Special Edition Iran – Part IX, Playing Nuclear Chicken

By Jay Holmes

As an intelligence operative, I need a good foundation in history to do my job. After all, if we don’t understand what happened in the past, we can’t understand what is happening today or why. This series outlines Iran’s past as we move toward an analysis of that country’s current nuclear capability and what it means to the West. (See Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VII, and Part VIII.)

Today, we review Iran’s history from 2005 up to the present in preparation for an analysis of Iran’s current nuclear capability and what it means to the West.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Ahmadinejad and Vladimir Putin

image from the Presidential Press and Information Office of the Russian Federation, wikimedia

August 2005

After the election of ultra-conservative hand puppet Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as President of Iran, his boss, the Supreme Ayatollah Khamenei, ordered the International Atomic Energy Agency (“IAEA”) seals at the Isfahan nuclear site to be broken. The seals had been installed as part of an economic agreement with the European community. Europe responded by quietly attempting to get Iran to adhere to the agreement that it pretended to agree to in 2003.

January 2006

Iran broke the IAEA seals at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility. Muhammad al Baradei was concerned and showed it publicly. US President George Bush announced that the US would not accept uranium enrichment by Iran. He failed to mention what “non-acceptance” would consist of beyond condemnations.

April 2006

Ahmadinejad proudly announced that Iran had enriched uranium to 3.5% concentration. This level of uranium was concerning, but not anything like the approximately 80% that is needed for a uranium fission weapon. Ahmadinejad understood this, and he knew the US wouldn’t go to war for 3.5% uranium. However, he hoped to show that he defied the US and the West. His minority of supporters in Iran cheered. The majority of Iranians were not thrilled by the news.

July 31, 2006

UN Security Council Resolution 1696 demanded that Iran stop enriching uranium. Russia and China both cooperated with the resolution because both were trying to sell Iran reactor grade enriched uranium at high prices. The resolution proved to be as effective as most UN resolutions. Not at all.

December 2006

The Iranian regime hosted an international conference for Holocaust denial. Ahmadinejad pretended to think that Western allies invented the Jewish Holocaust after World War Two. Iranian apologists in the West would later pretend that Ahmadinejad never said the many hateful things that he frequently said. More than anything, the “conference” showed how ignorant Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei is about how people outside of Iran think.

Iran’s Holocaust denial scheme backfired on Iran. The UN passed a previously stalled resolution blocking all vendors from selling Iran any nuclear equipment and technology that could be used in the development of a nuclear weapon.

February 2007

The IAEA said Iran ignored yet another deadline for ceasing its uranium enrichment and called for more economic sanctions. Hand puppet Ahmadinejad screamed more of his usual nonsensical denouncements against the evil Western World and the Zionists. Everyone wished this guy would get another speech writer. Most Iranians were embarrassed every time he opened his mouth near a microphone.

March 2007

Operating on the principal that one can never have enough enemies to fully enjoy in one lifetime, Iran kidnapped fifteen British sailors from international waters near Iran. The UK protested. Iran thumbed its nose. A few of the UK’s least intelligent journalists questioned how “this disaster could occur.”

It’s always a comfort to know that not all of the West’s most asinine journalists live in the US.

May 2007

The IAEA announced that Iran could develop a nuclear weapon within three to eight years if left unchecked in its efforts.

June 2007

Riots broke out in Iran over gasoline rationing. It occurred to Iranians that it takes a truly talented and gifted government to produce a gasoline shortage in a petroleum exporting nation. The various embargos had some impact. Iran couldn’t manage its oil industry well without outside help.

October 2007

The US came to its senses and finally cut off the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and their many lucrative corporations from US banks. The White House admitted what lots of folks knew for a long time. Iran was financing, training, and controlling the most active and best armed insurgents in Iraq. Big surprise. Not.

February 2008

Iran launched a test missile and said it was for scientific research.

Yes. That particular branch of science is called, “Hitting Europe and Israel with nuclear weapons.”

