Category Archives: Iran

Obama should help Iran move to the Seam

There are a number of states in the seam between the functioning core of the global economy of Europe and the Gap. These range from countries in the process of integration into Europe — like Ukraine, Georgia, and Turkey — old outposts in the Gap — like Israel — and small oil-based economies, such as Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. While the Iraq War of 2008 has been successful in rolling back Baathism and al Qaeda in Iraq, it has so far failed in its attempt to make Iraq an obviously good model for hte rest of the greatest middle east. Iraq, for all our efforts, is still in the Gap.

Fortunately, Barack Obama (who becomes our President this month) has an opportunity at an even greater prize: Iran.


Iran is more populous and culturally more developed in Iraq. It has a greater ability to project power, and hence to make piece. It is increasingly integrated with the economies of our friends (Azerbaijan, Turkey, India, China, and so on), and is useful in our containing rogue states like Russia:

From “Russia and Iran: Comrades in contradiction” (hat-tip to Tom Barnett):

Making the task even more labyrinthine is the fact that for many of those years, Iran was actively working against the Russia’s interests (or vice-versa) in one area, while in another area they worked together harmoniously. One example of this is the nexus of civil wars in Tajikistan and Afghanistan in the early 1990s. Tajikistan, the poorest of the former Soviet states, dissolved into chaos in 1992. Russia backed the establishment communists for the sake of stability, while Iran entered the fray by supporting the opposition, which it mistook to be an Islamic revolutionary movement.

In the new millennium Iran and Russia adjusted to the new American presence in the Middle East and Central Asia. For a few years, both countries turned away from each other and towards the US. In Afghanistan, neither put up any obstacles to scattering their old foes, the Taliban. Then in 2003 the US invaded Iraq, and although Iran approved of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s ouster, the large American presence in another bordering country was too threatening to accept. Russia found itself at odds with America over oil contracts in Iraq, regretted its loss of prestige in the United Nations Security Council, and began to drift back towards Iran.

Friendship with Iran would do more than just bring geographical continuity to the Near-Eastern Seam. It would help cement the positions of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan, all of which are permanently’ Iran’s neighbors and presently in the Gap. It could bring security to Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the U.A.E., which are seam states near Iran. Economic investment in Iran would cement Europe’s relationships with the near-east, and providing a nuclear umbrella to the region would provide safety for Israel, as well.

Many of them instinctively reverted to the polarities of the old Cold-War paradigm and saw Russia threatening an ideological ally of the United States. More important for the long term, though, the projection of Russian strength into the Caucasus sent an implicit message to Iran about who the real power is in the region.

There is much to be done in the near-east. Moving those countries off of oil (and reducing the power of oil-rich rogue states like Russia) requires us to invest in batteries, biodiesal. hybrids, and other new technologies. We have to spread those technologies to new core powers like India and China, too.

But don’t forget the geopoltiical component. Iran is a useful friend in a critical neighborhood.

I hope President Obama makes it a priority to bring at first detente, and then build a strategic partnership, between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Iran, so far away

If things go well, then 8/8/08 will have been very good to Iran… and the United States. Before that day, Iran was bordered on three sides by a hostile U.S. military, and the U.S. was preoccupied by theatres next door to Iran.

But now, Iran is next door to an unpredictable, unhinged, and aggressive Gap state in Russia, and America has bigger fish to fry (Russian herring, to be precise). So we see good news from both iran and the U.S., indicating that both countries recognize that continuing hostility simply doesn’t make sense. To take just two recent examples from Tom’s blog, Iran’s buying U.S. ag products while American internet giant Yahoo has reopened its web mail service in Iran.

If we do this right, Iran will see that while the U.S. is so far away, Russia is next door, invading neighbors, attacking oil price lines, and doing what it can to increase the price of (Russian) oil.

Good Signs (for the fight against Russia)

There are good signs in the news today about the world coming to terms with other countries being nuclear powers.  First, India is now able to buy supplies for its nuclear power plants on the open market.

Slashdot | India Joins Nuclear Market
figona brings news that India will be allowed to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). A waiver was approved yesterday that provided an exception to the requirements that India sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. This means India will be able to buy nuclear fuel from the world market and purchase reactors from the US, France, and Russia; something it has been unable to do since it began nuclear testing in 1974 (which inspired the creation of the NSG). 

Second, there is news that Shimon Peres (the President if Isreal) opposes strikes against Iran.   Peace with Iran is important if we are serious about responding to Russia’s invasion of Georgia.  (This follows earlier news that America and Iran have seriously toned down their rhetoric).

