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Saturday, 22 April 2006
A breakthrough in Iraqi politics?
Topic: Iraq

Or more of the same with different characters?

Word came down from Najaf and Ibrahim al-Jaafari decided to step aside after months of holding up the formation of a new government with his obstinate refusal to get lost. Jaafari said on Iraqi TV on Wednesday, "I cannot allow myself to be an obstacle, or appear to be an obstacle." (He certainly never did that!) "The one thing I cannot compromise is my dedication to this heroic people," Right, all this trouble he's caused was all in the name of democracy and the Iraqi people.

It's not going to go over well in the White House that it took Ashraf Qazi, a U.N. envoy, and a visit by him to Ayatollah ali-Sistani to get the ball rolling again. Remember, earlier on this month Condi Rice and British Foreign Secretary had made a "surprise visit" to Baghdad to try and get al-Jaafari to leave and they left empty handed. ( See, W. was right, diplomacy never works!) It looks like the Brits and the U.S. don't have too much credibility or clout when it comes to Iraqi politics these days.

Ali-Sistani does however: Robert Reid writes for the AP that, "Sistani's role was another sign of the Shiite clergy's political power. Shiite politicians turn frequently to the clergy for the politically tough decisions that they cannot make." So who's running the show over there, the democratically elected leadership or the turbaned Taliban? I'm sure all the people who have lost loved ones over there will be happy to know all their sacrifice has led to this.

Supposedly, the politicians are now on the fast track to forming new government. One little sticking point might be that part of the reason the Kurds wanted al-Jaafari out in the first place was because he had reneged on his promise to help them grab Kirkuk, an ethnically mixed city that they want rolled into their autonomous region. There isn't any guarantee that the next PM, Jawad al-Maliki, is going to be any more accommodating on that score. To be sure, any future government is going to have to deal with Turkey, if the Shiites do accede to Kurdish demands for Kirkuk. [Note: Turkey has moved 50,000 troops closer to the Iraqi border. AP]

When and if we ever leave, it looks like the militias might be ones who we leave in control. There's the Badr brigade, which is the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution; the Mehdi army, of Muqtada al-Sadr, who we fought to a standstill twice back in 2004 and whose numbers have exploded to maybe 15,000 fighters; and a new player on the scene, the Facilities Protection Services, which Newsweek says numbers about 146,000.

The funny thing about he FPS is that no one knows exactly where they came from or who controls them. This shadowy organization was apparently the offspring of groups of armed men who were known to be "night watchmen" for the various Shiite mosques around the country under threat form the Sunni insurgents. Now, they roam around Baghdad in police pickups, in blue police uniforms and, naturally; they're armed to the teeth. The crazy Interior Minister, Bayan Jabr, denied that he has any connection to them and tells Newsweek that "they are dong some bad." He says that one element of the FPS, Battalion 16, is responsible for "sectarian killings, explosions and mortar attacks."

So even the Interior Minister, who is very likely behind many killings himself, says they're out of control. Tim Keefe, a military spokesman says, "We really don't get anywhere near them." Another American official who didn't want his named used said, "The FPS has basically become the private army for the ministries. They have no accountability."

We're pretty busy with the Sunnis and al-Qaeda, so we're staying clear of the Shiite militias and, for the moment, they're staying out of our way while they consolidate their hold over the entire country. This could change at anytime, particularly if we attack their benefactor Iran.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:49 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 22 April 2006 2:53 PM EDT
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Iran: all options are radioactive
Topic: Bush Administraiton

On the diplomatic track, we're getting nowhere fast. After another fruitless get-together on Iran in Moscow, the under-secretary of state, Nicholas Burns, said yesterday that all sides agreed that Iran should stop its enrichment program...and that's about it. Burns offered that if the UN wouldn't do anything maybe individual countries could. Russia should stop selling missiles to Iran, for a start, and he said: "Its time for countries to start using their influence." Burns prefers to go through the UN Security Council, but "it's not beyond the realm of the possible that at some point in the future" other countries might, "take collective economic action or collective action on sanctions." (Or not.)

