Multilateral solutions and Diplomatic contusions.
Engagement! Containment! The Straight of Hormuz!! they cried. All of it sounded wonderful over pate in Ivy League circles. In fact, just before Obama took office shelving the military solution became high fashion, put it in a drawer they said. Engagement became the order of the day. But now, strange winds are afoot.
A last resort military solution to prevent nuclear armed mad mullahs depends on a number of critical components. The exhaustion of other options, the willingness to use force, and technical ability. These three factors are now coming into alignment and the Strike Option is not only back in play, its got top shelf billing.
1 – Exhaustion
The toughest sanctions we are going to see, after over a year and a half of delay and failed engagement are now law in the USA. The Europeans may soon follow suit. Either way the card is in play. No one believes sanctions can prevent a nuclear Iran. At best they are a delaying tactic. This latest final round of sanctions may represent the exhaustion of all other options, knocking requirement one off the list in short order, as Iran’s nuclear & ballistic missile programs advance.
2 – Willingness to use force.
Israel, long believed to be the military option wildcard has always been willing to use force. The Israeli public by overwhelming majority in polling has shown it is fully prepared to strike, even if it means going against the wishes of President Obama. Equally, it’s far from a secret that Israel’s political & military establishment is unified over the need to prevent a nuclear Iran. No shocker there, the Israel chapter is closed.
Things get interesting when we look outside of Israel..
The White House has been stressing that bi-lateral discussions in the security & military echelon between America & Israel have never been closer. That dialog is focused in many ways on the Iranian threat.
We’ve seen over the past year large joint military exercises involving US & Israeli forces, gaming missile defense & regional war scenarios. The intent is to buttress the new interlink between Israel & America, tying the IDF into the US/European central command regarding missile threats.
Of greater note, much of the dialog seems to involve joint planning of theoretical strike options. Either by Israel alone or perhaps involving US assets themselves should the need arise. A far cry from the American position of just a year ago when military options were shelved, and US official after official landed here in Israel to warn us not to strike..
Since the US pushed a fourth round of sanctions against Iran through the UN Security Council last month, Jerusalem has increased diplomatic efforts to convince the White House that for the sanctions to work, a credible military option needs to be on the table to scare Iran to reconsider its pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
An indication that this might have happened came in the latest issue of Time magazine, in an article titled “An Attack on Iran: Back on the Table.”
Written by Joe Klein, the article claims that in recent months, the US military’s Central Command has made significant progress in planning targeted air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, some of which were deemed impossible to penetrate just two years ago.
According to the report, the progress was made possible by the “vastly improved human-intelligence operations in the region.”
Israel has reportedly been “brought into the planning process.” [...]
Winds of Change
Could US military planning, and intelligence views have changed so drastically?
According to former CIA director Michael Hayden, that just maybe the case..
A US military strike on Iran has become more likely and could be justifiable in the future, former CIA chief Michael Hayden said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“My personal view is that Iran left to its own devices will get itself to that step right below a nuclear weapon,” said Hayden, “and frankly that will be as destabilizing as their actually having a weapon.”
The former CIA director stated that an attack on Iran had not originally been a serious option, but in light of Iran’s intensified pursuit of nuclear materials, the military option “may not be the worst of all possible outcomes.” [...]
We know that the 2007 NIE which discounted the Iranian nuclear threat publicly, has now itself been discounted by US intelligence. The Pentagon has drastically changed time-lines for an Iranian nuclear capable ICBM maturing, possibly as soon as 2015.
These events suggest a new acknowledgment that the threat to the US is real. The Washington Obama engagement track has failed spectacularly, while prominent voices in the US House & Senate continue to imply the military option was never shelved at all..
A Nuclear Iran could shatter the Obama legacy
Others have now begun suggesting that President Obama, a leftwing ideologue without parallel, may be forced to strike just in order to keep his ideological dreams alive. The notion put forth being that a nuclear Iran will utterly destroy key aspects of Obama’s core foreign policy visions. Non-Proliferation, and a non-nuclear new world order. Issues which any novice following events could immediately recognize as near & dear to his heart.