March 2008

Ahmadinejad visited Iraq for a rousing round of denouncements of Zionists and the West. Everyone outside of his Shia radical supporters in Iraq and Iran yawned.

After disqualifying all of the opposition from running for office, the “conservatives” won another round of uncontested elections in Iran. In Iran “conservative” means, “I support Ayatollah Khamenei.”

May 2008

The IAEA announced that Iran was still withholding information about its atomic programs. I was in Washington that day. My friends and I chuckled about the “shocking” news.

November 2008

Ahmadinejad congratulated Barack Obama for winning the US Presidential elections. Obama cringed.

December 2008

The Iranian police state raided the office of the human rights coalition led by Nobel Peace Prize winner, Shirin Ebadi. Iran said the office was acting as an illegal organization.

This is true. Human rights in Iran are certainly not legal.

March of 2009

Iran’s support for US President Obama ran out. Iran accused him of being another Zionist. Obama was relieved by the denouncement.

Being liked by Iran is even more damaging to an American politician’s reputation than being liked by Fidel Castro. I can only assume the White House considered it a good day PR-wise.

April 2009

Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi was convicted of spying for the US by an Iranian court. She was sentenced to eight years in prison. That it was an eight year sentence rather than hanging was clear proof that the Iranians knew she was not spying.

May 2009

The US State Department announced that Iran was the world’s leading terrorist supporter. The folks over at CIA shrugged. Many employees remembered to be grateful they didn’t work for State and didn’t have to talk to the press.

Iran freed Roxana Saberi and she returned to the US. I’m not sure who got it done. I’m glad they did.

June 2009

After Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defeated a popular opposition leader named Mir Hossein Mousavi in a rigged presidential election, protests erupted across Iran. Mousavi was hardly a reformer, but he wasn’t Ahmadinejad so the public supported him beyond what the regime had calculated they would. Khamenei ordered crackdowns against the protestors.

After the murder of a female protester named Neda Agha-Soltan was filmed on a cell phone and posted on YouTube, cell service was interrupted in Iran. Approximately one hundred protesters were believed to have been murdered by the Khamenei’s goons. Hospitals reported over a thousand seriously wounded protestors.

The international press caught on to what teenagers with cell phones were aware of for over a week and started covering the protests as well as they could. Several foreign journalists suffered beatings, arrest, and banishment from Iran. Several Iranian journalists and journalism students who covered the protests vanished.

August 2009

Ayatollah Khamenei got tired of Ahmadinejad pretending to be a real president and humiliated him by publicly demanding that he dismiss some of his key appointees. Ahmadinejad was filmed pouting.

Khamenei announced that he decided the “opposition candidate” and his top supporters were not actually foreign agents. Brilliant.

September 2009

Iran stopped denying that it was building another uranium enrichment plant at Qom, Iran. The IAEA was angry, and it only took them two months to formulate a statement denouncing the Qom uranium plant.

The denouncement was so effective that Iran announced it would build ten more uranium enrichment plants. Given that they were already operating 1,300 uranium processing centrifuges, ten more plants would be eleven more plants than they could possibly need for running nuclear reactors for generations of electricity.

December 2009

The death of the one time Ayatollah Khomeini supporter-turned-dissident, Grand Ayatollah Hoseyn Ali Montazeri, triggered a new wave of protests in Iran.  About twelve people were murdered or vanished. Montazeri was once considered Khomeini’s natural successor, but had broken with Khomeini because of the mass murder of opposition members in Iran, and because of Khomeini’s insistence on absolute authority.

January 2010

Nuclear physicist Masoud Ali-Mohammadi was murdered in Tehran. The regime blamed the killing on Israel and the US in an attempt to damage Iran’s nuclear program. However, Mohammadi was not important to Iran’s nuclear program. He likely was murdered for openly supporting opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and for refusing to step back into line. He had told his students to not fear death when considering protest because death can only hurt for a few seconds, but that the regime had hurt Iran for decades.

January 2010

Iran stepped up missile production. The US announced that US Patriot Air Defense Missiles would be deployed to Bahrain and other parts of the Persian Gulf to defend against possible missile attacks.