The NYT reports that the European chief negotiator, Javier Solana, has advocated penalties on Iran that would include, "stricter export controls on high technology shipments to Iran and revocation of visas for Iranian officials linked to the nuclear program." The Times noted, though, that another official pointed out that Solana had said these proposals were "options for reflection" not "options for action." For the Russian's part, Foreign Minister Sergie Lavrov said he would need proof that Iran is actually building a bomb before he would support sanctions.

While Burns is getting nowhere on convincing the rest of the world to do anything about Iran, the State Department's top arms-control official, Robert Joseph, is pushing the panic button. He says, "In terms of activities on the ground in Iran, it's fair to say, I believe, that the Iranians have put both feet on the accelerator." He also went on to say that, "We are very close to that point of no return." (Isn't that what the Israelis have been saying for the past year?)

Rummy backed up this assertion, in the friendly confines of the Laura Ingrahm show, by saying he has no confidence in the CIA's estimate that Iran is five to ten years away from having a bomb. "I think it's very difficult target for our intelligence community. They work hard at it, and they're fine people, but it's a difficult thing to do. Our visibility into their circumstance is imperfect." In other words, "the absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence."

Regime change, again:

And even if the CIA's intelligence is correct, that doesn't mean we're not going to go in with guns blazing anyway. Today the NYT reports that yet another former CIA official has come out to say that Rummy & Co. ignored evidence that Iraq didn't have WMD. Tyler Drumheller, the CIA's former head of the European operation, is going to say on 60 Minutes this Sunday that a paid informant in Saddam's inner circle, Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, told the CIA in September of 2002 that Iraq had no WMD. [Reuters]

CIA chief George Tenet, Bush and Cheney all knew this, so Drumheller thought the war must be off. He was surprised to find out shortly afterwards that it wasn't. Drumheller recalled, "And we said, 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said, 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change."

That's the plan in Iran, too: Regime change. The U.S. going to spend $80 million to broadcast anti-regime propaganda into Iran and support organizations that want democracy in Iran. Of course, this type of thing could backfire. Michael Hirsh in an article in Newsweek points out that, "outside interference tends to enrage Iranians, who have never forgiven Washington for the CIA-assisted coup that toppled elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953."

Iran's ambassador to the UN, Javad Zarif, says, "It’s not new. They increased their activities in Iran two or three years ago and now instead of a reformist president we have a conservative president. That tells you how successful they were." Remember, Bush came out before the Iranian elections and questioned their legitimacy, which just pissed Iranians off even more. Hirsh writes that, "Even affluent voters who said they hated the Shiite mullahs told a Newsweek reporter in Iran at the time that American arrogance so angered them that they decided to vote for Ahmandinjad, the radical candidate."

So, what are the options here? Trying to force democracy down the Iranian's throats doesn’t seem to be going too well and the rest of the world doesn't appear to be buying the line that Iran is the biggest threat to world peace since Hitler, either. The military option is "on the table," but that would be a catastrophe of biblical proportions if we used it, so the only other option is talking to the Iranians one-on-one. If W. & CO. were really as interested in a peaceful solution as they profess to be, they would do everything possible, including talking to the Iranians.

But U.N. ambassador John Bolton told the Inquirer yesterday that "we have nothing to say to them." Bolton complains that, "One of the ironies here is that the Bush administration so often is criticized for being unilateralist cowboys, but we've been trying for 3 1/2 years to work our way through the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency and [are] now trying to work our way through the U.N Security Council. But the purpose of these efforts is not just to chitchat about the Iranian nuclear-weapons efforts, but to bring them to a halt."

Of course, the truth is that for the past five years, beyond calling Iran part of the "axis of evil," the Bush administration has done zilch on Iran. They haven't been "trying for 3 1/2 years" to do anything, they've outsourced the diplomacy to the Europeans. W. & Co. have been dithering on Iran the entire time they've been in office and it's just now that they've gotten around to developing a policy of their own and, typically, it's all big sticks and no carrots.

