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Iran makes a new nuclear advance

Iran made another step forwards towards its long held goal of obtaining nuclear weapons yesterday by restarting its uranium enrichment program.

While Iran’s long term strategic goal is quite possibly insane, it must be conceded from a Realpolitik perspective that Iran is playing a very strong hand, and their tactical moves are precise and well executed.

For Iran has played the Europeans charged with negotiating them out of their nuclear ambitions with finesse and skill. While some European figures, such as the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, have talked a good game about bringing Iran before the United Nations, others are taking measures to ensure talking is as far as it goes.

Thus, even as Iran announced plans to break the IAEA seals on the centrifuges of its Natanz uranium enrichment facility, Austrian Chancellor (and temporary president of the European Union) Wolfgang Schüssel warned that it would be premature to discuss sanctions. Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, added that “every effort must be made to convince the Iranians to return to the previous situation, to negotiations.” Mr. Solana’s idea of getting tough with the Iranians is apparently to beg them to show up for lunch.

Of course, the real negotiating tool is the United States Army, Navy, and Air Force. With American troops still in Iraq, Iran knows that it has to tread warily, but the cunning men in Tehran may well be counting that the US will not feel able to take decisive action before the 2008 Presidential elections change the political landscape in a possibly decisive way.

I personally am very pessimistic about these developments.

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39 comments to Iran makes a new nuclear advance

  • It’s Jack Straw actually.

    [Editors note: duly corrected]

  • Pete_London

    Who cares what a bunch of Europeans think anyway? We know they’re not on our side and would greet the sight of a smoking hole where Tel Aviv used to be with a shrug of the shoulders. All that remains is for a devastating joint American-Israeli strike on Iran (including – please – the Israelis taking out Ahmejidumdiddum and his pals) followed by Bush and Olmert/Netanyahu dropping their trousers in the direction of the UN.

  • Oh, Bill, Jack, whatever. The surname sure fits.

    Point is, Pete, the Americans could well be distracted soon, and I think that is what Iran is counting on. Israel will have to work by itself. That is going to be hard for them.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Another thing: the Israeli Air Force pulled off the brilliant Osirak bombing raid in 1981 and killed off – for a while – the Iraqi nuclear ambitions. It was roundly condemned at the time by the usual types. Doing such a raid on Iran is likely to prove a lot harder.

  • sesquipedalian

    Arguably with the benefit of hindsight we should have gone after Iran and made better use of the US political will window. One glimmer is that Europeans just might have more appetite with Iran than Iraq as they were more involved (Austrian PM notwithstanding). Not that feeble Euros can do anything but moan but they might influence waiverers in the US.

    It seems likely that Scott is right…Israel (with a bit of covert support from the SAS/special ops bods already there).

  • Pete_London

    Johnathan

    Yes, attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities will prove to be more difficult than theOsirak raid but it must be done. Iran will very soon have a nuclear weapon – this is intolerable. To think that Iran will not use any such weapon is extremely foolish. It is so foolish that I just cannot contemplate Israel and Washington allowing it to happen.

  • Never underestimate Washington’s appetite for foolishness.

  • Patrick

    Iran has a window of opportunity now to build its nukes.

    The US is hamstrung by the political fallout from Iraq. Bush might act in Iran but only in extremis and it might be a political suicide / exit note from him if he did.

    The EU will never say boo to a goose under any circumstances and the Iranians know it.

    The UK cannot act alone and Blair would never succedd in getting it through parliament.

    Israel is rudderless with Sharon in intensive care.

    So Iran builds.

    There are for me only 2 likely outcomes:
    1. They get away with it and we have a new member of the nuclear club with a Jew hating fruitloop on the trigger; or
    2. Israel decides unilaterally that this poses an unacceptable risk to their national security and acts alone to remove the threat and hang the consequences.

