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January 15, 2006
Have We Given Up On Iran?

That's what The Scotsman reports, stating that European and American officials have resigned themselves to a nuclear Iran. After a good cop/bad cop approach by the EU and America, neither group believe sanctions will have any affect and Europe will not support military action as an alternative:

Officials in London and Washington now privately admit that they must face the painful fact that there is nothing they can do, despite deep suspicions that Tehran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons under cover of researching nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Yesterday a defiant Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country would not be deflected from its right to develop nuclear technology by referral to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions. ...

Publicly, the US and Britain, the two countries that have adopted the most hawkish stance, are pressing for international action to stop Iran. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last week that it was time for the UN to confront Iran's "defiance" over its nuclear programme, while British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw insisted that sanctions were now "on the table".

But behind the scenes there is no stomach for a fight. The US is the only country that could take military action. But with the US military already seriously overstretched in Iraq and with the mid-term congressional elections approaching there is no impetus in the White House or in Congress for another military adventure. ...

Sanctions, too, are being dismissed by government officials. "Sanctions hardly ever work anyway and can harm the people rather than the government," a source close to the Foreign Office said. "Anything else we do is highly unlikely to divert Tehran away from developing nuclear technology."

If true, this story provides a depressing development in our face-off with Teheran. In a moment where we need to unify the West against a threat that directly impacts all of our forces concentrated in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, the last quality we should display is defeatism and fatalism. The Iranian Guardian Council wants to bluff us off indefinitely until it develops the nuclear weapons that they believe will cause a standoff with the West, and fatalism on our part will create that result.

Unfortunately, what it won't provide is MAD-style deterrence from using the weapons against us. With the Soviets, their calculations remained within the rational limits of existence. They knew if they unleashed their nuclear weapons against us or one of our allies -- say, Israel -- we would have fired back with an annihilation-level counterstrike. That balance kept the so-called Cold War from being fought on a global basis; instead, we fought proxy battles around the world to keep the balance of power until Reagan came along and bankrupted the Soviets through modernization of the weaponry and new efforts such as SDI.

The Iranians do not see the world in the same way. The radical Shi'ites of Qum practice a Messianic vision of Islam, one in which going out with a bang has a higher value than survival. The mullahs will not be deterred by overwhelming American strength in this area, and will consider a Teheran-for-Israel trade to be well worth the effort and loss of Iranian life.

MAD only works as a doctrine when both sides have the same stake in survival.

On the plus side, the Scotsman appears to have sourced this story rather thinly. To my best reading of this article, it appears that the entire premise has its basis from a single source in the British Foreign Office -- not exactly a place of great enthusiasm for military adventure, like our own State Department. Let's hope that the Scotsman just got the attention of one particular pessimist on a rainy day, and that our combined diplomatic corps has not gotten to the stage of shrugging their shoulders at a nuclear-armed Iran.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 15, 2006 11:00 AM

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Tracked on January 15, 2006 11:34 AM


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