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Attacking Syria and Iran? (Updated)

Writing for the American Conservative magazine, Robert Dreyfuss describes how numerous neoconservatives beat the drums of war and concludes:
The United States is indeed pursuing a hard-edged regime-change strategy for Syria. And it isn't necessarily going to be a Cold War—in fact, it could well get very hot very soon. In Washington, analysts disagree over exactly how far the Bush administration is willing to go in pursuing its goal of overthrowing the Assad government. In the view of Flynt Leverett, a former CIA Syria analyst now at the Brookings Institution, the White House favors a kind of slow-motion toppling. In a forum at Brookings, Leverett, author of Inheriting Syria: Bashar's Trial by Fire, announced his conclusion that Bush was pursuing "regime change on the cheap" in Syria. But others disagree, and believe that Syria could indeed be the next Iraq.
Fulbrighter Harry recommends the article Nuclear War against Iran by Michel Chossudovsky. The Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa writes about the US, Israel, Turkey, and NATO and opines: "The launching of an outright war using nuclear warheads against Iran is now in the final planning stages."  President Chirac's comments on the use of nuclear weapons were made after the publication of his article. While both President Ahmadinejad's statements and the response from Western leaders should be taken very seriously, they should also be considered as part of the psychological 'warfare' in the bargaining process. Any informed comments and news tips concerning the EU-3 and US policy on Iran and the progress and current threat of the Iranian nuclear program are appreciated. For excellent news and commentary on Syria check the blog of Fulbright Scholar Joshua Landis.

UPDATE 01/27/2006: Dialog International links to Flynt Leverett's
NYT op-ed. The former director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council discusses missed opportunities concerning Iran:
During its five years in office, the administration has turned away from every opportunity to put relations with Iran on a more positive trajectory. Three examples stand out. In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, Tehran offered to help Washington overthrow the Taliban and establish a new political order in Afghanistan. But in his 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush announced that Iran was part of an "axis of evil," thereby scuttling any possibility of leveraging tactical cooperation over Afghanistan into a strategic opening. In the spring of 2003, shortly before I left government, the Iranian Foreign Ministry sent Washington a detailed proposal for comprehensive negotiations to resolve bilateral differences. The document acknowledged that Iran would have to address concerns about its weapons programs and support for anti-Israeli terrorist organizations.
Another former CIA analyst, Reuel Marc Gerecht, argues in the Weekly Standard that Iran missed many opportunities for better relations with the US. He criticizes the Europeans:
Washington seriously wanted the Europeans to become more supportive in Mesopotamia; they were becoming more engaged on the ground in Afghanistan. We needed the French, Germans, and Brits to "own" our Iran policy, which would, so the sincere proponents of this policy argued, form a united Western front against the Islamic Republic. Ownership would produce responsibility -- something the commercially driven Europeans had rarely shown toward the clerical regime.
He bets that US policy makers "would rather see the clerics go nuclear than deal with the world the day after Washington begins bombing Iran's atomic-weapons and ballistic-missile facilities." Ulrich Speck discusses Gerecht's and other analyses in his German Kosmoblog at Die Zeit.

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Fuchur on :

I recommend caution concerning Michel Chossudovsky. [url=http://www.globalresearch.ca/globaloutlook/truth911.html]According to him[/url], 9/11 was just a set-up by Bush&Co...

Tom P on :

I read the Chossudovsky article. What a nut. A word of caution to the Fulbrighters, it does not reflect well on your knowledge of international affairs or reality for that matter if this is an example of where you guys get your information. As someone interested in how the world works, I don't want to waste my time with foolishness. You lost this reader. I just wanted you to know why.

Amanda on :

Michel Chossudovsky? Cited by a Fulbright scholar?

Screw the neocons on :

This says it all: http://www.lewrockwell.com/roberts/roberts144.html The total lack of rationality and competence in the White House and the inability of half of the US population to acquire and understand information are far larger threats to Americans than terrorism.

David on :

The best information about Iran's current nuclear program is contained in these two IAEA reports: http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2005/gov2005-67.pdf http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2004/gov2004-83_derestrict.pdf Everything else is pure speculation. Those who insist that Iran is "months" away from having a nuclear waapon are wrong - and they know it...

joe on :

This causes me to wonder about what has happened to the Fulbright program, if Fulbrigther Harry is using Michel Chossudovsky as a source. Of course given how popular Michael Moore is in Germany and in some segments of the US then maybe this should not really come as a surprise. Since this is a program funded by the taxpayers in the US, it would seem it is past time for a full review to be undertaken to determine what benefits Americans are receiving from their investment in people like Fulbrighter Harry.

