By Ronan Thomas
As the British Army repositions in southern Iraq and considers troop pull-outs, an uncomfortable anniversary passes largely unnoticed.
British military commanders hoped the handover of a key base to Iraqi authorities would be a smooth one. But optimism has not been matched by reality. With 1,200 British troops just withdrawn from Camp Abu Naji, al-Amarah, jubilant Shi'ite militiamen from Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army are claiming victory.
Insurgent rocket and mortar rounds had been crumping into this base in southern Iraq for months and providing what British military commanders call a "static target". The abandoned base - in eastern Maysan province - was comprehensively ransacked by insurgents on August 23. Military spokesmen say this is not a British retreat, merely a "repositioning" to fight insurgents more effectively in the areas bordering Iran.
Even as the handover was failing, London was claiming last week that half of Britain's 8,500 troops may be withdrawn from their Iraqi sectors as early as next year. Under a "transition plan" just published, Britain's Ministry of Defense (MOD) envisages a phased reduction from the four provinces under UK control by mid-2007. A partial handover to Iraqi government forces is hoped for. Under this plan, a core of 4,000 soldiers will remain indefinitely, based in Basra "to protect the [Iraq] investment".
As the government ponders greater troop reductions, the efficacy of British strategy in Iraq is again coming under scrutiny. And British soldiers are not the only rumored departure. The British media continue to conflate difficulties experienced in Iraq with the domestic unpopularity of Prime Minister Tony Blair, just back from vacation in Barbados. Blair's exit from Downing Street during 2007 has been widely anticipated. He himself says he will not serve a full third term in office.
Meanwhile, a baleful 90th anniversary has passed largely unnoticed. Further north from al-Amarah is a town which resonates in British history. One hundred miles southeast of Baghdad lies Kut-al Amarah.
Kut continues to haunt modern British planners as the ultimate case study of how to fail militarily in the Middle East.
Kut to the chase
Almost a century ago, as the Great War raged, Kut caused shudders across Britain. This summer British historians commemorated the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme of 1916 with exhaustive and high profile analysis. But with British forces still engaged in Iraq, the anniversary of Kut received little comment.
This is hardly surprising. Sitting on a bend of the Tigris River, Kut was the nadir of Britain's 1914-18 Mesopotamian campaign. The Battle of Kut in 1916 presaged the end of empire and rivaled earlier humiliations at Gallipoli, the fall of Singapore in 1942 and the Suez episode of 1956.
If 50% troop withdrawals take place in 2007, the UK will be presented with a balance sheet of strategic achievement versus lives lost. The story may yet prove to be a good one. It may not. That document has yet to be written. The British will balance their badly-needed reconstruction efforts for ordinary Iraqis versus 115 of their soldiers killed in Iraq since 2003, the latest just on August 1.
Ninety years ago at Kut the balance sheet was clearer. It was a butchers' bill of suffering soldiery, an object lesson in military failure and a showcase of over-weaning personal ambition.
The Battle of Kut will forever be associated with the ill-fated leadership of a single British Army commander - Major General Sir Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend. Like General Percival at the fall of Singapore 36 years later, his actions have prompted controversy ever since.
Hyper-ambitious and obsessed with promotion, Townshend was the darling of the North West Frontier of India, feted for his defense of Chitral in 1895. He spotted new opportunities for victory following the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. After Allied forces' failure at Gallipoli in 1915, other Middle Eastern assets were ripe for the taking. Among these were the oilfields of Persia and Iraq - the latter in 1914 a province of the Ottoman Empire garrisoned by the Turkish Army.
Above all, the glittering prize of Baghdad beckoned would-be conquerors. In 1915 Townshend sailed up the Shatt al-Arab from Basra, leading a force from the British Army's 6th Division, largely composed of Indian troops. At first all went swimmingly. For the first six months British forces routed the Turks as far forward as Ahwaz.
Sailing northward up the Tigris, to take Amarah and the Turkish positions at al-Qurna, Townshend went on to mount a successful river-borne assault backed by artillery. So supremely confident was this assault it was nicknamed the Tigris Regatta. Townshend watched the attack from his own personal steamer. Over 1,000 Turkish prisoners were taken. The regatta made further stately progress up the river.
But Townshend's laurel wreath was about to be snatched and flung into the Tigris. As at Gallipoli, Germany's wartime policy of providing military advisors for her Turkish allies again paid off. German Field Marshall Colmar von der Goltz promptly set about reorganizing Turkish forces even as the allure of taking Baghdad grew in Townshend's imagination. The British mounted a new attack on Turkish positions at Kut itself, succeeding more by accident than design. Townshend's subordinate, General Houghton, successfully carried the day despite becoming lost in the featureless landscape at the critical moment. But the British and Indian forces suffered heavy losses.
Next came Ctesiphon. Arriving in November 1915 at the site of this ancient battlefield, 30 miles southeast of Baghdad, once capital of the Persian Empire and dominated by a monumental arch, Townshend attacked the opposing Turks, inflicting over 9,000 casualties. But the price was high - 4,600 British and Indian troops lost across the exposed terrain. Townshend was unable to press home his advantage. He now made the critical error of falling back on Kut with the apparent aim of resisting an enemy siege.
Nemesis, in the form of three Turkish divisions led by von der Goltz, duly arrived. Townshend and 12,000 British and Indian troops found themselves besieged in Kut. Their forces were well dug in but starvation loomed unless a relief force could arrive in time.
A force was eventually sent under Lieutenant General Sir Fenton John Aylmer to resupply Kut by river steamer and repeated British frontal attacks were made. They all failed. The British lost a further 20,000 soldiers and the supply port of Basra became a choked bottleneck. Offers were made - by T E Lawrence - to bribe the Turkish besiegers with the sum of 1 million pounds. The Turks, rightly sensing victory, rebuffed all overtures. Inside Kut the defenders were now eating their horses. Emaciated from disease and hunger, 1,750 soldiers and an unknown number of civilians died. On April 29, 1916, after a siege of 146 days, Britain's most senior army commander, Lord Kitchener, authorized surrender.
The Empire's shame was acute. Over 10,000 soldiers went into captivity. Worse was to follow. Townshend did not stay with his men. He agreed to be taken to Constantinople, his "prison" consisting of a yacht anchored in the Bosphorous, complete with servants. This action and his inflexibility remain a cautionary tale taught in military staff colleges to this day.
What was left of his army now faced brutal treatment. Marched across the desert to prison camps, hundreds died of thirst, disease and the attentions of Arab irregulars nipping at the heels of the column. Over 4,000 died on this death march and later under harsh conditions in Turkish prison camps. Like the remnants of the Crusader army marched into captivity after the Battle of Hattin in 1187, the defeat at Kut echoed around the Middle East.
The British Army reeled from the aftershocks. But, as so often in the alchemy of British military history, shambles was turned into victory. By December 1916, with popular attention in Britain centered on the Western Front, a new British commander, General Sir Frederick Stanley Maude, determined to avenge the defeat. Like von der Goltz, Maude would die in Mesopotamia of typhus, but by the turn of 1917 he had deployed a reorganized force of 150,000 men and made the supply port of Basra finally efficient. After launching his forces from desert trench positions, Maude advanced toward Baghdad, outflanking the Turks as he went. By February 24, 1917, the Turks were in headlong retreat and the scene of Townshend's failure was retaken. The so-called Second Battle of Kut was over. Baghdad was taken on March 11.
Even so, a British strategic victory in Mesopotamia proved elusive. At war's end in November 1918 a force of 50,000 Turks was still tying down a British Army three times its size. Up to 40,000 British soldiers had died during the campaign. Kut's horrors lingered on in British memory long after Iraq's tribal revolt of 1920 and beyond the end of Iraq's monarchy in 1958.
The events at Kut are now almost a century old. The British war cemetery at Kut, restored by US forces in 2003, has now been vandalized beyond repair by insurgents. Today, the warning of Kut does not figure highly in stated British strategy. Yet Kut has not been forgotten, acknowledged by senior British officers as a specter sitting at the map table.
For the past three years modern al-Kut, and its 300,000 inhabitants, has been run by US, Polish and Ukrainian coalition troops. Taken in 2003 by US forces and designated part of Multi-National Division Central-South, Kut is currently run jointly by the Poles and the US.
Further south, the British sector - Multi-National Division South East - remains a key link in the chain of coalition strategy for Iraq. Covering Shi'ite-majority areas and the key Iraqi cities of Basra, Amarah and Nasiriyah - it currently hosts around 7,200 British troops. Supported by Australian soldiers, this force continues to maintain the UK's security commitment to reconstruction in southern Iraq (Operation TELIC). A further 1,300 British soldiers operate elsewhere in Iraq.
British commanders are sanguine as to the military challenges. In the wake of the Camp Abu Naji withdrawal in Maysan they say they will be conducting new guerrilla-style operations in the borderlands of eastern Maysan province. Deploying a highly mobile force of around 600 men - modeled on British Special Forces fighting in North Africa during World War II - commanders say its role will be to chase and finish off insurgents.
If the security and material situation in southeastern Iraq improves as planned in the next nine months - permitting a 50% drawing down of British forces in 2007 - Blair will claim vindication for his commitment of British forces since 2003.
If Abu Naji is the model, the auguries are not good. Whether Blair will still be in office next year, to see the planned withdrawals, is also entirely another matter.
Ronan Thomas is a British correspondent.
(Copyright 2006 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing .)
UPI Israel Correspondent ^ | Joshua Brilliant
Posted on 08/29/2006 2:38:11 PM PDT by humint
TEL AVIV, Israel -- Israeli soldiers who searched Hezbollah homes and bunkers in the south Lebanese village of Maroun el-Ras found a booklet that provided a glimpse into that movement's religious indoctrination. It extolled holy war and martyrdom and provided examples from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' experience.
