Understanding Iran: Everything You Need to Know, From Persia to the Islamic Republic, From Cyrus to Ahmadinejad

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Overview

William R. Polk provides an informative, readable history of a country which is moving quickly toward becoming the dominant power and culture of the Middle East. A former member of the State Department’s Policy Planning Council, Polk describes a country and a history misunderstood by many in the West. While Iranians chafe under the yolk of their current leaders, they also have bitter memories of generations of British, Russian and American espionage, invasion, and dominance. There are important lessons to be learned from the past, and Polk teases them out of a long and rich history and shows that it is not just now, but for decades to come that an understanding of Iran will be essential to American safety and well-being.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"William Polk has written a superb and insightful historical account of Iran and the evolution of the Persian culture. This should be required reading not just for all those involved in Iranian policy making but for all those interested in understanding this critical nation and society." — General Anthony C. Zinni USMC (Retired), co-author of Leading the Charge and The Battle for Peace

“Offers much fascinating and accurate information”—Choice

"A great scholar's brilliant appreciation of Iranian culture and history." — Dr. Khodadad Farmanfarmaian, former Deputy Prime Minister of Iran

"Essential reading...a study of depth and clarity."—Terrell Arnold, former chairman of the Department of International Studies at the U.S. National War College

 

“This is an easy read with a very big payoff — a nuanced understanding of Iran as a complex society whose perceptions and politics are shaped by readily comprehensible history, religious traditions, and recent experience.  Polk's writing is erudite but not academic; his prose is lucid and his policy experience shows.  If you know someone in the United States government dealing with Iran or the Middle East, give that person this book; the prospects of American policy success vis-à-vis both could go up considerably.” — Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.), former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs

"The great value of Bill Polk's books is that they take a thoughtful, clear-eyed look at America's entanglement in the Middle East. Understanding Iran is the latest addition to the library of Polk's sharp, smart analysis of a region that America doesn't understand well enough. There are scoops in this book about how close the United States has come to war with the Islamic Republic. But more, there is a deep understanding of Iran, its history and its culture. He tells a story that anyone who cares about America and Iran should read."—David Ignatius, columnnst for the Washington Post and author of "The Increment."

"Engrossing and penetrating.  A beautifully written vision of the other which we desperately need."—William H. McNeill, former president of the American Historical Association and chairman of the History Department of the University of Chicago.

"Understanding Iran fully lives up to the promise of its title, giving us a thorough yet lively survey of a society that is moving quickly toward becoming the dominant power in the region. He reminds us that as much as Iranians chafe under the yoke of their current leaders, they still have bitter memories of generations of British, Russian and American espionage, invasion and dominance. There are important lessons to be learned from the mistakes of the past, and Polk teases them out of Iran’s long, rich history.  In the process, he makes a strong case that it is not just now, but for decades to come that a true understanding of Iran will be essential." —Former ambassador Robert V. Keeley, Five and Ten Press

"Understanding Iran fully lives up to the promise of its title" —Robert V. Keeley, Foreign Service Journal

"This is an extraordinary book by an extraordinary author. An exceptional combination of longtime scholarship and US policymaking experience on the Middle East underpins the authorship of this book. It portrays masterfully and humanely the evolution of the complex realities of Iranian history and culture and its profound impact on contemporary Iran and its relations with the United States."—The Middle East Journal

 

Praise for Understanding Iraq:

 

"A digestible history of this tortured land is something Americans sorely need....And Polk carefully constructs one."—USA Today

 

"This book will be informative to two groups scarcely on speaking terms: the supporters of President Bush's invasion of Iraq and those implacably opposed to it....William Polk presents the reader with the full sweep of Iraq's history....He gives us a comprehensive tour."—Washington Times

 

"Haunting....One of the clearest prescriptions for success in Iraq yet to emerge."—Publishers Weekly

 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230103436
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 1/4/2011
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 685,774
  • Product dimensions: 5.51 (w) x 8.06 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

William R. Polk established the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago, was president of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs, and helped to organize the “Table Ronde” meeting that laid the groundwork for the European Union. He was called back to the White House briefly during the 1967 Middle Eastern War to write a draft Peace Treaty and to act as advisor to U.S. National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy.

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Read an Excerpt

AFTERWORD

As I have written in the Foreword, I think that the primary reason for learning about another culture is humane:  our world would be a dreary, drab place if we were ignorant of the richness and diversity of the ways of life that have evolved from the endowments of history and geography.  Now I want to turn to a second, more urgent, reason: to avoid destructive war and move toward security and peace.  So, while I have anchored my account in the past, I now look forward to the future.

*              *              *

                In recent years, Americans have evolved two methods of predicting the future.  The first of these is the adaptation mathematicians and political scientists have made of the German Army General Staff kriegspiel, the “wargame.”  Essentially the politico-military wargame sets out to show how the opponent will respond to an escalating series of “moves.”   It assumes that he will be guided by a balance sheet of potential profit and loss.  If he does not add them up accurately we say he has “miscalculated.”  Thus, we view the foreigner as a sort of accountant —  culturally disembodied, mathematically precise and governed by logic.  In short, we posit in him precisely those qualities that do not shape our own actions.  So when we apply the results to “grand strategy” in our culturally diverse world, they are nearly always misleading; indeed, they have occasionally led us into danger.  Let me illustrate with an example:

                In the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis (during which I was a member of the “Crisis Management Committee”) I was ordered to participate in a sort of replay, a wargame designed to press similar events toward,  but not quite to, nuclear war.  My colleagues on “Red Team” were some of America’s most senior military, intelligence and foreign affairs officers and we drew upon the most sensitive information about the Soviet Union known to the American government.  We focused on an escalating crisis at the end of which we were informed that our “Blue Team” opponents had obliterated a Russian city.  How should we respond?   Our choices were: Do nothing, copy the Russians and obliterate a single American city or go to general war?  After careful consideration, we opted for general war, firing all our imaginary missiles to attempt to wipe out all American retaliatory capability and even the country.

                The “umpire,” Thomas Schelling, an MIT mathematician and author of The Strategy of Conflict, called a halt to the game, saying that we had “misplayed,” and set up in the War Room of the Pentagon a review session that in real life would have been literally a postmortem. Schelling opened by saying that if we were right, America would have to give up the theory of deterrence.  Why had we acted in this way?

In response, we showed that we went to general war because we had to.   If the leader of Red Team had done nothing, he almost certainly would have been regarded as a traitor, overthrown and doubtlessly murdered, by his own military commanders.  He would been unlikely to select that option.  Had he played tit-for-tat, incinerating an American city —  say, Dallas — what could an American president have done?  No more than the Russian, he  could not have done nothing.  He would have had to “reply.”  That would have led to more “trade-offs” and quickly to general war.  So, despite the catastrophe for both nations, neither government could have stopped the fateful process.  In short, whatever the “interest of state,” which is what the war game focused on, the “interest of government” compelled actions that were not governed by the same category of “logic.”  No wargame had predicted this outcome.  Indeed, for the previous decade, all predicted, as did Schelling, exactly the opposite:   the Russians would back off in the face of threat.  That was the world of theory, but in the real world the results would have been different.   We did not then know how very close we had come to total world annihilation in the Cuban Missile Crisis and how much had depended on sheer luck[i] — and on the bravery or foolhardiness of Nikita Khrushchev.[ii]

To supplement or correct the wargame, America has evolved a second means of predicting the future.  This is what is called a “National Intelligence Estimate” or NIE.  The flaw in the NIE is lesser than that in the wargame but is nonetheless serious.  It depends upon assembling “facts.”  That is, it takes the vast input of statements, acts and capabilities of the adversary and from them makes an “appreciation” describing what the adversary is doing and drawing from it a guess on what he is likely to do.    What is inherently deficient in this approach is both that no assemblage of facts can ever be complete and, more subtly, that the NIE cannot account for all the emotions, religious beliefs, fears, memories and even ignorance of the opponent. 

Even short of attempting an encompassing “appreciation,” guessing about peoples in other cultures is always difficult.  And, dealing with the complex interplay of Iranian-American relations is particularly hard.  As two well-informed former senior American officials with long experience on Iranian affairs have written, “Of all the black holes in America’s foreign relations few have been darker than Iran.”[iii]  Governments rarely reveal how they view their options and make their decisions – as I learned in my government service – and certainly do not share their thoughts with others.  Not know much about contemporary Iran or its historical culture, successive American administrations  have often been been reduced to guesswork – and usually have taken a “worst case” guess – while their own actions have often  imprecise, metastable and influenced by outside forces.  So, what can we do?

                I offer you two interconnected answers:  the first, as I have laid out in this book, is a different sort of “appreciation:”  it is the attempt to devise a view of the formation of contemporary Iranian mores as evolved incrementally over the whole range of the Iranian’s experience.  To do that requires an emotional leap in which all of us outsiders will fall short but which, in making the attempt, will get us closer to understanding the influences, fears and motivations that in sum define Iranians.  In short, this is the approach with which I began, drawing upon Herodotus’s  attempt to do the same over two thousand year ago.

                Understanding the American part of the Iranian-American equation appears, at least to insiders, less complex and less intellectually demanding, but it too requires a rigorous and exacting examination of attitudes, proclamations and actions which, moreover, must be put not only within a strategic and domestic political context but also must be examined in their international framework.  That too is inevitably imprecise.

                The second way to replace the war game and modify the NIE arises from my own experience as a sometime policy planner, diplomat and business consultant.   It comes down to a very simple notion:  to understand what anyone is likely to do, it always helps to try to put oneself in his position, to look at events from his perspective,  to try to see what he sees, to make the effort to try to understand what he wants or fears, and within the context of his experience to guess how — or whether — he and oneself can find a way toward a viable accommodation.  So, based on what I have learned, I now will bring forward a view of recent events that an Iranian, acting as I used to act for the American government – as policy planner —  would probably see events of recent years.  While I have no way to know what confidential sources of information he might draw upon, I will cite the public sources of information and opinion he could access in reaching his assessment.

