What About Iran?

The Obama Administration is preparing a package of sanctions against Iran just in case:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Obama administration is working on a substantial sanctions package against Iran in case current diplomatic efforts to curb its nuclear program fail, top officials told Congress on Tuesday.

Under Secretary of the Treasury Stuart Levy, who developed some of the existing financial sanctions against Iran under the Bush administration, said at a Senate Banking Committee hearing that the “comprehensive” plan would target “key vulnerabilities and fissures” in Iran to show Tehran that it would face “serious costs” for thwarting international demands.

“It takes into account that no single sanction is a ‘silver bullet’; we will need to impose measures simultaneously in many different forms in order to be effective,” Levy said.

He stressed, however, that the United States would be mindful of actions that would harm the Iranian people or undercut the opposition battling the Iranian government.

At this point I’m pretty skeptical that any package of inducements (the approach favored by the Russians), sanctions regime, or even military action at a scale that’s politically acceptable in the United States will prevent Iran from producing a nuclear weapon, an eventuality that both Presidents Bush and Obama have characterized as “unacceptable”. I’ll confess that I haven’t posted as much about this as the situation warrants, in all likelihood because I’m suffering from Iran fatigue—I’ve posted so much about Iran over the period of the last five years that I just don’t have the heart to post.

So, I’ll throw the question open to the OTB commentariat. What should we do about Iran? Please state what you see as the desired outcome, the approach you would advocate to produce that outcome, and how political support for your desired approach can be built.

FILED UNDER: General, ,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. Raoul says:

    Goal: regime change through peaceful means as I suspect a majority of Iranians want the current leadership out. Military and overt economic intervention would rally the state (see Cuba)- so essentially the approach that is required is diplomatic and covert.

  2. mike says:

    I know enough about this issue to get in trouble, but I think I remember a commentator – might have been Gingrich – talking about how Iran severely lacks the capacity to refine oil into gas – one refinery – and they rely heavily on imports – an embargo would bring their economy to a standstill. of course the problem may be that they might cut off natural gas supplies to others which would be a problem. In the end, though regime change. How to achieve, possibly make it so miserable for the people that they force the gov’t to give up their nuclear ambitions – then again it could rally them around their gov’t since they blame the west for their misery. – my two cents

  3. Mike,

    Two problems with cutting off gas supplies to Iran.

    First, there’s little chance that the rest of the world will go along with us.

    Second, if it did work, Iran would likely view it, rightly or wrong, as a causus belli.

  4. Alex Knapp says:

    Live with it and revive MAD.

  5. TangoMan says:

    Deadly accidents befalling Iranian nuclear scientists and technicians (Gerald Bull type accidents) would make being an Iranian nuclear scientist or technician a very dangerous job.

  6. Alex Knapp says:

    Deadly accidents befalling Iranian nuclear scientists and technicians (Gerald Bull type accidents) would make being an Iranian nuclear scientist or technician a very dangerous job.

    Without reliable human intelligence? How do you intend to pull that off? We’ve got virtually nothing on the ground there.

  7. TangoMan says:

    Without reliable human intelligence? How do you intend to pull that off? We’ve got virtually nothing on the ground there.

    Good point. No time like the present to get crackin’. Maybe instead of CIA witch hunts the President can authorize a top priority project.

  8. William d'Inger says:

    As long as the United States has nuclear weapons, it has no moral right to deny that capability to any other sovereign nation. Alex is right: “Live with it and revive MAD.”

  9. TangoMan says:

    MAD is dependent on rational leaders being in charge. The Iranian leadership has flat out declared that they would like to see Israel blown off the face of the Earth. Never has the USSR, the US, China, the UK, France, India, Pakistan or Israel ever declared the desire to see a whole people eradicated. The Iranian declaration is sufficient prima facie evidence that we cannot count on rationality backstopping the Iranian decision making model which MAD is built upon.

  10. Don’t you think it’s more likely that a nuclear Iran would attempt to use it’s status to exert influence over it’s Persian Gulf neighbors than to engage Israel in a nuclear war that will lead to it’s own destruction ?

  11. Alex Knapp says:

    The Iranian leadership has flat out declared that they would like to see Israel blown off the face of the Earth.

    Wrong. It was the figurehead appointed by the real Iranian leadership said this. Not anyone with power.

    Additionally, and this is worth pointing out–since the 1979 Revolution, Iran has not engaged in aggressive warfare.

  12. TangoMan says:

    Don’t you think it’s more likely that a nuclear Iran would attempt to use it’s status to exert influence over it’s Persian Gulf neighbors than to engage Israel in a nuclear war that will lead to it’s own destruction ?

    I don’t disagree with this view, but the situation is not a one or the other type of scenario. The likelihood of Iran acting irrationally, in spite of a sure knowledge that a MAD-based response would target it’s own leadership, cities, people, infrastructure, etc is far higher than the likelihood that the UK will fire off its nuclear weapons at Argentina.

  13. An Interested Party says:

    I’ll bet there were similar concerns before North Korea possessed nuclear weapons that Seoul or Tokyo could be in trouble and yet, those two cities aren’t radioactive heaps…just because some crackpot figurehead makes ugly noises towards Israel doesn’t mean that an Iranian regime would actually drop a nuke on Tel Aviv…self-preservation and all that, you know…in the end, no one outside Iran wants them to possess the bomb, but can anyone come up with a reasonable way to stop them that doesn’t cause more harm than not stopping them…

  14. anjin-san says:

    Never has the USSR,

    I guess you missed that “we will bury you” thing. History books are cool, you should check one out sometime…

  15. Bill Quick says:

    History books are cool, you should check one out sometime…

    You might consider doing likewise, although in this case, Wikipedia is sufficient.

