Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. -- Winston Churchill

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them. -- Galileo Galilei

I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell. -- Harry Truman

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Iran Playing a Deadly Game

The consensus appears to be that the Russian-Iranian talks were indeed just a stall tactic by Iran. The offer of Russia to perform enrichment processes for them was rejected. An “informal” compromise put forth by Russia to allow small scale enrichment in exchange for a nine year moratorium reportedly was rejected by the U.S., France, Britain, and Germany - as well as an intransigent Iran. When the idea was floated by Russia, the response was so negative that they later denied toying with the idea.

After their negotiations failed, Russia seems back on board with a referral to the U.N. Security Council. The U.S. will continue to push the issues in the U.N., but don't look for anything with teeth to emerge from all the talk for some time to come. There is another Iranian bit of trouble making that might push the American position on Iran even further down a hard line path. Donald Rumsfeld called the Iranians out on Tuesday, accusing them of sending Iranian Revolutionary Guard elements into Iraq to stir up trouble.

Besides wanting to generally do what they can to foil a stable government in Iraq, many observers believe their goal is to gain influence over the Shiite dominated areas in southern Iraq. This is, of course, where most of the Iraqi oil fields happen to be.

Rumsfeld stated that the Iranian infiltration would be something “that they, I think, will look back on as having been an error in judgment." The scale of Iranian forces sent to Iraq is not being released, nor are any specifics as to what measures the U.S. might employ to cause them to regret their actions.

Any person that thinks President Bush will allow Iran to acquire nuclear capability is whistling in the dark. If Iran does not in the end succumb to diplomatic pressures or economic sanctions, it will come to military force. That scenario, as we wrote about earlier, would not be easy or attractive. The mullahs in Iran and President Ahmadinejad, are playing a very dangerous game.

The U.S. military strategy would not be similar to the actions in Afghanistan or Iraq. Rather than having a goal of democracy building, it would more likely focus on destruction of Iranian nuclear facilities, reduction of Iran's military forces to an ash heap to eliminate retaliation, and major damage to Iran's infrastructure. Then we would probably leave the remnants to sort itself out, betting on an internal overthrow of the regime, giving aid only if a new government requests it.

The costs in all aspects of the term would be enormous to the U.S., but we will pay it before letting Iran proceed with it's nuclear program. Given the volatility of Iranian leaders, after U.N. actions against Iran are initiated, it would not be unexpected for Iran to start the fireworks. Stepping up their meddling in Iraq, sponsoring or participating in hitting Iraqi oil assets, and even attacks against Israel could not be ruled out. Iran would be looking at options that both lash back at the U.S. and E.U., and simultaneously elicit sympathy and support from Islamic countries and Jihadist groups. That is all it would take to begin the fighting in earnest.

Many diplomats warn against stringent talk that makes a military option explicit. They may be correct, but it would seem that making the bottom line as clear as possible may in fact be helpful in avoiding that eventuality. Iran should be measuring the eventual consequences of it's present course. We should be giving Iran a graceful exit strategy from nuclear development, and put forth some incentives for them to take that exit. Knowing the alternative, there might be a better chance that they will do so.

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