Is Iran a Threat?




 
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Is Iran a Threat?
 
April 10th, 2012  
Der Alte
 

Topic: Is Iran a Threat?


Is Iran a Threat?
More and more people seem to take it as given that a nuclear-armed Iran would use its nuclear weapons to attack the United States. Yet, there is no plausible argument, and very little evidence, for that conclusion.

First, we found out that we could co-exist with the Soviet Union, a country with hundreds of times the number of nuclear weapons that Iran could ever hope to have. How did we co-exist? Very simple. We made it clear that if the Soviet Union attacked us with nuclear weapons, we would respond all-out against the Soviet Union with such weapons. The so-called doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), though it was mad in a certain sense, worked. The Soviet Union never attacked us.

But, say the critics, Iran is different. They have all those mad mullahs over there who don’t care about life on earth and simply want to destroy — fill in the blank — Israel, the United States, or Israel and the United States. Yet there is little evidence that the leaders of Iran are mad. Instead, they are cautiously conservative.

Ah, say the critics, but President Ahmadinejad is a madman. Think about that term “madman.” I’ve never seen that term thrown around so loosely in my lifetime as in the years since 2001. “Saddam Hussein is a madman.” “Muhammad Gaddafi is a madman.” “Ahmadinejad is a madman.” The neoconservatives and others who make such charges rarely give evidence for it. They just assert that such people don’t care if they live or die and are, therefore, willing to do almost anything in pursuit of their goals. Notice that those same people virtually never make the charge against evil dictators who are U.S. allies. The best one-line refutation of this standard charge against foreign dictators that the U.S. government dislikes is one that President Carter’s secretary of defense, Harold Brown, gave when discussing the Iranian hostage crisis. When told that the Ayatollah Khomeini didn’t care whether he lived, Brown responded, “A man who makes it to age 80 cares whether he lives.”

Moreover, even if Ahmadinejad were mad — and there is no evidence that he is — the position of president, the job Ahmadinejad holds in Iran, is not like the position of president in the United States. Most of the power resides with a Muslim oligarchy and with the supreme guide, which is why the “supreme guide” had the power to tell Ahmadinejad to shut up when it came to talking about the Holocaust. The position of president there is kind of like the position of vice president in the United States, or at least the position of vice president before Dick Cheney.

For the last few years, the U.S. government and some other governments have wanted to dissuade Iran’s government from pursuing nuclear weapons. To do so, they have imposed increasingly stringent sanctions on Iran. It’s not clear how effective such sanctions can be. The companies and governments that the U.S. government threatens to penalize if they export gasoline to Iran might just be replaced by companies over which the U.S. government has little leverage. But let’s assume that the sanctions can do real harm. What happens next?

One thing we can be sure of is that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are not doing without gasoline. No. The people who do without gasoline, or with less gasoline, are everyday Iranians who have approximately zero say in the policies that the U.S. government wants to change. The further tragedy in the case of Iran is that there does appear to be a strong moderate element there that would like to have better relations with the United States, as well as with other people and governments in the West. By tightening the screws on Iran, the U.S. government is nipping this movement in the bud.

When I was a kid, the boy next door, once played a nasty trick on my friend, Paul. He held his cat in his arms, brought it within a few inches of Paul’s face, and pulled its tail. The suddenly angry cat bit Paul’s face. My friend and I were upset; we both thought that the cat, if it bit anyone, should have bitten the perpetrator. When governments impose economic sanctions on people in other countries, they, too, are pulling the cat’s tail. The intent was to get his cat to bite my friend. His plan worked. The intent of the government that imposes sanctions is often to get the people in the target country to “bite” their government. That typically doesn’t work. Why? People are smarter than cats.

But when Iranians suddenly find gasoline in short supply or more expensive, so that even getting to work or to the store is a challenge, they will wonder who is responsible. It won’t be hard for them to find out. Although the government of Iran has a great deal of power to censor what newspapers, radio, and television report, one piece of information that it’s sure not to censor is the role of outside governments in the country’s economic distress. What do people in embargoed countries do when they find out that foreign governments threaten them? They want to do what my neighbor’s cat would not do: bite the hand or face of the perpetrator. The idea that one country’s government can, by inflicting pain on people in another country, cause them to pressure their government to change is the stuff of fiction — and not good fiction.