Soldiers found four copies of that booklet in Maroun el-Ras that has seen some heavy fighting with Hezbollah. Israeli intelligence experts reckoned that since several copies were found in Hezbollah's front lines, the 60-page booklet must be an authorized Islamic guidance manual.
It is written like a Muslim-Shiite ideological treatise with quotes from the Koran and Shiite traditions. It presents the Jihad, or Holy War, as a way in which a Muslim may sacrifice his life for Allah and reach heaven. The Shahada, or martyrdom on the battlefield, is a prize for a Muslim warrior, the document says. There are several gates to Heaven and the most prestigious of all is the one for those involved in a Jihad. That is why every Muslim should strive to take part in a holy war. Victory in a Jihad, or martyrdom, are tops.
Israel's Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, which the intelligence community uses to release declassified materials, analyzed Hezbollah's booklet. Its deputy director, Yoram Kahati, noted that Hezbollah considers its fighters as being not only Lebanese but, "Mainly Muslim-Shiite Jihad fighters who fulfill a most important religious commitment." That sense increases their motivation to fight Israel, he maintained.
No Arab state has made Jihad its strategy, Kahati noted. Only radical Sunni-Muslims, such as al-Qaida, give Jihad that much importance. However Iran, which is Muslim-Shiite, has been trying to export its ideas to the Shiites in Lebanon and set an example to the other, Muslim-Sunni world, Kahati wrote. The booklet says that preserving military hierarchy is a religious matter and the report noted that Hezbollah is, indeed, a disciplined organization. War zones should be turned into sites of religious worship, and fighters must be imbued with a "revolutionary spirit" that does not accept surrender, the booklet notes.
Such indoctrination explains Hezbollah's good fighting capabilities, said intelligence Col. in the reserves Reuven Ehrlich, who is the center's director and Head of the Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism Studies Program at the Interdisciplinary Institute in Herzliya. Bearing arms and fighting a holy war is not just a military profession for them but part of a religious belief, he told United Press International. These principles are taught at a very young age, he added.
Israeli troops are holding on to some 30 Lebanese arrested during the war and an authoritative military source told UPI he believed some 20 to 24 of them are Hezbollah members. One of them is Hussein Ali Sliman, 20, who told an interrogator his training included courses on Mohammad's life, Islam's main principles and rules.
The Israeli officer said that copies of the Koran and religious slogans were found on the bodies of dead Hezbollah guerrillas and with prisoners. The Hezbollah men are not as extreme as the Palestinian suicide bombers "and no one came up to an armored personnel carrier and blew himself up. They fought like guerrillas," the source officer noted. To keep it up they must be highly motivated, he noted.
Guerrillas' lines of communications are not that good and fighters are often on their own. That is why they need a strong spirit to continue fighting, he said. Some Hezbollah men fought to the bitter end and some kept returning to Bint Jbail, for example, even though the Israelis controlled that area with fire, the officer noted.
Fighters must have advanced weapons the book said citing a verse in the Koran that requires Muslim fighters to be ready with full force to instill fear in the enemy. That is why disarmament and cease-fire with Israel are not long-term options, the document indicates. Such moves would seem to break religious principles.
Hence Hezbollah in both northern and southern Lebanon will persistently refuse to disarm, and Iran is going to back it, the report said. Kahati told UPI Israel can expect, at the most, a "kind of a hudna," a cease fire that is permitted for a maximum of 10 years in case the Muslim side feels it is militarily inferior.
Hezbollah leaders in Lebanon have agreed to maintain a low profile and not display their arms, but they will not surrender those arms to the authorities. "They are going to rebuild and strengthen themselves and if they feel they can carry out (operations)... they have a right to abrogate the hudna...That is why this is a temporary situation and you cannot know what will happen," Kahati cautioned.
Christianity has foundered in Europe, sunk by the baggage that European Christians carried from their pagan past, leaving the United States as the last Christian country in the industrial world. Idolatry in Europe lived in the folklore and ritual of the old pagan religions that Christianity never quite suppressed. Americans hear barely an echo of the ancient whisper of the European forest. Some readers have asked whether Americans are quite free from idolatry. The answer is: of course not. A good place to start is with American Idol, the televised contest that allows a complete non-entity to become a rock star for a day.
No other nation rejects the notion of a high culture with such vehemence, or celebrates the mediocre with such giddiness. Americans prefer to identify with what is like them, rather than emulate what is better than them. The epitome of its popular culture is a national contest to choose from among random entrants a new singing star, the "American Idol".
Three or four generations ago, US popular culture shared a porous boundary with classical culture. The most successful musical comedy of the 1920s, Jerome Kern's Showboat, contained classical elements requiring operatic voices. George Gershwin, the 1930s' most popular tunesmith, prided himself on an opera, Porgy and Bess. Benny Goodman, the decade's top jazz musician, recorded Mozart. The most successful singer of the 1930s, Bing Crosby, had a voice of classical quality. Never mind that what he sang was insipid; his listeners knew very well that they could not sing like Bing Crosby.
Americans of earlier generations, in short, listened to music that they admired but could not hope to imitate, because they looked up to a higher plane of culture and technique. Today Americans favor performers with whom they can identify precisely because they have no more technique or culture than the average drunk bellowing into a karaoke machine. Taste descended by degrees. Frank Sinatra sounded more average than Bing Crosby; Elvis Presley more average than Sinatra; The Beatles more average than Elvis; and Bruce Springsteen (or Madonna) about as average as one can get, until American Idol came along to elevate what was certified to average.
The dominant popular style of the 1930s, Swing, required in essence the same skills as did classical music. By the early 1950s, every adolescent with a newly acquired guitar could hope to follow in the acne-pitted footsteps of Bill Haley or Buddy Holly. This was "a voice that came from you and me", as Don McLean intoned in his mawkish ode to Holly, America Pie (1972). That was just the problem.
Stylistically, rock 'n' roll offered little novelty. It drew upon the music of rural resentment, the country and hillbilly music that appealed to failing farmers at county fairs and honky-tonks. Rural America began its Depression a decade before the rest of the country, and country music developed as a parallel culture before Hollywood adopted singing cowboys such as Gene Autrey and Roy Rogers during the 1930s. Hard-time country audiences preferred the hard edge of a Hank Williams to the mellifluous crooners who charmed the urban audience.
What requires explanation is how the whining, nasal, querulous style of country music came to dominate national taste with the rock 'n' roll of the 1950s. The species leap from the county fair to The Ed Sullivan Show occurred because the United States, for the first time in its history, had spawned a distinctive youth culture. That is, the postwar generation of American adolescents was the first with sufficient spending power to afford its own culture. Before World War I, adolescents went to work. The years after World War II produced an unprecedented level of affluence, and teenagers for the first time had money to spend on records, instruments and cars. Young people are as resentful as they are narcissistic, and the easily reproduced, droning complaint of country music satisfied both criteria.
The resentful country folk who formed the first audience for the now-dominant style in American music turn up in literature as noble, suffering peasants fighting for a traditional way of life, as in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Nothing could be further from the truth. American farmers were migratory entrepreneurs who did well during World War I, when agricultural exports surged, and very badly during the 1920s, when exports fell, and even worse during the 1930s. Country people were resentful because they were becoming poorer. That was unfortunate, but feeling sorry for one's self is no excuse to inflict the likes of Hank Williams on the world. The object of high art is to lift the listener out of the misery of his personal circumstance by showing him a better world in which his petty troubles are beside the point. What is the point of music that assists the listener in wallowing in his troubles? Some country-music fanciers no doubt will find this callous, and I want to disclose that I do not care one way or another whether their wife left them, their dog died, or their truck broke down.
Word-play aside, what does this have to do with idolatry? Resentment is simply an expression of envy, the first and deadliest of sins. Adam and Eve envied God's knowledge of good and evil, Cain envied Abel, Ishmael envied Isaac, Esau envied Jacob, Joseph's brothers envied the favorite son, and the Gentiles envied the nation of Israel. Why reject what comes from on high to worship one's own image, unless you resent the higher authority?
The culture of resentment runs so deep in the American character that the self-pitying drone of immiserated farmers, amplified by the petulant adolescents of the 1950s as a remonstration against parental authority, now dominates the musical life of American Christians. Not only Christian country, but Christian rock and Christian heavy metal have become mainstream commercial genre. I agree with the minority of Christians who eschew Christian rock as "the music of the devil", although not for the same reasons: it is immaterial whether Christian rock substitutes "Jesus Christ" for "Peggy Sue", permitting its listeners to associate putatively Christian music with secular music with implied sexual content. It is diabolical because the style itself is born of resentment.
There are American Christians who had no choice but to invent their own music, namely the African-American Church, whose spirituals are gems of rough-hewn beauty. It is no coincidence that black church music maintains the closest ties to classical music, and that the pre-eminence of African-American singers on the operatic stage stems from the music training of church choirs.
By and large, though, the evangelicals ought to know better. Americans, like the English, have Georg Frideric Handel's "Messiah" and other great classical works, and access to a musical tradition that is one of the supreme achievements of the human spirit. As I wrote in another context (Why the beautiful is not the good, May 17, 2005):
Pearls grow in oysters to soothe irritation; the high art of the West grew pearl-like in Christendom around an abrasion it could not heal: the refusal of mere humans to place all their hopes upon the promise of life after death. Christianity made Europe by offering the kingdom of heaven to barbarian invaders, while allowing them to keep their tribal culture. The high art of the West gave these rude men a presentiment of the kingdom of heaven and formed an authentic Christian culture opposed to pagan holdovers.
