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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

On Challenging Iran, Or, My Letter To Senator Murray

We are all by now aware of the Senate vote to encourage the State Department to identify a unit of the Iranian Army as a terrorist organization.

I was so amazed to discover that Washington's Senator Patty Murray voted for the resolution that I immediately sent her an email expressing my most severe displeasure.

She was kind enogh to respond.
Today I have replied to her response.

Those two emails are the rhetorical tofu in tonight's dinner discussion, and I invite you to pull up to the table and join us.

First, allow me to present Senator Murray's email, which I recieved today:

Thank you for contacting me regarding U.S.-Iran relations and your concerns about possible U.S. military action in Iran . I appreciate hearing from you on this important matter.

The Iranian government's uranium enrichment program, sponsorship of terrorism, and human rights abuse s greatly concern me. President Ahmadinejad's statements calling for the destruction of Israel and denying the Holocaust are also alarming. Iran should play a more constructive role in the Middle East, and I support diplomatic efforts recommended by the Iraq Study Group to encourage Iran to do so.

I have recently cosponsored two bills to address Iran's efforts to develop nuclear weapons and support for terrorism in the Middle East. S. 970, the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act, introduced in March 2007, would tighten sanctions against Iran 's energy sector and identify Iran 's Quds Force as a terrorist organization. S. 1430, the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, introduced in May 2007, would allow states and localities to divest funding from companies with more than $20 million invested in Iran 's energy sector. It is important to note that neither of these pieces of legislation threatens or authorizes military action against Iran .

Please know that I share your concerns about our relations with Iran and will continue to closely monitor developments in Iran and the Middle East . As the Senate addresses this and other issues, I will keep your thoughts in mind.

And below, my response, sent today:

First, thanks for taking the time to reply.

It's much appreciated.

While I do share your concerns about the potential of future Iranian actions, the fact is those are potential actions.

Balanced against that are the realities that Mr. Ahmadinejad is relatively weak in his own country, Iran's recent history of being potentially supportive of US interests (particularly after 9/11), our own inability to offer an effective, sustained military response, and the fact that this action makes no sense in terms of actually making the US safer.

Here's what I mean:

Suppose we do mount a bombing raid against Iranian nuclear facilities (many of which are underground (, and located near populated areas ( -the "human shield" effect), or has been suggested, that we strike at "Revolutionary Guard" targets?

it is highly unlikely that we would successfully destroy any underground facility with any tool short of tactical nuclear weapons.


Because of the simplicity of providing relatively low-tech countermeasures: specifically shock mounting critical equipment (, and providing blast valves, as seen in this ( diagram of the "Site R" facility with which you may already be familiar.

The more likely result of such an attempt would be to cement the relationship between Iran and North Korea and Islamist elements in Pakistan; both countries which currently possess nuclear weapons, and who have demonstrated a willingness to offer those for export. It is also highly likely that such an attack would be perceived as further proof that Iran has "arrived" as a regional power, and that the US is expanding its "war on Islam".

Attacking "Revolutionary Guard" targets?

Again, our own ignorance will be greatly to our disadvantage. Exactly what is a Revolutionary Guard target? If, as appears to be the case, the Revolutionary Guard functions in the same way as the Peoples' Liberation Army in China, this would mean the Guard is an economic as well as a military organization. Do we therefore attack oil facilities, and are we prepared to accept the likely Iranian response of attacks on third-country oil facilities, or the shutoff of the Iranian oil spigot, which will cause China to apply pressure on us to back off?

Will we be looking at $150 oil the next week, coupled with the public humiliation of backing down from another pointless show of force?

Or do we instead attack troop emplacements, creating martyrs and guaranteeing the absolute support of the Iranian people in any military actions against the US that might be mounted-and absolutely guaranteeing the failure of any diplomatic efforts that might be considered or under way?

Finally, we must consider the history of our own President.

There is no doubt that he either lied or was fundamentally unaware of the most critical facts about Iraq before he chose invasion.

