

U.S. commanders and the Afghan Government have raised this assertion many times in the past two years. So why are commentators acting like the Iran-Taliban-AQ connection is some sort of smoking-gun discovery?  Given Iran’s tendency to support insurgent and terrorist networks against U.S. objectives- regardless of ideological orientation- you would hope that the editors are just writing this story to drag readers in.

Let’s not make the Iran-Taliban alliance more than it really is. The Iranian Government, the Taliban, and Al’Qaeda all have the same enemy in the United States and NATO. Other than anti-Americanism, all three groups have very different agendas in Afghanistan and in South Asia more broadly. So the idea that the U.S. now has to confront some strong, new threat is totally baseless and exaggerated. Opposing the U.S. presence is the only reason why all three are coming together, nothing more.

Remember how hostile the Taliban Government was towards the Iranian theocracy in the mid to late 1990’s? Iranians were (and still are) viewed by the Taliban movement as apostates and unbelievers. This hostility rose to new heights in 1998, when Taliban soldiers captured and assassinated eight Iranian diplomats, which almost propelled Iranian military retaliation.

This crisis may have erupted in the past, but the distrust between Iran and the Taliban is still there, which is why some in Tehran are worried about Hamid Karzai’s negotiations with Taliban leaders.

At best, the Iran-Taliban-AQ connection is shallow and convenient. When U.S. troops finally withdraw from Afghanistan, I doubt that the Iranians will be working with members of Al’Qaeda anytime soon.

-Daniel R. DePetris

Journalist Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog DirectoryStumbleUpon.com

**Comments courtesy of Marc Lynch at FP.com**


My Unpublished Letter To The Washington Post

Posted in Iran, U.S. Foreign and Defense Policy by Dan on July 18, 2010

One of the great things about having a blog is that you can publish what is “un-publishable” or rejected by newspapers and magazines.  It provides a writer with a forum of expression that is wide open, even if other forums turn down what you have to say on a specific issue.

So when I found out that the Washington Post was going to pass up on my letter about an op-ed piece that one of their columnists wrote last week, I wasn’t really angry or disappointed (ok, maybe I was for a little bit…).  The Post may have decided against it, but I still had the opportunity to release it in the blogosphere.

So here it is, word for word:

_____________________________

“Iran 101”

One of the main concerns about a nuclear-armed Iran is whether the United States would be able to contain what comes next.  Charles S. Robb and Charles Wald made it abundantly clear in their July 9 op-ed (“Sanctions Alone Won’t Work on Iran”) that it is going to be exceedingly difficult- if downright impossible- for the international community to actually constrain the behavior of a newly-empowered Tehran.

Robb and Wald do make some intellectual observations about what could happen in the Middle East as a result of an Iranian bomb, such as a strengthened Hezbollah or a more violent Iraq.  Yet they both conveniently neglect to mention the one concept that makes all of these consequences increasingly unlikely: nuclear deterrence.

Although the Islamic Republic of Iran is clearly different than the Soviet Union in an ideological sense, it is difficult to foresee how Tehran would be immune to a doctrine that has been successful at keeping nuclear peace for over six decades.  Ever since its founding, Iran’s clerical leadership has demonstrated its obsession with self-preservation, whether it’s through harsh crackdowns on summer protestors or monetary and logistical support for unsavory characters in the Middle East.

Self-preservation is a sign of rationality.  And this is precisely what Iran is: a rational state.  “Overstepping its boundaries,” as Robb and Wald suggest, would not only produce a devastating international response.  It would also destroy Iran’s Islamic government.  The mullahs would surely want to avoid such an outcome.