Taken as a whole, it might seem as if the Political, Military, and Intelligence wings of the US Govt apparatus have all swung round, up to & possibly including the President himself. If that were indeed the case it would knock off the 2nd requirement – The willingness to use force.
It is worth noting that international polling has shown majorities in favor of the whatever it takes to stop Iran school of thought..
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at a gathering of ambassadors in Moscow on Monday conceded that “Iran is moving closer to possessing the potential which in principle could be used for the creation of nuclear weapons.”
Moscow’s admission comes at a time when much of the world is beginning to recognize the magnitude of the threat of an Islamofascist state possessing weapons of mass destruction. In a Pew Research poll of 22 countries last month, a majority in 16 of the states preferred a military strike over tolerating a nuclear Iran. In the U.S., 66% preferred a strike, while 24% objected to it.
In Egypt, 55% supported a military strike on Iran, while 16% opposed it. In Jordan, the figures were 53% to 20% in favor.
So even Mideast Muslims understand the danger to themselves — and they understand that their supposed great enemy, Israel, is likely to be the power to rid the region of that grave danger.
So do Americans. IBD/TIPP polls have consistently favored Israeli military action, and did so again by a 56% to 30% margin in last week’s survey (see chart)
These consistent views internationally, combined with rumors of Muslim states willing to even quietly assist Israel should the need arise all point to military force as a credible option.
3- Technical Ability
The last requirement on the list is the great unknown. Clearly America could level the Iranian nuclear program, the top tier of the regime, and even the bulk of the IRGC itself if it so chooses. That is not speculation. America is an unstoppable military juggernaut which could from a distance cut through Iran like a hot knife through butter.
We are not in the same league as the Americans, but Israel might be able to do hefty damage to the program, as well as Iranian Ballistic Missile production facilities should it be backed into a corner. If we could with international assistance, open a corridor for 2-3 days of sustained strikes utilizing air power, sea based assets, and Jericho missiles it is likely Israel could do some major damage to Iran’s illicit abilities, and knock the program back years if not a decade or two.
The notion put forward by detractors that a serious strike would only delay Iran 2 or so years seems frankly comical. Iran is teetering economically, and its programs have taken 20 years to put together at a cost of endless billions. Any serious blow could be a fatal one. Leaving in its wake an already near collapse and stagnant economy ravaged by 30%+ unemployment, combined with a sanctioned regime starved of capital or ability to regenerate nuclear programs or options.
In any event the Iranians may not leave Israel, America or the Gulf region much choice.
As public opinion solidifies, options exhaust, and political opinions change in Washington. The last remaining hurdle, technical ability may well fall into place.. If it already hasn’t.
In the 48 hours since this was posted a number of events directly related to the analysis above have taken place. The EU has indeed followed suit. Both the EU & Canada have announced wide ranging strict fuel & energy sector sanctions on Iran, effectively closing the current sanctions effort chapter.
The top US Department of State official on Iran, and a point man in the Obama Administration engagement effort at the end of this week is resigning. Is this the most potent signal yet that the failed engagement effort is over? Or that the military strike option has indeed gone top shelf? Perhaps both?
This post has been nominated this week as a Non-Council submission to the Watcher’s Council. Woot! My thanks to the Watcher and the Council for their reading and consideration. Update July 31st – I got shellacked!! Congrats to this week’s winners!
Thanks.. But No Thanks
Plenty of action on the rogue regime front this week, with Iran delivering what it calls a ‘new proposal’ to the p5+1 for “Negotiations”. There are a number of interesting aspects to this proposal.
Chiefly among them is the fact that Iran has flatly refused to discuss or cease its nuclear program, or table uranium enrichment issues which constitutes the number one demand from the West.