February 2010

Iran announced that it was “willing to ship its uranium overseas for conversion to fuel rods for peaceful use in Iran.” The offer was welcomed, but not followed by action. Russia had been offering the service to Iran for years. Nobody took Iran too seriously in its announcement. In any event, the process did not prevent them from continuing to enrich uranium beyond the levels needed for fuel rods.

June 2010

The UN imposed its fourth set of economic sanctions against Iran. Iran responded with its standard anti-American/anti-West/anti-Zionist nonsense.

July 2010

The international community condemned Iran for condemning Sakineh Ashtiani to death for “adultery.” Iran changed its mind about the stoning. Instead, it stoned her to death for an imaginary murder plot.

This sort of thing happens frequently in Iran, along with publicly hanging of juveniles who are accused of homosexuality. Few cases make it to the attention of the international community so when they do, some people are shocked. The condemnation means nothing to the police state that runs Iran under the guise of a theocracy.

September 2010

Someone in the Bushehr Nuclear Facility forgot to not open porn on their work computer, and the system was infected with the Suxtnet Worm. The infection spread to other Iranian nuclear facilities. The press said it could have been a “Nation State” that did it. Yeah. Maybe so.

December 2010

Switzerland hosted international talks with Iran. It proudly announced that a diplomatic breakthrough had occurred. The breakthrough? They had agreed to hold more talks in the future.

February 2011

Protests started up again in Iran.

Iran is an old hand at dealing with this now. They have a regular “protest response crisis team.” They beat a few hundred protestors bloody, kill a few more, and the others go home.

Iran sent one war ship and a support ship through the Suez to Syria. This was the first time that an Iranian war ship had transited the Suez since the mullahs came to power in Iran in 1979.

April 2011

In the dark comic opera that we call Iran, the rebellious child Ahmadinejad again made the mistake of pretending to be a grown up president, and again Khamenei publicly humiliated him by flexing his “supreme authority muscles.” Remember, Ahmadinejad ran on a sickening sycophantic political platform of “anyone who suggests disagreement with the Supreme Leader must be stoned to death twice.” The Iranian president’s restrained temper tantrums were rather hilarious to observe. Most Iranians found it the only thing about him that’s funny at all.

September 2011

Iran announced that the Bushehr Nuclear Power plant was on the grid. It was the first Middle Eastern nuclear power plant to go on line. The plant was originally a joint project between Iran and the US during the reign of the Shah. The funny thing was that if Khomeini had not forced Iran back into his personal Dark Age in 1979, the plant would have been on line around 1985.

October 2011

The US foiled a plot by Iranian intelligence forces to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the US. Iran denied responsibility.

November 2011

An unexplained explosion occurred at an Iranian Missile Development Center. A Revolutionary Guards General was killed.

The IAEA announced that it had irrefutable evidence that Iran was attempting to build a trigger for a nuclear weapon. The US, Canada, and the UK increased financial sanctions against Iran and froze Iranian assets. The European community did not follow suit.

In its state of financial crisis, the EU could not ignore Iranian oil. The first Iranian missile could fall on Paris some day, but in the meantime, Paris could not survive without the oil. The US and Canada could promise the UK that it would reopen wells and keep the UK supplied, but it could not promise to do so for all of Europe.

Apparently concerned that not everyone on the planet was completely despising his regime, the Ayatollah Khamenei’s thugs attacked the British embassy in Tehran. Some of the younger thugs wanted to attack the US embassy, as well. The old timers had to remind them that the US has no embassy in Iran. The the average person in Iran wondered why in the name of God after thousands of years of seeking to refine a civilization they must endure such madness.

December 2011

European intelligence services anguished over the increase in uranium refinement in Iran. Iran had the missiles. Successive Western politicians had put the day off for “tomorrow” for a long time. Tomorrows ran out. Faced with threats of yet more sanctions, Iran announced it would close the Gulf to oil traffic. It didn’t. Within the confines of White House instructions, the Pentagon tried to answer media questions about “what if.”

