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Is it too late to stop Iran's nuclear weapons?

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Update from AIJAC

September 4, 2007
Number 09/07 #01

Iran is claiming that it has met its target of 3000 centrifuges, which is enough, if working properly, to enrich uranium for one bomb per year. However, the International Atomic Energy Agency disputes this claim.

In the lead story of this Update, the Jerusalem Post asks two questions - does this claim mean it is too late to stop Iran's nuclear programs, and why is Iran boasting about its violations of binding UN Security Council resolutions? The paper argues that in fact, the boasting is an effort to create a belief that it is too late to do anything about Iran's nuclear efforts. It points to the timing of the recent claims after US President Brush re-asserted his strategy of economic sanctions on Iran which, the paper says, can still work. For the Post's argument about what Iran is attempting to do, CLICK HERE.

Next up, military historian Victor Davis Hanson argues that the time has not yet come for the US to consider a military strike on Iran because there are signs the current strategy is starting to bite. He cites in particular changes in European attitudes and a remarkable statement by new French President Sarkozy. He also cites American successes in Iraq  against Iranian proxies and agents and other signs that the winds of change may be ever so slowly turning away from Iran today. For this full analysis of where efforts to stop Iran's nuclear drive currently stand,  CLICK HERE.

Finally, we bring you the latest example of the sort of irrationality that worries many close observers of Iran when others claim that Iran can be seen as a rational actor whom we can rely on deterrence to control. Iranian President Ahmadinejad is claiming that he has proven that the Americans will definitely not act against the nuclear program. He says he knows this not only because God has promised this, but because, as an engineer, he has proven this mathematically. For this latest example of seeming Iranian  over-confidence and irrationality, CLICK HERE.


Editorial: Not too late on Iran

Jerusalem Post, Sep 2, 2007 23:16

Iran claims it has reached the magic number of 3,000 centrifuges, the level often cited in the West as the one at which Teheran's mullahs could enrich enough uranium to produce one or two nuclear weapons a year.

"We have more than 3,000 centrifuges working and every week a new set is installed," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying on Sunday.

To some, Teheran's boasts in the face of two UN sanctions resolutions, with a third ostensibly in the works, might seem foolish. Iran's brazenness certainly does reach bizarre extremes, including dancers performing while holding capsules of uranium hexaflouride, the gas produced by the centrifuges, during a ceremony in Mashhad, Iran's holiest city, earlier this year.

This behavior is no mystery, however, when seen in the light of Teheran's clear strategy: to convince the West that it is already too late to stop an Iranian bomb. The mullahs evidently think that the moment such a conclusion is reached, complacency toward the inevitable will set in, and the West will focus on how to accommodate, rather than prevent, the reality of a nuclear Iran.

It is likely no coincidence that Iran stepped up its attempt to present its nuclear drive as a fait accompli just days after President George Bush unleashed a string of articulate speeches defending his policies, further detailing the case against Iran, and tying together the Iranian threat with the war in Iraq and other attacks on Western interests.

In a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on August 22, Bush did not mention Iran, but devastatingly quoted expert opinion from just after World War II, which overwhelmingly held that a democratic Japan was an utter impossibility. They were wrong, Bush said, quoting one historian who later observed: "Had these erstwhile experts had their way, the very notion of inducing a democratic revolution would have died of ridicule at an early stage."

Bush also pointed out that it would have been disastrous to have abandoned South Korea to the northern invaders, as many Republicans suggested at the time, and said those who argued that Vietnam and Southeast Asia would benefit from American withdrawal failed to anticipate the humanitarian catastrophe, including the Cambodian genocide, that quickly ensued. In his speech to the American Legion on August 28, Bush dealt with the Iranian threat directly: "Iran... is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. Iran backs Hizbullah, who are trying to undermine the democratic government of Lebanon.

"Iran funds terrorist groups like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which murder the innocent, and target Israel, and destabilize the Palestinian territories. Iran is sending arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan... [and] has arrested visiting American scholars who have committed no crimes and pose no threat to their regime. And Iran's active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust." Most pointedly, Bush pledged: "We will confront this danger before it is too late."

This brings us back to Iran's strategy, which is to show that it is already too late. It is not too late, but Iran is right that Western complacency is its principal ally in paving the road to nuclear-backed hegemony.

It is such forces of resignation that Bush is belatedly fighting, essentially single-handedly, with his recent string of speeches. Not only are many key European governments unconvinced that they need to sacrifice commercial interests to confront Iran, but it safe to say that even the US State and Defense departments are not adverse to contemplating deterring Iran rather than confronting this threat "before it is too late."

In this climate, Israel must stop playing the role of satisfied bystander. We must instead constantly project and elaborate on three messages: First, deterrence will not remove "the shadow of a nuclear holocaust," stop the nuclearization of the region or prevent the immediate expansion of Iran's terrorist proxies and regional influence; second, the measure of sanctions is not whether they have any impact, but whether they are sufficient to force Iran to back down; and third, an international solution is much preferable, but Israel can and will act if the international community does not.