-Daniel R. DePetris

Journalist Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog DirectoryStumbleUpon.com


The Case Of The Mysterious Iranian “Spy”

Posted in Iran by Dan on July 16, 2010

For the past five years, much of the world has stayed on the sidelines over the U.S.-Iran squabble over Tehran’s nuclear program. The only countries that have taken a side in the dispute- or at least responded in some way- have been the really powerful members of the U.N. Security Council (the Council has already passed four rounds of economic sanctions on Iran for its refusal to provide specific information on its nuclear progress). The facts, assertions, claims, and counterclaims have basically remained consistent; the United States and the west believe that the Iranian Government is secretly building a nuclear weapons capability, while Iran insists that its only operating a peaceful program for peaceful purposes.

This same saga has been ongoing since 2003, when an Iranian dissident first broke the news about the existence of the clandestine Iranian program. A few nuclear facilities later, nothing really new has surfaced. After all this time, Washington still doesn’t know whether Iran’s Government has made the decision to cross the nuclear threshold, or whether the ayatollahs have even started researching weapons designs. In fact, U.S. intelligence agencies are still conflicted as to how long it would take Iran to assemble a single nuclear bomb in the first place; CIA Director Leon Panetta claims 2 to 3 years, while others in the government already believe that the Iranians have enough uranium for a bomb.

So when an Iranian nuclear scientist named Shahram Amiri somehow found his way to the United States, it’s safe to say that people in Washington were pretty ecstatic. When Amiri shared intimate information about Tehran’s nuke program- some of which may have been used to modify America’s 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran- Washingtonians were happier still.

But as always, there’s a problem. After a year as a resident in the United States, Amiri has decided to return home. And what’s more problematic is the reason for his departure: his lack of adjustment to U.S. culture.

As with any immigrant who arrives in the U.S., it’s difficult for a young Iranian to start a new life and meet the lofty expectations of the “American dream.” Generally, immigrants don’t see the United States in the same vein as a typical suburbanite. The big houses, green lawns, and white picket fences that have come to categorize the American lifestyle disappears quickly in the mind of foreigners trying to start a new life in America. This was particularly the case with Amiri, who not only traveled thousands of miles by himself to a strange new land, but who also had a hard time figuring out how to start living and acting as an “American.”

Amiri’s predicament doesn’t end there. His wife and young child remained a half-a-world-away in Iran, which undoubtedly added to his homesickness. Plus, lets face it; Iranian authorities aren’t known for treating relatives of defectors very well.

As of today, Amiri is back in Tehran, where he was welcomed with hugs and kisses from his family and handshakes from senior Iranian officials. It’s a happy ending to a mysterious story. But the story could have been much happier if this same family reunited on American soil. The U.S. could have done a lot more by ensuring the safety of Amiri’s wife and child. That way, perhaps the scientist with important clues into Tehran’s nuclear program would have stayed around for further questioning.

It’s a possibility that Amiri disclosed everything he knew about the Iranian program before he decided to re-defect, in which case his travel back to Tehran is a trivial afterthought. But thanks to Washington’s lack of family values, we may never know the full answer.

**By the way, Amiri’s full story is actually much more mysterious than I originally described. For a full look at his journey, check out Josh Rogin’s column at foreignpolicy.com.

-Daniel R. DePetris

Journalist Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog DirectoryStumbleUpon.com

**Comments courtesy of Josh Rogin at FP.com**


U.N. Sanctions All Glory And No Guts; Iranians Should Be Breathing A Sigh Of Relief

Posted in Iran by Dan on June 10, 2010

Iranians all giddy about the U.N.'s new sanctions resolution

The work of the U.N. Security Council is finally over after a grueling 6 months of intense face-to-face negotiations.  Late yesterday evening, the Council finally voted- and passed- a new resolution to impose a 4th round of international sanctions against Iran for its refusal to abandon uranium enrichment and for its less-than-cooperative attitude towards international nuclear inspectors.

The final draft was about 10 pages long, most of which reaffirmed what was previously said about Iran’s nuclear program a few years ago under the Bush administration: Iran needs to start acting like an honest and transparent state about its nuclear ambitions, and if Tehran continues on its present course, than a whole host of financial restrictions awaits them.  The punishments that are mentioned in the resolution include a travel ban for Iran’s most powerful officials in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a ban on military trade with the Iranian regime, economic pressure directed towards companies associated with Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs, and an ability to stop an incoming Iranian vessel if a country suspects that the ship contains military equipment.

