Tuesday, February 20, 2007



The Iranian people will regret their country's nuclear program.

Instead of bringing them security or status, Iran's nuclear program will only bring Iran economic ruin, internal chaos, and possibly death on a massive scale.

Iran's nuclear program is stimulating a response from actors that have the ability to inflict great harm on Iran. Some of these actors will not be nation-states, but rather will be self-organizing non-state terror groups, operating on their own. There will be several paths of misery for Iran. The only question is from which path this misery will arrive.

Iran's Nuclear Program: Once Secret, Always Popular

The origins of Iran's nuclear program extend back more than 30 years, to the days of the Shah before the 1979 Islamic revolution. Iran's nuclear program is very popular inside Iran and would likely exist regardless of who was governing the country.

Iran's leaders repeatedly assert that the program is designed solely for the peaceful generation of electrical power. Regrettably for Iran's citizens, Iran's actions have damaged the confidence of this claim to most outside observers.

In August 2002, an Iranian resistance group revealed the existence of critical and clandestine nuclear facilities inside Iran, claims later verified by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency. In its latest report, the IAEA still finds Iran's cooperation on inspections unsatisfactory. And of course the United Nations Security Council has applied mild sanctions on Iran for its defiance of the IAEA and the Security Council. (For more background on Iran's nuclear program, see summaries from the IAEA here and here, and numerous articles at the Globalsecurity.org website.)

Thus, even if Iran's claim to have a peaceful program is entirely true, there are powerful skeptics who will be impossible to reassure. A reaction to the Iranian nuclear program is inevitable. The Iranian government believes that it will be able to remorselessly advance its nuclear program until it, like India and Pakistan, blossoms as a full nuclear state, its nuclear status a fait accompli that the region and the world would then have to accept. Unfortunately for the Iranian people, this is the least likely outcome.

Three Paths to Iran's Ruin

The Iranian nuclear program will spark a reaction against it. All of these reactions will be very painful to the people of Iran, but not equally so.

Air strikes

Of all of the likely reactions to the Iranian nuclear program, a U.S. military air campaign focused on Iran's nuclear-industrial complex would be the most humane for the Iranian people. U.S. air power has the technical capability to discretely target the sites specific to Iran's nuclear industry while leaving untouched the rest of Iran's infrastructure and civilian population.

There is a long list of arguments against bombing Iran's nuclear industry. I personally oppose this option because the political and diplomatic damage the U.S. would suffer from this action would not be worth the benefits to the U.S. of the air campaign, especially when there are other options available that are not so politically damaging.

Another argument advanced against air strikes is that air operations planners won't know where all of the targets are and that the effects of bombing would only be temporary. In any case, some argue, bombing would unify the Iranian population and afterward Iran would renew its efforts to get a nuclear arsenal.

In his book Fiasco, Mr. Thomas Ricks describes the post-war evaluation of the 1998 Operation Desert Fox air and missile campaign against Saddam Hussein's suspected weapons programs. American air operations planners faced the same uncertainties they currently face with respect to Iran. And after the Desert Fox campaign ended, intelligence officers were unsure what they had accomplished.

But according to Mr. Ricks, analysis on the ground in 2003 showed that the Desert Fox campaign achieved far more than expected. Perhaps most important, the air campaign demoralized Iraq's scientific and engineering community. Iraq's special weapons programs withered away after the Desert Fox campaign and never restarted.

International sanctions

Although its terms are very far from being fulfilled, the recent agreement with North Korea to gradually dismantle its nuclear program gives new hope to the effectiveness of sanctions. It seems as if financial, banking, and luxury goods sanctions, targeted at leaders of a regime are especially useful at changing behavior.

Based on the possible success of the North Korean sanctions, the international community may be encouraged to employ this model against Iran. The Iranians themselves apparently recognize how vulnerable they are to sanctions. The Paris newspaper Le Monde obtained a secret Iranian government report that discussed Iran's vulnerability to sanctions (here is the Le Monde story in French, here in English, translated by Google). Unfortunately, an internationally-supervised sanctions program is not likely to be successful because too many countries will not cooperate with the program and will instead continue to trade with Iran.

But if national governments fail to impose economic and financial sanctions on Iran, Iran remains highly vulnerable to sanctions imposed by self-organized non-state actors. These sanctions could create more misery for the Iranian people that those imposed by legal and legitimate international policy.