  • It’s not easy, but I’m relatively unworried about the Iranians having a bomb. Pakistan has a bomb. Musharaff could qualify as a “Jew hating fruitloop.” India has a bomb. China has a bomb. Is Ahmadinejihadi really THAT into big-time suicide bombing? And for the foreseeable future Israel will have many more bombs than Iran. Which means not just bye-bye Tehran but adieu to the Islamic and especially Arab world in general if the mullahs push the big red button. Assad and Mubarak and the Saudis haven’t given any signs of being particularly avid for Paradise quite yet. Maybe they’ve absorbed the lesson of Star Trek:

    Q – Why are there no Muslims on Star Trek?
    A – Because it’s set in the future.

  • At present Bush only has the political capital for air strikes, certainly not ground forces. Do we know where the facilities are? Are some hidden? We would need to be sure.

    The fanatical Iranian revolutionary guard could cause coalition operations in Iraq immense damage. One wonders if this is why UK/US forces are mooting active withdrawal in ’06? To ensure that their hands are free.

    The numerous bases under construction in Iraq convey that US operations in the region will not end when security is turned over to the Iraqis. American rhetoric towards Iran over the past half-decade has strengthened the hand of the clerical leadership who have seen their populace rally behind them. When external forces attack (ideologically or militarily) a nation, it tends to solidify unity; this is very unfortunate as Iranians were beginning to defy the totalitarian regime, now the Mullahs and hard-liners in Tehran have their strongest hand(Link) for years.

    Bush should have been much more subversive in his policy to Iran, such an obvious gaff (the Axis of Evil speech) expressed naivety towards global politics of LBJ proportions.

  • Earl Harding

    For quite a long time now I have been following the growth of the A Bomb club. What is very clear to me, and should be to anyone else, that todays super-technology is tomorrows dime a dozen commodity.

    Non-proliferation has stemmed the tide, but it has not held back the floodwaters. Iranian ambitions and our responses to it aside, it should now be clear that the original members of the A-Bomb club can not hold back proliferation for ever.

    What is totally myopic in my view is that there is no real discussion about how to deal with the consequences of living in a post non-proliferation world. The club is growing, and more than a few of the new members are less than fine upstanding members of the world community. And we cannot stop the growth, only slow it.

    As we are focussed on Iran, who else is quietly working away unseen developing the bomb? And how will we deal with those new threats? North Korea is a classic example of the problems we will increasingly in the future.

    The time for serious discourse on dealing with the world post proliferation is long past. That brave new world is upon us, and the old soliloquy of non-proliferation is now the mantra of the past spoken by leaders stuck in a past and paralyzed by a lack of new thoughts.

    I do not relish this new world we are approaching, but at least I am prepared to face it for what it is, and what it will be.

    Earl Harding

  • Keith

    “I do not relish this new world we are approaching, but at least I am prepared to face it for what it is, and what it will be.”
    Exactly.
    Perhaps it’s time for Western leaders to make crystal clear to new members of the A club what they made clear to Russia-a nuclear attack on the West will draw an absolutely guaranteed nuclear reprisal.

  • veryretired

    Israel will do what Israel thinks it must do, but it won’t be unilateral. The world will go WAAAAAAH!

    The US will do what the US decides to do, but it won’t be unilateral. The world will go WAAAAH!

    Europe will go WAAAAAH! That’s all it can do.

  • Exactly, Harding. Rather than viewing each new entrant to the nuclear club as an omen of doomsday, the world must think the unthinkable: nuclear weapons are just another tool of war that must be dealt with realistically. Machine guns and TNT and poison gas were subject to the same fear when first introduced. But all swords have two edges (OK, metaphorically!) There’s even some reason to think that possession of nuclear weapons makes rogue regimes think more clearly when they come to realize they’re risking their own destruction by contemplating their use.

  • Eric Sivula

    The problem Mr. Speirs, is what happens if one of the new “fingers on a button” has no concern for the results for his state if he starts a nuclear exchange.

