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January 13, 2006



Its good news that the Iraqis are getting sick of the jihadis. I never expected anything else though really. When people are allowed to freely express themselves they generally look askance at folks that want to blow up their schools and whatnot, which of course is the foundation of Bush's strategy over there.

I'm a bit more worried about the internal political situation in Iraq now than I was a few weeks ago. Although I'm glad divisions between the Sunnis and the Jihadis are growing and being exploited the elections seem to have created a very difficult set of internal contradictions. From what I've read hard line factions won across the board among all three major groups (IE Sunni, Shiite and Kurd) and moderate/reconciliation types didn't do well at all.

That seems to bode ill for a unified type government. I suppose in the end if the country ends up partitioned in fact if not in name that isn't the worst thing in the world - its just not what I had hoped for.


I'm not expert, but I wondered two and a half years ago why we didn't partition Iraq immediately. There are three nations there, with much mixing at the borders, ie. Baghdad and Kirkuk. However, I've had hopes that they might stick it out with the Kurds, semi-autonomous, deriving some stregth as a proto Kurdistan from support from a central government. The Shia are already a nation, Sistani the man, and apparently Sadr maturing into his father's shoes. The Iraqi Shia are different enough from the Persian Shia that I don't worry about theocracy Iranian style taking over. Rather the opposite; Iran will slowly, or convulsively, go the way of the secular Shia In Iraq. The Shia and the Kurds have oil; the Sunni only a little, in contested areas. I've thought that the Sunni could be bought off with the oil to form a buffer state against Syria.

If we were looking at a chemical reaction, there is just too much instability in the cultural, ethnic, and religious groups in Iraq to predict one nation ultimately, but I think they'll give it a run for the money.

Either situation, a unified Iraq, or three states there, is preferable to Saddam's Iraq.

Just about 2 and 1/2 years ago I asked my father, once a very acute observer of political and economic geography, why we hadn't made three states in Iraq, and I think his answer was interesting and wrong. He said Israel didn't want three states there to contend with instead of one.

Last: Saladin was a Kurd.


BTW on the other war front things seem to be going well.

I saw this at The Corner the other day and thought it was pretty interesting. It links to a World Public Opinion Poll on Afghanistan. Here's what Jim Robbin's posted about it:

MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE WARS: Are we winning hearts and minds? A new opinion poll in Afghanistan is very revealing. 83% of Afghans say their country is moving in the right direction. 81% of Afghans view the US favorably, with 83% approving of US troop presence in-country. Meanwhile 88% have an unfavorable view of the Taliban, 82% think overthrowing them was a good thing, and (drum roll) 90% view Osama bin Laden unfavorably, with 75% of that total being "very unfavorable." Now, back to Alito.

That's pretty remarkable and encouraging stuff.


Those Kurds, those Afghans, those Swiss. There is something about mountain people.

Niether Iran nor Turkey can be very happy about an independent Kurdistan, which has been de facto in existence since the first Gulf War. They both have large Kurdish populations.

I was very pessimistic about Afghanistan until mid '04 when I read the results of an Afghani poll done by some Asian Institute. For a medieval society, which they remain, they were awfully sick of medieval theocracy.


Let me modify that slightly. They were awfully sick of Taliban style extreme medieval theocracy. They have been fairly content to settle back into their former medieval thoecracy, newly modernized with a vote. I'm not sneering; they are marvelous democrats.


All of this kind of goes along with the Hayes article at the Weekly Standard coupled with this editorial from the WSJ.

The whole thing is that the Sunni's are finally standing up for themselves against the jihadists. And who are they - the jihadists? They are "occupiers" also. And they happen to be killing more Sunnis; more Iraqis than anyone else.


More news: Big gun dead in Iranian plane crash, Iran closing border with Turkey, two Kurdish factions co-operating, and Assad soon going down in flames. Kallooh, Kawlay.


Ralph Peters certainly proposed partitioning up Iraq almost immediately. Worst case it would have made the place a lot smaller.

However the sunni center would have been quite a festering hole in the middle with no oil revenues etcetera. But the way that tribes etc. operate in the middle east, he was probably correct.

One of dubya's few faults imo has been the lack of ferociousness in fighting this war. If you are in a dang war then fight it like one, not a police action.


One thing is key that no one is considering: the upcoming U.S./Israeli air operation in Iran. Led by the 509th Composite Group's B-2 strike force and Israel's highly secret 69 Squadron, the operation will take several weeks to complete. However, what is left unsaid is the inevitable Iranian response: invasion of the Shi'a lands.

Ahmadhi-Nejad has built up approximately 200,000 troops, led by elements of the Revolutionary Guards Corps in the territory just across the Shatt-al-Arab waterway. In response to the air campaign, the Persians will force a bridgehead and advance on the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, cutting off our supply lines to Kuwait. Iraqi and American resistance will seem spotty at first, as allied troops fight a delaying action in the Mesopotamian valley and as the British adopt a hedgehog defense of Basra, the port city of Umm Qasr, and the Kuwaiti frontier. The Brits will anticipate a breakout offensive in the Persian rear as things develop down line. However, as Iranian supply lines extend (while an Iranian diplomatic offensive attempts to freeze a cease-fire in place with Persian winnings in hand) into the Mesopotamian Valley, their logistical shortcomings will become apparent. That's when the B-52's will be brought into play, as well as the heavy armor we have in theater.

