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With or Without Nukes, Iran Is a Mortal Threat

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By Elan Journo from The Ayn Rand Institute Stories,cross-posted by MetaBlog

With or Without Nukes, Iran Is a Mortal Threat

By Elan Journo

Imagine that your neighborhood is overrun by a gang. These brutes are wielding crowbars, knives, and pistols in a frenzied spree of home break-ins and mugging and murder. Now suppose the police reveal that their grand strategy for dealing with this gang is to block them from getting submachine guns--as if without such weapons, the gang would no longer bother people.

Would you sleep soundly at night?

Or would you be outraged? Of course you would, because this gang--even without more powerful weapons--is already a serious menace that must be stopped.

Now, what would you say if this ridiculous what-if scenario resembled our actual response to the very real threat from Iran?

Ever since taking U.S. embassy staff hostage in 1979, the Islamist regime in Teheran has led an international spree of bombings, hijackings, and other terrorist attacks on Americans and Westerners. Now politicians and diplomats, who put up with Iranian aggression for years, are loudly promising to block Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

On the campaign trail, for instance, the candidates debate how (i.e., with or without preconditions) they'd negotiate to dissuade Iran from pursuing a nuke--on the idea that without such a weapon in Iranian hands, everything will be hunky-dory.

But the uncomfortable truth is that if the mullahs got a nuke, Iran would not suddenly undergo a Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation from a friendly neighbor into a rabid enemy. Iran long ago proved itself a threat that must be stopped; a nuclear arsenal would only make it a far worse threat.

For three decades the ayatollahs of Iran have been using proxies--such as Hezbollah--to carry out murderous attacks. Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps helped create and train Hezbollah, which hijacked a TWA airliner and which kidnapped and tortured to death American citizens. Iran pulled the strings behind the 1983 bomb attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon and later the barracks of U.S. Marines, killing 241 Americans. Iran also orchestrated the 1996 car bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, where 19 U.S. servicemen died.

There's more: The 9/11 Commission found that "senior al Qaeda operatives and trainers traveled to Iran to receive training in explosives," and that "8 to 10 of the 14 Saudi 'muscle' operatives traveled into or out of Iran between October 2000 and February 2001." During the Afghanistan war, Iran welcomed fleeing al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. Today, according to the U.S. military, Iran is running training camps near Teheran for Iraqi insurgents, who return to Iraq to practice and train others in their bomb-making skills. There's also growing evidence that Iraqi insurgents get bomb technology from Iran. 

What's going on here?

A rational assessment of Iran would have to recognize that the mullahs in Teheran have been conducting a proxy war against America. The inspiration for this war is Iran's jihadist goal of imposing Islamic totalitarianism globally. Iran is a leading sponsor of jihadists and the self-identified role model for exporting its Islamic revolution to other countries. It is the sworn enemy of the West. We should take seriously its call to bring "Death to America!"--because it has already done so.

But too many American diplomats and commentators refuse to judge Iran. Instead, they regard its past hostility as a string of disconnected crises, unrelated to Iran's ideological agenda. They avoid naming the nature of the regime and behave as if its acquisition of a nuclear weapon would be the decisive event. But that particular weapon--despite its power--cannot be the whole story, since we don't worry about other countries, such as France and Britain, having nukes. The rarely admitted difference is that the regime in Iran would eagerly press the launch button.

This fear-the-weapon-not-the-killer mentality refuses to understand the threat posed by Iran right now. This view holds that only the concrete facts about Iran's arsenal have any practical significance, while its abstract, ideological goals and character can be disregarded with impunity. But whether Iran uses one nuke, or attacks with more conventional weapons, its victims are still dead.

Our leaders' narrow concern with Iran's nuclear capability cannot make the regime's longstanding hostility to America go away. Americans should face the real character and conduct of the Iranian regime, before it is too late.

 

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It looks like we might finally have a president who's willing to "face the real character and conduct of the Iranian regime."

Quote

 

BAGHDAD — President Trump ordered the killing of the powerful commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, in a drone strike on the Baghdad International Airport early Friday, American officials said.

General Suleimani’s death was confirmed by official Iranian media.

