January 18, 2006

Colin Powell: Iran Hawk

This is interesting:

COLIN Powell yesterday warned that Iran was heading down the same path as Iraq had done before the 2003 invasion and could not be trusted to tell the truth about its nuclear programme.

The former United States secretary of state said he believed Iran posed a serious threat to the rest of the world in the same way that Iraq had done, and he refused to apologise for the action the US took against Saddam Hussein's regime.

However Mr Powell, who was in Glasgow to address a Jewish group, admitted that the military campaign against Iraq was based on "bad intelligence" and that it was now clear that Saddam had not managed to amass any stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

In an interview with The Scotsman, Mr Powell said it was clear that negotiations with Iran had come to a dead end and efforts now had to concentrate on preventing it taking the same path as Iraq had done.

Powell does not, however, call for military action... yet.

Increasingly though, the question seems to be more a question of "when" western allies might push for more severe measures, not "if." A nuclear weapon developed by an apocolptic Islamic cult in Tehran (one so crazy Ayatollah Khomeini wouldn't touch them) is not something that the free world can easily allow, but it will come at a price.

Our invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan have cost Coalition nations relatively little compared to what we could face with a military response to Tehran's insistance on developing nuclear weapons.

In Iraq, we completed the military invasion and more than two years of occupation so far for less military casualties than we expected in the battle for Baghdad alone.

In Iran, we would face what most agree is a more competent military than what we faced in Iraq, and we would most likely be forced to engage them in full-spectrum warfare, not just an air war.

While air assets and special forces might launch attacks to shut down known Iranian nuclear sites, our conventional forces based in Iraq would have to prepare to repel possible Iranian overland counterattacks.

In addition, western naval and Marine forces would be forced to seize control of the Persian Gulf, and the Guld of Oman, particulary the Iranian-controlled islands in the Strait of Hormuz.

It perhaps then, no accident that the nation's newest and largest aircraft carrier, CVN 76 Ronald Reagan has deployed to the western Pacific, where it could reposition to the Persian Gulf region relatively quickly. We also know that the 122nd Fighter Wing of the Indiana ANG is deploying up to 72 F-16s to "southwest Asia" in their largest deployment since the Berlin Crisis in 1961.

I hope Iran will back down, becuase I do not desire another middle eastern conflict if it can be avoided. But allowing a genocidal end times cult to possess nuclear weapons is not something the world can allow, even if that cult runs a country.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at January 18, 2006 04:14 PM | TrackBack

If Iran can't have a nuclear program, why should israel be allowed to? becomes ever more clear who runs this country!!!

Posted by: john axelrod at January 18, 2006 05:37 PM becomes ever more clear who runs this country!!!

Yes. Those of us who don't want apocolyptic, terrorism-supprting madmen armed with long-range nuclear weapons.

Presumably, that would be most sane people, john.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at January 18, 2006 05:47 PM

As others have pointed out before me: its not the capacity, its the intent that is the problem.

I wouldn't be worried if it was Switzerland that was developing the bomb.


Posted by: Toby928 at January 18, 2006 06:14 PM

As they say, "Smoke'm if you got'em"

Time to get tough, before this goes any further.

And to answer the stupid comment by Axelrod--

Because, extremist Jews have never flown jets into buildings for their cause or called for the extermination of an entire race of people. Nukes in Israel are a safe bet--but not in IRAN. Think before you comment.

Posted by: WB at January 18, 2006 06:42 PM

Nuclear proliferation is not a new issue. We've been dealing with it since the nuclear bomb was invented. It's not like Soviet Russia was all hearts and flowers, either. They committed horrors far worse than 9/11. The possibility of nuclear terrorism is also hardly new, and has been the subject of innumerable discussion (not to mention James Bond films).

What seems to be different now is that more people seem to feel that arms development is justification for pre-emptive assault upon the country. In the past, it was pretty much a given that this was stupid, because it was destabilizing and generated more violence than it solved. Pakistan is another Islamic state which is hardly more enlightened than Iran, yet we failed to bomb them, and I'm pretty sure we would have objected if India decided to bomb and invade Pakistan for its program in prior decades.

The principle that has worked, in my opinion, is to speak softly and carry a big stick. We do not start fights, but we end them. This policy inherently means that we are vulnerable, since others will attack us first before we attack them. That's life. We will have incidents like Pearl Harbor and 9/11. But in the end, a clear deterrent is safer because it reduces violence. WWII was incredibly horrible, but the result was that fascism was destroyed. Essentially no one in either Germany or Japan questioned our moral rightness, and they learned their lesson.

In contrast, look at Iran which can look on either side at Iraq and North Korea. Which one would they rather be like? North Korea has nuclear weapons, and we treat it with respect. Iraq doesn't, and we invaded it based on our suspicions. The lesson they learn is that even if they don't have nuclear weapons, we can suspect that they do and invade them. The only way to be safe is to actually have nuclear weapons.

The deterrent strategy is to tell the government of Iran -- "We will never invade you or attack you, regardless of your programs, so long as you don't attack us. But if you attack us or aid in attacks against us, we will eradicate you."

Posted by: jhkim at January 18, 2006 09:09 PM

The fear is not that Iran would attack us, but that they would produce countless small nuclear devices and turn them over to the terrorists whom they support. These would then be smuggled into many major cities in all the western nations for detonation. Once we learned these had been produced by Iran and were ready to retaliate, the price would have been far too great and we could well lose dozens or even hundreds of our cities with countless tens of thousands of casualties. In that sort of scenerio the free world cannot afford to wait to make the second strike.