My suspicions in this regard relate to this post for this reason: the Sunni insurgents we are fighting today will be at the business end of our supply chain tomorrow. I have every confidence that these same insurgents would enthusiastically turn their weapons on the Persians should an invasion occur, and that is exactly what I believe that Ahmadhi-Nejad will do. His own extremism will be his undoing.
In this respect, the fate of Al Qaeda in Iraq is small potatoes-and they are even now declining as a force, as the Sunni turn their weapons on them.

Mao understood that for any insurgency to be successful, it must swim in the sea of the people. AQ never understood this. The Sunni insurgents do understand this, but it only works within their community. We can beat AQ, but we can only fight the Sunnis to a draw.


"However the sunni center would have been quite a festering hole in the middle with no oil revenues etcetera."

Might be better in the end though.

As kim points out there would be difficulty with Turkey over even semi-autonomy for the Kurds. I also agree that its over-simplistic to assume that the Shia would end up being a tool of Iran. The Sunnis would end up being part of a defacto greater Syria.

Maybe overall that would be better though, as then you'd have all the Baathists in one place and essentially surrounded, by Turkey and the Kurds to the north, Israel and Jordan to the West and the Shia and Saudi Arabia to the south.

The US would then have free rein from bases in western Iraq to keep things quiet and protect the friendlies while they develop democratic cultures and traditions.

Of course, that's a helluva a long term project, but this isn't going to be over anytime soon anyway.


Section9, you are prescient unless Iran collapses from within first, which I think is more likely. Farsi is one of the most common languages on the internet.


Filkins is good, a credit to the Times. He
covered the war as a non-embedded reporter
which gave him some different viewpoints.

As for breaking up Iraq , Peter Galbraith
has consistently argued that position in the
NY Review of Books. Of course he is also an advisor to the Kurds probably selected
for that view.

The Turks would be upset but in a sense
that serves them right since they have
treated the Kurds so harshly. Too bad
since in many ways the Turks are admirable.
After the bombing of a synagogue two years ago there was a moving photo of the turkish
premier walking hand in hand with the
principal rabbi. Altho walking hand in hand
is a feature of moslem societies I have
no memory of any other moslem leader doing
that with a rabbi.


I really doubt that Iran would invade Iraq in any overt way regardless of the circumstances. It would be an attack against a US client state with a standing US army, and would almost certainly be the end of the Iranian regime.

While an attack against the Iranian nuke program would be nasty I would assume the US would try to maintain enough distance to preserve plausible deniability.

Of course the Iranian leaders are pretty much nuckin futs so who knows. That would be the beginning of the end game in this war in my estimation though. The death of the Iranian regime would be a crippling blow to the jihadis - they'd never recover from that, it would be back to blowing themselves up in pizza parlors at best.


With regard to lack of oil in the Sunni areas. I would suggest that the lack of oil wells should not be used as the basis for evaluating the Sunni areas.

It is my understanding there has not been sufficient exploration in these areas and that the geography is such that that oil reserves are quite possible.

Major John

This must be the civil war all the doomsayers have predicted - oops, civil war amongst the bad guys...oh.

Cecil Turner

In response to the air campaign, the Persians will force a bridgehead and advance on the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, cutting off our supply lines to Kuwait.

If they're completely crazy (admittedly a workable hypothesis) they might try this. Odds of success are the Chance brothers (Slim and Fat). Getting enough Allied forces in place for a counterinvasion would take a few weeks . . . smashing an invasion would be the work of a few days.

Dr Ken

Section9, if the Iranians are dumb enough to mass infantry and cross a river into Iraq, they will be playing our game. US forces are very, very good at defeating conventional ground troops. I would love to see Iranian troops marching through a rain of cluster bombs toward our artillery. I just don't think I'll ever see it happen. Surrogate terrorism, special ops & psych ops have been working much better for them historically.


Regarding partitioning of Iraq:

The Turks would never have agreed to it, as an independent Kurdistan would possibly eventually seek to incorporate 12 million Turkish Iraqis and a lot of territory. Iran has similar concerns. I'm sure we made assurances to both nations prior to the invasion in order to ensure some level of tranquility / cooperation.

Dude, regarding a conventional Iranian offensive:

while I would agree that some sort of US/Israeli action (or Israeli w/ covert American support - at a minimum, refueling in Iraqi airspace) is pretty much inevitable, I doubt the Mullahs would throw their units into offense against Coalition forces.

