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April 17, 2006

More Iran Stuff

Mark Steyn's City Magazine essay [via Hugh Hewitt] is my second must read recommendation for today.

Find it here and read the whole dang thing.

Key passages [all emphases mine]:

If Belgium becomes a nuclear power, the Dutch have no reason to believe it would be a factor in, say, negotiations over a joint highway project. But Iran’s nukes will be a factor in everything. If you think, for example, the European Union and others have been fairly craven over those Danish cartoons, imagine what they’d be like if a nuclear Tehran had demanded a formal apology, a suitable punishment for the newspaper, and blasphemy laws specifically outlawing representations of the Prophet. Iran with nukes will be a suicide bomber with a radioactive waist.

. . .

In 1989, with the Warsaw Pact disintegrating before his eyes, poor beleaguered Mikhail Gorbachev received a helpful bit of advice from the cocky young upstart on the block: “I strongly urge that in breaking down the walls of Marxist fantasies you do not fall into the prison of the West and the Great Satan,” Ayatollah Khomeini wrote to Moscow. “I openly announce that the Islamic Republic of Iran, as the greatest and most powerful base of the Islamic world, can easily help fill up the ideological vacuum of your system.”

Today many people in the West don’t take that any more seriously than Gorbachev did. But it’s pretty much come to pass. As Communism retreated, radical Islam seeped into Africa and south Asia and the Balkans. Crazy guys holed up in Philippine jungles and the tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay who’d have been “Marxist fantasists” a generation or two back are now Islamists: it’s the ideology du jour.

. . .

With the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, a British subject, Tehran extended its contempt for sovereignty to claiming jurisdiction over the nationals of foreign states, passing sentence on them, and conscripting citizens of other countries to carry it out. Iran’s supreme leader instructed Muslims around the world to serve as executioners of the Islamic Republic—and they did, killing not Rushdie himself but his Japanese translator, and stabbing the Italian translator, and shooting the Italian publisher, and killing three dozen persons with no connection to the book when a mob burned down a hotel because of the presence of the novelist’s Turkish translator.

Iran’s de facto head of state offered a multimillion-dollar bounty for a whack job on an obscure English novelist. And, as with the embassy siege, he got away with it.

. . .

[I]n the 17 years between the Rushdie fatwa and the cartoon jihad, what was supposedly a freakish one-off collision between Islam and the modern world has become routine. We now think it perfectly normal for Muslims to demand the tenets of their religion be applied to society at large: the government of Sweden, for example, has been zealously closing down websites that republish those Danish cartoons. As Khomeini’s successor, Ayatollah Khamenei, has said, “It is in our revolution’s interest, and an essential principle, that when we speak of Islamic objectives, we address all the Muslims of the world.” Or as a female Muslim demonstrator in Toronto put it: “We won’t stop the protests until the world obeys Islamic law.”

And this, which had me nodding my head at the irony so obvious, I hadn't noticed it until now:
Back when nuclear weapons were an elite club of five relatively sane world powers, your average Western progressive was convinced the planet was about to go ka-boom any minute. The mushroom cloud was one of the most familiar images in the culture, a recurring feature of novels and album covers and movie posters. There were bestselling dystopian picture books for children, in which the handful of survivors spent their last days walking in a nuclear winter wonderland. Now a state openly committed to the annihilation of a neighboring nation has nukes, and we shrug: Can’t be helped. Just the way things are. One hears sophisticated arguments that perhaps the best thing is to let everyone get ’em, and then no one will use them. And if Iran’s head of state happens to threaten to wipe Israel off the map, we should understand that this is a rhetorical stylistic device that’s part of the Persian oral narrative tradition, and it would be a grossly Eurocentric misinterpretation to take it literally.
Fine as this column was, you'll see me getting off the boat when Steyn concludes, somewhat ominously:
[W]e face a choice between bad and worse options. There can be no “surgical” strike in any meaningful sense: Iran’s clients on the ground will retaliate in Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and Europe. Nor should we put much stock in the country’s allegedly “pro-American” youth. This shouldn’t be a touchy-feely nation-building exercise: rehabilitation may be a bonus, but the primary objective should be punishment—and incarceration. It’s up to the Iranian people how nutty a government they want to live with, but extraterritorial nuttiness has to be shown not to pay. That means swift, massive, devastating force that decapitates the regime—but no occupation.
That time is coming, but I think we still have other options at present. So if Steyn is urging a military strike now (as he seems to be), I would disagree.