But a far more important gesture than the list of punishments is the fact that Russia and China- two countries that have normally been Tehran’s defenders in the U.N. Security Council- went along with the American led sanctions push.  The final tally was 12-2, with one country abstaining from the vote entirely.

Sounds all well and good, correct?  Unfortunately, the financial and military restrictions could have stronger and a lot more effective.  The United States only secured Russia and China’s support after it dropped some of the more controversial aspects of the document, like an all-out ban on trade and commercial exchange with the Islamic Republic.  Overall, the sanctions are watered down to the point of meager symbolism.  Sure, all five major powers endorsed the resolution, but what’s the point of passing a resolution if the only way to gain endorsement is by weakening its measures?  This is exactly what occurred with yesterday’s U.N. vote; in exchange for its cooperation, Moscow and Beijing would still be allowed to do business as usual with the Iranians.  In fact, under the resolution’s current conditions, the Russians could sell state of the art missiles to the Iranian Government (the S-300 missile)…missiles that would make a future American or Israeli air raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities all the more difficult.

So what’s the final evaluation?  Well, overall, it’s a 50-50 split.  The United States got the support it needed to muster the vote through.  But it failed to garner a unanimous vote, with Brazil and Turkey casting “no” votes and Lebanon abstaining.  Additional pressures are intact, but they are still weak enough to let Iran squeak by without any substantial consequences.  It’s a long shot that Iran’s behavior will change.

In short, the entire process may have been a diplomatic show without any substance.  Iran will continue to enrich uranium, progress with its nuclear program, and there is nothing the U.S. can do to stop it, short of a disastrous military option.

Not much for six months worth of work.

-Daniel R. DePetris

Journalist Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog DirectoryStumbleUpon.com


Time for a Revolution in America’s Iran Policy

Posted in Iran, U.S. Foreign and Defense Policy by Dan on June 3, 2010

Harvard Professor Stephen Walt has some pointed words for President Barack Obama on his policy towards Iran…words, by the way, that I wholeheartedly agree with:

“I can’t figure out who is actually directing U.S. policy toward Iran, but what’s striking (and depressing) about it is how utterly unimaginative it seems to be. Ever since last year’s presidential election, the United States has been stuck with a policy that might be termed “Bush-lite.” We continue to ramp up sanctions that most people know won’t work, and we take steps that are likely to reinforce Iranian suspicions and strengthen the clerical regime’s hold on power. “

I’m still at a loss as to why the United States is so concerned about Iran getting a nuclear weapon in the first place. Granted, more nuclear powers is not necessarily what the country (or the world) needs right now. And the formation of a new nuclear power (especially in the Middle East) is a direct contradiction to the nonproliferation agenda the Obama administration is trying to accomplish (given Obama’s arsenal cuts with Russia and his nuclear security conference in April, it’s clear that he really does want “a world without nuclear weapons”).

But even with these setbacks- which could be categorized as minor at best- it doesn’t really warrant Washington hyperactivity on the issue. Officials in the White House and in Congress are losing a lot of hair on a problem that is not really detrimental to U.S. national security (and believe me, if you’ve looked at Congress nowadays, they need all the hair they can get). It’s almost as if they have forgotten the whole concept of deterrence…the theory that a state’s irrational behavior is kept in check by the irrationality of other states.

Contrary to popular belief, Iran is a rational actor in the international system, and one that fully understands what would happen if they in fact used a nuclear weapon against Israel or any other state. Any short-term benefits that a nuclear strike could achieve would quickly be suffocated by the strong countermeasure that would result, like the barrage of missiles and ICBM’s that would rain down on Iranian cities. And if the Iranian leadership’s number one concern is the preservation of its status and power- which is what they have demonstrated repeatedly over the past three decades- then the offensive use of nuclear weapons is not a smart policy tool anyway.

