“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Alternative strategies for Israel, The U.S. and Iran.

I have argued in previous posts that Ahmadinejad of Iran is trying to goad Israel or the US to attack Iran so that he can consolidate his control of Iran. I believe Iran is very containable and controllable. Others see the Iranians differently.

Stratfor has succinctly defined the dilemma facing Israeli security planners visa vis Iran. Israeli interests are often described to be existential in regards to Iran. There are some who believe that the potential threats posed by a nuclear Iran are so weighted against Israeli interests that Israel must do one of three things:

1. Convince American to attack Iran and destroy her nuclear capabilities. This assumes that Israeli influence over Washington is both complete and toxic. This is a favorite theme of those opposed to the neo-con (read Jewish) point of view. It is a point of view that believes in a cynical misreading and distortion of the relationship between Israel and the US.

2. Israel must unilaterally attack Iran by herself. This was successful against Iraq a generation ago. It is probably militarily possible but unsustainable for Israel to contemplate a follow-up program after such an attack. Israeli life would become a permanent nightmare.

3. Israel must hope for some international control led by US diplomacy and backed up with some military success in Iraq, that will convince Iran to give up nuclear weapons. This is at best optimistic, but possible.

I see an alternative scenario based on the belief that assumes a coalition of interested parties could be formed to dissuade Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. There are four major regional players that could be organized to provide a formidable deterrent to Iran. They are Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf States, Turkey and the EU. All four have an interest in preventing a nuclear armed Iran. Three of the four have an interest in low reliable energy prices and all four have an interest in regional and international stability.

Israel, The United States and the EU have an unlimited pool of technological and capital resources available to them. An international consortium to reduce oil dependence and develop non-petroleum based technologies and techniques could be based in the Middle East. It could be the basis for a regional security hybrid that draws on the experience of Nato and the early formation of the EU. It could provide the carrot and stick necessary to persuade the Iranians to participate in a constructive manner. A carrot and a stick, whichever is necessary.

American led diplomacy with quiet Israeli technical support could pull this together. It would have the additional benefit of highlighting the need for security in Iraq and possibly a regional solution based on common needs for economic growth and stability.

Here is how they see things at Stratfor:

Geopolitical Diary: Israel's Options Against Iran

January 03, 2007 02 46 GMT, Stratfor

The Institute for National Strategic Studies, a Tel Aviv-based think tank with strong ties to the pro-Israeli Washington Institute for Near East Policy, released its annual report on Tuesday, saying Israel is technically capable of independently carrying out military strikes against Iranian nuclear sites.

Israel undoubtedly has been displeased by the manner in which Washington has mishandled Iraq, while Iran has used the situation to reinforce the perception of U.S. weakness and advance its agenda of becoming a nuclear powerhouse in the region, placing it in competition with Israel. With the United States currently lacking any solid options to contain Iran via a political resolution in Iraq, there has been intense speculation over the possibility that Israel might have to get its hands dirty and take military action against Iran -- with or without U.S. cooperation.

Israel's patience might be wearing thin, but an Israeli strike against Iran in the coming year is still unlikely. The Iranians have learned well from the pre-emptive Israeli airstrikes against Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in June 1981 that effectively squashed former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's development of the country's nuclear weapons. Whereas Iraq concentrated its facilities at Osirak, the Iranians have strategically spread out their nuclear sites, several of which can only be penetrated using tactical nuclear bunker-buster bombs. Even using these weapons in a sustained air campaign, the Israelis' ability to wipe out Iran's widely dispersed nuclear capability in a first-strike offensive is questionable.

Nonetheless, the Israelis do have an interest in halting Iran's expansion of power and setting back the Iranian nuclear program. This idea would be privately welcomed in much of the Arab world, particularly in Saudi Arabia, which would gladly let the Israelis take the heat for containing Iran's nuclear ambitions and putting a lid on the expanding Shiite power in the region. If anything can get the Saudis and the Israelis to sit down together and talk, it's Iran.

But in Israel's current state of military and political paralysis -- a result of the 2006 summer conflict with Hezbollah -- military action against Iran is not at the top of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's to-do list. Israel recognizes the downside to launching a unilateral attack against Iran. If the military option is to be used, Israel sees the value in having U.S. forces that are well-positioned in Iraq to help carry out the attacks. The problem is that the United States simply cannot risk engaging Iran militarily while Iraq is hanging by a thread. And a unilateral Israeli strike against Iran at a time when the United States is in a severely weakened position in Iraq would further undermine U.S. capability in the region, and place Israel in a more vulnerable position vis-a-vis Iran and its proxies there. The political arrangements Washington has painstakingly attempted in Baghdad would unravel if Iran were to hold the United States complicit in Israel's actions, and Tehran would not hesitate to up its militant assets in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories in order to strike at Israeli and U.S. targets.