Real grand strategy means prioritizing.  Russia’s invasion of Georgia was a crime against peace more serious than anything since the 9/11 attacks or Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.  Weakening Russia, strengthening the New Core around Russia, and absorbing Seam states on the frontier with Russia, are thus important goals of the United States.  More important than enforcing dead-letter nuclear proliferation treaties, that would deny India and Iran nuclear power… and nuclear weapons.

Peace with Iran!

Iran’s ties with American allies continue to expand.  Iran, whose conventional forces have consistently recognized international borders (unlike Russia) can be a pillar of the peace in the Middle East. It is useful in Afghanistan and Iraq, and potentially useful in the Caucuses and Central Asia.

War with Iran at this point benefits only Iraqi insurgents, the Taliban, and Russia.  Peace with Iran benefits the global Peace, and helps us with many other objectives.

Iranian president has said that Tehran is ready to increase its trade exchanges with Turkey to $20 billion within the next four years.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad expressed hope that Iran and Turkey will expand their relations in energy and transportation areas.

“We consider progress and security of Turkey like our own and we know that Turkey will also be happy with Iran’s development,” Ahmadinejad told Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Istanbul on Thursday.

“Cooperation between Iran and Turkey within the framework of the Group of Eight Developing Islamic Countries (D-8) and the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) paves the way for enhancement of bilateral ties,” he said.

President Gul, for his part, said President Ahmadinejad’s visit to Turkey has opened a new chapter in ties.

Press TV – Iran eyes $20bn trade with Turkey.

Those alergic to this may consider simply giving suitcase nukes to Saakashvelli’s special forces, along with the governments of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Mongolia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and other states that Russia may conceivable threaten.

I support the more peaceful method of embracing Iran.

Fighting Tehran simply is not a priority.

Iran starting to back Georgia?

Courtesy Josh SN, I certainly hope so.  Iran’s state paper:

International concerns mounted as Russia bombed a key Georgian port and the Georgian city of Gori.

The European Union and NATO have called for a halt to hostilities and the UN Security Council was to meet again Saturday seeking agreement on a call for an immediate ceasefire after talks failed Friday.

EU foreign policy chief Solana was to speak with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko as part of efforts to resolve the conflict, an official said.

Condemnation was particularly strong from among a group of former Soviet satellite states, most whom are now EU members and who number among pro-western Georgia’s allies.

Following talks between the presidents of Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden and Ukraine, Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Petras Vaitiekunas is in Georgia on a fact-finding mission.

tehran times : World urges Russia to curb onslaught.

I earlier wrote that I would gladly give Iran nuclear weapons to turn it away from Russia.  Hopefully Bush will make the same choice.

Iranian-American Normalization?

Good news, if true. The real attack on Iran is coming from our decapitation of Persian society, where around a 10th of the Iranian population (typically the most ambitious and education) has left the Islamic Republic.

The Weekly Standard
The sourcing on the story is thin, but it feels like a trial balloon. The story does note that William Burns, announced yesterday as the man Condoleezza Rice is sending to meet directly with Iran on nuclear matters, “said in testimony to Congress last week the United States was looking to opening up an interest section in Tehran but had not made a decision yet.”

Those comments came in an exchange with Congresswoman Diane Watson from California. She said: “I understand that Secretary Rice said about the possible opening of a U.S. interests section in Iran and I’d like you to comment on that.”

Burns responded that the U.S. was looking to “increase” its interactions with the Iranian people: “The idea of the intersection, as Secretary Rice suggested, is an interesting one. And it’s one that’s worth looking at carefully. I can’t go beyond that in terms of, you know, talking about our internal deliberations.”

Still, Tom has good reason to be skeptical.

Clinton’s Security Umbrella

Props to Hillary Clinton, the best Democratic candidate when it comes to national defense, for reiterating and emphasizing that the United States has as a goal the elimination of state-on-state warfare in areas of the world we consider important. (I heard this on Meet the Press, where the analysis was political as opposed to strategic. This sort of reaction underlines Clinton’s bravery when it comes to protecting the country.)

Political Punch
Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, said that the U.S. “should be looking to create an umbrella of deterrence that goes much further than just Israel. Of course I would make it clear to the Iranians that an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the United States, but I would do the same with other countries in the region.” …

That umbrella of deterrence would be offered, Clinton suggested, in order to deter other nations in the region “from feeling that they have to acquire nuclear weapons. You can’t go to the Saudis or the Kuwaitis or UAE and others who have a legitimate concern about Iran and say: ‘Well, don’t acquire these weapons to defend yourself’ unless you’re also willing to say we will provide a deterrent backup and we will let the Iranians know that, yes, an attack on Israel would trigger massive retaliation, but so would an attack on those countries that are willing to go under this security umbrella and forswear their own nuclear ambitions.”