*              *              *

                The question an Iranian government adviser would have to answer first is what the American government is trying to do in Iran.   The public record portrays a sober picture.ª

My hypothetical Iranian adviser to his government would begin, as most Iranians still do, with the overthrow of the first elected Iranian government, under Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadegh, by the CIA in 1953.[iv] That action returned the Shah to power and ushered in a period of intimate Iranian-American relations until his regime was overthrown in the 1979 revolution. Thereafter, Iranians see a pattern that varied in intensity but was consistently hostile. In the Reagan administration, the US Navy attacked and destroyed about half of the Iranian Navy, and the US Cruiser Vincennes shot down an Iran Air passenger plane in Iranian airspace, killing 290 civilian passengers including 38 non-Iranians and 66 children.  Rather than apologize, the US  government decorated the officer who ordered the action.  During the following administration, George H.W. Bush was mainly concerned with Iraq, which invaded Kuwait in August 1990, and which America invaded in January 1991.  Mr. Bush paid relatively little attention to Iran and made little attempt to ease relations.   Then, during his years in office, President Clinton imposed oil and trade sanctions on Iran from 1995 to 2000 and, while briefly considering resuming diplomatic relations, left a legacy of suspicion and hostility to President George W. Bush in 2001.  

Urged on by his neoconservative advisers, the new president actively sought confrontation.  As I have described above, he placed Iran along side of Iraq and  North Korea in what he termed “the Axis of Evil” and, in addition to frequent verbal threats,  stationed a large part of the American fleet and air force adjacent to Iran, aiming hundreds of cruise missiles at Iranian cities and towns, infiltrating covert agents and special forces into the country,[v] overflying Iranian territory[vi] and positioning helicopters and hovercraft to be ready to “insert” troops.[vii]  In 2007, his administration ordered the Pentagon to put on a full-scale war game to test a plan of attack[viii] and had the Congress fund a $400 million program “designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership.”[ix]  Keeping up the pressure, he warned Iran that “the US would act before it is too late.”[x]  So close to war had he gone that Bush faced a virtual revolt by the senior American military commanders who saw his bellicose policy as disastrous for America, but when the officer commanding the forces dealing with Iranian affairs warned Bush against the policy, he was fired.[xi] Meanwhile, Israel put forward its own plan to bomb Iran, an action which, until nearly the end of his tenure in office, Bush seemed to approve.[xii]

Thus, while the second Bush administration was more extreme than the Clinton or earlier administrations, an Iranian policy adviser would certainly have concluded that an aggressive policy toward Iran was the norm. The implicit or explicit American aim was to “regime change” it.[xiii]

Nor was the aggressive American attitude restricted to the White House.  Congress was often more belligerent than the sitting president, and its mood was reflected in the public.  Congressmen and Senators knew that proclaiming their hostility to Iran would draw public approval.  During the 2008 presidential campaign, millions of Americans voted for Senator John McCain who Iranians heard sing a song with the words “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” to the tune of a then-popular Beach Boys song.”[xiv]  Americans  might have found it a joke, but the Iranians didn’t laugh.

This was the situation when Barack Obama came into office in 2009.   Senator McCain’s advice was then made even more pointedly to Mr. Obama. Noting that the president had reappointed some of the officials of the Bush administration but that his grip on his office seemed weak, one of the leading neoconservatives admonished him to “Bomb Iran.”[xv] 

The Iranian adviser would then have questioned whether, once in office, the new administration intended to implement, at least for Iran, “change you can believe in” that Candidate Obama had proclaimed.  His first impressions would have been positive.  This was because, shortly after his inauguration, on the occasion of the Iranian New Year, No Ruz, the new President sent a video message to the Iranian government and people announcing his intent to engage in diplomacy “grounded in mutual respect.”   The words were undoubtedly sincere, but the Iranian leadership was dubious.[xvi]  Ayatollah Khamenei publicly commented that while Mr. Obama proclaims, “’Let’s negotiate.  Let’s start relations.’  They have the slogan of change.  But where is the change?...Change has to be real.  You change, and we shall change as well.”[xvii]  Without directly answering,  President Obama went on, in a remarkable speech at the University of Cairo on June 4, 2009 to call for a “new beginning” in relations with all Muslims.  He made clear that his administration wanted to overcome “decades of mistrust” by interacting “without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect.” 

Almost immediately the new mood Mr. Obama sought to conjure was dampened, this time by Iranian actions — the ugly and widely publicized events surrounding the Iranian presidential election.  The defeated opposition movement, by charging fraud and repression, inadvertantly encouraged a tougher American policy toward the regime.  In his public statements, Obama complied, calling on the regime to honor the right of Iranians to choose their leaders without intimidation.  But, without making any concessions on that demand, he again,  in his speech at the Nobel Prize ceremony in December and in another message at No Ruz in 2010,  called on Iran to engage in dialogue. 

During this period,  dialogue, or at least communication,  was sporadically and weakly attempted.  Four potentially crucial messages were passed between the Iranian  and American leadership.  President Obama twice wrote Ayatollah Khamenei.  Khamenei replied to one, but not to the second.  And President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad twice wrote to President Obama but received no reply to either letter.[xviii]

It was during this time also that the nuclear issue came to dominate Iranian-American relations.  The issue had, of course, long overshadowed America’s view of Iran.  I will have more to say shortly about the possibility that Iran would seek nuclear weapons, but in the initial phases of the Obama administration’s conduct of relations, the most publicized issue was not nuclear weapons but nuclear fuel for the small and aging American-built reactor in Tehran that produced medical isotopes for half a million patients each year.  Continuing the supply of fuel was urgent as the reactor was due to run out of fuel at the end of 2010.  Seeing an opportunity, the US administration proposed a deal:  Iran would ship about 80 percent of its LEU (Low Enriched Uranium with a purity of only about 4%) to Russia where it would be enriched to the level required by the Tehran reactor (about 20%) and sent to France to be converted into fuel rods.  This would satisfy the US desire to diminish the Iranian store of uranium which,  if enriched by centrifuges to 85% to 90%,[xix] could be used make a weapon and  also would meet the Iranian requirement of fuel for its medical facility. 

The deal seemed to accomplish what both sides wanted.  So it was that President Ahmadinejad proclaimed on TV that his government was ready to cooperate.  Then, he was attacked by the opposition from both the Left (the “Green” or Democratic movement) and the Right  for selling out national interests.  Neither Left nor Right, nor the Iranian leadership, trusted America.   The Iranians quickly back-tracked.  So did the Obama administration.

The failure was not surprising.  It required an act of faith, and Iran did not trust America to implement the deal.  As the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, put it, there were two problems – the first was that Iran had to send its LEU (low enriched uranium) out of the  country, trusting that it would get the quid pro quo. Iranians feared that once the LEU was out of sight, it might not be returned.  So Iran demanded that the exchange be made “in country.”  Moreover, it would not get the reactor fuel for about a year and it needed the fuel right away.  It offered to make a simultaneous swap inside Iran.  To sweeten the deal, Iran also offered to certify that none of its remaining uranium would be refined above 20% and even that enriched uranium would be put under the custody of the IAEA in Iran.[xx]  The Americans refused the offer.

Blaming the Iranians for the failure of the deal, some Western commentators argued that Ahmedinejad had aimed just “to start an open ended dialog and negotiations to buy time to reduce pressure for sanctions, and use it as a screen to crush all domestic opposition and unrest, with no commitments to terminate its pursuit of nuclear weapons.”[xxi]   Other Western observers disagreed.  Two former members of the US National Security Council argued that  “it was the Obama Administration that reneged on the TRR [Tehran Research Reactor] deal, so that it could accelerate work on a new sanctions resolution that would finally be adopted in June.”[xxii]   It makes little difference which interpretation is correct:  what mattered was that the brief emergence of hope was quickly replaced by the now-traditional suspicion and hostility.  It was into this atmosphere that two unexpected actors suddenly took center stage.

*              *              *

Turkey and Brazil had not been regarded by the Twentieth century major powers as significant actors in international affairs. However, as heir to the Ottoman Empire, Turkey has a tradition of Middle Eastern regional leadership while Brazil has emerged as the powerhouse of Latin America and is now campaigning for a seat on the UN Security Council.  Brazil has had little to do with the Middle East, but Turkey has major commercial and strategic interests in Iran.  Turkish-Iranian trade amounted to approximately $11 billion in 2009 and Iran provides a significant portion of  Turkey’s power needs.  Moreover, Turkey shares with Iran involvement in Kurdish affairs and, more distantly, in Caucasian and Central Asia politics and economy.   Recognizing Turkey’s national interest in Iran,  President Obama had urged Turkish Prime Minister Receb Tayyip Erdogan to try to convince the Iranians to accept the October 2009 American proposal.[xxiii]  Erdogan found this request attractive since his country had been profoundly affected by the American invasion and occupation of Iraq and he sought to halt what he saw as a drift toward a new war.  This was the mission he assigned to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Engaging in “shuttle diplomacy,” Davutoglu visited Iran five times and spent some 18 hours with the Iranian leaders interspersed with telephone consultations with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Council Director General  James Jones  and with the European Union foreign policy head, Catherine Ashton,  to devise a new approach to the nuclear fuel impasse.[xxiv]  In his efforts, Davutoglu, was eventually joined by his Brazilian counterpart, Celso Amorim. The Turkish-Brazilian-Iranian deal was signed with considerable fan-fare by the  foreign ministers of Turkey, Brazil and Iran on May 17, 2010.

 What made the deal workable was that Iran was prepared to trust Turkey more than America.  The 1,200 kilograms of  LEU would be shipped to Turkey and the return of 120 kilograms of  reactor fuel would be immediate.  To meet what he assumed where American demands, Davutoglu also reaffirmed Iranian agreement not to enrich its remaining LEU beyond a maximum of 20% and to put it under the supervision of the IAEA.  In a concession to the Iranians, he proposed that the deal would also certify that Iran had, as indeed it had under the existing regulations, the right to enrich LEU to that level.[xxv]  It seemed the best of all worlds since, as the Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki pointed out,  it would not only dramatically reduce the amount of uranium that could be enriched but was “proof that Tehran does not want nuclear weapons.” [xxvi]  

However, as M.J. Rosenberg has written,[xxvii] “The Obama administration is essentially ignoring the Iranian nuclear deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil…[and] responded today by announcing that the United States has reached an agreement on sanctions…She [Secretary of State Clinton] said nothing about the deal brokered by our Turkish and Brazilian allies even though we strongly promoted an almost identical deal last fall.  Furthermore, the administration had encouraged the Turkish and Brazilian effort, but now, with an agreement in hand, we have gone mute.”  Mute was hardly the right word.  As Scott Peterson reported in The Christian Science Monitor, [xxviii]  “In a swift answer to the Iran nuclear fuel deal secured Monday by Turkey and Brazil, Secretary of  State Hillary Clinton announced today that world powers had finalized a package of ‘strong’ new sanctions against Iran.”

