Oh Mahmoud, You So Crazy!

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Over at Atlanta's Creative Loafing, Andisheh Nouraee has an essay on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that can be best summed up as: "Everybody, chill!" It's a nice antidote to the scaremongering profiles of the nutty-yet-not-really-powerful leader that have appeared in most opinion journals.

Ahmadinejad doesn't rule Iran, nor does he control its foreign or military policy. The man in charge of all that is Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran is a theocracy, and Khamenei is the theocrat-in-chief. To give you an idea of where Ahmadinejad lies in Iran's political hierarchy, note that no one can even run for the presidency in the first place without the approval of Khamenei and the Guardian Council, a group of six clerics and six conservative jurists that are selected by Khamenei.

Ahmadinejad does have some influence over foreign policy, but he doesn't steer it. None of his kooky pronouncements should be mistaken for policy statements.

You can tell that Nouraee spends less time biting her blanket and worrying about Ahmadinejad than, say, Charles Krauthammer. He posts his email address and suggests we all follow his lead and "sign [Mahmoud] up for gay-porn spam."

NEXT: When Hawks Play Chicken

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  1. “Ahmadinejad says that he doubts the Holocaust ever happened. Amin was sure the Holocaust happened; he thought it was a good idea.”

    Well, that’s a relief.

  2. You mean he may a nut job, but he’s a nut job without power who was handpicked by the people who really do run the country? Wow, I feel SO much better.

  3. Not only is Mahmoud a marginal player, but Iran, by the opnions of most experts, is 10 years away from posing a serious nuclear threat to anyone.

    Iran has a very youthful population who would probably love to break from the yoke of theocracy. Once these kids (the Iranian average age is like 24) grow up, they will bring Iran into the 21st century. Unlike Iraq, Iran is one people, one nation, with a historic role in world events. They aren’t going to tolerate the Mahmouds and Ayatollahs much longer.

    Bush and the rest of the fear mongers should shut the hell up.

    JMJ

  4. “Unlike Iraq, Iran is one people, one nation, with a historic role in world events. They aren’t going to tolerate the Mahmouds and Ayatollahs much longer.”

    Yeah, just like the Germans were never going to tolerate Hitler starting a war and the Jews were to integrated into German society for there to ever be a pogrom or Hitler to ever be able carry out his plans. God, I feel so much safer now. The Iranian people are not going to revolt anymore than the North Koreans are going to revolt. First, a lest a decent sized minority of the people happen to like the theocracy. If there is one lesson Iraq teaches, it is that dictatorships are not the result of a few bad people at the top. No matter how vile the regime is, there is always at least a decent minority who live well under them and don’t want to see them go. Second, revolutions only work when the people in charge loose their nerve and stop shooting people who dissent. Something tells me the Mullahs are not going to loose their nerve like the Shah did anytime soon. I am not saying this necessarily means we should nuke or invade Iran, but if your solution to the problem is waiting on a revolution, you are pissing in the wind.

  5. “Not only is Mahmoud a marginal player, but Iran, by the opnions of most experts, is 10 years away from posing a serious nuclear threat to anyone.

    Iran has a very youthful population who would probably love to break from the yoke of theocracy. Once these kids (the Iranian average age is like 24) grow up, they will bring Iran into the 21st century. Unlike Iraq, Iran is one people, one nation, with a historic role in world events. They aren’t going to tolerate the Mahmouds and Ayatollahs much longer.”

    I’m going just by your facts here. Iran is 10 years away from becoming a serious nuclear threat. Iranian youth want to bring Iran into the 21st century. So you’re banking on the Iranian youth making a drastic change in the next 10 years. The way i’m looking at it is that if that change does not happen in that 10 year span you’re stuck with mullahs who have nuclear weapons. I’m not saying that the radical change won’t or can’t happen, but what is the rest of the world supposed to do in the meantime? Sit on their hands and wait for the youth to bring about this change? Attack Iran now? Or something in between? I’m kind of clueless in this area, but waiting for Iran’s youth to fix this seems a little careless.

  6. Damn. I thought I was going to be able to sign Krauthammer up for gay porn spam. Instead I only got Ahmadinejad’s email address.

  7. John – then what should we do? JMJ is right about the youth of the Iranian population…I think something like 75% of people are under the age of 30 there (don’t quote me)…I think the best thing to do is to try and take advantage of that.

    While I’m not holding my breath for a revolution there, we’re in a rather hard spot. Obviously, I’m not a fan of military intervention except for the most obvious reasons, but even you said above that you weren’t sure it would be a great idea.

