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  • Sink It

    Posted by Jonathan on February 12th, 2014 (All posts by )

    A couple of Iranian navy ships are slowly making their way to the Americas. What’s going on? J. E. Dyer has a long and thoughtful post:

    That said, two things are worth reiterating. One, the U.S. does not have a constant-ready missile defense network that would protect the central and southeastern United States from an MRBM threat emanating from the south. We are unprotected on this axis. Shifting to a footing of 24/365 alert and anti-missile protection – e.g., by deploying Patriot systems in the continental U.S. or Navy Aegis ships offshore – would constitute a new, un-resourced requirement. We’d have to cut back defense operations elsewhere to meet it.
    Two, our ability to react against the “shooter” is limited by the forces we have ready today. We don’t have extra ships and aircraft to deploy for a deterrent presence in Central America. We could react after the fact with B-2 bombers, and possibly other conventional forms of attack, such as submarine-launched cruise missiles and ballistic missiles with conventional warheads. But we would have to attack to mount a response, in (most probably) Venezuela or Cuba, and that response would be inherently escalatory.
    It’s quite possible that our current administration would view that as a bridge too far. Realistically, I think the military would view the prospect with strong disfavor. Our ready forces would not have such a preponderance of power, or such advantages of geography, that we could do it easily and without inconvenience.
    Bottom line: MRBMs down south would constitute a material transformation of our security footing in the hemisphere. It’s a development we couldn’t live with.
    The “red flag” in this whole saga is the concentration of verbal threats from the Iranians, at a time when they are making an unprecedented naval deployment to the Americas; they are mounting an unusual outreach with Fatah; and they are close enough to nuclearization – even by the expected route, as opposed to the speculative North Korean option – that dashing to the finish line is the only step left.
    The quality of some of the Iranian threats is deeply silly. But this doesn’t have the feel of random nuttiness to it. The Iranians are up to something.

    I agree with Dyer, who implies in the post (and states explicitly in a comment) that the lowest-risk course of action for us would be to sink the ship of the two that has a hold big enough to transport ballistic missiles.

    Dyer’s argument is long and well supported. You will have to read the whole thing to get the full thrust of her reasoning.

    My take on Iran continues to be that if it gets nuclear weapons, as now seems certain, it will use them. It will not necessarily use them to attack Israel or otherwise blow some place up, at least not in the near future. It will use them to gain leverage, to extort valuable concessions from its adversaries, including us. Obama’s feckless appeasement of the mullahs has whetted their appetite for aggression and confirmed that they have at least three more years of clear sailing ahead. They will press this advantage. We are not going to be able to contain them, because they will continue to look for opportunities to place us in situations where our disinclination to fight will give them victories by default. The current situation, with the two ships, appears to be the opener. We have a lot to lose. If we want to stop Iran we are going to have to confront it militarily at some point. The sooner we do this the less costly it will be.


    61 Responses to “Sink It”

    1. Robert Schwartz Says:

      My guess is that Hussein will welcome the Iranians to make visits to American ports. He is on their side, not ours.

    2. Jonathan Says:

      I doubt it. It would be politically insane to do something like that, and what would he gain? More likely he will do nothing, or will wait until our intelligence people have a better idea of what is going on, and then will try to defer the issue by giving a speech or trying to cut a private deal with the Iranians (in which they will lie and take advantage of him, as usual).

    3. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      This would be effective use of a Los Angeles class sub. Meet them out in the South Atlantic, sink them, glide away. Them the Iranians wonder what happened to their ships and why they lost communications.

    4. PenGun Says:

      Your paranoia is approaching interesting clinical levels.

      You advocate sinking ships in international waters for reasons I still don’t understand. Crazy town, people.

      A strong nation would simply welcome the tiny flotilla and arrange cooperative events. Your are mostly just nuts now.