The Beautiful is not the Good. The Good is sui generis, independent of any beauty devised by human craft. But we willfully choose what is ugly over what is beautiful because we are ugly, and prefer to worship our own ugliness rather than the beauty created by an inspired few. That is not merely execrable bad taste. Ultimately it is a form of idolatry. The evangelicals' inability to rise above the ambient culture is their great failing.
This helps explain why Americans are so stupid. Listening to the repetition of three chords does not exercise the mind after the fashion of Mozart, to be sure, but that is not the main reason that stupidity attends the culture of resentment. One learns only by accepting a suitable authority. If one rejects authority in favor of one's own impulses, one cannot learn.
Most Americans do accept an authority, to one extent or another, namely the Bible. The Bible remains America's national epic, and the Protestant precept Sola Scriptorum is alive and well in the United States. But the Bible is too difficult a text for the ordinary reader to absorb; it requires a level of culture inaccessible to all but a handful to read it properly. The culture of resentment tends to reduce Bible-reading to slogans and sound-bites, with the result that side-issues such as Creationism sap the emotional energy of American Christians. Quite a shock will be required before any of this changes.
(Copyright 2006 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing .)
Aug. 27, 2006, 4:52PM
Iran tests submarine-to-surface missile
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI Associated Press Writer
© 2006 The Associated Press
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran tested a new anti-ship missile fired by a submarine during war games Sunday, raising worries it could disrupt vital oil tanker traffic in the Gulf amid its standoff with the West over its suspect nuclear activities. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took a tough tone over the nuclear issue, saying his country's decision to pursue nuclear technology was irreversible. His comments and the missile test came only days before a Thursday deadline imposed by the United Nations for Tehran to suspend the enrichment of uranium, a process the United States says the Iranians intend to use to build nuclear weapons. Enrichment can produce both reactor fuel and material for a warhead.
The Thaqeb, Farsi for Saturn is Iran's first missile that is fired from underwater and flies above the surface to hit its target, distinguishing it from a torpedo. A brief video showed the missile exiting the water and hitting a target less than a mile away. While the missile showed some technological advances by Iran, its main importance seemed to be that it gives the country another means for targeting ships, along with the arsenal of torpedoes and other anti-ship missiles it already has. Iran, which says its nuclear program is only aimed at generating electricity, has refused any immediate suspension and called the deadline illegal, though it says it is open to negotiations. Ahmadinejad insisted Iran's nuclear program was peaceful and said he saw no reason to give it up.
"The great decision of the Iranian nation for progress and acquiring technology is a definite decision. There is no way back from this path," he said in a speech on national television after giving awards to 14 nuclear officials and scientists. He said the United States should give up nuclear technology because it could not be trusted with it, having developed and used nuclear weapons. Israel recently purchased two German-made Dolphin submarines capable of carrying nuclear warheads _ clearly aiming to send a message to Tehran that it could strike back. The purchase beefs up Israel's deterrent power, since the subs can remain submerged for longer periods of time than the three nuclear arms-capable submarines already in Israel's fleet.
Israel is believed to have hundreds of warheads, the only nuclear arsenal in the Middle East, but it has kept the information secret and refuses to confirm or deny the reports. The test-firing of the new missile underlines a card Iran can play in the nuclear standoff with the West _ the ability to disrupt oil tanker shipments in the Gulf, through which about two-fifths of the world's oil supplies pass. Iran has given mixed signals over how it would retaliate if the confrontation with the United States escalates. The oil minister and other government officials have said Iran would never attack Gulf tankers _ but the interior minister warned in March that all options for retaliation are open and noted Iran's strategic position over Gulf traffic.
The test took place during large-scale military exercises that Iran has been holding since Aug. 19. It was the latest in a series of new naval weapons Iran has unveiled this year to tout what it calls its new technological prowess in arms production. The Iranian naval commander, Gen. Sajjad Kouchaki, said the Thaqeb could be fired from any vessel, not just submarines. He called it a "long-range" missile but did not specify how far it could fly, and it did not appear capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. He also said the Thaqeb could escape enemy radar _ a claim Iran made about a number of weapons it unveiled during military maneuvers in April. Some outside experts have questioned whether the weapons, tested against Iranian radar, would really be undetectable to more advanced U.S. radar.
During the April maneuvers, Iran test-fired a new torpedo _ the "Hoot," Farsi for "whale" _ which is capable of moving at some 223 mph, up to four times faster than a normal torpedo. It also unveiled a new land-to-sea missile, the Kowsar, and a high-speed missile boat that skims above the water and is undetectable by radar. Iran is known to have several submarines. It bought at least two diesel subs from Russia in the 1990s and has produced an unknown number of locally made ones. Last year, it announced it was building a new class of sub called the Ghadir, which it said was a stealth craft and could fire missiles and torpedoes. Nothing more is known about the craft. Iran says the weaponry is intended to defend itself against the possibility of a U.S. attack. It has also expressed worry about Israeli threats to destroy its nuclear facilities. Iran already is equipped with the Shahab-3 missile, which means "shooting star" in Farsi, and is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. An upgraded version of the ballistic missile has a range of more than 1,200 miles and can reach Israel and U.S. forces in the Middle East.
Is Violence Always Immoral?
My response was that “Better or worse, when it comes to violence, is ultimately about force application. Americans of the WWII era were free to think and plan. Their freedom was their greatest strength. With that strength Americans empowered themselves to win. Americans at that time were cognitively aligned to defeat their clearly defined enemies. Once they agreed to win with each other they applied unbearable force to their Japanese enemies. Japan, as an imperialist society, did not have the capacity to deliver as much violence on their Chinese enemy as Americans, as a free society, could deliver to the Japanese… Americans back then had the capacity to deliver more violence than any other nation at that time, and they did just that! That’s force application! Disturbing, yes, but that’s war!”
Consider Pearl Harbor! Tactically speaking the response to Pearl Harbor was proportional. The Japanese bombed the United States and the United States bombed Japan. In terms of casualties, Japan suffered excruciating pain that the US mainland never had to endure. Consider how the American public would react to a succession of post 9/11 terror attacks against targets inside the United States. Those attacks would predictably align the American public opinion against its enemies in the Global War on Terror. Subjected to a clear and sustained threat, the American people could find themselves proudly slaughtering their enemies like their parents and grand parents did before them.
But why did I use the word “worse” to describe – superior fire power? Irrespective of the morality of the cause, I believe more violence is worse than less violence. As a bystander, the motivation to engage in violence, like riots, terrorism or war is seldom clear. Violence exchanged between two parties, by design, is a negative experience. If a conflict can be resolved without violence, it certainly should be. To deliver or receive violence under any circumstances represents a meltdown of civil society. Violence exercised during any conflict is a legitimate measure of the meltdown. To inversely illustrate the point, consider the myriad of peoples on this planet who accept peace as the normal state of domestic and international relations. The premiere examples are the diverse communities of Americans living in the United States. Americans hail from every corner of the globe and embody peaceful coexistence. This is not to suggest conflicts do not occur in the U.S. – conflict is indeed a big part of American life. It is precisely because peaceful resolution is the anticipated conclusion of most conflict in the United States, it is difficult to imagine where, when and how social conflict might degrade into violence. But it does occur. When a domestic conflict devolves into violence, does it ever yield a positive result? Most of the recent examples are difficult to decipher. Recall – the 1965 Watts Riots – the 1992 Los-Angeles Riots – the 1999 Anti-Globalization Riots in Seattle…
Watts Riots 1965… LA Riots 1992
I believe my friend had taken my use of the phrase “Americans are worse with regard to violence.” as if I were suggesting violence, on its own, is immoral. That’s a pacifist’s mantra. Violence isn’t always immoral. Indeed, there are times when it’s immoral NOT to use violence. The controlled use of violence to end the anarchic riots described above was moral. The American Revolution included moral acts of violence as did the American Civil War. The fire bombing of Tokyo and the use of nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki were moral acts! It would have been immoral not to attack Japan after its blatant imperialist aggression. The death and destruction in each case was both moral in its execution and emotionally deflating at the same time. Recall, imperialist Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. Nothing short of Victory against the imperialists would suffice as a legitimate conclusion to Japanese aggression in the Pacific. The Japanese unconditionally surrendered September 2, 1945.
Pearl Harbor… USS Missouri, Japanese Surrender
The lessons gleaned from past social meltdowns suggest that the application of superior firepower is an essential component required for the maintenance and propagation of civil society. But do the available lessons reveal they way to win the Global War on Terror? In the GWOT, civil society is melting down in a malignant way that does not necessarily resemble past conflicts mentioned here. Despite the over confidence of many Westerners, there is a real possibility this war could be lost. Consider the oft ignored statistics. There are moral infractions occurring on all fronts in this war. On the domestic front, the average American is unable to articulate who their enemies and allies are. On the international front, would be allies among the community of democratic nations undermine each other – often to foster commercial interests with the enemy or the enemy’s financiers. The true heroes in this war are effectively muted by the media. The real heroes are Iraqis and Afghanis fighting along side American Soldiers, manifesting their own destiny. The grotesquely obvious fact that they are simultaneously heroic, democratic and Muslim is a subtlety that shouldn’t be subtle at all. These men and women will be replacing our enemies, the tyrants and Islamic fascists. We should be demanding our media make an effort to introduce average Americans to these heroes.