    So what should we do? I say we make them a most favoured nation in trade status, try to get them to liberalise their economy a bit, let the kids listen to techno and rock and roll, wear designer blue jeans, and see how great it is to have some money in your pocket and all kinds of neat things to spend it on.

    Then maybe they wouldn’t be so worried about someone depicting Mohammed.

  8. JMJ: Your first and last sentences were the only truly valid ones.

    What is more important than whether the 24-year-olds in Iran want change or not, is the white elephant that’s jumping up and down in the middle of the room: Iran wants nukes as deterrent against some sort of nationbuilding misadventure. They saw what happened to Saddam: he didn’t even have any WMD’s, and we took him out anyway. Bush has already named Iran in his ‘Axis of Evil’. We’ve been rattling sabres for years now. I’m not saying that these guys (Iran & DPRK) aren’t batshit insane, but, put yourself in their shoes. Ye Olde ‘Freedom’ Crusaders, Bush & Co., have already waged war on Iraq virtually unprovoked—and you’re named next on his list. It’s obvious that simply not having any WMD’s is going to be enough to stave off invasion—for self-preservation, you need something to get them to stay the hell away.

    At the same time, unless you have a big death wish, you’re not gonna launch these things offensively. We (the US) have enough firepower to turn your sweet little desert homeland into a smoking radioactive crater before dinnertime. But, to you, nukes are your “big stick”.

    What would YOU do?

  9. Reason’s foreign policy: Don’t worry, be happy.

  10. Oh, yes, and I forgot the second premise of Reason’s foreign policy: The Other is always right and always provoked, though perhaps Internet porn will get them chillin’.

  11. Sam’s comment policy: make up stupid hyperbolic shit and project it via snarky, vapid comments.

  12. Has anyone else noticed that Ahmadinejad seems never to appear in formal attire, whether it be a suit and tie or that black robe/ turban ensemble that seems so popular in those parts. Is this part of his populist apeal or something? Not saying it is particularly relevent, just odd.

  13. gnat: he does seem to like his podiums to be decorated like “The View”.

  14. Andisheh Nouraee is a he.

  15. Lowdog,

    I wish I knew an answer to your question. I don’t think that there is any gaurentee that the Mullahs won’t be crazy enough to at least nuke Israel. Further, yes we could turn Iran into a glass parking lot in response, but that would a horrible tragedy. I don’t think exterminating or threatening with extermination the entire Iranian population is a particularly good option. Further, once they have nukes, they can use the threat of them to cause a lot of trouble. What is to stop them from invading Kuwait and Iraq? We could try to stop them but they could threaten us with nukes. Do we really want to risk a city over Kuwait? Further, they could always give the things to terrorists. They keep saying they have a plan to destroy the West. We have to at least consider that they are not kidding.

    Ultimately, it comes down to the rest of the world doing something with us. If the world united, we could take them out in a heartbeat. That doesn’t look like that is going to happen though and I am pretty pessimistic. I really think that Iran will get nukes and use them on Israel and maybe Europe or less likely the U.S.. When that happens, I just hope that we then have the will to do what is necessary and wipe them off the face of the earth. That is a horrible thing to say and tragic for the Iranians, but I don’t see another choice if they use nukes.

  16. If Iran does anything to crazy, then we act. In the meantime we should work, quietly and carefully, to foment liberal thought among the youth of Iran.

    JMJ

  17. Why do Israels nukes so rarely come up in this discussion? It seems to me that the Iranians might be more worried about those than about a U.S. invasion. And seeing as Israel has far greater conventional military capacity than its regional enemies, why do they need the bomb? Isn’t it inherantly destabalising for only one player in the region to be nuked-up? Its like expecting Pakistan not to develope nukes after India gets ahold of them.

  18. “She posts his email address and suggests we all follow her lead and “sign him up for gay-porn spam.””

    Who? Krauthammer? Or the other guy. I better not take any chances…

  19. Let’s hear it for the official ‘Blue Jeans & Smut’ foreign policy. What better way to promote democratic materialism and unrestricted individual appetites? Seriously, forget combat; airdrop Playboys and let them get a gander of what a free society affords. Bra-busters not bunker-busters…and articles to read!

    I’m not a policy scholar, but is there an official name for this sort of cultural undermining between a repressive society and an open one?

  20. John,
    “If there is one lesson Iraq teaches, it is that dictatorships are not the result of a few bad people at the top.”