    5. Will Says:

      It’s hard to imagine this type of thing occurring when an American President was in office. In those times I would imagine that the ships would have been ghosted continuously by subs from the time they entered international waters and would have lost their nerve by the time they had reached the Atlantic. Something else is going on here. I suspect they will dock in Cuba or Venezuela (if not Mexico!) and will be able to off-load whatever they are carrying. Or perhaps, it’s a dry run…

    6. Lexington Green Says:

      We are not at war with Iran. Iran can operate ships on the open sea like anybody else. It would be utterly unlawful to attack their ships. We operate ships off their coast all the time. It’s lawful for them to do so. Being worried about this gesture is playing their game. We should laugh it off. Or, arrange mutual crew visits, and let them get an idea of what they are up against, and that the USN crews are not demons, and that our only problem is with the Mullahs not the people, including their sailors.

      I tend to agree with PenGun on this one, which happens from time to time.

    7. Sgt. Mom Says:

      Well, there is the little matter of our Embassy in Teheran. If they can operate ships on the open ocean, then why can’t we have our embassy returned?

    8. Jonathan Says:

      Your paranoia is approaching interesting clinical levels.

      The voice of experience.

    9. Mrs. Davis Says:

      While it is true that our supine President wants to play the Shia card and that eventually this will lead to a causus belli, probably after he has left office and a new president, a former mid-western governor with little foreign policy cred, is to be tested, there is absolutely no domestic support at this time for any kinetic action with Iran. Otherwise we would be in Syria. And in a democracy, it is imperative that you have the support of the people before getting into a war, even if you don’t get Congressional approval, viz Libya. To get kinetic we will need a provocation that makes the US people say Tehran delende est.

      Were we to respond in that way to that provocation it would require quite an effort as the absence of any relationship with Iraq means we would probably go in through Bandar Abbas and travel twice the distance through a more hostile populace than we did in Iraq for even less result. For better or worse, we need to contain militant Islam, while sustaining Sunni-Shia conflict in dar-es-salaam. The chance to do anything about it passed in 1994 when we acquiesced in the Norks going nuke.

      We survived 70 years of the Soviets trying to bury us, during 40 of which they had the bomb and the ability to deliver it. We can do it again. Especially as the Iranians can’t deliver a bomb and are in a pickle. If they test a bomb, the US will lead the world in reimposing sanctions, perhaps even taking unilateral action. If they don’t test the bomb, how can they intimidate their neighbors. Nuclear weapons are more trouble than they are worth, for Iran as well as the US. Look at the cost of replacing the current generation of boomers, silos and bombers. The cost of developing them is coming at a high price for the Iranians. After they get them, they will wonder if the ego trip is worth it. Look at Pakistan, a country that worries me much more.

    10. Bill Brandt Says:

      A group of Navy veterans made I think a profound comment on this – saying that it isn’t so much the getting there but the staying there – where the US Navy has excelled. Let’s see how they are doing 3 months from now off our shores ;-)

      That ought to be funny.

    11. Jonathan Says:

      We are not at war with Iran. Iran can operate ships on the open sea like anybody else. It would be utterly unlawful to attack their ships. We operate ships off their coast all the time. It’s lawful for them to do so. Being worried about this gesture is playing their game. We should laugh it off. Or, arrange mutual crew visits, and let them get an idea of what they are up against, and that the USN crews are not demons, and that our only problem is with the Mullahs not the people, including their sailors.

      Call it what you want. I’d say they’ve been at war with us for many years. Certainly the Iranian regime has killed many Americans. Now they are building/have built a missile base within range of Florida, are close to getting nukes, and are sailing a military cargo ship (i.e., we can’t lawfully board it for inspection) toward the Caribbean. The ship is either transporting missiles, in which case we should sink it, or they are trying to provoke us with an unloaded weapon, in which case we should sink it to impose a cost on them for their provocative behavior.

    12. Grurray Says:

      It seems unlikely that if they were actually delivering missiles to Venezuela that they would announce to the media they would sail close to US boundaries.