Strong the new sanctions certainly are.   They will severely limit all financial transactions, making it virtually impossible for Iranian industry to buy spare parts and nearly close Iran’s major commercial outlet, Dubai, with which it now does about $12 billion worth of trade a year.[xxix] Moreover, the US made a deal with four of the major European oil companies (Total, Staoil, Eni and Shell) not to supply aviation fuel to the Iranian national airline, which services half a million passengers a year, and not to invest in Iran.  Similarly, the Japanese exploration company Impex was forced to pull out of its venture in Iran.[xxx]  Cargo ships going to Iran will be subjected to search.  No arms of any kind will be allowed to enter.   And, since Iran does not have the capacity to refine oil into gasoline, it will face a major crisis in domestic transport.

Most commentators believe that sanctions rarely work.  They were tried in Iran first by the British sixty years ago and did not work then.  They have been applied many times since. They hurt the poor, the aged and the young disproportionately, but they do not cause the governing elite to change policy.[xxxi] Thus,  President Ahmedinejad said “While we do not welcome sanctions, we do not fear them either.”[xxxii]  The reason, Ahmedinejad does not fear them, I think, is both because he realizes that they will strengthen his regime with the Iranian people and also because they lose what effect they would have in a highly articulated economy when applied to a relative loose economy like Iran.  They will be annoying but not be crippling.  What they will do, however, is to strengthen the belief of all Iranians, including our imaginary policy planner, that America is Iran’s enemy.

*              *              *

Starting from the assumption that America has hostile designs, the Iran regime’s policy planner  would try  to figure out how to make invading Iran less attractive — and so less likely.  He would probably begin by asking his country’s intelligence analysts to identify and evaluate the current risks.   I imagine  they would probably respond with this:

                The first danger is espionage.  That is, the United States could attempt through covert action to disable the Iranian regime.

President Bush’s neoconservative advisers and the military were quite open about this option.  As U.S. Air Force General Thomas McInerney (rtd,) wrote in the neoconservative journal, The Weekly Standard,[xxxiii] “Simultaneously or prior to the [air] attack, a major covert operation could be launched, utilizing Iranian exiles and dissident forces trained during the period of diplomacy…Iran’s diverse population should be fertile ground for a covert operation.  Iran is only 51 percent Persian.  Azerbaijanis and Kurds comprise nearly 35 percent of the population.  Seventy percent are under 30, and the jobless rate hovers near 20 percent.”

Reacting to this or similar advice,  President Bush implemented the $400 million he had been allocated by the Congress in 2007 “designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership.” As Seymour Hersh reported, [xxxiv] and as the Iranians of course know, US Special Operations Forces and a secret organization controlled by the “Joint Special Operations Command,” operating from Iraq, crossed into Iran where they abducted  members of the Revolutionary Guard.” Then just before the end of his term, President Bush “embraced more intensive covert operations aimed at Iran…to undermine electrical systems, computer system and other networks on which Iran relies.”[xxxv]

Iranian intelligence would advise the policy planner that groups acting under American control or with American assistance also have been conducting operations against Iran for some years.  A Kurdish group known as PJAK (the “Kurdish Free Life Party”) even issued a press release in June 2008 claiming it had killed 92 Iranian soldiers and wounded a number of others in ten operations.   Iran television news reported that “10 US military officials met in Sulaimaniyah, Iraq, with four Kurdish groups with the purpose of coordinating their activities against Iran.”[xxxvi]

Iranian intelligence would also report that an ethnically Arab terrorist group based in the southwestern province of Ahwaz (also known as Khuzistan or Arabistan) and believed to have been supported by America, assassinated a Revolutionary Guard colonel and blew up a building in Shiraz,  killing at least a dozen people. [xxxvii]   Across Iran in the southeastern province of Baluchistan, Jundullah (“The Army of God”) has also been engaged in terrorist actions against the Iranian regime.   In March 2009, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei  announced that Iranian intellilgence had intercepted communications between the group and American officials.  The United States did not deny the charge and did not list Jundallah as a terrorist organization.  Then, on October 18, 2009, Jundallah carried out a suicide bombing that killed six senior officers of the Revolutionary Guard and more than 40 others in what “was reportedly the deadliest terrorist attack in Iran since the 1980s.”  Finally, on November 3, 2010, the Department of State declared Jundallah a foreign terrorist organization.[xxxviii]

But, the Iranian intelligence analyst would stress, such groups are small, unpopular with the bulk of the Iranian population and distant from strategic centers.  They commit occasional terrorist acts, as each has done, but those acts will not bring down the regime. Even if they have support from some people in minority communities and are” stiffened” or paid by American “Special Operations Forces,”[xxxix] they will only increase popular antipathy to them.   Thus, when the leader of Jundullah was captured and hanged on June 20, 2010 the movement appears to have collapsed and 200 members accepted amnesty.[xl] 

The only truly national (that is, mainly ethnic Persian)  opposition was the Mojahedin-e Khalq which was effectively destroyed, at least domestically, by the regime from 1982.  The Americans initially aided and abetted attacks on Iran by exiled remnants of the group from Iraq.  Until 2003, they were a significant military force armed even with heavy weapons, but in that year the Americans bombed their base.[xli]  More recently in 2008, Iran’s Iraqi ally, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, has ruled that Iraq can no longer be used as a staging ground for attacks on Iran.[xlii]  In 2010, the Iraqi and Iranian leadership virtually merged, with the Iraqi prime minister journeying to Iran to secure Iranian support for his position; so Iraq would view any operations against Iran as against its national interests.[xliii]  Iranian intelligence, I would imagine,  believes their threat has been permanently ended.

Domestic opposition to the regime, as surfaced in the 2009 election campaign, has now largely dissipated.  Indeed, some of the leaders may have been co-opted by President Ahmadinejad’s office.[xliv]  Moreover, in the face of foreign threat to Iran, no matter what they think of the regime,  the opposition would  rally around the flag.[xlv]

Direct foreign espionage attacks are always a danger, Iranian security would point out.  A former Israeli cabinet minister, Rafael Eitan, who was a senior official in Israeli intelligence covert action (both MOSSAD and Shin Bet), suggested an operation to kidnap President Ahmadinejad.  The Iranians probably regarded this as a serious threat because Eitan was well known for successful covert operations.[xlvi]

Finally, is there any danger of a military coup d’état as the CIA effected in 1953?  Could America repeat that act?

I think that in my hypothetical scenario Iranian security forces would inform the policy planner that  the odds are against it because the regime has both purged the regular army of dissidents and has stationed among all army and air force units mullas who, like Soviet commissars used to do, monitor officers and men; it also has offset the regular army with the 150,000 well-armed Revolutionary Guard;   and, unlike the situation in 1953, there is no organization (like the monarchy) to which rebels could rally.  

Iranian security would then report, I think, that the only significant danger to the regime would come from actions by foreign powers, notably the United States and/or its close ally, Israel.  This is the evidence he would cite:

*              *              *

U.S. Air Force planes have repeatedly violated Iranian airspace in recent years.  Their incursions have been monitored by Iranian observers and confirmed in the western press.[xlvii] While provocative, intelligence intrusion is not a major threat, and the Iranian government has opted not to react.  Its policy is embarrassing but sensible – just as it was for the Russians before they shot down the U-2 piloted by Gary Powers — since, even if it managed to shoot down the planes, Iran could not prevent satellite photography; however, it has hidden what it wishes to hide by simply roofing facilities as it did at the IR-40 Nuclear Research Reactor.[xlviii]

Espionage apart, Iranian intelligence analysts would warn that the possibility of an actual air attack is a very serious danger. The American Air Force appears eager to attack.  Its commanders have repeatedly publicly stated that they could destroy Iranian armed forces, industry and indeed the whole country.  No one has used General Curtis LeMay’s Vietnam era phrase, “bombing them back to the stone age,” but that is what Air Force doctrine of “shock and awe” offers, what the neoconservatives  continue to advocate[xlix] and what is meant by the phrase “all options are on the table.”  This is a threat “in real time” and is, of course, well known to Iranians from Western media.   One retired U.S. Air Force General publicly detailed what “an effective military response” would have been four years ago::[l]

“It would consist of a powerful air campaign led by 60 stealth aircraft (B-2s, F117s, F-22s) and more than 400 nonstealth strike aircraft, including B-52s, B-1s, F-15s, F-16s, Tornados, and F-18s.  Roughly 150 refueling tankers and other support aircraft would be deployed, along with 100 unmanned aerial vehicles for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and 500 cruise missiles.  In other words, overwhelming force would be used..[to] hit more than 1,500 aim points.  Among the weapons would be the new 28,000-pound bunker busters, 5,000-pound bunker penetrators, 2000-pound bunker busters, 1000-pound general purpose [GP] bombs, and 500-pound GP bombs.  A B-2 bomber, to give one example, can drop 80 of these 500-pound bombs independently targeted at 80 different aim points.  This force would give the coalition an enormous destructive capability…[and would] allow the initial attacks to be completed in 36 to 48 hours.  The destruction of Iran’s military force structure would create the opportunity for regime change as well…”

Perhaps the closest the US Air Force came to acting was in April 2007 during an Iranian-British naval confrontation on the Shatt al-Arab waterway.  The  Americans offered to act, but British refused the offer.[li]   At about the same time, judging that the Americans were on the edge of military action, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned against “new crazies who say ‘let’s go and bomb Iran.’”[lii]  Muhammad ElBaradei did not name then Vice President Dick Cheney, but just a few days earlier Mr. Cheney had issued threats while standing on the flight deck of an American aircraft carrier just off Iran’s coast.[liii]  Hearing these pronouncements and observing incursions, Iran ordered advanced anti-aircraft rockets (SA-20s and later models) from the Russians.

