Sunday, September 24, 2006

Why is Iran so unconcerned?

Billmon has a few things to say about the possible (likely?) invasion of Iran.

He quotes Colonel Sam Gardiner about "the filter":

When I discuss the possibility of an American military strike on Iran with my European friends, they invariably point out that an armed confrontation does not make sense -- that it would be unlikely to yield any of the results that American policymakers do want, and that it would be highly likely to yield results that they do not. I tell them they cannot understand U.S. policy if they insist on passing options through that filter. The "making sense" filter was not applied over the past four years for Iraq, and it is unlikely to be applied in evaluating whether to attack Iran.

He also asks the very important question, with the USA banging the drums of war and looking to pick a fight, why is Iran acting so unconcerned?

It finally occurred to me that I may have been looking at this the wrong way. I’ve been thinking about an American air strike as the Cheney Administration's way of kicking over the table and ending the chess match. But the Iranians may see it as simply another move on the board -- a disastrously bad move they could then exploit to improve their position.

It’s not so much that the Iranians want the Americans to attack their country, but they may be fully prepared to deal with it and use it to their own Machiavellian advantage -- not just politically and diplomatically, but also to advance their alleged nuclear ambitions. They may even be counting on it. If this is correct, their initial reaction to a U.S. air strike may be surprisingly restrained.

I have to say, I've been wondering the same thing. Given Iran's ambition to be a major power, and given that the USA has made it abundantly clear that they can and will attack non-nuclear powered nations, why isn't Iran going full tilt to produce nuclear weapons? By all non-partisan accounts, Iran has no nuclear weapons program -- and yet it seems logically that they should.

Could it be that Iran was serious when they rejected the use of nuclear weapons as immoral and against the teachings of Islam? Maybe -- but surely that only holds for using nuclear weapons against civilians. That shouldn't prevent them using The Bomb against enemy combatants in self-defence, say by using a 20 KT bomb to destroy an American aircraft carrier or two.

Possibly even in pre-emptive self-defence, now that President Bush has made hitting back first acceptable behaviour.

Could it be that they know that they can't build nuclear weapons, not in the current political climate, and so are trying to turn their technical failure into a moral advantage? Maybe, but I doubt that Iran is less technically capable than Pakistan and India, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there were elements in China that thought that a nuclear armed Iran would be a good thing.

Billmon's post makes a lot of sense to me. It is his idea that Iran is playing a high risk, but high gain, game here: they are steeling themselves to take a bloody nose now, for a free rein in two or three years:

Having launched a massive, unprovoked attack on another country and suffered the inevitable blowback (skyrocketing oil prices, recession, disaster in Iraq, global condemnation) would the United States have the political will to do it again in one or two or three years time?

It is a long post, but one worth reading.

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