      Iran is currently celebrating the 35th anniversary of the 1979 revolution.
      Their mighty flotilla is probably just some show of force for national pride.
      If the case is that they want to provoke a response, we should then be prepared to extend our utmost indifference.

    13. dearieme Says:

      “We’d have to cut back defense operations elsewhere to meet it.” Only if you use “defense” to mean something other than defence.

    14. dearieme Says:

      The Iranian government presumably wants to get Americans hysterical and hyperventilating. Why co-operate?

    15. walt reed Says:

      Saw your comments on JE’s blog concerning the Iranians. Just thought I would check out your site. Thanks!

    16. Jonathan Says:

      Walt, thanks for visiting.

    17. Lexington Green Says:

      “I’d say they’ve been at war with us for many years.”

      As a matter of law, we are not at war. We have no lawful basis sink their ships and kill their crews in international waters.

      I agree with Bill Brandt. Keeping ships on station is expensive and hard. My guess is these guys cruise by and go home. They simply do not have the capacity to do much.

      If Iran were going to bring a nuclear weapon by sea to the USA and attack us with it, an open approach by a surface ship is the least likely way they’d do it.

      They will smuggle it into the USA concealed in a crate of heroin.

    18. Trent Telenko Says:

      >>We are not at war with Iran.


      The mullahs are and have always been at war with th “Great Satan.”

      See the latest rounds of that war below:

    19. Lexington Green Says:

      Trent, again, the question is not what the Mullahs are doing, but what we are legally authorized to do.

      There is zero prospect that any US Government would order the sinking of an Iranian navy ship in international waters where there is no state of open war. It is not a matter of Obama being a pussy, or whatever. It is just not going to happen.

      Lots of people around this blog and who I generally agree with otherwise have for many years wanted the USA to launch open warfare on Iran. There is zero prospect of that happening. The Iranians have conventional deterrence in the Persian Gulf, and the cost of us going to war with them would be too high. Closing the Gulf would be a huge blow to us that would gain us nothing.

      We are in the process of getting out of two wars, each of which was much, much smaller than an open conflict with Iran would be.

      The Iranians are hoping to seem important by provoking a hysterical reaction to a trivial act, and it is working.

    20. Michael Kennedy Says:

      “We survived 70 years of the Soviets trying to bury us, during 40 of which they had the bomb and the ability to deliver it.”

      The problem is that the Russians were rational. I’m not sure the Iranian leadership is. The leadership runs the country on an basis somewhat like the North Koreans. The people are not starving, like the Norks, but they are powerless and are controlled by a small, possible lunatic, governing class.

      There are lots of openings for Obama if he were interested, just as there were in 1936 for the democracies.

    21. cris Says:

      Too bad we can’t dust off the Mighty Mo. Be great to have the Iranians see her 500 yards astern one sunny morning.

    22. Lexington Green Says:

      The Mullahs are rational. They are running the place for the benefit of themselves, their family networks, and their allies. They don’t want to risk all that. They have a lot to lose. They want nukes to secure their status. Any genuine fanatics are not running the place, same as in Soviet Russia. This long after the revolution the entire place is cynical and corrupted. Death threats work against such people. Deterrence will work.

    23. Michael Kennedy Says:

      “Any genuine fanatics are not running the place, same as in Soviet Russia.”

      I agree they are corrupt. That is why they have lost the people. I just wish I were more confident about the top echelon and their rationality.

    24. Jonathan Says:

      They are rational. If we allow them to take advantage of us they will. If we make their predations against us costly they will restrain themselves in the future. If we show self-restraint out of consideration for “international law” that they ignore as convenient, they will attempt to manipulate us into situations where the law works against us.

      There are costs to us for sinking their ship and for not sinking their ship. We focus too much on the worst imaginable cases of the former while ignoring some expensive cases of the latter. One possible cost of not sinking their ship is an eventual replay of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I agree with Dyer that it is probably less costly to sink the ship now than to risk facing another such Cuban-type situation in the future.

