Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | August 14, 2010

Bushehr: And So It Begins, Part I

Danged if I didn’t write about the reactor at Bushehr just a few days ago.  It looked like maybe Iran was practicing her defensive measures for a reactor start-up – local air defense, trying to get Israel preoccupied with attacks from multiple axes – because the start-up could be imminent.  I hoped, writing that earlier piece, that Russia still had doubts about the wisdom of defying US policy and UN sanctions to this extent.  But apparently the Russians are satisfied that we’re not going to do anything.

That’s no surprise at this point. Indeed, there are few real surprises lurking out there anywhere, at this point.  Someone, somewhere, has predicted almost everything that’s going to happen, and a lot of people are aware of most of the predictions.  If we were to put things in terms of a familiar analogy, the main question is probably how long it will take, from 2010, to get from the modern version of 1936 to the modern version of 1939.

March 1936 was when Hitler’s Germany, in defiance of the Versailles and Locarno treaties, remilitarized the Rhineland.  For military-technological reasons, that action didn’t necessarily have the same meaning in 1936 that it had had to the armistice negotiators of 1918-19.  European politicians looking for good excuses in ‘36 leveraged that fact for all it was worth.  But it was a watershed political event: it signaled Nazi Germany’s determination and direction, and it signaled the unwillingness of England and France to do anything about it.  Most importantly, it signaled Hitler’s assurance that England and France would take no action.

Lighting off the Bushehr reactor stands the test of this analogy pretty well.  The Bushehr reactor itself is not, technically, the key to Iran’s nuclear weapons program.  It will have a subordinate role at best, partly because of the limitations of light-water reactors for producing weapons-grade material, and partly because Iran has agreed to send the reactor’s spent fuel rods back to Russia anyway.  Flouting this agreement with Russia would constitute a significant political break on Iran’s part, one that’s not unthinkable but is unlikely.  Russian collusion in diverting uranium from the reactor to weapons production is more likely, in my view, than Iran making an abrupt political break.  And neither is on the horizon at this moment.

But Russia enabling Iran’s nuclear program at all is directly opposed to the substance of the UN’s demands to Iran, the sanctions on Iran, and US and EU policy.  There is no question that Russia has chosen to take this step in the belief that the US and Europe will do nothing about it.  What matters here is what mattered in 1936:  the absolute clarity of the political decision point, and the expectations about who will do what.

Continued in Part II…

Cross-posted at Hot Air.


  1. there is no question that you should be substantiating…………………..

    ” There is no question that Russia has chosen to take this step in the belief that the US and Europe will do nothing about it. ”

    ……. why you’re saying that you unquestionably know that Russia believes that.

  2. Russia believes it because everyone knows it’s true.

    Anyone who can’t see it, doesn’t want to see it.

    An economically dependent, militarily impotent and pacifistic Europe is in no position to confront Russia’s strongmen.

    Obama is a narcissistic bully, which means he only confronts when he knows it’s safe to do so, an appeaser whose bullying confidence is a masquerade, to cover-up a profound moral cowardice.

    Obama’s another Chamberlain;
    “We should seek by all means in our power to avoid war, by analyzing possible causes, by trying to remove them, by discussion in a spirit of collaboration and good will.

    I cannot believe that such a program would be rejected by the people of this country, even if it does mean the establishment of personal contact with dictators, and of talks man to man on the basis that each, while maintaining his own ideas of the internal government of his country, is willing to allow that other systems may better suit other peoples.” –Neville Chamberlain, explaining Munich

    Any kid growing up knows that a bully can only be dissuaded by confrontation. Thus, on a national scale, pacifism is an convenient excuse to avoid the exposure of moral cowardice.

    In the dog eat dog world of Russian politics you don’t get to be premier without the ability to quickly size up the mettle of your opponents. Putin long ago took Obama’s measure and his actions are the result of that assessment.

    Iran’s mullah’s, Turkey’s Erdogan, the Palestinians, Syria’s Assad, China, North Korea, Venezuela’s Chavez and Brazil’s Lula all know what they dealing with and thus it’s open season on American interests.

    The only question is whether they believe that what’s true of Obama extends to the American public.

    If so, sooner or later, it’s going to get very nasty indeed.

    War or dhimmitude, that’s the choices because the bullies of the world will accept no other path.

    Ironically, the only way to avoid war and remain free is to be willing to engage in war, knowing that if the bully won’t back down, which if they believe themselves to be stronger they won’t do, that war may be necessary.

    But also knowing that bullies always give up when they face a determined opponent. “There’s no stopping a man, who knows he’s in the right and keeps comin” Louis Lamour (professional boxer, roustabout and writer)

    “Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonor. They chose dishonor. They will have war.” Winston Churchill

    • Geoffrey, you’re more like Neville Chamberlain than is Obama.
      Everybody knows that.
      You’re entirely inflexible in your thinking and clinging to scraps of things that conform to your notions rather than evaluating the entirety of available evidence.

      • Accusing me of being entirely inflexible in my thinking and excluding the ‘entirety of the evidence” without providing specifics is an example of Thatcher’s aphorism: “When they attack one personally, it means they haven’t a single argument left.”