    This is the fear expressed by Wretchard at the Belmont Club. The President of Iran belongs to a apocalyptic sect of Shia Islam. He is spending Iranian State funds to enlarge a shrine around a well from which his sect’s equivalent the Messiah is supposed to rise. His is either focused on his rewards in Paradise for destroying the Jews, or is convinved that the Hand of Allah will protect him.

    Either way, how do we disabuse of his notion before he vaporizes Tel Aviv, and sparks a regional or general nuclear war? By the time he realizes that Allah will not protect him, or that his reward is not what he wanted, the damage will be done.

    Some individuals are too dangerous to hold certain jobs, hence the reason I have always opposed the US publicly stating we will not assassinate foreign heads of state, ever.

  • Eric Sivula

    convinced* sorry.

  • pommygranate

    One of the unfortunate consequences of the US invasion of Iraq has been to drill home to leaders of all crackpot countries a very sharp message (in case any of them were not yet clear) – get nuked up or risk invasion, especially if your country is asset rich.

    Earl is right – non-proliferation is over. We have to figure out how to react to the new world order. I find that an incredibly scary thought.

    The response of Europe’s “leaders” would be comical were it not so serious. Nothing illustrates more clearly how useless and decadent Europe has become.

  • Jacob

    ” Nothing illustrates more clearly how useless and decadent Europe has become. ”

    Absolutely.

    I’m afraid, that as far as Iran goes – the US is exactly as useless and decadent !
    What use is it’s military might if it hasn’t got the balls to use it ?

  • Karl

    War is just one more big government program. – Joseph Sobran

  • Chiantishire Expat

    War is just one more big government program. – Joseph Sobran

    Oh how fucking profound. Maybe I can use Joe Sobran’s body as a fucking sand bag for the bomb shelter I will probably have to dig in a few years when some crazed Mullah lobs a nuke at my town. Jesus.

  • Keith

    No use, expat. The blast wave and gamma radiation will pass straight through a bladder full of hot air. :o)

  • Verity

    God, I hate emoticons.

    Anyway, The Telegraph’s military correspondent John Keegan has some articulate thoughts today:(Link)

  • effjay

    I’m afraid, that as far as Iran goes – the US is exactly as useless and decadent !
    What use is it’s military might if it hasn’t got the balls to use it ?

    If you think the U.S will let Iran tip a missle with a nuclear warhead without a devastating response, you haven’t been paying attention for the last 100 years.

    Posted by Jacob at January 11, 2006 10:08 PM

  • Verity

    God – that was an amusing response.

  • Amy

    Vital Perspective is reporting that Iran is going to face an emergency IAEA meeting and referral to the Security Council in the next two weeks.

  • rc

    I give this 6 months:

    http://www.f-16.net/news_article1586.html

    A triffle perhaps, but that’s not an Iraq/Afghanistan deployment. Something dramtic happens or nothing happens. I think the former will. It may take an eternity, but GWB isn’t afraid to pull the trigger if he thinks he’s being backed into a corner. He’s 2/3rd’s or more the way there now.

  • rosignol

    Dunno, rc.

    If the US was planning something serious, I’d expect them to use regular USAF (and USN & USMC), not Air National Guard- taking out hardened nuclear production sites is a mission for the pro team, not the second stringers.

    Re GWB: so far, two guys have bet their asses that GWB wouldn’t pull the trigger on them. How many times will it take for them to learn it’s a sucker’s bet?

  • chris

    We misse the point : oil, oil and oil again.

    Don’t think that Iran wants to nuke all its neighbours and especially Israel. A nuke is a life insurance. It’s dissuasion.

    The tension will grow because more and more the easy oil (cheap) will be located in middle east (irak, iran etc.).

    Iran knows very well that US will need their oil. Need and steal ? With a bunch of nuke on the shelves then it’s easier to SELL it… And to use it like a political and economical weapon.

    So once again, from a very rational point of view (far away from the crazy fanatik muslim phraseology)… Iran made perfects moves. They need the bomb. And they will have it.

    The question remains : what can we do ?

    I think : nuke them. Because the conflit won’t be avoided.