This is an old strategy by the United States. But a good one.

Way to go, Hill.

Occam’s Razor

I don’t think it’s crazy to say that a more parsimonious explanation for Iran nearly dropping off the face of the internet

Router Location Current Index Response Time (ms) Packet Loss (%) China (Shanghai) 81 181 0 India (Mumbai) 72 270 0 Indonesia (Mangole) 79 205 0 Iran (Tehran) 0 0 100 Japan (Tokyo) 85 146 0 Singapore 68 217 12 Taiwan 74 149 12

is that we’re installing the hardware and software to allow us to read every packet going in and out of south-west Asia, and we don’t want them to know it.

(Chart from, story courtesy of Slashdot)

Related: New submarine can tap fiber-optic cables (hat-tip AC)
Related: Hackers cut cities’ power (hat-tip Sharpr)
Must read: Don’t Forget by Mike Tanji

Zogby Poll: 52% Support U.S. Military Strike Against Iran

Bush still has it when he wants it, at least on foreign affairs:

Most see Clinton as the presidential candidate best equipped to deal with Iran, followed by Giuliani and McCain—but many express uncertainty

A majority of likely voters – 52% – would support a U.S. military strike to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon, and 53% believe it is likely that the U.S. will be involved in a military strike against Iran before the next presidential election, a new Zogby America telephone poll shows.

The survey results come at a time of increasing U.S. scrutiny of Iran. According to reports from the Associated Press, earlier this month Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Iran of “lying” about the aim of its nuclear program and Vice President Dick Cheney has raised the prospect of “serious consequences” if the U.S. were to discover Iran was attempting to devolop a nuclear weapon. Last week, the Bush administration also announced new sanctions against Iran.

Democrats (63%) are most likely to believe a U.S. military strike against Iran could take place in the relatively near future, but independents (51%) and Republicans (44%) are less likely to agree. Republicans, however, are much more likely to be supportive of a strike (71%), than Democrats (41%) or independents (44%). Younger likely voters are more likely than those who are older to say a strike is likely to happen before the election and women (58%) are more likely than men (48%) to say the same – but there is little difference in support for a U.S. strike against Iran among these groups.

American war policy post-World War 2 has been consistent: early hopes of a complete victory, then moving on to a successful spoiling of our enemies. North Korea, North Vietnam, Iraq I, Kosovo, Iraq II all end with a primary enemy identified and forced to take enormous losses such that further expansion is impossible. This sets up the field for what comes next. If we decide to go to war with Iran, what happens next probably won’t be a liberal democracy, but it will also be enormously costly for their Islamic Revolution.

Hat-tip to Democratic Underground.

From anti-WMD to anti-anti-American

Porter, B. (2007). Bush steps up anti-Iran rhetoric. Australian Broadcasting Corporation News. Available online:

With an Iran War ever more possible, Bush shifts from attacking Iran’s nuclear capacity to attackign Iran’s killing of Americans.

Mr Hersh says he believes there is now a consensus within the American public that if the Iranians are actively pursuing plans to develop a nuclear weapon, they are at least five years away from their goal.

He says that has tipped the shift in the administration’s approach.

“Instead of trying to sell it, not only to the American people but to its allies, the notion of a massive bombing against the infrastructure, what they call counter-proliferation against the infrastructure of the Iraqi bomb, hitting the various facilities that we know exist – instead, they’ve now decided that they’re going to hit the Iranians, payback for hitting us,” he said.

“They’re going to hit the Revolutionary Guard headquarters and facilities, they’re going to tone down the bombing, they’re going to shift it. It’s going to be more surgical.”

Mr Hersh says the new strategy involves a subtle change of targets.

“We’re threatening Iran, we’ve been doing it constantly, but instead of saying to the American people and instead of saying internally, ‘It’s going to be about nuclear weapons’, it’s now going about getting the guys that are killing our boys,” he said.

“We’re going to hit the border facilities, the facilities inside Iraq that we think are training terrorists, we’re going to hit the facilities we think are supplying some of the explosive devices into Iraq.

If Seymour Hersh is correct, this means that the administration is more in touch with the American people — and reality — than I thought. We survived enough dangerous countries with nuclear weapons (Russia, China, Pakistan, etc) that the thought of one more is not particularly scary.

Iran’s armed forces regularly killing Americans is.