Clearly, this is a stalling & delay tactic. But the Iranians in charge over there in Iranistan are a clever bunch. They’ve zeroed in specifically on comments made by the Obama administration, and used them to their own advantage in order to build on some unlikely allies – The hard left in the US and even within Obama’s own administration. The proposal has been leaked and within we can glean some interesting insight into Iran’s squeeze play..
The proposal, submitted by Teheran on Wednesday to representatives of the P5+1 group of nations – - the US, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – says Iran is prepared to enter into dialog and negotiation in order to lay the ground for lasting peace. It lists a wide range of issues for discussion, including nuclear disarmament, trade and investment and protecting human dignity.
Although the proposal makes no mention of Israel, it calls for “joint efforts and interactions to help the people of Palestine draw up a comprehensive, democratic and equitable plan in order to help the people of Palestine to achieve all-embracing peace, lasting security and to secure their fundamental rights.”
It also calls for “promoting the universality of the Non-Proliferation Treaty,” and “putting into action real and fundamental programs toward complete disarmament and preventing the development and proliferation of nuclear chemical and microbial weapons.” [...]
Iran seizes on issues publicly declared by Obama as priorities, cynically portends to be champions of these issues while attempting to replace itself in the hot seat with Israel. The complete disarmament mentioned is in regards to ALL nuclear weapons on the planet, a stated (somewhat absurd) pet project of President Obama himself, and a clear call to focus on Israel’s own nuclear capabilities. The innocent Iranian regime playing international moral leader.
Even more classic, this is exactly what apologists for the Iranian regime want to hear. Iran is clearly banking on those same apologists to be champions in their delay tactics. Lacking any credibility internationally whatsoever of late, the hard left & those that champion engagement with no real end game are Iran’s only outlet. So Iran lays it on mighty thick just for them, with ample bait to the softies in the Obama administration to boot!
Apparently in some quarters it is already working..
According to the document, “The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that within the framework of principles of justice, democracy and multilateralism, a wide range of security, political, economic and cultural issues at regional and global levels could be included in these negotiations with a view of fostering constructive cooperation for advancement of nations and promotion of peace and stability in the region and the world.”
The US and Russia were at odds on Thursday over Teheran’s proposals, with American officials saying they fall short of satisfying international demands, and the Russians saying there was something to talk about. [...]
Justice, Democracy MULTILATERALISM. All the buzzwords and music to engagement eager grand bargainers ears are hear. In return for some appeasement everything can be magically solved! Security, political, economic problems, cultural issues.. PEACE ON EARTH!!!
This is some pretty devious & clever stuff. Iran delays for 8 months after previously delaying in talks for 6 years, and just as things look ugly for them sanction wise they pull the steak off the table entirely, while baiting the biggest suckers with all the trimmings instead.
All the while the not so subtle offering of a juicy dessert for Iran & its proponents – the focus on Israel in particular, in combination with a cynical play on Obama’s own declared sensitivities regarding nuclear weapons, disarmament and overall Hope & Change. This US Admin already lit a fire under the Israel nuclear pot this spring, Iran is just stepping up & stirring it. After all, how could they disregard that very large Obama gift? Instead they’ve wrapped it in a pretty hope & change bow & re-gifted it right back.
Obama’s Administration is vulnerable
In a normal world we could dismiss it all out of hand, but so far US foreign policy is not operating in a normal world. Months of engagement failure have only now just barely begun to contain Obama’s hope & delusion. Most of that reality slowly creeping in is as a result of Congressional & European displeasure, not any overt acknowledgment that the policy is naive despite the protestations of Denis Ross.
The door is still wide open, and even the September deadline is already slipping back to 2010 in regards to implementing any sanctions. If Iran’s play can whip up enough support in the ‘US engagement at all costs community’ with their little switcheroo – We could be right back at square one, and Iran will be pleased as punch along with having the ability to deliver a nuclear one.
