After Iran Gets The Bomb - Foreign Affairs Mag Cover Article

Click here to view the original proposal comprising --

(1) The Foreign Affairs article (11.5 pages),
(2) A NY Times news article (2 pages) putting the Foreign Affairs article in context, and
(3) An essay by (3 pages) providing a sharper focus for the NY Times article.
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After Iran Gets The Bomb - Foreign Affairs Mag Cover Article

Post by Pat »

I recommend we focus on --

1. "After Iran Gets the Bomb" - the lead article in Foreign Affairs Magazine for March/April 2010

2. "Debate Grows on Nuclear Containment of Iran" - NY Times Article 3/14/2010 - which was triggered by the Foreign Affairs article and which puts the Foreign Affairs article in context (the NY Times article appears below).

3. Any other materials our members encounter and post.

NY Times – March 14, 2010 Print Edition

Debate Grows on Nuclear Containment of Iran

For a few months in the mid-1960s President Johnson and his aides secretly weighed bombing China’s nuclear sites — perhaps seeking Soviet help — rather than let Mao get the bomb. Then the costs of starting another war in Asia sank in and they decided to try containment — living with a threatening regime while deterring its most dangerous moves.

It worked. Nearly five decades later, more Americans wake up worried about our trillion-dollar debt to China than about China’s arsenal. China has evolved into a comparatively manageable military competitor, at least for now.

Today a version of the same debate about whether containment is the answer is breaking out again, this time about Iran. Prominent strategists like Zbigniew Brzezinski argue forcefully that what worked in the cold war will work with the mullahs. The cover of Foreign Affairs this month is an article titled “After Iran Gets the Bomb”; it draws scenarios for dealing with what many believe is inevitable. Meanwhile, the administration races to add antimissile systems and a naval presence in the Gulf — an effort to contain Iran’s power in the region, officials say, but it sure looks like the building blocks of a nuclear containment policy, a backup in case the next round of sanctions fails to do the trick.

The White House denies that nuclear containment is on the table. “The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, period,” Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said on his testy trip to Israel last week.

But to many in the early 1960s, a nuclear China was also unthinkable. More recently, George W. Bush would regularly repeat that America would never “tolerate” a nuclear North Korea. The reality was that during the last six years of his presidency, he tolerated it, then prepared the way for the current containment strategy of intercepting shipments from North Korea to customers for its nuclear know-how.

What is striking about the current debate about containing Iran is that neither side seems entirely confident in the solidity of its argument.

Those who advocate sanctions acknowledge that three rounds enacted by the United Nations Security Council failed to change Iran’s behavior. Even if the administration wins new sanctions aimed at the Revolutionary Guard, the advocates admit it will still be a long shot that Iran would hurt enough to stop enriching uranium.

Those who argue that a military strike might be needed if sanctions fail have their own doubts. They admit they cannot predict Iran’s response — from terror strikes to oil cutoffs to confrontations in the Strait of Hormuz.

Even the administration seems tentative about when Iran will exceed American tolerance. In the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies, several senior officials complain — though never on the record — that President Obama and his staff have not clearly defined when Iran will gain a “nuclear weapons capability.” Many argue that similar indecision preceded the day in 2006 when Mr. Bush woke up to discover that North Korea had conducted a nuclear test.

So what is the argument for containment? Basically, it assumes that if China and Russia changed over decades, so might Iran. And nuclear weapons can handcuff a nation as easily as they can empower it. Last week, at the University of Oklahoma, Mr. Brzezinski argued that either an Iranian bomb or an attack on Iran would be “a calamity, a disaster.” He said containment could work because Iran “may be dangerous, assertive and duplicitous, but there is nothing in their history to suggest they are suicidal.”

Nevertheless, in their Foreign Affairs essay, James Lindsay and Ray Takeyh concede that the Iran case differs substantially from the cold war ones, and that a successful strategy today would have to recognize that fact. They urge Mr. Obama to prescribe three explicit no-go zones for the Iranians: “no initiation of conventional warfare” against another nation; “no transfer of nuclear weapons, materials, or technologies”; no increase in support for terrorists. The penalty, they argued, would have to include “military retaliation by any and all means necessary,” including the use of nuclear weapons.