To bring these events and pronouncements up to date, consider (as we can be sure the Iranians have done) that huge though the American strike force was in 2006, it has been powerfully augmented over the last four years. A study by Dan Plesch, director of the Center for International Studies and Diplomacy of the University of London, documented that “the firepower of US forces had quadrupled since 2003” and is accelerating under President Obama.[liv] It is now believed to be able to destroy 10,000 targets in a single day; indeed,  Iran is now surrounded by American air formations – planes operating from the 5th Fleet in the Persian Gulf and from  bases in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and  Diego Garcia.[lv]  Against such air attack as they could deliver, no country with the possible exceptions of China and Russia, could offer much defense.  Iran certainly could not.  According to the International Institute of Strategic Studies “Military Balance 2010,”  Iran spends less than 2 percent as much on its military as the US.  Moreover, Iranian military doctrine is strictly “defensive…designed to slow an invasion and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities.”[lvi] 

So what could Iran do to slow military action against it?  Against air strikes, Iranian intelligence would have to advise the policy planner, the answer is “very little if anything.”  Its force of anti-aircraft missiles would probably be put out of action either by a first strike or by electronic warfare techniques.  Such aircraft as it has would be immediately overwhelmed even if not caught on the ground as they probably would be.  Command and control centers would be disabled either directly or by destruction of power grids.  Communications would be jammed or compromised.   From almost the first minute, the attacker would have complete air superiority.

*              *              *

But the situation changes if the attacker chooses to land troops.  As in Iraq, no doubt the  Iranian regular army would be incapacitated by air attacks on command centers, transport facilities and equipment concentrations.  However, the regular army constitutes only Iran’s first line of defense.  Unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran has prepared in advance a nearly universal civilian defense.  Although Iran’s security service would probably admit that the government is unpopular with many Iranians, I believe it would advise that the people would be as unlikely to aid a foreign invader as the anti-Castro Cubans were during the American attack on Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 and the anti-Saddam Iraqis were during the 2003 American invasion. The idea that dissidents would greet foreigners with flowers in hand is a delusion.[lvii]

Moreover, in comparison to Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran is better prepared and far more able to conduct guerrilla warfare.  Relying on its regular army, Iraq had no prepared resistance force; so when the regular army shattered in “shock and awe,” fighting stopped for some months. Even so, the follow-up to the invasion — just in Iraq — cost America more than 4,427 dead, several hundred thousand wounded or partially incapacitated and between $1 and $3 trillion.[lviii]

An attack on Iran would multiply all those figures:  Iran has learned from Iraq and is prepared for guerrilla war.  In addition to the Revolutionary Guards (the Pasdaran-e Enghelab), it has between half a million and a million militiamen (Sazman-e Basijs) and allegedly millions more in reserve;[lix]  they, their older brothers and fathers showed their fanatical bravery during the Iraq-Iran War.  They are trained, equipped and spread throughout an area the size of America’s great plains states or Western Europe.  More important they do not rely on vulnerable command and control centers or on easily targeted arms dumps.  Each small unit is more or less autonomous.  And at sea, Iran learned from naval battles when the US Navy sank a number of its larger ships to go for small boats.  It now has about a thousand missile-armed, boats scattered among more than 700 little ports along the Persian Gulf.  They could be used in Kamikaze type attacks and would certainly do considerable damage to attacking forces and probably interdict oil shipments.[lx]

Based on my studies of guerrilla warfare and counterinsurgency, I predict that a land invasion and occupation of Iran would cost America somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 casualties, a million seriously wounded and upwards of $10 trillion.  When one considers both that engaging in the much more limited war in Afghanistan effectively destroyed the Soviet Union and also that the US economy is already in serious trouble, one can understand why in his  final days in office, President George Bush, despite the urging of Vice President Dick Cheney, decided that an attack on Iran was “unacceptable.”[lxi] Today, the Obama administration has even less latitude for such an adventure: with the economy in near collapse and the army bogged down in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is at least questionable whether the American population would support another ruinously expensive and virtually unwinnable war.[lxii]  Certainly, America’s European allies have repeatedly made clear that they would not.[lxiii] 

Iran has other means to deter invasion. Unlike remote, poor and isolated North Korea, Iran has trading partners, friends and allies abroad.  With its near neighbors, Iraq and Syria, Iran has reached agreement on building three pipelines to the Mediterranean.[lxiv]China, India and to some extent Turkey depend upon its energy exports.  An attack would not only stop that flow of oil and gas, but would at most certainly lead to actions that would at least temporarily interdict the 25 percent of the world’s energy that is conveyed down the Persian Gulf, thus severely jeopardizing attempts by the industrial countries of Asia and Europe to work out of the current economic depression.  Other countries – indeed the whole Islamic world — would see an attack on Iran as an attack on Islam. Such an attack would also conjure dark memories throughout all the “third world” of imperialism. Thus,  the Iranian government policy planner  and his intelligence advisers must believe that politically, diplomatically and strategically, an attack on Iran would be as much a disaster for America as for Iran.[lxv] So the  Iranian equivalent of a National Intelligence Estimate would probably advise its government that Iran  has more scope for maneuver today vis-à-vis America than at any time in recent years.

*              *              *

The “wild card” in the deck is Israel. The Israelis have told the American government that a ground invasion is not needed and that their air force, even if acting alone, could destroy not only what they believe to be the danger of Iran – what they profess to believe is its acquisition of nuclear weapons – but also its regime, the modern sectors of its economy and the best educated members of its society.  And, they have repeatedly said they would attack Iran regardless of American policy.  As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during his election campaign, “I promise that if I am elected, Iran will not acquire nuclear arms, and this implies everything necessary to carry this out.”[lxvi]

Do they have the means?  This is a fundamental question the Iranian policy planner would have to answer.  The. public record would show him the following: 

Israel unquestionably has the means to start a war but not the means to conclude it.  I assume that Iranian intelligence would agree with this assessment; what they have done so far indicates that they do.  Iranians know much about Israel’s military capabilities because  for years they have observed them.  Both the regime of the Shah and the post-Revolutionary regime have purchased sophisticated equipment from Israel.[lxvii]  What they have not directly observed they can read in the Western media which details its current air force: at least 150 advanced American fighter-bombers (F-15i and F-16i) serviced by American-supplied tanker aircraft (upgraded KD-707s) for in-air refueling; long-range drones (“Eitans”) capable of carrying bomb loads up to about 2,000 kilograms; long-range missiles (“Jerichos”) and shorter-range missiles (“Harpoons” modified to fire nuclear-tipped missiles) capable of being launched by its 3 submarines, at least a thousand American-supplied “bunker buster” (GBU-39) bombs[lxviii] and at least 80 and perhaps several hundred nuclear weapons.   Iran has no direct means to protect itself against these weapons.

Israel has also sought means to make their delivery by  aircraft possible.  It has requested permission to overfly American-occupied Iraq and  Saudi Arabia.[lxix]  To prove that it could reach the presumed major target, the central Iranian enrichment facility at Natanz, 1,400 kilometers from Israel, its performed a highly-publicized “dry run” over the Eastern Mediterranean in June 2008.[lxx]   It has also established a military presence in Iran’s neighbor, Azerbaijan, the details of which are unknown but which presumably would allow Israel to use it as a base.  That probably  was the reason Shimon Pares and a Defense Ministry delegation visited the country in June 2009. Israel has assisted in the creation of target selection through satellites over Azerbaijan and is said to maintain listening and surveillance posts on the Azerbaijan-Iran border.[lxxi]  Similarly but on a larger more sophisticated scale are Israeli programs in India where in January 2008, the Indian government allowed Israel to launch a state-of-the-art “Tecsar” spy satellite for observation of Iran.[lxxii]

Certainly it has the means to deliver a devastating air attack, but why would Israel want to attack Iran?  The ostensible reason is that Israel believes that Iran is building a nuclear weapon to be used against it.  That was the reason the Israelis and their neoconservative proxies also brought forward to urge America to attack Iraq in 2003.

Since it was known that Iraq had no nuclear weapons and there is no indication that Iran has any, a more logical reason for Israeli hostility to Iraq then and to Iran today is that its national security doctrine does not tolerate powerful regional rivals.  It was not until after the destruction of the regime of Saddam Husain, which the Israelis regarded as their principal rival, that they turned their attention to Iran.[lxxiii] While they have focused public discussion onto nuclear weapons, Iranians believe that Israel’s real aim is to “regime change”[lxxiv] Iran because the Israelis believe Iran is encouraging the Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese against them.[lxxv]

There is also an older part of the story of Israel’s intentions on Iran.  After the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei in 1989, when Ariel Sharon was Israeli Minister of Defense, he developed a detailed plan for the Israeli army to attack and occupy Iran (using  massive amounts of American equipment) and then turn the country over to America to forestall the possibility that the Russians would invade the country.  The American government of the time, (the administration of George H.W. Bush)  apparently turned down the proposal.[lxxvi]

What would an Israeli attack on Iran today entail.  First of all, it would be an air assault (perhaps backed up by small commando teams against selected targets that it cannot destroy from the air).  So what would be the targets and the means used against them?

Israel maintains that the attack it could mount would be so devastating that Iran could hardly recover.  From my involvement in the Cuban Missile Crisis, I am sensitive to this belief; Iranian government officials have had no such direct experience, but press accounts offer the ample information. Non-Israeli and non-Iranian observers have made detailed studies to describe what would happen.  The most recent study[lxxvii] points out that the aim would be “to take out not only known Iranian nuclear facilities but also factories, research centers, and university laboratories with the intention of destroying Iran’s technical capability and killing its leading technocrats…There would be many civilian casualties, both directly among people working on Iran’s nuclear and missile programs but also their families as their living quarters were hit and secretaries, cleaners, labourers and other staff in factories, research stations and university departments…[Israel would make] a sustained attempt to kill as many of the scientific and technical staff as possible.”[lxxviii] 

While there is very little that Iran could do to defend itself in an actual attack, it has taken measures to make the attack less likely to accomplish the attacker’s objective in the hope, of course, of making attack less likely.  While no informed person believes Iran now has a nuclear weapon, it admits to working on nuclear technology and uranium refining.  So, the government has dispersed its facilities as widely as possible.  Israel’s attack on Iraq had one target – Iraq’s  Osiraq nuclear facility —  whereas today Iran has more than 1,200 presumed nuclear-related sites.[lxxix]   The Iranians also have protected their sites by burying many of them at least 30 meters underground in rock formations or under concrete roofs (much as America and Russia did their nuclear facilities and missiles); this would make even “bunker busters” armed with convention explosives unlikely to be effective so an attacker would probably have to use nuclear weapons.[lxxx]  As the prominent Israeli scholar Benny Morris has written,[lxxxi]  “…should Israel’s conventional assault fail to significantly harm or stall the Iranian program, a ratcheting up of the Iranian-Israeli conflict to a nuclear level will most likely follow…” 