It may be time for President Obama to adopt a different stance vis-a-vis Iran. Drop American-led efforts to terminate Iran’s nuclear program (which isn’t a realistic goal anyway) and start taking a defensive posture in the broader Middle East.  Show Tehran that nuclear adventurism will not be tolerated, and send Iran a strong message that any offensive military action on their part will be met with an even stronger reaction from America and its allies.  Extending the U.S. nuclear umbrella to America’s Arab partners is just the kind of posture that Washington needs to accomplish this objective.  Just like the United States used its nuclear umbrella to deter Soviet action in Western Europe, Japan, and South Korea, the United States can deter Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf through a similar measure.

Sounds like a shallow policy prescription, but hoping that we can convince Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to change their behavior is an even shallower proposition.

-Daniel R. DePetris

Journalist Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog DirectoryStumbleUpon.com

**Comments courtesy of Stephen M. Walt at FP.com**

Speaking of Iran and Nukes…..

Posted in Iran, Middle East and North Africa by Dan on May 19, 2010

Dr. F. Gregory Gause- a professor of political science at the University of Vermont and a man whose work I widely respect- has a great piece over at FP’s newly launched “Mideast Channel” about the Saudi perception of Iran’s nuclear program.  Take a look at it, because it’s certainly worth reading if you want to obtain an accurate depiction of how the Arab world assesses Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Considering that Iran’s nuclear program has been covered so extensively in the global media, I’m a bit surprised that more scholars haven’t studied or discussed what the Saudi Government- or Saudis in general- think of Tehran’s nuclear program.  After all, it’s Saudi Arabia that has the most to lose if the Iranians do in fact go nuclear; diminished stature in the region, an Iraq under the pro-Iranian umbrella, Shia power growing at the expense of Sunnis, etc.  Surely, the Saudis would want to respond some way, somehow, perhaps with their own nuclear program (although that is certainly up for debate).

But thankfully, Dr. Gause sheds some light on the Saudi perspective.  Contrary to the overhyped American view of a messianic Iranian president waiting to launch a nuclear weapon at a second’s notice, the Saudi view is much more pragmatic and even-keeled.  Saudis are concerned about an Iranian nuke no doubt, but not because they fear that the ayatollahs would destroy Riyadh and overpower the Saudi armed-forces.  Rather, they view a nuclear weapon as a piece of leverage in the Iranian toolbox that could be used to further expand Persian influence in the Middle East.  And one way to achieve this goal is by using a nuclear bomb’s symbolic effect, which could empower other groups- like Tehran’s Hezbollah and Hamas proxies and the millions of Shias that are disenfranchised in the region- to rise up and challenge the Sunni governments of the Arab world.

This is a perspective that the United States should try to adopt, or at least try to add into the equation when evaluating what to do in the event of an nuclear-armed Islamic Republic.

Thus far, U.S. policy towards Iran has been far too limited in its orientation.  Both the White House and Congress, Republican and Democrat, seem to think that an Iranian nuke would mean the end of Israel, or the end of America’s regional clout.

Granted, Washington has an obligation to plan for all sorts of possibilities.  An Iran with a nuclear weapon would certainly act differently in the Middle East than an Iran without a viable nuclear program. But even this planning- however warranted- is redirecting government resources away from another very important aspect of the Islamic Republic…its ties to Islamic militant groups from Iraq to Lebanon.

In many ways, ties to proxies are much more effective than a nuclear weapons capability. I know it’s hard to swallow, but think about it. Proxies can be used anywhere at any time, whether it’s for the purpose of meddling in the affairs of another state (like Iraq) or diminishing the power of a rival government.  A nuclear weapon, on the other hand, cannot be used for this purpose. Of course, you can always blow up Tel Aviv, or Beirut, or Sana’a, or Baghdad to achieve your aims, but such an irrational act would bring about absolute destruction to the country that launched it (in this case, Iran). The very objectives that Iran would want to achieve would be destroyed, along with the entire country’s military establishment.