January 2012

The EU decided it couldn’t wait any longer to act, and it announced an embargo against Iranian oil. Iran responded by claiming that it would destroy any US naval vessels that attempted to transit the Straits of Hormuz. The US Navy sent another carrier into the Gulf, joined by British and French war ships. Iran did not attack them.

The value of Iranian currency plummeted on world markets. Financial panic set in in Iran. Many Iranians had their accounts frozen.

Oil prices climbed. Saudi Arabia (our “friend”) reduced oil production.

February 2012

Iran denied IAEA inspectors access to critical nuclear sites in Iran. The IAEA gave up and left Iran.

The US and Israel openly held joint meetings. The US started issuing more direct statements concerning possible joint strikes by the US and Israel. At that point, the only substantial, unsettled question between Israel and the US was what would be the trigger to any strikes against Iran.

The White House was told that within two months, Iran could build a nuclear weapon. During the last week of February, doors in the Capitol started opening, and people started talking across the aisle. The political chatter decreased. Congressmen were looking more serious and less theatrical. Hell, they were starting to look like a “government.”

Welcome to the fight, people.

February 29, 2012

The Pentagon entertained the press openly. It announced that it was determined to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program. When the press asked if the US had the capability to destroy the deep underground uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordo, the Pentagon stated that it could destroy these sites with large, conventional weapons.

Short of a substantial strike, nothing would dissuade Khamenei from seeking nuclear weapons. My best guess was that he was not convinced that Obama would make that strike, and especially not before the 2012 election. So far, Khamenei’s been right.

In the next installment, we will analyze Iran’s current nuclear capability and what it means to the West today.

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14 comments on “Special Edition Iran – Part IX, Playing Nuclear Chicken

  1. “The European community does not follow suit. In their state of financial crisis, they cannot ignore Iranian oil. The first Iranian missile could fall on Paris some day, but in the meantime, Paris cannot survive without the oil.”

    This is a very powerful quote, and I would assert it holds true for us here in the US at home.

    With all due respect to our president, why do we consider to purchase foreign oil and line the pockets of people who want to blow us off (and Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East) the planet?

    I wish we could agree that we are done with our dependence on foreign oil and actually feel the pinch of our addiction.

    Perhaps getting off of oil would create engineering jobs and get people motivated to really think outside of the box so we can cut our dependence on Iran (and Iraq) forever. Isn’t it always better to be independent? Isn’t it better to be the boss than the slave? What are we doing?

    And I think you are right. O is praying all of this can just be held at bay until after the election. I’m waiting for that genie with you. Fingers crossed.

  2. J Holmes says:

    Hi Renee, “I wish we could agree that we are done with our dependence on foreign oil and actually feel the pinch of our addiction.”.

    I honestly don’t know what it would take for us to get more serious about reducing our oil addiction. So far a war in Iraq and the threat of an additional war with Iran is not enough to cause us to seek a change in oil consumption.

    When it comes to transportation and industry petroleum remains the drug of choice.

  3. Gene Lempp says:

    I am no expert in this area, so, here is my questions.

    What would be the fallout, politically and for the Iranian populace, of surgical strikes that eliminated the nuclear threat without also launching an outright invasion? What would be the ramifications if the “Con Man” were removed, by whatever means, from power?

    I know the US was unsuccessful with its last several “behead the king” maneuvers (Iraq & Libya), but a combination of surgical strikes and removal of the psycho-in-charge are a better option then an invasion. Another option that comes to mind is similar to what was done in Libya, backing an internal insurgency, but what group would one back – who is trustworthy to take control if the current leadership were to fall? Were we to invade it would fix the issue the same way we “fixed” Iraq & Afghanistan – the cost of an invasion would be counted in the lives of Iranian citizens first, American (and coalition) soldiers second and topped off with a round of “we don’t know why it didn’t work or how to get out of it but they were, um, evil and hey we got to keep our Defense-driven economy alive”.

    There are so many questions, variable and unknowns in this situation – I’m truly glad there are people like you watching out for us, Jay. I know I asked and posed many questions here but somehow I think you enjoy a good query.

    • J Holmes says:

      Hi Gene. You ask good questions.

      The political and social ramifications of military action against Iran are not easily predicted because we can not accurately predict Iran’s reaction to any military action against them. With that said lets look at possible answers. I think that surgical strikes are what Western nations are contemplating. In the case of Iran’s well dispersed and (at some locations) deeply buried nuclear sites it’s going to require a major surgery. The Iranians have built their program to be resistive to air and missile attack. We can still get it done but it will require a major effort. Given the number of missiles,drones,and piloted aircraft involved in any such attack the attacking force can not ignore Iran’s air defense system and their air force.

      Given Iran’s location on the Arabian sea and the Straits of Hormuz, Iran has more options to respond with than most countries would. 40% of the world’s oil supply comes through the Straits. India, China, South Korea, and Japan are more dependent on that oil than Western nations are, but Western allies have quietly assured Japan and Korea of oil supplies during any crisis.

      If Iran attacks shipping through the Straits or other areas within it’s range, then the US, UK and possibly other Western nations would attack a variety of coastal targets in Iran.

      If Israel is involved in any of the action, then there will be more anti-Western sentiment in the region. The Saudis, in particular, have been very touchy on this point. Unfortunately, we in the West are easily deceived by any media coverage of any protest. For example an anti-American protest by a thousand Pakistanis looks impressive and we easily lose sight of the fact that most of the Pakistanis in that area did not choose to attend the well advertised protest.

      My opinion is that the ramifications to air attacks on Iran would be minimal except from the point of view of technicians, scientists and soldiers at the targets. The hysteric claims in some corners of the media by “experts” that in many cases are not too expert, that Iran could shut down the Straits for six months to a year are in my view wrong. Too many nations, including Iraq and the Gulf States, have a strong interest in keeping the Straits open. The US, Britain, and a variety of other interested parties would be willing and able to conduct extensive military operations against Iran to open the Straits within weeks.

      If Iran escalated the confrontation to that level, it could cause the end of the reign of the fake mullahs.

      My guess is that the US, UK, and other Western states have no plans to remove the Supreme Con Man because his power would remain in the hands of the large, well equipped, and highly privileged Revolutionary Guards. The West does not want to land a dozen or more Army Divisions in Iran and try to sort out their society for them.

  4. We should have intervened when the first Middle Eastern nation took over the first oilfield developed by American and British oil companies. Established law all over the civilized world says the oil belongs to the producing company with a royalty going to the owner of the mineral rights. All the oil in the Middle East – and Venezuela and Libya and other such places – should belong to the American and British companies that deveolped the oilfields.

    • J Holmes says:

      Hi David. I respectfully disagree with you on this point. Foreign Oil companies signed agreements pertaining to drilling in specified areas with those nations. In the case of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States the nations involved have never broken those agreements so I see no legal grounds for claiming that their oil belongs to the oil companies. When a company or government signs an agreement with a foreign country or a company in a foreign country they must make their own best guess as to the stability of that country and the hoodlum with whom they are signing the agreement.

      In Iran, Libya and Venezuela agreements have been broken and property and equipment owned by oil companies and other corporations has been stolen by those “governments” but those companies have no way of enforcing claims against those countries. They knew what the risks were when they drilled and they are now stuck with the results. Venezuela, Libya and Iran all still continue to feed the world’s oil addicts (addicts like me that own one or more petroleum dependent vehicles, and/or consume electricity from the grid) because market forces exert themselves without regard to political bias. They need the cash more than we need the oil.

      I do not loose sleep at night over the suffering of this planet’s oil czars or their major stock holders. The number of American and Allied lives that I would be willing to offer up to heaven for an oil company exec is precisely ZERO. If oil company execs and owners wish to make an armed claim in defense of their contracts I will show them on a map how they and their legions of well paid body guards can get to those countries in question.