Sanctions imposed by terror

Iran receives 80-90% of its export earnings from oil exports. Due to problems with Iran's oil refining sector, Iran must import 40% of the gasoline it consumes. Iran's existing oilfields suffer natural output declines of 8-10% per year. Iran requires foreign capital investment and foreign technical expertise to maintain its oil industry and the income it produces. (See this country report from the U.S. Energy Information Agency for background on Iran's energy sector. And see this recent academic study predicting the collapse of Iran's oil industry.)

Iran's undiversified economy is highly vulnerable to attack. Murder and intimidation, performed by a ruthless non-state group, may be all that is required to slowly but surely grind down the Iranian economy.

As previously mentioned, the Iranian oil industry requires the expertise of foreign engineers to maintain its output. An anti-Iranian terror group could target for assassination the engineers and executives (and their families) of any French, Russian, Japanese, or Chinese oil companies that may be considering work in Iran. The goals of such a terror group would be to create social and political chaos inside Iran, to weaken the government and its ability to function, and to dry up funding for Iran's nuclear industry.

Such an anti-Iranian terror group could mete out the same treatment to foreign bankers working with Iran, European oil trading firms, import-export companies, tanker shipping companies, tanker crews and their families, etc. A sharp wave of such murders might be enough to send out a chilling signal to those contemplating work for Iran.

Given the already precarious state of Iran's economy and its fragile political situation, relatively minor disruptions to Iran's commerce could induce chaotic effects inside the country. Grinding down Iran's oil industry through a private campaign of murder and intimidation could choke off Iran's main source of income. This would eventually inflict more suffering and more social disruption on Iranian society than either an American air campaign or internationally organized sanctions. And it will very likely occur if these other options don't.

In my last article at TCS Daily, I discussed how wealthy individuals could implement their own private foreign policies. We should not be surprised to see Iran used as a laboratory for such an experiment.

Passivity Will Lead to an Arms Race

Passively accepting the development of an Iranian nuclear weapons arsenal will, ironically, result in the greatest misery for Iranian society. Even if the Iranian government intends its nuclear weapons arsenal for defensive and deterrent purposes, a stable stand-off, as we witnessed in the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, is highly unlikely. Much more likely is a highly unstable arms race, eventually leading to war.

The United States and the Soviet Union avoided nuclear war because both sides established large, redundant retaliatory reserve forces (especially onboard hidden submarines), forces that both sides knew would survive a first strike. Both sides also established robust command and control systems that would survive long enough to order retaliation. Deterrence was thus established.

We won't find these stabilizing conditions when a complicated, three-sided nuclear arms race breaks out among Israel, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. In the Middle East missile flight times are too short - a sneak attack would be very effective. Early warning systems are fragile or non-existent, and retaliatory forces and command and control structures will be vulnerable to destruction in a first strike. Relatively small nuclear arsenals will result in no survivable retaliatory redundancy. Nuclear forces will have to be kept on extremely high alert, a launch-on-warning status. The slightest hint of attack, even if false, will trigger a nuclear weapons launch. Under such conditions, there would be a tremendous incentive in a crisis for any of the countries to rapidly use its nuclear forces before they were destroyed. National survival will depend on disarming the enemies before being so disarmed.

Allowing Iran to establish a nuclear weapons arsenal will result in a highly unstable arms race in the region, very likely leading to war. Containment and deterrence is not a feasible solution because each side's nuclear forces and command and control structures will be highly vulnerable to destruction in a first strike. War will inevitably result.

From Which Direction Will Iran's Misery Arrive?

Iran's nuclear program will become increasingly destabilizing in the period ahead. Iran's government might have avoided this situation had it been completely transparent from the beginning with the IAEA inspectors. However, it is likely too late for openness; Iran's past behavior will leave skeptics unable to be reassured.

Passive acceptance of Iran's program would lead to a highly unstable three-sided arms race in the region. Unlike the Cold War, this arms race would lead to a real war. Internationally-supervised sanctions could in theory be effective (especially in light of the recent experience with North Korea) but won't happen due to cheating. Ironically, an American air strike on Iran's nuclear industry would be the most humane treatment for the problem.

If the situation is not resolved in another way, self-organized non-state terror groups will likely organize campaigns of murder, intimidation, and lawlessness on the Iranian economy and the foreigners who work for it. As their economy is ground down, the Iranian people will suffer the most. The Iranians will one day regret their nuclear program.