Today, a nuclear-free Tehran is able to hide behind the actions of Hezbollah and Hamas, reaping the benefits of the relationship while largely avoiding the costs that come with direct support. It’s the most valuable tool in the Iranian arsenal, and one that can be exploited without a devastating response by the United States or the international community.

None of this is to say that Iran’s strategic thinking wouldn’t change if the final screw was turned in the nuclear plant.  Nor is this to suggest that an Iranian bomb wouldn’t change the calculus of their proxies (some analysts, in fact, have argued that Hezbollah and Hamas may cause more trouble if protected under an Iranian nuclear umbrella).  What this does suggest is that the indirect value of a bomb may be more valuable to Iran’s foreign-policy than the direct use of the bomb itself.

-Daniel R. DePetris

Journalist Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog DirectoryStumbleUpon.com


Diplomacy With Iran Pays Off And Turkey’s Real Motive

Posted in Iran by Dan on May 18, 2010

The always-intellectual Stephen Walt has an interesting piece over at FP about his recent experience in Turkey.  And just in the nick of time.

Yesterday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Brazilian President Lula da Silva negotiated with the Iranian Government for an astounding 18 hours over Tehran’s nuclear program.  And from all reports- ranging from mainstream publications like the Washington Post to Middle Eastern media outlets like The Majlis– the diplomatic headaches paid off.

According to the newly-signed document, Iran has agreed to send 2,640 pounds of its low enriched uranium out of the country in exchange for 265 pounds of higher grade nuclear fuel for its Tehran research reactor.

I’m not going to speak about the new agreement right now, because in all honesty, the Brazilian-Turkish-Iranian dialogue basically produced the same thing that Iran agreed to last October.  The difference is that the United States and the U.N. Security Council were not participants in the process, and Iran has a significantly larger amount of uranium than they did earlier in the year.  In fact, one of the reasons why I’m a bit wary about this new accord is based precisely on those two elements; the big powers were not included, and the U.S. may reject it out of suspicion that Iran would still be left with a sizable portion of its uranium after the transition occurred.

Rather, what’s interesting about this entire ordeal is the participation of Turkey, and its willingness to host the fuel-swap agreement on its own soil.

Is this a just a ploy to get a couple of attention grabbing headlines in the world press, or is the Turkish Government truly worried about what could happen in the Middle East if Iran acquired the knowhow and capability of nuclear weapons production?

I don’t know the answer, but I suspect that it’s a combination of the two.  Turkey knows that the Arab world would respond in a negative way to a nuclear-armed Iran, and it surely understands the extent Israel would go to if they felt that their own security was threatened.

But they also know that hosting the deal is a great way to gain some publicity, both in the West and in the Arab world.  Prime Minister Erdogan and his party desperately (in a good way) want to improve Turkey’s stature in the international community, particularly as a pragmatic, peaceful, and tolerant country able to rationalize with the most important global actors in the world today.  And butting themselves into the world’s most contentious security dispute is a surefire way of doing this.

If the deal falls apart or if the United States and Europe don’t bless the agreement, then perhaps Turkey (and Brazil for that matter) will suffer. But if the deal somehow works- like allowing bridging the trust deficit between the west and Iran or convincing Tehran that the acquisition of nuclear weapons is detrimental to its security- then Erdogan’s credibility as a ruler and Turkey’s position as a mediator will improve significantly.

As a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and as an aspiring regional power, that’s all Turkey may want at the end of the day.

-Daniel R. DePetris

Journalist Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog DirectoryStumbleUpon.com

**Comments courtesy of Stephen Walt at FP.com**


We Should Follow Fareed Zakaria’s Advice

Posted in Iran by Dan on March 22, 2010

For anyone who is truly scared about Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, I invite you to take a look at a piece that Fareed Zakaria wrote in Newsweek a little over a week ago.  In it, Zakaria goes on a scholarly tirade about how overblown the Iranian debate has become, up to the point where some are afraid that an Iranian nuclear weapon would somehow hold the world hostage.  Israel has been advocating this stance for years, a state that views Iran as an existential threat.  Neoconservatives across the United States- the same people who lobbied the government to launch a preemptive invasion of Iraq in 2003- have taken up a similar belief.