The use of nuclear weapons, for the first time since World War II, would have horrible effects.  Probably hundreds of thousands of Iranians would be killed immediately and many more would soon die of wounds, burns and radiation;[lxxxii] if even a “small” bomb exploded above ground, it would throw up about one million cubic meters of radioactive soil with unimaginable consequences for people all around the world.  In short, a nuclear attack would be such a catastrophe that sane governments would not do it.[lxxxiii]  That is why there have been no nuclear attacks for the last 65 years:  nuclear weapons have been regarded as a deterrent, not an offensive weapon, because the idea of “actually using these weapons [offensively, at least in Europe] was an abomination.”[lxxxiv] Thus, in using them preëmptively – and especially when the basis of their decision is widely doubted — Israel would be likely to face world-wide condemnation.  Knowing that,  they might not actually attack.[lxxxv]  The issue remains open, however, even for the United States.  President Obama proclaimed that the United States was committed “not to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Nonprolliferation Treaty, even if they attacked the United States with bioologial or chemical weapons or launched a crippling cyberattack” but he made an exception for “outliers like Iranand North Korea.”[lxxxvi]

Horrifying even a description, much less the reality, of a nuclear attack is, the question remains, “would it work?”  That is, would an attack destroy so much of Iran that it could not for the foreseeable future acquire the potential to build a weapon?  The latest and most authoritative answer to that question was given to the US Senate by Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. General Ronald Burgess and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James Cartwright.  They said even a massive attack was unlikely to be decisive.  The general conclusion was that no matter how devastating the attack, Israel could set back a determined Iranian effort by only one to three years.[lxxxvii] 

Moreover, an attack would absolutely assure that whatever government emerged from the rubble would do anything to get a nuclear weapon.  This is simply because the possession of a nuclear weapon is the ultimate means of defense:  Iran’s policy planner would point out the lesson of history:  of the three states in President George Bush’s “Axis of Evil,” one (Iraq) which had no nuclear weapons was destroyed; one that had nuclear weapons (Korea) was offered an aid program.  So Iran, I believe he would almost certainly say to his government, “get a weapon as rapidly as possible.”

*              *              *

                If I am right, two questions arise:  how would Iran proceed and what could deter it?  Here I revert to my own previous role as a policy planner for America.

The history of the nuclear age shows that once a country gets the bomb, it is quickly accepted by the other nuclear powers as a “member of the club.”   As the former vice chairman of America’s National Intelligence Council, Graham Fuller, points out,[lxxxviii] “we have lived with a nuclear Stalin, a nuclear Mao, a nuclear Kim Il-Song, and an ‘Islamic’ bomb in Pakistan.”   India is more recent proof of our ability to adapt:  although it secretly acquired the weapon and did not join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (as Iran did), the Bush administration said, in effect, “we will make an exception – as we have done for Israel also – and share with you our nuclear technology.”[lxxxix]   

What is also clear from the record is that the period of acquisition – that is, the time between when other states think that a country is trying to get a weapon and the time when it actually has one – is a period of great danger.  Had Saddam Husain waited to move on Kuwait until he had a nuclear weapon, he might still be alive today.  So, one after another, America, Russia, Britain, France, China, Israel, North Korea, India and Pakistan have moved through the acquisition phase as secretly and as rapidly as possible.

Based on this history, reflecting on the “Axis of Evil” sequence and hearing the cacophony of American and Israeli threats, I believe that Iran’s policy planner would advise his government that Iran must move toward acquisition of at least the capacity to build a bomb, that is to prepare for what nuclear strategists call “breakout.”[xc]  During this period, Iran’s central problem would be to avoid attack.  Like all the existing nuclear powers did, Iran would have to act secretly.  Unlike the United States, Russia and China, which had huge conventional military forces, it would also have to act in subtle ways.   China provides a feasible model for subtle political-military tactics.  During his long wars with the Japanese, various warlords and the Nationalists, Mao Zedong alternated offers to negotiate with moves to build power.[xci]  That was what Mao Zedong called “talk talk fight fight.” Such a policy is congenial to Iranians.  Dissimulation (taqiyyah), as I have written,  is a traditional Shia protective mode.  Throughout their history, when Iranians were faced with great danger, they pretended to beliefs they did not hold and to actions they did not intend to effect.  Whatever the influence of such traditional attitudes, however, there are rational grounds for Iranian secrecy.  All the other nuclear nations followed the same course. The Iranians naturally want to stave off attack whether or not they actually want to get a nuclear weapon.  Agreeing to talk while also continuing actions that give them options they may have to pursue is really what diplomacy has always been about.  Today the Iranian option is to acquire at least the basic requirements for a nuclear weapon and the means to deliver it should diplomacy fail.

The means to deliver a weapon has been in hand for five or six years.  The Shihab-3 missile has a range of nearly a thousand miles.[xcii]  The bomb itself is not yet in hand, and estimates vary on the length of the acquisition period.[xciii]   The shortest time is probably three to five years.[xciv]  That is the period of danger so a smart policy for Iran during the period could be “translated” from Mao’s slogan to “offer to talk, offer to talk, [xcv] spin centrifuges spin centrifuges.” This is exactly what Iran has done.[xcvi]  The latest of its offers to talk was made by President Ahmadinejad to the foreign policy head of the European Union on October 29, 2010.[xcvii]  

To be accurate, we should note that the Iranian leadership has consistently said that nuclear weapons are against their religion. The Iranian public apparently agrees:  according to a 2008 poll, 58% of Iranians believe that nuclear weapons violate the tenets of Islam.[xcviii]  Indeed, at the time of the Revolution, the then leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, ended the Shah’s program to acquire them.  He allowed the program to recommence when it appeared that Iran was going down to defeat by Iraq.  The program was again ended.  All American intelligence services believe it has not been recommenced after 2003.   And  its senior officials argued that its willingness to enter into the fuel exchange deal with Turkey and Brazil “was proof that Tehran does not want nuclear weapons because it [the deal] would deprive the Islamic Republic of the immediate ability to enrich its stockpile of uranium further and build a nuclear weapon.”[xcix]  Ahmadinejad has said  that “We do not want the nuclear bomb…we want peaceful nuclear energy…Nuclear weapons did not save the Soviet Union from collapse.”[c]  

Having said that,  I am assuming that whether or not it wishes to do so, Iran will believe itself impelled to acquire the means to make an atomic weapon if it continues to be threatened.

*              *              *

What restraints are there, or could there be, on attempts by Iran to acquire nuclear weapons?  It is almost certain that threat is not among them.[ci]  The more Iran feels threatened, the more incentive it has to push its nuclear program toward acquisition of a weapon.  Nor have sanctions worked.[cii]  Particularly against a less organized and so less fragile economy,  they almost never do.  They were tried by the British against the Iranian government in the 1950s without result.  So now I will lay out what I – and hopefully my hypothetical Iranian policy planner — think could avoid armed conflict, satisfy the Iranian government’s desire for security, allow it to benefit from nuclear power generation and meet the demands of the Western powers for a lessening of the nuclear weapon danger.

The bottom line is for Iran to get a satisfactory security guarantee. As even senior American generals have pointed out, “Iran cannot accept long term restraints on its fuel-cycle activity as part of a settlement without a security guarantee.”[ciii] So what does a security guarantee mean?  These are the basic steps: 

The first step is that the United States must renounce assertion of the right to attack Iran preëmptively and, as the 2005 “National Security Paper of the United States” put it,  “at the time, place, and in the manner of our choosing.”[civ]  If this is still a valid interpretation of American policy, the Iranian government would be foolish not to acquire a nuclear weapon.

The second step is to get an internationally guaranteed statement recognizing Iran’s sovereign independence and certifying that no other state, particularly the United States and Israel, will attack it.  Such guarantees have often been made among states – indeed, they are incorporated in the UN charter —  but in and of themselves they have rarely prevented war.  That is, they are necessary but not sufficient.

So the third step would be to create a nuclear-free Middle East. This and other steps could be taken in a phased manner. It could begin with a decision by the US to stand down its enormous Naval and Air Forces on Iran’s frontier.  More complex, of course, is what to do about the neighboring nuclear-armed states. The means to accomplish this part of the objective will require international negotiation of a high order.  But the essential element is clear:  “imbalance” is what has successively motivated other nuclear powers.  Russia had to have the bomb because America had it; China because of Russia, India and Pakistan because of one another.  So Iran will not give up its quest unless other states reciprocate. This position was clearly stated by the then head of the Indian nuclear program to justify his nation’s acquisition of the bomb.  He said, essentially, that there can’t be a license for Europeans and a prohibition for Asians.  In accord, there can’t be a prohibition for Iran but not for others.  This is an effort in which we all must engage.

Is nuclear disarmament  a feasible, even if long- or middle-term, objective? 

I think it is.  Cutting back and then abolishing nuclear weapons inventories is in everyone’s interest.  The fact is simply that nuclear weapons anywhere are a danger to people everywhere.  It will be difficult to persuade Israel which has a huge nuclear weapons inventory, but even Israel has logical reasons to join in this effort.  In its own interest, it must face the fact that, whether or not Iran decides to get a nuclear weapon, other countries in its neighborhood soon will.[cv]  So while having nuclear weapons, arguably, was a source of security for Israel in the past, retaining them today is becoming a source of insecurity.  Moreover, giving them up would remove the major danger the Israelis have identified: a conventionally armed Iran poses no threat to Israel.   Both could benefit from regional security guarantees that would naturally be incorporated in a move toward a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East.

Within a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East, there would be nothing to stop Iran and other countries from benefitting from the intellectual, industrial and energy-saving aspects of nuclear technology and, within a balanced system, Iran would not find it humiliating to take up the various proposals[cvi] to have other powers and the IAEA monitor its activities and safeguard its fuel.

The Iranians, I believe, could be induced to move in this direction if Israel joined in the process. Their motivation is that such a move would be in their national interest.  The Iranians are tired of living under the gun. The ruling ulama and their secular allies have shown that they fully enjoy the perquisites of peace while millions of young working-class Iranians, who are now jobless and below the poverty line,[cvii] want their government to meet their desires for a richer, fuller life.

