Gates Worries about Iranian Nuclear Research, while Khamenei blasts US for Hiroshima

David Sanger of the New York Times gets the scoop– that US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates sent the White House a memo last January observing that the US has no real developed policy for dealing with Iran should Tehran achieve ‘nuclear latency’ (where a country has the ability to construct a nuclear weapon but stops short of doing so, in order to avoid international sanctions and disapproval.

Ironically, the take-away from this article is that Gates concurs with those analysts (such as Juan Cole) that Iran does not intend actually to build a bomb, but wants the technical know-how to do so as a way of deterring foreign invasions and attacks.

Gates also worries about how we would know it if Iran suddenly decided to move from latency to actually constructing a warhead. Actually, I think that is not so hard to know. They can’t make a weapon at Natanz or Fardo as long as they are being inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency. So one sign would be (as with North Korea) that they kick out the inspectors and decline further international scrutiny. If they tried to develop a weapons program elsewhere, it would need a lot of water and electricity and materiel, which should show up on satellite or other surveillance instruments. Moreover, the US program to entice defectors from among Iran’s nuclear scientists appears to be having some success, and these insiders should be able to clarify things.

Anyway, short of a land invasion and forcible regime change, I doubt there is anything practical the US can do about Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. Economic sanctions will not stop it, and even a bombing raid would only set it back. As long as Tehran does not in fact go for broke in trying to get a bomb, moreover, it is mysterious to me why Washington is consumed with this issue.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, gave a speech on Saturday in which he lambasted the United States for having been the only nation to deploy a nuclear weapon, and that against hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, something he said Islamic law would have forbidden. [The full text in USG translation is below– scroll down). He also challenged the US credentials to serve as a policeman against proliferation, given US complicity in or complaisance toward the Israeli development of a nuclear arsenal.

Khamenei urges complete disarmament, observing that it is obvious that in a world with stockpiles of nuclear warheads, “there remained no doubt that victory in a nuclear war would be impossible and that engagement in such a war would be an unwise and anti-human act.” He adds that “The insistence of these governments on the possession and proliferation of nuclear weapons as well as increasing their destructive power — which are useless except for intimidation and massacre and a false sense of security based on pre-emptive power resulting from guaranteed annihilation of everyone — has led to an enduring nuclear nightmare in the world.” The arms race, Khamenei insists, is a fool’s game, since the nuclear powers are hastening to acquire the ability to destroy their enemy a thousand times over. I.e. it is epochal over-kill. He repeated his fatwa against the use and even the threatened us of such weapons of mass destruction, which he calls absolutely religiously forbidden (haram) in Islamic law.

An American audience just assumes that Khamenei is just lying and they feel (with some justification) that he is simply engaged in anti-American propaganda, and so he words fall on deaf ears here. But in much of the world, Khamenei’s speech will be taken as devastating to the US position. Countering such Iranian talking points is part of the rationale behind President Obama’s negotiations with Russia to reduce the stockpiles of the two countries. Obama is thereby making an argument, as well, to the international community that the US does have standing to complain about Iran, since it is taking concrete steps (contrary to what Khamenei alleges) to ameliorate the situation.

26 Responses

  1. “it is taking concrete steps (contrary to what Khamenei alleges) to ameliorate the situation.”

    I’m sorry to tell you that those “concrete steps” are very very small. I think it is only propaganda since it does not change, practically, anything regarding the US enormous nuclear capability.

  2. “…moreover, it is mysterious to me why Washington is consumed with this issue.”

    I knoooooow. For the decades of the cold war, when the Evil Empire had nuclear weapons and wanted nothing more than to nuke us, it was our own nuclear deterrence that kept us snug in our little beds at night. We were assured repeatedly that our ability to retaliate with a force that would envelop the entire planet in nuclear winter would keep us safe and sound. So why is nuclear deterrence not keeping us warm and snuggy now? If Iran develops a nuclear warhead, what would they do with it? Launch it against us or– one of our allies? If they did that, I presume immediate retaliation would turn Iraq into the planet’s biggest hole in the ground. Surely, the Iranians aren’t missing this point.
    Nonetheless, it is not enough to say it is “mysterious” that Washington is consumed by this issue. Surely there is some practical reason that various administrations continue to monger this fear. There must be some geopolitical advantage. What is it? That’s what I am trying to comprehend.

