Posts filed under “War/Defense”

Iran’s Nuclear Program and its Nuclear Option

Iran’s Nuclear Program and its Nuclear Option
John Mauldin
November 10, 2011


Take a minute – and maybe a deep breath too – and imagine the markets at opening bell on a hypothetical morning when live video shows burning oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz (through which 40% of the world’s seaborne oil passes). Couple that with the already shaky state of the current global economy and you get … well, what does chaos in a mosh pit look like?

Iran is back in the headlines, and once again behaving in a less-than-cooperative fashion regarding its nuclear enrichment program. After they’ve failed to deliver on promise after promise, it does not appear that Iran will come clean anytime soon, and definitely not in time for the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) inspection report due out any day now.

So what are our options? This week I came across a report from my friends over at STRATFOR, a geopolitical intelligence company, that fully analyzes the situation. They were nice enough to let me share the full article with Outside the Box readers, so I don’t want to give too much away here. All I’ll say is that there are three factors deterring any form of action against Tehran, and one of them relates to the scenario I described above.

And if you’d like more than just the occasional report from STRATFOR via yours truly, I’ve finagled a nice discount on a STRATFOR subscription for my readers, plus a free copy of their book on Iran. >>Click here to find out more.<<

Your still grieving Rangers fan,

John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Box

Iran’s Nuclear Program and its Nuclear Option


November 8, 2011Details and specifics of the forthcoming International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on the Iranian nuclear program continued to leak out over the weekend, with the formal report expected later this week. The growing rhetoric about Iran — including talk from certain Israeli and American corners about an air campaign against Iran — had already begun to intensify in anticipation of the report, which will say more explicitly than previous IAEA assessments that Iran is indeed actively pursuing a nuclear weaponization program.

There is a cyclical nature to this rhetoric, and the correlation with the most harsh IAEA report on Iran to date is hard to get past. But while the latest IAEA report is certainly set to contain new, specific information about Iran’s program, there has been little serious doubt in recent years that Iran has continued to actively pursue nuclear weapons. The impending IAEA report’s overarching tenor is not news to anyone — though it provides plenty of opportunity to talk about Iran’s program, point fingers at Tehran and once again raise the specter of war — something even those mostly looking to mount pressure for more aggressive sanctions may do.

Nuclear weaponization programs by their nature require large, fixed infrastructure that must be connected to significant sources of power. The development of such programs — particularly in countries operating without access to key, export-controlled materiel — demands considerable investment over many years. Any serious movement down this path is vulnerable to detection, which is likely to lead to an attack in short order as Iraq found out in 1981 and Syria found out in 2007. Essentially, if a country desires a nuclear deterrent because it lacks any deterrent at all, then it is unlikely to be allowed the uninterrupted space and time to develop one.

The counterexamples are countries — specifically, North Korea and Iran — that already have a compelling, non-nuclear deterrent. That existent, non-nuclear deterrent discourages pre-emptive attacks against the country while its nuclear development efforts are in their most vulnerable stages. In the case of North Korea, Pyongyang has demonstrated a very sophisticated ability to escalate and de-escalate crises year after year, keeping itself at the center of the international agenda but not inviting physical attack. One element of this is Pyongyang’s deliberate cultivation of a perception of unpredictability — the idea the North Korean dictator may not behave rationally — which convinces international actors to give the regime a wide berth. The other is continued ambiguity. North Korea has made a career out of crossing international “red lines” and has helped soften the blow of crossing those lines by doing so ambiguously, particularly with nuclear tests that are not overtly, demonstrably successful. Yet North Korea has a large but unknown number of conventional artillery and artillery rocket batteries within range of Seoul. North Korea’s real “nuclear” option is opening fire with those batteries before they can possibly all be destroyed. And that is what ultimately keeps the international response to North Korea’s nuclear program in check: the unwillingness to trade a difficult and uncertain military attempt to address a crude, nascent nuclear program in exchange for Seoul.