What this says is that the West does not have superior firepower in the GWOT. A serious concern of mine is that while we seem to know victory will not be achieved in WWII fashion, the most visible tools enlisted to fight resemble those of WWII. What constitutes firepower in this war? I believe victories are possible, but they’ll occur in a context that disarms the ideology of the enemy. The enemy in the GWOT does not have planes and tanks. This is a war of ideas. We’ll win this war by engaging the enemy with ideological weapons. To be sure, the submission and surrender of Islamic fascism can only come after engaging the enemy with a force capable of replacing it! Islamic fascists fear articulate democrats more than the F16 and M1 Abrams. Articulate female Muslim democrats are the most toxic weapons ever imagined by an Islamic fascist. There are great numbers of these women who reside in the West right now, but unfortunately, they’re an underdeveloped resource. The old way is by far more familiar, and familiarity is tantamount to comfort. Is it better to build tanks, planes and ships? While upgrades to the West’s conventional weaponry shouldn’t stop, I argue that developing and diversifying a portfolio of articulate Muslim allies should take the limelight.
Right now, the West is being flanked by their Islamic Fascist enemies. The West’s moral and ideological fronts are nearly undefended. Only a few brave guards try to hold the line while the likes of former Iranian President Mohamed Khatami as well as Hezbollah and Hamas supporters slip through. It is my opinion that the West’s ideological front should be reinforced and prepped to attack. Despite the enemy’s rhetoric, the fascists are extremely weak on ideology. It is their most potent weapon yet it is based on a toxic blend of lies and blame. While fighting on that front, violence may be necessary but the meltdown is not likely to resemble the destructive mass kills of WWII.
In short, it is morally correct to violently attack GWOT enemies! It is moral even if those attacks are reminiscent of WWII. But why should the West slaughter and displace their enemies if they don’t have to? Martyrdom and victimhood feeds the fascist beast. Victory will only come by replacing the West’s fascist enemies with independent democratic allies willing to fight for their liberal ideology. That fight, if violent, would be moral.
Interviewer: When posters Hassan Nasrallah are raised in the streets of Arab cities and in the [Sunni] Al-Azhar University - shouldn't this be considered a victory for Hizbullah?
Sheik Ali Al-Amin: In Arabic, we have both truth and figurative language. This may be a victory in the figurative sense, a moral victory. This is not entirely impossible. But if "strategic victory" refers to our bombing of Haifa... Saddam Hussein attacked Tel Aviv with Scud missiles - was that a strategic victory as well? We were not in a state of defeat before July 12. We were winning, and we had an important and great achievement, which we should have preserved.
Interviewer: What achievement are you talking about?
Sheik Ali Al-Amin: The achievement of the year 2000. Before July 12, we still had this achievement, and there was a possibility [for Hizbullah] to be incorporated in the state, rather than have such a war imposed on us.
Interviewer: But the issue of the Shaba' Farms still remained, and this has always been the pretext for continuing the resistance operations, and even for the capturing of the Israeli soldiers.
Sheik Ali Al-Amin: But now, after July 12, they accepted that the Shaba' Farms issue could be resolved through diplomatic means, through the U.N. This was possible before July 12.
People are not so simple and naïve that [Hizbullah's] money will make them forget their wounds, their tragedies, and the loved ones they have lost. This is unreasonable. Life must go on, but how can anyone forget such pains, and all the suffering of becoming displaced. This [money] is worth nothing compared to what people have lost.
Attention to Detail
The devil is in the details. This cliché describes the US conflict with Iran better than any other. Sometimes clichés help facilitate cognitive recognition of unfamiliar events. Beyond clichés the mind, my mind anyway, tries to name patterns like the West’s war with Iran. I happen to call the American war with Iran a “Warm War”. Not so “Hot” that CNN and FOX can say American artillery is engaging Iranian targets. Not so cold that a standoff endures while the US and Iran task their experts and industry to prepare for a symmetric confrontation with each other. It’s “Warm” because there’s a war going on – blood is being spilt – but most of the citizens and subjects of US and Iran respectively, refuse to admit there is a war going on at all! Several brilliant Americans who recognize the US – Iran War, call it a “Long War”. I agree with that name because, like them, I predict it will indeed be a “Long War”.
How long? That’s tough to say. It’s going to be excruciatingly long if Westerners refuse to pay attention to detail. Most Westerners miss the details of Iran’s rising. How do Iranian ayatollahs do what they do? Can the West undo the gains they are making? To be honest, no, the West can’t, not this way. Not unless the West comes to understand who they are and how they function. There are nuances one comes to understand when living in the presence of the devil. While the devil may have agents inside the Beltway, he seldom shows his true face there. The devil shows himself on the streets of Tehran, Mashad, Isfahan, and Tabriz. Ask yourself, what does an ayatollah do? They preach! There is nothing inherently evil about preaching per say, but most of the mullahs of Iran commit an ideological crime when they take command of the pulpit. The best of them read and respond to an Iranian crowd so well they can make them cry. It’s like a psychological orgy of pain.
Do this for me, my conservative friends. Take an empathetic leap. Try to understand the mind of a crowd that cries to an ayatollah’s rant. They’re already in pain! They were in pain before they showed up to the prayer – and they need a fix! The drug, and it is a drug, they use to dull the pain they feel is a toxic blend of truth, lies, blame and solidarity. These are the misguided throngs who would strap bombs to themselves. These are the men and women who will take down commercial transportation networks. These are the motivated masses who study in Western universities to learn the nuances of the West. They know what they need to know already. They learn from the West only to gut the West for being Western.
They’re not the only Iranians in pain. Iranians, for whom the fascist Imam’s rhetorical drug has no effect, typically turn to a variety of alternative drugs. Self induced Ignorance is an option. Heroine is another. Ecstasy and marijuana are variations on the heroine escape. Some are so consumed with the tribulations of poverty, survival alone becomes success. When the devil manifests itself as hunger in your child’s belly, what difference does it make that the Americans and Israelis live in fear of Iranian nuclear bombs. Of all the alternatives however the Iranian government only embraces ignorance or a cultish acceptance of their fascist mantra. There’s is the mantra driving this “Warm War”. The West cannot be indifferent to the devil. The devil feeds on the chaos of mass kills no mater who perpetrates them, no mater who dies. Skilled imams can twist any event with their rhetoric. They can lay blame with laser precision.
In the West, “blame” is the other side of the “personal responsibility” coin. Americans are willing to die to take responsibility. In Iraq, where true Americans fight this Long and Warm War with Iran, among other enemies, American blood mixes with Iraqi blood every day. This is an ancient expression of a new and modern kinship. If Iraqis absorb this mutual opportunity they will become an independent member of a family of democracies. By joining this community, with their resources, they could literally distinguish themselves among existing democracies by building a city on the Moon!
Right now however, New Baghdad located in the Sea of Tranquility is just a pleasant fantasy. If the devil is ignored, the details are ignored, more and more Westerners will join the addicted throngs. Instead of Middle Easterners joining an optimistic community of democrats in the West – Westerners will increasingly join the Middle-Easterners orgy of pain. To dull the pain, the most disgusting of Westerns will require a toxic blend of truth, lies, blame and solidarity.
I’d rather live in the Sea of Tranquility today than live with that future.
From the recent Israel-Hezbollah war in southern Lebanon to the jihadists in Iraq's Sunni Triangle to the repeated efforts by Islamists across the globe to trump Sept. 11, what old lessons about terrorism are we in the West finding ourselves having to relearn?
First, death is the mantra of terrorists. In urban landscapes, they hide among apartment buildings, use human shields and welcome all fatalities - friendly or hostile, combatant or civilian. Death of any kind, they think, makes the liberal West recoil, but allows them to pose as oppressed victims.
Their nihilistic hatred intimidates, rather than repels, third parties - whether "moderate" Arabs, Europeans who back off from peacekeeping in Lebanon, or the Western public at large. Our enemies call Jews "pigs" and "apes" and employ racist caricatures of the U.S.'s African-American secretary of state. Meanwhile, we worry about incurring charges of "Islamophobia," when we should be stressing our liberal values and unabashedly contrasting Western civilization with the 7th-century barbarism of the jihadists.
Some Iranian exiles, as well as some elites still in Iran, want to replace the regime with a constitutional monarchy led by Reza Pahlavi, the U.S.-based son of the late former Shah and a U.S.-trained combat pilot. However, he does not appear to have large-scale support inside Iran. In January 2001, the Shah’s son, who is about 45 years old, ended a long period of inactivity by giving a speech in Washington D.C. calling for unity in the opposition and the institution of a constitutional monarchy and democracy in Iran. He has since broadcast messages into Iran from Iranian exile-run stations in California. His political adviser is MIT-educated Shariar Ahy.
According to the Administration's "National Security Strategy" document released on March 16, 2006, the United States "may face no greater challenge from a single country than Iran." That perception has intensified following the military confrontation between Iranian-armed and assisted Lebanese Hezbollah and Israel in July-August 2006. To date, the Bush Administration has pursued several avenues to attempt to contain the potential threat posed by Iran, including supporting a longterm policy of changing Iran's regime. However, the Administration focus on preventing an Iranian nuclear weapons breakthrough has brought diplomatic and economic strategies to the forefront of U.S. policy. As part of that effort, the Bush Administration announced May 31 it would negotiate with Iran in concert with U.S. allies if Iran suspends uranium enrichment; in past years the Bush Administration had only limited dialogue with Iran on specific regional issues. However, Iran's August 22, 2006, response to a U.S. and partner offer to curb Iran's program "fell short" of U.S. conditions and of the demands to the same effect contained in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1696 (July 31, 2006). If diplomacy and sanctions do not succeed, some advocate military action against Iran's nuclear infrastructure rather than acquiescence to a nuclear-armed Iran. Others in the Administration believe that only a change of Iran's regime would end the threat posed by Iran. Iran's nuclear program is not the only major U.S. concern on Iran. Successive administrations have pointed to the threat posed by Iran's policy in the Near East region, particularly material support to groups that use violence to prevent or complicate Israeli-Arab peace. Such groups have long included Lebanese Hezbollah and the Palestinian groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Although there is no evidence of an operational relationship with Al Qaeda, some senior Al Qaeda activists are believed to be in Iran, although Iran claims they are "in custody." U.S. officials also accuse Iran of attempting to exert influence in Iraq by providing arms and other material assistance to Shiite Islamist militias, some of which are participating in escalating sectarian violence against Iraq's Sunnis there. Iran's human rights practices and strict limits on free expression have been consistently criticized by official U.S. and U.N. reports. Iran's purported repression of ethnic and religious minorities, particularly the Bahai'is, is said to be harsh. However, Iran holds elections for many senior positions, including that of president. U.S. officials have tended to see the human rights issue in Iran as exemplifying the negative character of the Iranian regime, but not necessarily as a direct threat to U.S. interests. For further information, see CRS Report RS20871, The Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA), by Kenneth Katzman; CRS Report RS21592, Iran's Nuclear Program: Recent Developments, by Sharon Squassoni; CRS Report RS21548, Iran's Ballistic Missile Capabilities, by Andrew Feickert; and CRS Report RS22323, Iran's Influence in Iraq, by Kenneth Katzman. This report will be updated as warranted.