Thankfully, we have some rational reporters (like Mr. Zakaria) that refuse to drink the Kool-Aid.  From his judgment, Iran is not an existential threat.  In fact, Iran is not even on par with the Soviet Union or Communist China when it comes to what Americans should be worrying about.  Contrary to popular belief, Iran is a state that can be deterred if it indeed crosses the nuclear threshold.  If the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, and Israel can be deterred, so can the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Believe it or not, I actually wrote about this very issue a few months ago, when Iran became the primary topic on the Sunday talk shows.  And thankfully, I am happy to say that my recommendation is exactly what Mr. Zakaria is advocating (not to pat myself on the back, because heck…If I was an expert, than perhaps my long manuscript would have been accepted by a major journal).

As Zakaria accurately notes, the main objective of Iran’s rulers is self-preservation. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are willing to do anything to stay in power. We saw this in a pretty brutal fashion this past summer, with Basij militiamen beating protesters over the head with clubs. We continue to see this today, with members of the opposition being summarily executed in show-trials, hoping that the threat of death will deter future anti-regime protests.

There appears to be nothing that the mullahs (and the IRGC generals) would do to hold onto their positions. Building a nuclear program and eventually getting nuclear warheads fits right into this calculus. With a nuclear deterrent, there is no way the United States would be foolish enough to promote regime-change through the use of force.  Among the many reasons for an Iranian bomb, regime stability is one of the biggest.

But just as it’s foolish for the U.S. to attack an Iran with a nuclear capability, it would be downright suicidal for Iran to use nuclear weapons in the first place.

What could Tehran possibly achieve with a nuclear weapon? Spreading their influence across the Persian Gulf? Well, this has already been done. Iran has proxy influence in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and in the Palestinian Territories.  While it may be true that nuclear-armed Iran would be more aggressive in the broader Middle East, this same behavior would quickly tame down if the United States adopted a serious deterrence strategy.

What about the stupid neoconservative argument that Iran would secretly give nuclear material to a terrorist organization? This too is unlikely. It has taken Iranian scientists close to a decade to develop the infrastructure and technology needed for uranium enrichment. The idea that the Iranians would simply hand-over their most prized possession to terrorists is laughable.  Any nuclear attack by a terrorist group would be solely blamed on Iran, even if there was a lack of 100 percent certainty.  And the result would be nothing short of catastrophic for the Iranian Government.

And don’t even talk about “wiping Israel of the map.” This argument is the most ignorant on the list. Destroying Israel would only invite an even bigger wrath by the United States, with Iranian cities annihilated and millions of Iranian citizens killed. Nobody wins.

This is why deterrence is such a foolproof concept, and this is why Iran (despite its fundamentalism jargon and vehement anti-Americanism) is just as susceptible to deterrence as everyone else.  Any offensive nuclear attack would be met with an even stronger reaction.

So let’s take Zakaria’s advice and stop worrying about things that are not going to happen. No one wants Iran to become a nuclear power, but the world won’t end if they do make that list.

-Daniel R. DePetris

Journalist Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog DirectoryStumbleUpon.com

**Comments courtesy of Fareed Zakaria, James Lindsay and Ray Takeyh**

IAEA Report: Iran Experiencing Difficulties But Researching Weapons

Posted in Iran by Dan on February 20, 2010

After months on the job, the IAEA has finally concluded their official report for the United Nations on Iran’s nuclear program.  And for the most part, the findings are not all that shocking….1) Iran continues to enrich uranium despite the world’s concern and 2) Iranian scientists MAY be starting to study plans for a nuclear warhead.  Notice how I emphasized the word “may,” because in the end, the IAEA only knows so much (if Iran has been good at anything over this entire controversy, it is their skill in concealing and hiding).