I'm with Tom Friedman on this, if there's a "choice between another Rumsfeld-led confrontation and just letting Iran get nukes and living with it, we should opt for the latter."

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:44 PM EDT
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Friday, 21 April 2006
Go to Non Sum Dignus

I'm soory I haven't been posting here too much lately, I've been a bit short on time. I have been posting at Non Sum DignusNon Sum Dignus everyday, though, so go there for more on what's going on.

My take on the visit of Hu Jintao is there today.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 10:37 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 19 April 2006
Rummy's war.
Topic: Iraq

There's still no sign in Iraq that the various squabbling political factions are any nearer to any kind of agreement on forming a new government. The speaker of the Iraqi parliament, Adnan Pachachi, canceled Monday's meeting of the 275-member national assembly because no one can agree on what to do about the PM, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who still refuses to step aside. There was talk last week that the more secular types in the main Shiite bloc along with the Kurds and the Sunnis might be able to agree to work out a deal on picking a new candidate for PM, but al-Jaafari is having none of it. Stepping down is "out of the question," he said today. [AP]

Members of his Dawa party might be open to picking a new candidate from their party if Jaafari decides step down, but there's no sign that he will. Hence the stalemate, or gridlock, or whatever you want to call it. It's only been four months since the election, though, so what's the rush, right? That's what Mamoud Othman, a Kurdish leader told Nancy Youssef of the Inquirer. "I don't think anybody is in a hurry. They are completely out of touch with the voters," he said. (Imagine that!)

Meanwhile the country continues to fall apart. Last week we suffered 24 Marine casualties in one battle and this week the death count for the Marines is at 6. Yesterday, AP reported that insurgents in Anbar province launched a full out coordinated assault against the main government building in Ramadi, using suicide car bombs, RPGs and automatic weapons. The Marines were able to hold their own, but this is the second time in less than two weeks that Sunni insurgents have launched these types of attacks. Ramadi has been and remains an insurgent stronghold. The Marines may patrol there, but they do so in large numbers and inside heavily armored vehicles.

If anything, Anbar seems to be getting worse. All the major operations of a few months ago in Anbar province, much ballyhooed by the military and the press have apparently come to nothing. The insurgents seem to be getting stronger and more sophisticated in their tactics. In Baghdad, while the politicians fiddle, U.S. troops and the Iraqi army have fought pitched battles in the Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiya, killing several civilians in the process. [NYT]

This had been going on now for a few days and despite the military sealing off Adhamiya, the fighting isn't diminishing. In this case, it appears that the people we're fighting are regular citizen soldiers, not insurgents, who initially started firing on Iraqi forces who they thought were Interior Ministry troops. The Interior Ministry troops, there is no question, are the same bunch that's been responsible for the hundreds of bodies popping up all over Baghdad every week. No wonder then that the Sunnis are barricading their neighborhoods and climbing to the rooftops to defend their homes and families.

And then, of course, there's the daily body count of car bomb victims; drive by shooting victims; kidnappings and other crimes and misdemeanors. Not all related to sectarian violence; some of the killing is the result of tribal rivalries and criminal gang activity.

And we can add this to the indictment of Rummy's mismanagement: The Inquirer ran a story yesterday about all the missteps Rummy & CO. have made in the emergence of the Shiite militias, who now have totally infiltrated the security forces, the ones that we're expecting to stand up so we can stand down. While the brain trust in the pentagon was focused on the Sunni insurgency, the Badr brigade was busy spreading its tentacles throughout the Interior Ministry. The other Shiite militia, Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi army, has grown from a disorganized rabble of maybe 5000 street fighters to a new and reorganized force of 15,000, according to Time magazine.

Ton Lasseter writes that, "U.S. inaction gave the militia’s time to become a major force inside and outside the Iraqi government and American officials acknowledge that dislodging them now would be difficult." In fact, the military says the militias are a greater danger to the country than the Sunnis are. Whereas the Sunnis were killing perhaps a few dozen people a week in car bombings and such, the Shiites are killing hundreds every week. They're going around Baghdad, picking up 20 or 30 Sunnis at a pop, who then later wind up dumped in the streets with bullets in their heads.