Negotiating into a Fan with Iran
Pen and Sword ^ | Monday, August 21, 2006 | Jeff Huber
Posted on 08/22/2006 9:51:28 PM PDT by humint
Yesterday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced that Iran will refuse demands that it give up its nuclear enrichment program. No one should be surprised at that--it was an entirely predictable reaction to the Bush administration's "make them an offer they can't accept" diplomacy.
Article IV of the UN Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty states that, "Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination…" As a party to the treaty, Iran has every justification to dig its heels in on the nuclear enrichment issue.
Pretzel Logic Diplomacy
The next step, according to most reports, will be a meeting of the UN Security Council to vote on sanctions against Iran. That will be a dicey proposition. The countries on the Security Council are also NPT signatories, and have in essence already granted Iran the right to develop peaceful nuclear technologies. What's more, imposing sanctions on Iran would be slapping the hand that's providing the packets of $100 bills Hezbollah is passing around to the homeless in southern Lebanon. That won't play well at all in the Muslim world, or in much of the rest of the world either.
Plus, two of the Security Council's members--Russia and China--are already predisposed to back Iran. Russia is making money by exporting nuclear technology to Iran, and China is fueling its industrial expansion with Iranian petroleum products. What's more, Russia and China have a window of opportunity now to use Iran as a lever to topple U.S. influence in South West Asia.
There's more. Arguments supporting sanctions say that Iran violated the NPT by hiding parts of its nuclear program from UN inspectors. But if anything, that was a violation of the Additional Protocol to the treaty that allowed "international nuclear inspectors to visit any nuclear site, installation or project at short notice and without any restrictions." And the Additional Protocol was a voluntary measure.
According to the Iran Press Service, Iran "accepted" the protocol in 2003, but never presented it to its parliament for ratification. In October 2005, Iran's Secretary of the Supreme Council on National Security Ali Larijani said, “If addressed with a language of menace and force, we shall continue with the NPT and talking, but will get out of the Additional Protocols.”
As shaky as that line of semantic maneuvering may sound, it gives China and Russian more than ample wiggle room to tell the rest of the Security Council, "Sorry, guys, but we just can't go along with sanctions. Rule of law, and so on. Isn't that what young Mister Bush talks about all the time?"
Unilateral U.S. sanctions against Iran would be about as effective as cutting off an allowance to a kid you weren't giving an allowance to in the first place. And if China and Russia continue doing business with Iran--which they will--Iran won't notice a spit's bit of difference in its economy.
If, by some chance China and Russia sign off on the sanctions, Iran may well simply drop out of the NPT, which the treaty itself allows them to do.
Send in the Neo-Clowns
A Security Council veto of UN sanctions or an Iranian withdrawal from the NPT will likely set off a string of Roman candles in Dick Cheney's head, and brother, watch out for what happens then. If Uncle Dick talks young Mister Bush into launching a major air operation on Iran, things will go to Hezbollah in a handbag.
I won't go into the tactical technical details here for reasons I hope are obvious, but Iran can shut down the Strait of Hormuz faster than you can say, well, "the Strait of Hormuz." Whatever portion of the mighty U.S. Navy that happens to be in the Arabian Gulf will be trapped there, and the rest of the U.S. Navy won't be able to get into the Gulf to rescue them. The 130 thousand something ground troops in Iraq will be stranded, and surrounded by a hostile (and armed) Shia population. What little the U.S. Air Force can do to alleviate the situation will be further constrained by that services' strict "crew rest" doctrine.
Yes, given an all out effort, the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force could fight its way out of the Middle East, but how would that look? The best-trained, best-equipped, best financed military force in history, chased out of Southwest Asia by a country that couldn't beat Iraq in an eight year war?
Iran is scheduled to give its formal response to the "incentives" offer to the Security Council today. The U.S. will be represented on the Council by the Swiss ambassador because the U.S. doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Iran.
That's classic Bush II era American diplomacy. We set the precondition for negotiations with Iran, but refuse to talk to Iran about the precondition.
I'm telling you, folks, if we don't do something to check the bull goose loonies running our country come November, the rest of the New American Century is going to look like the beginning of the last American century.
Forget about investing in ethanol and fuel cells. Sink your money into oats and hay.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.
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Jeff, your core assumption is that negotiations with Iran haven't been tried. They have! Without reciprocation! Iranian officials are liars and that is a demonstrative fact. They have lied over and over again. They’ve lied to the IAEA, they’ve lied to the UN and they constantly lie to the Iranian people. The Bush administration's approach has taken that reality into account while you have not. This is an Iranian crisis that has little to do with the Bush Administration. Under Rafsanjani and Khatami, the Clinton administration made massive offers to Tehran. Even under the Bush administration offers were made. Recall Dick Armitage made the Khatami Cult sound like they were golden. The 2003 Iranian offer you mention in your piece was an illegal offer from the Iranians and the people who tout it as a Bush failure ignore that point. It was to be a trade; Al Qaeda operatives supposedly detained in Iran for opponents of the Iranian government detained by the US in Iraq. The Iranian judicial system is severly lacking. Handing dissidents over to the Iranian government would be tantamount to executing them without due process. By the way, the Turks and the Iranians are targeting the PKK with artillery in the northern Iraq and the U.S. and Iraqi governments are acting like it is not happening, overtly anyway.
The Iranian Connection
Perhaps most threatening to the SFOR mission -- and more importantly, to the safety of the American personnel serving in Bosnia -- is the unwillingness of the Clinton Administration to come clean with the Congress and with the American people about its complicity in the delivery of weapons from Iran to the Muslim government in Sarajevo. That policy, personally approved by Bill Clinton in April 1994 at the urging of CIA Director-designate (and then-NSC chief) Anthony Lake and the U.S. ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith, has, according to the Los Angeles Times (citing classified intelligence community sources), "played a central role in the dramatic increase in Iranian influence in Bosnia." Further, according to the Times, in September 1996 National Security Agency analysts contradicted Clinton Administration claims of declining Iranian influence, insisting instead that "Iranian Revolutionary Guard personnel remain active throughout Bosnia." Likewise, "CIA analysts noted that the Iranian presence was expanding last fall," with some ostensible cultural and humanitarian activities "known to be fronts" for the Revolutionary Guard and Iran's intelligence service, known as VEVAK, the Islamic revolutionary successor to the Shah's SAVAK. [LAT, 12/31/96] At a time when there is evidence of increased willingness by pro-Iranian Islamic militants to target American assets abroad -- as illustrated by the June 1996 car-bombing at the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, that killed 19 American airmen, in which the Iranian government or pro-Iranian terrorist organizations are suspected ["U.S. Focuses Bomb Probe on Iran, Saudi Dissident," Chicago Tribune, 11/4/96] -- it is irresponsible in the extreme for the Clinton Administration to gloss over the extent to which its policies have put American personnel in an increasingly vulnerable position while performing an increasingly questionable mission.
The Chain Murders
When 70-year-old dissident Dariush Forouhar and his 54-year old wife, Parvaneh, were brutally murdered at the end of 1998, their flat was under 24-hour surveillance and the crime was videotaped by the security forces. The authorities knew who the assassins were, and they also knew who killed the poet Mohammad Mokhtari, and Mohammad Pouyandeh, an essayist and translator. Arrests were made of some 20 people allegedly responsible for these murders alone, but the violent deaths of 80 other dissidents over the previous decade were still unexplained.
Iran sends Iraqis home to preach
Shi'ites in the Iranian holy city of Qom are offering payments of up to $300 to Iraqi religious students, many of whom fled Saddam Hussein's rule, if they return to their hometowns and preach Islam for six to nine weeks. The program, sponsored by an organization based in Qom known as the International Center for Islamic Studies, began about a month ago, said Ali Behbehani, an Iraqi Shi'ite Muslim who fled with his family to Iran in the 1980s and returned to Iraq last month. "They have offered $200 to $300 to those Iraqis who would volunteer to return to their city of origin and preach Islam for a period of six to nine weeks.
U.S. Offer to Join Talks and Future Steps.
In an effort to strengthen the EU-3 diplomacy, as well as to build support for international or multilateral sanctions should that be required, the Administration proposed on May 31, 2006, that the United States would join talks with Iran if Iran first suspends its uranium enrichment. Such talks would center on a package of incentives and possible sanctions that the United States, EU-3, Russia, and China agreed to in Vienna on June 1 and which EU representative Javier Solana formally presented to Iran on June 6. The possible sanctions reportedly were not presented to Iran in detail.
