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Friday, February 01, 2008

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

Current Index
Response Time (ms)
Packet Loss (%)
China (Shanghai)
India (Mumbai)
Indonesia (Mangole)
Iran (Tehran)
Japan (Tokyo)

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 Internettrafficreport.com, 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

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

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.

07:47 Posted in Iran | Permalink | Comments (8)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Russia, Iran, and Distraction

My blogfriend Ry emailed me a Stratfor analysis entitled "Geopolitical Diary: Russia's war of words with Georgia."

The article describes Russia's scelerotic attempts to regain influence throughout the former Soviet bloc. Two things are clear: Russia is against democratization throughout eastern Europe and central Asia, and is becoming exactly as incompetent as an oil- and natural-gas- exporting country is expected to be. (When was the last time you saw geopolitical brilliance out of Saudi Arabia, or Venezuela, or...).

Unfortunately, Russia is able to hold American policy hostage because of her clientele with Iran. Whenver Russia wants America to look away, she supports this- or that- Iranian program, forcing Washington to make a deal to get the bear off her back.

A weakened Iran, of course, would hold less interest in the world, allowing America to focus on a "9/12" policy of supporting globalization and democracy.

08:40 Posted in Europe, Iran | Permalink | Comments (3) | Tags: russia, georgia

From anti-WMD to anti-anti-American

Porter, B. (2007). Bush steps up anti-Iran rhetoric. Australian Broadcasting Corporation News. Available online: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/10/01/2048304.htm.

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.

08:33 Posted in Iran | Permalink | Comments (11) | Tags: revolutionary guards

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Iran: A 9/12 War?

In two recent posts, "You're right. Both Tel Aviv and Riyadh play us like violins" and "The other Tom's Sunday column," Tom Barnett appears to lay the groundwork for supporting, or at least being indifferent to, a war on Iran. I don't mean to say that Tom has a secret agenda, or even that he embraces the logical result of his thinking. Nonetheless, the conclusion that naturally flows from his writing is a command to opponents of offensive operations against Iran: take it easy.

Working backwards, Barnett seconds New York Times columnist Tom Friedman's call for a 9/12 President. The 9/11 emergency, so goes the argument, is over. This is because emergencies are ruled by terrorists, but policy is ruled by states. We are in this for the long haul. This means getting back to normal, and letting the American system that works so well in generating wealth and happiness function. National security will take care of itself, as it always has, because we are the biggest and best country on the block.

But earlier, Tom notes that the Israeli and Saudi governments are manipulating our policy towards Iran. While the Jewish and Wahabi States are not fans of each other, both fear the rise of Iran more than they fear each other. So both advocate, using whatever means they can, for an American strike on Iran.

What a 9/12 President would do is obvious: attack Iran.

Barnett has opposed war with Iran before on the grounds that it would wreck the "big bang effect" caused by the Iraq War. I assume, that when Tom appears to endorse ludicrous ideas (like Friedman's line of "I will not vote for any candidate who is not committed to dismantling Guantánamo Bay and replacing it with a free field hospital for poor Cubans"), Barnett is actually America's governmental infrastructure (especially when it comes to national security) is sufficiently readjusted to the point where just playing for time makes sense. (America famously used the playing-for-time strategy in the Cold War.)

But if we are now playing for time, that means allowing the instability in the middle east to unfold as it will. It means that we no longer need a president who focuses on those problems, but one who allows our response to do the work for him. The rise of Iran surely is a consequence of the take-down of Iraq, as is the push-back from Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Of course, it was dysfunction in the Sunni Arab world that led to 9/11. But Iran's been deeply involved in the Sunni Arab system since 1980, at the latest. The Iranian government is just as much part of that violently dysfunctional systems as Iraq's Saudi Arabia's, or Syria's. A "9/12" President would treat the middle east as just another part of the world, and if our two closest allies in any region are threatened by a rogue enemy, would he act as an ally does or think deeply about what that means for transformative, systemic, change?

The former, of course.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Jomhuri Eslamiyi tries to convert on third and long

Whatever one may think of the Iran's behavior up to now, Iran is presently choosing a high-risk strategy. Between President Ahmadinejad's Jew- and gay- baiting speech in New York City to the sealing of the Kurdish border, the Islamic Republic has gone beyond the tit-for-tat proxy battles against America to actions that alienate potential sympathizers. (Specifically, Iran's actions tick off American liberals and Iraqi Kurds, two groups with interests halfway between Washington's and Tehran's).

There's no need to think that Iran's government is crazy, or evil, or desperate. Merely that they see a bad situation getting worse and that normal behavior on their part would lead to bad outcomes.

16:20 Posted in Iran | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: football analogies

Friday, September 21, 2007

After an Iran War: China in, Russia out?

Two of the best reasons not spoken for a war with Iran are that it would bring in China and push out Russia.