    25. grey eagle Says:

      Perhaps when those ships get here their crews will defect.

    26. Lexington Green Says:

      The whole ship thing is completely dancing to their tune. It’s a nuisance.

      The news would be filled with pictures of the sailors and their weeping wives and we’d have shot first at a ship that was not doing anything illegal.

      We’d piss everybody off and get nothing out of it.

      Don’t charge at the cape.

      If we ever faced a Cuban type situation in the future our intelligence capabilities are immensely better than they were in 1962 and we could destroy the sites if we had to.

      This is a non-story.

    27. Lexington Green Says:

      This is more pertinent to Iran’s future. The other regional powers are up-arming, with quiet Israeli assistance. The non-status quo power Iran is creating a rallying effect among its alarmed neighbors. Good.

    28. Abbie Normal Says:

      As a matter of law, we are not at war. We have no lawful basis sink their ships and kill their crews in international waters.

      Their seizure of our embassy was not an act of war then, for which they have yet to be held accountable?

    29. grey eagle Says:

      Of course if the crews of these 2 ships try to defect, Obama will turn them down. He does not want to insult Islam.

    30. Tom Holsinger Says:


      Legally the US govt. can do whatever it wants concerning foreign warships on the high seas. And, legally, we are at war with the Islamic Republic of Iran because of its many covert and overt acts of war against us. We unilaterally choose not to engage in public hostilities. The enemy has a vote here.

      Congress can declare war if a balky President refuses to commence hostilities, but the Executive branch can make war at the President’s discretion subject to the ability of Congress to deny funding. John Yoo exhaustively covered this subject in his _Powers of War and Peace_.

      Stop being silly. Only us lawyers can do that. Legally.

    31. Michael Kennedy Says:

      “This is more pertinent to Iran’s future.”

      Note that article is pre-Obama. It is doubtful whether he is willing to defy Valerie Jarrett, Iranian born, in a matter like this. We have never had such a situation with our national security since Buchanan.

    32. PenGun Says:

      “There are costs to us for sinking their ship and for not sinking their ship. We focus too much on the worst imaginable cases of the former while ignoring some expensive cases of the latter. One possible cost of not sinking their ship is an eventual replay of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I agree with Dyer that it is probably less costly to sink the ship now than to risk facing another such Cuban-type situation in the future.”

      No hint of rule of law just pure expediency. A pirate in fact.

    33. T, Greer Says:

      Don’t start a war unless you are ready to finish it.

      The United States is not ready to start a war with anybody in the Middle East.

      We have much more pressing problems on the other side of Eurasia.

    34. ErisGuy Says:

      If Iran nukes Israel (even surreptitiously) how many hours do you think will pass until every Moslem capital is puddle of glass? And if Iran nukes Houston or Miami, how many hours until every mosque in the US is burned?

      “No hint of rule of law just pure expediency.”

      You say that as if it were a criticism or defect.

      Inter arma enim silent leges.

      * * *

      Why are these ships sailing a problem? Ignore them publicly, track them privately.

    35. Sgt. Mom Says:

      What ErisGuy said. Ignore them publicly, track them privately.

    36. Trent Telenko Says:


      Ever hear of what happened to the Iranian frigate IS Sahand (F74)?

      I endorse Tom Holsinger’s evaluation of you being silly. Please see: “Operation Praying Mantis” —

    37. Mike K Says:

      Trent. Very different president in office. When the Iranians seized the embassy personnel, the Chiefs of Staff recommended destroying the Iranian oil terminal at Kharg Island. President Carter declined and we know the result.

    38. Grurray Says:


      Ever hear of the Millennium Challenge?

      A lot has changed since the Iran-Iraq War

    39. Whitehall Says:

      We stopped and searched Russian ships during the Cuban Missile Crisis so we’re fully capable (materially) of doing it again. Legal-schmegal.

