Thursday, August 31, 2006

likelihood of an attack on Iran is 50-60%

* the idiot son via booman:
" Now in terms of image, of course I worry about American image. We are great at TV, and yet we are getting crushed on the PR front. I personally do not believe that Saddam Hussein picked up the phone and said, “al-Qaida, attack America.”"

* chris nelson via laura (clemons has more):
"Iran will not “meet the deadline” tomorrow at the UNSC to suspend its nuclear activities...that everyone accepts without question. So the US will follow-through with its determination to pursue a sanctions regime, via a second resolution, one with the continued support of the EU, Russia and China.

Also note that while Iran won’t meet the deadline, it’s response is not expected to be a clear “no”, although this may be difficult to discern, given the usual rhetorical habits of President Amadenijad. More on Iran’s possible negotiating position, below.

Further, say our sources, the White House fully understands that it is embarking on a process of weeks, even months, and that if the US pushes too hard, or demands the impossible, that both China and Russia will drop out of the international coalition, thus reducing US options, and raising international fears of a genuine crisis.

Full acceptance of the current White House posture remains to be gained, given continued opposition to serious negotiations with Iran held by Vice President Cheney, and DOD Secretary Rumsfeld. That’s why mistrust of the motives and judgment of the Bush Administration remains strong, within the US military establishment quite as much as with US friends and allies, and in both parties on Capitol Hill.

Everyone should calm down a bit, while remaining vigilant of both Bush and Iran, say sources who feel they are familiar with the real intentions of the President at this time.

No one, of course, is comfortable predicting the internal workings of the Iranian regime. But it sounds like the President, at least for now, is listening to Secretary of State Condi Rice, who in turn is listening to Undersecretary for Political Affairs (and possible Deputy Secretary to be?) Nick Burns. The result: Burns will be in Europe next week, testing the waters to see just how far the EU is prepared to go on sanctions to pressure Iran.

The real conversation, of course, will be between Burns and the Russians, and the assessment of Moscow’s willingness to allow anything more than very limited sanctions remains what it has been for months.

So, say sources familiar with the current White House thinking, Burns’ task will be to keep the EU, Russia and China on the same page. The anticipated agenda will discuss specific, very limited sanctions such as partial travel bans, and possible bans on nuclear related sales, perhaps also weapons...all to be hammered out over the next few weeks.

This elastic sense of timing is key to understanding the nature of the current stage of the Iranian nuclear “crisis”, our sources argue. While they understand that the US military community is aghast at the very notion of a shooting war with Iran (and Rumsfeld’s latest bloviations show exactly why the brass detests and mistrusts him, not to mention Capitol Hill critics now being accused of “appeasement”) our sources maintain that barring some dramatic move or provocation by Iran, the President’s focus remains on a diplomatic track.

Assuming that Burns’ negotiations start to bear fruit, and at some point this Fall the UNSC agrees to a program of limited, targeted sanctions, it still will take months, not weeks, to see what effect, if any, those sanctions are having on Iranian policy and nuclear programs.

This means that there will be ample time, and constant opportunity, for Burns and Secretary Rice to keep US allies calm, and to keep at least a fa├žade of unity, while exploring quiet negotiations with Tehran over possible solutions to the crisis.

That’s the current, hoped for scenario, our sources maintain. But of course there must be planning for “what if” the UN process starts to break down, or just fails quickly. That would seem to open the door for the more testicular thinking of Cheney and Rumsfeld, however much the President is represented as understanding the need for time and care.

But if the UN track seems to falter, then expect the President to authorize the “coalition of the willing” approach to more a more vigorous sanctions regime, one which will bring new pressures and tensions between the US and current allies.

Expect, for example, renewed emphasis by Treasury on going after trade credits, lending and investments in Iran, which means deepening the current dialogue with the EU and Japan (a replication of the current, increasingly successful efforts against N. Korea). ..."
* meanwhile, Larisa was on Rhandi Rhodes' show the other day - and her sources appear to be saying that the main question is whether the military strike will be before the election or before xmas - and she also says that her sources seem to think that the likelihood of an attack is 50-60% (i might try to dig out the exact quotes later)

* on NPR, Ledeen 'can't imagine' that Chalabi told the Iranians about the american code-breaking - apparently it's all just a smear by the evil, stupid folks at the CIA.

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