    Iran has not engaged in aggressive warfare.

    Change that to “openly or formally engaged…” and I’ll agree with you.

    Wrong. It was the figurehead….

    We are no longer certain he is a figurehead. Among other things, he apparently has developed a personal power base with the Revolutionary Guards.

    MAD is an outdated strategy even for US-Russian relations. It certainly has little or no application to Iranian nuclear capabilities. Where, for instance, does the mutual assurance lie? Between Israel and Iran? Yes, Israel might unleash the Samson option if Iran nuked it, but Israel would cease to exist as a nation. This is not as certain for Iran, which might at least look at the gamble as being feasible, particularly when religion is factored into the mix. Suicide does seem to play a role in Islamic decisions about warfare. As for the U.S. guaranteeing one side of a MAD scenario, can anybody here come up with a situation in which we nuke Iran except for a nearly open Iranian WMD attack on the American homeland (and maybe not even then)? Do you really think we would nuke them if they nuked Israel? If so, on what do you base that belief?

    At this point I’m pretty skeptical that any package of inducements (the approach favored by the Russians), sanctions regime, or even military action at a scale that’s politically acceptable in the United States will prevent Iran from producing a nuclear weapon…

    This is exactly right.

    We do have the military capability not just to prevent an Iranian nuke, we have the ability to overthrow the Iranian state. I, personally, am one who wishes we’d used that ability before George Bush leaked away the American mandate for war with his botchery in Iraq. Nonetheless, it is what it is, and I expect we will have to live with an Iranian nuke because we do not have the will to prevent it happening. More important, the region will have to live with it, as well as the rest of the world, a significant sector of which is within Iranian missile range, or will be in a few short years.

    So, to answer the question, I think it is too late to “do anything” about Iran. And the consequences of that are going to be far more dangerous than most people seem to realize.

    Yes, of course Iran is out for regional hegemony. It views its principle opposition to that goal as coming from Saudi Arabia and the huge Saudi influence in the American halls of power. The biggest chip in their game is Iraq, and Iran as a nuclear power will take that chip to its side of the table, one way or another.

    People who hope that Iran will turn into an Islamic version of France as a nuclear power really don’t understand the forces at work there, as well as the deep well of irrationality on which the leadership draws.

  16. Matt says:

    TangoMan You’re a complete moron if you truly believe that it would be in Iran’s best interest to wipe Israel off the map. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric in reference to Israel is merely an attempt to focus the hatred of radical (and some not so radical) Iranians on an outside source rather then the government itself. The average middle class Iranian views him as a joke hence the large protests that are still ongoing. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also is merely a puppet and wouldn’t even be capable of launching an attack on Israel unless Khamenei and the Guardian council approved (and they won’t as they know they cannot win a full out nuclear war). At the rate things are going in Iran there will very likely be a regime change soon enough (the Islamic revolution back in the 70s took time too).

    We are no longer certain he is a figurehead. Among other things, he apparently has developed a personal power base with the Revolutionary Guards.

    That power base is dependent on the Guardian council’s support and has shown to be somewhat unreliable already.

  17. Matt says:

    As for the original question I’m not sure what to do but I do know that Iran WILL be a nuclear power and any military action to prevent it would result in the populace rallying around the current leadership as a point of national pride.. The average Iranian still remembers who sold Saddam weapons of mass destruction that he used oh so long ago.

    I should confess that my long time GF is half Iranian and most of that side of her family still lives there.

  18. Dave Schuler says:

    The average Iranian still remembers who sold Saddam weapons of mass destruction that he used oh so long ago.

    Do they? If so, they certainly have an odd way of expressing themselves. Trace analyses of the chemical weapons used by Saddam against Iran have shown them to be completely absent of the indications that they would have been of U. S. manufacture. They were almost certainly of Soviet origin.

    I think it’s far more likely that they remember the lies they’ve been told for more than a generation.

  19. ptfe says:

    @Dave: Source?

    And I must say that, regardless of the source, the fact that the U.S. did sell biological and chemical weapons to Iraq for the purpose of “protecting itself” against Iran doesn’t help the case. Your argument is akin to someone giving a hired killer a gun and a pile of money to off a business associate, then proclaiming innocence in the case because, even though the killer could be clearly identified, the fatal gunshot wound couldn’t be traced back to the provided gun. It’s a farcical defense.

  20. Dave Schuler says:

    Here and the Wikipedia article has a good bibliography. The Wikipedia article includes some citations for the U. S. provision of chemical weapons precursors although not chemical weapons themselves. Precursors are pretty broad.

  21. anjin-san says:

    You might consider doing likewise

    Oh, gee, you mean a statement made by a leader we did not care for was distorted in translation and twisted for political reasons?

    Hmmm, history does repeat itself after all…

  22. Matt says:

    Do they? If so, they certainly have an odd way of expressing themselves. Trace analyses of the chemical weapons used by Saddam against Iran have shown them to be completely absent of the indications that they would have been of U. S. manufacture. They were almost certainly of Soviet origin.

    They don’t believe that and the fact that we have interfered greatly in their internal politics doesn’t help either (or are you going to claim that isn’t true too?). So what did Saddam do with the WMDs we sold him?

  23. G.A.Phillips says:

    Well with the NeoCommunists(workers of the ONE) in charge it sure seems to me that we a getting hung with are own rope, call it tax dollars.

    And for the rest of you who fear Christianity, and things like creation science,free speech, and the “right” to own guns more then the Islamic 12er’s(true believers), I never expected much understand from you, I read your stuff…