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August 15, 2007

Here We Go Again
Posted by Michael Cohen

As if the news out of Iraq was not depressing enough I woke up to this story in the New York Times regarding Iran:

The Bush administration is preparing to declare that Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps is a foreign terrorist organization, senior administration officials said Tuesday.

If imposed, the declaration would signal a more confrontational turn in the administration’s approach to Iran and would be the first time that the United States has added the armed forces of any sovereign government to its list of terrorist organizations.

I suppose this shouldn't come as a huge surprise since we've heard the sabers rattling on Iran for a few weeks now. But one part of the story really jumped out at me for its sad/tragic/comedic nature:

A move toward putting the Revolutionary Guard on the foreign terrorist list would serve at least two purposes for Ms. Rice: to pacify, for a while, administration hawks who are pushing for possible military action, and to further press America’s allies to ratchet up sanctions against Iran in the Security Council.

Only in the Bush administration would declaring a foreign country's military a terrorist organization qualify as a moderating step.

Not to be overly filppant here, but Iran's nuclear program is a serious issue. After all, non-proliferation has been a cornerstone of American foreign policy since the dawn of the nuclear age. I didn't even realize until recently but according to former Secretary of Defense, William Perry, President Clinton actually threatened the use of force against North Korea in 1994 if they reprocessed spent fuel to make plutonium. And the Clinton Administration wasn't exactly what you would call "trigger-happy" so clearly this was a big deal at the time.

Yet, in one more example of why the war in Iraq has been a disaster for U.S. foreign policy, our choices are incredibly narrow in how to deal with this issue. Due to our weakened international standing we have greatly diminished influence with our Allies and in the United Nations. But from military standpoint even if we wanted to rattle some cages (and no, I am not advocating a military strike against Iran) the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq and the weakened state of our military makes such an option much more difficult. Even if we wanted to threaten force I don't think it would resonate with the Iranians. As Perry argues, it certainly resonated with the North Koreans (and so no one gets the wrong impression I am not advocating a military strike against North Korea).

This represents a fundamental weakening of America's deterrent power. In their rush to show the world how "tough" America is, the Bush Administration forgot one of the fundamental lessons of deterrence - once you use force and show people the limitations of how far you will go in using it, it tends to make people fear you less. If you look at the way we've conducted the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, we ironically seem like a bit of a paper tiger, unwilling to take the really difficult steps necessary for victory (such as sending US troops into Tora Bora to capture or kill the guy who murdered 3,000 Americans). This is one case where sometimes what's not known is more powerful that what is.

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Comments

After all, non-proliferation has been a cornerstone of American foreign policy since the dawn of the nuclear age.

Oh really? And does this apply to Israel, as well?

Ever heard of India?
Tell me the weren't given a U.S. pass recently to TEST nukes...

Dare to dream, you're right - I am very troubled by what the Bush Administration did with India and nuclear technology. It's unfortunate that this hasn't received more press scrutiny.

As to SteveB's point, you could have also mentioned France, China, India and Pakistan. The policy hasn't always been succesful, but I think keeping nukes out of the hands of rogue regimes is an important foreign policy priority. Certainly, the Clinton Administration deserves a lot of credit for stopping North Korea from going nuclear in 1994 - and the Bush Admin deserves a ton of blame for dropping the ball on that one.

Iran is a state that sponsors terrorism and threatens key US interests in the region. Keeping them away from a nuke seems like a good idea to me. How we do it is another question altogether.

OK, so "non-proliferation has been a cornerstone of American foreign policy" should read: "Making sure our friends have nukes while keeping them out of the hands of any potential enemies has been a cornerstone of American foreign policy."

Not likely to shock any Americans over the age of twelve, I know, but how do you think the rest of the world views our definition of "nonproliferation"? And can you see why a country like Iran feels free to shrug off our outrage at the possibility that they might develop nuclear weapons?

Also, comparing the situation with India and Iran, Iran is a signatory to the NPT, while India isn't. The only reason the UN has any right to tell the Iranians what to do is because of this. If Iran had followed the Indian example and simply pulled out of the NPT, there would be no LEGAL justification for placing any restrictions on Iranian nuclear development.

So please tell me again, who's the "rogue state"?

So one of the main reasons they are being put on the list is because they supply peopl in Iraq with weapons........where does that put the people responsible(the US military) for letting 200,000 small arms go unaccounted for in Iraq ? I mean really, which is bigger, the amount of arms we have "lost" in Iraq or the amounts other people are trying to supply ?

So far no one has shown any hard evidence to prove Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons. Remember wmd's and Iraq? Fool me once, shame on me. . .

--Rick Taylor

Right on, SteveB.

A cheap way to convince the Iranians that they needn't build a bomb might be to stop threatening them with the bomb.

The propensity of the President and all his potential successors outside Obama to threaten them with a nuclear strike("Q Sir, when you talk about Iran, and you talk about how you have diplomatic efforts, you also say all options are on the table. Does that include the possibility of a nuclear strike? THE PRESIDENT: All options are on the table.") if they continue enriching uranium is rather an implicit violation of the NPT by itself, and doesn't lend much credibility to the anti-bomb lobby in the Iranian regime, assuming that there is indeed any pro-bomb lobby to speak of.

If I were the Supreme Leader of Iran and watched those debates I would have taken a pick axe to every IAEA sealed store of weapons grade material in my country months ago.

And to quote Henry Kissinger (March 27, 2005, WaPo) on the matter of US assistance to the Iranian program, "I don't think the issue of proliferation came up". A cornerstone indeed.

"Iran is a state that sponsors terrorism and threatens key US interests in the region"
Wait a moment. What interests? In Iraq, Iran is an ally of teh government, like the U.S. In Afghanistan both countries have a common, anti Taliban interest.
So what interests are threatened?

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