    That is the one lesson you get from Iraq?

    Seriously? How about President Bush should not be allowed to launch a war?
    How about Americans should remember the advice they got in the run up to the Iraq war. and not take advice from the people who got it so drastically wrong in that, much easier, scenario?

    How about we should get international consensus before launching unprovoked military invasions?

    There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the Iraq war, and the one you state is just confoundingly off base of the situations. The insurgency is fueled by sectarian divisions, political power, oil wealth and distribution, etc. Talking about how many bad apples there are just misses the whole thing, and avoids all of the issues required to address the problems.

  21. Tolly

    We wouldn’t want to destroy Iran’s own porn industry through our well-meaning distribution of porn-aid.

  22. TheCoach:

    how does international consensus make unprovoked military invasions any more valid? I don’t care if every other country in the world decided to legalize murder—it doesn’t mean it’s morally right.

  23. I’m not so sure that Iran would use nukes against Israel unless they are completely clueless as to the effects of radioactive fallout. Israel is about 500 miles from Iran. That’s about the distance from Boston to D.C. and I’m pretty sure they are downwind.

    That’s completely ignoring the fact that Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and others might have a problem with a nuclear device being detonated in their backyard. But maybe they’d be willing to pay that price to be rid of Israel. I don’t think so, though.

  24. Yet, somehow, we’re supposed to get a bunch of muslim kids in a theocracy to embrace liberalism?

    We need to get them into sport – specifically cricket. India and Pakisatan go absolutely bonkers for the stuff.

    Where’s the sport in Iran and Iraq? Do they have a national sport? If they do it’s probably ‘who can recite the Koran out loud fastest’.

  25. Coach,

    I am not feeding the trolls today. I am not taking the bait.

  26. Mark,

    Soccer is the big thing in both Iraq and Iran, which doesnt’ give me a lot of faith in either country considering what a barbaric “sport” it is.

  27. John,

    Firstly, it’s called football. Secondly, don’t insult it! That’s fighting talk!!

  28. “sign [Mahmoud] up for gay-porn spam.”

    Finally, a foreign policy I can really get behind.

  29. I think Iran will have nukes sooner than later. The estimates of about 10 years are, to me, rather rosy, and makes the assumption that they are using a P-1 type centrifuge. But the statement that seemed to most surprise intelligence analysts was the mention of work using the P-2 design, which was supposed to have been abandoned years ago. So the question becomes: have they been using a P-2 this whole time? If so, they could be closer to a nuke than would be comfortable to the West.

    Iran is simply learning from the implicit lesson that the US is sending out: If you don’t have nukes, we’re going to kick your ass. Afghanistan = no nukes = US attacks. Iraq = no nukes = US attacks. North Korea = likely nukes = no attack. Same with Pakistan, who have the bomb no question.

  30. t.rev is right, andi is a he. His picture next to his regular CL column shows him wearing a shawl over his head, which makes him look like a silly babuska (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) – and many folks have made the same assumption.

  31. John

    I wouldn’t throw the “troll” label around if I were you. Someone decided to feed you once and now you won’t leave 🙂

  32. Nukes & Kooks.

    Just like the USSR, Pakistan, USA, zzzzzz

  33. I fixed the gender language, but I appreciate Andisheh’s modeling my headgear for my official Reason staff photo.

  34. “Once these kids (the Iranian average age is like 24) grow up, they will bring Iran into the 21st century”

    So the race is on between 10 years till nuclear war and the youth of Iran bringing about change. Anyone want to place odds???

  35. I’d love to dismiss him as a pretender to power; I just have a few stickling points…

    1) To what extent did the election indicate popular support for his public opinions?

    2) To what extent are the mullahs concerned about that popular support?

    3) To what extent does Khamenei support him?

    Just ’cause a guy hasn’t cashed his chips in yet doesn’t mean they aren’t worth anything.

  36. If Israel didn’t have the bomb and Iran did, how long do you think it would be before Iran nuked Israel? And how long would it take after that for a lively group of nutbars to claim it never happened?

  37. We dont need to bomb Iran, Israel will do it first. We just need to tell Israel we will back them up if it starts a war. Which I dont think it will, didnt before when they bombed Oskirk, Osirik, whatever.

  38. “Has anyone else noticed that Ahmadinejad seems never to appear in formal attire”

    He has a Men’s Warehouse credit card. They guaranteed he was going to like the way he looked.

  39. In considering what action, if any, the US should take in relation to Iran, the only relevant question is whether they pose a hazard to this nation.