As the Iranians are fully aware, the Iraqis took one helluva beating during Gulf War II, and that was on defense. Offense is far more difficult. Especially when your opponent has complete air superiority, satellite imagery, superb signals intelligence, outstanding battle doctrine, unequalled logistical support, plenty of cruise missiles, smart bombs, dumb bombs, tactical aircraft (A-10s - my personal favorite), ridiculously superior tanks, battle-hardened and highly motivated troops...

Iranian tanks and APCs rolling across open ground would be very quickly and efficiently slaughtered. Their units' combat effectiveness would be nullified within days, if not hours.

We should be so lucky that the mullahs would allow us to deliver them a stunning defeat and to wipe out so many Islamist Revolutionary Guard so easily.


Had Turkey facilitated coalition forces coming in from the north, they'd have been in a better bargaining position on partitioning Iraq.

Brown Line

With regard to partitioning Iraq, we must remember that while the regions of Iraq are predominantly one sect or the other, there's a lot of mixing, particularly in the central provinces. It's not uncommon for Shi'ia, Sunni, and Kurd to live near each other - although each in his own neighborhood - and for them to work together. If we were to force Iraq to partition, ethnic cleansing would soon follow; and that would trigger a war that would make the present insurgency look like child's play.

Iraq and the Middle East have suffered enough from Westerners drawing lines across the map with little regard for the facts of the situation. Let's not make that particular mistake again.


You have a good point, BL, but it is important to remember that Saddam was settling Sunni in previously Kurd areas. He was ethnic cleansing.


Astuteblogger has noticed that the news article about that large surge in disposable cellphones (dates of those purchases) came after the NY Times leak.



Maybe a lot of people with guilty consciences. Or a need for stocking stuffers.

I'm very dubious this surge is due to terrorists. If so, we've got a bigger problem than anyone imagined.

r flanagan

If you read the blogs from Iraq you get a
sense of a lot of sunni/shia mixing. Riverbend has talked about that . She's particularly moving today . When the terrorists kidnapped that american reporter three days ago the interpreter whom they killed was a friend of the blogger.


Riverbend is a hopeless Sunni Princess, but not without talent and something to say.


"If we were to force Iraq to partition..."

I certainly don't think that would be a good idea. My concern is they may force it themselves.

But who knows. Maybe things will work out and they'll be able to create some sort of coalition government. That would be the best outcome IMO.


Let me tell you, the Kurds, the Turks, the Persians, the Arabs and the Armenians have been doing Mideast Conflict a lot longer than since 1948.


Section9 proposed one plausible (and nicely detailed!) reaction to a preemptive strike on Iran. They'll have few allies if it's us doing the preempting, maybe a few more if it's Israel, but they are obviously serious about realizing Allah's strategic vision and surely will react if the 12th Imam is delayed. How else if not with a conventional counter-attack? Suicide bombers are for impotent wimps. They must have a plan to close the Gulf, for example, and does anyone doubt they have WMDs? Maybe the 200,000 troops on the Iraq border are a bluff, but they're certainly preparing, and they seem confident. If they weren't, and didn't think they had a decent plan in place already, they'd still be play-acting for time.


If I were a Muslim in the US right now, I'd have bought one of those pre-paid phones on or about 12/17. I agree it's dubious that the big surge is all or even mainly due to terrorists. But of course, even if it's only one, the leak and story damaged national security, and somebody should fry for that.


E, I agree with the frying, and the ayatollahs are crazy. You really can't judge them rationally. The head of the Revolutionary Guards just died in a plane crash. Crazee!


Although these guys do seem pretty suspicious if it's for real.

Cecil Turner

they are obviously serious about realizing Allah's strategic vision and surely will react if the 12th Imam is delayed. How else if not with a conventional counter-attack?

Again, they might want to, but it's simply not feasible. Kevin, above, is spot-on on the various factors. Defense is easy, the best thing about airpower is that it makes movement hard, and we outclass them in every category. (And contrary to what I wrote above, they aren't crazy enough to try.)



"not feasible"? "aren't crazy enough to try"?

It's inevitable. It's been prophecized. And Ahmadinejad seems to be rallying Iran towards it.


Crazy they may be, but I suspect they do know that a "human wave" only goes so far and lasts so long against superior air power. A suicide bomber is one thing, but a suicide infantry attack is quite another.

I couldn't understand what Saddam was doing, either. The US military amassing on his border & he thinks W will just pick up his toys & go home? Turns out Saddam wasn't so crazy. He thought he'd bought off the French, the Chinese, the Russians & the UN, so he was convinced W would pack up & leave when it became obvious he could never build a coalition or get UN approval. Maybe the Iranians have a similar strategy. It does, after all, seem to be working so far.


The head of the Revolutionary Gurads just died in a plane crash, and I'm speculating someone didn't want 200,000 Persian boys dead for a psychosis.

Cecil Turner

It's inevitable. It's been prophecized. And Ahmadinejad seems to be rallying Iran towards it.

If we're still talking about a conventional invasion of Iraq, it won't last long enough for the average Iranian to get rallied. (And I believe Ahmadinejad is crazy enough to try it . . . it's those guys who'd actually be doing it I have my doubts about.) This is what's known as a "self-limiting exercise."