If security guarantees are supplemented with more open international trade, for example enabling Iran to join the World Trade Organization (which the United States has blocked), to have access to capital for investment (which the United States is now blocking), and to get the advanced technology it needs to improve oil extraction and to liquefy natural gas, Iran will have achieved a true “victory.”   America can play a useful role in lessening the tensions.  Much of that role consists of not acting but there are many positive things it can do as well.  It is important to weigh in our thinking that, despite the often bitter confrontations of the post-revolutionary years, America is not hated in Iran.  In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, 60,000 Iranians observed a minute of silence in bustling Tehran and many thousands of others held candlelight vigils.[cviii]

It is for these reasons, despite the opposition of Iran’s own “hawks,”[cix] that successive Iranian governments have  made conciliatory gestures.[cx]  The Iranians assisted in forming a new Afghan government after the fall of the Taliban; it has strenuously and at great cost tried to block the drug trade; in May 2003 then President Muhammad Khatimi offered open negotiations for a “grand bargain;”[cxi]  Prime Minister Ahmadinejad made a comparable offer in May 2006,[cxii] and he appears to have repeated the offer in a letter to President Obama on January 29, 2009.  What will result is not yet known, but the essential point is that Iran has offered a wide-ranging diplomatic encounter.  It would be prudent to explore it.

*              *              *

In conclusion, on the basis of my study of Iranian history and mores and my experience in international negotiation, peace seeking and policy planning, I believe that the Obama administration has a “window of opportunity” in the dreary litany of suspicion and hostility.  This window could open onto prospects where we could see how to avoid horrible costs to the Iranians and devastating costs to America. But, we should be realistic:  the path toward peace will not be easy and our progress along it will be slow and probably will be hampered by frequent missteps.  We and the Iranians will be looking over our shoulders. Both of us will have to contend with prejudice and ignorance.  Both of us will be emotional and will be quick to fault the other.  But let us reflect, as Roger Cohen wrote in The International Herald Tribune, that “a third U.S. war in inconceivable,[cxiii] and also on a positive step we have already taken in the right direction: both Iran and America have participated in the program to abolish a whole category of lethal substances that are almost as evil as nuclear arms, chemical weapons.[cxiv] Wise statesmen would put aside self-destructive delusions and  move in self-interested and realistic ways.

ª  Detailed notes are included because they are what Iranian intelligence and policy planners could get from the public media and so would shape their thinking.  The Western reader may wish to see only some of them.

[i]   As former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara found (“Apocalypse Soon,” Foreign Policy, May/June 2005) years later the commanders of the four Soviet nuclear submarines then trailing the American fleet had authorization to fire their nuclear armed torpedoes without recourse to Moscow.  Being out of touch with their headquarters, they continued to patrol off Cuba for four days after Khrushchev announced the withdrawal and the crisis had ended.

[ii]   He was not overthrown, but after his death he was “down-graded” and not buried at the Kremlin Wall as were other leaders.

[iii] The Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs, April 2003, Charles W. Nass and Henry Precht, “Shining a Light into the Darkness of Iranian-U.S. Relations.”  Nass was the State Department country director for Iran, 1975-1978, and chargé at the American embassy in Tehran during the Revolution; Precht served in the embassy before the Revolution and then was the country director at the State Department.

[iv]   The Boston Globe, March 16, 2007, Stephen Kinzer, “The peril of taking on Iran.”  Mr. Kinzer comments that “this religious government would probably never have come to power, if the United States had kept its hands off Iran in 1953.  Iran might instead have become a thriving democracy…”

[v]   The New Yorker, July 7 and 14, 2008, Seymour Hersh, “Preparing the Battlefield.”

[vi]   International Herald Tribune, February 13, 2005,  Dafna Linzer, “U.S. Uses Drones to Probe Iran for Arms.”

[vii]    Jerusalem Post, January 30, 2007, “US Strike Group Transits Suez Canal.”

[viii]    The Washington Post, April 16, 2007, William M. Arkin, “The Pentagon Preps for Iran.” A previous war game was ordered by President Bush three years earlier.  See The Atlantic Monthly, December 2004,  James Fallows, “Will Iran Be Next?”   In his memoirs, Decision Points (New York: Crown, 2010), Bush mentions but does not elaborate his order to the Pentagon to plan an attack.

[ix]   Seymour Hersh, op. cit.

[x]    The Sunday Times,  September 2, 2007, Sarah Baxter, “Pentagon ‘Three-day Blitz’ Plan for Iran

[xi]     International Herald Tribune, August 18, 2006, “Twenty-two former high-ranking military officers and retired diplomats urged President George W. Bush…”  And IPS, March 11, 2008, Gareth Porter, “Dissenting Views Made [Admiral William] Fallon’s Fall Inevitable.  Also see Esquire, March-April 2008, Thomas Barnett, “The Man between War and Peace.”

[xii]   The Guardian, September 27, 2008, Jonathan Steel, “Israel Asked US for Green Light to Bomb Nuclear Sites in Iran”  and The New York Times, January 12, 2009, David E. Sanger, “U.S. Rejected Aid for Israeli Raid on Iranian Nuclear Site.”

[xiii] Asia Times, May 6, 2008, Gareth Porter, “Yes, the Pentagon did want to hit Iran.”

[xiv]   International Herald Tribune, October 23, 2008.  Roger Cohen, “Iran is job one.”

[xv] National Review, February 2, 2010, by Daniel Pipes, “How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran.”

[xvi] Christian Science Monitor, February 5,  2009, Scott Peterson, “Iranians wary of Obama’s approach.”

“From Obama’s choice of US officials who have expressed hawkish views on Iran in the past to continued use of some Bush-era language…officials and analysts in Tehran say suspicion remains about American motives.”  Peterson notes that Iranians point out that during the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama accused her of “Bush-style cowboy diplomacy” but as president made her his secretary of state.

[xvii]   Quoted in Leverett@newamerica.net, The Race for Iran, November 3, 2010, Flynt Leverett, “U.S. Reverses Course and Designates Anti-Iranian Jundallah as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.”

[xviii] Former  Deputy Assistant Secretary of  State John Limbert in “the Obama Administration” in Robin Wright (ed.), The Iran Primer (Washington, D.C.; United States Institute of Peace, 2010).

[xix]   In one of those curious ironies of history, the original plan for the Tehran medical isotope reactor, in the time of  the Shah, called for weapons-grade enrichment, that is c. 90%.   Private communication from Professor R.K. Ramazani of the University of Virginia.

[xx] The Race for Iran, a website of Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, April 16, “Can the Obama Administration take a Deal with Iran on the TRR?”

[xxi] Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 23, Anthony H. Cordesman and Abdullah Toukan, “Options in Dealing with Iran’s Nuclear Program.”

[xxii] The Race for Iran, a website of Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, July 21, “Stumbling into a Proxy War with Iran in Afghanistan.”

[xxiii] Christian Science Monitor, May 19, 2010, Scott Peterson, “US answer to Iran nuclear swap: Overnight deal on sanctions.”

[xxiv] Ibid.

[xxv] National Iranian American Council (NIAC), press release of May 18, Dr. Trita Parsi, “The Turkey-Brazil-Iran deal:  Can Washington take ‘yes’ for an answer?”  [Originally produced in Foreign Policy]

[xxvi] Christian Science Monitor, May 17, 2010, Scott Peterson,  “Iran nuclear fuel swap deal:  What it involves, and how it will affect US push for sanctions.”

[xxvii] MJ Rosenberg’s Foreign Policy Matters, May 19, “Missed Opportunity with Iran?”

[xxviii] May 19, 2010, “US answer to Iran nuclear swap: Overnight deal on sanctions.”  And McClatchy Newspapers, May 18, 2010, Jonathan S. Landlay, “U.S., other major powers agree on new Iran sanctions.”

[xxix] Al Jazeera October 19,  Dan Nolan, “Dubai’s next black hole.”

[xxx] The Washington Post, Oct 16, 2010, Thomas Erdbrink, “U.S. deal with European oil firms hobbles Iran Air.”

[xxxi] The New York Times, April 14, David E. Sanger, “Officials Say Iran Could Make Bomb Fuel in a Year.”

Testifying in the US Senate, General James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “cast doubt on any sanctions enacted by the United Nations would change Iran’s calculus in pursuing its nuclear program...”  Also see Center for European Reform Bulletin, April/May 2008, Christoph Bertram, “For a New Iran Policy.”  “Sanctions will not work.”  Bertram was director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the German Institute for International Security Affairs.

[xxxii]  Al Jazeera, May 7, 2010, “Iran steps up diplomatic offensive.”

[xxxiii] The Weekly Standard, April 24, 2006, “Target: Iran…” 

[xxxiv] The New Yorker, July 7 & 14, 2008, “Preparing the Battlefield.”

[xxxv] The New York Times,  January 11, 2009, , David E. Sanger, “U.S. Rejected Aid for Israeli Raid on Iranian Nuclear Site.”

[xxxvi]   Personal communication from a former senior CIA official, Ray Close, on June 26, 2008, enclosing a message from Colonel Sam Gardiner, USAF (rtd).

[xxxvii]   The New Yorker, July 7 & 14, 2008, Seymour Hersh, “Preparing the Battlefield,”

[xxxviii]   Leverett@newamerica.net, The Race for Iran, November 3, 2010, Flynt Leverett, “U.S. Reverses Course and Designates Anti-Iranian Jundallah as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.”  Politico, November 3, 2010, Laura Rozen, U.S. designates Jundullah as terrorit gorup” gives the text of the State Deparment statement.”

[xxxix]   Conflicts Forum UK, May 3, 2008, “Six weeks ago, President Bush signed a secret finding authorizing a covert offensive against the Iranian regime that, according to those familiar with its contents, [is] ‘unprecedented in scope.’”

[xl]  Al Jazeera, June 20, 2010, “Iran hangs Sunni group leader.”

[xli]  The New York Times, April 17, 2003, Douglas Jehl, “U.S. Bombed bases of Iranian rebels in Iraq.”

[xlii] International Herald Tribune, October 30, 2008, Associated Press, “Iraq wants U.S. curbed in attacking its neighbors.”

[xliii]   The Guardian, October 17, 2010, Martin Chulov, “Iran brokers behind-the-scenes deal for pro-Tehran government in Iraq.”

[xliv]   The Economist, September 11, 2010, “The president’s awkward friend.”

[xlv]   Salon, forwarding The Daily Progress,  March 29, 2010, R.K. Ramazani, “Preventing Iran from Going Nuclear.”