It is a logical list. But there is a counterargument: Why would Iran believe the threat if the United States, having said it would never allow Iran to get a nuclear capability, then allowed it?

In fact, the administration is deep into containment now — though it insists its increases in defensive power in the Gulf are meant to deter a conventional attack by Iran. If Iran’s threat went nuclear, America might have to extend its nuclear umbrella as well. Defense Secretary Robert Gates carefully stepped around that option last week while in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, trying to reassure leaders who increasingly fear the prospect of an Iranian bomb.

Mr. Gates defended the sanctions strategy: “I think the prospects of success are certainly better than in a lot of other situations where sanctions have been applied,” he said. But he spent most of his time explaining the need for “defensive capabilities” against Iranian missiles.

Few doubt the missile threat can be contained. Strategists worry more that Iran might slip a crude weapon or nuclear material to terrorists, betting it couldn’t be traced back to Tehran. (It’s not a bad bet — the science of “nuclear attribution” is a lot weaker than it seems on “24.” )

Yet another argument against containment comes from Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser under Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush. “The ultimate consequence of trying to contain Iran has little to do with Iran itself,” he argues. “The biggest risk is that it will start an eruption of proliferation” around the Gulf, starting with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. They would doubt the American deterrent capability, he said, and the problem would spread to Japan and South Korea.

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Is Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei Like Fidel Castro?

Post by johnkarls »

The media loves to ignore an "inconvenient truth" that detracts from President Kennedy's profile as courageous.

However, that “inconvenient truth” is relevant to Pat’s recommendation that we study the possibility, since the U.S. Government is doing nothing effective to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, of applying the same “Cold War” containment strategy to Iran that we applied to the old Soviet Union.

Digressing for a moment, we had a lot of fun ridiculing Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Presidential campaign for her idea of extending the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” to the “Gulf State Six” (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman), each of whom is expected to quickly go nuclear if Iran goes nuclear.

The reason, of course, why Hillary Clinton’s suggestion is so silly is that it presumes Arabs are more stupid that Charles de Gaulle and the Israelis.

Charles de Gaulle pulled France out of NATO and developed French nuclear weapons because he didn’t believe that the old Soviet Union would believe for a minute that the U.S. would risk a nuclear holocaust in order to save France from a Soviet invasion using its overwhelming advantage in conventional weapons.

If Israel had not “taken a page” from Charles de Gaulle, it would have been for the last 37 years the answer to a trivia question = “What WAS Israel”!!!

Pulitzer-Prize author, Seymour Hersh, details in his book “The Samson Option” Israel’s nuclear capabilities and how it saved Israel when Egypt & Syria launched the “Yom Kippur War” in 1973. Henry Kissinger had imposed an ammunition boycott on Israel for more than a year because Kissinger was so upset with the imperious treatment Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan had been heaping on Arab diplomats since the 1967 war. So when Egypt and Syria (which had actually united into a single country called the United Arab Republic for 3-4 years immediately after Egypt achieved independence from Britain in 1958) launched their surprise attack on Yom Kippur in 1973, Syrian tanks were encountering virtually no resistance because the Israelis were rationing their ammunition.

Finally, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir convened the Israeli Cabinet (1) to re-affirm their long-standing policy that if they reached the point at which Israel had fewer than 24 hours to go to complete annihilation, they would fire their 7 nuclear missiles which, interestingly, were trained on Russian cities rather than Arab capitals (because Israel recognized that the old Soviet Union had been inflaming Arab public opinion against Israel since its independence in 1949), and (2) to formally agree that Israel had reached the point of fewer than 24 hours to go to complete annihilation.

Seymour Hersh’s “Samson Option” does not record the identity of the Cabinet Minister who, at that meeting, made the suggestion that a telex be sent immediately to Kissinger to inform him on what would be “going down” within a matter of minutes. Luckily, Hersh reports, Kissinger was available to receive the telex and immediately replied: “Commence firing as if there is no tomorrow – the re-supply planes will take off at dawn.” The Israelis did begin firing “as if there were no tomorrow,” the re-supply planes did take off at dawn, the Israeli-Syrian front lines stabilized, and Israel did not become the answer to that trivia question.