Tehran has three key deterrents. First, for years, the American troop presence in Iraq, particularly after post-surge quelling of violence, remained vulnerable to Iranian-instigated attack by Tehran’s proxies and with weapons provided by Tehran (something Iran demonstrated quite unambiguously that it had the capacity to do in the form of the explosively formed penetrator, a particularly deadly form of improvised explosive device). That dynamic will remain, after American troops depart, in the form of American diplomats and contractors, who will be protected by a small army of private security contractors. Second, Iran’s ballistic missile arsenal can target both American and Israeli targets across the region – and many missiles will likely be loosed before all their mobile launchers can be pinpointed and destroyed.

But the third deterrent is the critical factor. Iran has for decades cultivated the ability to essentially conduct guerrilla warfare in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. This is Iran’s real “nuclear” option. There are inherent vulnerabilities in such tight waters, in which Iran can bring to bear not just naval mines, but shore-based anti-ship missiles and small boat swarms. This threat might be manageable tactically (particularly if a massive U.S.-led air campaign surprised Iran), but even in the best-case scenario, no one can manage the markets’ reaction to even the hint of disruption to 40 percent of the world’s sea-borne crude.

This is the heart of the problem. Whether there are six key nuclear sites in Iran or 60 (and Iran presents a significant intelligence challenge in this regard), any attacker has to neutralize not just the nuclear targets and associated air defenses, but Iran’s dispersed and camouflaged military capabilities all along the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz. U.S. participation was decisive in a far less sophisticated air campaign against Libya. In an Iran scenario where so much must be hit so quickly, the United States is the only country capable of even attempting to bring the necessary military strike capacity against Iran.

But even the optimistic scenario must anticipate the potential for an outcome reminiscent of the 1980s Tanker Wars. While the United States and Europe are focused on the global economic crisis (and particularly the euro crisis in Europe), they will want to avoid at all costs video of burning oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, which could panic already skittish markets. As long as that is the case, the prospect of a military strike on Iran is dim. And in any event, surprise is a key element for a successful strike on Iran. The moment Iran should feel the most secure is when Israeli rhetoric about war is at its peak.

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Category: Think Tank, War/Defense

Mediterranean Sea is the Locus of Trouble

It must be something in the water: Interesting image regarding the locus of turmoil, being in countries that are on the Mediterranean Sea: > click for ginormous map Hat tip Jason (anyone recognize this? What is the original source?)

Category: Bailouts, Credit, Federal Reserve, Politics, War/Defense

The New Arms Race: Hunter Killer Drones

Are Drones Creating a New Global Arms Race?,1518,792590,00.html

Category: War/Defense

Did Oakland Police Intentionally Shoot Marine Vet Scott Olsen In the Head?

Marine Veteran Was Peacefully Standing When Attacked by Police The following photograph on videos show that Marine veteran Scott Olsen was peacefully standing at the Oakland protest when police fired a projectile at him: Did Police Intend to Hit Olsen In the Head? Here is a photo of the ammunition or projectiles which police shot…Read More

Category: Politics, Think Tank, War/Defense

How Specific Were Egyptian Protesters’ Demands?

Why Do American Protesters’ Demands Need to Be More Specific than those of the Egyptian Protesters? ~~~ The Main Demand of the Egyptian Protesters … Throw the Bums Out The main demand of the Egyptian protesters was that Hosni Mubarak and his cronies leave power. Why should the demands of the American protesters be held…Read More

Category: Politics, Think Tank, War/Defense

US Defense Cost Overruns: F-35 vs F4

The F-35 is a fighter-bomber aircraft that will be used by three of the four branches of the armed forces. The last time the Air Force, Navy and Marines had the same jet fighter was back in the 1960s when they all adopted the F-4 Phantom II fighter-bomber. A good way to determine just how…Read More

Category: Think Tank, War/Defense

Preface: This essay is not intended as an endorsement of Ron Paul. Instead, it is intended to demonstrate why Ron Paul is becoming so popular, despite being virtually ignored by the mainstream media.