[xlvi]   Time (Middle East Blog), September 10, 2008, Tim McGirk, “Kidnapping Ahmadinejad.”   Eitan’s  most famous operation was the kidnapping of Adolf Eichmann in Argentina.  He was also alleged to have been involved in operations against the United States including the theft of nearly 100 kilograms of highly enriched uranium  (known as “The Apollo Affair”, UPI, June 16, 1986, in The Los Angeles Times) for which no charges were made and the theft of US Naval codes (the Jonathan Pollard Affair) for which Pollard went to prison.  Eitan ghoulishly detailed his work as an assassin, using piano wire, to strangle his victims. (Gordon Thomas, Gideon’s Spies, New York, St. Martin’s Press, 1999).

[xlvii]   International Herald Tribune, February 13, 2005,  Dafna Linzer “U.S. Uses Drones to Probe Iran for Arms,” “The Bush administration has been flying surveillance drones over Iran for nearly a year to seek evidence of nuclear weapons programs and detect weaknesses in air defense, according to three U.S. officials with detailed knowledge of the secret effort…The aerial espionage is standard in military preparations for an eventual air attack and is also employed as a tool for intimidation.”

[xlviii]    Report of the Director General to the Board of the IAEA, February 19, 2009.

[xlix]    The Washington Post, February 12, 2010,  William Kristol, “Iran regime change:  An Obama achievement we could believe in.”  He wrote, “Regime change in Iran – that would be an Obama administration achievement that [Vice President] Joe Biden, and the rest of us, could really celebrate.”

[l]  The Weekly Standard, April 24, 2006,  [U.S. Air Force General (Ret.)] Thomas McInerney, “Target: Iran.“

[li]   The Guardian, April 7, 2007, Ewen MacAskill, Julian Border, Michael Howard and John Hooper, “Americans offered ‘aggressive patrols’ in Iranian airspace.  The British “said the US could calm the situation by staying out of it…[and] At the request of the British, the two US carrier groups, totally 40 ships plus aircraft, modified their exercises to make them less confrontational.”

[lii]  Reuters, June 1, 2007.

[liii]  The New York Times, May 12, 2007, David E. Sanger, “Cheney, on Carrier, Sends Warning to Iran.”

[liv]   ZSpace, June 28, 2010, Noam Chomsky, “The Iran Threat.” 

[lv]   OxfordResearchGroup Briefing Paper July 10, 2010, Raul Rogers, “Military Action Against Iran: Impact and Effects.”

[lvi]  The report was released in February 2010.  The Iranian military doctrine is a variant of the “trip wire” concept America had urged on the Shah to slow down a possible Russian invasion.  It recognized that the Iranians could not then have stopped the Russians, just as today they could not stop the Americans, but slowing them down would allow time for a reaction.

[lvii] OxfordResearchGroup Briefing Paper July 2010, Paul Rogers, “Military Action Against Iran: Impact and Effects.”  The report states that  “most political analysts are convinced that an attack on the country would result in a high degree of political unity right across the spectrum of opinion, however unpopular the government of the day.”

[lviii]   Events in Afghanistan were similar.  Once the Taliban army had been defeated, the real war began.  It has been going on for nearly a decade – as it did when the Russians invaded and occupied the country.  What it will cost in casualties, wounded and money is as yet unknown.  But  the Afghan campaign is moving toward the Iraqi figures.

[lix]   The New Yorker, June 19, 2009, Jon Lee Anderson, “Understanding the Basij.  Some reports (e.g. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, November 2, 2010) suggest that virtually the entire youth of the country, perhaps as many as 13 million,  is either enrolled or could be to fight invaders.

[lx] The Guardian, October 29, 2008, Julian Borger, “Iran opens new naval base at mouth of Persian Gulf,”  “Iranian naval doctrine is focused on asymmetric attacks against western navies using swarms of small high-speed fiberglass boats armed with anti-ship missiles…[relying] on strength in numbers and surprise, calling it a ‘presence everywhere and nowhere doctrine.” The New Yorker, July 10 & 17, 2006, Seymour Hersh, “Last Stand.” American Naval Intelligence found that “Iran has more than seven hundred undeclared dock and port facilities along its Persian Gulf coast.”  The Japanese Kamikazes killed about 5,000 Americans.  And PolilcyWatch 1179, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, December 21, 2006, Faribor Haghshenass, “Iran’s Doctrine of Asymmetric Naval Warfare.

[lxi]  Haaretz, September 11, 2008, “U.S.: No to ‘bunker-busters,’ Iraq flyover rights for Israel,” The Guardian, September 26, 2008, Jonathan Steele, “Israel asked US for green light to bomb nuclear sites in Iran.”  “Israel gave serious thought this spring to launching a military strike on Iran’s nuclear sites but was told by President George W. Bush that he would not support it…”  And The Guardian, September 27, 2008, Jonathan Steele, “Time to say, ‘Thank you, George’”

[lxii]  The Observer, January 8, 2008, “Bullying Iran is not an option.”

[lxiii]   Talking Point Memo (Salon), September 11, 2008, Daniel Levy, “Israeli President’s No to Bomb Iran,”  French President Sarkozy “said that an attack would be ‘a catastrophe’ [and that it] must be prevented.”

[lxiv]   An unpublished protocol in November 2010 called for three pipelines: one gas, one light crude  (1.5 million barrels/day and one heavy crude for the same amount).  Iran would participate along with Syria and Iraq.

[lxv]  International Herald Tribune, July 29, 2008, Anatol Lieven and Trita Parsi, “Drawing a Red Line,” “As for an attack on Iran, this would at best only delay the Iranian program, while catastrophically undermining American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and indeed the entire U.S. position in the Muslim world.”

[lxvi] Guardian, August 13, David Clark, “Military action is dangerous fantasy.  We could live with nuclear Iran.”

[lxvii]  Uri Avnery, July 12, 2008, “Why Not?”  During the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran war, “Israel secretly supported the Iran of the ayatollahs.  The Irangate affair was only a small part of the story.”

[lxviii] Haaretz, , September 15, 2008, Aluf Benn and Amos Harel, “U.S. to sell IAF smart bombs for heavily fortified targets.”  The Pentagon announced the sale of 1,000 “Guided Bomb Unit-39” weapons which are claimed to be able to penetrate 1.8 meters of reinforced concrete.

[lxix]  Other  routes are possible.  There has been much talk of an Israeli deal with Saudi Arabia (vigorously denied by the Saudis) and there was an attack on Syria on September 6, 2008 that may have been an attempt to test Syrian air defense but which was advertised as an attack on a nuclear site.  See U.S. News and World Report, March 12, 2008.  In the London Review of Books, June 19, 2008, Norman Dombey, “At Al Kibar,” pointed out that the reactor, if it existed, had “no fuel, and no prospect of getting any.”  In his memoir, Decision Points (New York: Crown, 2010),  Bush quotes his converation with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, asking him to bomb Syria; he said that he told Olmert tdhat “bombing a sovereign country with no warning or announced justification  would create severe blowback…I cannot justify an attack on a sovereign nation unless my intelligence agencies stand up and say it’s a weapons program.”  He wrote that the Israeli prime minister told him that “Your strategy is very disturbing to me.”

[lxx] International Herald Tribune, June 21-22, 2008, Michael Gordon and Eric Schmitt,  “An Israeli dry run for raid against Iran?”  More than 100 F-16 and F-15 participated over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece, flying the exact range of flight to Natanz, 1,400 km.

[lxxi]  Global Research, July 10, 2009, Rick Rozoff, “Military Escalation: From Afghanistan to the Caspian Sea and Central Asia.”  Also PanArmenian.net, October 30, 2010, “Azerbaijan Armed by Israel?”

[lxxii]   Institute for Policy Studies, February 12, 2008, Ninan Koshy, “India and Israel Eye Iran.”

[lxxiii] Guardian, August 13,  2010, David Clark, “Military action is dangerous fantasy.  We could live with nuclear Iran.” “Israel switched tack not because of any change in Iranian behaviour, but because Iraq ceased to be a military power that Israel felt the need to balance with an alliance of the non-Arab periphery.  Having replaced Iraq as the region’s second strongest power, Iran has now become the logical focus of Israeli policy.”

[lxxiv]   This issue was discussed by Christoph Bertram in The European Union Institute of Security Studies, Chaillot Paper #110 of August 2008, entitled “Rethinking Iran.

[lxxv]   The Iranians certainly believe it:  The Los Angeles Times, September 20, 2008, Ramin Montaghim and Borou Daragahi, “Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says Iran, Israel on ‘collision course.’”  Khamenei addressed the large mosque in Tehran, saying that while “Iran has no problem with Judaism or other religions, ‘we are on a collision course with the occupiers of Palestine and the occupiers are the Zionist regime…This is the position of our regime, our revolution and our people.’”

[lxxvi]   Uri Avnery, July 12, 2008, “Why Not?”  Averny says that Sharon revealed the plan to him because he was writing an article on Sharon.

[lxxvii] OxfordResearchGroup Briefing Paper July 2010, Paul Rogers, “Military Action Against Iran: Impact and Effects.”

[lxxviii]  The same report points out that Israeli military doctrine calls for such “all-out assaults” with a similar campaign planned against Hizbullah in Lebanon and as employed against Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2008-9.  Also see Defense News (Army Times Publishing Company), May 31, 2010, Barbara Opall-Rome, “Israel’s New Hard Line on Hizbollah.”

[lxxix] The Sunday Times, September 2, 2007: Sarah Baxter, “Pentagon “Three-Day Blitz” plan for Iran.”

[lxxx] The Sunday Times, January 7, 2007.

[lxxxi] The International Herald Tribune, July 19-20, 2008, “Using bombs to stave off war.”

[lxxxii] The Guardian, February 13, 2006, Ewen MacAskill.  “Consequences of a War,”

[lxxxiii]   Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara described current (2005) US nuclear weapons policy as “immoral, illegal, military unnecessary, and dreadfully dangerous.”  He pointed out that a “small” (one megaton) nuclear weapon today is roughly 70 times as powerful as the weapon that killed 280,000 people in Hiroshima and commented that to drop a nuclear weapon on a “nonnuclear enemy would be militarily unnecessary, morally repugnant, and politically indefensible.” (“Apocalypse Soon,” Foreign Policy, May/June 2005).

[lxxxiv]   McGeorge Bundy, Danger and Survival (New York: Random House, 1988), 237.  on which also see Stanley Hoffman, “Do Nuclear Weapons Matter?”  in the New York Review of Books, February 2, 1989.