    Dont make the same mistake than Clinton in the 90′. He should have bombed North Corea.

    It’s a perfect trap : we act, and then it’s global war (muslim against west) or we don’t act and war will happen later (because of oil).

  • “Second stringers”? You have that upside-down. By far, the greater amount of tactical experience is in the Air Guard and Reserve.

  • syn

    Oil? The Mullahs don’t care about the oil, they care about the Caliphate imposed by any Jihadist means necessary. Really, did Britain ban piggies in the name of the oi? Are honor killings done in the name of oil? Has oil mucked the infidel’s dhimmitude minds or what.

  • Verity

    Good, syn. Are stonings to death of homosexuals in the name of oil, or Allah?

    Rosignol – Good point. When are they going to learn, in the face of all the evidence, that George Bush does what he says he will do?

  • Verity

    Amy writes: Vital Perspective is reporting that Iran is going to face an emergency IAEA meeting and referral to the Security Council in the next two weeks.

    Oooh, err.

  • rosignol

    There’s a report going around that a senior Russian official has told SecState Rice that when the issue is referred to the UNSC, Russia will abstain instead of voting against.

    Anyone care to predict which way China will jump?

  • Rik

    Anyone care to predict which way China will jump?

    Yes, that’s not too hard: theyll vote against action. Why, you ask? Well, don’t you read? Iran has just agreed to sell natural gas to China for the next 25 years. I’m sure the Chinese don’t care about who’s in charge, as long as get their gas, but they do care about damaged installations. Russia will certainly vote no and increase anti-Amerikanski propaganda, for fear of seeing Russian engineers sentenced for helping the Iranians building installations.
    My sources: the EUreferendum (dr. North) and The Adventures of Chester, especially: (Link). The “chester” post is really, really long, but it contains an enormous amount of valuable stuff.. Did you know, for example, that Israel has more strike-first capacity than the US Airforce? I did not.

  • David

    I figure the U.S. administration is playing a waiting game. The longer it waits, the stronger its hand. Here’s why:

    1. Allows the intelligence services more time to build target database.

    2. Allows military more time to prepare
    2a. More time to refine and exercise plans
    2b. More time to bring new equipment (F-22) on line
    2c. Troop drawdown in Iraq will free up forces for operations in Iran

    3. MOST IMPORTANT: Discredit UN and EU. By sitting in the shadows biding their time, the U.S. allows the entire world watch the utter inability of the UN and EU to address this issue.
    3a. This builds U.S. credibility when it finally tells the world, “We’ll take care of the problem. Our way.”

    My prediction: Once the crisis reaches a peak, when it appears that Iran is on the brink of mating a nuclear device to missile, then the U.S. will engage in intense diplomatic activities which will lead to the utter exposure of UN and EU ineptitude. The Europeans will be revealed as poseurs and 1930s-style appeasement weaklings. Then the U.S. will launch its attacks, telling the world, “What else could we do, wiat until Italy and Greece go the way of Israel?”

    That’s my prediction, we’ll see in the next year or so if I call it correctly.

  • Denise

    “Did you know, for example, that Israel has more strike-first capacity than the US Airforce? I did not.”

    Rik, this does not surprise me one bit. Israel, to be so tiny, actually does have a kick ass military that no one should want to mess with. To go against Israel is to cut one’s own throat whether one knows it or not. One of the many reasons they are our ally, I might add! Many times, the US has restrained Israel all because other countries have persuaded us to. But every dog has it’s day and when that day comes, we’ll give Israel the green light to unleash whatever they have whenever they see fit.

    That is if the US isn’t too far gone being eaten up by the disease called LIBERALISM by then. But many folks like me are the disease fighters here, we’re far from being dead yet and believe me, JACOB, WE DO HAVE THE BALLS!!!

  • pommygranate

    Anyone catch this in The Business this week?

    Pretty accurate summary of events

  • Comments about Israel remind me of what Ben Gurion used to call his armed forces: Poor little Samson.