Our inability to stop the Sunnis from killing Shiites has led to them building up their own armies to protect themselves. Abu Haider Lami, a Badr official, says, "They forget that the Sunnis have been killing us for 45 years. What do you expect?" (But, didn't Paul Wolfowitz say that Iraq had no history of sectarian strife?) It's not bad enough that we've created the conditions for a full blown civil war that could pull the whole region into a conflagration of biblical proportions, but we've actually helped the combatants get themselves ready for it.

Obviously, we were at the beginning and remain completely clueless about what we've got ourselves into in Iraq. Adnan Pachachi, the only sane person in this whole thing told Tom Lasseter that, "The so-called Sunni insurgency is active in hostilities toward the Americans, while Badr --- and perhaps the Mehdi army --- is not attacking Americans. Badr has been rather careful not to attack the Americans, not to provoke them." He could have added 'yet' to that sentence. If we attack Iran, that all could change: the security forces that we've been trying to so hard and spending so much money to build up, could turn all that equipment and training against us in a heartbeat.

Faced with this reality, any talk of forming a new government and basing timelines for troop withdrawals on that very dubious outcome, seems just a little beside the point. As long as W. and Rummy and their supporters in the Congress hold on to this idea that everything is going to work out the way they want, we'll keep losing troops, money and our ability to maneuver diplomatically internationally.

China and Russia can afford to keep blowing us off about doing anything serious about Iran's nukes because they can see we're wounded and bleeding in Iraq. Until we get some new blood and new thinking into the White House and the pentagon, we're doomed to just keep flailing and floundering and our enemies will reap the benefit at our expense.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:37 PM EDT
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Monday, 17 April 2006
War with Iran is inevitable, according to the Inquirer.
Topic: Bush Administraiton

I found this article in the Inquirer interesting. According to Warren P. Strobel, John Walcott and Jonathan S. Landay of the Inquirer Washington Bureau:

"The evidence that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons is stronger and more widely accepted --- internationally and within the U.S. government --- than the Bush administrations' flawed case about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction four years ago."

Is it? Maybe, in some circles inside the White House and pentagon but internationally? Just last week, even after Iran claimed to have enriched uranium, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he wasn't convinced. Iran "never stated that it is striving to possess nuclear weapons," he said. The jury is still out also on what India, Turkey, China and whole bunch of other countries think about Iran's intentions.

Even if the Iranians do want nukes, though, they won't have the capability to make them for years. U.S. intelligence estimates still say Iran is 5 to 10 years away, but, the Inquirer says, "Some independent experts put it at as little as three years." Of course, they don't say who these "independent" experts are. Could it be one of those former Israeli intelligence officers making the rounds in the U.S. saying Iran is not far from the "point of no return?"

And the article says, "There's good reason to question" the CIA's estimates: "The CIA was surprised, for example, when India conducted underground nuclear tests in May 1998." Yes, but the Indians lied to us about what they were doing and they didn't sign the NPT. Iran has and does get inspected. And a lot of what the CIA said about Iraq was actually right, but W. & CO. were manufacturing their own intelligence in the bowels of the pentagon to make sure all caveats were dismissed.

Maybe if we had access to A.Q Khan, we could figure out what exactly he gave the Iranians, but until recently our good friend Pervez Musharraf hasn't be too helpful. I read recently that the CIA was being giving limited access to Khan but that he might be just telling them what they want to hear in order to get better treatment. Where have we heard that before?

Couldn't we just talk to the Iranians?

"The administration has rejected the only other diplomatic course: direct talks with Iran about it nuclear program. A growing number of analysts and former top U.S. officials argue that the White House should reconsider."