[lxxxv]   In a private communication of April 7, 2010, Mr. Uri Avnery, a former member for 10 years of the Knesset, wrote me that “a military attack by Israel is unlikely.”  Others are not so sure. Not only interpretations but also actions present a purposefully confusing picture:   See The [London] Times, April 18, 2009, Sheera Frenkel, “Israel Stands ready to bomb Iran’s  nuclear sites.”  An Israeli Defense Ministry official told Ms. Frenkel, “Israel will have no choice [but] to strike – with or without America.”  Yet another view came from Trita Parsi in the Huffington Post, April 13, 2009, “Israel Is Bluffing: Constant War Threats Against Iran Are Empty, But Still Dangerous.”  He wrote that “it fuels Iranian insecurity and closes the window for diplomacy.”   In April 2007, the Israeli Defense Force held the largest drill in Israeli history on a possible war.   See Haaretz, April 7, 2009,  Anshel Pfeffer, “IDF planning largest-ever drill to prepare Israel for War.”  Three months later, Israel sent two missile boats to join its submarines off Iran. The [London] Times, April 18, 2009, Sheera Frenkel, “Israeli navy in Suez canal prepares for potential attack on Iran.”

[lxxxvi]   The New York Times, April 5, 2010, David E. Sanger and Peter Baker, “Obama Limits When U.S. Would Use Nuclear Arms.”

[lxxxvii]   The New York Times, April 14, 2010, David Sanger, “Officials Say Iran Could Make Bomb Fuel in a Year.” Salon,forwarding The Daily Progress,  March 29, 2010, R.K. Ramazani, “Preventing Iran from Going Nuclear,”  reporting that Defense Secretary Robert Gates thinks that “a military attack  might only delay its [Iran’s] nuclear program for a couple of years.”   Also see “Memorandum for the President,” Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, August 7, 2010.  These intelligence experts pointed out that the generals’ testimony did not alter the key judgments of the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that Iran is not now attempting to build a bomb.  Despite the finding of the entire intelligence community, President Obama said on Israeli Television that “…all indicators are that they [the Iranians] are in fact pursuing a nuclear weapon.”

[lxxxviii] In a private communication in April 2010.

[lxxxix]   International Herald Tribune, September 12, 2008, Former President Jimmy Carter, “India deal puts world at risk”  and October 3, 2008, Peter Baker, “Congress approves U.S. nuclear trade with India.”

[xc]   In fact, a large number of industrialized countries are already “threshold nuclear states.” The Race for Iran, a website of Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, October 18, “Iran As A Threshold Nuclear State?”

[xci] International Herald Tribune, December 2, 2005, Richard Bernstein: “Mao’s fight talk’ strategy is a winning one for Iran.”  Mao Zedong’s fight fight talk talk strategy.  Offer to talk, then resume work on nuclear process.  “There is no very good military option on Iran…there is no feasible alternative to negotiations [but that] is the reason Iran in the end will probably become a nuclear weapons power.”

[xcii]   The New York Times, July 8, 2003, Nazila Fathi, “Iran Confirms Test of Missile That is Able to Hit Israel.”

[xciii] International Institute for Strategic Studies, “Nuclear Iran: How Close is it?”  Volume 13, Issue 7, September 2007.  Gary Milhollin (International Herald Tribune, September 29, 2008) believes that Iran could already have produced (by January 2009) enough weapons grade uranium, 35 pounds,  for its first bomb and two more by February 2020. International Herald Tribune, March 2, 2009, Thom Shanker, “Iran one step closer to bomb, U.S. says,” quotes the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as reporting that “Iran has amassed enough fissile material to build an atomic bomb” but Secretary of Defense Gates told NBC news “They’re not close to a weapon at this point.”

[xciv]    There are stages in the acquisition of a nuclear weapon: to refine uranium sufficient for one bomb to 85-90% is estimated to take a year (The New York Times, April 14, 2010, David Sanger, “Officials Say Iran Could Make Bomb Fuel in a Year”);   to create the bomb itself is estimated to take an addition 3 to 5 years from the time a decision has been made to do so; to test the components will take an additional period of unknown duration.  So, as Ray McGovern, a former CIA intelligence analyst dealing with nuclear weapons has said, “Iran is nowhere near a nuclear weapon…” Information Clearing House, March 12, 2010.

[xcv] IPS, July 7, 2008, Trita Parsi, “Reading Solana in Tehran.”  “Conciliatory noises from Tehran over the nuclear issue have left Washington and Brussels baffled,”  Also see Scott Ritter, Target Iran (New York: Nation Books, 2006), International Herald Tribune, February 11, 2009, David Sanger, “Is Tehran ready to talk?” International Herald Tribune, February 10, 2009, Editorial, “Iran’s scientists are working aggressively to master nuclear fuel production – the hardest part of building a weapon.”  But, as the director of national intelligence and the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 11, “Iran does not have any highly enriched uranium, the fuel used to power a nuclear warhead.  Global Edition of the New York Times, March 11, 2009.  A somewhat more alarming view was set forth by William H. Tobey, International Herald Tribune, March 12, 2009, “What do we really know?

[xcvi]   BBC News, April 9, 2010, “Iran unveils ‘faster’ uranium centrifuges” and The Jerusalem Post, August 10, 2010, “IAEA: Iran activates second centrifuge.”

[xcvii]   The New York Times, October 29, 2010, Stephen Castle, “Iran Agrees to Resume Nuclear Talks with West.”  Also The Guardian, October 29, 2010, Peter Walker, “Iran tells EU it is willing to restart nuclear talks.”  Mr. Walker adds that Iran is expected to demand that the issue of Israeli nuclear weapons be added to the discussion.  This should not be a surprise.  AS M.J. Rosenberg wrote (Foreign Policy Matters, May 19, 2010,) “…it is simply ridiculous to believe that America can ever be taken seriously on proliferation issues while [closing our eyes to] Israel’s existing nuclear arsenal…”

[xcviii]  Salon, forwarding The Daily Progress, March 29, 2010, R.K. Ramazani, “Preventing Iran from Going Nuclear.”

[xcix] Christian Science Monitor, May 17, 2010, Scott Peterson,  “Iran nuclear fuel swap deal:  What it involves, and how it will affect US push for sanctions.”

[c] Private message passed to Professor R.K. Ramazani on September 23 of a meeting with Ahmadinejad in New York at the Hotel Warwick on September 22, 2010 with senior Iranian officials and invited American specialists on Iran.

[ci]  It was apparently after George Bush labeled North Korea a part of the Axis of Evil that it moved to turn its uranium into a usable bomb.

[cii] Center for European Reform Bulletin, April/May 2008, Christoph Bertram, “For a New Iran Policy.”  “Sanctions will not work.”  Bertram was director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and   the German Institute for International Security Affairs.

[ciii] The New Yorker, July 10 & 17, 2006 Seymour Hersh, “Last Stand,” quoting Major Generals Paul Eaton and Charles Swannack, Jr.

[civ] “Department of Defense, “The National Defense Strategy of the United States of America,”  March 2005.   Another version came out the following year.  It was savaged by William Pfaff who wrote (International Herald Tribune, March 20, 2006)  that “Intellectual poverty is the most striking quality of the Bush administration’s new National Security statement, issued on Thursday,  Its overall incoherence, its clichés and stereotyped phraseology…reveals the administration’s foreign policy as a lumpy stew of discredited neoconservative ideas with some neo-Kissingerian geopolitics now mixed in.”  The June 2008 version (“National Defense Strategy,”) signed by the current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, reaffirmed that “the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively in exercising its right of self-defense to forestall or prevent hostile acts by our adversaries” among which it listed Iran.  The 2010 version has toned down the language and the element of threat.

[cv] The New York Times, April 15, 2007, William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, “Eye on Iran, Rivals Pursuing Nuclear Power,” “Two year ago, the leaders of Saudi Arabia told international atomic regulators that they could foresee no need for the kingdom to develop nuclear power.  Today, they are scrambling to hire atomic contractors, buy nuclear hardware and build support a regional system or reactors.”

[cvi]   For example, the proposal of William Luers, Thomas Pickering and Jim Walsh, “A solution for the US-Iran Nuclear Standoff,” in the March 20, 2008 New York Review of Books.  “We propose that Iran's efforts to produce enriched uranium and other related nuclear activities be conducted on a multilateral basis, that is to say jointly managed and operated on Iranian soil by a consortium including Iran and other governments.” And their subsequent article in the February 12, 2009 issue of the same journal.

[cvii]  The Guardian, May 4, 2006, Tariq Ali, “Why has US Manufactured a Crisis over Iran?” and  Congressional Research Service, January 15, 2009, Shayerah Ilias, “Iran’s Economic Conditions: U.S. Policy Issues.”

[cviii] The BBC, Gordon Corea, “Uncovering Iran.”

[cix]  The Guardian, January 29, 2009:  The chairman of “the Guardian Council,” Ayatollah Ahmad Janati, denounced attempts to rapprochement with the US.

[cx]   International Herald Tribune, December 7, 2007,  Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, “Bush’s real lie about Iran: despite recent claims otherwise, the White House has rebuffed negotiations with Iran at every turn…”

[cxi]   Financial Times, March 17, 2004, Guy Dunmore, “US stalls over Iran talks offer.”  The Bush administration was furious and complained to the Swiss Foreign Ministry that its ambassador in Tehran had exceeded his authority by even transmitting the offer.

[cxii][cxii]  International Herald Tribune, August 18, 2006, “from news reports”  “Twenty-two former high-ranking military officers and retired diplomats urged President George W. Bush on Thursday to open discussions immediately…”  The New York Times correspondent Nicholas D. Kristof headed his column on January 22, 2007, “Hang up!  Tehran is calling.”

[cxiii]   “An unknown soldier.”  November 9, 2010.

[cxiv]   The International Herald Tribune, December 11, 2008, Roger Cohen, “A U.S.-Iranian conversation.”  Describing Iranian and American cooperation in the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.”

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

• Foreword

• Becoming Iranian

• Being Iranian

• Shahs, Ulama and Western Powers

• From Political Revolution through Social Revolution to Violent Revolution

• The Revolutionary Regime * The United States and Iran Today and Tomorrow

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2012

    Honest and in-depth

    The author provides an extensive account of Iranian history while focusing on the most relevant points. As an Iranian-American I was apprehensive that the authors analysis would be repitition of either sides rhetoric. Insted the author provides a honest open minded analysis of Iranian-American relationships. I would reccomend this book to any one who wishes to learn more about Iranian geopolitics. This book is not suited for those wishing to learn about Persians culture and cannot completely prepare one for a visit to Iran

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