The author was a U.S. Marine Corps infantry company commander and staff officer. He was the global research director for a large private investment firm and is now a private investor. His blog is Westhawk. He is a TCS contributing writer.


By Rich Lowry

While other House Democrats were pretending that their nonbinding resolution against the Iraq troop surge was of great import, antiwar champion Rep. John Murtha spoke the truth. It is not “the real vote,” he said in a webcast for the left-wing MoveCongress.org. That comes with Murtha’s imminent attempt to hamstring President Bush’s conduct of the war that may well spark a constitutional crisis.

There is a straightforward way for Congress to end a war: Cut off its entire funding. Congress has the power of the purse, the most important lever of legislative influence in the Anglo-American tradition. But House Democrats don’t want to wield this power because they’re afraid it will expose them to charges of defunding the troops. So they are resorting to an unconstitutional expedient instead.

Murtha wants to attach conditions on the impending supplemental appropriations bill to fund the war. He would require that troops have a year at home before redeploying, that they train with their own equipment before deploying and so on. Because the too-small U.S. military is under enormous strain, these conditions would be impossible to meet while still doubling the number of U.S. combat troops in Baghdad.

Murtha repeatedly says in the webcast that his proposals are meant to “protect” the troops. But he is frank about the not-so-ulterior motive of keeping more troops from heading to Iraq, explaining that “they won’t be able to do the work.” Because his provisions can be sold as guaranteeing the readiness and quality-of-life of the troops, Murtha believes that they “will be very hard to find fault with.”

Only if one ignores our constitutional scheme. The president, not Congress, is the commander in chief. Congress was never meant to, nor is it suited to, direct tactical military decisions, as Murtha seeks to do with his restrictions.

Arguably, his maneuver will be the most blatant congressional intrusion on the president’s war-making powers in the nation’s history. Congress choked off the Vietnam War in the 1970s, but only after U.S. ground troops were mostly already out of the country and chiefly as a matter of cutting off aid to South Vietnam.

Just as disturbing is Murtha’s cynical reliance on failure in Iraq as a political strategy. The plan aptly has been described by Politico.com as a “slow-bleed” antiwar strategy. The surge is the best chance of turning the war around. By hampering it, Democrats will ensure that the war continues to fail, and thus that domestic political support for it plummets to the point where Democrats feel safe in defunding it.

The subconscious logic of their position on the war has thus taken a subtle turn. It used to be that the war had to end because it was a failure; now it must fail so that it can end.

Democrats don’t see this distinction, since they simply believe the war is irretrievably lost. But they still pay laughably unserious lip service to the notion of success. Murtha says there’s no military solution in Iraq, that we can win in Iraq only through the political process — as if it has no effect on the political process whether Shia militias are murdering Sunnis unchecked or laying low to avoid the surge. In a howler, he maintains that if we leave, “al Qaeda’s going to disappear.” Maybe if we spread pixie dust and close our eyes?

President Bush will have no choice but to reject the Murtha restrictions should they reach his desk. But a veto is problematic. As Murtha points out, a veto means that Bush doesn’t get the continued funding for the war. He might have to sign the bill, take the funding and ignore the restrictions as an unconstitutional trespass on his powers. In that event, a cry to impeach him will go up from the increasingly powerful antiwar Left.

The result of the Democrats’ clever gambit could be a constitutional implosion from which no one — certainly not the country — will emerge a winner.


by John Batchelor

Rudy Giuliani became what was once known as a "Reagan Democrat" in 1980, when he switched his party registration from the consciously ambiguous New York City "Independent" to the bold and rare New York City "Republican." Giuliani remembers his conversion as a response to the inspiring candidacy of Ronald Reagan, who that year overwhelmed the struggling President Jimmy Carter to become the 40th President.

Now that Rudy Giuliani is running for the Republican nomination for President ("Yes, I'm running. Sure.") and quoting Ronald Reagan enthusiastically ("The future belongs to the free."), it is compelling to look again at 1980 for what may have contributed to Giuliani's transformation, and why profoundly criminal events of that year for which no justice was done could boost Giuliani to become the 44th President if it comes to pass that he not only becomes the GOP nominee but also is opposed by Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York.

