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Monday, August 15, 2005

As I have said, my mind remains to be made up in regards to dealing with Iran. Dan Plesch has a piece in the Groan that makes me rethink the possible military options:

The conventional wisdom is that, even if diplomacy fails, the US is so bogged down in Iraq that it could not take on Iran. However, this misunderstands the capabilities and intentions of the Bush administration.
America's devastating air power is not committed in Iraq. Just 120 B52, B1 and B2 bombers could hit 5,000 targets in a single mission. Thousands of other warplanes and missiles are available. The army and marines are heavily committed in Iraq, but enough forces could be found to secure coastal oilfields and to conduct raids into Iran.

Now, the problem with that, as Plesch then explains, would be that it could tip Iran into chaos and probably lead to The ability to simply attack a few sites in Iran is not really in doubt anyway. Even Israel could probably pull this off:

While the problems facing air strikes are significant, Israel's military nevertheless believes it has the means to cause serious damage to the Iranian nuclear capability.
Israel's cruise missiles, launched from planes or submarines, give the country a capability that it did not have in 1981 when it attacked the Iraqi reactor with a conventional bombing sortie.
"It's a bit more challenging in Iran but the military option remains a real one," said David Ivri, a retired Israeli air force officer who commanded Operation Opera, the attack on Iraq's reactor.
"After all, the aim would not be to neutralise the Iranian nuclear programme. That would be impossible. But what we could do is delay it considerably.
"That was our aim in Iraq and that is what we achieved - a very long delay.''

The question is however, after the delay, then what? I once advocated preparing for UK-US invasion and occupation of Iran to forestall a possibly-nuclear Israeli strike. As Plesch notes (I don't think he himself means it):

America and Britain must act where the international community has failed, and that their action is the responsible alternative to an Israeli attack

Although Plesch himself turns this option down, everything else he writes seems to suggest that is the right course of action to take. He inadvertently makes a persuasive argument that all the problems that dealing with Iran could bring with it - more attacks on our forces in Iraq, destroying oil supply lines, initiating a vast terrorist campaign and the like - will become worse the longer we wait, so the sooner we strike the better. His proposed way out of this scenario however is the clincher that shows how little use his advice really would be:

The problem on WMD is that Blair and Bush are doing too little, not too much. Why pick on Iran rather than India, Pakistan, Israel or Egypt - not to mention the west's weapons? In the era of Gorbachev and Reagan, political will created treaties that still successfully control many types of WMD. Revived, they would provide the basis for global controls. Iran must not be dealt with in isolation.

That sounds great. No really it does. Chances of that happening: nil. And the end of the day one should accept that the world is as it is. It would be hunky dory if all the big countries on the planet sat down at one table and agreed more or less overnight that abolish wmd. Fantastic stuff. And Plesch sure enough has good arguments on his side. But he ultimately makes the big taditional intellectual's error by failing to understand that changes in the real world do not occur by the right arguments and good ideas alone, but by managing conflicting interests. A very basic point one would have though, but one that Plesch slides right over. And ultimately this transforms his points a rather depressing "we're all going straight to hell and there's nothing we can do about it" doommongering.

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