      I can certainly see where emplacing Iranian missiles to the south of the US would give great strategic advantage to the Iranian government. The Russians thought so too.

      You KNOW they want it.

      As the article mentioned, our best option may be for one of our South American allies to do the interdiction.

      But realistically, Obama will exercise the worst option clumsily.

    40. dearieme Says:

      “I can certainly see where emplacing Iranian missiles to the south of the US would give great strategic advantage to the Iranian government. The Russians thought so too.”

      Happily, Kennedy’s advisers understood better. They also understood that the whole farrago was at bottom the US’s fault, brought on by their fiasco of an invasion of Cuba, and reckless siting of missiles in Turkey and Italy. The acts of the US in the 1960s are a poor model for how to conduct international affairs. Ditto her actions in the 2000s. The lesson is that it’s wise not to elect bozos like JFK or W. You’re better off with a Nixon or a Bush the Elder. Or a Reagan. Even a Truman. An Ike…..

    41. Grurray Says:

      “The acts of the US in the 1960s are a poor model for how to conduct international affairs.”

      Caution should be used when looking at the Cold war era 80s also.
      Both Iraq and Kuwait dragged us into protecting oil tankers. Saddam started the naval portion of the war, and Kuwait threatened to ask for protection from the Soviets.
      Our hands were tied especially in the wake of the Iran-Contra mess.
      As such at the time we had little choice but to serve as the Emir’s Navy.

      The one guy who might have kept a tighter rein on the whole thing was forced to resign, but if we have to use any model than we should pay attention to his

    42. Tom Holsinger Says:

      There is a long-standing popular fallacy that, if only Congress can declare war, only Congress can make war. This has never, ever, been true. Note that the Constitution does not define “war”. This issue was decided during the Constitutional Convention, when the usual idiots responsible for the impossibly weak Articles of Confederation tried to repeat their error.

      At some point one of them proposed that the Constitution limit the federal army’s size to 5000 men, so Washington loudly whispered a proposed amendment prohibiting all enemies from invading “with a greater force”. That same whisper also ended the idiot proposals to define war and limit the Executive Branch from waging war without Congressional approval. Washington had reminded them that the enemy has a vote.

      The only thing those idiots were allowed to insert into the Constitution was the clause that Congress could declare war without a Presidential request. This ended so badly the one time that Congress actually did it, in 1812 (the same irresponsible Congress then adjourned without voting any war appropriations or debt limit increases to allow war funding), that no Congress since has declared war without a Presidential request that it do so.

      Basically the Congressional power to declare war has been dead since 1812. No other country has been silly enough to emulate this clause of the US Constitution. The War Powers Act is unconstitutional. John Yoo explains all of this, and more, in his _Powers of War and Peace_.

      The late 18th Century reality, as discussed during the Constitutional Convention, was that (a) the only effective legislative branches of any of the major powers at that time were the British Parliament and the US Congress, and those were so limited in oversight capacity that only the King and President could effectively wage war, and

      (b) there was such a long communications lag between national capitals and the far-flung military forces of the major powers that only the Kings and President could effectively wage war. War abroad then was largely a matter of forces abroad forcibly bumping into each other over and over until the Kings of Britain, France and Spain decided to officially recognize that a state of war existed.

      The Congressional power to declare war in the US Constitution was adopted for two reasons, nominally to allow Congress to force a war when a President refused to do so (which happened in 1812, and was such a disaster that it has never happened again), and as a hopefully harmless sop to the usual idiots responsible for the equally disastrous Articles of Confederation.

      As a practical matter, the respective authority and powers of a President and Congress concerning war have always been a matter of political negotiation at the time. There is a fairly common pattern of Congress getting assertive until there is a credible threat of being accountable to the voters, and then they run away screaming.