Thomas on :

The US-German Fulbright program is only in half funded by the US. Half of all Fulbrighters are Americans. Harry is a much more common name in the US than in Germany. I have never heard of this Chossudovski guy. Apparently he is much more known in the US than in Europe. Considering all your comments lately, you seem to consider only conservative Americans as real Americans. And in your worldview, Europeans who share the views of liberal Americans are Anti-American. Or have there been different Joes making these comments?

Harry on :

Senator Fulbright was the only Senator to vote against McCarthy's "UnAmerican Committee", which was a clear violation of the first amandment. Todays government "war on terror" resembles many thought police elements which were seen in the McCarthy era and in totalitarian-type regimes. I opposed the US involvement in Iraq, as well as the concentration camp in Guantanamo, as actions not supported by the US constitution or the Human Rights Convention. Joe, if you believe the Fulbright program is supposed to pay students to come to America and to get brainwashed, you are on the wrong track. First of all, many of us were very America-friendly BEFORE they got to stay there and experience the country first-hand, and rather got their critical attitude during their stay. Second, disagreeing with the current government is not unrightful. And third, suggesting to review the Fulbright program because one of its Fellows who feels in the tradition of the Senator to stand up for certain issues, even if he is the only one, is simply incomprehensible.

ROA on :

Harry, If I interpret your comment correctly, you were pro-American when you arrived in the US and became less favorable to the country during your stay here. If you don't mind my asking, when were you here, and what caused you to change your mind about the US? Thanks.

Harry on :

Dear Roa, early nineties. Bush and Clinton were presidents. Grew up admiring the high-tech boom of the 80s in Silicon Valley (Apple, Intel, etc). Left quite disillusionized when realizing how much marketing and hot air was behind all this. Couldn't understand why the US would still claim global leadership (with less than half of science PhDs actually being US students, the other half coming from abroad). Knew already by then that the US was doomed, as nearly every American wanted to make a quick buck and did not care about substance. The current housing bubble and debt mania confirms what I recognized already then as a huge structural problem: sustainability was not maintained. The popping of the new economy drove a lot of Chinese and Indian engineers back into their homecountries. The rise of these powers is a direct consequence of the bust the high-tech bubble of 2000/2001. And GWBush has made things worse by not letting foreign science students and post-docs back into the US after 9/11. He is cutting off his main blood vessels. Brain drain, just like in Germany from 33 to 45. Kicked the best brains out of the country. Not sustainable in the long term.

joe on :

Harry, Concentration camp is an interesting choice of words for you to use. I have to assume you have a different definition of this than I do. Would you mind sharing what that definition is? Thank you.

ROA on :

Harry, I think your image of America is incomplete. I can’t argue that to a degree everything you describe about America exists, but I don’t think it is the complete picture. I’m not sure what you are talking about concerning “marketing and hot air was behind all this” so I won’t comment about that. I do think the lack of US students receiving scientific PhD’s is a serious problem, but not one that is insurmountable. If we aren’t the global leaders in many fields, who is? The distance between the US and other countries is rapidly decreasing, but what other country can claim it? Much of the decreasing gap between the US and the rest of the world is due to the simple fact that 60 years ago, we were about the only developed country that hadn’t been destroyed. I see it as similar to the decreasing difference between parent and child as a child grows up. I will admit that the US policies have not always been the best, but what country has always made the right decision? According to Eurostat 2004, the overall US general government debt as a percentage of GDP was almost identical to the EU-15 and EU-25, and slightly less than the Euro-zone in 2003. Not good, but not worse than Europe. I think the US is also in a slightly better demographic position than Europe because our birthrate has not fallen as much as Europe’s has. You are wrong that every American wants to make a quick buck. It is true that many do, and so do the immigrants that locate here for that matter. But many Americans are looking for a more stable, secure lifestyle. They just don’t make the news. I also disagree that the only reason Indian and Chinese immigrants returned home was the bursting of the dot com boom. I think one of the reasons they returned home was so they could make even more money than they could in the states. A combination of subject knowledge and contacts in both the US and their home countries gave them a tremendous edge in arranging business deals between the US and their home country companies. We do need to simplify the application process for foreign students. However, I am not positive all the blame lies with president Bush. When college reporting changes were first proposed after 9-11 many colleges and universities strongly resisted. To me it seemed that all they were willing to do was take the students money. They were not interested in making sure students were actually attending classes or any other activities that would verify foreign students were really students rather than people who had taken advantage of their student visa to enter the US. I do not know if that attitude has changed.

Harry on :

ROA: Thanks for your account. I prefer to disagree with you in a few points. (a) "If we aren't the global leaders, who is?" This sentence exactly describes the state of mind assuming eternal superiority in each and every field. I give you several examples: manufacturing: Without a doubt Germany and Japan are the world leaders in manufacturing. Look at absolute or relative numbers, no other countries manufacture and export that many goods. And the manufacturing standards are really the highest of the world. Came partly due to the high wages and the need for rationalization. America has gotten rid of its manufacturing base. By focusing on the service sector, it started a death spiral of wave deflation. Formerly it was thought, that getting out of the primary AND secondary sector and shifting into the tertiary sector was good. Wrong. The programming jobs, accounting, etc was and still is outsourced to India, and the manufacturing base especially around the midwest as well as in California is nearly gone. In a large part of the country, only real estate related growth was keeping the economy going, but this was of course a house of cards with is finally crumbling. The fact that the US has a larger birth rate is highly related to Hispanic immigration. Of course, Germany could raise its birth rate as well by granting all immigrants German citizenship. Regarding deficit and debt: The US deficit is far over 4% GDP, and the debt is beyond 100%. Add to that the fact that the real unemployment rate is much higher and the real growth rate is much lower (due to so-called hedonistic statistics), the US economy is in terrible shape. However, I do not want to claim that Europe as a whole is doing better. However, going to Eurostat and taking a look at the trade gap deficit, you will see that the US is pretty much underwater, whereas Germany alone is fueling the trade-deficit-ridden nations of Spain, Portugal, and the United Kingdom. Why German politicians do not stop financing the spending sprees of their European counterparts is beyond my reasoning. At least as a German politician I would take care to not pay more into the EU than getting in return. If we stopped our net payments to the EU (because we get bashed all the time for being the worst and last and such), our deficit would fall way below 3% GDP. (b): The problem with the students is not with undergrads. It is with grad students. Usually, they have tuition fee waivers, get paid by their departments anyways as RAs, and do not contribute much to the universities budget. Lock out the rich undergrads from Saudi Arabia who pay their way through college, but don't kick out the Chinese grad students who do all the research and who have no money anyway to pay for grad school tuition.

joe on :

David, I tend to agree with you but not because of the IEAE reports. To accept the IEAE reports as the final authority in this, you have to accept that the Iranians have been forthcoming in allowing full, open and complete inspection of their nuclear efforts. I am not this trusting. Equally the use of the term months can be misleading. I have read a very good analysis of the processes, which would be required to make a nuclear weapon. It requires a tremendous scientific effort and a lot of things have to go right at each step. A mistake at any point causes delays of varying magnitudes in time to completion. I would think 24 months is a realistic projection for their first weapon under the most ideal set of circumstances for Iran. Or one can say 2 years. Of course, the term months is applicable and defined to some extent as to where you stand in relationship to the threat a nuclear armed Iran presents. For the US months might mean a decade or more. For Israel it might mean 18 months or less. Assuming even this is wrong and it is 3 years or 4 years. This is not a very long time given the EU 3 have been in discussions with Iran now for 3 years and seem to be no closer to resolution than when they started. Regardless of the time lines, I do not find this to be particularly encouraging.

Thomas on :

"I would think 24 months is a realistic projection for their first weapon under the most ideal set of circumstances for Iran. Or one can say 2 years." Or one could say 100 weeks... "For the US months might mean a decade or more. For Israel it might mean 18 months or less." Have you been drinking?

joe on :

Thomas, In the context of this discussion, I am of the opinion time is a relative self-defining term for each nation. This definition would include an assessment of the threat, development capabilities, delivery systems, impact on geo political stability, counter measures or defense, second strike capability, etc. It is really about where the tipping point is. For Israel it might be Iran having the knowledge to develop a nuclear weapon. For the US it might be the actually delivery of a weapon within the US. It also depends on what you believe to be the actual threat of nuclear weapon. If you believe the destruction of 25% of a nations population would effectively end its social fabric and cohesion, then my statement of 18 months and decades is accurate. Using 3 nations as an example. It would take approximately 2 375Kt nuclear weapons to have this effect on Israel. It would take 33 to have the same effect in Germany and over 130 to achieve the same effect in the US. For Iran the number is 10. From a very practical point of view, if a nation decides to go this route, then they had better achieve this level of destruction. If they fail to do so, then they will discover their own society and nation will cease to exist.

Thomas on :

The US is getting more and more isolated: "Yesterday, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary struck a conciliatory note by insisting that military action against Iran was "genuinely" not on the table, despite a growing groundswell of support for that option in America." And you should listen to your British buddies and not repeat your mistakes: [url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/01/29/wiran29.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/01/29/ixworld.html]"Mr Straw said that Iran was among the most difficult countries in the world to negotiate with, but that he was keen for a solution that did not "involve humiliation of either side". He said the country had been badly treated by the international community in the past - notably in the support for the previous regime of the Shah and the backing for Iraq in a bloody war against its neighbour - leaving a lingering sense of "humiliation" that partly explained its position."[/url]

joe on :

Thomas, Do you have link on your funding source? Thanks

Fuchur on :

I think it´s time for a reality check. Did Fulbrighter Harry say: "Chossudovsky rules!" ? No. Did he say: "The CIA and Bush blew up the WTC!" ? No. He said: "This specific article by C. is good." So, what´s the problem? C. wrote nonsense concerning 9/11, but that doesn´t automatically make everything else that he writes wrong. Actually, he raises some good points in this article: Bombing Iran won´t be as easy as in the 80s. It´s gonna be ugly. If "we" have to use mini-nukes, doubly so. (However: Unlike C., I do not think that this is a reason to rule out the military option. If there is only the choice between 'ugly' and 'very ugly'(i.e. Iran with nukes), I choose 'ugly'.)

Nidal Abed on :

I am Fulbrighter and I say that the US-Bush admin is directly complicit in 9/11 and the demolition of the 3 WTC centres. Feel free to contact me if you want me to bombard you with compelling evidences. nidal_abed@hotmail.com "People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.": James Baldwin Biography - Fiction Writer, Essayist, Social Critic, 1924-1987 Nidal

Fuchur on :

Obviously, I was wrong. The choice of Chossudovsky wasn´t a coincidence... Concerning 9/11: If your evidence is any good, send it to some US newspaper/news channel or to the American Democrats. I´m sure they´d be glad for a reason to impeach Bush.

Nidal Abed on :

You think so? Democrats' leaders are as corrupt as republicans'. A senior CIA analyst had raised questions about 9/11 during the last democrat convention and was shut up by Dean. I guess you are not aware of these details. Oh yeah.. conspiracy theory! I saved you the next posting.

Nidal Abed on :

The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions by Professor David Ray Griffin. This may be a good introduction for you to the 9/11 truth. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article8765.htm

joe on :

Thomas, I would have to assume FM Straw was speaking about the options the UK have. Those are I am sure quite different than the options other nations have in regards to Iran or on any other issue. BTW I had forgotten about the Fulbright-Hayes Law. So yes other nations fund part of this program. The only reference I have on this for funding in 2002. I was asking if you had something more current.

Nidal Abed on :

The rumor is that Iran will carry out a nuclear experiment in March... TurkishPress.com – January 29, 2006 Teheran is getting ready to counter a “preemptive strike” by USA and Israel. The Air Force Command of the Revolutionary Guard has ordered its Shahap-3 Missile Units to keep their mobile missile ramps in motion in preparation for such an attack. Responding to this order, in darkness of the night the primary missile ramps have been moved to Kirmanshah and Hamedan, and the reserve ramps to Isfahan and Fars regions. Full text of this article here: [url]http://www.turkishpress.com/news.asp?id=105626[/url]

joe on :

Nidal I will check back with you at the end of March on this. Source - information distributed by electronic mail by a reliable source in Turkey. It does seem the Europeans like to both believe and rely on rumor for their source of information to formulate their opinions.