But I do have a partial solution: End all current sanctions on Iran, end subsidies to Israel and all other countries in the Middle East, and pull all U.S. troops out of the Middle East. These actions, more than any others, would go a long way toward convincing Iranians that the U.S. government is not a threat. Otherwise, many of them will think, justifiably, that the U.S. government is like my cruel neighbor who used his innocent cat as a weapon.
April 10th, 2012  
MontyB
 
 
Personally I do not see Iran as a threat and even if they are in search of nuclear weapons so what nuclear weapons are one of the most over rated weapons ever invented sure they can kill immense numbers of people but using them pretty much assures your own destruction.

I think much as the Nazi's needed the Jews to focus the ills of a country on the USA needs Iran to take peoples minds off their ills and make them feel relevant.

Outside that I completely agree with your post.
April 10th, 2012  
VDKMS
 
In 2005 an Iranian delegation visited Belgium. They refused to shake hands with MP Lizin because she was a woman and they threatened to walk away if alcoholic beverages were served although they could choose non-alcoholic ones.

If we would turn that in a Belgium delegation visiting Iran, it would be the same. No handshaking for women and no alcoholic beverages. They don't compromise and you have to abide by what they say.

The same with their nuclear ambitions, with or without a military component. They don't compromise. If they had complied with the IAEA from in the beginning they already would have nuclear power reactors for electricity. But they didn't.

The problem with a nuclear Iran is not having them A-bombs but because of it Saudi Arabia and Turkey also will want them, and maybe others too. What if Iran sells A-bombs or military nuclear technology to Venezuela and or Cuba? It's the chain reaction that will follow if Iran goes (military) nuclear.

Look at what that Pakistani guy (Khan) did. Without interference we would now have had a nuclear Lybia, Iraq and Syria. Can you imagine what could have happend during the revolution in Lybia if they would have had nuclear bombs?

What will happen when a nuclear armed country gets sanctioned by a UN counsil resolution based on chapter seven? Who would give troops to enforce them? Who would risk a nuclear war? Especially if that country has nuclear ICBM's.
BTW, Iran is doing research on nuclear payloads for ICBM's.
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Is Iran a Threat?
April 10th, 2012  
MontyB
 
 
Yes and what will happen if the US sells nuclear technology to Israel or Nerve gas to Iraq or Pakistan sells nuclear technology to North Korea etc.

The west opened up the Pandora's box that is nuclear weapons the day the atomic bomb became a reality it is far too late to close the box now and while we maintain our own nuclear arsenals and it may suit our own agendas to prevent nuclear proliferation it is nothing short of hypocrisy to demand others not pursue their own aims.
April 10th, 2012  
samozain2020
 
Thanks ,,,
April 10th, 2012  
Der Alte
 
In a message to the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, premier Nikita Khrushchev warned that the US and the USSR should not pull on a rope in which they have "tied the knot of war". There has been a lot of pulling on the rope than usual when it comes to Iran.

When we say ''a nuclear Iran'', we mean an Iran with between a handful and a dozen nuclear warheads fitted to missiles that could manage about the distance from Tehran to Istanbul. It is probable, although not certain, that Iran will develop this kind of capability within the next few years. But the important thing is not whether Iranians have nuclear weapons, so much as what they can (and intend) to do with them. So what could Iran do with these nuclear weapons? Strangely enough, not a lot.
The worst-case scenario, that Iran would launch an unprovoked or pre-emptive nuclear attack on a neighbour like Israel or Bahrain, is profoundly unlikely to happen because Iran is eminently deterrable.

Both the US and Israel would be able and likely to retaliate with nuclear weapons should Iran launch a nuclear attack. America is outside the range of any Iranian missiles, as is Europe for the time being, and Israel has a solid second-strike capability in its Dolphin class submarines, which are probably nuclear capable (although undeclared like the rest of Israel's program). It isn't a pretty picture, but you can be sure it isn't any prettier from Tehran.

There is an argument that the Iranian government is irrational, and would be capable of using its weapons even in the face of destruction. But are we really suggesting the government in Tehran is more unhinged or less concerned with survival than that in North Korea? Tehran is as obsessed with survival as any other government in the world, however unpleasant it may be.

The next spectre is the idea that a nuclear Iran would use its weapons as cover for serious violations of international order, like closing the straits of Hormuz, or initiating hostilities against its neighbours. The idea being that it could threaten the use of its nuclear weapons, should it suffer significant retaliation.