While Israel volunteering to address a global problem might seem to reduce the impetus for international action, Israeli action obviously presents both higher risks and lower chances of success than serious international economic or military measures. Israel's message should be that the choice is not between preventing a nuclear Iran or living with that scenario, but between better and worse ways of confronting the Iranian threat.


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Don’t Bomb, Bomb Iran

For now, we should avoid a smoking Tehran.

By Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online, August 31, 2007, 5:00 a.m.

There’s been ever more talk on Iran. President Bush — worried about both Americans being killed by Iranian mines in Iraq, and Tehran’s progress toward uranium enrichment — is ratcheting up the rhetoric.

But so mirabile dictu is French president Nicolas Sarkozy. He suddenly, in the eleventh hour of the crisis, reminds the world that bombing Iran is still very possible (and he doesn’t specify by whom):
An Iran with nuclear arms is, to me, unacceptable, and I am weighing my words…And I underline France's full determination to support the alliance's current policy of increasing sanctions, but also to remain open if Iran makes the choice to fulfill its obligations. This policy is the only one that will allow us to escape an alternative, which I consider to be catastrophic. Which alternative? An Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran.
Note especially the French president’s reference to “us” and the logic of his syllogism: Iran can’t and won’t have the bomb; one catastrophic remedy is bombing; therefore someone must increase sanctions or someone will bomb Iran, as the least bad of two awful alternatives. He can say all that — without the global hatred that George Bush would incur had he said half that.

Mohamed Ahmadinejad is still ranting, but with more a sense of false braggadocio than ever: Iran will inherit the mantel of Middle East hegemony; America is running from Iraq; our policies have already failed in Iraq — blah, blah, blah.

So what exactly is the status of the crisis?

Recall the current U.S. policy — which, I think, so far remains bipartisan except for a few unhinged calls for full diplomatic engagement with this murderous regime:

Show the world that Americans tried the European route with the EU3 (Britain, France, German) negotiations that have so far failed; let the U.N. jawbone (so what?); help Iranian dissidents and democratic reformers; keep trying to stabilize Iran’s reforming neighbors in Afghanistan and Iraq; persuade Russia, China, and India to cooperate in ostracizing Iran; galvanize global financial institutions to isolate the Iranian economy; apprise the world that an Iranian nuclear device is unacceptable — and hope all that pressure works before the theocrats have enough enriched uranium to get a bomb and, as Persian nationalists, win back public approval inside Iran.

The degree to which Iran has neared completion of bomb-making will determine to what degree all of the above has hurt, helped, or had no effect.


But there are subtle indications that U.S. policy is slowly working, and that a strike now on Iran would be a grave mistake, in every strategic and political sense — not to mention the humanitarian one of harming a populace that may well soon prove to be the most pro-Western in the region.

It is surreal, after all, that a French president would confess that Iran getting the bomb is “unacceptable.” Sarkozy seems to recognize that a nuclear Iran won’t be happy with bullying neighboring oil producers and carving up Iraq, but will be soon blackmailing Europe on issues from trade to war.

So finally a French leader seems to allow that if the Europeans would just cease all financial relations with Teheran, freeze their assets, and stop sending them everything from sniper rifles to machine tools, then the crippled regime would start to stagger even more. And because France has been the most obstructionist in the past to U.S. efforts in the Middle East, its mere rhetoric is nearly beyond belief.

We have no leverage with China and Russia, of course. Their general foreign policy is reactive, based on the principle that anything that disturbs the United States and diverts its attention is de facto a positive development — excepting perhaps having another nuclear nut in Asia to go alongside North Korea and Pakistan.

Still, the recent humiliating disclosures about China’s 19th-century “Jungle”-type industry, and the growing anger at what Mr. Sarkozy called Russia’s “brutality,” show that neither country has earned much respect, and that either could pull in its horns a bit concerning Iran, with deft Western diplomacy.

There are other symptoms of progress. The Sadr brigades have purportedly announced a cessation of military operations — no doubt, because they are losing the sectarian kill-fest. But it may also be because Shiite animosity against them is growing. Perhaps too they are learning that Iran’s interest in Iraq is not always theirs, but simply fomenting violence of any kind that persuades the U.S. military to leave, including arming their enemies, both Sunni and Shiite.

Every Shiite gangster should note that Iran’s envisioned future is not one of coequal mafias, but rather a mere concession in the south that takes orders from the real bosses in the north. The jury is still out on whether it is true that Arab Shiites are Shiites first, and Arabs second or third. But at some point someone will start to figure out that Iran also gave arms and aid to al Qaeda to kill Iraqi Shiites.

