Time Running Out to Stop Iran

Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran

Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran, photo by AP
Barak Ravid reports for Haaretz that Iran is closer than we thought to getting nuclear weapons:

“New intelligence information obtained by Israel and four Western countries indicates that Iran has made greater progress on developing components for its nuclear weapons program than the West had previously realized, according to Western diplomats and Israeli officials who are closely involved in efforts to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb.

“A Western diplomat who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to discuss intelligence information said the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Israel agree on that assessment.”

Mitt and the GOP have faulted Obama for not being tough enough on Iran’s nuclear quest.  If something happens militarily before the election, they won’t be able to criticize him without looking hypocritical and wimpy.  Hypocritical doesn’t faze them, hypocritical is GOP default mode, but they can’t risk looking wimpy.

On the Same Page?

Mitt in Israel today:  “We should employ any and all measure to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course, and it is our fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today:  “We have to be honest and say that all the sanctions and diplomacy so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota.”

Bibi, Obama has guts and Mitt does not.  When it comes to Iran, you’re really better off not changing horses in mid-stream.  Because you need a war horse, not a dressage horse.

Mitt the Milquetoast

Well, this has the Iranians shaking in their boots (or shaking with laughter).  Here’s Mittens in Israel today being his usual milquetoast-y self:

“I respect the right of Israel to defend itself, and we stand with Israel in peace.”

He sounded more concerned about, and critical of, British preparation for the Olympics than Iranian preparation for nuclear weapons.

Whatever the issue, the right words and tone seem to elude him.


October Surprise?

Report: US sees Israeli strike on Iran in October

Will this election season’s “October Surprise” come from Israel?  From “Report:  US sees Israeli strike on Iran in October,” Ryan Jones, Israel Today:

“A senior and widely respected analyst with Israel’s Channel 2 News said in Friday’s pre-Shabbat newscast that top American officials have become convinced that Israel will launch a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities in October, just one month before the US presidential election.

Ehud Yaari had just returned from a trip to Washington, where he told viewers that he had met with “the people one needs to talk with about this matter,” and that “my impression is that the Americans are convinced that there is very high chance that Israel will decide to attack in Iran before the elections in the US.”

According to Yaari, American officials see an Israeli strike on Iran as almost a foregone conclusion, and are focusing on their response to the possible outcomes of such an action.”  Emphasis added.

If we are engaged in military operations related to such an attack close to the election, such as protecting the world’s oil supplies or defending Israel from retaliation, the Republicans will have to shut up and support the President.  And I just don’t see voters kicking him out under those circumstances.

Running Out of Options on Iran

The latest talks with Iran about their nuclear program ended so badly that no more high-level talks were even scheduled.

Dennis Ross, who advised President Obama on Iran until his resignation last December, calls the talks a “trap.” * He says it’s time to forget the step-by-step negotiations and offer Iran a limited, monitored civilian nuclear program.  If they reject this offer, we know it’s time to fish or cut bait.

I don’t believe sanctions will change Iran’s mind or behavior.  They seem not to care about the tougher sanctions that will take effect next month.  Our efforts, along with the Israelis, to sabotage their nuclear program through computer viruses and other means have had some success, but they’re not enough.

At some point, we can’t buy any more time, and we have to take military action.  If that time isn’t now, it’s fast approaching.

The Iranians believe they are untouchable until after the election.  I hope Obama proves them wrong.  And McCain and Mitt as well.

* “U. S. Urged to Confront Iran on Nuclear Work,” Mark Landler, NYT

Mitt Lies on Obama, Iran, Israel

Mitt is lying about President Obama and his policy towards Iran’s nuclear program.  Addressing Evangelicals today, Mitt said Obama is more afraid that Israel will attack Iran than of Iran’s getting nuclear weapons.

Mitt said that if he were president, he would “make it very clear that…it is unacceptable for Iran to become a nuclear nation and that we’re prepared to take any and all action to keep that from happening.”  Which happens to be President Obama’s exact position, which he has explicitly stated over and over again.



With One Foot in the Grave, Mubarak Still Shakes an Iron Fist

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak may have been overthrown, but he’s still exerting power.  He appointed all the current members of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court, and that court has effected a bloodless military coup.

The court dissolved the Parliament that assumed power in January, a Parliament where Islamists had 70% of the seats.  The court also struck down a law prohibiting former Mubarak officials from running for president, so Mubarak’s last Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafik, will run this weekend against the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi.

When Mubarak was overthrown, the U. S. concern was that the young people demonstrating in Tahrir Square for a democratic, secular government weren’t organized enough to actually win elections.  It was believed that the only opposition group that was ready to fill a power vacuum was the Muslim Brotherhood, and that has proven to be the case.  They won about 50% of the seats in Parliament and allied with the even more extreme Islamists, the Salafis, who won 20%.

So Egypt is back to military rule.  While the Obama Administration isn’t publicly celebrating, they have to be relieved.  We’d love to see some Jeffersonian types come to power, but that isn’t about to happen.  It’s like Iran in 1979.  Overthrowing the Shah didn’t lead to democracy, it led to the insane Ayatollahs.  The Shah was a torturing, murdering bastard, but he was “our bastard,” as the CIA liked to say.  We’ve got two sets of bastards in Egypt right now, and the military are much more “our bastards” than the Islamists.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has a point when he says that the U. S. is hypocritical when it criticizes Russia for helping Assad in Syria.  We have supported and continue to support our share of bad guys.  Sometimes, as with the Shah of Iran, we even put them in power.  Lavrov referred to our support for the autocratic regime in Bahrain against its protesters seeking more freedom.

For Egyptians who are voting for president this weekend, the only vote against oppression is “none of the above.”




Syria Is Putin’s Call

As we watch atrocities unfold in Syria, some are asking why we don’t intervene there as we did in Libya.  Part of the answer is that there isn’t a rebel group in control of territory whom we could support with airstrikes.  The Syrian military is much better armed than the Libyan military was because of the Russians.

And that’s the big difference and the real story here — Russia.  Syria has been consistently and closely allied with Russia going all the way back to 1955, when Russia was part of the Soviet Union.  So that relationship of Syria as Soviet/Russian client state and major arms recipient predates the rise of the Assad family to power, which began with Hafez al-Assad in 1971.

Right now, Syria is Russia’s main source of influence in the Middle East.  Putin is going to do everything he can to maintain that power, and as long as he thinks Bashar al-Assad is good for Russia, Putin will support him and keep sending him weapons.

This isn’t a situation where Russia is on our side or is neutral, they are on the other side, and they don’t want anyone messing with their 67-year alliance.

Iran is also involved here.  Syria is Iran’s only Arab ally.  In general, the Arabs don’t like the Persian Iranians.  Iran uses Syria to provide support for Hamas and Hezbollah.

We wanted to get rid of Qaddafi?  Russia and Iran said, Knock yourself out.  We want to get rid of al-Assad?  Different story.