I think our main focus (while we still have the luxury of time) should be on fomenting internal opposition to the regime -- even what you might call internal strife. Take the mullahs minds off the outside world. Make them fear for their own survival. Promote a viable alternative to religious fascism, then give the people of Iran a gentle shove in that direction.

Sure, the days are gone when a Kermit Roosevelt could overthrow Mossadegh with about five guys, a pickup truck and 100 grand in "walking around money." But we can do it, with a little more of the same applied skullduggery, 21st Century style. The New York Times would have to be kept out of the loop, and I'm not sure that's possible when there's a whistleblower around every pentagon corner who thinks he's a hero with a book deal on the way.

Really though, as Steyn's article makes clear, there shouldn't be any debate about the stakes in this newest incarnation of the Great Game. And somebody needs to get on it.

Posted by annika, Apr. 17, 2006 | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: annikapunditry


Good posting, Annika.

I think that it's important that the mullahs, as well as the People, understand that the real danger to themselves is not Western society so much as it's Islamic threats to/of Western society. Iran's leader is a madman on a mission, and hopefully the young reformists AND the Islamists will soon realize that they are enemies with a common enemy and, for a time, unite much as Roosecelt and Churchill held their nose and allied with Stalin for a few years.
After that, we can deal with the progress of their society without the cloud of holocaust hanging.

It's amazing to watch the MSM refusing to see what's coming.

Posted by: Tuning Spork on Apr. 17, 2006

Now, let me play the white devil's advocate. If we take precipitous action against Iran, many things can happen, and they all seem bad.
1) We destabilise Iraq and undo all we have been trying to accomplish,( perhaps this problem will decline in time, but right now things are very shaky there
2) If there is any movement among Iranians to liberalize, we wil squash that
3) If we try to do it on the cheap and just use air power we will certainly fail. Then we open ourselves up to nuclear (or at least dirty bomb) retaliation as soon as they can do it.
4) If we topple the regime, (the only sure way to deal with the problem) we will be completely on our own with more than half of the country against the action, and all of our allies against it. The cost and problems will be at least like Iraq X 2.

So, I am sorry Mr. Steyn, and Mr. Hewit, I just dont see it happening. We WILL have to think of another way to deal with this situation.

Posted by: kyle8 on Apr. 18, 2006

I'm so sorry, kyle8, because bad things are going to happen. You can pretend bad things aren't going to happen. You can dislike the fact that bad things are going to happen. We can fight them now, or we can fight them later. Unless, of course, you plan to pray toward Mecca five times a day... You know, that "submit or die" business.

Now, before they have nukes, is better. Their president has made his intentions perfectly clear. I take him at his word.

Posted by: markD on Apr. 18, 2006

Remember all those really good reasons folks had for not confronting Hitler early......bad idea then and an even worse one now.

Posted by: Blu on Apr. 18, 2006

Read this last week and it depressed me something fierce (also got me my first wee blog troll... YIPEE!). I think part of Steyn's essay is that a) an ugly painful decision needs to be made and that b) putting that decision off now (like Carter did) only makes the subsequent choices that much harder and uglier.

Right now we can decide between more "debate" and sanctions and a nuclear strike. If we keep putting the decision off until Iran actually gets nuclear bombs that can be strapped onto (working) missiles, that decision becomes tougher.