  5. Surprise, Holmes the new today said the Iranian clone in North Korea has said they’re going to scale back their nuke program. The optimists in the diplomatic community say they’ll send food if they do. Have we tried starving Iran out. All we’ve got to do is call Moscow and say one word, “Afghanistan”. It’ll remind them about getting involved in relationships with needy countries, especially ones who have leaders they can’t control.

  6. J Holmes says:

    Hi Tomwisk. “Surprise, Holmes the new today said the Iranian clone in North Korea has said they’re going to scale back their nuke program.”

    I share in your response to this news from North Korea. My pleasure is tempered by the fact that North Korea has said the same thing on many other occasions and that this news from N.K. comes long after they assembled nuclear warheads and long range missiles. Lets hope that North Korea is doing something other than their usual panhandling act in this instance. I suspect that when North Korea offers to scale back its nuclear program it is simply trying to demand financial aid in exchange for the fact that they are currently unable to maintain their bomb building schedule. Time will tell. The State Department will happily engage them. I will hope for the best results. The many starving civilians in N.K. are likely also hoping for the best results.

    The effectiveness of the current sanctions on Iran are well known, but the regime in Iran has not yet been dissuaded from building nuclear warheads. The questions are whether or not they will respond and how we want them to respond to the sanctions before building nuclear warheads.

    I hope that Iran will cease their WMD program without costly military intervention from the West. I think that most Westerners are hoping the same thing.

    Your instincts for avoiding war are in my view the right instincts. You are not alone in feeling those instincts. My hope is that the combined best efforts of decent war avoiding people in the West and in Iran will allow us to avoid a war with Iran without the Iranian regime taking possession of nuclear weapons.

    There is no “cheap and easy” war to be had with Iran. Young Americans and many Iranians would pay with their lives. Such a costly war can only be justified if it allows us to avoid the greater human misery of the Iranian regime possessing and using nuclear weapons. Presidents are faced with making these grim calculations, and I don’t envy them for it.

  7. Hi Holmes.

    A depressingly good analysis of the situation.

    If anyone tries to take out their capabilities they will eventually rebuild them, especially if the same person is in power. But behind him are a stack of people who’ve enjoyed all the privileges and aren’t likely to give them up. If we tried to change the regime we’d probably get stuck with something just as bad and we may have put an extra chip on his shoulder.

    I don’t think the US, or any other oil dependent country, will give up oil until there is absolutely no other option. Companies and countries have too much invested. The large scale infrastructure change will never happen as long as there is a hope on those companies parts that they can continue to make money from their investments (with which us no-other-option consumers will oblige). Critically, there is no alternative fuel or energy storage medium that supports the 1st worlds lifestyle. To nail the lid down on that forlorn hope, we’re barely investing in trying to find one.

    I believe I’ve just talked myself into the idea that porn is our only hope. Perhaps there is a CIA plan to pepper the water supply with aphrodisiacs and the internet with viruses. It’s either that or we double MOAB their enrichment facilities.

    I hope some has that bottle, and the strength to pull the cork out.

    Cheers

    • J Holmes says:

      Hi Nigel. Yea I think you are right. We’ve let this oil issue continue even thought we have known since the 70s that it’s big trouble and a limited resource.

  8. […] Holmes brings his Special Interest Iran series to an explosive conclusion in: Crossing the Nuclear Rubicon & Two Months From A Nuclear Weapon. […]

  9. […] and REALLY interesting, Piper Bayard’s writing partner, Holmes gives us the skinny on Iran and Nukes and what it means. Share this:EmailPrintFacebookTwitterTumblrLinkedInRedditStumbleUponDiggLike this:LikeBe the first […]

  10. Richard Snow says:

    This is the best analysis of Iran I’ve read. Congratulations. It sounds as tho the West will be forced into some military action, presumably bunker-busting bombs etc, and then a fight to re-open the strait. Depressing, but thank you for the clarity.

  11. J Holmes says:

    Thank You for the compliment Richard. Here’s hoping for a miracle or two.

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