The well orchestrated Cartoon Wars continue unabated, Iran has tossed out the IAEA inspectors and the referral to the UNSC has been conveniently deferred until next month; meanwhile, Captain Ed wonders:
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence wants to reopen a question on what it calls "postwar" intelligence that both Congress and the administration would prefer to remain closed -- whether Saddam Hussein had WMD in late 2002. Its chair, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, says that mounting evidence and testimony point to Saddam's possession of the banned weapons prior to the final UN debates on the invasion, and that untranslated documentation holds the answer...
While some observers have suggested we may have as long as 5-10 years before Iran has a deliverable nuclear bomb, their threat to immediately begin enrichment suggests that they will have a dangerous amount of fissionables well before then; further, it is hard to have any confidence that they do not already have a nuke or two (perhaps from the AQ Khan and/or North Korean bazaar.) Certainly the Iranian behavior suggest that the leadership is either supremely confident, extraordinarily foolhardy, or some combination of the two leavened with an apocalyptic vision.
Charlie Munn, at the Officer's Club, does not agree with those who claim Israel is incapable of acting and describes a realistic scenario by which Israel could slow down Iran's nuclear program. It involves acts of war which will bring most of the Middle East into conflict, but a country facing extermination, yet again, can not be expected to exercise restraint indefinitely.
Paul Levian, a former German intelligence officer, writes in the Asia Times online, that much of the commentary about the impossibility of a military approach to Iran sounds like disinformation. In Iran and the jaws of a trap, he expands on the Israeli attack scenario:
An initial Israeli air attack against some Iranian nuclear targets, command and control targets and Shahab missile sites. Iran retaliates with its remaining missiles, tries to close the Gulf, attacks US naval assets and American and British forces in Iraq. If Iranian missiles have chemical warheads (in fact or presumed), the US will immediately use nuclear weapons to destroy the Iranian military and industrial infrastructure. If not, an air campaign of up to two weeks will prepare the ground campaign for the occupation of the Iranian oil and gas fields.
I think it is fair to say that almost no one in the West wants a military confrontation. I also think it is becoming clear that there are those in the Muslim world, unfortunately including the heads of several states, who not only would welcome a full scale "Clash of Civilizations" but are doing everything they can to bring it about.
Dymphna believes that no amount of deterrence will stop Iran from attempting to annihilate the Jews:
The only thing no one has addressed, that I know of, is the fallout — the literal fallout, this time — for Palestine and Jordan (just to name two countries with some concerns about becoming radioactive). While the goal of obliterating Israel is a top priority for countries in the Middle East, it doesn’t seem as though they, or anyone else, has been willing to discuss how they are going to handle the thousands and thousands of radioactive and sick Muslims who will be the “collateral damage” of Iran’s Annihilation Project.
Or perhaps they don’t care? Maybe the erasure of Israel is worth the death, illness, and genetic mutation of thousands of Arabs?
I pointed out in my previous posts on the Cartoon Wars (The Inexorable Logic of Terror and The Clock is Ticking) that it will be extremely difficult for the Islamists to back down; their culture does not permit weakness to be tolerated. If they are forced to back down by the Europeans they will need a new target for the greatly intensified rage that accompanies a humiliating defeat. The alternative, that the Europeans back down and institute censorship of all things that might be taken as an insult by hypersensitive Islamists, appears to be fairly unlikely. The upshot is that escalation is built into the present scenario.
My speculation is that the Administration knows that much of Saddam's WMD ended up in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, home of Hezbollah, and in the dessert in Syria. The race is on to attain regime change in Syria before the Israelis (or Americans) feel compelled to act. Finding proof of WMD in Iraq, moved to Syria prior to the invasion of Iraq, will force the West vs. Iran/Syria confrontation to ratchet upwards which is why the administration is not eager to translate all the documents found in Baghdad. The Democrats have no interest in the papers either since they have staked their party's position on "Bush lied" and the post-war intel could blow that meme to shreds along with the last vestiges of authority of the Democratic left.
At the same time, the Cartoon War is a diversionary tactic being used by the Iranians and the Syrians to keep European attention focused away from the Iranian Nuclear weapons program and the Syrian/Iraqi WMD. It is also a warning shot over the bow, letting the Europeans know that any move by Israel and/or America to deal with Syria (doubtful) or Iran (more likely) militarily will be met with violence in the streets of Europe. And, while there has been minimal mention of this in the MSM, Hezbollah on the northern Israeli frontier and Hamas, from Gaza and the West Bank, have been escalating their attacks against Israel in conjunction with their "spontaneous" riots against European embassies.
In some ways, this all looks like a high stakes game of chicken, with an explosive confrontation approaching quickly.
And here is the worst part of the crisis: whether or not things calm down is not in the hands of the West; it is up to the Islamists who are agitating, to settle down and cool off. As days go by this becomes less likely. Today there are reports that Norwegian peacekeepers in Afghanistan fired on a crowd of protesters/rioters and killed three. When passions are this high, they are difficult for anyone to control; any miscalculation at this point would pour gasoline on the fire. This is the perfect opportunity for al Qaeda to make noise. Furthermore, if Syria's thuggocracy sees their hold on power slipping away, the temptation to "use it or lose it" in regards to their WMD might well become irresistible. Finally, Debka, which always requires ingestion with a large grain of salt, recently reported that Iran is preparing for a nuclear test in early March.
If true, we have a timeline and the clock is ticking ...