But that threat also depends on Iran being prepared to use its weapons, not simply own them. Iran would be deterrable if it threatened escalation in a conventional conflict, just as it would be when it comes to outright nuclear attack, because of the credible threat of nuclear retaliation against Iranian targets.

It is possible that Tehran would grow bolder in its use of proxies in Lebanon and elsewhere, but not because it could back up her lackeys with the threat of a nuclear attack. If anything, it is the sense of pride in a nuclear program, rather than any tactical or strategic implications of the weapons, that would make the difference for Iran's behaviour in the region.

At the other end of the issue is another question: what strategic options would be stripped from us if Iran gets the bomb? Again, the answer is not much.

A nuclear Iran could only frighten the rest of the world out of doing things that Tehran would be prepared to use its nuclear weapons to prevent - in full knowledge of probable nuclear retaliation. That means the only thing we will be prevented from doing is forcibly bringing down the government by occupying the country. That was never really on anyone other than Saddam Hussein's to-do list.

The logic for the (deeply flawed) suggestion of airstrikes to delay the Iranian nuclear program is the Israeli and Western fear of Iranian nuclear aggression, or nuclear-backed aggression. But it is overblown, because an Iran with nuclear weapons is a manageable problem.

There is, however, a serious cause for concern: once Tehran has nuclear weapons, its neighbours such as Egypt or Saudi Arabia may decide to develop their own. A competitive Middle East in which several states have small nuclear arsenals is a chilling possibility. But whether or not Israel uses airstrikes to delay Iran's program won't mitigate the risk of that situation developing.

In the absence of other options, the best move here is to foster stability.
April 10th, 2012  
MontyB
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Der Alte

There is, however, a serious cause for concern: once Tehran has nuclear weapons, its neighbours such as Egypt or Saudi Arabia may decide to develop their own. A competitive Middle East in which several states have small nuclear arsenals is a chilling possibility. But whether or not Israel uses airstrikes to delay Iran's program won't mitigate the risk of that situation developing.

In the absence of other options, the best move here is to foster stability.
I would suggest that an Israeli air strike would have the exact opposite effect to what they are trying to achieve in that it would encourage more effort to become nuclear armed to prevent such strikes happening in the future.

For nations such as Iran I suspect the drive for nuclear weapons is purely a defensive one, they have seen an aggressive US response in Gulf War 1 and the subsequent invasion of Iraq to bring about regime change so what better way of protecting your own status quo than to own a weapon that will prevent invasion.
April 10th, 2012  
RayManKiller3
 
Question: Are you all defending Iran's "right to nuclear weapons" despite them being part of NPT?

I agree with us being able to handle this situation better, but I do not agree they should get nuclear weapons.

I am not sure who you been talking to Der Alte, most people I know do not believe Iran is a direct threat to U.S even if they had nuclear weapons.
April 11th, 2012  
Der Alte
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RayManKiller3
Question: Are you all defending Iran's "right to nuclear weapons" despite them being part of NPT?
I personally do not think that proliferation of nuclear weapons is a good thing. I'm just trying to explain Iran's strategy as seen through Iranian eyes.

For centuries, the dilemma facing Iran (and before it, Persia) has been guaranteeing national survival and autonomy in the face of stronger regional powers like Ottoman Turkey and the Russian Empire. Though always weaker than these larger empires, Iran survived for three reasons: geography, resources and diplomacy. Iran's size and mountainous terrain made military forays into the country difficult and dangerous. Iran also was able to field sufficient force to deter attacks while permitting occasional assertions of power. At the same time, Tehran engaged in clever diplomatic efforts, playing threatening powers off each other.

The intrusion of European imperial powers into the region compounded Iran's difficulties in the 19th century, along with the lodging of British power to Iran's west in Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula following the end of World War I. This coincided with a transformation of the global economy to an oil-based system. Then as now, the region was a major source of global oil. Where the British once had interests in the region, the emergence of oil as the foundation of industrial and military power made these interests urgent. Following World War II, the Americans and the Soviets became the outside powers with the ability and desire to influence the region, but Tehran's basic strategic reality persisted. Iran faced both regional and global threats that it had to deflect or align with. And because of oil, the global power could not lose interest while the regional powers did not have the option of losing interest.

A vision of Iran, a country with an essentially defensive posture, as a regional power remained. The shah competed with Saudi Arabia over Oman and dreamed of nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad duels with Saudi Arabia over Bahrain, and also dreams of nuclear weapons. When we look beyond the rhetoric, something we always should do when studying foreign policy, since the rhetoric is intended to intimidate, seduce and confuse foreign powers and the public, we see substantial continuity in Iran's strategy since World War II. Iran dreams of achieving regional dominance by breaking free from its constraints and the threats posed by nearby powers.

