Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Why Iran Annoys Me

Over the last 8 years, the question "What is the US going to do about Iran?" has come up about a trillion times.

Every time we ask it, the dumber it sounds, because its not actually clear that we can do anything about a country run by religious fanatics who hate us, and run their economy on oil.

Since 2001, the administration told the mullahs over and over that military force was 'still on the table,' and if Seymour Hersh is to be believed, leaked hints that the US was eager to bomb Iran into tiny bits, and then invade to kick the bits around.

Pity it had zero effect. Here's a breakdown:


Without a very special centrifuge, you can't enrich uranium and make a bomb. When Dubya was inaugurated in 2001, Iran had no centrifuges -- that we knew about. Today, Iran is running approximately 3,800 of them, and apparently wants to add another 3,000, says the International Atomic Energy Agency. International Atomic Energy Agency.


The IAEA says that this month the Iranians had stockpiled about 1400 lbs of uranium, which is enough to make one bomb, if they keep passing that 1400 lbs through the centrifuges. That's a big improvement over the 2001 uraniuum stockpile of 0 lbs.


The Iranians have been working on missiles for quite a while. Im not sure what kind of arsenal they had back in 2001. Right now they have the Shahab-3 with a range of about 1,300 miles, and they're working on the Shahab-6 which is supposed to have a range of 6,200 miles -- far enough to reach parts of the United States.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is clearly expanding its influence and aiming to become a major regional power.

If we invade them in response, they may actually USE the nuclear weapons, and I'm sure the delicious irony of setting off a nuclear conflict by invading a country to stop them from setting off a nuclear conflict would not be worth it.

One way or another, it looks like Iran is going to get some of what it wants.

The real action will take place behind closed doors in the State Department as we try to make our inevitable acknowlegement of an Iranian sphere of influence look like a dazzling victory for US foreign policy.


cnick said...

I've often wondered about the accuracy of those missiles. It's not something you see mentioned anywhere. Getting a ballistic missile on target from 6200 miles away is arguably harder than building a nuclear bomb. Of course, they aren't building those things to actually hit anything; they are basically meant to strike fear into the hearts of their enemies. As an actual weapon, they have little value.

MeatAxe said...

If the Germans can hit London from Holland with a V-2 in 1944, I think the Iranians can hit Tel Aviv from Tehran in 2009, and that's all the threat they need.

As to the 6200 mile distance, are you willing to roll the dice that they are that bad? With a large enough nuclear weapon if they are a few miles off, it hardly matters.

Lets say they miss Washington and flatten Hartford or Richmond instead, or a random area of the east coast. Does that weapon really have little value?

cnick said...

It has little value as tactical or strategic military weapon, because they have essentially no ability to actually hit a specific target, and a very small number of weapons in the arsenal. It does have value as a terrorist weapon though, in the sense that the goal is not to cause damage (though they wouldn't mind causing damage) but rather to send a message. I think the Iranian government is more rational than you give them credit for; they want these weapons not to use but to threaten and therefore to gain power in their region. (I believe the fundamental difference between Iran and many other middle eastern muslim nations is their Persian origins; Arabs are essentially tribal in nature, but the Persians have a more nation-focused view). They know that an actual attack on Israel or the US would result in extremely severe consequences.

JeffB said...

Iran is doing what any other rational actor on the international stage would do, that is, furthering its interests. It perceived a regional power vacuum, most recently after we invaded Iraq but the story is much longer and more complex than that. In any event, Iran (the government, not necessarily to be confused with its people, who don't get that much of a say in their government at this time) determined that its most effective means of inserting itself into that power vacuum was to flex its burgeoning nuclear muscles. I'm not saying that Iran has no malevolent intent, but I agree with earlier comments that the nation is unlikely to actually fire a nuclear weapon that is worth more as a threat than as a deployed resource of war.

MeatAxe said...

I don't think they'll use it either, but the fact that they could makes it very risky to invade them. The fact that its not accurate doesn't really reassure me all that much.

And Nick -- the whole point of the post is not that these particular nuts are about to blow us to pieces, but that the Iranians want to become a real power in the region and it doesn't look like we have much --if any -- influence over them.

cnick said...

Terence, I agree- Iran wants more power, and we have little influence. I don't mean to cause trouble in blogo-land, I'm just enjoying a little healthy debate.

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