Enough time wasted.. Time to step up to the plate Mr President.
We heard about the Obama engagement plan all throughout the never ending campaign, more than a year & a half’s worth of buildup by the progressive wing of the American Democratic party. In January 2009, Obama was sworn in. He took a fair allotment of time to prepare his administration to implement his ideas through an Iranian policy review, no problem. By March Israel’s new government was beginning to do the same.
During the 1st & only meeting between PM Netanyahu & President Obama we learned that the US was coming to agreement with the consensus feeling in both Israel and old Europe that engagement could not be open ended, as this would allow Iran opportunity to simply stall for time under a cloak of ‘engagement’ while developing nuclear capabilities. The time frame laid out by Obama was end of 2008 to begin review of the engagement process.
Obama meanwhile punted, under the claim that until Iranian early summer elections elections no engagement was possible. Unfortunately for him, the Iranian people and the world, we all witnessed the brutality and criminality of the Iranian theocracy close up in those ‘elections’. Despite a state of denial by the American administration to ‘push forward’ with the illegitimate regime regardless, Europe was somewhat more appalled.
S. 908 ready since April
As a result of the brutality and clear path to failure with engagement Sarkozy, Merkel, and Israel were more inclined to speed things up. A consensus was reached at the Italian G8 Summit that discussion & determination of what action to take re Iran would come at the UN General Assembly in September, now 3 weeks away where the P5+1 / G8 members will be present. In the US Senate, a refined fuel sanctions bill is long on the table awaiting the White House ok. The Honorables Evan Bayh & Senator Lieberman have about 70 senate votes & about 300 house members prepared to support the new sanctions proposed by S. 908. (see below)
The time for dilly dally is up, now is the time for pressure, sanctions, and isolation. It is likely Israel will come to some form of agreement on peace talks & settlements to placate envoy Mitchell & President Obama, so that the path will be clear for the American administration to live up to its pledge on alternatives to friendly Obama charm based ‘engagement’ - Which has now failed. The UN session will begin on the 15th, will we see the P5+1 push for international pressure? Will we see S. 908 become law? Will American foreign policy finally take some form?
Just as crucial, what kind of distraction, mayhem, or terror is Iran perhaps planning to deflect attention and consensus on these matters? The last time we saw an important crossroads like this Hezbollah was instructed by Iran to create distraction. They assaulted Israel in terrorist action to kidnap Israeli soldiers, resulting in a month long war in Lebanon. By the same token, any failure to move forward internationally led by the USA on Iran now puts Israel in a ready mode, prepared to jump out of the blocks and sprint to a military solution..
Netanyahu is already traveling Europe preparing the ground work for the UN Assembly, if he announces he is planning to address the world in New York we’ll know just how serious efforts to box in Iran are. President Obama is going to have to hawk up, pass sanctions and prepare a possible blockade for early 2009. Will he?
7 months gone, 7 months wasted.. 7 months closer to Iranian nuclear weapons. Time for countries & international petroleum companies to choose. Whom do they want to transact with, America or Iran?
A bill to amend the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 to enhance United States diplomatic efforts with respect to Iran by expanding economic sanctions against Iran.
Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act – Expresses the sense of Congress that: (1) the United States should continue to support diplomatic efforts in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the U.N. Security Council to end Iran’s illicit nuclear activities;
(2) diplomatic efforts with Iran are more likely to be effective if the President is empowered with the explicit authority to impose additional sanctions on the government of Iran;
(3) it should be U.S. policy to encourage foreign governments to direct state-owned and private entities to cease all investment in, and support of, Iran’s energy sector and all exports of refined petroleum products to Iran;
(4) the President is urged to impose sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran and any other Iranian financial institution engaged in proliferation activities or support of terrorist groups;
(5) the Department of the Treasury should continue to work with allies to protect the international financial system from deceptive and illicit practices by Iranian financial institutions involved in proliferation activities or support of terrorist groups;