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Monday, December 5, 2011

The Shadow War With Iran

Over at Wired Magazine's "Danger Room, reporter David Axe has this article, "Did Iran Capture a U.S. Stealth Drone Intact?".  Mr Axe thinks not, and I think he is right.

On the other hand, there seems to be a lot going on in Iran right now, what with assassinations of key nuclear scientists and big explosions and now this.  Are we spying on Iran?  Little doubt in my mind—and so are the Israelis (and probably so are the Russians, Chinese and Saudis).  Is someone sabotaging Iranian nuclear efforts?  In all likelihood, or the Iranians are very unlucky.

If it is us, we need to remember that these sorts of things have blowback potential down the road.  An example would be the US backed overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, in August 1953.  Some of the blowback was the Iran Hostage Crisis after the overthrow of the Shah.

For background, Wikipedia tells us:
CIA officer Kermit Roosevelt, Jr., the grandson of former President Theodore Roosevelt, carried out the operation planned by CIA agent Donald Wilber.  One version of the CIA history, written by Wilber, referred to the operation as TPAJAX.

But, the underlying question is, what do "we" do about Iran's nuclear weapons program?  The first thing to consider is that one nuclear weapon does not a major capability make.  Having crossed the nuclear threshold, Iran will probably need 25 weapons to pose a existential treat to Israel.

First, if Iran is to wipe out all the Israelis in Israel it will need more than one weapon, just because Israel is not just a single city.  If it is to not to kill a whole lot of Palestinians and also destroy the Dome of the Rock (along with the Al-Aqsa Mosque), an Iranian nuclear laydown will need a number of smaller weapons.  Then there is the need to attack Israeli nuclear retaliatory forces.  One might assume these are hardened to some degree.  Then Iran needs some additional weapons in reserve, with which to then threaten Saudi Arabia and Europe and the United States.  I am thinking they need 25 for the job.  Getting one just puts them on the road.  It does not finish the job.  (And, the number 25 is just a wag on my part.  I have not done the weaponeering needed for a definitive answer.)

To recap:
  1. One Nuclear Weapon, especially if tested, will cause the world to go into a panic, although in some quarters it will bring pride.
  2. Two Nuclear Weapons gives the Iranians the ability to do something foolish, such as attack Israel.  It will kill up to 100,000 people outright, but will bring down the condemnation of the world on Iran, and perhaps more than mere sanctions—the Israelis may well feel the time has some to unsheathe the sword.
  3. A Dozen weapons provides an offensive capability that could endanger Israel, but once used, the capability would be gone and Iran naked to retaliation
  4. 25 Bombs would give Iran both an offensive and a defensive (retaliatory) capability and make them a respected member of the nuclear club.
It is my humble opinion that the more nuclear weapons Iran produces the more conservative they will be with regard to nuclear warfare.  There will then be room for a Western deterrence of Iran.

Regards  —  Cliff

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