But overall, there is not much in the name of substance here.  Iran is doing the same thing they have been doing over the past two years; failing to answer all of the IAEA’s questions and continuing with their nuclear work. The good news is that Iranian scientists are facing a whole host of technical difficulties, which at least shows that they have yet to master nuclear technology.  The bad news is the possibility that the Iranians are now starting research on nuclear weaponization, which would deal a severe blow to the moral and confidence of U.S. intel (the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate originally stated that Iran stopped work for a nuclear warhead years earlier).

What is of significance is not even in the document.  ElBaradei is no longer the nuclear chief.  That position is now filled by someone who appears to be much more direct, assertive, and straightforward in both his language and his actions.  Instead of relying on the soft-spoken nature of the former director, Iran is now getting an earful from the IAEA.  This pressure- from an international body- could not have come at a better time.  Who knows, maybe the new IAEA report will convince China and Russia to back a fourth-round of sanctions on Iran’s economy (although I’m still skeptical that sanctions will work).

What is more, perhaps the new report will pick-up support from nation’s that were previously supportive of Iran’s nuclear program (like Brazil).  One can only hope.

-Daniel R. DePetris

Journalist Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

StumbleUpon.com

Neocon Stupidity At It’s Finest; The Players Who Want to Bomb Iran

Posted in Iran by Dan on February 12, 2010

As I was scrolling through the internet today, I happened to discover a fascinating article by David Kenner- associate editor of foreignpolicy.com- detailing the list of major players across the country who are advocating for regime change in Iran.  Of course, the list has its fair share of Bushy’s, such as former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton and Daniel Pipes of the Hoover Institution.  But to my surprise, journalists and editors were included in Kenner’s list of characters; the same journalists and editors who are supposedly hired to give the American public a fair and objective news cycle.

Naturally, bombing Iran into a submissive state and overthrowing the Islamic regime is not exactly an original idea.  The Bush administration was mulling towards a preventive strike in 2006 and 2007, and many of the same people who were supportive of the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq are now carrying their message of regime-change to Iran (thankfully, we have U.S. officials and academics like Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Harvard Professor Stephen Walt to defend the other side).  You can read Kenner’s article in its entirety right here.

But with Iran recently announcing its decision to produce higher-grade uranium for the flailing Tehran Research Reactor, the “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” crowd has started to gain an added weight to their cause.  Polls even suggest that a solid portion of Americans are in favor of military action against Ahmadinejad and his Iranian cohorts.

What all of these people fail to realize is the Iranian population’s determination in building a nuclear program of their own. The uranium enrichment process is not just supported by a few elite Revolutionary Guard Commanders…nor is it solely advanced and protected by Ahmadinejad and his conservative allies in the Iranian Government. All Iranians- regardless of political affiliation or ideological intrigue- are standing up for their nuclear rights under the NPT.

Mousavi, Karroubi, and former President Khatami- the most powerful members of the Green Movement- have said so themselves. In fact, it was Mousavi that publicly opposed last fall’s nuclear plan by the United Nations; a political move that all but forced Ahmadinejad to back off his original decision to accept the deal “in principle.”

So with most people viewing the nuclear program as an inherent part of Iranian nationalism, it seems more than counterproductive to launch a preventive air-strike.  Doing so would only strengthen a regime that is struggling to survive in the face of popular discontent.  And even if a military strike was successful, it would only boost Iranian resolve to restart the program well into the future and hide facilities deeper into the mountains and bunkers.  Adding insult to injury, Iran would probably react much the same way as any other nation whose sovereignty was violated; withdraw from the NPT and shut out the international community completely.

It appears that neoconservatives don’t understand the basics of the debate. Do your homework and maybe your ideology will gain some credibility.

I (among others) am starting to feel like a broken record.

-Daniel R. DePetris

Journalist Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

StumbleUpon.com

**Comments courtesy of ForeignPolicy.com**