    • It might be just a domestic advantage. Iran’s status as the official top bogeyman of the American conservative mythology goes back to 1979 and the hostage crisis that apparently got Ronald Reagan elected POTUS. (Well, OK, they were 2nd until the collapse of the Soviet bloc, but they were certainly heir apparent.) Even China’s behind Iran in the right-wing bogeyman sweepstakes. 1979 made Iran our official rival/villain, so it makes sense to keep up that connection for the sake of manipulating Republican voters–it’s certainly better than having to come up with a new one from scratch.

      Of course, Iran is also a quite big country in the Middle East, so that could have something to do with it as well.

  3. Obama’s argument regarding standing to complain about Iran is undermined by several things. First and foremost, the US is still itself in violation of our obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty to work for complete nuclear disarmament. The most recent agreement, which calls for fairly insignificant reductions, combined with the active effort to modernize our nuclear arsenal, fails to counter Khamenei’s argument or meet these obligations. In addition, Obama threatens use of nuclear weapons against states not in compliance with the treaty. This is, as Khamenei observes, an immoral, anti-human position. Lastly, in addition to our stance vis a vis the Israeli nuclear program, our hypocrisy is revealed by our approach to India and Pakistan, states, like Israel, that have developed nuclear weapons outside the NPT. As you observe, these facts will gain little traction here in the US, where they are unlikely to be widely discussed. But to the rest of the world, they are quite obvious; it seems to me unlikely that the president’s recent pronouncements will counter these facts in the court of world opinion.

  4. Khamenei makes a number of valid points. The US ‘is’ the only nation on our planet to have used nuclear weapons. Yeah yeah, Harry “had to end the war” and blah blah blah. It will never matter what anyone in Iran says about anything. Iran is pariah and the US is sole arbiter of all things geo-political and of course nuclear so, circumspect wisdom gets tossed out with the histrionic bathwater. The US displays an inordinate lack of diplomatic skill when dealing with Iran. Bombastic bullying will get the US nowhere.
    Iran is in compliance with the terms of the NPT so, what more could the world want from Iran. I mean besides capitulation to Western demands.
    It is hypocritical grandstanding that the US rants on and on about Iran and all the while nuclear Israel can’t even be bothered to sign the NPT. Oh right and sorry I forgot, we’re not supposed to so much as “mention” Israel. Damned if you don’t and anti-semitically damned if you do.

  5. حکم اعدام برای اعضای یک خانواده
    Rooz Online / Fereshteh Ghazi
    17-Apr-2010
    مطهره بهرامی، یکی از بازداشت شدگان روز عاشورا است که پیش از این سایت “زندانیان سبز” از صدور حکم اعدام برای او خبر داده بود. او به اتفاق همسر، پسر، یکی از اقوام و یکی از دوستان همسرش در روزعاشورا بازداشت شد و اینک اخبار حاکی از صدور حکم اعدام برای این 5 بازداشتی روز عاشوراست.

    مطهره (سیمین) بهرامی حقیقی به اتفاق همسرش، محسن دانش پور مقدم، پسرش، احمد دانش پور مقدم روز عاشورا به همراه یکی از اقوام خود به نام ریحانه حاج ابراهیم بازداشت شدند. هادی قائمی یکی از دوستان نزدیک محسن دانش پور نیز روز عاشورا بازداشت و او نیز به اتهام محاربه، به اعدام محکوم شده است.

    یک پسر این خانواده که از سالها پیش به عضویت سازمان مجاهدین خلق درآمده، در پایگاه اشرف در عراق به سر می برد و همین نسبت فامیلی مبنای انتساب اتهام محاربه و صدور حکم اعدام برای دیگر اعضای این خانواده شده است.

