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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Robert Reich: Democrats Won't Stop Escalation

Robert Reich has political advice for Democrats:

Why Dems Won't Stop Bush's "Surge" in Iraq, by Robert Reich: Bush will announce next week he wants 20,000 additional troops in Iraq. Most congressional Dems say they’re opposed, and they’ll use the upcoming confirmation hearings for Bush’s nominees to the United Nations and for Deputy Secretary of State to make their case. But Dems will still appropriate the extra money the "surge" requires. This is politically wise, although dreadfully cynical.

Let’s be clear: Twenty thousand additional troops won’t quell the violence in Iraq. It will only lead to more American deaths. The civil-war bloodbath there is escalating and it’s out of our hands. The only practical issue here in the U.S., over and above the additional losses of life, is who will be blamed for this slaughter – and its repercussions throughout the region – especially during the run-up to the 2008 election.

As long as Dems remain opposed to Bush’s policies and the Democratic leadership offers some semblance of unity in opposition – while at the same time giving Bush the money he wants to carry out his policies – the Dem candidate in 2008 can blame Bush and the Republicans, and no Republican candidate who supports Bush will have a comeback. McCain’s strategy of distancing himself from Bush by arguing for more troops is about to backfire on him, because he’s going to get what he wants – and America will see just how tragically wrong he is (Edwards has already, adeptly, labeled it the "McCain doctrine.")

Yet wouldn’t it be extraordinary if the Dems didn’t play this political game, and refused to fund Bush’s "surge"?

With lives at stake, it feels uncomfortable making decisions based upon political calculations. If I had a family member serving in Iraq, I wouldn't give a damn who was president next or how blame gets apportioned except to the extent that it affected the ultimate outcome of this (literally) ill-advised war and holds people accountable as appropriate.

While we're off topic (it's the weekend), what's up with this? Why issue threats now? Even if it's nothing more than a bluff designed to get Iran to negotiate, it's a dangerous level of threatened escalation. If it's more than a bluff, it's very disconcerting:

Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran, by Uzi Mahnaimi and Sarah Baxter, Times Online [via Raw Story]: Israel has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons. Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear “bunker-busters”, according to several Israeli military sources.

The attack would be the first with nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Israeli weapons would each have a force equivalent to one-fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb.

Under the plans, conventional laser-guided bombs would open “tunnels” into the targets. “Mini-nukes” would then immediately be fired into a plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce the risk of radioactive fallout. “As soon as the green light is given, it will be one mission, one strike and the Iranian nuclear project will be demolished,” said one of the sources.

The plans, disclosed to The Sunday Times last week, have been prompted in part by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad’s assessment that Iran is on the verge of producing enough enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons within two years.

Israeli military commanders believe conventional strikes may no longer be enough to annihilate increasingly well-defended enrichment facilities. Several have been built beneath at least 70ft of concrete and rock. However, the nuclear-tipped bunker-busters would be used only if a conventional attack was ruled out and if the United States declined to intervene, senior sources said.

Israeli and American officials have met several times to consider military action. Military analysts said the disclosure of the plans could be intended to put pressure on Tehran to halt enrichment, cajole America into action or soften up world opinion in advance of an Israeli attack.

Some analysts warned that Iranian retaliation for such a strike could range from disruption of oil supplies to the West to terrorist attacks against Jewish targets around the world.

Israel has identified three prime targets south of Tehran which are believed to be involved in Iran’s nuclear programme... Israeli officials believe that destroying all three sites would delay Iran’s nuclear programme indefinitely...

The Israeli government has warned repeatedly that it will never allow nuclear weapons to be made in Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has declared that “Israel must be wiped off the map”.

Robert Gates, the new US defence secretary, has described military action against Iran as a “last resort”, leading Israeli officials to conclude that it will be left to them to strike. ...

Sources close to the Pentagon said the United States was highly unlikely to give approval for tactical nuclear weapons to be used. One source said Israel would have to seek approval “after the event”, as it did when it crippled Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak with airstrikes in 1981.

Scientists have calculated that although contamination from the bunker-busters could be limited, tons of radioactive uranium compounds would be released. The Israelis believe that Iran’s retaliation would be constrained by fear of a second strike if it were to launch its Shehab-3 ballistic missiles at Israel.

However, American experts warned of repercussions, including widespread protests that could destabilise parts of the Islamic world friendly to the West. Colonel Sam Gardiner, a Pentagon adviser, said Iran could try to close the Strait of Hormuz, the route for 20% of the world’s oil.

Some sources in Washington said they doubted if Israel would have the nerve to attack Iran. However, Dr Ephraim Sneh, the deputy Israeli defence minister, said last month: “The time is approaching when Israel and the international community will have to decide whether to take military action against Iran.”

    Posted by on Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 06:33 PM in Economics, Iraq and Afghanistan | Permalink  TrackBack (1)  Comments (50)


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