I'm with you guys that a conventional counter-attack isn't likely to be too successful, and I'm sure they know that, which means there's a good chance they're probably smart enough not to risk it. I'd bet they have something else flashy if not apocalyptic in the works, though.


Either Iranian planes are terrible or their seems to be a predilection for them crashing with RAevolutionary Guard lkeaders aboard or it's sabotage..


I'm thinking more along the lines of Iranian sleeper cells, terror sponsorship, and sending oil to $100 a barrel.

They're buying everything else from Russia. Why not a stolen nuke?


Either Iranian planes are terrible or there seems to be a predilection for them crashing with Revolutionary Guard leaders aboard or it's sabotage..


Shoulda had a good plane. He used to be head of the Air Force.

I'd bet they have something else flashy if not apocalyptic in the works, though.
I gotta agree with that idea. Chemical, biological and/or nuclear armed missiles at Israel. The Mad Mulluhs have already made clear that they have done the requisite arithmetic: even if there is a 100-1 kill ratio between Muslims and Jews, the Israelis are all dead but there's still plenty of Muslims left.

Gee, I wonder if the Palestinians have figured out yet that while they are not exactly at ground zero, they are at about 0.001?

cathy :-)


Ever since the hostage crisis during Carter's presidency I have not trusted Iran. I believe their leader might have been a player during that time and will stop at nothing to get Israel or anyone else who gets in his way. Too bad our CIA isn't stronger. We need someone to infiltrate and get the information we need. A very dangerous situation. Any chance of an overthrow from within?


Unfortunately, I don't think a surprise attack on Iran can be politically managed, at least not by us. Europe, Russia, China and the American left would immediately join in a chorus of Unilateral Bush bashing, and we'd be isolated. This time, we probably need more of a world-wide consensus, but how can that be arranged if the predictable result is higher oil prices? Maybe the answer is for Israel to do it.


Israel can't do it alone. Once France, Germany, and Britain snap to the fact that nukes can hit their cities, they'll join the coalition. We'll have Roosian help, too.

Rick Ballard

"Europe, Russia, China and the American left would immediately join in a chorus of Unilateral Bush bashing, and we'd be isolated."

How would we know? How would a tomorrow like that be different than today?

You may be actually stating what the mullahs believe - they probably read the Times. Just as Saddam probably did - when he wasn't dining with Eason Jordan to get "the real lowdown".

A unilateral destruction of the power grid (including generating capability) might be a fun approach. Relatively low collateral damage involved - sort of like Serbia.

Perhaps Ahmadinejad believes that pictures of wholesale slaughter of his human wave troops would so incite the world that they would demand - what? Powell is retired, thankfully, and we should make it absolutely clear that the "Pottery Barn Policy" will not be in effect when we take Iran apart. We'll break it but they can fix it.


It would be hard, but not as hard as it would be did we not already have bases in Afghanistan, Iraq and a passel of other stans.


Naw, Rick, we'll fix it, but it'll be easier than Iraq.


It is frightening to contemplate. I hope the military has a handle on this and will work with Israel and EU to resolve the situation one way or another.


I haven't seen any evidence that Europe has the survival instinct to even consider taking actual action. Russia is in league with Iran, helping them develop the nukes themselves, so they're probably not coalescing with us on the matter. Israel, sure. Britain, most likely. Maybe that's the coalition. We're probably the only ones with capability to penetrate the...who built the hardened installations they have, anyway? Germany?

I think I agree with Rick that the fallout wouldn't necessaraly be so bad, considering the over-reaction to Iraq. At this moment in time, Russia and China can't do anything about what we do, and that may not last very long, so this is probably a good time window.


One of the problems right now is that their are Russians at many of the sites. I think once Putin realizes that in the eyes of the ayatollahs he is a dispensable infidel, he may change.


Remarkable how much the MSM has swallowed the left's "civil war would be a catastrophe for Iraq" meme. Who's to say a civil war wouldn't be in the best long-term interests of Iraq? This country went through a civil war and emerged stronger and more cohesive. So have most other western democracies. Why should Iraq be any different? Freedom is messy.


Let your kids play videogames. Maybe Zawahiri's been zapped by a gamer.

Cecil Turner

Wouldn't that be nice. But it's hard to tell exactly what happened, and there's plenty of confusion. ABC says they're waiting on forensics:

Pakistani officials tell ABC News that the bodies of the five suspected al Qaeda figures will be recovered at first light in Pakistan, but it will still take a day or two for any kind of positive identification.
Debka says they probably won't find the bodies:
The intelligence sources say 23 persons were actually killed in the air strikes that smashed three adjoining houses. They added that eighteen were locals, including eight women, five children and five men. Five foreigners were also killed. Their dead bodies were removed by locals immediately after the strikes.
The BBC says it was a mistake:
The deputy leader of al-Qaeda was not in a Pakistani village near the Afghan border which was hit in an apparent missile attack, Pakistan officials say.
The unnamed officials said the attack - in which at least 18 people were killed - was based on "false information".
Amazingly, the Debka account seems most complete (and plausible).