    میثم دانش پور، فرزند مطهره بهرامی و محسن دانش پور، روز گ… >>>

    link to roozonline.com

    An entire family sentenced to death because of Ashura protest. This is Khamenie’s Islamic Republic>>>

  6. محکومیت نوری زاد به سه سال و نیم حبس و ۵۰ ضربه شلاق
    BBC Persian
    17-Apr-2010
    محمد نوری زاد، روزنامه نگار و سینماگر ایرانی، به اتهام تبلیغ علیه نظام و توهین به تعدادی از مقام های جمهوری اسلامی ایران به سه سال و نیم زندان و ۵۰ ضربه شلاق محکوم شده است.

    آقای نوری زاد روز ۲۹ آذر ۱۳۸۸ و در پی انتشار سه نامه سرگشاده خطاب به آیت الله علی خامنه ای، رهبر ایران، و مطلبی درباره صادق لاریجانی، رئیس قوه قضائیه، با عنوان “سقوط قاضی القضات شهر” در وبلاگ شخصی اش بازداشت شد. او ۷۰ روز از این چهار ماه را در سلول انفرادی بوده است.

    در حکم دادگاه بدوی که قاضی پیرعباس، قاضی شعبه ۲۶ دادگاه انقلاب صادر کرده و روز شنبه ۲۸ فروردین ۱۳۸۹ به محمود علیزاده طباطبایی وکیل آقای نوری زاد ابلاغ شده است، محمد نوری زاد به اتهام “فعالیت تبلیغی علیه نظام و تخریب چهره سی ساله نظام” به یک سال حبس تعزیری، به اتهام توهین به رهبر ایران به دو سال حبس تعزیری، به اتهام توهین به رئیس قوه قضائیه به ۹۱ روز حبس تعزیری و به اتهام توهین به رئیس جم�… >>>

    Mr. Nourizad get 3 years in prison and 50 slashes for asking the supreme criminal to apologize for the crimes he perpetrated on the demonstrators in the aftermath of stolen election.
    link to bbc.co.uk

  7. Iran demands US troop withdrawal
    Al Jazeera English
    18-Apr-2010
    The Iranian president has called on the US to withdraw its troops from the Gulf region and Afghanistan.

    “The region has no need for alien troops and they should return home and let the regional states take care of their own affairs,” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech marking the country’s annual Army Day on Sunday.

    “They must leave the region and this is not a request but an order, and the will of the regional nations,” he said.

    He said the deployment of US and Nato troops in Iraq and Afghanistan under the pretext of fighting terrorism had not only failed, but also increased insecurity in both countries.

    Israel will ‘collapse’

    link to english.aljazeera.net

  8. juan i can’t believe you ask “it is mysterious to me why Washington is consumed with this issue”. it is just three words: israel, isreal, isreal…

  9. Vashti,

    Stop the spamming and comment on the subject at hand, you’re pathetic.

    On the topic, I think Khameini raises some good points. What’s more, at times of economic peril for the nuclear possessing countries there should be a concrete effort to move away from stockpilling nuclear weapons and eording away our finanical resources. It makes moral sense but also economic sense – for those who are money driven.

    Ob

  10. .
    Thanks, Juan. This is extremely helpful.

    I frankly didn’t know what to do. We have this gaping gap in policy, with no plan for what to do if Iran achieved “nuclear latency.”

    That’s why I’m so grateful to you for suggesting “a land invasion and forcible regime change.” It’s a perfect fit, and just the right color.

    Your Secretary of Defense,

    Bob Gates
    .

  11. Dr. Cole:
    By now you’ve probably read Ariel Ilan Roth’s of the Council of Foreign Relations explanation of why Israel fears losing its nuclear monopoly:

    Although some idealists dream of reconciliation in the Middle East based on a genuine and mutual recognition of all parties’ legitimate rights, most Israelis believe the key to enduring peace in the Middle East is convincing Israel’s adversaries that ejecting Israel through force is an impossible task not worth pursuing.Essential to inducing that sense of despair is Israel’s ability to continuously trounce its enemies on the battlefield and suffer far fewer losses than it inflicts. The Iranian nuclear program threatens Israel’s ability to do this in two ways….But, given that widespread Arab acceptance of Israel’s right to exist does not appear to be on the horizon, most Israelis, including the current prime minister, insist that Israel’s most urgent strategic objective is to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Doing so would temporarily remove the threat of a regional nuclear cascade and maintain Israel’s superiority of arms. More important, it would hold at bay the suspicion that Israel may never attain true peace. This increasingly widespread fear has a toxic effect on national morale, is an existential threat to the Jewish state, and lies at the root of Israel’s obsession with the Iranian bomb.