On April 7, 1980, President Carter, with Executive Order No. 12205, imposed a trade embargo on the nascent Islamic Republic of Iran -- then in a chaos of massacre, looting and abuse -- and two days later the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control implemented the President's lawful order. Soon after, with new executive orders, the President also directed the Treasury Department to prohibit any payment or transfer of funds, with or without license, from the United States to any Iranian national or to the government of Iran. The President was moving in a measured response to the breakdown in negotiations to free the illegally detained and abused 53 American State Department personnel who had been imprisoned in Tehran, at the hands of thugs and provocateurs acting under orders of the despotic mullahs of the Council of Experts, since November 4, 1979.

Carter was also anticipating recommended covert action. On April 16, three American officers, Army Maj. Gen. James Vaught, Army Col. Charlie Beckwith, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Air Force Gen. David C. Jones, arrived at the Oval Office to brief the president on a covert rescue mission that had been developed by a secret planning group, Rice Bowl. The plan, now called Eagle Claw, was to insert Delta Force commandos into Tehran to rescue the hostages who were then reportedly held all together at the American Embassy Chancery. The strike force was to be flown on Navy Sea Stallions from the carrier U.S.S. Nimitz to a rendezvous 200 miles southeast of Tehran, a spot called Desert One, where the helicopters would be refueled for the round trip to Tehran by EC-130 Hercules transports carrying fuel bladders. After the hostage extraction, the rescue force, covered by an air assault on Tehran's airport and by circling gunships, would return to Desert One, abandon the helicopters, and escape on C-141s.

President Carter, with his Administration sapped by Iran's malevolence, approved: "I told everyone that it was time for us to bring our hostages home; their safety and our national honor were at stake."

The mission, launched on April 24, never got farther than Desert One and failed in a storm of accidents and bad luck. On April 25, President Carter on television took responsibility for the failure. The hostages would not be released until they were bartered for with unfrozen cash on the final day of the Carter presidency, January 19, 1981, even as President Reagan was being sworn in as commander in chief.

What did Rudy Giuliani learn from this episode and why could it be a defining dispute in the contest ahead if and when he meets Hillary Clinton on November 4, 2008?

The first thing Giuliani learned was a study in turpitude; that while his country suffered defeat, while the Delta Force at Desert One lost eight comrades dead and many wounded, there were super-rich crooks in New York who with avarice aforethought found a way to profit on America's Iranian troubles and get away with it.

In April 1980, Giuliani was working as a litigator at the large New York law firm of Patterson, Belknap, Webb and Tyler, where, the following winter, the Reagan Administration reached out to make him assistant attorney general in Washington and three years later U.S attorney for the Southern District of New York. On September 19, 1983, Giuliani, then U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, indicted two New York oil traders, Marc Rich and Pincus Green, for dozens of racketeering, tax, and fraud offenses but most importantly for violating President Carter's April 1980 executive orders with regard Iran.

Because they fled America for Switzerland in the summer of 1983, Rich and Green never answered any of the charges, particularly the most sinister one of entering into a conspiratorial scheme with the National Iranian Oil Company that they began arranging in April 1980, immediately after the Treasury Department's prohibitions. Nevertheless, a brief citation of the indictment with regard Iran makes it clear that Rich and Green are accused of trading with the enemy even as the ground still smouldered at Desert One and the nation still cringed for the fate of the hostages.

"Beginning on or about May 1, 1980," reads the September 19, 1983, indictment by Giuliani and his prosecutors and investigators of the Southern District of New York, "prior to the delivery of this Iranian crude oil and fuel oil under the contracts AG [Rich's and Green's company] had with NIOC [National Iranian Oil Company], the defendants March Rich and Pincus Green -- both United States citizens -- negotiated from the offices of International in New York, New York, with the principals of Transworld Oil, Bermuda [the cut-out] for the sale of approximately 6,250,000 barrels of Iranian crude oil and fuel oil for approximately $202,806,291.00."

The second thing Giuliani learned was a study in cynicism, that the long arm of the law can be constrained by a President who acts unwisely to pardon fugitive felons.

On January 20, 2001, on the final day of his presidency, two hours before he left office, President Bill Clinton pardoned 140 American citizens for various crimes, and two of those pardoned were Marc Rich and Pincus Green. Clinton explained his decision ambiguously, saying that Rich and Green and others had "paid in full," and that he had spent "a lot of personal time" on the Rich case.

The reaction from professionals was incendiary. "A disgrace," said Sen. John McCain. "Inappropriate," said then-Democratic Senate Leader Tom Daschle. "Indefensible," said the editorial page of the New York Times.