Jonah's backed off, too, without attribution. I agree the Debka is most reliable.

This would be a case of the US acting without overt Pakistani co-operation. It is in their interest to deny it, or their involvement. I think he's dead.


First of all, god, do I have to repeat this a thousand times, Mesopotamia, has reamined
remarkably geographically consistent, back
to the Otttoman times, possibly back to the
time of Hulugu Khan's sacking of Baghdad in
1258. There has been some overlap, Iran had
a small section of the South East; re the
Shatt al Arab, whose boundaries where renegotiated under the aegis of then
vp Saddam in 1975)as well as the Kurdish region,which at one time was under French mandate, and Kuwait, did used to be part of Mesopotamia up until the the 1760s, under Ottoman mandate. (This is surely, not what Saddamm meant by the 19th province. As to the Sunni counter insurgency in Anbar, its not that surprising. Even the most hidebound
Sunni sheik doesn't like taking orders from an upstart 'ferengi'foreign thug like
Zarquawi. As for the good doctor Zawahiri,
I'll wager he's dead, for what it's worth.


Is he dead? Let's see how long it takes before the next video sequel of Zawahari on the lam is released.


Yes, but hasn't Mesopotamia, per se, been largely Shia Arab? Baghdad has it's own groundrules. The capital will fill with the dominant party.


The death of Zarqawi would be a big step forward for Iraq. Let's hope the reports are true.


Yeah, him too.

Cecil Turner

What, they're not the same guy? Who knew?

CNN is now on the "mistake" bandwagon. (Though they seem to be confirming the presence of foreigners in the village.) This NY Times story is telling it pretty much the same way.


CNN and NYT are reporting the expected Pakistani response. We'll never know for sure, because the bodies have been removed. Given the rage expressed, I'll bet he's dead.

Barney Frank

The public image of Iran as headed by supposedly insane mullahs and the psychotic Abaddinnerjacket (as I saw it put) is not too accurate of the internals.
The fact is a great number of the mullahs are living in mansions. They're not crazy, they're corrupt, venal, politicians with funny turbans.
They aren't stupid or crazy enough to invade Iraq. Nor can they afford for even a short time to cut off oil. The economy is a complete mess. They are in an extremely difficult spot and really the only possible way out is to build a bomb.
They are, admittedly, not very reasonable people in the same way Nazis and communists aren't, but they are neither stupid nor insane. They are calculating and evil and occasionally fanatical but very few of them wish to be martyrs. They don't mind making martyrs but they don't want to join the club. Has anybody seen an ayatollah with a suicide bomb under his skirt lately? No, a good many of them are too busy enjoying their seventy two virgins right here on earth. This is a geopolitical crisis with hardened criminals whose only concern is holding onto their perks and power not a bunch of whirling dervishes in command of the country.


Wait a minute. This is from the New York Times. It can not be right.

I come here to see what is wrong with the NYT reporting and just because it confirms to your biases you can not just accept it.

You job is to tear the article apart.

You are failing at your job.


The public image of Iran as headed by supposedly insane mullahs and the psychotic Abaddinnerjacket (as I saw it put) is not too accurate of the internals
BARNEY FRANK (be nice if that were the
Mass congressman,but doubt it)

I read a useful book(forgotten name, kim probably knows ) a couple of years ago by two free lance reporters who went to Iran at the hopeful beginning of the Katami reform government and stayed until that movement ran into the sands and their own lives were in imminent danger from the murderous element who not only kill their enemies but bug their apartment so they can enjoy the sound of the slaughter.Cute.

They found that a substantial minority of mullahs share the Sistani theological position that the mullahs should NOT intervene in the government.Unfortunately that very position prevents them from acting to overthrow the interventionist mullahs.

Even among those interventionists they met
important figures who were non-fanatics but simply shared the belief of my old jesuits teachers that the "state can not give equal rights to error". Consequently they support Khamanei (spelling) but with some disdain.

With no expertise other than having read that book I hazard a guess the proportion of the population preferring a secular democratic govt is larger than the fanatic mullahs currently running things.

With the addition to this mix of the
under-educated and under- intelligent current premier (probably despised by educated Iranians from all segments) I guess that the secularists are now viewed sympathetically by an increasing share
their more religious fellows..

Which possibly makes this a case for more soft speech and less big stick.Jaw Jaw instead of War War. Old con rather than neo con.Lugar instead of Cheney.


Barney: They aren't stupid or crazy enough to invade Iraq. Nor can they afford for even a short time to cut off oil. The economy is a complete mess. They are in an extremely difficult spot and really the only possible way out is to build a bomb.