Americans: Rein In the Federal Reserve

CNN notes:

“We are seeing a level of enthusiasm for Ron Paul that can be compared with President Obama in 2008″, said Eric Brakey, Media Coordinator for NYC Liberty HQ, the grassroots organization hosting the rally for the candidate. “Congressman Paul’s youth support is different now than it was during his last presidential campaign. It’s more organized and it’s picking up steam and continues to grow”.

As the longtime congressman from Texas stepped onto the stage, the crowd screamed with enthusiasm. The audience’s biggest reaction came when he spoke about ending the Federal Reserve. “The country has changed in the last four years, but my message hasn’t changed” Paul said. “The country is ripe for a true revolution”.

At least 75% of the American people want a full audit of the Fed, and most were against reconfirming Bernanke.

Indeed, as Bloomberg noted last December:

A majority of Americans are dissatisfied with the nation’s independent central bank, saying the U.S. Federal Reserve should either be brought under tighter political control or abolished outright, a poll shows.


Americans across the political spectrum say the Fed shouldn’t retain its current structure of independence. Asked if the central bank should be more accountable to Congress, left independent or abolished entirely, 39 percent said it should be held more accountable and 16 percent that it should be abolished. Only 37 percent favor the status quo.

As I have extensively documented, the Fed is largely responsible for the economic crisis, and has failed to meet a single one of its stated mandates (let alone its implied ones).

Americans Are Sick and Tired of Never-Ending War

Ron Paul is also gaining popularity because he is against the never-ending War On Terror, and wants to bring the troops home. Americans are sick of the never-ending, ever-creeping war. See this, this and this.

As Talking Points Memo reported earlier this month:

“…Only about a quarter say the wars in Iraq (26%) and Afghanistan (25%) have lessened the chances of terrorist attacks in the United States,” the Pew report reads. “In both cases majorities say the wars either have increased the risk of terrorism in this country or made no difference.”

Top American military leaders agree, saying that the war on terror has weakened our national security.

Read More

Category: Politics, Think Tank, War/Defense

Ray Kelly: Fighting terrorism in New York City

Scott Pelley brings viewers on a personal tour conducted by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly of what may be the world’s most sophisticated terror defense forces – the New York City Police Department’s counter terrorism unit.


Now, 10 years after 9/11, with an investment of billions of dollars, Kelly has created, what he believes, is the most powerful and technologically advanced counter-terrorism bureau that anyone has ever seen.

By air, land and sea – the nation’s largest counter-terrorism squad is on the beat in America’s largest city. One thousand officers – many of them armed like soldiers – are part of a presence that is meant to send a message: New York City is too tough a target. NYPD counter-terrorism is the creation of police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Ray Kelly: We’re the number one target in this country. That’s the consensus of the intelligence community. We’re the communications capital. We’re the financial capital. We’re a city that’s been attacked twice successfully. We’ve had 13 terrorist plots against the city since September 11. No other city has had that.

Kelly is a classic cop. He started as an NYPD cadet and rose all the way to commissioner. He left the force before 9/11. But within four months of the attack, the mayor asked him to come back.

Fighting terrorism in New York City

Category: Video, War/Defense

The Co-Chair of the Congressional Inquiry into 9/11 and former Head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham, previously stated that an FBI informant had hosted and rented a room to two hijackers in 2000 and that, when the Inquiry sought to interview the informant, the FBI refused outright, and then hid him in an…Read More

Category: Really, really bad calls, Think Tank, War/Defense

Relentless Media Hype

I’ve already had my say about what happened 10 years ago. I do not feel a compelling need to revisit it again and again and again. MSNBC is replaying their September 11, 2001 broadcast; the WSJ made their entire 9/12 paper available online. Other outlets are doing similar “tributes” if thats the right word. I…Read More

Category: War/Defense