The latter first: Iran has been transforming into a Russian client state, and this relationship is enormously profitable to Russia. By supporting the Islamic Republic, Moscow is able to distract Washington from more important goals throughout eastern Europe. The fate of the soft revolutions against authoritarianism and the expansion of Europe as far east as possible simple matter to us far more than does the particular fate of Iran, or even the Shia generally. As long as Moscow is able and willing to provide Iran cover, our important work in Ukraine, and Georgia, and beyond that in Belarus and Kazakhstan, is set back. If Iran in chaos is the price that needs to be paid for expanding the European Care and crippling Russia's ability to cause mischief, then those benefits alone mean a positive ROI (return on investment).

The former last: One of the many reasons that America had trouble expanding the coalition of the willing to include Iran and China is that the Asian states are accustomed to free-riding of American efforts in the Gap (the Muslim world and Africa). Unfortunately, much of the hard work in shrinking the Gap relies less on stealth bombers and more on boots on the ground. American labor is simply too expensive to allow Washington to field a 200,000 man army a quick and successful Iraq stabilization may have required, and similarly too expensive to do much good throughout Africa. Critics of strikes on Iran often say that such a war would invite increased attention to the third world from China and India. I say good. We need the powers of the New Core as partners. If the Iran War enables that, then the struggle is worth it.

13:40 Posted in China, Europe, Iran | Permalink | Comments (6) | Tags: russia, eastern europe

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Complexities of a Strike on Iran

I recognize there's a lot of complexity to the issue of an Iran War. Tom does too. See two of his recent posts, "Signaling Iran with our proxy" and "The coming strike on Iran" for his views on the issue. And my posts, "Winners and losers of a violent end of the Islamic Republic of Iran" and "Toward a new, democratic middle east," I humbly add, are worth a read themselves.

09:25 Posted in Iran, Thomas Barnett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Taking down Iran in two easy steps

If we would attack Iran with a combination of air and naval power, we could neither expect victory through regime change (air attacks seem to harden the attacked government, at least temporarily) nor limit ourselves to this-or-that nuclear reactor (which would merely tick off more people while delaying the inevitable). Instead, an air-attack against Iran would have to aim at medium-term weakening of the government, with the specific goal of the Islamic Republic falling sometime after the end of hostilities.

While professionals may talk logistics, I'll stick to strategy, and note that Iran is open to attack, bordering American forces on the west (Iraq), the south (Persian Gulf / Gulf of Oman) and the east (Afghanistan).

Not really Persia...

With all this in mind, theoretical anti-Tehran air strikes should first seak to disable Iran's anti-air capabilities, and then (in no particular order)

  • destroy every refinery in Iran. There have already been riots across the country because of fuel shortages. While Iran is rich in crude oil, years of American sanctions and international wariness of the Mullahs have allowed Iran's refinery capacity to disintegration. Already, Iran imports 40% of its gas and diesel fuel. Knocking out her refineries could more than double that number. Increasing Iran's reliance on imported fuel forces any post-conflict government to impose rationing and price controllers on her citizens, while starving her of much-needed cash that will go to buying new supplies.

  • destroy communication links between ethnic regions of Iran. Persians in Iran are half again more numerous, as a percentage of the population, than Serbs were in the old Yugoslavia -- 51% to 36%. Further, much of the "minority-majority" areas border the heavily populated (and very easy for us to access) western portion of Iran, bordering Iraq: the Kurds, Lurs, and Arabs all live on the Iraqi frontier. Additionally, Iran has a sizeable Azeri population in the north-west, a restive Baluchi minority in the south east, and a Sunni minority near Turkmenistan in the north-east. We should not assume that an air war will spark secession. However, the goal should be to increase the stress and cost of national unity, diverting resources that could be used by the regime in other areas.

Other targets are more obvious (regime elements, military formations) or more tangentials (the ports on the Caspian Sea), but tremendous damage can be done to Iran's freedom-of-action by forcing them to become more reliant on international supplies of fuel and sub-national suppliers of security. War, when total victory is not militarily achievable, is ultimately about changing the correlation of forces. With this in mind, a war with Iran is certainly "winnable."

10:05 Posted in Iran | Permalink | Comments (30)

Friday, August 31, 2007

Smart move by the PKK

Rasheed, A. (2007). Iraq says Iran continues shelling despite protest. Reuters. August 30, 2007. Available online: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070830/wl_nm/iraq_iran_shelling_dc_1.

A few weeks ago, chatter from Washington hinted at airstrikes against the PKK, an anti-Turkish Kurdish group on the terror watch list, but with close ties to our friends in Iraqi Kurdistan. This tactic was designed to force our friends, the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, into either abandoning the fight for Turkish Kurdistan or destruction.

Instead, the PKK goes through the horns of the dilemma: last weekend, they attacked and destroyed an Iranian helicopter. This week, Iran's been shelling Iraqi Kurdistan.

This is a smart move by the PKK, which positions itself as an anti-Iranian thug organization, and a bad move by Iran, which traditionally has good relations with its ethnic minorities (though this has frayed in recent years).

Lastly, this is also a sign of our missing diplomatic surge: Iran should be helping us battle al Qaeda and connect the Middle East. This proxy war between Washington and Tehran is unfortunate, to say the least.

09:21 Posted in Iran, Iraq | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: kurds, pkk, turkey

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