Wouldn't another option be to tone down the "wipe Israel off the map" rhetoric a little? I mean, their recent aggressive talk and negotiating style are either indicative of a decision to absorb a preemptive attack and retaliate big-time, or they're truly stupid and crazy, because they're inviting that attack, and that can't improve their economy or their opportunity to enjoy virgins here on earth. It just doesn't make sense to me unless they're already ready to kill a whole lot of Jews.


I should find that book, rf, and am encouraged that at least a minority of mullahs prefer a secular state. I hope you are right and that the government falls from within. I haven't seen much more reporting about the head of the Rev. Guards who recently died. I think one measure of the mullahs overall craziness is whether or not they eventually respond to honeyed words and commerce or if it will take vinegar to preserve the peace.


Here's the latest report from Pakistan.

I think this was a CIA, not DoD operation, I think the Paks were in on it but this time a small specially vetted group so there'd be no leaks to the other side, and I think we may indeed have gotten him. I suppose they may have hidden the body though and we may have to wait to see if we ever hear from his again to be sure.

mostly dead, I think

M. Simon

Sure it makes sense.

What do failing regimes do when control of the population is threatened by economic stagnation and unpopular rule?

Start a war while there is some loyalty left.

This may be the best indication yet that the regime is on its last legs.

Cecil Turner

Which possibly makes this a case for more soft speech and less big stick.Jaw Jaw instead of War War. Old con rather than neo con.Lugar instead of Cheney.

State department reports listed Iran as "the most active state sponsor of terrorism" in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003 (at which point, AFAICT, they stopped doing a yearly report and just went to this list).

Recently, they've been active in supporting Iraqi insurgents, making some pretty aggressive statements about eradicating Israel, and pursuing a program to develop nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them. Diplomacy has manifestly not been effective. (And I don't know about you, but a nuclear-armed Iran does not seem like a good idea™ to me.)

Bob in Pacifica

It makes no difference. Whether it's Israel or the US attacking Iranian facilities, they are the same in the eyes of the Iranians and a lot of Islam.

The US may make mincemeat of any Iranian "liberation forces." And 200,000 martyrs? The easier it is to kill them, the worse it will look to the rest of the world. And a major part of the world will be rooting against the US. The Iranians have recent-vintage Russian cruise missiles that will stop traffic all in the Straits of Hormuz. How many weeks until the world economy shuts down? When China is spending 250 dollars a barrel along with the rest of the world, how much will they have to finance the US debt? And guess who the world will blame?

And closing the Gulf of Hormuz will make resupplying US troops in Iraq more problematical. Units will have to be pulled back from forward positions. Plus, everyone in a thousand miles will hate the US and and not want to be associated with us.

And once everything goes to hell, it'll cost a lot more for whatever you guys are smoking, too.

Barney Frank

Sure it would be better for them to tone down the rhetoric but they are in an increasingly untenable position. It would have been better for the USSR not to have done a lot of the stupid things it did, but tyrants in desperate straights do what they can, not what they wish they could do. There are factions within the military, factions within the religious hierarchy and they have the most pro western population in the middle east with the possible exception of Afghanistan. Toning down the rhetoric is not too easy when you have Abaddinnerjacket and company to appease. There are a good number of insanely pure Islamists in the stew, but I don't think they're running the show. And the greedy, corrupt mullahs are indeed fanatical in their idealogy but not to the point of suicide. I think they are trying to do the impossible, which is walk a tightrope, with the 'wipe Israel off the face of the map' people on one end and the secular younger generation on the other, each shaking the rope for all they're worth.
The regime is probably in its death throes. Regimes in death throes make all sorts of miscalculations, just as M. Simon said. The question is will the Russians, high oil prices and the Euroweenies prop them up long enough for them to acquire the bomb.
Soft speech takes the pressure off of crumbling regimes. The pressure needs to be ratcheted up and up. If not we will have no choice but to wage a long and costly air campaign to devastate their nuclear program. Its hard to imagine a worse development than a nuclear Iran. You can kiss any chance of a free Iraq or a semi compliant middle east goodbye if they get even one. And, should they be able to survive the internal pressures you can bet terrorism will reach a new level of visciousness.


There is no question that this will be a difficult operation. But there is no question that if Iran's nuclear program is not stopped soon, the consequences fo Israel, the US, the Middle East and the world are too enormous to avoid taking the risk.

r flanagan

should find that book, rf, and am encouraged that at least a minority of mullahs prefer a secular state. I hope you are right and that the government falls from within UNQUOTE kim

That's not really a prediction just a SWAG because I know far too little to make
a prediction. Just an impression that there is enough actual and potential internal opposition( including BTW former leaders of the embassy occupation) to , maybe ,make that worth taking into account-always on the assumption that it would take them 5 years+ to develop a nuclear weapon.


Bob, it is not a pretty picture you paint, and it's not wholly inconceivable. What's worse though, is Iran with nuclear devices. Why do you not think that is so?

Rick Ballard


I think I prefer "talk softly and suborn aircraft maintenance workers until conditions for effective air strikes are met".