      The US has also accreted objectively significant legislation over the years, notably during the FDR and early Truman administrations, which gives the President really dramatic additional power upon a Congressional declaration of war. This power lasts until there is a formal cessation of hostilities, which is determined by Presidential declaration, though Congress can nominally take it back by legislation. That requires a majority of both houses and can be vetoed by a President.

      This particular issue has resulted, since the Korean War, in Congress acting by resolutions of war powers which, buried deep inside, have terms giving Presidents certain quite specified authority under those long-standing (FDR & Truman administration) statutes. Generally Presidents get some but not all of the statutory war powers which they would automatically receive in a formal declaration of war by Congress.

      I.e., Congress has since about 1942 chosen to define, and assert, its Constitutional power to “declare” war through long-standing statutes ceding certain powers to the Executive. And we haven’t declared war on anybody since about 1942. Congress instead acts through resolutions authorizing hostilities which, buried deep inside, have provisions authorizing a President to act per legislation enacted in the 1940’s, and then tailored to circumstances at the time. Those provisions were a lot broader in the post-9/11 hostilities resolution than in the Tonkin Gulf Resolution because we were, and are, threatened at home by terrorists, while the Vietnamese Communists did not threaten us at home.

      A major reason legal and historical scholars haven’t studied these issues since 9/11 is that there is so much partisan politics, aka tribal affiliation, involved. The issues a given scholar wants to flog are far more important for them than the truth. I will demonstrate that with a simple two-word phrase:

      JOHN YOO

    43. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      Wow. Long time since we’ve had people in government of the quality of people like Cap Weinberger, George Shulz, James Baker, David Stockman, et al. I’ve actually forgotten what that’s like. Now what did they all have common? Oh yeah, Ronald Reagan.

    44. Whitehall Says:


      Sorry but this is first time that anyone I’ve read has denied that Russian nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba were NOT a threat to the US. Perhaps ill-conceived, like an exposed Queen attack, but dangerous none the less.

      As a kid in Florida during the Cuban crisis, we practiced “dunk-and-cover” and were issued metal dog tags “so our parents could identify our bodies.”

      I find it hard to take your dismissal seriously.

    45. dearieme Says:

      What the devil can it matter which direction the nukes come from? That’s what JFK’s advisers understood. The propaganda directed at the mugs, of course, was quite different. A chap needs votes, after all.

    46. Whitehall Says:

      Flight time is one variable. Over the Pole from Russia takes 30 minutes. From Cuba to Miami via IRBM takes maybe 5 minutes.

      Detection is another. The DEW Line looked North. We had nothing similar looking South.

      Your same arguments apply to our bases in Turkey. The Russians were agitated about those and we removed them as part of the quiet resolution of the crisis.

      So both American “mugs” and the Kremlin are wrong to be concerned?

      Reference to Kennedy’s “advisors'” opinions carry little weight with me – they got is into the mess. Yours is a fallacious appeal to authority.

    47. David Foster Says:

      Also, the Soviets didn’t have all that many ICBMs at the time of the Cuban crisis…maybe a few dozen, some of which used volatile liquid fuels and could not be kept on alert for a prolonged period.

    48. Robert Schwartz Says:

      1. Hussein is not a Muslim, except by birth. He is a Marxist Atheist. As such he admires and supports the “progressive” and “revolutionary” forces in the Muslim world, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian regime.

      His behavior since he took office is fully explained by this diagnosis. He did nothing in 2009 to encourage the anti-regime movement. He then handed Iraq to the Iranian regime, by withdrawing all US forces. He will do the same with Afghanistan. He will dismantle the sanctions against Iran in return for a worthless piece of paper, that the Iranians will violate with impunity before the ink is dry. The only real question is whether the Iranians wait until 2017 to test a weapon. Also Egypt.

      2. As long as Hussein is in charge there is absolutely no chance that the US will take any military action against Iran. None, zip, zero, even if provoked. He would love to bring an Iranian warship into a US harbor so he could demonstrate the new friendship between the US and Iran. He will bring his nuclear treaty home and say that it represents peace in our time.