SPIEGEL: But Iran repeatedly lied to and deceived your agency. For example, the world only found out about the nuclear enrichment facility in Natans through information provided by Iranian dissidents. Hardliners in the Bush administration have accused you of being inexplicably soft on the Iranians.
ElBaradei: It's not a matter of dispute as to whether Iran lied and deceived in the past. We made that very clear in our reports. In the meantime, however, Iran has improved its cooperation, which, as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it is obligated to provide. In response to our pressure, Tehran also signed the supplementary protocol last year, which allows us to perform more comprehensive inspections on short notice. I am certainly proud of what we have accomplished in Iran. Eighteen months ago, the country was more of a black hole for us...
1. Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with articles I and II of this Treaty.
2. All the Parties to the Treaty undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Parties to the Treaty in a position to do so shall also cooperate in contributing alone or together with other States or international organizations to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially in the territories of non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty, with due consideration for the needs of the developing areas of the world.
JEFF HUBER Commander Jeff Huber, US Navy (Retired) was a flight instructor, operations officer of Carrier Air Wing 9 and the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, and commanding officer of VAW-124, an E-2C Hawkeye squadron. Jeff's satires on military and foreign policy affairs have appeared in Proceedings, The Navy, Military, and GlobalEar. His essays have been required student reading at the U.S. Naval War College, where Jeff received a master's degree in national security studies in 1995. He recently co-authored an article on command and control of naval forces for Jane's Fighting Ships. Jeff lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia where he writes, plays with his dogs, works on his house, and does the occasional bit of (ahem) consulting work. He is also a contributing editor with ePluribus Media
Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat: An Intelligence Challenge for the United States
Staff Report of the
|The principal method Iran is pursuing at this time to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons is a process known as uranium enrichment. This method involves spinning gaseous uranium hexafluoride (UF6) in large numbers of centrifuge machines to increase the fraction of uranium-235 (U-235), the uranium isotope that can be used as weapons fuel. Naturally occurring uranium contains only a very small fraction of this isotope (0.71%), thus the need for enrichment process. Weapons-grade uranium contains about 90% U-235. The IAEA has also uncovered evidence that Iran has pursued another route for nuclear weapons by producing plutonium. Plutonium can be separated from irradiated nuclear material such as "spent" fuel rods from a nuclear power reactor. North Korea is believed to have produced plutonium for nuclear weapons by separating plutonium from spent fuel rods.|
From late 2003 until early 2006, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany (the "EU-3") attempted to find a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear program that addressed unanswered questions about Tehran's nuclear activities and its lack of cooperation with the IAEA. Despite some signs of progress in 2004 and 2005, a major turning point occurred on September 24, 2005 when the IAEA Board of Governors passed a resolution concluding that Iran's "many failures and breaches" to comply with its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty constituted noncompliance with the IAEA statute.12 The resolution also expressed an "absence of confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes" and called for Iran to reestablish a full and sustained suspension of uranium enrichment and reprocessing. The EU-3 effort collapsed in early 2006 when Iran defied the September 2005 IAEA resolution by announcing it would break IAEA seals placed on uranium enrichment facilities and end its moratorium on enriching uranium. As a result, on February 4, 2006, the IAEA Board of Governors reported Iran’s failure to allay concerns about the nature of its nuclear program to the United Nations Security Council.13 The Security Council met to discuss the Iranian nuclear program in March 2006 but was only able to pass a mild statement urging Iran to abide by its IAEA obligations due to opposition to tougher action by China and Russia.14
On June 6, 2006, Iran was presented with an incentives package backed by the United States, Russia, UK, France, and China to convince it to suspend its uranium enrichment program and begin negotiations with the EU-3 and the United States. After Iran refused to provide a clear answer as to whether or when it would respond to the offer, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1696 on July 31, 2006 giving Iran until August 31, 2006 to fully implement a suspension of its uranium enrichment program as mandated by the IAEA Board of Governors resolution of February 4, 2006. If Iran does not comply by this date, Resolution 1696 states the Security Council's intention to take "additional measures" to compel Iran to comply. The United States is prepared to propose trade sanctions against Iran as the "additional measures."15 Iranian President Ahmadinedjad rejected Resolution 1696 on August 1, 2006, indicating that his country would not be pressured into stopping its nuclear program and stating "if some think they can still speak with threatening language to the Iranian nation, they must know that they are badly mistaken." Iran responded to the incentives package on August 22, 2006, claiming it had provided a "new formula" to resolve the dispute and was ready to enter into "serious negotiations." The details of this response were not available when this report went to press.
The recent attempt by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany to begin a new round of negotiations with Iran on ending its nuclear weapons program raise a number of difficult issues. U.S. policymakers must carefully evaluate Iran's August 22, 2006 response to the incentives package, Iranian intentions, and past behavior to make a judgment as to whether Tehran would abide by a new agreement curtailing its nuclear weapons program or would attempt to exploit a new agreement to advance its weapons program, such as by harvesting plutonium from new light water reactors an agreement might provide to Iran or continuing nuclear weapons research using the small uranium enrichment capability that EU-3 states are proposing to permit Iran to retain as part of an agreement. This evaluation will determine our participation in any negotiations and whether America could ultimately agree to be a party to a diplomatic agreement with Iran. A determination also needs to be made as to whether Iran's August 22, 2006 response addresses the requirements of UN Security Council Resolution 1696 – which requires Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program – and whether additional action by the Council, such as trade sanctions against Iran, are warranted. We expect the U.S. Intelligence Community would play an important role in assisting U.S. policymakers with these questions – including whether Iran can be trusted to abide by a diplomatic agreement – and to assess the effectiveness and implementation of trade sanctions against Iran that could be employed if diplomatic efforts fail.
The WMD Commission (officially known as the Commission on the Intelligence of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction) concluded in its March 2005 unclassified report that “across the board, the Intelligence Community knows disturbingly little about the nuclear programs of many of the world’s most dangerous actors.”16 American intelligence agencies do not know nearly enough about Iran’s nuclear weapons program. However, based on what is known about Iranian behavior and Iranian deception efforts, the U.S. Intelligence Community assesses that Iran is intent on developing a nuclear weapons capability. Publicly available information also leads to the conclusion that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, especially taking into account the following facts:
The U.S. Intelligence Community believes Iran could have a nuclear weapon sometime in the beginning to the middle of the next decade. The timetable for an Iranian program depends on a wide range of factors – such as the acquisition of key components and materials, successful testing, outside assistance (if any), and the impact of domestic and international political pressures. It also depends on the assumption that Iran will overcome technical hurdles to master the technology at some point and that its leaders will not be deterred from developing nuclear weapons in the interim.
Increasing its number of centrifuges will dramatically decrease the time required for Iran to produce sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon. Former Iranian President Rafsanjani said on April 11, 2006 that Iran was producing enriched uranium in a small, 164-centrifuge cascade using “P-1” centrifuge technology, a basic Pakistani centrifuge design. Iran announced in April 2006 that it plans to build a 3,000-centrifuge cascade by early 2007 and ultimately plans to construct a 54,000 centrifuge cascade.28
Iran has engaged in an extensive campaign to conceal from the IAEA and the world the true nature of its nuclear program.
In an October 1, 2003 agreement with the EU-3, Iran pledged "to engage in full cooperation with the IAEA to address and resolve through full transparency all requirements and outstanding issues of the Agency." In spite of this, Iran has admitted to conducting certain nuclear activities to IAEA inspectors only after the IAEA presented it with clear evidence or asked Tehran to correct prior explanations that were inaccurate, implausible, or fraught with contradictions. Iran's admissions have been grudging and piecemeal, and its cooperation with IAEA inspectors has been accompanied by protests, accusations, and threats. Iran's recalcitrant behavior toward IAEA inspections drove IAEA Director Mohammed ElBaradei to declare in a November 2003 report:
"The recent disclosures by Iran about its nuclear program clearly show that, in the past, Iran had concealed many aspects of its nuclear activities, with resultant breaches of its obligation to comply with the provisions of the Safeguards Agreement. Iran’s policy of concealment continued until last month, with co-operation being limited and reactive, and information being slow in coming, changing and contradictory."37
Although it is likely that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, there is the possibility that Iran could be engaged in a denial and deception campaign to exaggerate progress on its nuclear program such as Saddam Hussein apparently did concerning his WMD programs. U.S. leaders need more definitive intelligence to judge the status of the Iranian nuclear program and whether there have been any related deception efforts.
While not an instance of Iranian perfidy, the spring 2006 decision by IAEA Director General ElBaradei to remove Mr. Christopher Charlier, the chief IAEA Iran inspector, for allegedly raising concerns about Iranian deception regarding its nuclear program and concluding that the purpose of Iran's nuclear program is to construct weapons, should give U.S. policymakers great pause. The United States has entrusted the IAEA with providing a truly objective assessment of Iran's nuclear program. IAEA officials should not hesitate to conclude that the purpose of Iranian nuclear program is to produce weapons if that is where the evidence leads. If Mr. Charlier was removed for not adhering to an unstated IAEA policy barring IAEA officials from telling the whole truth about the Iranian nuclear program, the United States and the international community have a serious problem on their hands.38
Intelligence regarding potential Iranian chemical weapons (CW) and biological weapons (BW) programs is neither voluminous nor conclusive. Nevertheless, U.S. intelligence agencies have determined based on the evidence available that Iran likely is pursuing CW and BW weapons. Such weapons probably would be of limited military value but could nevertheless change the nature of a conflict, as DNI Negroponte indicated in February 2006: "We are also concerned about the threat from biological agents – or even chemical agents, which would have psychological and possibly political effects far greater than their actual magnitude."39
Although it does not have unequivocal evidence, the U.S. Intelligence Community believes Iran has an offensive chemical weapons research and development capability.40 The Intelligence Community reported in its November 2004 unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, also known as the 721 Report, that Iran
“…continued to seek production technology, training, and expertise from foreign entities that could further Tehran's efforts to achieve an indigenous capability to produce nerve agents. Iran may have already stockpiled blister, blood, choking, and possibly nerve agentsand the bombs and artillery shells to deliver them-which it previously had manufactured.”41
The Department of State drew similar conclusions in its 2005 Report on Adherence and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments, a report that was cleared by all policy and intelligence agencies:
"We continue to believe that Iran has not acknowledged the full extent of its chemical weapons program, that it has indigenously produced several first-generation CW agents (blood, blister, and choking agents), and that it has the capability to produce traditional nerve agents. However, the size and composition of any Iranian stockpile is not known."