Posted by: JD on Apr. 18, 2006

Kyle8 acting on something usually involves changing, or "destabilizing", it. I'm curious why people keep using this dumb excuse, the current situation of Iran going after nukes isn't a "stable" situation, so how can acting to change it be "destabilizing"? And since when is "destabilizing" always a bad thing? And how can we destabilize Iraq if it is already very shaky?

...But we shouldn't attack or anything because part of this country doesn't comprehend the situation thanks to lax Media coverage (witness for example the cover story on Time a week or two ago -- Be afraid, Very afraid! of what? Not Fundamentalist Muslims Assholes with a bomb. No its global warming!)

Posted by: Scof on Apr. 18, 2006

The comparison with hitler and germany is tedious at best. Iran is not Germany, and this is not 1938.
To speak of this as inevitable is also a bit much.
Nothing is inevitable and we have not explored all options. Furthermore, there is time to act, and the longer we can safely put it off the better for the situation in Iraq,

Oh and BTW yes! I think the situation in Iraq is terribly important. The only way we can really justify our going in there in the first place was to change a destabilizing regime and to place a free government in place so it could be an example to the rest of the region. That could all be in danger, and yes that is a major consideration.

Most of the arguments I have heard revolve around fear, Fear that as soon as the Iranians have a bomb they will nuke us or Israel. I don't believ that will happen for one minute. The have a silly man up there as the mouthpeice of the mullahs who talks a big talk. But that is because the regime is shaky and is sabre rattling for its own domestic market. If they were so gung ho and ready to die, they would not have made peace with the hated Sadam after they had began to win that war.
For that matter they would have attacked us when we invaded Iraq. They are evil but not stupid.

Posted by: kyle8 on Apr. 18, 2006

look, the comparisons to Hitler are a bit overblown, and not a real argument.
Now i admitted we might HAVE to attack them, but it should be at the last possible safe moment. the more time we have the more options might appear, also, the more we stabilise Iraq.

and yes! That is an important thing! The main reason I could justify going into iraq in the first place was to try to create a stable, free government that would be an example to the region, that could all be in danger. And that is not anything to sneeze at.
There is also the almost casual assumption that the Iranians will use their nuke if they get one.
I dont think so. They talk a good talk but they have not acted like the zealots they like to appear to be, The did nothing to us when we invaded Iraq, and they even made peace with the hated Saddam after they began to get the upper hand in that war. And they are not run by just one man, so in some ways they scare me less than N. Korea who is run by one crazy man.
Now I don't want them to have a bomb but we have to be realistic. it wont always be possible to stop every regime we dont like in getting nukes.

Posted by: kyle8 on Apr. 18, 2006


Posted by: Blu on Apr. 18, 2006



Yes, Kyle, I know comparisons are never perfect; but, it is always good to learn from mistakes. Another thing to consider: you reason like a rational thinking, Western person. Try putting yourself into the head(s) of non-Western, religious fanatics, who think you and yours are sub-human pieces of garbage.

By the way, I think your position is reasonable. I'm just a bit more worried about an Iranian threat than you. History will dictate which one of us is "correct."

p.s. a link to the true architect of the current Iranian "problem" (and the larger middle-eastern mess)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Carter
I don't care how many fucking houses he builds for the poor; he is/was a disaster for this country.

Posted by: Blu on Apr. 18, 2006


"The main reason I could justify going into iraq in the first place was to try to create a stable, free government that would be an example to the region, that could all be in danger. And that is not anything to sneeze at."

No argument from me there.

"There is also the almost casual assumption that the Iranians will use their nuke if they get one."

We all hope that if they get one, they won't use it. But it's criminal negligence at best, and suicide at worst, to plan public policy on that hope. Even if it turns out to be true. Without a crystal ball to inform us otherwise, we have to assume that an enemy with a terrible weapon would be willing to use it against us or our allies. And the "rhetoric" currently coming out of Iran should lead any reasonable person to lean towards the assumption that they will do as they say. Just for the sake of being on the safe side.