Further, the Downing Street memos ( demonstrate that Mr. Bush never intended to find a diplomatic solution before invading-and why would you believe, based on his long history of disingenuousness on a variety of issues that he intends to seek a diplomatic solution now?

Further, the history of the action in Iraq-the lack of planning and the obvious failure to consider any long-term consequences in particular-should leave you unwilling to trust this president; and your vote to designate the Guard as a terrorist group suggests both a greater willingness to trust this President than is safe, and a failure to recall his recent history of bad decisions and lack of forethought.

If all that wasn't enough, Mr. Bush has a history of "power-reaching" that suggests he will take this vote as all the authority he needs-or he will attack Iran based on the Commander-in-Chief's "need to respond to all those Iranian IED attacks on our troops..."

This is an absolute disaster in the making...and let's not forget that the USS Cole was nearly sunk by basically a Zodiac boat and two suicide bombers.

The narrow spaces in which our Navy will be forced to operate will be much to our disadvantage, the Straits of Hormuz are riddled with antiship missile emplacements, and we might well lose a ship or two in a major escalation-not to mention the effect on the world economy if the Straits close to commercial oil tanker traffic.

Will we be forced to invade and hold the Straits to keep the oil flowing?

So let's summarize: it will be exceptionally difficult to target and destroy any facility that is of significance, we will empower Iran by doing so, we do not have the understanding of Iran that we need to pull this off, and we are not well prepared for the consequences.

And if all that doesn't scare us, this President has a track record that, to be gentle, suggests his grasp on honesty is tenuous, at best. Trusting him to do the right thing at this point seems absurd, and that was the main source of my disappointment in your vote.

Now to be fair, I generally like Patty Murray, and I was quite appreciative that she took the time to respond; but her vote proves we, as a community, have not yet succeeded in getting the message across to everyone in the House and Senate-even those we would usually think of as likely votes for our cause.

My's not all done on these pages. A personal note to your Senator and Representatives is another way to advance the conversation; and perhaps we, as bloggers, need to put more of our attention on this most basic aspect of representative democracy.


lady macleod said...

Huzzah! And if the politicians don't change their voting it is time to change the politicians - therein lies the power of the system. I agree that more light can be brought to bear on the problem by bloggers.

Lord Higham-Johnson said...

OK - looked through it and am now wondering about the next step, as a dislocation between voting and public mood seems to be in place.

fake consultant said...

a few thoughts...

...first-a huzzah!
i'm loving it. we don't do the huzzah in the us, and we should. thanks.

that said, let's get serious.

both comments touch on a similar theme-the fluid nature of change (or lack of it) in the house and senate.

on the one hand, in most years over 90% of seats are considered "safe" for the incumbent (much of this phenomenon is traced to "barriers to entry" that discourage new candidates...particulartly money); suggesting the disconnect between voter and legislator looms larger all the time.

on the other hand, there are cycles like 1974 and 1976 where public post-watergate disgust led to massive changes in the composition of congress; suggesting you disconnect from your voters at your peril.

2006 showed signs of being one of those cycles-and 2008 even more so.

of course, who wants to wait until 2008 for any real change in this situation? that's the issue we face today.

our r friends in congress have stuck to their guns, telling us this could well be another rovian-style battle. if the goal of our r friends is to ride this out to the bitter end, never admitting the error of their ways, it is unlikely that we will see meaningful change until a new administration comes to town.

of course, electoral realities will intrude, as all members of the house must be reelected every two years...suggesting this spring will be a time of crumbling r support for the administration-or a disaster of epic proportions for the rs in congress next fall.

fake consultant said...

a final thought...the odd disconnect of senator murray, a democrat, and many others who saw this issue her way, is an interesting conumdrum.

trusting this president at this point seems irrational, but i suspect she feels compelled to show a strong face on defense, as washington state is full of conservative voters, and has a substantial military voter presence.

we have to convince democrats that the "safe" choice of never doing anything that might seem "weak" on national security is not a safe gameplan; and that is the next step i propose-personally reminding our menmbers that bold moves might be the safest moves in this cycle-and that the risk of appearing "soft" on defense is less of a risk then they might think.