Posted by: Fish at January 18, 2006 11:53 PM

The terrorist suitcase bomb scenario is an interesting one in many ways. Using this method requires giving up so much command and control over the weapon that, to all intents and purposes, there is none. A weapon could be used, stolen, sold. You could have a falling out with the agent entrusted with the bomb. It might even wind up returning to Teheran under other colors. A person with a suitcase nuke could take it to Switzerland and ask the Swiss for money. Why not?

The second problem with suitcase nukes is there is nothing in principle which would stop Israel from doing the same. In fact, there is nothing to stop a private group from developing its own weapon and emplacing it in Teheran -- or Mecca. If a nuke went off in Islamabad without attribution, who done it: Israel or India?

Posted by: wretchard at January 19, 2006 03:37 AM

jhkim, I, too, like the moral high ground of preferring to attack only after having been attacked; but only if you are counted among the innocent citizens who has to die before we are allowed to “retaliate”. Were we not “attacked” on 9-11? USS Cole? Beirut? TWA Flight 840? WTC in 93? Riyadh? Khobar Towers? Kenya & Tanzania? just to name a very few.

If Iran makes a nuclear device that is smuggled into NYC and detonated (very high probability), killing, say 500,000, would you be willing to launch a nuclear “retaliation” strike to decimate Tehran? Their loss has to far exceed ours to make it “retaliation.” So in all, say 6 to 12 million people have to die in the terrorist attack on NYC and our “retaliation” on Tehran. Doesn’t it seem more effective to just “preemptively” take out Iran’s nuclear program now?

Why does Iran have to be denied nuclear munitions? A different analogy… In your neighborhood, say your neighbor is a gun and explosive fanatic and has shot and killed some of your other neighbors in the past. He has openly professed to hate you just because of who you are. Are you going to wait until the neighbor shoots and kills one of your children who walk out your front door to catch the school bus? or are you going to ask the police to intervene? In this analogy the “police” are not going to help. Now the neighbor has shot and killed two of your children and his threats are getting louder and more radical. What are you going to do? Are you going to allow this radical to take out more of your family and friends or are you going to act? Well, what should America do? Should we wait for the inevitable slaughter of our innocent citizens or should we disarm our antagonists and prevent the needless deaths?

Posted by: Old Soldier at January 19, 2006 08:31 AM

Why do we let Isreal have the Bomb but not Iran? Because Isreal is an ally and Iran is an enemy. There is good thing in not wanting an enemy to have the weapon to kill you. We have a score to settle with Iran, let finish them off before they have the Bomb.

Posted by: ANH at January 19, 2006 10:03 AM


Seems as if we took on the wrong member of the axis of evil. The one without nuclear weapons. The one without the ability to deliver wmds pronto. The one not the gravest threat to its neighbors. The one who would greet us liberators.

Now I hope we have enough left in the tank to deal with the folks who really are a threat.

Clearly the Iranians wouldn't be making so much noise if they didn't think they could get away with their behavior. A stretched thin US military doesn't seem to be striking fear into their hearts.

Hope we are a little smarter this time around.

Posted by: ArthurStone at January 19, 2006 04:36 PM

Well, Artie Gadfly, maybe you should provide everyone here with your sage advice on how the United States should deal with Iran.

You won't, of course. All you can do is launch critiques you have read elsewhere.

I doubt that you have had an original, creative thought in your life.

Ya can't light a fire in the furnace without fuel. Hell, you don't even have the matches ....

Posted by: Retired Spy at January 20, 2006 08:58 AM


Believing everything the administration says is the sign of an original, creative thinker?

Posted by: ArthurStone at January 20, 2006 09:55 AM

Once again, Artie, you dodge the comments by launching some empty platitudes of your own - probably dug up at some leftie BLOG somewhere.

I asked you what your solution is to the threats posed by Iran. You did not answer. Are you outsourcing the functionality of your brain, awaiting some more leftie talking points?

Not much fire in that furnace ....

Posted by: Retired Spy at January 20, 2006 12:51 PM

Well we should continue to apply what pressure we can diplomatically with our allies in Europe. Persuade the Russians and the Chinese as well it's in their better interest that Iran not arm.

And be ready to remove the nuclear option by force if necessary. Air and missile strikes presumably if the Iranians don't want to play nice.

Posted by: ArthurStone at January 20, 2006 02:51 PM

ArthurStone said,
Seems as if we took on the wrong member of the axis of evil. The one without nuclear weapons.

That is a naive and simplistic view. Saddam was extremely dangerous, with half a million men under arms. Had we attacked Iran (which, although it should have been, was not constrained by UN resolutions) we would almost certainly have had to deal with Saddam as well.

The above goes nowhere near exhausting the differences but should be enough to start a rethink in ArthurStone-world.

As for jhkim, who wonders why Pakistan was 'allowed' to develop nuclear weapons, he should remember that India and Pakistan got their nukes during the Cold War, in the 70s and 80s, with Soviet and Chinese assistance. Things were dangerous and complicated in very different ways then. Again, I have only hinted at the context in which to view this question and will leave it to those with more interest in the discussion (and more time) to take it any further.

(interesting blog here; I came via a link from Wretchard)

Posted by: Juan Golblado at January 22, 2006 09:09 AM

Saddam's regime was an empty husk. No WMDs. Poorly armed troops with low morale. After 1991 not really a threat at all.

And to clear up my 'statement we took on the wrong member...'. That shouldn't suggest we invade ANY nation at the point we acted.

You'll have to do a lot better than that to start a 'rethink' of the Iraq 'liberation' Carlos.

Posted by: ArthurStone at January 22, 2006 10:43 AM