So sure, believe whatever you want to believe about Iran's intentions. That's cool. But I want leaders over here who are preparing under the assumption that our enemy will strike us, rather than assuming that they won't. That's the only way we will do what needs to be done.

And IMHO what needs to be done is to find a way to defuse the situation without attacking Iran, while we still have the chance to do that. Because if we wait too long, or blow it, we won't have any choice and we will have to attack them. (Either that or just pretend that Iran with a bomb won't be a problem, which is just crazy talk.)

Posted by: annika on Apr. 18, 2006


A small personal aside, if I may, since the Rushdi fatwa was mentioned in the article.

While eating lunch with my office manager during that period, (an American women of Jamaican heritage who I knew was a follower of Islam), I asked her if she happened to be standing next to a gunman about to shoot Salman and his kids, would she do anything to help them. SHe politely answered she would do nothing that was against the wishes of the leaders of her faith.

As to the question of what to do about Iran.

Firstly, it is going to be years until they have enough enriched material to make a bomb. They have made a bit of 3-5% (Low enriched Uranium). A far cry from the 2.2 kilos of nearly 90% enrichment needed for a bomb. The ability to weaponize their highly enriched uranium (HEU) once it is produced to the point where a missle can deliver it is, some estimate is more than 8 years away. A lot can happen in that amount of time.

Those who toss out Chamberlain are being simplistic readers of history to suit their displeasure with the situation of Iran having some sort of a nulcear capability that might become a threat. There is a long row to hoe before the situation gets out of hand(a threat we could not control) and I for one, do not think our country will attack and will not use a nuke to decommission their capability.There are still many diplomatic routes to travel. DO you think the Russians would be thrilled with Iran having a weapon?

DOes anyone think, despite how crazy this MF'er is that he rules a country as big and complex as Iran, there are no sane people in various places around him? And that faced with the prospect of their country and all their brothers and sisters being turned into a sheet of glass they will allow a nuke to be lobbed at Israel? It takes the cooperation of a lot a people to attempt a nuclear missle strike or even the shipping container scenario. Call me naive (you have called me far worse) but i don't think this is such a big deal.

Posted by: strawman on Apr. 18, 2006

Blu is right, there is something decidedly unwestern about someone strapping on a bomb and visiting an Israeli Mall for the last time. Some of these folks are different.
I have also had conversations with those of the Muslim faith, on this soil, and heard no tangible regret about 911 but considerable contempt for our president and our missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Enjoy the American way of life, prosper under capitalism, and hold in highest regard the United States that makes it all possible? Not anymore. I'm sure, and sure hoping, this is not the common setiment. I do admit my name isn't Gallop or Zogby.
Strawman makes a good point about Iran using the thing when it's ready. It would certainly be their end, but I would have considered taking U.S. citizens hostage crazy too- before it happened there.

Posted by: Mike C. on Apr. 18, 2006

Odysseus dispells some myths about the "overthrow" of a "democratically-elected" Mossadegh gov't in Iran.......


Posted by: reagan80 on Apr. 19, 2006


Like Kyle, you proffer a very reasonable, sane western worldview vis a vis Iran. I hope you are right. If you are not, we've got HUGE problems. I think better safe than sorry....especially when dealing with Islamofascists. And I think my Chamberlaind reference is apropos when considering whether we are under-estimating or burying our heads in the sand with respect to the evil with which we are dealing.

You don't get two chances to get this right....

Posted by: Blu on Apr. 19, 2006

Lost in this debate, was this brilliant bit of analysis and witty writing:
"The NYT would have to be kept out of the loop and I'm not sure that's possible..."
and this is the best part
"....when there's a whistleblower around every pentagon corner who thinks he's a hero with a book deal on the way."

So, true. I wonder how many greedy, spineless lefties are willing to throw their country under the bus for a few bucks and their "15 minutes?"

Posted by: Blu on Apr. 20, 2006

Thank you!

Posted by: Shelly on Jun. 27, 2006