“General Suleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

 

 

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Maybe, but it's doubtful that Trump is using strategic foresight here. Even if it is the right decision now, I doubt he has much of a foreign policy here. Still virtually nothing done about Hong Kong.

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29 minutes ago, Repairman said:

I couldn't help but to notice this was the first day in months that the word, "impeachment" wasn't mention on NPR.

https://www.npr.org/2020/01/03/793202192/as-impeachment-trial-looms-sen-susan-collins-faces-scrutiny-in-congress-and-at-h

The attempts to deflect attention from Trump's positives are silly.

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I don't know about you, but assassination of bad people with the lack of any apparent long-term strategy is a marginal positive and possibly even a negative. That would go for any administration in the past who has been close to Saudi Arabia. So whatever positive there is, it doesn't matter as long as Saudi Arabia is an ally. 

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12 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Maybe, but it's doubtful that Trump is using strategic foresight here.

God, I hope not. I hope he's letting a smart general or two provide the strategic military thinking.

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If that's the case, then we don't need to praise Trump for anything about this. That's actually how I feel about any president in recent history - they are relegating the military aspects so that they can bring focus to their political objectives.  But we can be sure that the parts Trump is completely responsible for are not consistent with a coherent Middle East strategy.

I'm not criticizing what happened, but my concern is that Trump doesn't demonstrate the political foresight that is necessary for successful strategy.

 

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8 hours ago, Eiuol said:

we don't need to praise Trump for anything about this.

I praise him for having the will to hit such an important member of the Iranian regime.

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But it isn't his will if it's a conclusion that a general or two provided. That's just following advice. Not very praiseworthy, just a basic expectation. 

To the extent he didn't take advice, and was using his will and military strategy skill that may have differed from a general, is the extent he didn't know what he was doing. 

And besides, I don't even know if this was in fact advice from a general. As far as I understand, it wasn't. I could be mistaken though.

 

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9 hours ago, Eiuol said:

my concern is that Trump doesn't demonstrate the political foresight that is necessary for successful strategy.

One thing I've liked about Trump since before the election is his restraint when asked to reveal his views on political or military strategy. He keeps these things confidential. He understands that it's not wise to tell the enemy what you're planning to do. Also, he says that he'll listen to his trusted military and political advisors. This is perhaps his best quality, and I'm certainly not going to fault him for it. I don't expect the president to blab about a secret strategy just to prove there is one.

The fact that Trump has gotten us to this point where we, as a nation, are mostly comfortable with killing a high-level Iranian commander, this is a credit to Trump's leadership and an indication of his general strategy of maximum pressure. By pulling out of the nuclear deal and increasing sanctions, he has caused Iran to become more belligerent and violent toward us, making us appear more justified in escalating our responses. Trump doesn't need to have such strategic thinking skills himself. He just needs to have the will to recognize and enact a better strategy when it's presented to him.

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1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

... [Trump] has caused Iran to become more belligerent and violent toward us, making us appear more justified in escalating our responses.

Appear to whom?  

Machiavelli would have been proud of Trump.

“us” means Americans in the first instance, the U.S. government in the second.  Israel may be the ally of our corrupt government but it is no friend of us.

 

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3 minutes ago, Dupin said:
1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

[Trump] has caused Iran to become more belligerent and violent toward us, making us appear more justified in escalating our responses.

Appear to whom?  

Trump is going to need the open or tacit approval of Congress and our allies in order to bomb Iran. Whether or not we are in reality justified, we need to at least appear justified in this action--to reasonable Americans and other nations of influence. If we can't even appear justified, then what's the point in proving it with evidence? Opponents will accuse us of faking the evidence again, like with Iraq. The appearance needs to be clear and undeniable.

Now, I don't know the secret strategy, of course. But if subduing Iran is indeed the end goal, it makes sense that a plan has been generally in the works for some time, before Trump even. We've established a widespread presence and power in the Middle East, and now we're ramping up the conflict with Iran. It seems that we have mostly isolated them politically, and now we're working on them militarily. Such things don't happen by accident.

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18 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I'm not criticizing what happened, but my concern is that Trump doesn't demonstrate the political foresight that is necessary for successful strategy.