Sounds reasonable, but the Inquirer goes on to say, "There's no guarantee that diplomacy, either through the U.N., or one-one, can succeed, and President Bush is adamant that Iran can't be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. That stance, and Iran's pledge that it will proceed with more centrifuges, means that U.S. air strikes, among then the large enrichment facility at Nantaz, might be the only option."

Well, that's that. One-on-one negotiation with Iran might fail, so we're not even going to try. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition! This is the best the Inquirer's senior Washington staff can come up with? Making Bush's case for another war? Nice going Fourth Estate!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:54 PM EDT
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Winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan continued:
Topic: War on Terror

The NYT reports that Afghan security forces, back by U.S. helicopters and Canadian troops fought a pitched battle with the Taliban on Friday in Kandahar province:

"The U.S helicopters, according to villagers, fired on farmhouse compounds, wounding civilians, damaging homes and killing animals...The governor of Kandahar province, Asadullah Khaled, said in a news briefing on Saturday that 41 rebels had been killed. Six Afghan policemen were killed --- including four who may have been possibly killed by fire from U.S. helicopters --- and nine police were wounded...At least one Afghan woman was killed in the cross fire, and two more civilians were injured, officials and villagers said.

Villagers who were caught in the cross fire on Friday in the village of Sartak confirmed that a large number of Taliban had come into the area several days earlier but said they had not come into the village. They angrily denounced the police and the coalition for coming to fight them in the village and causing civilian casualties and damage to homes."

Didn't I hear somewhere that the Taliban were finished? If anything the battles against them are escalating as we head toward summer. You can pin this one on Rummy, too. If he hadn't let OBL and the Taliban go on their merry way, maybe we wouldn't be rerunning the Russian occupation again.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:48 PM EDT
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Saturday, 15 April 2006
The fruitcake file.
Topic: War on Terror
Mamoud Amadinejad is back in the news: At a two-day conference in Tehran to raise money for the Hamas led government in the PA, he said Israel was an "unending and unrestrained threat" to the Islamic world. He also said that Israel was "a decaying and crumbling tree that will fall with a storm." Hannah Allam of the Inquirer reports:

"Huge pro-Palestinian posters hung throughout the conference hall, including one that showed the Israeli flag superimposed over the face of Adolph Hitler...One video showed the Star of David made of barbed wire and emanating flames."

All of this coming on the heels of this week's nuclear saber rattling and you really have to wonder if this guy isn't really working for us. He's so crazy, so belligerent, that he just makes W.'s and Israel's case for a military strike. Unfortunately, words aren't a causus belli for most of the rest of the world. Condi Rice is calling for "strong steps" in the face of Iran's defiance from the UN Security Council when it meets on April 28th, but again, the Russians and the Chinese aren't looking too likely to go along with much of anything the administration wants. Rice said that steps had to be taken to "maintain the credibility of the international community." The one little fly in the ointment is, though, is that the United States has no credibilty after our blundering in Iraq. Nice work Condi!

Despite the heated warnings from Stephen Rademaker of Iran being able to make a bomb 16 days after they get those 54,000 centrifuges spinning and Iran's bellicose posturing, the intelligence community says Iran is still a long way away. On Wednesday, the NYT reportes that, "Western nuclear analysts said...that Tehran lacked the skills, materials and equipment to make good on its immediate nuclear ambitions." The analysts called Iran's claims to rapidly construct enough centrifuges to make a bomb "exaggerated." The thinking is that they might be able to do something in 5 to 10 years and "some analysts have said it could come as late as 2020."

But then again, all the intelligence agencies and analysts were "wrong" about Saddam's WMD weren't they? Well actually, many of them were right about the mobile chemical labs and the aluminum tubes and "curveball" and Chalabi being liars etc., they just weren't listened to. I'm sure as we speak there's some enterprising ladder climbers in the DIA or the CIA saying just what Cheney & CO. want to hear. The American people this time around aren't going to be as easily convinced, though. A new poll shows that a majority don't trust W. on the Iran threat. As W. said, "There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:46 PM EDT
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Rummy's doing a heck of a job in Afghanistan, too.
Topic: War on Terror

The beat goes on in the "forgotten war," in Afghanistan. Not only is Rummy doing a "very fine job" in Iraq, he's also doing a "great job Brownie" in the other mess we're involved in. Remember, it was Rummy who pulled the plug on the hunt for OBL at Tora Bora so he could get his war on in Iraq (more stuff to bomb etc.) and as if that weren't bad enough, now the Taliban are back with a vengeance. Pretty much the whole of the southern part of the country is run by the Taliban, who are either fully supported by their Pashtun brethren or are scaring the local populous into submission.

AP reports today that 3 Afghan soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing in Khost province and 3 British soldiers were wounded in Lashkar Gar, Helmand province, when a suicide bomber rammed their convoy. This is just the latest in a long string of IED and suicide bombings from Helmand to Kandahar to Kunar. Sound familiar? Today there was a clash with the Taliban that the government reports killed another 6 Afghan and 40 insurgents. Naturally, since the press doesn't get out of Kabul much, we'll just have to take the government's word for the body-count. There is some controversy over this incident regarding the slow response of U.S. air support which took 6 hours to arrive.

Report the good news!

In a bit of good news, another "senior member" of al-Qaeda has been killed in a Pakistan. According to Pakistani officals, Muhsin Musa Matwalli Atwah was killed in the village of Anghar, which is along the Pakistani border with Afghanistan. Atwah is suspected of being involved with the American embassy bombings in Africa in 1998 and has a $5 million bounty on his head. Along with Atwah, the Pakistanis say they killed four to six other extremeists and four local villagers. Unfortunatly, the Pakistanis have no actual proof that they killed anyone, let alone Atwah.

The NYT reports:

"The officials said that extremists had removed the bodies immediately after the attack and buried them at a secret location, making the job of finding the remains for DNA tests to confirm the identities difficult."

Gosh, they're pretty efficient when it comes to making sure there's no evidence that anyone was really killed. That seems to happen a lot in Pakistan. If I only had a nickel for every time I read that a senior al-Qaeda figure or Abu al-Zarqawi's second in command had been killed...

In the "winning hearts and minds" department:

, we have this story from Newsweek about an Afghan man who saved a Navy SEAL's life back in June. A four man SEAL team was ambushed by the Taliban and all were killed except for one who was rescued, at great personal peril, by an Afghan man named Mohamad Gulab. Gulab was foraging for edible plants when he came across the wounded SEAL and he took him home and "fed and sheltered him for two days and helped contact a U.S. rescue team," according to Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai, for Newsweek.

The local Taliban soon found out what was going on and demanded that the village of Sabray, in Kunar province, give up the SEAL. Gulab and the town elders sent a message to the Taliban saying, "If you want him, you'll have to kill us all." The Taliban declined and the SEAL was later rescued. Gulab says the SEAL promised him $200,000 dollars as a reward and he claims the military said they would relocate him and his family to the U.S. The U.S. denies such an offer was ever made. The SEAL is still on active duty and the Newsweek report says he "declined to comment via his attorney, Alan Schwartz, an 'entertainment lawyer,' in Santa Monica Calif." Gulab is now living near the U.S. military base at Asadabad in Kunar making $250.00 a month as a construction laborer. "I sacrificed everything," he says. "Now no one cares. Why would anyone want to cooperate with the U.S. now?"

Military-grade security at Bagram. NOT!

While the Bush administration is feverishly reclassifying intelligence reports that were already declassified from the 1950's, the military in Afghanistan is working just as hard to sell all our secrets to whatever Afghan or al-Qaeda member has 40 bucks in his pocket. Paul Watson of the LA Times has been reporting this week that he was able to purchase U.S. military flash disks from venders at a Bazzar outside the base at Bagram. Contained in one disk were the names, addresses and children's names of all the Afghans who are working undercover for us.

Pretty incredible. You're doing a heck of a job Rummy!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:37 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 15 April 2006 1:53 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 12 April 2006
Weeks rather than months?
Topic: Bush Administraiton
What was I just writing about us being rational about the whole Iran nuke thing?