Since World War II, Iran has had to deal with regional dangers like Iraq, with which it fought a brutal war lasting nearly a decade and costing Iran about 1 million casualties. It also has had to deal with the United States, whose power ultimately defined patterns in the region. So long as the United States had an overriding interest in the region, Iran had no choice but to define its policies in terms of the United States. For the shah, that meant submitting to the United States while subtly trying to control American actions. For the Islamic republic, it meant opposing the United States while trying to manipulate it into taking actions in the interests of Iran. Both acted within the traditions of Iranian strategic subtlety.

Whether ruled by shah or ayatollah, Iran's strategy remained the same: deter by geography, protect with defensive forces, and engage in complex diplomatic maneuvers.


Quote:
Originally Posted by RayManKiller3
I agree with us being able to handle this situation better, but I do not agree they should get nuclear weapons.
Anyone studying the United States understands its concern with nuclear weapons. Throughout the Cold War it lived in the shadow of a Soviet first strike. The Bush administration used the possibility of an Iraqi nuclear program to rally domestic support for the invasion. When the Soviets and the Chinese attained nuclear weapons, the American response bordered on panic. The United States simultaneously became more cautious in its approach to those countries.

In looking at North Korea, the Iranians recognized a pattern they could use to their advantage. Regime survival in North Korea, a country of little consequence, was uncertain in the 1990s. When it undertook a nuclear program, however, the United States focused heavily on North Korea, simultaneously becoming more cautious in its approach to the North. Tremendous diplomatic activity and periodic aid was brought to bear to limit North Korea's program. From the North Korean point of view, actually acquiring deliverable nuclear weapons was not the point; North Korea was not a major power like China and Russia, and a miscalculation on Pyongyang's part could lead to more U.S. aggression. Rather, the process of developing nuclear weapons itself inflated North Korea's importance while inducing the United States to offer incentives or impose relatively ineffective economic sanctions (and thereby avoiding more dangerous military action). North Korea became a centerpiece of U.S. concern while the United States avoided actions that might destabilize North Korea and shake loose the weapons the North might have.

The North Koreans knew that having a deliverable weapon would prove dangerous, but that having a weapons program gave them leverage, a lesson the Iranians learned well. From the Iranians' point of view, a nuclear program causes the United States simultaneously to take them more seriously and to increase its caution while dealing with them. At present, the United States leads a group of countries with varying degrees of enthusiasm for imposing sanctions that might cause some economic pain to Iran, but give the United States a pretext not to undertake the military action Iran really fears and that the United States does not want to take.

Iran does not have nuclear weapons and may be following the North Korean strategy of never developing deliverable weapons. If they did, however, and the Israelis attacked and destroyed them, the Iranians would be as they were before acquiring nuclear weapons. But if the Israelis attacked and failed to destroy them, the Iranians would emerge stronger. The Iranians could retaliate by taking action in the Strait of Hormuz. The United States, which ultimately is the guarantor of the global maritime flow of oil, might engage Iran militarily. Or it might enter into negotiations with Iran to guarantee the flow. An Israeli attack, whether successful or unsuccessful, would set the stage for Iranian actions that would threaten the global economy, paint Israel as the villain, and result in the United States being forced by European and Asian powers to guarantee the flow of oil with diplomatic concessions rather than military action. An attack by Israel, successful or unsuccessful, would cost Iran little and create substantial opportunities. In my view, the Iranians want a program, not a weapon, but having the Israelis attack the program would suit Iran's interests quite nicely.

The nuclear option falls into the category of Iranian manipulation of regional and global powers, long a historical necessity for the Iranians.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RayManKiller3
I am not sure who you been talking to Der Alte, most people I know do not believe Iran is a direct threat to U.S even if they had nuclear weapons.
I agree with you that the Iranians do not threaten the U.S. mainland, but Iran poses a threat to U.S. interests in the region. But try to pay attention to the rhetoric used by your media.
April 11th, 2012  
mmarsh
 
 
We are in danger of being attacked by madmen who seek nuclear weapons to destroy the USA. An attack by Iraq is almost a certainty should they get the bomb...

EDIT: Sorry I meant Iran, can't for the life of me think why I wrote Iraq...
 


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