I agree that there is a relatively serious resistance element in Iran. They are constrained by the fact that resistance has a higher price than merely their own lives. There aren't many people willing to risk the lives of their entire families by taking action against the fanatics. Under the shah Iran was a very secular country and there is little reason to think that it would not become so again, once the ayatollahs and their mullahs are removed.

The historical record for theocratic tyrants relinquishing power peacefully is rather slim. We may not have five years to resolve this and the risk does not appear to be worth taking.

In the interim I think I'll root for the aircraft maintenance workers. They've done a fine job to date.

r flanagan

The book is titled Answering Only to
God by a couple named Abdo and Lyons.

I think it would be horrible if Iran had
nuclear devices. It would be much less
horrible but still pretty bad if Iran's
10% of the world's supply of oil ( and they
also supply a lot of natural gas) were interrupted. I suppose some Administration study group has thought through the most likely consequences and I would expect they are sobering. And there are probably unforcastable knock- on effects: fertilizer
production , increased influence for Venezuela etc.

So I guess that we are still discouraging the
Isrealis from taking unilateral action. And I assume trying to devise a way to nurture
the possible inside opposition. (Letting their kids go to Cal Tech might help.) This post started by commenting on the Sunni
insurgents splitting from the jihadis. Could there be an analogous fracturing of the Iranian hostility ? It's certainly worth
having that as a strategic goal. Certainly not one we would talk about.

Anyway the book is easy but discouraging reading. The authors- Abdo speaks arabic-
went there as optimists in an optimistic
time . It was all down hill from there.


I think the 5 years is too optimistic. A year and a quarter ago I read convincing evidence that December, '04 was the point of no return at which Israel would attack. Well, that apparently wasn't the case, but, what I think happened was that Iran sealed its enrichment facilities to buy time with Europe and the IAEA, during which they progressed with many other bomb-making technologies. I'm almost sure, in the presence of almost no information, that the critical element for Iran's program is the mass of enriched uranium. I'll bet everything else is nearly in place. Certainly, delivery vehicles are.


Israel simply can't do this alone. There are dozens of duplicated major faclities and hundreds of smaller ones ensuring that they will be very difficult to knock out even with a very destructive attack. These facilities are hardened. Israel's jets would need to refuel to return, and they simply can't pull this off without US electronic and probably logistical and overt military help. I have a feeling we'll leaave Israel out of it, and convince France or especially Russia, to go along with us. Germany will come, Britain will come. China may help in return for oil. If we can convince France, Russia, and China to at least not interfere, it can be done without Israel, and with bearable political repercussions.

Who'd object? Don't tell me, I know.


I'm ashamed I haven't also mentioned Poland, Italy, and Australia, who'll be with us as usual. I've little doubt Turkey will let us gallop by Ararat on the way in.


They played the Russia card to leave the EU in the dust. Good chess play.
Spain and Austria are already tap-dancing away.

I'm afraid that once again Europe or most of Europe will be sitting in the backseat complaining about the driving, Kim.

Thw Wahaabis have taken it on the chin, and Iran's Mahdi dreaming madman thinks this is his big chance to dominate the M.E.


Driving Miss Daisycutters. You are sooooo right, as usual, C. I suppose we'll see just how mad the Mahdi is, 'cuz Bush is not mad, and he's bigger.


Interesting:rope a dope champion v. Mad passable chess player. (Watch the chessman's pawns.They are the key.)

Cecil Turner

I think I prefer "talk softly and suborn aircraft maintenance workers until conditions for effective air strikes are met".

I suspect we'll try the sanctions route before anything more aggressive. (Destabilizing the regime should come after that, but I'm not sure waiting is indicated in this case.) Airstrikes are a bit drastic, at least at this point. Without at least a credible threat, however . . .


Who are the pawns you mean?

I think the world will move with us on sanctions, destabilization, airstrikes as last resort. That President apparently left them open-mouthed at the UN in November. He has apocolyptic visions. Messhugunna, and they know it.

By the way, he probably figures he's doing us a favor. Jesus is supposed to accompany the 12th Imam.


If this guy is whating for teh 12th Imam it may never come true. If it wasn't for the fact that he was going to try to destroy Israle. I mean Jeaus is the guy who pryed for angry mob.


By pawns I mean the disaffeccted population of Iran.

Maybe we can get Spielberg to do something useful-- create a fake mahdi with all the special affects..


France is already saying sanctions are premature.

Doesn't look like their aircraft are in first rate shape,does it, Cecil? At least when they carry leaders of the hated Revolutionary Guards.


(A good piece on the "moral and intellectual rot" in Germany. Don't count on much from them,even with Merkel.)http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110007818


I think France is less likely to help than Russia or China. They enjoy being contrary.

There are a lot of pawns in Iran. Some greater pawn than some of the others put down those planes.

I've got a funny feeling we'll somehow repeat the Mossadegh business. Even Russia may play a similar role.

Please, no Shah.


I agree whith kim this man is not right in the head he is a little mixed up in a little to caught up in religon


I think France is less likely to help than Russia or China.