      3. I agree fully with Tom Holsinger concerning the war between Iran and the US. If we sank one of their ships, it would be with full right and justice. But, as I said, Hussein would sooner strangle one of his children than attack Iran.

      4. It is most unwise to assume that the rulers of Iran are rational in the way that we would recognize rationality. Their express religious belief is apocalyptic. Further, it may well be the case that the current straw boss Khamenei may have no greater ambition than to die in his own bed. But, he is 74 and has had health issues in the past. Who his successor will be is a black box to us, and some of the possibilities would curl your hair.

      5. At this point, I would give shorter odds that the Russians would decide to eliminate Iran as a nuclear power than the US would. The Russians share borders with Iran and big chunks of Russia, including the entire Caspian basin and all of its oil, are closer to Iran than Israel is. I am sure the Russians love propping Iran up just to make us nuts. And I am sure that would much rather that we did the dirty work than that they would. But why they would tolerate a nuclear power run by Muslims on their border is beyond me.

    49. Trent Telenko Says:

      Grurray Said —

      >Ever hear of the Millennium Challenge?
      >A lot has changed since the Iran-Iraq War

      A competent Iranian military is a coup threat to the mullahs.

      The Iranian military forces today are far more incompetent and corrupt than those in 1989 and they notably lack a USMC flag rank officer to plan “different than Millennium Challenge” effective surprise attacks.

    50. Trent Telenko Says:

      Robert Schwartz Said:

      >As long as Hussein is in charge there is absolutely no chance
      >that the US will take any military action against Iran.

      I disagree.

      An Iranian attempt at closure of the Persian Gulf straits will activate a number of automatic American military response plans, because the immediate tripling of gasoline prices that would result from that would be a political threat to Democratic election chances.

    51. Michael Kennedy Says:

      The book, The Persian Night is an excellent explanation of the current regime along with much that I had never understood about the schism in Islam.

      The Shia are the Catholics and the Sunni are the Protestants. Shia have a hierarchy and Sunni do not. They rely on the Koran. Shia rely on the mullahs.

      The Saudis have saddled us with a lot of nutty imams but they don’t have the hierarchical structure that the Shia have. Iran has a more usable commend structure than the Sunni countries.

      Another interesting book about Iran is Whirlwind by James Clavell. It’s a novel that takes place over about seven days during the revolution. I’ve always remembered a scene in it where a warlord had a TWA stewardess in his harem. She had been kidnapped. One of my crew members on my boat had a girlfriend who was a TWA stewardess and she told us they had lost several stewardesses in the bazaars in north Africa who had just disappeared while shopping. She flew the route to Egypt. That was in the 80s. She never left the hotel.

    52. PenGun Says:

      Ah so, I was puzzled for a while. This is about Israel and the recent unsatisfactory denouement with the Iran US agreement.

      Right Jonathan?

    53. RonaldF Says:

      Sorry – We have already given our consent to Iran becoming a nuclear power. We now must contend with their missile technology. I see no way under present circumstances (given our administration), of doing anything other than peace offers and mutual destruction treaties with the regional powers. We had a small chance and blew it. Now, every country in the Middle East will have a nuclear and anti-nuclear program. Peace at all cost is now a literal meaning.

    54. dearieme Says:

      On Cuba: “That the missiles were close to the United States was, as the president conceded, [but only in private] immaterial: the negligible difference in flight times between Soviet Union–based ICBMs and Cuba-based missiles wouldn’t change the consequences when the missiles hit their targets, and in any event, the flight times of Soviet SLBMs were already as short as or shorter than the flight times of the missiles in Cuba would be, because those weapons already lurked in submarines off the American coast”. You must explain why this is wrong.

      You also seem to have missed the point that the installation of the US Jupiter missiles in Italy and Turkey was recklessly stupid because they were useful only as first strike weapons; they were not deterrents.