        “Considering all the evidence” while ignoring relevant principles, which is how we make sense of disparate data is a means of avoidance, not ‘enhanced appreciation for nuance’. So, if seeing “all the shades of gray” in an issue allows you to ignore the black and white shades of an issue, you’re avoiding the truth…whose motivation, if you dig deep enough is ALWAYS moral cowardice.

        “I searched through rebellion, drugs, diets, mysticism, religions, intellectualism and much more, only to begin to find that truth is basically simple – and feels good, clean and right.” – Chick Corea

        You make the mistake fuster of assuming that direct and certain response is indicative of simplistic thinking. Just because you haven’t ‘done the homework’, so as to identify and confirm the operative principles that allow for clear thinking and thus, when confronted by evil, confidently advocate decisive action, doesn’t mean that others have not done so.

        You’re a perfect example of Orwell’s truism, “There are some ideas so wrong, that only a very intelligent person could believe in them.”

        You shy away from confronting the truth because your muddled thinking doesn’t allow for moral clarity;

        “To survive it is often necessary to fight and to fight, you have to dirty yourself.” George Orwell (my emphasis)

        “War is evil, but it is often the lesser evil.” George Orwell

        I, a Chamberlain?
        “I seem to smell the stench of appeasement in the air.” Margret Thatcher

        BTW, your ‘expectations’ as to what Russia and the US have discussed regarding the reactor at Bushehr are not only pure unsupported speculation but are highly unlikely given the facts; consistent opposition in the UN by Russia to imposing sanctions upon Iran, Russian facilitation of the means for nuclear proliferation to multiple unstable third world nations inimical to US interests and the demonstrated dishonesty of the Iranian regime. Their assurances that in the future, all spent fuel rods from the Bushehr reactor will be sent back to Russia are ‘assurances’ worth less than nothing.

        Finally, the S300 not being delivered is a geo-political ploy, the S300 has been sold…were Russia to deliver them before the reactor was online, it would completely ‘put to the lie’ any assurances by Russia that it is only interested in cooperating with Iran’s national right to the peaceful pursuit of nuclear power.

        The ‘Great Game’ is played more subtlety than you evidently appreciate fuster.

  3. fuster, please defend the converse proposition: that Russia and Iran have taken this step believing the US and Europe WILL take action against them because of it.

    That’s the real test. It’s the one I used in this case. Again, I’m doing this thing called “analysis.” The Russians and Iranians are behaving exactly as if they don’t expect any kind of reaction or retribution for starting up the Bushehr reactor. It’s legitimate and always has been — within certain boundaries — to attribute a mindset to them based on their actions.

    Do you, in fact, think Russia and Iran expect the US and Europe to take action against them for lighting off the reactor? If so, please explain.

    • no, opticon. that’s not the prop to defend.

      your “analysis” can’t be worthwhile because it excludes consideration of too much.

      I expect that the US has discussed previously discussed with Russia what would b happening at Bushehr.
      I would expect that you have to consider why the Russians AREN’T selling Iran the S-300s. if you want to sell Russia as defying the US and EU and siding with the Iranians , you can’t exclude that from your consideration.

      I asked you about the S300s a few posts back and you declined to answer then, so perhaps you’ll deign to offer consideration at this point.

  4. […] Bushehr: And So It Begins, Part II Part I is here. […]

  5. Yes, fuster, it is the proposition to defend.

    Please state what is not considered in my analysis.

    GB has basically answered your question about the S-300. I’ve also made comments that answer the question on a number of occasions. Russia has various calculations relating to the S-300 and Iran, such as how many concessions can be wrung from the mullahs in the protracted process of “delivery.” Getting other nations to beg or bribe Russia not to deliver the S-300 is another consideration.

    But the biggest one at the moment is the fact that installation of S-300 batteries in Iran is a tripwire for Israel. The Russians know that. They will time delivery of the S-300 so as to manage the character and meaning of that tripwire to their own advantage as much as possible. Ideally, from their perspective, I suspect they’d prefer not delivering the S-300 as long as they think getting wind of it will make Israel go ahead and strike. The Russians don’t want to have events in the region forced by other actors. They remain in control of this factor as long as they don’t deliver the S-300 (and no one else does either, such as China).

  6. I thank you for the response. Silly logician that I am, I’ll accept that you’re saying that by not delivering the S-300s, the Russians have not completed an act that the world would interpret as of greater significance in demonstrating and providing support for the Iranians.
    I agree that not delivering the anti-aircraft batteries allows Russia to be seen as not committed to strengthening the Iranians and allows Russia to lay claim to the baubles on offer from the US/EU for the wooable.
    And yes, I agree that Israel also would see the S-300s as more advantageous to Iran than aid in starting up a reactor not closely tied to the weapons program, despite dubious Israeli claims that they have technology that can neutralize the S-300 radar and missile guidance electronics.

    I’m sure that an analysis that sees delivery of the S-300s as definitive and that interprets non-delivery as indicative of the intent to deliver is rigorous, especially as

    ” They will time delivery of the S-300 so as to manage the character and meaning of that tripwire to their own advantage as much as possible.”

    for as long as the Russian’s DON’T deliver the goods, your analysis remains unverifiable,
    and a matter of trust. (ar,ar)

  7. […] And continuing a week later with Bushehr: And So It Begins, Part I […]

  8. […] continuing a week later with Bushehr: And So It Begins, Part I I hoped,writing that earlier piece, that Russia still had doubts about the wisdom of defying US […]

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