Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Is it time for an "Osiran" strike? Is the solution to the current crisis about Iran's nuclear weapons programme a repeat of Israel's famed attack on Saddam's Osirak facility, or O'Chirac if you prefer that spelling?
I can see that many people are hoping this is going to happen. In a way it's a dream scenario: Israel does the actual dangerous and dirty work, the Coalition can huff and puff and indignantly protest how Israel has destroyed all its efforts at a peaceful solution etc., and in the end the problem is fixed or at least delayed. Equally the strategic fall-out would only hit Israel in the form of Iranian proxy retaliation via Hizballah and possibly Hamas, so we're in the clear on that one as well. Phew.
On the other hand if Britain and her allies take military steps against Iran there is going to be serious violence in Iraq, the conditions for which are already in place. As Iranian agents have reportedly been observing targets in Western cities, we may well even get some heavy hits on the "home front". Well, better let Israel take the brunt until we can find some magic wand to make the nuclear problem disappear.
One thing is clear however, a military strike by Israel alone will not suffice to end the Iranian programme it can only delay it a bit. Still it is an option Israeli policy makers will be considering now. And the timing is becoming more urgent. As has been pointed out by Richard North and the Wall Street Journal, Iran will soon have a new set of high-tech air defences from Russia (SA-15 Gauntlet, to be precise). These new systems would be good enough to make a single strike by Israel ineffective. That means that if Israel wants a sensible, i.e. non-nuclear option against Iranian nukes, it has until about March to do so, when the Russian systems are up and running. After that the options of dealing with Iran via air strikes will only be open to the US Air Force's stealth bombers, F-117s and B-2s.
The consequence of this situation is that Israel must either act now, or completely place its fate in the hands of the US and the EU-3, not to mention Russia and China. If you were an Israeli what would you be thinking?
So an Israeli strike is well on the table, and there is plenty of rumour about this sloshing around too.
But is this really desirable? I don't think so. There is a real risk that Iranian counter measures would spill over on to non-Israeli targets, including British ones. After all an attack by the demonised "Zionist entity" would be the perfect ideological rallying tool for Iran's current leader. He has something of a pedigree here after all. So, who's to say an Israeli strike couldn't be used as an excuse to recruit for and launch a serious jihadist campaign in the region and beyond. This would clearly hurt our interests, though this is a more speculative outcome.
Another problem I see is that diplomacy may still have some hope in Iran. Perhaps not in changing the ambitions of the current leader, but perhaps by slowing the programme down enough for an internal regime change to occur (or at least some moderation). An Israeli strike would clearly be a further step to full on violent escalation and I don't think we are politically or militarily entirely prepared for that yet. If we ever will be.
From this problem there are two separate courses of remedial action to be taken.
Firstly, there must be a way to stop Russia providing Iran with the Gauntlet missile system.
Secondly, and this is the key point of this posting, we have to find a way to dissuade Israel from attacking. Israel has many a good reason to carry out a strike, if it cannot depend on anyone else for its security. So an obvious step to take now would be for the US and the EU-3 to offer a clear security guarantee to Israel. Such a guarantee would bind all countries security together in this instance and by putting Israel's security into the diplomatic mix openly and comprehensively would remove Israel's need for action.
This would be a logical and necessary step, so it will be eventually taken, when it's too late, as these things always are. Nonetheless, it's simple really, it only requires a bit of political foresight. So, fingers crossed.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
So we see the return of the story about how Bush allegedly wanted to bomb the headquarters of the Al Jazeerah tv channel in Quatar. I don’t know whether or not this is accurate but there is something else I have been wondering about: why would he even consider it? I am just assuming from hearsay that al-J’s reporting of Western military effort is biased against the Coalition. But if that’s what was bugging Bush, he would have been singling out al-J rather unfairly, given that there are plenty of other tv channels that are not noted for their enthusiasm for the war in Iraq. Some of them rather closer to home too.
Ok, so perhaps he really is the kind of war-mongeringly thoughtless nutter that the anti-war likes to make him out to be. Despite being a fully committed pro-American über-hawk I cannot of course rule this out theoretically. Well, I’ll leave that to the theorists then.
Another possibility that also can’t be discounted is that he was joking. Who knows? He might have been discussing the difficulty of getting any kind of good PR, and after mulling over the frustration of al-J specifically, might have jested, “we should just bomb them!”. If that were the case I can also see why no one would want this published because it would appear rather immature to be making jokes like that in the midst of a war crisis. And that’s still an understatement.
But here’s my guess at what could have been the driving factor. Apologies for the fuzzy detail and I don’t have any links at present, but I remember there was a story about al-J paying insurgents to carry out attacks so they had some exciting material. Additionally there were a whole host of allegations about collusion between al-J reporters and insurgents. I don’t know if those stories ever really got substantiated, but it would be quite a serious situation if it were true. Perhaps Bush indeed suggested to Blair that bombing al-J’s HQ might be an option of dealing with the problem. To my knowledge nothing was ever done. So the problem I see for Bush in regards to this memo is that it shows he had evidence of al-J/insurgent cooperation and then did nothing about it. This would be a real damper in regards to his standing with more hawkish types. Remember of course when this supposed discussion took place, frustration and even anger was on the boil about Bush N’ Blair’s refusal to send enough troops in the right fashion to win in Iraq (see archives of timmyhawk and Weekly Standard ad nauseam). Bush and Blair may simply now be trying to avoid coming under even more pressure from within their own camps.
There is one final reason for suppressing the memo. It’s a memo of a confidential, i.e. secret, deliberation between heads of government. If such conversations can in future not take place because of an overbearing fear of unprofessional civil servants leaking anything that tickles their fancy, communication between our governments will become ever more difficult, and in consequence it will become evermore harder to act. Particularly damaging to the Government in times of war.
Well that’s my quid’s worth, we’ll see one day I suppose. We always do in the end.
Monday, January 16, 2006
I am far too tired for anything sensible, so I bring you this little gem, which provides hours, well more like minutes to be honest, of entertainment. The fun wears off after about five or six runs, but otherwise it’s well worth a visit.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
I thought it would be useful to have all relevant postings and links on the conflict with Iran accessible in one place, so here is. Obviously you can disregard the dateline on this as I will be updating this posting regularly.
January 25, 2006 DEALING WITH IRAN: WHY WE NEED AN ISRAELI SECURITY GUARANTEE
January 13, 2006 ARE WE READY FOR WAR WITH IRAN?
January 09, 2006 A BAD BEGINNING TO THE NEW YEAR
October 27, 2005 WHAT IRANIAN NUKES ARE FOR
August 15, 2005 DAN PLESCH ON CURRENT IRAN SITUATION
August 13, 2005 WOULD IRANIAN NUKES PERHAPS BE OK?
August 11, 2005 REAL CONFRONTATION WITH IRAN BEGINS TO LOOM
November 30, 2004 IRAN DEAL SUCCESS
August 11, 2004 IRAN'S DEMANDS - THEY'RE JOKING, RIGTH?
August 10, 2004 PROLIFERATION WATCH: STOP IRAN'S NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAMME, OR ELSE
August 09, 2004 PROLIFERATION WATCH: MAJOR FAILURE
July 24, 2004 LET'S BOMB IRA. . . . . , ERR, WHATEVER IT'S CALLED
July 04, 2004 IRAN TROUBLE KEEPS BOILING
June 10, 2004 APOLOGIES FOR IRAN POSTING
June 02, 2004 TAKE DOWN IRAN NOW
March 17, 2004 WHAT'S GOING ON IN IRAN?
November 19, 2003 VAN CREVELD GETS THE NEW MIDDLE-EAST HALF RIGHT AND HALF COMPLETELY WRONG
September 23, 2003 GROWING IRANIAN PROBLEM
Saturday, January 14, 2006
In an article in the current Economist on changes in Britain's dietary behaviour, particularly the decline in traditional crisp consumption, this made me laugh:
Sales of premium products such as Kettle Chips and Walkers Sensations increased between 2002 and 2004, and low-fat crisps sold better too.
True to form, Golden Wonder's response was flatfooted. It used posters ridiculing a top-selling Kettle flavour: "Crushed sea salt and balsamic? That'll be salt and vinegar then." Guess who's laughing now?
Friday, January 13, 2006
It seems like the situation is beginning to hot up for real this time. The EU-3 have made it clear that referral to the UN Security Council is now seriously on the table. Whilst in itself that may not be daunting challenge to the current Iranian regime, it does however signal a change in EU attitudes. Additionally, taking the issue to the UN marks the end of the kind of conciliatory diplomacy that the EU has been trying on its for the past 2-3 years. The next phase now will probably be a joint effort with the US at coercive diplomacy. How long that will last is hard to say. The possible end point of such an approach could well be military action. By whom and under what circumstances remains to be seen. An Isreali strike by March is a real possibility now. That may well be bluffing on Israel's part, but that bluffing is certainly aimed at getting others to act. To be clear, diplomacy may well achieve the goal of stopping Iran from getting nukes. But this will only be possible if there is a united diplomatic front against this, and a united Western military commitment to enforce a denial of nuclear weapons to Ahmadinejad's hands.
So, we have to prepare ourselves mentally and practically for war. Only that way can we build up the necessary pressure for diplomacy to work. Which again proves the old saying: si vis pacem, para bellum!
Thursday, January 12, 2006
. . . then why is it being advertised with a web banner that screams: Win a Tank Driving Experience! That strikes me more as the kind of thing you would do promote some jingoist action flick, rather than a "meditation about war".
Bad PR? Or perhaps this is just super-clever post-modern advertising. One of the most noted passages in Anthony Swofford's book that Sam Mendes' film is based on, is after about how anti-war films are indistinguishable from "pro-war" ones, if you want to call them that. The point Swofford made, was that any film about war served as a sort of pornography to soldiers as it showed their grizzly skill in action, and this proved titillating viewing independent of the context. (see here)
So, perhaps the ad men were extra clued in on this and this was only for the select few who understood the deeper context between such an otherwise infantile advertising gimmick?
Somehow though I don't quite believe it . . .
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Via EU Referendum, On the unbelieveable desire to resurrect the failed EU constitutional treaty, here’s Denis MacShane:
The Totentanz is fine for gothic horror stories but climbing into the coffin of the corpse of the constitution is taking necroeurophilia too far
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
That Sir Michael Rose, eh? I wonder if anybody is surprised by today’s news that he’s joined in the chorus of “impeach Blair!”. I’m certainly not. According to Sir Mikey, Blair “mislead” Parliament and the public over invading Iraq. There are arguments I can’t be bothered to enter into anymore, and this is certainly one of them. But there is something else going on here. Even if there was more truth in Rose’s claims that I can see, what on earth does he think he’s doing? He’s not going to achieve anything positive or constructive.
On another revealing wider point, his argument about wmd, where do you link to, if you want to refutation of that view? In the US it’d be fairly easy, and this piece is the first that comes to mind. But from a British perspective? I can’t off my head reading anything in, say, the Spectator, that made a similar argument about Britain’s war. Where are our hawks? (Even if they go ott.)
This only reflects the sheer and ever growing lack of nerve by the “great and the good”, of which a former general should be considered a member. Increasingly I get the feeling that the British establishment is losing its sense of political seriousness.
It is after all one thing thinking that invading Iraq in 2003 was a bad idea, it is quite another beating the anti-war drum long after the decision has been made and our troops are in the field. The only thing that will achieve is in undermining public support for a war that can’t be made undone anymore. In turn this saps away at the troops’ morale. Think about it, would you want to be a soldier risking his life in Iraq, when at home everybody’s saying that you shouldn’t be there and we’re going to lose anyway and everything you’re doing is a waste of space et al? No? Neither would I.
I find this episode all the more disappointing because Sir Michael Rose is a former general himself. He could at least counterbalanced his complaints about the political procedure prior to the invasion with a few strong words of support for his former colleagues.
And Britain sinks a little more . . .
Monday, January 09, 2006
Whereas most of the UK press seems to be obsessed and “surprised” by the fact that Charles Kennedy may have enjoyed a drink or two more than his thirst required, in other parts of the world actually important things are happening: Iran ready to remove U.N. seals at nuclear sites. Perhaps this should warrant more attention? Just a thought.