Monday, April 10, 2006

Channeling Curtis LeMay

At this point can anyone be surprised by Sy Hersh's piece about plans for a possible preemptive nuclear strike on Iran? For months, I've wondered how this administration would justify any attack in light of the NIE projection that Iran is a decade away from nuclear weapons capability. Hersh sheds some light on this: Ahmadinejad is "Hitler" (along with, as previously noted in this space, Saddam, Zarqawi, Bin Laden, Hugo Chavez, and the burgeoning "global extremist Islamic empire") and President Bush believes "that saving Iran is going to be his legacy" (his previous attempt to secure a legacy having been a disaster thus far). We know now that the administration leaked parts of the Iraq NIE that supported the case for war, while withholding what was inconvenient. Since Scooter's been singing like Beverly Sills about that, the NIE on Iran must be handled more deftly. In other words, it will be ignored or revised away---anonymously, of course. Recently we got a glimpse of that with this report:
U.S. officials are concerned that Iran may be closer than they previously believed to mastering the process for producing fuel for a nuclear weapon.

Their unease stems from a recent briefing at which U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency experts reported that Iran was close to operating a test network of 164 machines, called centrifuges, that spin uranium hexafluoride gas into enriched uranium, U.S. officials and a foreign diplomat said.

Should Iran quickly overcome the numerous technical obstacles to operating the test network, known as a cascade, it could accelerate the installation of an industrial-scale plant and begin producing highly enriched uranium much sooner than currently forecast, the U.S. officials and the diplomat said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the issue.

Based on the IAEA data, U.S. experts have concluded that "Iran could be as little as two to three years away from having nuclear weapons, with all the necessary caveats and assumptions and extrapolations about them overcoming technical hurdles," said one U.S. official. "Admittedly, those are significant assumptions."

Publicly, the Bush administration estimates that 2011 is the soonest that Iran could produce a nuclear weapon.

"They are moving much quicker than everyone thought," said the diplomat, who didn't offer an estimate on how soon Iran might be able to produce highly enriched uranium.

One U.S. official said that if Iranian engineers successfully operate the 164-machine cascade as quickly as they did the smaller assemblies, they could move up the installation of the first centrifuges of the underground plant to within the next "few months."

If all went smoothly, he continued, those machines could begin operating in 2007 and produce enough highly enriched uranium for one nuclear warhead within about one year.
So, anonymously, they're trying to whittle down the operative date for public consumption to 2008. What a coincidence. Guess who won't be in office after 2008?

I was also struck by this from Hersh:
The attention given to the nuclear option has created serious misgivings inside the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he added, and some officers have talked about resigning. Late this winter, the Joint Chiefs of Staff sought to remove the nuclear option from the evolving war plans for Iran—without success, the former intelligence official said. "The White House said, 'Why are you challenging this? The option came from you.'"
A plan for a preemptive nuclear attack that lives on, despite being disowned by its creators. CYA and plausible deniability for everyone, well in advance of whatever disaster may come of it all. Dr. Strangelove, anyone?

Normally, I'd ascribe Hersh's story to the bluster of an aggressive negotiating strategy. But if we've learned anything about Bush administration officials, it is that they are capable of saying or doing literally anything. And of course after all this nuke talk, a conventional attack against Iran would seem entirely "reasonable"---almost as if cooler heads had prevailed. Of particular interest is the claim that senior military officers have drawn the line and are willing to quit over this. If true, good. If there was ever a time for responsible adults to declare for the history books where they stand, it's now.

In prison, guards are more wary around inmates serving life sentences, because those prisoners have nothing to lose. As a desperate and increasingly rogue-like White House contemplates a dead-in-the-water approval rating, a tide of Democratic victories in the midterms, and the consequences of its own exhausted fiscal and monetary policy, vigilance becomes more important than ever.


Anonymous 10leggedshadow said...

The meme on Iran should be, if we attack Iran (and I truly believe this) it will start World War III. The administration is insane for even contemplating attacking Iran.

4/10/2006 1:25 AM  
Blogger Ahistoricality said...

The meme should be Valerie Plame was outed to keep the CIA from announcing how wrong these "hurry up" estimates are and that this administration is just messianic enough to think that the end of the world is a good thing.

Yours is shorter, though; maybe we should go with that?

4/10/2006 2:43 AM  
Anonymous Jones said...

I've worried about this moment since Bush declared himself king after 9-11, the moment when Bush would be finally, inevitably pinned down naked for all to see; just what will the cornered animal do. I think we're about to find out.

4/10/2006 4:51 AM  
Blogger Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

Yeah, it’s déjà vu all over again: following the “success” of their Iraqi ventures, the Neocon Neros of Washington are now toying with the idea of expanding their flourishing business eastward into the highly promising Persian market!

No matter how bad the news coming from Iraq, George W. Bush is still living in his rosy Neocon dream…

I can’t conceptualize the fact that his followers still believe the Pentagon-produced infomercials showing complacent cum generously breasted Baghdad girls throwing rosewater, lukums and champagne at our troops on Apr 9, 2003 …

Frankly, can’t they see Teheran’s mullahs are the only winners here?

And those ungrateful Ayyranians should be mighty satisfied and thankful for el Chimpresidente nukular supreme de la White Casa knocked their secular archenemy for them and handed them (via their SCIRI cum Da’awa stooges) two thirds of Ayyraq on a silver plate!

