Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Matt 24 watch, 159c: John Bolton, former US ambassador to the UN, on the persistent failure of negotiations with Iran, and the gathering war-clouds

Following up from Iran supreme leader Khamenei's war-warning, it is helpful to note John Bolton's remarks in a bit more detail, from his The Weekly Standard article, The Negotiation Delusion:
The ongoing failure of talks concerning Iran’s nuclear weapons program, most recently in Istanbul on July 3, is no surprise. This latest negotiation charade between Iran and the Security Council’s five permanent members plus Germany (P5+1) is the culmination of 10 years of innumerable diplomatic endeavors. These efforts rested on the erroneous premise that Iran could be talked out of its decades-long effort to build deliverable nuclear weapons . . . . 

We are well past the point where sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program achieve more than making their proponents feel good about “doing something.” They neither restrain Iran’s nuclear program nor effectively advance the goal of replacing the mullahs with a regime that would truly forswear nuclear weapons. Combined with material assistance to Iran’s extensive opposition, sanctions could help destabilize Tehran, but unfortunately both the Obama and Bush administrations have failed on that score . . . . 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on June 30, for example, that “the pressure track is our primary focus now, and we believe that the economic sanctions are bringing Iran to the table.” That is a far cry from actually terminating the weapons program. Moreover, what would a negotiated deal look like? Our goal is to deny Iran nuclear weapons; Tehran manifestly wants the opposite. What is the compromise? Iran gets to keep a small nuclear weapons program? Not even the most effervescent Obama supporters (publicly) endorse such a result. The fundamental problem today is that there simply is no effective, enforceable sanctions regime that will compel Iran to abandon its nuclear aspirations . . . .

If commentators and the press had longer attention spans, they would recall the history of nearly 10 years of sanctions imposed on Iran, unilaterally by America, Japan, and others, more broadly by the European Union, and even more broadly by the Security Council. The net effect is that Iran continues to plow ahead. As Obama’s director of national intelligence, Lt. General James Clapper, testified in January, “the sanctions as imposed so far have not caused [the Iranians] to change their behavior or their policy.”
In short, we here have a totalitarian state in the grips of an apocalyptic ideology that since the 1980's has been bent on building nuclear weapons, on the explicit understanding that a nuclear war is the expected outcome, costing the world four billion lives or more, but ending up with the predicted/ expected Mahdi dominating the surviving world. The patent implication is that in the minds of the Mullahs "infidel" lives count for nothing, and those Muslims who will inevitably die will die as martyrs in jihad and are guaranteed of paradise.

Sad, and sickening.

A more sober-minded assessment would be that  if Iran is responsible for a direct or indirect nuke attack on any significant target anywhere in the world, it will be vapourised within the hour and left a smoking, radioactive ruin. 

Regardless of consequences to the rest of the world. 

Which will begin with a huge spike in oil prices and economic hardships, leading to famine in vulnerable regions of the world. And, should this trigger an Islamist uprising on any large scale, the suppression will be brutal and direct. 

Radicalised Islamic enclaves in the West will be lucky if they are merely interned or put under curfew for the duration, and there will be a hard to resist demand to expel such dangerous and proved treasonous subcultures.

That is obvious.

But, it was also obvious that long-term, the Fascist regimes of the 1930's could not defeat the wider world in a drawn out war. But, that is exactly what they thought they had the strategies and tactics to avert. It did not turn out as they planned, but vast regions were devastated and something like 60 millions died needlessly, triggering a ruinously expensive, decades long Cold War as a direct consequence.

 So, why don't the Mullahs and other leaders of Iran wake up and smell the coffee?

 They probably think they have a counterbalance, probably their alliance with Russia. 

That is -- and let us not forget the Shia imperative to dissimulate on matters strategic -- they are probably thinking that a nuke strike on Iran can be taken off the table by the implicit threat of a nuke retaliation from Russia. They also probably think that this can buy them time to create a de facto counterbalance to the Israeli nuke arsenal, then use intimidation and nuke threat backed terrorism to get what they want across the Middle East and beyond. 

Certainly, one can argue that the Russian attack on Israeli ally Georgia in 2008, took off the table an Israeli back-door air strike on Iran across the Caspian Sea, similar to the Entebbe raid of 1976; which rescued passengers on a hijacked airliner in Uganda with the co-operation of Kenya.

Bolton is chilling in his conclusion:
Russia and China have a strategic national interest in preventing us from succeeding. Even if Moscow and Beijing truly oppose a nuclear Iran, they will not, for their own broader reasons, let the West bend Tehran to its will. Just as they continue to protect Syria’s Assad regime, an Iranian satellite which has neither substantial oil nor its own nuclear weapons program, Russia and China see Iran as a test case in limiting American power. And they are succeeding . . . . In the race between the West’s sanctions/negotiations track and Tehran’s nuclear weapons track, the nuclear effort is much closer to the finish line. Since all other options have failed repeatedly, we must at some very near point face a basic question: Are we prepared to use force at a time of our choosing and through means optimal for us rather than for Iran’s air defenses, or will we simply allow Iran to have nuclear weapons under the delusion it can be contained and deterred? The clock is ticking, and the centrifuges are spinning. 
Is that where it ends?


We have to face the 1967 factor. 

After drumbeat calls for Israel's destruction and a mounting series of clashes, Nasser requested the UN peacekeepers to withdraw from Sinai and then closed the straights of Tiran, cutting Israel's oil pipeline. Armoured forces and aircraft were moved to the Sinai, threatening to cut Israel in two or three parts, even while it was in the grip of oil strangulation and the draining effects of stopping its economy to mobilise for defence. Time was on the Arab side, and the West, as usual, could not be counted on to back up its promises. Israel, heavily outnumbered, out-gunned and with the clock ticking, looked doomed.

Then, one morning in June, they launched every stick that could fly, and sent them low over the Mediterranean, hitting Egyptian air bases and knocking out the Egyptian air force then the Syrian one. Reworked Sherman tanks from the 1940's (in many cases bought, literally, from the world's junkyards), with cut-down 105 mm guns that could barely squeeze into the reworked turrets were sent into the Sinai against the much improved descendants of the Russian tanks that ate up the German tanks that dominated the Sherman in Northern France in 1944.

Against all odds, they won, won decisively.

That is what we remember as the Six Day War.

And, that is why my bet today is that the Mullahs are wrong and that their cynical exploitation of the religious sentiments of their people is suicidal. 

Israel -- in the face of an obvious existential crisis -- will do what it takes to take out the Iranian nuke threat before it passes the point of no return, and they will do so regardless of expected backlash from world opinion. Opinions shaped by the same leaders who failed to act over the past decade, when it could have been done at much lower cost in lives and chaos. Similar to what was done to Czechoslovakia in 1938.

Indeed, Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu has more or less said as much before the UN last year:
 “Thousand of missiles have already rained down on our cities. So you might understand why Israelis rightfully ask what’s preventing it from happening again.”

“Would any of you bring danger so close to your cities, to your families? Would you act so recklessly with the life of your families?” he said.

“Since 9/11, militant Islam has slaughtered countless innocents. The most dangerous threat is that these fanatics arm themselves with nuclear weapons and this is precisely what Iran is trying to do. Can you imagine that man armed with nuclear weapons?” Netanyahu added, referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad . . .
So, we face grim days, and it is now odds on that we will see war to prevent Iran from crossing the Nuke threshold definitively. For, half-hearted diplomacy not backed up by credible force, in the face of determined dictators, has again (predictably) failed. END