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Iran: The ongoing debate

In an attempt to make transitioning back into posting articles here as smooth as possible, this first update is simply a collection of interesting articles regarding the strikingly public debate about a possible military strike on Iran.

Foreign Affairs

Israeli policymakers are ignoring several of the potential longer-term aspects of a strike: the preparedness of Israel’s home front; the contours of an Israeli exit strategy; the impact on U.S.-Israel relations; the global diplomatic fallout; the stability of world energy markets; and the outcome within Iran itself. 

As part of a larger package on the Iranian debate, Foreign Affairs recently posted an article titled ‘What Happens After Israel Attacks Iran.’ The author begins by reminding the reader of the Israeli strikes of 1981 and 2007 on Iraqi and Syrian nuclear reactors, which notably did not lead to a larger conflict. He quickly shifts attention to the main topic of his article: for all its preparedness for ‘the day after’ a military strike, Israel is not properly considering the longer-term effects of an attack. The arguments on each of the points alluded to in the quote above are cogent, historical references to past Israeli military action abound, and Mr. Eiran gives a nice insight into the minds of senior Israeli officials.

Al Jazeera (video)

 The so-called ‘Iranian Threat’ is a narrative being constructed by the US media all by itself – with scant public support from the Obama administration.

Al Jazeera’s Listening Post takes a look at the misinformation being spread in America through the media’s oftentimes sensationalist conjecture on Iranian capabilities and intentions. The report draws damning parallels with media coverage leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Here’s one telling fact: 7 out of 10 Americans believe that Iran has a nuclear weapon.

The Economist

Short of occupation, the world cannot eliminate Iran’s capacity to gain the bomb. It can only change its will to possess one. Just now that is more likely to come about through sanctions and diplomacy than war.

The author concedes that a nuclear-armed Iran is in no other nation’s interest and has the very real potential of setting off a a regional and perhaps multi-regional nuclear arms race. However, he argues, a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities will only delay and not entirely prevent the Persian nation from acquiring a bomb. Indeed, while in the short term an air strike could set back Iran’s nuclear progress several years, more significant longer-term issues arise. The program would ‘figuratively and literally’ go underground and the nuclear ‘know-how’ of Iranian scientists would be unaffected. Additionally, a strike would further galvanize already-popular support for the nuclear program and could serve as a much-needed boost to the low popularity of Iranian leaders.

Photo credit: lead image


‘Reassessing The Cost Of The Post-9/11 Era’

Dan Froomkin of The Huffington Post has an interesting look at the economic and human costs of the response to the 9/11 attacks. He includes the war in Iraq in his calculations and I won’t dispute that the atmosphere in post-9/11 America didn’t exactly loan itself to cautioned diplomacy with regards to Iraq, but it should be noted that President Bush never actually asserted that Saddam Hussein had a hand in the September 11th attacks. Again, Froomkin is speaking of the era as a whole not just the US’s actions in direct retaliation for the attacks, I just wanted to be clear about the facts. Speaking of which, here’s a brief summary (although the whole article is really worth reading):

6000 Americans dead, ‘several hundred thousand’ wounded

100,000+ Iraqis and Afghanis dead, 3.4 million+ remain displaced

Total financial cost: $4-6 trillion. That’s $6,000,000,000,000 or just over 40% of the US’s current national debt.

Colin Powell at the UN, presenting the American case for going to war with Iraq.

Obviously not all of that money could have been saved. For one, the war in Afghanistan actually was directly linked to 9/11. And while we should recognize that aspiring terrorists‘ incompetence probably had more to do with the high-profile failed plots over the last few years, one would encounter difficulty in arguing that absolutely none of the new homeland security measures implemented after 9/11 were a necessary response. Regardless, Froomkin ends on a ‘what if’ note by imagining a world where that $6 trillion was spent on eliminating extreme poverty or providing primary education for children. I found it difficult not to wonder what the consequences of forgoing the two wars would have been for the US and, indeed, the world as a whole.


US-Pakistan drama continues

In the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, tensions between Washington and Islamabad continued to rise. The New York Times is reporting that Pakistani officials have released the name of the CIA station chief in Islamabad. His name was published in a conservative newspaper earlier today, spelled phonetically. This marks the 2nd time in 5 months that a CIA station chief station in Islamabad has been outed by Pakistani authorities. The previous station chief was identified in the media and court papers after a lawsuit was brought against him which alleged wrongful death in a CIA drone strike. He subsequently fled Pakistan after receiving a number of death threats.

Meanwhile today, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, said that ‘allegations of complicity or incompetence are absurd.’ He further warned that any additional US unilateral action within Pakistan would be met with ‘full force.’ While both the US and Pakistan say they want to continue their strategic partnership, the recent public volleys mark a low point in the relationship between the two governments.


What Bin Laden’s death means

Foreign Affairs has a couple new brief but interesting articles up that attempt to paint a clearer picture of the post-Bin-Laden world:

Richard Falkenrath looks at the domestic and international opposition to the US war on terror and how Bin Laden’s death means an end of ‘the strategic clarity of the post-9/11 era.’

Max Boot compares al-Qaeda to armed political movements of the past and attempts to extrapolate how Osama bin Laden’s death will affect the organization.


News and Links

On days I don’t have a post prepared but still feel the need to update, I’ll post some relevant news articles and let others do the talking for me.

Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) meets with Hamas leader Khaled Mashal in Egypt.

    Palestine: Hamas and Fatah, the two Palestinian factions, have reached a unity agreement. This is no doubt an important step towards getting state recognition for Palestine. Al Jazeera has an article on Netanyahu’s take on the deal. (spoiler: He doesn’t like it) Britain and France seemed to welcome the developments. Hamas, however, is still listed as a terrorist organization on the US State Department’s website and publicly mourned the recent death of Osama bin Laden.

    Afghanistan/Pakistan: The New York times has a brief but interesting article regarding the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    Libya: A prosecutor for the ICC has petitioned for an arrest warrant for Gaddafi and two others for war crimes. While the prosecutor specifically cited examples of systematically killing unarmed civilians, there have also been recent allegations that pro-Gaddafi soldiers are using rape as a weapon against the Libyan populace.

    South Korea/North Korea: South Korea has conducted a routine artillery exercise on islands near the disputed sea boundary line with North Korea. The North did not publicly respond to the exercise but some aspect of the impoverished nation will likely be a topic for the next update, so I thought I’d link this.