    If they attack Israel, or Iraq, or Kuwait, we can legitimately be horrified, and even legitimately offer assistance to the civilian victims of the attack. Realistically, we’d probably go further, and become militarily involved, whether that’s legitimate or not.

    If it seems likely that they are on the brink of developing nukes (check), and likely that they would share that capability with al Qaeda, etc. (check?), then we must ask ourselves if we must wait for a mushroom cloud to rise over Los Angeles before we act (checkmate).

    They’ve made no bones about their progress in developing nuclear technology. They’re doing a fan dance about whether or not it’s for weaponry, but I don’t think that anyone seriously believes that a nuclear bomb is not their goal.

    They have also made no bones about their active support for terrorist groups ($50 mil to Hamas this week). Again, there’s a fan dance as to whether they’re supporting al Qaeda or other terrorist groups that would seek to strike against the US, but I don’t think that anyone seriously believes that attacks on the US would not please Iran’s leadership (regardless of who it actually is).

    So… do we connect the dots, and act in the name of protecting ourselves (again), or do we continue to wait until both intentions and capabilities become clearer? Do we try to run out the clock on a domestic revolution in Iran, or do we intervene?

    The risk/benefit analysis on this one is anything but clear – I honestly don’t have a good answer… but I really don’t think that the right answer is to simply ignore the problem. (Kinda a fan of the porn airdrops, though…)

  40. Jack

    Point taken about the lively nutbars, but why do you and others assume that if Iran had the bomb they would be foolish enough to use it? Do you think their hatred of Israel is so great that they would commit suicide to destroy it?

  41. John wrote this: “Second, revolutions only work when the people in charge loose their nerve and stop shooting people who dissent.”

    Back in the pre-Bush era, before the “axis of evil” speech and the invasion of both their neighbors by the US produced a massive “rally around the flag” effect, there were large popular protests occuring in Iran on a regular basis. When some government thugs killed a couple of student protesters, the government felt so intimidated by the subsequent response that they actually arrested, convicted, and jailed some of their own internal security agents for the crimes.

    This tells me that the Iranian government was either 1) unwilling on principle to shoot their own people down in the street or 2) sufficiently worried about being toppled that they felt they had to back down.

    The goal of our foreign policy should be to allow internal Iranian politics to get back to that point. This is yet another reason why a strategic redeloyment from Iraq is in our national interest.

  42. John

    Soccer is barbaric? lol; as opposed to civilized American Football or Boxing?

    come on…

    The British sport is the only sport where you can not push shove and ram your players, you may only contact the ball, hence no helmet, shoulder guards or Kevlar products is necessary in the game. Games that are inspired from Medieval infantry drills of sweeping the enemy (ie Rugby and it’s latest re-incarnation American Football) are vicious and savage to most of the world.

  43. Clean Hands,

    Al Qaeda’s history of horrific violence against Shiite infidels suggests to me that, no, Iran is not going to give a nuke to Al Qaeda.

    See suicide bombings in Iraq, slaugher of Iranian foreign officers in Kabul by the Taliban, bombing of Shiite mosques in Pakistan, and even the old stories from 2002 about “Taliban” John Walker Lindh’s comments about Shiites during his time in Yemen.

    You might as well ask if the Nation of Islam is going to start arming the Klan.

  44. Anthony writes: “So the race is on between 10 years till nuclear war and the youth of Iran bringing about change. Anyone want to place odds???”

    Nuclear war? How do you expect Iran to deliver the goods here?

    It’ll be a little one sided.

  45. joe,

    You are being glib, joe. Just wait till the “Silent Imam” (the chap who supposedly whispers in Ahmedinehjad’s ear) shows up. Then it’s really on.

  46. And do really think you’re going to get away with your poor analysis of reality because you mentioned a mushroom cloud over an American city?

    As a wise man once said, “Fool me once, shame…shame on me. A foo ma – can’t get fooled again!”

  47. Citizengnat:

    If Israel didn’t itself have the bomb and/or the protection of the U.S. and Iran did have the bomb, Israel’s days would be numbered. They may be numbered anyway. Muslim countries feed their citizens a steady diet of the Protocols of the Elers of Zion, Mein Kampf, and other anti-Semitic propaganda. It is comforting to think that if only Israel ended its occupation of Palestinian land, things would change, but I doubt it. Israel’s existence is what radical Islamists object to. Unfortunately,the radical Islamists are on the rise. That the Palestinians opted for Hamas is not a good sign. In retrospect, it would have been better had Israel been established on a chunk of German land. Who could have objected? Israel would be a member of the EU. Not much we can do now but hunker down. Once it’s destroyed, it will be fondly remembered by all those who prefer dead Jews to live ones.