    Israel’s strategy for survival depends on intimidating its neighbors permanently into submission. If Iran has a Japan-option, even if other neighbors do not acquire the same option, which they may well, Israel’s neighbors will still be more difficult to intimidate since there is an anti-Zionist force that could, in theory, match any nuclear threat they could make.

    So Iran not having a Japan option is a strategic existential issue for Israel, and if the United States is going to honor its commitment to ensure Israel’s strategic security, it must prevent Iran from getting a Japan option. However, the US is now admitting that it cannot prevent Iran from reaching such a status which, at least, means Israel is going to have to learn to live with Iran having the option and also that the United States cannot afford to protect Israel’s strategic environment at all costs any longer.

    • @ Arnold Evans

      ” The Iranian nuclear program threatens Israel’s ability to do this in two ways….”

      Could you elucidate?

      • Found it!

        “Essential to inducing that sense of despair is Israel’s ability to continuously trounce its enemies on the battlefield and suffer far fewer losses than it inflicts. The Iranian nuclear program threatens Israel’s ability to do this in two ways.

        First, an Iranian nuclear capability would likely force Israel to restrain itself due to fears that Iran’s nuclear weapons could provide an implied security guarantee to other anti-Zionist forces — the sort of guarantee that would prevent Israel from causing the massive losses it has in the past, while giving anti-Israel forces the confidence to keep up the fight.

        The even greater threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program is its potential to unleash a cascade of proliferation in the Middle East, beginning with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. For both of these states, the idea that Jews and Persians could have a monopoly on nuclear weapons in a region demographically and culturally dominated by Arabs is shameful. For Saudi Arabia, a security motivation will be at play as well, given its physical proximity to Iran and the strategic imperative of deterring any Iranian threat to Saudi Arabia’s oil-production facilities.”

        It would seem that the greatest threat would be to make Israel’s nuclear weapons irrelevant.

  12. imho Interesting that the West seeks sanctions rather than solutions to the “dilemma, apparent” of IRAN. To cut to the chase: (1) most modern nations feel uncomfortable with ‘Theocratic States’ in general, and ‘Supreme Leaders’ for life, specifically; and (2) almost everybody feels uncomfortable about ‘nuclear’ and other WMD’s, no matter who has them. In this regard, Iran is not unique ~ it is simply the focus of an essentially Israeli-American prop-agenda, yes? The “dilemma, apparent” is that negative pressure by Israeli-American commercial & military interests, or by some cobbled-together consortium of countries, devolves into collective punishment : feeding and sustaining, literally serving the interests of the coercive and/or corrupt regime. otoh, When professor Cole the other day hinted at “thinking outside the [sanction] box,” ie., what if we were, ourselves courageous enough to “Tear Down Our Walls,” flood The People with commercial opportunities and open up cross-cultural exchanges… imagine the quandary the régime would find itself, no longer thought of as being “necessary for the security of The People” against external enemies. All we are saying is, give peace a chance… certainly, we have nothing to lose.

  13. Cole,

    You read my mind. I’ve been saying this for months now. Iran won’t use nuclear weapons unless it really has to, because it views the use of such weapons as greatly immoral. This has been Iran’s position ever since the 1980’s and according to the ‘supreme leader,’ it still is. In my opinion, Iran may develop a couple of nukes, but only as a safeguard to Israel, the U.S. or Pakistan. The president is spending a lot of energy chasing something he’ll never attain. He won’t stop Iran if it really wants nukes and if he were as smart as we thought he was, he would already be in the process of developing a strategy for engaging Iran after it does so.

  14. Aside from actual bombs against defenseless civilian populations, with no military necessity, the United States is today in the habit of waging low-level nuclear war against civilian populations. Instead of 140 pounds of bomb grade uranium used in an explosion, the US has used thousands of tons of depleted uranium in Iraq, reduced to fine uranium oxide dust which will cause cancers, birth defects, and other forms of radioactive death forever. The hospitals of Fallujah now report grotesque birth defects all the time.

    People who do such things to other human beings, not only those present and not involved in war, but also those yet to be born in the next umpteen thousand years – and for no real cause but only disgusting pretexts – are not good guys. In the war movies we saw as kids, such people were rightly considered bad guys and needed to lose. We have no sympathy for the goals of past practitioners of genocide like the Japanese Kwantung Army or the Waffen SS. We need to apply the wisdom of 1941 to the current situation. It was good for Japan and Germany to fail in their pursuit of evil; how much worse it would have been for them if they had prevailed in their monstrosities! And that severe mercy is needed by the American empire today. The American people need this runaway train to be stopped, not only the rest of the world.

  15. Re the ‘all options contingency’ of a military strike by the US or nuclear Israel. Nobody who thinks thru the consequences of bombing radiological facilities in Iran will continue to advocate or plan for it as a counterproliferation option. The Israeli strikes on unfinished Iraqi or Syrian reactors importantly did NOT cross the threshold of releasing radioactive toxins. A strike on pressurized gasified uranium centrifuges would release significant radioactive material, amounting to a dirty-bomb radiological attack. That threshold, a radiological attack, has never been crossed by a nation or a terrorist. Doing so would be a grave mistake, whether by the US or Israel. No friend of Israel should advocate such a thing, and even loose talk of such may increase the risks of ‘symmetry’ in an attack on such facilities elsewhere.

    Let’s take Gate’s ‘worst case’ scenario, that Iran becomes a ‘virtual’ nuclear power, stopping short of final assembly of a weapon. It’s likely that there are other countries (Arabia for one) that are already in this position. It’s not a good thing, but neither has the sky fallen. Dial back the rhetoric. Iran is not an existential threat to Israel. Israel cannot achieve its own security by threatening radiological terror or nuclear strikes on its neighbors. Once that is accepted, other options become worth considering.

  16. You read my mind. I’ve been saying this for months now. Iran won’t use nuclear weapons unless it really has to, because it views the use of such weapons as greatly immoral.

    It doesn’t matter what “Iran” thinks of nuclear weapons, because the more moral it claims to be, the more certain the situation is that Iran (or any other nuke power) can talk itself into using such weapons using a “moral” justification (after all, am I not more moral than anyone? How then can my use of such weapons be wrong?). That is in fact the US position on their use.

    It is deterrence, not morality, that prevents the use of nukes. Since Israel has nukes, Iran’s possession of nukes is unlikely to result in their use. Deterrent effect, after all.

    Aside from actual bombs against defenseless civilian populations, with no military necessity,

    See _Downfall_, Richard Frank’s excellent response to the Japanese right-wing propaganda that the US left has sucked up and regurgitated as A-bomb revisionism.

    Michael Turton

  17. The “A-bomb revisionism” I have in mind is that of that fanatical American leftist, former President Dwight D Eisenhower, speaking in 1963. The doers of the abominable and indefensible will not lack the energy and wit to justify their iniquities, even if they fool no one but themselves. Nonetheless, a number of points are obvious:

    1) Douglas MacArthur proved in the Pacific campaign, in which he suffered 28,000 casualties including the 5000 at Buna, the same as D-Day for his entire 1500 mile advance, that it was possible to defeat the Japanese with very low casualties, because he was careful about the lives of his troops, rendering Japanese garrisons irrelevant instead of fighting them. Notable instances are New Britain and New Guinea after Buna. The Okinawa campaign is cited as evidence that conquering the home islands would be very high cost, but Okinawa actually just showed the folly of not doing it MacArthur’s way. The airfield, at the northern end of the island, was taken in a few days with few losses. The main Japanese force in the south was irrelevant, and it was a complete waste of resources to spend two months reducing it, when it could have been sealed off like the garrison of New Britain.