The Israelis have a small window of four to five years before Iran develops a weaponized nuclear program. With these considerations in mind, Israel must prioritize the various threats against its national security. For Israel to seriously consider a military option against Iran down the road, it will have to first deal with the pending issue of neutralizing Iran's main proxy on Israel's northern border: Hezbollah. Part of the Israeli decision to engage Hezbollah in a full-scale conflict in 2006 likely involved the need to degrade the group's military capabilities and deprive Iran of one of its key assets in the region. Though that plan did not pan out, Israel is bound to revisit the issue in the coming year.


  1. interesting interview with wretchard on the hugh hewitt show

  2. More interesting was his half hour with Michael Totten:
    You can learn more about the factional breakdowns in Lebanon and workings thereof in 30 min than anything else I've seen or read.
    He says the Hezbos have to be continually at war with Israel just to maintain their political standing.
    There's a transcript, too.
    Wednesday January 3, 2007

    Michael Totten, Zach Wamp With Hugh Hewitt
    Hour 1
    - Lebanon blogger Michael Totten updates us on the status in that country after returning from a three week stay. Later, Congressman Zach Wamp's reading list.

    Wretchard, Sunsara Taylor With Hugh Hewitt

    Hour 2 - Belmont Club blogger Wretchard, plus an enlightening interview with a member of the fever swamp, World Can't Wait's Sunsara Taylor.

  3. How correct, feminized, and wussified we've become:
    "But also, if you think the facts that Saddam’s executioners taunted him, behaved in an uncivilized manner and chanted the name “Moqtada” aren’t matters of concern for us, you’re deluding yourself.
    As the Allahpundit put it both eloquently and bluntly, “Why does this matter? Because it’s typical of these morons that even at a moment of supreme justice, they’d find some way to infect it with savagery.”

    THE HOPE WHEN WE INVADED was that we’d be greeted with garlands of roses..."
    - Hewitt
    As a Rush caller reminded us, Saddam's treatment WAS civilized compared to what the "savage, moronic" Italians did to Mussolini

  4. Missed that thread, but I agree with Rufus:
    Saddam's still dead!
    ...and hanging, no matter how it's carried out is infinitely better than infinitely protracted legal grandstanding or incarceration.

  5. Iran's resources are not limitless. There are already plenty of signs that Iran has hit the limit of its economic capability to wage war. I think the best approach is the less dramatic one. A slow grinding siege type of warfare, using disaffected minorities in Iran and the surrounding areas.

  6. met, I believe that is far smarter.

  7. False flagged US operatives with tupperware cases full of cash. As old Seymour Hearsh told us were already in motion across the breadth of Iran. Hope they really are.

    It is the only reasonable way to dethrone the incumbent rulers

  8. This fellow advocates the expansion of the Public War to fill all the space that the "Real War" is made of:

    To Win in Baghdad, Strike at Tehran
    By Robert Tracinski
    But there is another, far more effective option: go wide.

    Going wide means recognizing that Iraq is just one front in a regional war against an Islamist Axis centered in Iran--and we cannot win that war without confronting the enemy directly, outside of Iraq.
    Every day, we see the disastrous results of fighting this war narrowly inside Iraq while ignoring the external forces that are helping to drive it. To fight one Shiite militia tied to Iran--Sadr's Mahdi Army--we have recently signaled our support for an Iraqi political coalition that includes another Shiite militia tied to Iran, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim's Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and its Badr Brigades. And so it should be no surprise that a US military raid on Hakim's headquarters last week netted two Iranian diplomats and members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards--the outfit responsible for supporting global terrorism. That's what happens when we fight the symptoms in Iraq rather than fighting the disease.

    Going wide also means recognizing that more is at stake in this war than just the fate of Iraq. This is a war to determine who and what will dominate the Middle East. ...
    In this context, to try to win the war just by sending more troops to Baghdad is like trying to save a patient by removing a tumor in his lung--when the cancer has already metastasized through his entire body.

    A few of our leaders have put together the big picture. In a recent Washington Post op-ed, for example, Senator Lieberman warned that "while we are naturally focused on Iraq, a larger war is emerging. On one side are extremists and terrorists led and sponsored by Iran, on the other moderates and democrats supported by the United States." Similarly, President Bush warned us last year that "the Iranian regime has clear aims: they want to drive America out of the region, to destroy Israel, and to dominate the broader Middle East."

    But these leaders have so far avoided advocating the use of military force against Iran. No one is willing to follow the implications of the big picture to the only rational conclusion: we are already in a regional war with Iran, and we need to start fighting it as a regional war. And the most effective place to fight that war is at its center, by targeting the Islamist regime in Tehran.