  48. “Back in the pre-Bush era, before the “axis of evil” speech and the invasion of both their neighbors by the US produced a massive “rally around the flag” effect, there were large popular protests occuring in Iran on a regular basis. When some government thugs killed a couple of student protesters, the government felt so intimidated by the subsequent response that they actually arrested, convicted, and jailed some of their own internal security agents for the crimes.

    This tells me that the Iranian government was either 1) unwilling on principle to shoot their own people down in the street or 2) sufficiently worried about being toppled that they felt they had to back down.

    The goal of our foreign policy should be to allow internal Iranian politics to get back to that point.”

    I think Joe is correct here. Even though he took a swipe at me yesterday by wrongly calling me a Dittohead. Sokay Joe, I’ll still agree with you from time to time.

  49. In retrospect, it would have been better had Israel been established on a chunk of German land. Who could have objected? Israel would be a member of the EU.

    So true. I can’t figure out why it did not happen this way in 1948. Were people stupider then? Did Palestinians complain in 1948? How were the complaints addressed? What were they thinking?

  50. Good point, Joe, although I remain worried that their interest in causing us harm may override their sectarian concerns, or even their self-interest.

    Put it this way — if they’d be willing to see a nuke go off over a US city, with the inevitable consequences that would have for them, why wouldn’t they take the risk of providing the tools to launch such an attack to an untrustworthy (to them), but dedicated (against us) foe of the US?

  51. In considering what action, if any, the US should take in relation to Iran, the only relevant question is whether they pose a hazard to this nation.

    I’m just gonna focus on square one here…

    Every rational thing anyone ever does is a function of cost/benefit. It’s just that when it comes to self-defense, the cost of doing nothing is so high that we don’t think of it that way. There are, however, different levels of “hazard”, are there not?

    Take Cuba or Hugo Chavez, for instance. …Do either of those present a “hazard” to this nation? I think they probably do, but the nature of that hazard doesn’t rise to a level that’s worth doing much about–don’t you agree?

    So once we find out that Iran is a threat (and Iran’s been a threat for decades), I’ve got a whole new set of relevant questions. How big is the threat? How imminent? How much will it cost to kill it? How likely are we to be successful–compared to some other strategy? Is the outcome of our actions likely to produce an even greater threat? …and there’s plenty more questions where those came from.

  52. Clean Hands:

    “I remain worried that their interest in causing us harm may override their sectarian concerns, or even their self-interest.”

    We’re talking about a sovereign nation here, not some loose band of jihadist crazies out to make martyrs of themselves. No, they don’t like us one bit—and maybe they would go so far as to “override their own self interest” to that end—but we’re talking about more than their own “self-interest” here. We’re talking about their own self-preservation. The nukes would obviously be traced back to them, and we’d subsequently bomb the motherfuckers into the stone age. Do you really think that the Mullahs are gonna go that route?

    “if they’d be willing to see a nuke go off over a US city, with the inevitable consequences that would have for them,”

    That’s a huge fucking “if”. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy your assertion that the Iranian state is bent on self-destruction.

  53. It might be interesting to hear from Mr. Young as to what sort of effect he would anticipate in places like Lebanon and Syria if the United States occupied Iran.

  54. Not an assertion, Evan – just a worry.

    Frankly, if they struck Israel, they’d also be acting against their personal self-preservation… do you doubt that they would do that, if they could?

  55. An addendum – by funding Hamas, are they not risking their own self-preservation? Even if we do not ultimately decide that they are a threat to us, Israel may determine otherwise pretty soon here…

  56. Clean Hands,
    Iran is funding Hamas because Hamas is the rightfully elected controlling government in Palestine. Hamas inhereted a $1.3B debt from the outgoing government. The US and EU just cut all of its funding to the Palestinian government in an attempt to have it toppled including forbiding Banks from dealing with Hamas in any way (hence, no loans to repay debt). Israel just cut it’s $55 million in monthly tax transfers to Palestine. Hamas put out a call for funds from the Arab world. Iran, the Arab Monetary Fund and other Arab investors have responded. Most say the funds are to go directly to the Palestinian people not Hamas but you know as well as I do that the government always gets its share.

    Now, tell me why the Palestinan people should trust the West? How does this not reinforce the Arab notion that the West and Isreal are aligned against the Arab world?