No one knows quite what is going on in Iraq. Yet news that the surge is working and that violence is declining is also bad news for Tehran. Its worst nightmare is that Sunni tribes are no longer aping al Qaeda, but helping Americans. That will only turn attention back to Iranian-back killers. Meanwhile Sunni masters in the region — arming themselves to the teeth — are reminding their kindred Iraqi tribesmen that Iran, not America, is the real enemy of the Arab world.

And what is our stance? The United States calmly continues to arrest and “detain” Iranian agents inside Iraq — acts, of course, that enrage a kidnapping Iran. Apparently the only thing galling to an Iranian hostage-taker is the very idea that someone else would try such a thing openly and publicly and within the bounds of the rules of war. And by labeling the Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization, the United States is finally institutionalizing what the world already knows: Iran is a criminal state whose government and terrorists are one and the same.

There is also the ever-present, ever-unreliable news out of Iran itself of gas rationing, strikes, and a deteriorating economy. If all that good for us/bad for them news is true — with oil prices still sky-high, and sanctions as yet weak and porous — then it suggests that should financial ostracism be stepped up and become really punitive, and oil recede in price by even a few dollars, the regime would face widespread disobedience.

It would help things if Western elites started seeing Iran as Darfur. Teheran has butchered thousands of its own, kills the innocent in Iraq, and has stated that it would like to see the equivalent of a second Holocaust — all surely some grounds for at least a dig from Bono or a frown from Brad Pitt.

It doesn’t help Ahmadinejad that his supposedly successful, rocket-propelled proxy war against Israel a year ago, not only was not followed up by a round-two jihad this season, but seems on careful autopsy to have been a costly blunder that nearly destroyed the infrastructure of his southern Lebanese allies. No Iranian in gas line wants to learn that his scrimping went to pay for rebuilding the atomized apartment buildings of Arabs in Lebanon.

The oddest development of all is Iranian outrage at the U.N. — a sentiment almost impossible to entertain for any such corrupt, anti-American regime. But Iran’s chief delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali-Ashgar Soltanieh, keeps screaming about international monitoring. He threatens this and that, which can only mean Iran fears the global humiliation of having inspectors expose the fact that puritanical, live-by-Koran clerics are serial liars.

Of course, there is no reason yet to believe that Iran’s megalomaniac plans are stalled. There is much less reason to think that the world is galvanizing fast or furiously enough against the loony Ahmadinejad. But there are some positive signs that Iran is not nearly as strong as it thinks, and the general winds of the world are blowing against it, ever so slowly — and thanks in large part to careful U.S. policy and the innately self-destructive tendencies of Iranian theocracy.

Note that the loud Democratic 2008 candidates have ceased calling for direct talks with Iran (the inexperienced Obama, the exception proving the rule). They can offer no policy other than the present one. For all the dangers, the spectacle of Ahmadinejad has been a great gift to the Western world — loudly embodying, in its raw, pure form, the evil which Iranian theocracy inevitably produces.

So we should continue with the present path — and not bomb or have surrogates bomb Iran. That option is still down the road. For as long as it is possible, the best-case scenario is not a smoking Iran, but a humiliated theocracy that slowly implodes before the world, displaying in their disgrace what the mullahs did to themselves — and perhaps a small reminder of those helpful shoves from us.

— Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.


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Ahmadinejad has 'proof' US won't attack

Iranian president says proof comes from his mathematical skills as an engineer and faith in God

Ynet.com, 09.03.07

AFP - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has sought to justify his confidence the United States will not attack Tehran, saying the proof comes from his mathematical skills as an engineer and faith in God, the press reported on Monday.

Ahmadinejad told academics in a speech that elements inside Iran were pressing for compromise in the nuclear standoff with the West over fears the United States could launch a military strike.

 'The West thought the Iranian nation would give in after just a resolution, but now we have taken another step in the nuclear progress,' President Ahmadinejad says

"In some discussions I told them 'I am an engineer and I am examining the issue. They do not dare wage war against us and I base this on a double proof'," he said in the speech on Sunday, reported by the reformist Etemad Melli and Kargozaran newspapers.

"I tell them: 'I am an engineer and I am a master in calculation and tabulation.

"I draw up tables. For hours, I write out different hypotheses. I reject, I reason. I reason with planning and I make a conclusion. They cannot make problems for Iran.'"
 
Ahmadinejad has long expressed pride in his academic prowess. He holds a PhD on transport engineering and planning from Tehran's Science and Technology University and is the author several of scientific papers.
 
The deeply religious president said his second reason was: "I believe in what God says."
 
"God says that those who walk in the path of righteousness will be victorious. What reason can you have for believing God will not keep this promise."
 
Washington has never ruled out taking military action against Tehran, and its tone has sharpened again over the past week with President George W. Bush warning that Iran's nuclear programme could lead to a "nuclear holocaust."
         
Ahmadinejad said that "God willing" one day he would write his memoirs to put the record straight.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has already warned that Iran risks being bombed if the nuclear crisis is not resolved. Ahmadinejad last week brushed off the comments which he said were due to his French counterpart's inexperience.

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