"The United States judges that Iran is in violation of its Chemical Weapons Convention obligations because Iran is acting to retain and modernize key elements of its CW infrastructure to include an offensive CW R&D capability and dispersed mobilization facilities."42
The U.S. Intelligence Community believes Iran probably has an offensive biological weapons program but lacks clear intelligence proving that this is the case. The U.S. Intelligence Community stated in its November 2004 721 Report:
“Tehran probably maintains an offensive BW program. Iran continued to seek dual-use biotechnical materials, equipment, and expertise. While such materials had legitimate uses, Iran's biological warfare program also could have benefited from them. It is likely that Iran has capabilities to produce small quantities of BW agents, but has a limited ability to weaponize them.”43
This finding was echoed in the Department of State’s 2005 Report on Adherence and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments:
"The Iranian BW program has been embedded within Iran’s extensive biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries so as to obscure its activities. The Iranian military has used medical, education, and scientific research organizations for many aspects of BW-related agent procurement, research, and development. Iran has also failed to submit the data declarations called for in the Biological Weapons Convention Confidence Building Measures."
"The United States judges that, based on available information, Iran has an offensive biological weapons program in violation of the BWC. Iran is technically capable of producing at least rudimentary biological warheads for a variety of delivery systems, including missiles."44
One of the most disturbing aspects of the Iranian WMD program is its determined effort to construct ballistic missiles that will enable Tehran to deliver conventional or, potentially, chemical, biological, or nuclear warheads against its neighbors in the region and beyond. Iran claimed last fall that its Shahab-3 missile can currently strike targets at distances up to 2,000 km (1,200 miles), including Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and southeastern Europe.45 It is believed that Iran's Shahab-4 will have a range of 4,000 km (2,400 miles), enabling Iran to strike Germany, Italy, and Moscow. The below map by the Congressional Research Service46 illustrates the estimated ranges of the ballistic missiles Iran is developing:
The U.S. Intelligence Community concluded in its November 2004 721 Report:
"Iran's ballistic missile inventory is among the largest in the Middle East and includes some 1,300-km-range Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) and a few hundred short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs)-including the Shahab-1 (Scud-B), Shahab-2 (Scud C), and Tondar-69 (CSS-8)-as well as a variety of large unguided rockets. Already producing Scud SRBMs, Iran announced that it had begun production of the Shahab-3 MRBM and a new solid-propellant SRBM, the Fateh-110. In addition, Iran publicly acknowledged the development of follow-on versions of the Shahab-3. It originally said that another version, the Shahab-4, was a more capable ballistic missile than its predecessor but later characterized it as solely a space launch vehicle with no military applications. Iran is also pursuing longer-range ballistic missiles."47
DNI Negroponte stated a similar finding in February 2006, adding his concern that Iran may weaponize missiles to deliver nuclear warheads:
"…the danger that it [Iran] will acquire a nuclear weapon and the ability to integrate it with the ballistic missiles Iran already possesses is a reason for immediate concern. Iran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East, and Tehran views its ballistic missiles as an integral part of its strategy to deter -- and if necessary retaliate against -- forces in the region, including US forces."48
IAEA Director General ElBaradei also raised the specter of Iran adapting its missiles to transport nuclear warheads when he wrote in a February 2006 report that the IAEA had asked Iran to meet to discuss "tests related to high explosives and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle, all of which could involve nuclear material." ElBaradei reported that Iran refused to discuss its alleged missile re-entry vehicle with the IAEA.49 These and other recent reported developments about Iran's ballistic missile program are alarming and pose a serious threat to America's allies, especially in the Middle East.
Although Iran, being a denied area with active denial and deception efforts, is a difficult target for intelligence analysis and collection, it is imperative that the U.S. Intelligence Community devote significant resources against this vital threat. Detection and prevention are the two most important intelligence challenges concerning Iran's WMD and ballistic missile programs.
The U.S. Intelligence Community needs to improve its analysis and collection on the problem of detecting and characterizing Iran's WMD programs. This is particularly important regarding Iran's nuclear program, where U.S. efforts to reach a diplomatic agreement are at a critical and sensitive point. The IC's ability to provide accurate and timely intelligence on a number of facets of Iran's program will be equally critical whether there is a negotiated solution to the current nuclear impasse or if sanctions are imposed.
Improving intelligence collection and analysis to better understand and counter Iranian influence and intentions is vital to our national security. The Intelligence Community lacks the ability to acquire essential information necessary to make judgments on these essential topics, which have been recognized as essential to U.S. national security for many, many years.
An important dimension of the detection of Iran's WMD program is how intelligence analysts use intelligence to characterize these programs in their analysis. Intelligence Community managers and analysts must provide their best analytic judgments about Iranian WMD programs and not shy away from provocative conclusions or bury disagreements in consensus assessments.
It is vital that the Intelligence Community also provide intelligence the United States can use to prevent Iran from acquiring WMD technology and materials. This is a global challenge and the U.S. Intelligence Community must be prepared to play an important role as the Administration seeks the cooperation of like-minded government officials in efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring WMD or discouraging the Iranian regime and people from continuing to pursue such programs.
Iranian involvement in Iraq is extensive, and poses a serious threat to U.S. national interests and U.S. troops. It is enabling Shia militant groups to attack Coalition forces and is actively interfering in Iraqi politics. General John Abizaid told the Senate Armed Service Committee on March 14, 2006:
"Iran is pursuing a multi-track policy in Iraq, consisting of overtly supporting the formation of a stable, Shia Islamist-led central government while covertly working to diminish popular and military support for U.S. and Coalition operations there. Additionally, sophisticated bomb making material from Iran has been found in improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq."50
DNI Negroponte stated in February 2006 that Iran has demonstrated a degree of restraint in its support of violent attacks against Coalition forces in Iraq:
"Tehran’s intentions to inflict pain on the United States in Iraq has been constrained by its caution to avoid giving Washington an excuse to attack it, the clerical leadership’s general satisfaction with trends in Iraq, and Iran’s desire to avoid chaos on its borders."51
Some Iranian assistance to Iraqi insurgents already has been provided. However, through its terrorist proxies, intelligence service, Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and other tools of power projection and influence, Iran could at any time significantly ramp up its sponsorship of violent attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East if it believed doing so would keep the United States distracted or would otherwise be in Iran’s national interest. Iran's support of the June 25, 1996 truck bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, a terrorist act that killed 19 U.S. Servicemen and wounded 500, demonstrated that Tehran is willing to organize attacks on U.S. personnel.52
In February 2005, then-Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Director Lowell E. (“Jake”) Jacoby testified to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that Iran seeks a "weakened and Shiadominated Iraq that is incapable of posing a threat to Iran."53 Iran has long supported Iraqi Shia political parties, both in Iraq and in exile, and it continues to work through these groups to affect the political process. Non-government observers believe that Tehran consciously works to gain leverage with multiple political leaders, parties and organizations in the current Iraqi political system -- even those who are no fans of Iran, such as Shia cleric and Mahdi Army leader Muqtada al-Sadr -- to ensure it has options for influencing events no matter which group gains prominence in the Iraqi polity.54
On March 16, 2006, Ali Larijani, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, indicated Iran was prepared to begin direct talks with the U.S. on Iraq, stating that, "the important thing for us is an established government in Iraq and that security is restored." Larijani was responding to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s authorization for U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad to hold bilateral talks limited to the situation in Iraq. Secretary Rice responded on March 24th that such talks would place "at the appropriate time." National Security Adviser Hadley expressed skepticism about the sincerity of Iran's offer to engage in talks with the U.S., noting that "Iran waited months to agree to a U.S. proposal to take up the issue, and did so only after its atomic program was referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions."55
Some have raised concerns about opening a dialogue with Iran while it is backing death squads in Iraq and insurgent attacks on U.S. forces. Ambassador Khalilzad said during a March 23, 2006 Washington Post interview that he believed Iran was publicly professing its support for Iraq's stalemated political process while its military and intelligence services back outlawed militias and insurgent groups. The Washington Post quoted Khalilzad stating that
"Our judgment is that training and supplying, direct or indirect, takes place, and that there is also provision of financial resources to people, to militias, and that there is presence of people associated with Revolutionary Guard and with MOIS [Ministry of Intelligence and Security]"56
The U.S. Intelligence Community, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense have reported that Iran provides training, funds, and weapons to a variety of Shia militias in Iraq which have been linked to assassinations, human rights abuses, and the planting of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) designed to maim and kill U.S. troops.57 The full extent of Iranian support to these militias is unknown, but three groups in particular have received Iranian support.