  57. If Iran does anything to crazy, then we act.

    Sit back, wait for the mushroom clouds. Then, we can get the UN to issue a Strongly Worded Statement of Concern. Probably aimed at the Israelis.

    In the meantime we should work, quietly and carefully, to foment liberal thought among the youth of Iran.

    What on earth makes you think we haven’t been doing this? What on earth makes you think it can work in time to get the mullahs out of power before they obtain their nukes?

    Are you willing to bet millions of lives that “quiet and careful” thought-fomenting will result in the removal from power of the Iranian theocracy?

  58. “If Israel didn’t itself have the bomb and/or the protection of the U.S. and Iran did have the bomb, Israel’s days would be numbered.”

    Israel does have the bomb. Why worry about hypothetical alternate universes when considering foreign policy to be applied to this universe?

    “Muslim countries feed their citizens a steady diet of the Protocols of the Elers of Zion, Mein Kampf, and other anti-Semitic propaganda. It is comforting to think that if only Israel ended its occupation of Palestinian land, things would change, but I doubt it. Israel’s existence is what radical Islamists object to. Unfortunately,the radical Islamists are on the rise. That the Palestinians opted for Hamas is not a good sign.”

    On the contrary, it’s a very good sign. It shows that as long as Israel exists as something to campaign against, groups like Hamas will be able to use the issue to maintain political power in elections. Assuming they are practical and corrupt (these are politicians we’re talking about), they will not abolish the one abomination that gets their “base” out to the polls (see also: Republicans and abortion).

    I’m not that worried about Iran getting the bomb. Even if they get the bomb ten years from now and the kids still haven’t taken over, it’s not as though they are likely to use it just because they have it.

    The Soviets got the bomb, and it didn’t result in nuclear holocaust. It did hamper the ability of the US to wage nuclear war against other nations without fear of retribution (so sad). The only country that’s ever abused the power of the bomb is the US, and in all likelihood if we confront Iran militarily, we’ll prove yet again that we are the country that can least be trusted with military nuclear technology (whereas Commies can least be trusted with commercial nuclear technology, apparently).

  59. Anyone who seriously proposes that Iran would “nuke Israel” in a pre-emptive strike should be automatically disqualified from participating in serious discussion. Let us list the many reasons, in ascending order of importance, this is a non-starter:

    1. Jerusalem is a Muslim holy site, no fundamentalist is going to want to vaporize the Golden Dome.

    2. The Iranians are not suicidal, they will never nuke Israel if there is a credible threat of American or Israeli reprisal. If the Iranians were really that suicidal and didn’t care about their own lives, they could effectively destroy Israel right now with conventional weapons, they could just start massing young men in Lebanon and sending suicide wave after suicide wave. If that sounds ridiculously stupid it is no stupider than starting a nuclear war. If they didn’t launch an all out sucide attack in 1980 when Iranian influence in the muslim world was at its height, why the hell would they do it now?

    3. Most importantly, if Israel didn’t exist the fundamentalists would need to invent it. Israel plays a similar role in the Muslim world as abortion in the US. It is a great tool for populist politicians to mobilize the uneducated and distract them from their own governments’ corruption and economic failures. No serious politician in the Middle East wants to see the crisis resolved, the status quo serves everyone well except the Palestinians, and no Muslim leader actually gives a shit about the Palestinians.

    A nuclear Iran is a problem because a nuclear Iran will be far bolder about intervening in Iraq and Afghanistan. A nuclear Iran will feel free to develop close ties with France, Russia and China and to ignore the US. A nuclear Iran will probably be able to delay reform for years because the achievement alone will help relegitimize the government in the eyes of many disaffected Iranians. There are some very good reasons why Iran should not have nukes. So if anyone argues for intervening in Iran you should listen respectfully, but only until they start raving about Iran nuking Israel, at that point feel free to laugh in their face.

  60. Deterrence always worked better than pre-emption, appeasement, or diplomacy anyways.

  61. Kwix, I understand why Hamas went looking for money; frankly, I think it’s terrific that we’ve stopped sending the PA taxpayer funds, anyway.

    Since Hamas continues to urge the destruction of Israel by any means available, and praises terrorist acts against Israelis, though, I have to say that I have a hard time faulting Israel for refusing to fund them.

    That Iran funds them, as vanya points out, is not an expression of concern for the Palestinians (about whom they truly do not give a shit), but is instead a means of directly funding continued terrorism against Israel. None of our affair, in truth, but possibly an important signal for us to be aware of.

    vanya – thank you for the analysis; you make some exceptionally cogent points.

    I’ll consider my face laughed in, and accept it in good cheer.

    So the only remaining question, as I see it, is whether or not there’s a risk that the leadership in Iran is actually insane enough to commit suicide by launching an attack.

    My inclination is to say that they are not, and my personal assessment of the risk is low enough that I don’t feel the need to evacuate from the large city I live near to.

    Good, thought-provoking discussion here, as always.

  62. Persilisk and Vanya:

    Maybe you guys are right. I sure hope so.

  63. Clean Hands, you made me realize I missed an important point. While I am firmly convinced that Iran does not want Israel to disappear, it is clearly in Iran’s interest to fund terrorist attacks against Israel – frequent terrorist attacks keep Israel off balance, prevent Israel from playing a positive role in the region, and keep the crisis on the front pages of Middle Eastern papers where the despotic regimes want it. So you can also make a case that a nuclear Iran will feel increasingly emboldened to harrass Israel through proxies like Hamas. Which is certainly not the same thing as obliterating Israel but also certainly not a positive development.

  64. So perhaps, likewise, Iran would not be so insane as to enable a nuclear attack against the US, but might be emboldened to step up support for harrassing attacks of a less catastrophic nature?

    Think back to the DC-area sniper attacks… this sort of attack would ideally suit the needs of an Iran — difficult to find their fingerprints on it, certainly sowed significant terror in the region, and got lots of attention while it was going on.

    (Interestingly, at least one of those shooters professed to be a Muslim, but this was downplayed in the media accounts that I recall.)

    Recruit a handful of such operatives, and you’ve got a highly effective program to keep the US off balance, and those other goals you mentioned, as well.

    However, it does seem as though the al Qaeda types have a taste for the spectacle of large-scale attacks, which are (usually) easier to detect and foil. God help us if they ever figure out that small-scale attacks can actually be a good deal more effective at sowing real terror.

    It’s easy enough to say to yourself, “A 9-11-style attack wouldn’t ever happen to *me*.” When people are being randomly gunned down all over town as they go about their daily business, it’s somehow a lot easier to imagine yourself as a potential victim, even if the overall numbers are significantly lower.

  65. certainly sowed significant terror in the region,

    I continued to get gas when my car ran out as always. THe terrorists did not win.

    *Pats self on back* 🙂

  66. “Anyone who seriously proposes that Iran would “nuke Israel” in a pre-emptive strike should be automatically disqualified from participating in serious discussion. Let us list the many reasons, in ascending order of importance, this is a non-starter:”

    This cannot be repeated enough.

    Evan,
    I agree that an unprovoked attack was stupid regradless of whether or not we had international consensus. Had we had some reasonable amount of consensus we would be in better shape though. And presumably, there is a reason we did not get the support relating to how bad the idea was. My purpose in including that though, was to highlight that there were a lot of lessons from Iraq ahead of the vague “bad apples” lesson John learned.

    John,
    I think we are seeing troll definition creep here.

  67. Sorry Coach,

    I just did not want a perfectly reasonable discussion about Iran to turn into a rehash of Iraq for the 999th time.

  68. “Anyone who seriously proposes that Iran would “nuke Israel” in a pre-emptive strike should be automatically disqualified from participating in serious discussion. Let us list the many reasons, in ascending order of importance, this is a non-starter:”

    Considering that Iran’s leadership has sad numorous times that that is exactly what they intend to do, why is it so unreasonable to take them at their word? Okay, maybe you think they are kidding, but why is thinking that they are not, a non-starter?

  69. “Anyone who seriously proposes that Iran would “nuke Israel” in a pre-emptive strike should be automatically disqualified from participating in serious discussion. Let us list the many reasons, in ascending order of importance, this is a non-starter:”

    Considering that Iran’s leadership has said numorous times that that is exactly what they intend to do, why is it so unreasonable to take them at their word? Okay, maybe you think they are kidding, but why is thinking that they are not, a non-starter?

  70. Serious question: has there ever been an Iranian-backed terror attack on the United States?

    Not attacks on Americans in the Middle East, mind you. I think we all realize that Iranian-backed terror groups in the region have been killing Americans, military and civilian, government and private, since the revolution.

    I mean on America itself.

  71. Serious question: has there ever been an al Quada backed terror attack on the United States?

    Not attacks on Americans in the Middle East, mind you. I think we all realize that Al Quada backed terror groups in the region have been killing Americans, military and civilian, government and private for years.

    I mean on America itself.

    Joe 9-10 2001.

  72. John,

    I thought Ahmedinejad said his goal was wiping Israel off the map. I take that to mean handing Israel over to Muslim rule, not turning the Islamic holy land into a radioactive uninhabitable grave. Which interpretation makes more sense to you?

    Has anyone in the Iranian leadership actually said that the policy of the Iranian government is to physically destroy Israel with nuclear weapons without provocation? And even if they have said that, I submit that it IS unreasonable to take them at their word for the reasons I stated above. The Iranian leaders are happy to martyr other people’s children but they have never shown any inclination to martyr themselves or their families.

  73. vanya –

    I agree that they are unlikely to use the nuke directly against Israel for the reasons you mentioned, but

    3. Most importantly, if Israel didn’t exist the fundamentalists would need to invent it.

    This simply isn’t true and their leaders say so constantly. They may like the fact they have an Israel to beat up, but they’d be much happier focusing more on the entire west (US, UK, etc) while living in a jew-free Israel than allowing its existance to continue.

    Same with the analogy of abortion – the anti-abortion Republicans would be much happier defending the status quo of illegal abortions, even if they lost some power due to winning, than fighting the fight today (re: South Dakota).

    Hell – we all have our favorite idiot manager at work or idiot colleague or whatever – and as much as we may be smarter than that person and as much as we may enjoy ridiculing the idiot – we’d probably prefer the idiot to be someplace else relieving us of a good joke rather than staying put so the ridicule can continue.

  74. 3. Most importantly, if Israel didn’t exist the fundamentalists would need to invent it.

    This simply isn’t true and their leaders say so constantly. They may like the fact they have an Israel to beat up, but they’d be much happier focusing more on the entire west (US, UK, etc) while living in a jew-free Israel than allowing its existance to continue.

    Obviously this is hard to prove either way. I agree that true believers like bin Laden, and probably Ahmedinejad, and, hell, probably the majority of the Muslims in the world sincerely would like a jew-free Palestine (isn’t “jew-free Israel” an oxymoron?). But I think the elites in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Iran realize that the existence of Israel is very useful to them. No way you could get Muslims as outraged about the West if you could not point to what Muslims consider a colonial outpost on “holy Muslim ground.” Now I could be overestimating the rationality of some of these people, granted. After all, German right-wing nationalists were far more popular in Germany when they had Jews around whom they could blame for everything. Then a few nutjobs decided to take the rhetoric seriously and actually get rid of the Jews, suddenly the Germans had no one to blame but themselves for their problems (well, until they started importing Turks but that’s another story…)

  75. vanya –

    All good points – I like most here don’t really know what to do if anything. It’s all about trying to predict the moves of someone else – who may or may not be completely rational. And even when they are completley rational, since their values are so much different than ours; it’s tough for us to predict the behavior anyway.

    There are some scenarios where all decisions simply suck due to the extremely limited amount of information. And personally I’m thankful I don’t have to make the final call.

    (isn’t “jew-free Israel” an oxymoron?)

    Very good point – and funny.

  76. Who made the decision to pull back the Iranian diplomatic corp from Europe? Wasn’t it Ahmadinejad? Hasn’t he been manuevering to place members on the Basij militia in key position? Hasn’t it been rumoured that the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is dying of cancer? It’s always a precarious time when a Supreme Leader of any ilk is sick and ailing.

    And today news of the clampdown, if true, doesn’t bode well. Police in Tehran ordered to arrest women in ‘un-Islamic’ dress. Note this comment from Tehran’s mayor, “”We are looking for a social utopia to live in but in the last couple of months, our attention has wavered,” Has there ever been a social utopia that has ended well?

    Our best hope is that Ahmadinejad, a true believer intoxicated with his ascension to power and who may neither be brilliant nor cunning, will overstep and move to separate the corrupt clergy from their wealth. The purges, as they turn on themselves, may ultimately free the country.

  77. Hey, John, why doesn’t your email work?

    The one with “mail2iraq” in the address – is it a fake?

    What’s the deal with that?

  78. Seriously, John, you’ve dropped some hints about going to Iraq, what people in Iraq know, that kind of thing. And suggested you were in the military.

    Are you in the military, John?

    Are you in Iraq, John?

    What is up with that fake email address?

  79. joe, you have a lot of nerve to go around questioning a veteran’s military service. Who the hell do you think you are–a Republican Party operative?

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