Is there a successful strategy that does not begin with killing the Iranians in Iraq?  We already don't have an embassy in Iran, so they come down to Baghdad to attack the embassy.  Trump forestalled a war by disrupting the planned further attacks on Americans in Iraq. 

The strategy Trump is enacting is to keep America out of a full blown war and to use economic power instead.  Thus, his withdrawal from the Obama giveaway not-a-treaty and revival of all the sanctions and economic blockade measures.  If more American bombing is required, Iran can kiss its entire oil industry goodbye.  Lets see if Karg Island can actually be sunk.  (per wikipedia as of 2012, Karg oil terminal in the Persian Gulf handled 98% of Iranian oil exports).  That won't take a war.

Now that America is a net oil exporter, a mideast war that raises the price of oil benefits America.  Iranian oil goes to China anyway, so we get to fuck over China too.  Win-win.

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11 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Trump has gotten us to this point where we, as a nation, are mostly comfortable with killing a high-level Iranian commander

What does this mean? Who is more comfortable? I was already comfortable with such a thing. But I have no bearing at all. Nothing changed at all. What you're saying doesn't mean much. Even what you said about Trump is so simplistic that you're just describing what most people would do.

2 hours ago, Grames said:

Is there a successful strategy that does not begin with killing the Iranians in Iraq? 

I agree on this point, I have no problem at all with the assassination. My criticism was 1) a president should not receive much praise or blame for the actions of the military, and 2) I'm not aware of any public foreign policy that this is supposed to fit into when Saudi Arabia is still an ally. 

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Iran has (for too long) been conducting Quds "proxy" operations in several regions:

The Quds Force (Persian: سپاه قدس sepāh-e qods)[4] is a unit in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) specializing in unconventional warfare andmilitary intelligence operations. Responsible for extraterritorial operations,[5] the Quds Force supports non-state actors in many countries, including Lebanese Hezbollah,Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, YemeniHouthis, and Shia militias in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.[5]

Analysts estimate the Quds has 10,000–20,000 members.[6] The Quds Force reports directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei.[7][8] It was commanded by Major General Qasem Soleimani until he was killed by a U.S. drone strike atBaghdad International Airport on 3 January 2020.[9][10][11] Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani was appointed as commander of the Quds Force on the same day.[12] Wiki

 

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A "proxy" army seems a convenient ploy for a belligerent state to sometimes wash its hands of its orchestrated empire building and terrorist aims and acts.

Journo spotted it right: many treat this in a series of "disconnected crises". It is only the usual concretism, determinism and appeasement by the West's media that has glossed over and aided Iran's aggressive expansionism. Quite under the radar, their "proxy" army has been getting away with increasing military and civilian powers in those other countries listed above. (Revealing that Iran's role in propping up Assad in Syria, amid many of his civilian atrocities which appalled westerners, went quite uncriticized and unreported by the msm).  

Everybody tacitly knows Iran's overall objective, and that it considers Western freedoms a block on its goals, but prefers to evade the fact. 

Comes a time, in long term self-interest, someone and some nation and (far preferably) some alliance of nations has to make a stand against a rogue state, to thwart much worse down the road. Not - to cater to the causal confusion and 'victimhood' of "were we the West to blame?" "who did what to whom, first?". Nor: Is this going to justify an Iranian response? Nor: "is this a wise strategy?" They create paralysis which only strengthens a foe's morale. Far wiser is a (limited, unpredictable and occasional) strong response which *might* give potential enemies pause for thought. A full out conflict has to be avoided, but not at all costs, making for future insecurity and worse wars, I think.

Journo : 'Americans should face the real character and conduct..."

Not only them - France, Germany, and the EU too have been largely responsible for allowing free rein by Iran and pretending it means no harm.. 

Iran's "character" was openly exposed by their decades-long "conduct". We know them by what their leaders do and what they keep repeating they want to do. They must be believed.

Edited by whYNOT

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13 hours ago, Eiuol said:
On 1/4/2020 at 7:48 AM, MisterSwig said:

Trump has gotten us to this point where we, as a nation, are mostly comfortable with killing a high-level Iranian commander

What does this mean? Who is more comfortable? I was already comfortable with such a thing.