Evidence has mounted that Iran has facilitated IED attacks on U.S. forces. In a March 13 speech, President Bush stated that “coalition forces have seized IEDs and components that were clearly produced in Iran” and that “some of the most powerful IED's we're seeing in Iraq today include components that came from Iran.”64 DNI Negroponte echoed the president’s remarks when he told Congress in February 2006 that:
"Iran provides guidance and training to select Iraqi Shia political groups and weapons and training to Shia militant groups to enable anti-Coalition attacks. Tehran has been responsible for at least some of the increasing lethality of anti-Coalition attacks by providing Shia militants with the capability to build IEDs with explosively formed projectiles similar to those developed by Iran and Lebanese Hizballah."65
While there appears to be clear evidence that Iraqi insurgent groups receive assistance from entities in Iran, however, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Peter Pace asserted that he has seen no evidence Iran's government is the driving force behind such activity.66 Better intelligence collection and analysis is needed to determine the nature and extent of Iranian ties to Iraqi insurgent groups.
The United States needs a range of information to adequately assess Iran’s intentions and activities in Iraq. The U.S. needs to understand better Tehran's ongoing support to Shia militants conducting lethal attacks in Iraq in order to save Coalition lives and ensure the future of a stable, democratic Iraqi government. Insights into Tehran's efforts to exert long-term influence over Iraqi institutions will be important as well.
The July 2006 Hezbollah attacks on Israel likely is the latest use of terrorism by Iran to advance its regional policy goals. Iran has used terrorism over the years as a means of projecting power, mostly against Israel but also against internal dissidents and other adversaries in Europe. The State Department’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism 200467 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has referred to Iran as the “central banker for terrorism.”68 (issued April 2005) calls Iran “the most active state sponsor of terrorism,” stating that the MOIS and the IRGC both “provided Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist groups -- notably HAMAS, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the al- Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command -- with funding, safe haven, training and weapons.”
Iran’s links are strongest to Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian rejectionist groups, both of which have been designated by the United States as foreign terrorist organizations. Tehran is reported to have links to al-Qaeda, though U.S. intelligence information is insufficient to make a conclusive judgment on this relationship.
Iran’s influence over Hezbollah gives it a role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, making Tehran a player on an issue of global importance. Its ties to Hezbollah also provide Iran with a power projection tool -- “an extension of their state,” according to State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator Henry Crumpton -- allowing it to authorize (or prevent) terror attacks as a way to exercise influence in the region or beyond.69 Iran also employs the threat of stepped-up terror attacks as a deterrent against hostile powers; the possibility that Iran might unleash its terrorist proxies against the United States and its allies undoubtedly gives pause to those who might call for aggressive action against Iran.
The extent to which Iran directed the July/August 2006 Hezbollah attacks against Israel is unknown, as are possible Iranian objectives for provoking hostilities with Israel at this point in time. Certainly, Iran could benefit if the international community’s attention was diverted away from Iran’s nuclear program. It is urgent that the U.S. Intelligence Community redouble its efforts to uncover any Iranian agenda behind the attacks and learn how Iran may be directing them.
Iranian assistance to Hezbollah consists of funds, training, equipment, and intelligence.7071 The IRGC reportedly has a strong presence in Lebanon to coordinate aid to Hezbollah, including Stinger surface-to-air missiles, Katyusha rockets, mortars, and other weaponry.72 The State Department Country Reports on Terrorism stated that Iran provided Hezbollah an unmanned aerial vehicle that it flew in November 2004 into Israeli airspace, providing target reconnaissance regarding northern Israeli cities.73 There were several unconfirmed news accounts in August 2006 of Hezbollah UAVs crashing or being shot down by Israeli forces. The press accounts claimed the UAVs may have been packed with explosives.74 Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasarallah stated in a May 2005 speech that Hezbollah had more than 12,000 rockets with ranges of 25-45 miles.
Hezbollah has also served as a conduit for Iranian provision of weapons to Palestinian groups inside Israel. The ship Karine-A, seized by Israel in the Red Sea in January 2002, was filled with weapons destined for the Palestinian Authority; Hezbollah reportedly provided the funds for purchasing the weapons and hiring the ship, which was loaded in Iran.75
The State Department 2004 Country Reports on Terrorism stated that “Iran provided Palestinian terrorist groups -- notably HAMAS, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command -- with funding, safe haven, training, and weapons.”76
It is unclear whether and to what extent Iran may have ties to al-Qaeda. The primarily Sunni Arab terrorist group is an unlikely partner for the overwhelmingly Shia Persian nation; its leader, Osama bin Laden, recently referred to Shia in Iraq as "rejectionist," "traitors" and "agents of the Americans.”80 Bin Laden’s primary lieutenant in Iraq, the recently killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, declared a Sunni jihad against Iraqi Shia, targeting the community that hosts Iran’s primary allies and proxies in Iraq.
That said, some observers believe that Iran is actively supporting al-Qaeda operatives; others suggest that Iran may passively tolerate the group’s activities in the country. In November 2005, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns said the U.S. believed "that some Al Qaeda members and those from like-minded extremist groups continue to use Iran as a safe haven and as a hub to facilitate their operations,” without stating whether the Iranian government is actively complicit in these activities.81 Similarly, without claiming that the Iranian regime actively provides assistance, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld stated as early as April 2002 that “there is no question but that al-Qaeda have moved into and found sanctuary in Iran. And there is no question but that al-Qaeda has moved into Iran and out of Iran to the south and dispersed to some other countries.”82
Iran has had a number of senior al-Qaeda operatives in custody since 2003, and the United States has repeatedly called for Iran to bring these individuals to justice. The Iranian government appears to have little willingness to do so, though it is not clear whether its reasons stem from sympathy for al-Qaeda’s shared hostility toward the United States or simply a desire to use the terrorists as a future bargaining chip with Washington.83 The nature of Iran’s relationship with al-Qaeda, if any, is unclear, and U.S. intelligence must enhance its insights into this critical dynamic.84
The Department of State provided a persuasive assessment of Iran and WMD terrorism in its 2005 Country Reports on Terrorism:
"State sponsors of terrorism pose a grave WMD threat. A WMD program in a state sponsor of terrorism could enable a terrorist organization to acquire a sophisticated WMD. State sponsors of terrorism and nations that fail to live up to their international obligations deserve special attention as potential facilitators of WMD terrorism. Iran presents a particular concern, given its active sponsorship of terrorism and continued development of a nuclear program. Iran is also capable of producing biological and chemical agents or weapons. Like other state sponsors of terrorism with WMD programs, Iran could support terrorist organizations seeking to acquire WMD."85
Several outside experts have asserted that while it is possible Iran could give WMD to terrorists, they believe this is highly unlikely. For example, Anthony Cordesman and Khalid Al-Radhan believe that, “plausible deniability is doubtful, and an opponent simply may not care if it can prove Iran is responsible.”86 Middle East expert Kenneth Pollack put it more bluntly: “The use of proxies or cutouts would not shield Iran from retaliation,” and neither the United States nor any other victim would hesitate to respond with full force."87
The United States needs a range of information to adequately assess Iran’s sponsorship of terror. Current events in Lebanon highlight the danger Iranian support for terrorist proxies, such as Hezbollah, poses for peace in the region and underscores the need for timely and accurate intelligence on a wide range of issues related to Iran, Hezbollah, and other groups that enjoy Iranian support. Iran's relationship with its proxies give it a global reach, which would be even more alarming should Tehran divert WMD to these groups.
This report attempts to explain to the American people that, although intelligence is inadequate to develop a thorough understanding of the threat posed by Iranian activities, there is sufficient information available to conclude that Iran poses a serious threat to U.S. national security and to the security of our friends and allies. Based only on unclassified material, it is reasonable to assume that Iran has a program to produce nuclear weapons. The United States needs better intelligence to assess the status of Iran's nuclear program and how soon it will have an operational nuclear weapon.
Iran's misleading reports to the IAEA about its nuclear research activities, many of which violate its treaty agreements, suggest hostile intentions. Iran’s missile programs provide Tehran with the ability to strike targets far beyond its borders, as do its support of terrorism and meddling in Iraq Moreover, the IAEA's belief that the Iranians may be testing missile reentry vehicles with nuclear applications poses the real possibility that Iran could spark a major regional war.
The July/August 2006 Hezbollah attacks against Israel sparked an outbreak of violence with major ramifications for peace in the Middle East. These attacks may be fully backed by Tehran and could mark the beginning of a new and more dangerous policy by Iran to use a terrorist proxy to inflict pain on Israel and the West. The U.S. Intelligence Community will play an important role in assisting American policymakers in ascertaining the extent and objectives of any Iranian role in the Hezbollah attacks.
The worst-case scenario is that Iran is run by a government into which we have little insight, and that this government is determined to acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, support terrorism, and undermine political stability in Iraq. However, before we can conclude that this worst-case scenario is the reality faced by the United States, the Intelligence Community must provide policymakers with better insights into developments inside Iran.
The U.S. Intelligence Community will play a pivotal role before, during, an after any negotiations with Iran. Iran's August 22, 2006 response to the nuclear incentives package will need a thorough and complete evaluation. Policymakers will need high quality intelligence to assess Iranian intentions to prepare for any new round of negotiations on its nuclear program and for possible future discussions about the situation in Iraq. U.S. negotiators will need as complete an understanding as possible about the Iranian nuclear program, including its research facilities and its leaders’ intentions. U.S. intelligence agencies will need to assess the likelihood of activities at undeclared nuclear facilities and how to verify Iranian compliance with a possible agreement on its nuclear program. If negotiations with Iran fail and a new set of trade sanctions are placed on Iran, the Intelligence Community will need to provide analysis and collection to verify international compliance with the sanctions. These and many other tasks will require a substantial commitment of collection and analytical resources by U.S. intelligence agencies.
U.S. intelligence agencies need to take a wide range of steps to fill intelligence gaps and improve their collection and analysis of information on Iran, including: