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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Is Iran irrational?

Is Iran irrational?
December 8, 2007 By Terence P. Jeffrey - The most interesting point in the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which reports Iran halted its nuclear weapons program four years ago, is not about what Iran did or did not do in developing nuclear weapons. It is about how Iran decides such things. The U.S. intelligence community does not believe Iran is a madman. "Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran's decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political economic and military costs," says the NIE. "This, in turn, suggests that some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige and goals for regional influence in other ways, might — if perceived by Iran's leaders as credible — prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program." Whether American politicians accept or reject the assumption that Iran acts rationally will have tremendous consequences for the fate of the Middle East and for our security. The case for believing Iran is an irrational actor largely rests on the shoulders of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, because he routinely makes irrational statements, especially about Israel. In 2005, Mr. Ahmadinejad convened a conference called "The World Without Zionism." There he laid out an Apocalyptic vision in which Israel — or the "Zionist regime," as he invariably calls it — becomes the final battleground in a long struggle between Islam and the West. "The establishment of the Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world The skirmishes in the occupied land are part of the war of destiny. The outcomes of hundreds of years of war will be defined in Palestinian land," he said. "Israel must be wiped off the map." A Congressional Research Service report published in August referenced reports that contend "Ahmadinejad believes his mission is to prepare for the return of the 12th 'Hidden' Imam, whose return from occultation would, according to Twelver Shi'ite doctrine, be accompanied by the establishment of Islam as the global religion." "I have a connection to God," Mr. Ahmadinejad said at a Tehran mosque last October. He added that President Bush "also receives inspiration — but from Satan." All this inevitably suggests a chain of thought: A leader who believes it is his job to usher in an Apocalyptic age, where Israel is destroyed and Islam becomes the global religion, cannot be deterred from constructing, or using, a nuclear weapon. Therefore, an Ahmadinejad-led Iran must be pre-empted from obtaining one. This chain of thought draws us toward another pre-emptive Middle Eastern war and counsels that we risk all the horrendous unintended consequences that could flow from such a war. But is Mr. Ahmadinejad really Iran's decider? If he had personally driven Iran's nuclear-weapons policy, the NIE released this week would make no sense. Mr. Admadinejad was elected president of Iran on June 24, 2005. The NIE says Iran halted its nuclear-weapons program in autumn 2003 and had not restarted it by the middle of this year. During the whole time Mr. Ahmadinejad has been president, in other words, Iran's nuclear-weapons program has been halted. Apparently, the madman did not call the shots. His predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, could have warned him of that. The Ayatollah Khatami, a moderate "reformer" (by Iranian standards) was elected and re-elected Iran's president by popular vote supermajorities. For four of his eight years in office, Khatami supporters controlled a supermajority in parliament. They never enacted their reform agenda, however, because it was vetoed by the Council of Guardians, six clergymen appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei and six secular lawyers appointed by the Iranian judiciary. "In January 2007," the Congressional Research Service reported, "an Iranian newspaper owned by Khamenei admonished Ahmadinejad to remove himself from the nuclear issue." The intelligence community assumes a certain long-term stability among Iran's real deciders. "This Estimate does assume that the strategic goals and basic structure of Iran's senior leadership and government will remain similar to those that have endured since the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989," says the NIE. President Bush seems to agree. "The NIE talks about how a carrot-and-stick approach can work," Mr. Bush told his Tuesday press conference. "And it was working until Ahmadinejad came in. And our hope is that the Iranians will get diplomacy back on track." Mr. Bush's bet is simply this: The ayatollahs may be immoderate, but they are not irrational. Terence P. Jeffrey is a nationally syndicated columnist.

U.S., Russia still at odds about Iran Washington Times
Iran report underscores intel's fluid nature MSNBC
U.S. admits intelligence gaps on Iran; NIE has 'only moderate confidence' nuke option halted World Tribune
Israel sees U.S. policy change behind NIE: 'Words do not stop missiles' World Tribune
Petraeus credits decrease in Iran-backed strikes for improved security in Iraq World Tribune
Gates urges Gulf nations to cooperate to counter Iran Athens Banner-Herald, Georgia
How Israeli Intelligence Views the NIE The New Republic
Fazlallah says US creating obstacles in Iran Arab world relations Mathaba.Net
Recent US report proof for their double standard approaches Mathaba.Net
US calls for air and missile defence umbrella in Gulf The Times of India

Petraeus credits decrease in Iran-backed strikes for improved security in Iraq

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military reports that Iran is playing a diminished role in the insurgency war in Iraq. Officials said the military has concluded that fewer Iranian operatives and weapons were detected in Iraq over the last two months. They said the military was not certain whether this marked Teheran's policy or Shi'ite insurgents have found other suppliers. "There has been a reduction in some of the [Iranian] signature attacks that are associated with weapons provided by Iran," U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus said. In a briefing on Thursday, Petraeus cited a drop in the use of such Iranian-origin weapons as Explosively-Formed Penetrators, or EFPs. EFPs were designed to rip through main battle tanks and other armored vehicles. Petraeus said the decline in Iranian weapons has led to a 60 percent reduction in violence in Iraq over the last six months. The general said this has given the military flexibility in deployment, particularly in operations against Al Qaida. The U.S. commander also cited a ceasefire declared by the Iranian-sponsored Mahdi Army, headed by Muqtada Sadr. Petraeus said the ceasefire has led to a significant reduction in violence in Baghdad's Sadr City. "It's hard to tell if that's because there has already been a cessation of provision of those items, or if there has been direction [from Iran] to stop," Petraeus said. The last time Iranians were arrested by the U.S. military on suspicion of helping the insurgency in Iraq was in October. Petraeus said this could indicate that Iran was still involved in the insurgency. Officials said killings around eastern Baghdad have decreased to a two-year low. U.S. Col. Wayne Grigsby, commander of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, said he expected a drop of 400 reported murders in the area in 2007. "We are beginning to see some signs of normalcy returning to the way of life here in our battle space," Grigsby said. "We are still in a tough fight. There are people outside our patrol bases that want to kill us. But things are getting better."

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