Incidentally, since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Israelis have been following a policy of being as self-reliant as possible with regard to military supplies.

So what is needed for a credible U.S. “nuclear umbrella” for the Gulf State Six – and also Egypt and Turkey which are also now widely rumored to be intending to go nuclear as soon as Iran does???

1. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has to believe that the U.S. would risk a nuclear holocaust to protect the Gulf State Six + Egypt + Turkey from an Iranian nuclear attack.

2. Each of the Gulf State Six + Egypt + Turkey would all have to believe that the U.S. would risk a nuclear holocaust to protect them from an Iranian nuclear attack.

3. AND EACH OF THE GULF STATE SIX + EGYPT + TURKEY WOULD ALL HAVE TO BELIEVE THAT IRANIAN SUPREME LEADER AYATOLLAH KHAMENEI BELIEVES THE U.S. WOULD RISK A NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST IN ORDER TO PROTECT THEM – because even if the U.S. would do so (and Charles de Gaulle and Israel certainly didn’t think so in their cases), and even if the Gulf State Six + Egypt + Turkey all believe it themselves, they still won’t rely on it unless they believe Ayatollah Khamenei believes it (whether or not he in fact does).

4. The fourth requirement is discussed below.

So what was the “inconvenient truth” regarding President Kennedy???

And why is it relevant to Hillary Clinton’s sophomoric idea???

When Glasnost (“openness”) became Soviet policy in the late 1980’s under Mikhail Gorbachev, vast previously-classified Soviet governmental archives were made public.

Including the cable traffic between Fidel Castro and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962!!!

Essentially, when U.S. spy satellites discovered the Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba and President Kennedy imposed a naval blockade of Cuba, Fidel Castro cabled Nikita Khrushchev to say that in the course of human history come pivotal moments at which someone is willing to make a sacrifice to achieve an important goal AND THAT HE, FIDEL CASTRO, WAS WILLING TO SACRIFICE HIMSELF AND THE CUBAN PEOPLE FOR THE SAKE OF INTERNATIONAL COMMUNISM BY FIRING ALL OF THE SOVIET NUCLEAR MISSILES IN CUBA AT THE UNITED STATES (with the observation that “mopping up” the United States afterwards should be a fairly simple matter for the Soviet Union).

And essentially Khrushchev’s reaction to all of his underlings was: “Who is this mad man and who gave this mad man custody of any of my nuclear buttons??? -- Get my missiles the hell out of Cuba!!!”

Of course, being a superb negotiator, Khrushchev maintained a good “poker face” and extracted from the U.S. the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear missiles from Turkey that were trained across the Black Sea at the Soviet Union, in exchange for his promise to withdraw Soviet missiles from Cuba which he was going to do anyway for his own reasons.

However, the U.S. media should “get over” their obsession with maintaining President Kennedy's image as a profile in courage!!!

First, because President Kennedy really was courageous in October 1962. He didn’t know that Khrushchev was planning to pull the missiles anyway. And imposing a naval blockade is under international law an “act of war” – though I am not clear whether it is an “act of war” against Cuba which was blockaded or an “act of war” against the Soviet Union if their war ships bearing down on the U.S. Navy’s blockade line were captured or sunk – or whether it was an “act of war” against both Cuba and the Soviet Union!!!

But more importantly, because an appreciation of the true state of affairs in October 1962 frames beautifully THE QUESTION THAT WE AND THE GULF STATE SIX + EGYPT + TURKEY must ponder =

Is Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who loves to say frequently (among other outrageous things) that the reason why he is acquiring nuclear weapons is to destroy Israel – (A) more like the old Soviet leaders all of whom started life as peasants and deeply loved the Russian people, or (B) more like Fidel Castro who was willing to risk annihilation of himself and his people for some Grand Idea???

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Thank You

Post by Pat »

Dear John,

Thank you for framing the issue so well.

In addition to discussing the issue of Ayatollah Khamenei's character, we should also discuss whether there is anything practical that can be done either before or after Ayatolla Khamenei acquires nuclear weapons.

With best regards,


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