 

On 1/3/2020 at 7:43 PM, Eiuol said:

I don't know about you, but assassination of bad people with the lack of any apparent long-term strategy is a marginal positive and possibly even a negative.

It doesn't sound like you were already comfortable with the killing, if you thought it was "possibly a negative."

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I already said it's not the killing per se that I have any issue with. I'm critical of a lack of any cohesive long-term strategy. I'm comfortable with assassinations as a tactical move (especially because it minimizes collateral damage and harming innocent people). I don't expect anyone to outright reveal a complete strategy to the public, so I'm expressing how I can't really piece one together even with many holes in it. 

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3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I'm critical of a lack of any cohesive long-term strategy.

Are you holding out hope for a political solution with Iran? The long-term strategy in war is to break more of the other guy's stuff until he surrenders or dies. What exactly are you asking for: battle plans? 

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I sure hope you don't consider that a long-term strategy. It's like saying the objective of chess is to capture the king. Yeah, that's a goal, and part of the strategy, but we can also see there's a wider consideration of what the other person might do, what might go on, and future games possibly. We can also see what kind of player they are based on the way they take their moves, who they have learned from, and so on.

What does it mean to you that Saudi Arabia is basically a US ally to the president, but the president also wants to take a hard line against dangerous countries like Iran? The type of strategy that Grames talks about looks great to me, but it's hard for me to point out reasons to think that Trump wants to think of a long-term strategy like that. 

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10 hours ago, Eiuol said:

What does it mean to you that Saudi Arabia is basically a US ally to the president, but the president also wants to take a hard line against dangerous countries like Iran?

I'm glad that Trump is willing to go after Iran. And if we ever stop Iran's militant jihad, maybe he'll turn his attention to Saudi Arabia. Perhaps making an example of Iran will make it easier to reach a diplomatic solution to the problem of Saudi Arabia.

But if your purpose is merely to point to some seeming hypocrisy in America's foreign relations, then I'll remind you that Trump didn't create America's relationships with Saudi Arabia and Iran. He's mostly dealing with a hand dealt long before his time, and geopolitics is a very complicated and confusing game to play, I'm sure. So, rather than focus on the problems Trump hasn't fixed, maybe we should support him when he actually does something positive and encourage him to continue moving in that direction.

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11 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I sure hope you don't consider that a long-term strategy. It's like saying the objective of chess is to capture the king.

Yes, it's called war. War is the strategy of last resort. If talking doesn't work, you either run away or fight. Chess is pure fighting. It's war. The objective is to make the enemy submit.

11 hours ago, Eiuol said:

...we can also see there's a wider consideration of what the other person might do, what might go on, and future games possibly. We can also see what kind of player they are based on the way they take their moves, who they have learned from, and so on.

These are means to the end. Of course you typically need to gather intelligence on the enemy, especially when it's a complicated fight with another nation. But you gather intelligence to make it easier to destroy your enemy's things and ultimately win the war. You're mistaking short-term means or tactics for the long-term goal or end which the tactics serve.

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I think you're just being pedantic. You said the strategy in war, so I answered that. You know, war strategy, the plan to win the war. 

3 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

He's mostly dealing with a hand dealt long before his time, and geopolitics is a very complicated and confusing game to play, I'm sure.

This is a rationalization. You gave me your opinion about Iran, but now you're hesitant to give an opinion about Saudi Arabia because it's complicated. I don't have reason to suspect that Trump cares about Saudi Arabia at all, based upon his public comments. He thinks well of the country if anything. If he changes his mind, great. But it seems unlikely. I don't have a sense of who the enemy is exactly, and Trump often changes his mind even when things are going good. I'm more concerned that the assassination will end up a wash for what it was meant to achieve.

 

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4 hours ago, Eiuol said:

You know, war strategy, the plan to win the war. 

Do you want Trump to reveal the plan to win the war? I can't tell what you want. Should he reveal in advance which sites he'll bomb and when? Troop movements? Supply lines? How much detail do you expect to be made public?

Edited by MisterSwig

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