Updates on Iran
As the national elections there near a number of articles on Iran have been published which I’ll try to weave into something resembling a narrative. Today Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Obama and Congressional leaders and, clearly, Iran was much on the mind of all. PM Netanyahu expressed his concerns to CNN after his meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader John Boehner:
An Iranian regime armed with nuclear weapons “is a great danger to all of us, to Israel specifically and to the moderate Arab regimes, [and] to America,” Netanyahu said after his meeting with Pelosi and Boehner.
“Especially if this regime were to arm itself or arm terrorists with nuclear weapons, the consequences could be unimaginable.”
Netanyahu also reiterated his call for normalizing relations between Israel and the “broader Arab world” while moving forward on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Speaker Pelosi underscored the concern:
“The question of Iran is one that is of concern to us in Congress,” she said. “… It is an issue for the world. It is important for all of us to work together to be sure that Iran does not develop a weapon of mass destruction.”
Certainly some level of concern is warranted. The Wall Street Journal observed:
In testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that was largely ignored by the media, the legendary Manhattan District Attorney opened a window on how Iran is secretly obtaining the ingredients for an arsenal of mass destruction. Mr. Morgenthau, whose recent cases have exposed illicit Iranian finance and procurement networks, has discovered what he calls “Iran’s shopping list for materials related to weapons of mass destruction.” They add up to “literally thousands of records.”
Missile accuracy appears to be a key Iranian goal. In one of Mr. Morgenthau’s cases — the prosecution of Chinese citizen Li Fang Wei and his LIMMT company for allegedly scamming Manhattan banks to slip past sanctions on Iran — the DA uncovered a list that included 400 sophisticated gyroscopes and 600 accelerometers. These are critical for developing accurate long-range missiles. He also found that Iran was acquiring a rare metal called tantalum, “used in those roadside bombs that are being used against our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.” So much for the media notion that Iran has played no part in killing American GIs.
Mr. Morgenthau also noted that the material shipped by LIMMT “included 15,000 kilograms of a specialized aluminum alloy used almost exclusively in long-range missile production; 1,700 kilograms of graphite cylinders used for banned electrical discharge machines which are used in converting uranium; more than 30,000 kilograms of tungsten-copper plates; 200 pieces of tungsten-copper alloy hollow cylinders, all used for missiles; 19,000 kilograms of tungsten metal powder, and 24,500 kilograms of maraging steel rods . . . especially hardened steel suitable for long-range missiles.”
Lest anyone think that these materials may have innocent uses, Mr. Morgenthau added that “we have consulted with top experts in the field from MIT and from private industry and from the CIA. . . . Frankly, some of the people we’ve consulted are shocked by the sophistication of the equipment they’re buying.”
President Obama reiterated his call for a diplomatic solution to the impasse over Iran’s nuclear development program while noting that the offer had a “sell-by date”:
WASHINGTON — President Obama said Monday that he expected to know by the end of the year whether Iran was making “a good-faith effort to resolve differences” in talks aimed at ending its nuclear program, signaling to Israel as well as Iran that his willingness to engage in diplomacy over the issue has its limits.
“We’re not going to have talks forever,” Mr. Obama told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel after a two-hour session in the Oval Office.
The president added that he did not intend to foreclose “a range of steps” if Iran did not cooperate.
while former Vice President Dick Cheney’s national security advisor warned of the futility of searching for a diplomatic solution:
Can the president’s strategy of diplomatic engagement persuade Iran to cease its efforts to develop nuclear weapons? Unfortunately, history offers little cause for hope — especially if the United States remains focused on trying to reassure Iran of America’s benign intentions. Successful denuclearization of hostile states is most likely to occur as a result of regime change, coercive diplomacy or military action, not U.S. pledges of mutual respect.
To recap my own views I believe that the preponderance of the evidence suggests that either Iran is developing nuclear weapons or wants us (and, perhaps, the Iranian people) to believe that they are. I don’t believe that our human intelligence within Iran is good enough to know whether that’s the case with any confidence or where the development is located clearly enough for air attacks to disrupt that development in any meaningful way, at least not with the level of force that the American people would find acceptable in the absence of more information than we have. The danger of such an attack would be very grave. Consequently, I believe that negotiations, sanctions, or some other actions short of invasion or bombardment are the best course at hand for preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. I think a nuclear-armed Iran would be very troubling to say the least so long as the current Iranian government is in power.
For a long time I’ve been skeptical that the Israelis would attack Iran in the absence of better information than I believe they have for the reasons stated above and because, simply put, Iran is not Iraq. Attacking Iran risks precipitating the very outcome they would be trying to avoid with the attack while providing a justification for it. Frankly, however, with the current Israeli government I’m not so sure.