Plus the Persians got all that for free: future generations of infidel American taxpayers will generously pick the estimated 2 trillion dollars tab- George W’s contribution to the Koranic jurisprudential concept of “Jiziyah”…

As a seasoned Sassanid sophist might have said: With foes like these, who needs friends?

4/10/2006 8:46 AM  
Blogger Grodge said...

Thanks TCR for your spot-on analysis. Several scenarios are possible as a rationale for these "leaks", as presented in TCR's diary:

1> a test balloon sent by the WH to see the reaction of the Iran nuclear war meme. If accepted, it's go time. If not accepted, then as TCR stated, a conventional war will seem the voice of reason. (Probable)

2> the leaks were planted by a conscientious do-gooder trying to "out" the plan. (Doubtful)

3> Distraction away from the multiple messes the WH is currently in. (Possible, but irrational)

The question remains, who planted the leaks and why?


4/10/2006 10:49 AM  
Blogger copy editor said...

I for one like that they need to do Iran because this is the only administration with the guts to do it. Some interesting psychological profiles could be wrought about these

This cracked me up: "Since Scooter's been singing like Beverly Sills about that, the NIE on Iran must be handled more deftly."

But, it's war. People are dying.

I hope Sy is right and someone in JCS resigns over this. Fortunately for America and the world, these two consuls will be lame-ducked soon.

4/10/2006 11:10 AM  
Anonymous kindness said...

I agree with all the assessments so far. Originally I figured that the neo-cons running the "Show" in the Executive & DOD branches thought this was a win-win for them. Just go over to redstate and see that they are salivating for a war with Iran. And they don't want invasion war, they want a nuke 'em back to the stone age war.

Well, I also agree that his was a probable trial baloon. Although whoever presented the info to Seymore Hersch, probably though the idea was startk raving insane.

Unfortunately, that isn't a surprise with the crew in command now. Let's hope the Joint Chiefs don't resign & do REFUSE to take this country & world to WW III, cause that is exactly what'd happen.

Armageddon - well, the fundamentalist christians will be happy. What about the rest of us?

4/10/2006 11:51 AM  
Anonymous semper fubar said...

If all the saner heads resign, then we'll be left with only the real nuts who would pull the trigger on this one.

I, for one, really really hope that those saner heads STAY -- and more importantly, inform the country about what is going on.

4/10/2006 11:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

War and Piece had so many items on April 9th that pertain. They had the Bush leak hypocrisy, the nuking of Iran, and there really was pay for media at Rupert Murdoch's companies. No wonder when this administration wants to talk they go to Fox.

Rational, thinking people read Bush's and Cheney's record. They saw though them, why did it take so many others 6+ years?

4/10/2006 12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this country immuned to a military coup???

4/10/2006 12:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a reminder.. I predicted this on your blog months ago... that serious talk of a nuclear strike on Iran would happen this year.


4/10/2006 1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey TCR, you are just the person on whom I can sound out my crazy-ass unified theory of Bush ME policy.
I don't think I am describing rational thinking here, but I wonder if this could approximate what motivates Cheney.

Start with a couple of premises.

1) The Iraq war and the coming Iran war are primarily about controlling oil.

2) Cheney is one crazy motherfucker---one known to engage in grandiose long-range thinking.

I make the following observations.

3) The civil war in Iraq is impeding oil production, and will do so for some years. A spread of the conflict could have the same effect on Iran.

4) The Bush administration doesn't seem concerned in the least about the civil war. There is no serious attempt to stop the civil war, and a lot of actions by the adminstration seem calculated to increase the chance of strife. This is quite subjective, of course, and incompetence is another ready answer.
Still, let's assume for the purposes of argument that civil war in Iraq, and the fallout (ha ha) from an attack on Iran would seriously reduce the flow of oil from these two countries.

Well, my conclusion is this: given that oil is a central consideration, and given that the oil production in Iraq is predictably less, and will be in Iran if we continue on the current course, this must be a desired result.
Why? Well, here's the idea. We will control the flow of oil from the relatively friendly countries of the Arabian peninsula, both by military force, and under-the-table deals, while at the same time, the flow of Iraqi and Iranian oil is unavailabe to our real enemy!
Who is that? China, of course.
Later, after China collapses, we pump that oil for ourselves.


4/10/2006 1:33 PM  
Blogger David Studhalter said...

It seems there is a tacit assumtpion in all this that this time the Administration won't even bother to seek Congressional authorization for their insane war plans. I say this in part because, eternal optimist that I am, I simply refuse to believe that knowing what we now know, even this Republican Congress would give this President the authority to start WWIII in Iran.

4/10/2006 3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the one hand I can't believe that with the current state our military's over-committment and struggle with regards to overall manpower and NCO retention in the military, that this administration would seriously consider going up against Iran. Add to that, our utter lack of credibility on the international stage. But then I remember who is "leading" this country (right over the cliff to be precise) and think of course they are thinking it. They will think it and possibly do it regardless of the practicalities and the consequence becuse they won't have to deal with either. They will think- in for a penny in for a pound with regards to the Middle East and say why not now - things are already FUBAR. As for the practacilities, they haven't bothered with that on any topic much less war in either Afghanistan or Iraq, so why both starting now.

4/10/2006 5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also lost my drink when I read the "singing like Beverly Sills" line. Too funny. As for the rest: too scary.

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