      The article spells it out: the writer’s interpretation of events seems too kind to Kennedy to me, but his recounting of the facts is calm, logical and consistent. The American public was duped over the Cuban crisis by its own government. That your government did its best to make you wet your pants when you were children is just part of the dreadful record of the Kennedy administration.

    55. Grurray Says:

      I’m no fan of JFK and I probably mostly agree with you the the Cuban Missile Crisis was foremost a political crisis.
      However, the Jupiter missiles did arguably possess a significant strategic purpose. The Soviets had an overwhelming advantage in conventional forces. Had they attacked quickly on the ground they would have steamrolled us. A belligerent nuclear stance evened the playing field for us. Rather than encourage a preemptive strike by the Soviets, it encouraged them to engage in an arms race which they would never be able to win.

      Take careful note that I said it was a significant purpose, not necessarily a rational one.

    56. dearieme Says:

      If significant, why did Kennedy cave into Russian demands that they be removed?

      The Jupiters would have been no use in face of a Russian tank attack on Western Europe since they would first have been destroyed by conventional attack. Heavens, they were so vulnerable that riflemen could have done substantial damage.

    57. Michael Kennedy Says:

      “If significant, why did Kennedy cave into Russian demands that they be removed?”

      The whole crisis arose because Kennedy appeared so weak at the Vienna summit with Khrushchev. The Turkey missile concession was kept secret for years. After the Venona and other documents became available when the USSR folded, the story came out. Kennedy was desperate for a solution; sort of like Obama in Syria.

      In retrospect, it was just as well that we didn’t invade Cuba because there were tactical nuclear missiles in place. Castro was enraged that the Soviets withdrew and might have been able to launch them if we had invaded.

    58. Whitehall Says:

      I’ll argue that the Jupiter pads in Turkey had been very useful as a deterrent, at least under Eisenhower. Remember Eisenhower was pretty clear that he would not rule out the first use of nuclear weapons:

      The Kennedy strategy of MAD lowered the utility of the Turkey IRBMs, with an increase in ICBM fleets and the Polaris boomers. That was a chip he could easily throw to the Kremlin.

      The question before us is the Iranian moves.

      I think we can agree that the Iranian leadership is less scared of our deterrence than the Russians were. That could be from their religious beliefs or it could be they think Obama is a pussy who won’t fight back.

      As noted on today’s news that there are joint naval exercises between Iran and Russia.

      Please, let’s agree that these moves by Iran present a risk and a challenge to US security.

    59. Michael Kennedy Says:

      If we needed more indicators on what Obama will do with Iran Today should clear things up.

      The U.S. Navy has reduced its carrier presence in the Persian Gulf as the Obama administration seeks to complete a nuclear deal with Iran.

      The Navy denies it has reduced its strength in the strategically vital waterway, let alone done so to help diplomatic efforts, and it points to an increase in the number of smaller ships that are regularly patrolling at close quarters with Iranian vessels.

      But records show that the U.S.S. Harry Truman, now the sole aircraft carrier in the region, has spent more time outside the Persian Gulf in the last six months than inside it.
      Just a year ago, the Navy had placed two carriers in the region.

      In addition, a Navy source familiar with the issue said the Truman isn’t spending as much time in the Persian Gulf as its predecessors, and that this is intended to give space for negotiators to work on the nuclear deal.

      I can think of a rational argument for getting the big carrier out of the confined waters of the Gulf but this is more likely an Obama/Kerry diplomatic move. Sort of like LBJ’s “signals” to North Vietnam.

    60. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Michael Kennedy @1:00pm:

      Like I said above: “As long as Hussein is in charge there is absolutely no chance that the US will take any military action against Iran. None, zip, zero, even if provoked.”

    61. Ken Hoop Says:

      and now for a non-imperial/Israeli-owned conservative opinion.