Harry on :

Here is a piece which shows why the US is struggling to maintain the Dollar as the world currency. Iran wants to trade its oil in Euros (Saddam Hussein planned to do the same thing before he got attacked). [url]http://www.energybulletin.net./12125.html[/url] German translation: [url]http://www.choices.li/item.php?id=163[/url]

joe on :

It will be interesting should this happen. The assumption being made the other members of OPEC will follow suit.

Eva on :

Just to clarify. The German-American Fulbright program is 100 % funded by the Germany government, there´s hardly any american taxpayer money "wasted" on germans. Compared to the money really wasted for the Iraq war this is peanuts - isn´t it? Just a thought.

Nidal Abed on :

BTW, as of today, The War in Iraq Costs $237,181,933,346 See the cost in your community http://nationalpriorities.org/index.php?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=182 Besides not all the US taxpayers are republican neocons, right?.. there are some decent Americans. Nidal

joe on :

Nidal, I find most Americans to be very decent. It would seem that has not been your experience. As to the costs of the war in Iraq, it really is not that great if the objectives are accomplished. It surely was less than the US spent in WWII and that had a positive outcome for many people and many nations. I realize you might not agree with that last comment.

Nidal Abed on :

I think you misunderstood me, I wanted to say to the gentle person who speaks on behalf of all Americans that there are AT LEAST some decent Americans who disagree with his thoughts (reg the fulbright money) In fact I consider almost all my experience with Americans is extremely positive on a personal level. Nidal

joe on :

Not sure anyone said the money was wasted. It was more of a program review should be undertaken to determine the benifits. Government programs have a life of their own and tend to drift from there orginial purpose. This was not to pick only on the Fulbrigt program but all programs. I am sure other nations have the same problem.

Martin Hermann on :

On Friday even the German Government's political information service linked to the German version of Chossudovsky's Iran piece. They introduce the piece by saying: "Did the French president only say, what the US Strategic Command has been planning?" [url]http://www.bpb.de/wissen/Y2LKN1,0,0,2_Reaktionen.html[/url] => This blog isn't the only one who made the mistake of linking to this piece. Anyway, it was just one link. I found the links to the opeds from Flynt Leverett on Syria and Iran much more interesting. Why don't you guys discuss them here? Everybody is talking about Iran. Why not about Syria?

Martin on :

The first article in this post links to an article in "The American Conservative" about a attacking Syria. Not much different from Chossudovsky. "The American Conservative" is a conservative magazine, right?

joe on :

Martin, If you are a conservative, to be involved in Syria goes against your core beliefs. This holds true equally for Iraq, Iran and Europe. Core conservative beliefs would call for disengagement from these areas. They also would disengage from the world and international organizations the US is a party too such as the UN, WTO, IMF, NATO, etc. About 27% of Americans self identify themselves as conservatives. There was an earlier thread about growing US isolatism. This is where this is coming from. Even the POTUS is aware of this growing sentiment and addressed it in his SOU speech.

Shawn in Tokyo on :

Conservatives is a loaded label as is liberals. That organization is in the tradition of Buchanan conservatives, which are both nationalist and isolationist. I doubt that most people when they say they are conservative that they can subsequently describe the varying flavors. I believe Bush before 9-11 fit more of the Buchanan mode of conservatism in relation to foreign policy and more moderate domestically. After 9-11 he has become a Liberal, as in adopting a very Liberal world view, while the systems (i.e. democracy, security, etc) he seeks to spread overseas are a combo libertarian/conservative flavor. At the same time he is much more conservative at home. I think this just shows Bush is fairly practical/adaptive, applying what he believes works for a particular situation or context. Thus the conservative label is a true oversimplification that is great for soundbites but lacks usefulness in true analysis.

At the Zoo on :

Amazing how America somehow gets blamed for a failure in London, Berlin, and Paris. Europe got its chance to show us hicks how it's done. We stayed out of it so we couldn't be blamed. But the irrationality of blaming us for a thing never gets in Europeans' way. Iran has made a fool of European "old wisdom" and "soft" power. Iran will not get nuclear weapons. But it takes no nuclear war to prevent that. And we Americans are probably going to start taking pride in electing presidents Europeans throw a fit over. Perhaps Europe needs a mass foreign-aid program like the AIDS Inititive to distribute Prozac. The discourse from there is full of vinegar and gloomy every day. (Of course it sounds like that in New England too.) -- Kathy K

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