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Iran's Public Defense Industry Trade Show Maneuvers

Yesterday’s Iranian military hardware ‘Breakthrough of the Day’ was, on its face, amusingly humorous. The Pentagon confirmed (so much for stealth) that Iran’s much-touted Friday missile test, complete with claims of stealth (again) and MIRV capabilities, as that of simply a Shahab-2. Both serve to put the entire operation into perspective. It was an Iranian defense industries trade show.

From Sun Tzu: “If you are strong, appear weak. If you are weak, appear strong.”

This is what Iran is pursuing both on the military and the terrorism fronts. MIRV missiles, stealth ‘flying boats’ and world-record torpedo speeds. It largely hides its tentacles of terrorism from view, while attempting to dupe the West with false displays of military might.

But while Iran claims “We are going to have very important news that will make our nation proud in the next few days,” to the extent that they are conventional developments, much will be left to be desired. To be sure, however, is the troubling reality of the Russian and Chinese feeding tubes sustaining most of Iran’s military technological advances. While western media outlets are finally beginning to recognize Iran’s Persian Gulf exercise as more of a media blitz than a combined forces training exercise, China’s state-run media, Xinhua, continues to laud the illusory Iranian display of power with headlines such as Iran showcases its military strength.

But fear of Iran as a conventional military power was never the concern. The fear is founded upon the current Iranian role as the premiere state sponsor of terrorism and its collision course with nuclear capabilities. Russian and Chinese guidance in the latter while disregarding the former are of even greater concern than all other conventional assistance combined.

Germany’s foreign minister is urging the US to hold talks with Iran, talks that the realistic (or pessimistic) would see as no more productive than the fruitless talks about talks that the EU eventually even abandoned themselves in favor of a Security Council referral. Simultaneously, Iran is stating that it is ready to negotiate on large-scale enrichment, a public overture that fails to address the UN’s demand (and that of the West) that Iran cease all enrichment activities. For, so long as Iran can continue talks and discussions on its program and forestall any action against its program, their nuclear development proceeds.

Within the same breath, IAEA inspectors are set to visit Iran’s Natanz enrichment facility, the site where Iran broke the IAEA seals under the protest and observation of the same inspectors.

The options are limited in dealing with a belligerent regime racing towards nuclear development, though military strikes appear more and more likely as time is squandered in inactive international debate over what not to do to the regime. Iran continues to posture that military strikes are not in US interests. While there would certainly be consequences, the world’s premiere state sponsor of terrorism rising to a nuclear power serves US interests even less. Indeed, Iran has suggested that terrorist strikes worldwide would result from any attack, coordinated primarily by its foreign policy arm, Hezbollah.

The question that must be answered is: Does the world believe that attacks would not occur if Iran were permitted to arm itself, and potentially its client terrorist organizations, with nuclear weapons?

Iran has a track record of international terrorism since 1979. Indeed, Iran and its Hezbollah offspring dwarf the threat perceived by many from al-Qaeda. In many ways, al-Qaeda itself enjoys the support and protection of the Iranian regime.

There are no palatable choices in dealing with Iran and the terrorism they cultivate. Doing nothing is the worst among them.

Feedback

Other than Iran's oil, what do the Chinese get from this? It's not like they have "common ground" in theology. Perhaps expanding their Wal-Mart global economy to Iran?

Nothing. Their only interest is oil, aside from the possible not uncommon satisfaction of sticking a finger in America's eye.

But oil is enough.

I had lunch in Shanghai a few weeks back with a trade official for a special economic zone on the Yangtze. His cousin also came with his wife and son. He was on vacation from a job in Tehran.

His job is as a liaison of sorts for oil-based products supplied to plastics businesses in China. He said there are about 1000 Chinese in Tehran.

They all politely hoped that Iran and the US would not go to war. I politely said that it is not likely.

My feeling that is China is so focused on feeding its economic engine that it has neglected its diplomatic abilities and punts way too much when it comes to being a responsible state in international issues.

I don't think there's any question of the usefulness of these new military technologies against U.S military vessels. They're laughable. However, against civilian vessels they could be devestating. The Straits of Hormuz are easily closed and sinking a supertanker there would be an ecological disaster as well one that could seriously harm the world economy.

Regarding going to war against Iran, I don't see the point. Iran already has chemical weapons (they used them against Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, remember?) and has never provided them to any terrorist group. Furthermore, Iran has never shown any interest in pursuing terrorism outside of their own geo-political interests in the Middle East. They provide support to terrorists in Lebanon, but that's part of a regional geo-political conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran (both are striving for influence over Syria and Lebanon, and both of which are funding opposite sides in the Iraqi Civil War right now as part of that ongoing conflict). Their support of terrorism is pragmatic, rather than ideological, and is intended to prevent the Arab states from uniting behind Saudi Arabia against them, rather than based upon any desire to conduct "holy war".

Furthermore, a compact nuclear weapon capable of being hauled around in a briefcase requires sophisticated technology that Iran doesn't have. They could easily build a 1945-style uranium or plutonium bomb, once they have sufficient centrifuges going or get a nuclear reactor up. But those bombs are enormous. A B-29 had a payload of 20,000 pounds, and could carry one (1) of those bombs.

And finally, the Iranian ayatollahs have proven surprisingly pragmatic in the past. Providing a nuclear weapon to a terrorist organization would result in an immediate nuclear strike against all major cities in Iran, turning them into glowing rubble. The ayatollahs had no problem buying anti-tank weapons from the "Great Satan" during the Iran-Iraq War (the Iran-Contra deal, where the U.S. provided weapons to Iran in exchange for money which was then funneled to the Contras) when it was the pragmatic choice for countering Saddam's superior armored divisions and thereby maintaining their power. They like ruling Iran, and are not going to do something so obviously destructive as giving nuclear weapons to terrorists. We have almost 30 years of experience dealing with the Iranian ayatollahs now, and nothing in that time suggests that they would ever engage in such lunacy.

I think that, just as Iranian politicians talk up their military strength for political gain, other politicans talk up the Iranian threat for political gain. Which politicians those are, or why they believe talking up the Iranian threat is politically advantageous to them, is an exercise I leave to the reader.

-BT