February 17, 2005


Psywar keeps Tehran on tenterhooks (B Raman, 2/18/05, Asia Times)

Iranian leaders would be making a serious miscalculation - as Saddam Hussein of Iraq did - if they underestimated the determination of not only the US, but also of Israel, to see that Iran does not acquire a capability for the production of nuclear weapons.

It would be a serious mistake on the part of Iranian leaders and policymakers to think that the disastrous consequences of the US-led military intervention in Iraq and pressure from the rest of the world - with even the United Kingdom reportedly hesitant to go whole hog with the United States in the case of Iran, as it did in the case of Iraq - would deter any US military or paramilitary action against Iran, despite undoubted difficulties.

In its efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring any capability that might bring a nuclear weapon within its reach, the US has three options. [...]

The psywar is being waged at two levels - the political and the paramilitary. The political psywar, which is democracy-centric, is directed at the Iranian people and is being waged through Iranian dissidents in the US and elsewhere. It aims to keep alive and aggravate the divide between the reformists and the fundamentalist clerics and the liberals and the conservatives in Iranian civil society. It also seeks to exploit the already existing pockets of alienation inside Iran - and create more. The flow of US funds and sophisticated means of propaganda mounted from California and Iraq play an important role in this.

The paramilitary (covert) psywar, which is nuclear-centric, seeks to convey a message not only to Tehran, but also to Moscow, about the consequences of Iran pressing ahead on the nuclear path in disregard of the concerns of the US, other Western countries and Israel. This psywar is being waged from bases in Iraq and Pakistan. Its purpose is to create fear in the minds of Tehran and Moscow about the inevitability of US paramilitary action against Iran's nuclear establishments if they do not see reason and give up their present obduracy. The actions mounted by the US also seek to demonstrate its capability for paramilitary action, if it decides to act.

It is in this context that one has to view the reported mysterious blast at Dailam, which is in Bushehr province. The location of the blast is about 150 kilometers from the site where the Russians are constructing the nuclear-power stations. [...]

Given the normal lack of transparency in Tehran, one may never know what really happened, but it is quite possible that the explosion was the result of a US air-mounted paramilitary (covert) operation meant to demonstrate the United States' ability to carry out such an operation without being detected and prevented by the Iranians, and at the same time convey a message to Tehran and Moscow of the seriousness of US concerns over the nuclear issue and its determination to put an end to Iran's clandestine nuclear plans.

By carrying out the strike in the same province in which the Russians are constructing the nuclear power stations, but away from the construction site, the Americans could have sought to convey their message without creating any international controversy due to human casualties and other damage.

We should obliquely suggest it was us just to rattle their cages.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 17, 2005 7:59 AM

Such a warning just might make sense if the mullahcracy was truly interested in preserving the lives of Iranian citizens. (If they are interested in Iranian citizens, it is only to the extent that those citizens can preserve the mullahs' power.)

As it is, however, the Iranians are hostages. Utterly expendable. And they know it.

(Ever wonder why Iran's nuclear development centers are placed inside population centers?)

And so, the mullahs are saying to the US, "We dare you, O Satan. Make our day." Besides, we have our allies in Syria and Lebanon. And Russia. And we have our embassies.

Iran, you see, plays for rather high stakes, if it hasn't been noticed before; besides, the holy rollers are sure that Allah's in their corner.

Europe, principled as ever, is worried about the potential loss of life---not too worried, however, about the mullah's threat to incinerate Israel, though what's a few million Israelis compared to all those tens of millions of Iranians, even if the Palestinians will likely also have to suffer---as well losing another of its major oil providers, along with all those sweet bribes and kickbacks.

Of course, this poses some potentially interesting speculation: If Iran does get the Bomb and continues her threats against Israel, will the Palestinians stay put? Will we see them take temporary holidays, reenacting 1937-39 (when they did return to their homes) and 1948 (when they, for the most part, didn't? And if so, will Israel be blamed for ethnic cleansing? (Answer: why not?)

Posted by: Barry Meislin at February 17, 2005 8:35 AM

Again with the "disastrous consequences of the US-led military intervention in Iraq".

I understand the point of lowering the disaster bar like this, but it's going to backfire. If this is disaster, then we might as well start up a bunch of other little wars because disaster ain't that bad. In fact, disaster is a little hard to distinguish from success.

In a post yesterday, we commented on how little the Iraq war has cost as a percent of GDP (about two-thirds of a percentage point). If I were dictator of a country the Americans were eyeing, that is the fact that would keep me up at night.

Posted by: David Cohen at February 17, 2005 9:00 AM

Indeed, the ease and low cost of regime change, especially when contrasted with the benefits, raises the question of whether we shouldn't employ it more regularly and systematically.

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2005 9:09 AM

David - the "disasterous consequences" was going to be my point. The coalition (primarily the US) overthrew a 30 yr dictatorship and within 2 yrs democratic elections were held. By some economic and other measures the average Iraqi is doing better than before the war. The 1,500 US casualties are a tragedy but for people to keep calling Iraq a disaster seems to fly in the face of reality.

Posted by: AWW at February 17, 2005 9:18 AM

"we have our allies in Syria and Lebanon. And Russia"

So? Minor states and a failing nation. Unless Russia wants a real war, what can these "allies" do to us other than annoy us?

Posted by: Bob at February 17, 2005 9:28 AM

Don't rule out Turkey.

The ultimate "disasterous consequence" of the Iraqi intervention could be the recognition, by a willing coalition of democratic entities, of a Pan Kurdish nation across the northern tier of Syria, Iraq Iran and southern Turkey in some far and away time frame.

I hope the gas tank was a junk wing tank from a B-52 dropped by a stealth fighter, a UOA or a U-2. Give them something to think about.

Posted by: Genecis at February 17, 2005 10:04 AM

I think that Iran is getting a little jumpy.

Posted by: AllenS at February 17, 2005 11:08 AM

The mullahs may not give a damn about the average Iranian but they are not suicidal like Little Kim.

Posted by: Bart at February 18, 2005 10:48 AM