The ever vigilent readers at democratic underground found this story on the Blomberg News web site:

"Iran, which is defying United Nations Security Council demands to cease its nuclear program, may be capable of making a nuclear bomb within 16 days if it goes ahead with plans to install thousands of centrifuges at its Natanz plant, a U.S. State Department official said.

'Natanz was constructed to house 50,000 centrifuges,' Stephen Rademaker, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, told reporters today in Moscow. 'Using those 50,000 centrifuges they could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in 16 days.'"

Now, all they have to do is build 49,000 more cetrifuges and they're all set.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:06 PM EDT
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World's craziest country award goes to...
Topic: Bush Administraiton

In the ongoing challenge to find the craziest country on Earth, Iran has jumped ahead of us again. We just get done digesting the news that W. & Co. are thinking about using nukes on Iran, and now here comes religious fanatic # 2, Mamoud Amandinejad, to announce that Iran has "joined the club of nuclear nations." Iran has supposedly managed to enrich a small amount of low grade uranium. Better get the B-2 bombers gases up! Or not; it doesn't appear that Iran is on the verge of making nukes quite yet.

Despite the panicked warnings of Israel and the administration, no one really thinks Iran is anywhere near getting a bomb. Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says, "They've shown that they can run a small number of centrifuges for a few days. What they need to do is run thousands for months. This is a significant engineering challenge. Very small mistakes can lead to catastrophe." The WaPo qotes a Western official closely involved in monitoring Iran's progress saying, "This means they can operate a larger cascade, but can they do it for a long time? We don't know."

The CIA thinks they're 5 to 10 years away, so there's no need to overreact. Not that we won't overreact, knowing that our "war president" is rumored to be bent on taking care of the Iranian problem before another less resolute president takes office. There's always the chance the next president might not talk to God on a regular basis, after all.

This news comes as the IAEA's Mohamed ElBaradei is scheduled to arrive in Iran. He'll be visiting the nuclear facility at Nanatz and then he'll be reporting back to the U.N. Security Council later this month on Iran's compliance with the UN's ultimatum to stop all enrichment activity issued last month. It doesn’t look like the Iranians are in any mood to cooperate with e international community on what it sees as its right to produce uranium for its "civilian" energy program.

Things look pretty bleak, but there might be a Iranian pull back coming. Hannah Allam and Jonathan S. Landay in the Inquirer today report that Saeed Laylaz, a political analyst in Tehran, is expecting Iran to make another announcement soon that they're suspending all enrichment activities. "They wanted this big ceremony to show that nuclear technology is not a goal --- it's an achievement. That is enough, and now we can go back to negotiations."

In other words, this was all about showing the world that they actually have the capability of enriching uranium if they want to. Some experts on this issue even think the inevitability of an Iranian nuke isn't set in stone. This is all about nationalism and Iran flexing its muscles in the region. Making bombs is really, really, expensive and average Iranians aren't exactly rolling in cash. Jobs are scarce and 70% of the population is under the age of 25, so Iran has a long way to go to becoming the regional powerhouse it wants to be.

Ultimately, the only solution to this "crisis" is to talk to the Iranians. The natural inclination of this administration is to throw bombs at every problem, but that option might not be available in this situation. Sure we have the capability of inflicting "shock and awe" on the Iranians, but the chaos that would create in the region and the economic blowback is too prohibitive to even imagine. If we're really the most powerful nation on the Earth, we ought to be able to talk to the Iranians without any loss of face. We hold most of the cards and a less bellicose approach might bring the Chinese and the Russians around to seeing things our way.

Of course, all of this is based on an expectation both us and the Iranians being rational, there's no guarantee either side will be. The onus is on us, though, to do something positive. We're the ones with the money, the political clout and the military strength to make the difference here. Whether W. and his "war cabinet" have the imagination and the will to do anything other than keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again is the ultimate question that will determine if we avoid Armageddon or not.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:44 PM EDT
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