Most voluble was Rudy Giuliani, who had chosen for health reasons not to run against Hillary Clinton for the U.S. Senate seat from New York and who was finishing his last year as New York City's mayor. "He was involved in 50 million dollars' worth of tax evasion and the president just wipes it away so his life can be easier?" Giuliani asked a radio audience during a discussion of Rich. "And the fact that his family, Marc Rich's family members, raise money for the president," Giuliani added, referring to Rich's ex-wife Denise, who was involved in fundraising not only for the President and the President's affairs but also for Clinton's senatorial campaign, "raises another question that I just don't know why President Clinton would want that left behind as a legacy."

Giuliani did not mention Iran, but he did respond to a question mentioning that Rich was accused of "trading with the enemy." "He never paid any price at all of the crime he committed," Giuliani declared. "He ran away. He never pled guilty, never paid a fine. His business paid a fine but he never did and he never went to jail."

Giuliani did more than complain. Four days after the pardon, on Thursday, January 25, 2001, Giuliani refused to meet with Sen. Hillary Clinton in New York because he was "very upset" with the Rich and Green pardon. "I think what the president did was an outrage," said Mr. Giuliani. When asked if he blamed Mrs. Clinton for the pardon, Giuliani deflected suggestively: "I just don't think this is a good time to have a meeting. I think we'd all get distracted on these questions." The day before, Giuliani had stated that some of "these questions" involved the several occasions since 1983 that he had been approached by Marc Rich's representatives' offering money in exchange for reconsideration of the indictment, and the fact that he had been approached by Denise Rich the year before, who, after a conversation with Giuliani, had decided not to give money to Giuliani's brief senatorial campaign.

Six years after Giuliani and Clinton did not meet at city hall because of the Rich and Green case, both are running for the nominations of their parties. Because it is fair, 18 months from the fall campaign of 2008, to plan for the fact that Clinton will be the Democratic nominee, it is also fair to assume that, if the Republicans nominate Giuliani, he will have a potent story to tell to the American people about the perversion of presidential pardons done by Clinton's husband with regard Rich and Green.

More, Giuliani will have a deal of hard questions for Clinton that involve the predatory, unstable and, in the mouth of its president and ayatollah, now genocidal Islamic Republic of Iran, such as, Does she join him in calling for an investigation of the decision to pardon men who greedily traded with the enemy Iran at the very instance valorous American soldiers burned to death fighting to defeat it? Does she rebuke her husband's decision? Does she explain her senatorial campaign donations of $70,000.00 from Rich before the pardon? Does she address the American people with a promise that she will have the truth of the Rich and Green case in the event she is President?

In sum, Giuliani, as Republican nominee, would possess so potent a campaign challenge to Clinton, going to the heart of presidential mettle, that it might not have to be voiced by the candidate. The Rich and Green case is American justice delayed, not denied. It is the sort of treachery and trickery that, in the new presidential contest, will come back in the debate along with all the other debts run up by the tyrants of Tehran that America looks forward to marking as paid in full.

Ronald Reagan, Rudy Giuliani's inspiration since 1980, underlined the ardent ambition of America in his first inaugural address, in which he also conveyed a softly spoken warning to America's adversaries, even as the fifty-three hostages were being handed over like hunting trophies to the defeated Carter by the lawless Iran. It would be thoughtful of Giuliani to read over these words if he is the Republican to challenge Clinton, and if he is the lawman to remedy the Rich and Green capitulation: "As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not surrender for it -- now or ever."

Mr. Batchelor is the host of "The John Batchelor Show," now on hiatus.


According to the United Nations, Iran is close to enriching uranium. According to the Democrats, we should do absolutely nothing about it. Sanctions, anyone? Yeah..that will help. How long before an American city goes up in a mushroom cloud? Will that be enough proof for Nancy Pelosi? Probably not.

Just imagine the scene....you wake up one day, and God forbid, there it is on the television set. A nuclear bomb has gone off in a major American city. It will be like something out of a scene from Fox's TV show '24.' It's determined that the bomb's source is Iran...sold to an Al-Qaeda terrorist by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. What now?

In almost every other circumstance anyone can think of, this would mean war. But would the administration pull the trigger? Are we too weary from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to continue to fight the good fight? Are we going to stand idly by and watch Iran enrich uranium and build nuclear weapons? The answer to that one is yes.

Oh..and Iran is offering to stop enriching uranium...as long as everybody else does. Yeah ... let's trust them on this one.