When speaking of foreign policy France is not France, France is Chirac. All the power is vested in him, the people have no input, no say at all. Last I heard his approval rating was at 1%. It doesn't matter. But I agree 'France' will be contrary.

However I think China is interesting. Hasn't anyone noticed they have little to nothing to say at all about world events except those that directly affect them? No posturing re positive and negative. No fopo theories discernible much at all.

China is basically isolationist. They care only that the option remains open they can retake Taiwan, not that they even plan to. Other than that, their only concern is getting the oil. They were alarmed by Iraq only because it destabilized the region from which oil flows.

Their only concern seems to be what affects them today, not ten, twenty years in the future. (Not totally true economically though.)

So, how could we get them 'onboard'? The best we can hope for is that they won't interfere. Dig deep, Condi. You'll find a way.

Russia is like a misbehaving uncle. You love him but by God wish he weren't so corrupt. It takes deep pockets to influence Uncle Putin...and even more to get him to control his corruptible little children everywhere in government and business.

Condi needs to dig deep and also get Bush personally involved here I think.

And all this only to be able to impose sanctions on Iran. Sigh.

r flanagan

I've little doubt Turkey will let us gallop by Ararat on the way in. QUOTE

Not sure whether that was meant ironically.
For some reason (which I'm sure others understand) Iran is Turkey's bete noir.
And that has contributed to Turkey ,even under its most religious government since Attaturk , having close relations with
Isreal - the enemy of my enemy etc. Visits from Isreali politicians are splashed all
over the newspapers . And if you're looking for a mid east site where Jews or Israelis will be welcome to live or visit you go to Istanbul. Clearly there are anti Israeli terrorists as in the synagogue
bombing two years ago (publicly and convincingly deplored by the prime minister).

BTW in an earlier post I mentioned that the author Jennifer Abdo spoke arabic I meant to say spoke the language used in Iran which-
I suppose is farsi. No one bothered to correct me , probably being kind- or more
likely indifferent.


Bob in Pacifica,

A True Story.

For You.

It happened, just like this.


During the build-up to the invasion of Iraq, I had dinner with a Persian business associate.

His family had escaped Iran just as the revolution began. His father and uncles were oil executives under the Shah. His family lost everything when they left Iran, which was valued in the many hundreds of millions of dollars.

As our dinner conversation moved to Iraq he became quite animated, even angry.

"The invasion of Iraq has nothing to do with Iraq," he said. "And everything to do with China."

"China?" I asked.

"Yes, the Chinese are now, or will be America's greatest rival and threat. Their economic might and growth is completely dependent on Iranian oil. The Iranians are completing a oil pipeline to directly service the Chinese. Without Iranian oil, the Chinese become impotent."

"But why invade Iraq" I asked.

"Iraq is next to Iran," he said, annoyed. "Iraq is step 1. Iran is step 2."

He paused, to make sure I understood his meaning. "The war in Iraq is the first step in the war against China. The war is about 'blood for oil', but not in the way the protesters suggest."


Without Iranian oil, the Chinese become impotent.

Why does he think that?


They are the elephant in the livivng room as far as energy consumption. Once they get pebble bed nuclear reactors going, they'll need the oil for plastics.


Sure, but their present oil demand is about a quarter of ours, and we're not "completely dependent" on Iranian oil, which accounts for less than 10% of world production. (At least according to the CIA.) Just wondering why they'd be considered more dependent on Iranian oil than we are.

Bob in Pacifica

Kim, I think the best way to get Iran to back away from their nuke program is through political pressure by Europe and Iran's neighboring countries. A war would only rally the country behind their current leader. There is considerable opposition to him at home, the Iranian middle-class not mired in medieval thought.

The other thing no one mentions is that Israel has nuclear weapons, lots of them. When Dimona was first revealed to the world a few decades back the estimates were that Israel had sixty or so bombs. They've got to have several hundred by now. I would guess that any crossroads in the Middle East is a target. By allowing a nutbag like the one running Iran the bomb all of the Middle East is raising the stakes of their own destruction.

There is great motivation to quietly, behind the scenes, get this sorted out. The best thing would be that Bush and his envoys avoid public threats which push the wacko to make bad decisions, and have others in the world community pressure Iran to back down.


practice sessions.


Bob, that's an excellent plan, but the exact one that has failed over the last three years. You cannot reason with a madman, and the world is gradually realizing Iran's President is one. I agree we shoud stick with present negotiations and only slowly escalate through sanctions and finally attack if necessary. This is not the same situation as Pakistan(where, ironically, the development of the bomb helped ensure a military dictatorship for the near term). The problem is that we are running out of time. If we can wait that long, and if the situation hasn't changed, it'll all happen next Spring.

E. I think we get almost no oil from Iran. China is very thirsty(considering fighting for oil between it and Taiwan) and they are shaking the bushes all over the world for petroleum. A pipeline from the Caspian is a natural. Lots of mountain people in the way, though.

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