    2) Japan was out of petroleum, and so the power to maneuver or even to function as a modern army was lost, so long as the invaders kept in mind that their target was not Japanese soliders but the Japanese state.

    3) The Soviet Union came into the war as promised 90 days after the end of the war in Europe, on August 8. The Japanese government was well aware that this was the end of the road for them, especially since they remembered the sound thrashing that they had received from the Red Army under Zhukov in 1939. They preferred to lose to the Americans.

    4) It had already become quite obvious to the Japanese government that they were done, and all they were fighting for was a deal to save the emperor. Hideki Tojo fell from power in 1944, after the Americans captured Saipan and the first Japanese civilian population. They had already offered through the Soviet Union to surrender in July 1945 if they were allowed to keep the emperor but were refused that condition, which they were granted later anyway. In truth the bombing of Japan was not about Japan. It was a message to Stalin, the opening word in the Cold War, for which Japanese civilians were a useful prop.

  18. If he actually wanted to , Obama could “fix” the Iran problem very quickly by:

    – Having MULTIPLE sources give Iran all the nuclear fuel it needs for its reactors (ie have the US, Russia AND China provide fuel) Note that properly designed fuel can NOT be used for weapons.

    – The EU could help Iran build numerous modern, safer reactors (EU design is way ahead of US design), so Iran’s internal energy usage would be non-oil based so Iran could export more oil needed by China and the rest of the world.

    – The US could lift all embargoes and sanctions and integrate Iran completely into the world economy.

    – The US could formally apologize for destroying democracy in Iran in the 1950s (naming the people in the CIA that were responsible) and supporting the vicious dictator (yes, the US should demonize the Shah) and letting the Shah die in peace and wealth when the US could have ensured he was hung in shame in Iran (Carters big mistake).

    If the US quit being so upset that the Iranians threw out US oil companies and did what was actually best for the world, things would calm down rather nicely (except for whining from Israel, which the US should just ignore).

    Basically the US has no other viable option other that integrating Iran into the world. Bombing will just cause the Iranians to spend every dime they can get their hands on to build as many nukes as possible as quickly as possible. The only way to prevent that would be to invade and occupy Iran and per the US military’s OWN requirements, this would REQUIRE a MINIMUM of 3.5 MILLION troops to occupy and control Iran (20:1 ratio).

    Where would the US get 3.5 MILLION soldiers and how would the US pay for them?

    A draft and toilet paper money?

  19. Spyguy68:
    If you were a Persian nationalist, such as Khameini or Amadinijad, would you want more electricity, or full sovereignty to thumb your nose at superpowers, such as Pakistan and Israel have? Without hate or affection for Iran’s regime, I think the latter would have higher priority, unfortunately.

    The most economically valuable use of enriched Uranium of Plutonium is not electrical power. It is fission weapons, reducing the need for expensive conventional arms, granting nuclear deterrence. The nuclear fuel cycle has always been inherently strategic, whatever civil use of ‘peaceful atom’ power generation or nuclear medicine is demonstrated. Anyone who says different is selling you something.

    Even the inert ‘depleted’ uranium that is being separated out by Iran can later be converted to plutonium. That is what Israel is doing, as is Russia and the US. The idea that powerplant fuel can be fabricated that cannot be reprocessed to weapons grade, or converted in the reactor to another fissionable element seems specious to me. Difficult is not the same as impossible, when a fear-driven regime is seeking atomic weapons

    The default analysis at this time is that the proliferation genie is already out of the bottle. Google ‘Brazil, nuclear’, or ‘Turkey, nuclear’, and see what comes up. Then try Japan, or Argentina. One of the drivers for proliferation is the desire for sovereignty or parity. Govts naturally want to avoid superpower hegemony, as with Japan, India, or Indonesia for that matter. We can hope for change, but need to do so realistically, recognizing our own influences today, as in Iran in 1954.

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