    Instead, our current policy is a bizarre, irrational holdover from the Cold War. In a New York Daily News op-ed, for example, Michael Rubin assures us that confronting Iran "need not mean military action." Instead, he advocates a policy of stronger words, from beefed up Radio Free Europe-style broadcasts to rhetoric such as the "Axis of Evil." His most telling recommendation is this one: "Just as Ronald Reagan championed striking shipyard workers in Poland in 1981, so too should Bush support independent Iranian trade unions.
    The fact is that we are fighting the wrong war in the wrong place--though not in the way critics of that war complain. We are trying to fight a regional war by limiting ourselves to a local conflict--and we are fighting that war in Baghdad, when it has its source in Damascus and Tehran.

    There is only one way to correct this massive strategic blunder--and that is to go wide. "

    I do not think that Mr Bush has the cajones, to go wide. But I always thought that, in 2003, "On to Damascus" was the best route to Tehran.

  9. Mr Negroponte will no longer be the US Super Spy, he is leaving the Super Spy Agency to be second fiddle at State.

    300 million people in the US.
    Mr Bush's list of prospects for any Federal Job Opening has the same dozen names rotating perpetually upon it

  10. "On to Damascus"
    Much too daunting for a small power like the USA to consider.
    ...with a Eunich in Chief.

  11. Exit of the last Cajones:
    Harriet Meirs submits resignation.

  12. A Complex Greeting

    Nothing is ever simple when it comes to John Kerry.

    The senator from Massachusetts and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, sent out 75,000 Christmas cards with pictures of trees at each season. The Kerrys gushed over their "gratitude for the beauty of these trees and the life they represent."

    But it didn't end there.

    The card came in an odd-looking envelope, one of those with a return-mail flap and instructions to send it to . . . well, to a recycling company, so "it can be made into new carpet tile."

    Carpet tile?

    We want a "world without waste . . . where every product either returns safely to the soil or becomes a new product."

    So the card instructs: "1. Remove this panel and insert it along with the card into the envelope. 2. Expose adhesive strip and fold the flap over to seal the envelope. 3. Drop this mailer into any U.S. mailbox."

    Who else would send a Christmas card with a to-do list?

  13. Setting aside all the other problems, and assuming they even have the intelligence (a big if), Israeli jets don't have the range to do it properly. Only a squadron of F-15Is could get there carrying a lightened bombload, but there's too many targets to hit, in the face of air and ground opposition, for one squadron. Combat loaded F-16s would have to resupply a number of times even for the shortest route, something that would be very difficult to coordinate, if not outright impossible given the circumstances.

    For similar opinions, see Will Iran be next?". Ignore the web source, it's from the Atlantic Month a few years back.

    Besides, they'd have to to over American held territory anyway so we're going to get the blame. The Jordanians and Saudis would never risk upsetting their people by allowing the Israelis to destroy the next Islamic bomb. There's an argument to be made that if we're going to get the blame anyway we might as well do it properly ourselves, but that runs into the other problems...

  14. I guess I should say, the Jordanians and Saudis would probably not risk upsetting their people by allowing the Israelis to destroy the next Islamic bomb. Shaky position and all.

  15. Much has been said about Iranian capacity to strike terror in the heart of the US.
    Like this comment in the ashington Times: Hezbollah is believed to have cells in at least 10 U.S. cities.
    Although the organization has yet to launch an attack on U.S. soil, its U.S. activities are far from benign. Its work in this country has two major purposes: One is to raise money and smuggle arms to Hezbollah fighters, often by criminal activities ranging from credit-card fraud to cigarette smuggling; and the other is to conduct surveillance behind enemy lines, with a possible eye toward launching attacks on U.S. targets in the event of an armed conflict between the United States and Tehran.

    If the HB has, within the US, hooked up with the MS-13. Of which there is a more than 1% Cheney Standard chance, then there are thousands of ready made mercenaries already here in the Homeland.

    The price of striking Iran may well be higher tha many think, what with Axis of Evil nuclear devices being tested, tests of short range delivery systems and ample targets in Iraq & Israel.

    Is the 1% Cheney Standard again in play? Is Iran really nuclear capable today?
    Capable to retaliate, with one or two obsolete nukes on less than perfect missiles.
    With conventioal bombings of "soft targets" across the breadth of the US, ala Mohammed and Malvo?

  16. At Threatswatch steve annonces:

    Ayatollah Khameini Is Dead

    Michael Ledeen is reporting that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khameini, is dead.

    He had been in poor health for some time, which was what made the recent elections so crucial to the Ahmadinejad/Ayatollah Yazdi circle of apocalyptic Hojjatieh believers. They sought to win control of the Guardian Council, now tasked with nominating and electing the next Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its ultimate authority. They failed, but had hoped to be in a position to insert Ayatollah Yazdi as Iran’s Supreme Leader, believed by many in order to hasten the return of the 12th Imam by creating the believed preconditions for his return: Warfare, chaos, bloodletting and death untold in the history of civilization.