This page is a “One-Stop Shopping” summary of my posts on Iran, which began with “The NIE is Dead” in February 2009, shortly after I began the Optimistic Conservative blog.
I also append links to some of the most important online resources I have found on Iran, and particularly developments with her nuclear program, and potential US and Israeli responses to it.
I will update this page with new links as the occasion arises.
Optimistic Conservative blog pieces on Iran
(In order of posting)
14 Feb 09 – Critical discussion of the 2007 Iran NIE
19 Feb 09 – First in a 3-part series on force options against Iran (covers mostly sanctions)
23 Feb 09 – Discussion of the merits of MAD, its effect on US policy in the Cold War, and its utility versus Iran
4 Mar 09 – Part 2 in the series, covers Israeli kinetic strike options
15 Mar 09 – Part 3 in the series, covers US kinetic strike options
5 May 09 – Discussion of the geographic implications of Iran’s campaign to destabilize other nations of the Middle East and North Africa
18 May 09 – Iran’s and Hizballah’s inroads in Latin America, far more extensive than most Americans know
Maybe the Big Carrot’s not Working
21 May 09 – Key reflections on Iran’s extended-range Sejjil-2 missile launch
15 June 2009 – Discussion of policy options for the Iranian Green Revolution
Iran: Context, and Opportunity
17 June 2009 – Regional factors and implications with the Green Revolution
21 June 2009 – More on US options during the Green revolution
IO! IO! Off to Natanz they Go?
6 July 2009 – Potential “information” initiative by Israel and Saudi Arabia to send a pointed signal to Iran
21 July 2009 – Critique of do-nothing policy on Iran; contains updated intel on Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon
1 August 2009 – Obama policy as the operationalization of the Bushehr reactor neared
26 September 2009 – Problems with Obama’s “Qom (Fordo) Gambit”
Missing the Big Opportunity in Iran
11 February 2010 – Failures of US policy as the anniversary of the Islamic revolution looms
The Old “My Centrifuge Broke Down” Excuse
12 February 2010 – Discussion of alternative implications from Iran’s operation of fewer centrifuges in the main enrichment facility at Natanz
Oh Satanic Flyboys! This Way to the Islamic Revolutionary Uranium!
4 March 2010 – Discussion of potential reasons for Iran’s ostentatious movement of low-enriched uranium to the PFEP at Natanz
ObliqueSpeak in the Age of Obama
29 April 2010 – The Obama administration fudges on whether Iran has a paramilitary presence in Venezuela
Master Strategist Cheats at Candyland
18 May 2010 – Critique of Obama strategy for dealing with Iran
Intimidating Iran: Better to be Lucky than Good?
26 June 2010 – Regional factors and expectations in Iran’s decision not to send a flotilla to harass Israel
7 August 2010 – Bushehr being brought online as a geopolitical watershed in power alignments and perceptions of US power
Bushehr: And So It Begins, Part I
14 August 2010 – Three-part essay on geopolitical factors and implications from the Bushehr reactor going online
Bushehr: And So It Begins, Part II
15 August 2010
Bushehr: And So It Begins, Part III
17 August 2010
Another Day, Another Iranian Underground Facility
10 September 2010 – New underground facility being constructed near Qazvin?
Iran: Not So Fast with the Mission Accomplished Banner
18 January 2011 – Criticism of media theme that Stuxnet and other Western efforts had stymied Iran’s nuclear progress
6 June 2011 – Apocalypticism and internal divisions in Iran’s leadership
Oh Boy: Iranian Submarine(s) in the Red Sea
8 June 2011 – Iran announced deployment of submarines to the Red Sea
Good News: Iran Now Offers a Missile Umbrella to Fellow Muslim Nations
14 June 2011 – Iran clarifies what she will do with nuclear weapons
15 August 2011 – Developments in competing Iranian and Turkish interests in Syria
20 September 2011 – Critique of the idea for a nuclear “hotline” between the US and Iran
Iran’s Nuclear Program: Avoiding Hockey-Stickery
20 October 2011 – Refutation of media theme that Iran’s uranium enrichment had slowed due to technical problems
IAEA’s 8 November Report: A Bunch of Stuff We’ve Known for Years
9 November 2011 – Discussion of big IAEA report in November 2011; focuses on how old and well-known all the data points were
Iran: Conflicting Reports on New Blast Near Esfahan
28 November 2011 – Critical discussion of reports on the event
That Uranium Conversion Facility in Esfahan? Not a Priority Target
30 November 2011 – The case against a Western government having sponsored a one-off attack on the uranium conversion facility at Esfahan
State of Play on the Drone Downed in Iran
8 December 2011 – Discussion of the US drone reportedly recovered by the Iranians
New Imagery of Esfahan Shows No Destruction at Uranium Facility
9 December 2011 – Update on false media report that Esfahan uranium conversion facility had been attacked
Iranian Warships Make Second Port Call in Saudi Arabia
5 February 2012 – Update on IRIN’s second swing through the Red Sea and EastMed
Strategic Ambiguity for Fun and Profit
26 February 2012 – On Iran’s exploitation of “strategic ambiguity” about her nuclear weapons program and intentions
Intel on Iran’s Nuclear Program: An Endless Do-Loop
15 March 2012 – Discussion of the intel on the Parchin complex and the building where Iran probably conducted a nuclear-warhead detonator in 2003 or before
J.E. Dyer Iran pieces at other sites
Iran and the “Uranium Jerk” (Hot Air Green Room)
14 February 2010 – Summary discussion of Iran’s uranium processing “break” in 2009 and other factors
Iranian Nuclear Threat: Plan A Might not Be Working (Contentions)
6 December 2010 – Sanctions not deterring Iran’s nuclear aspirations
Iran: Calculus Changing for the “Force Option”? (Contentions)
28 December 2010 – How Iran is closing off US military options in the Gulf region
Other TOC pieces with Iranian content
9 Feb 09 – Somali piracy problem in regional context, including hegemonic aspirations of Russia, China, and Iran
Strategy as Vacuum-Sealed Abstraction
11 Feb 09 – Looks at the NATO logistics problem of Afghanistan in regional context, including Iran’s role in “solutions”
6 Apr 09 – Somalia’s continuing crisis, including Iran’s interest there and the power position of chokepoint proximity
29 Apr 09 – Possible Israeli interdiction of Iranian arms shipments to Hamas via Sudan Eritrea
3 May 09 – Discussion of preemption policy: considers Iraq, Iran
Institute for Science and International Security website on Iran:
Careful, reliable analysis of the Iranian sites and developments there. Excellent resource for links to IAEA reporting. Authors are opposed to kinetic strikes on Iran. The only weakness I find at this site is that when the analysts discuss kinetic options, they do not make explicit the restrictive assumptions they are using – assumptions that do not represent the actual capabilities of US forces, in particular, or that are unrealistic. Bottom line: trustworthy resource for information on the Iranian program, less so regarding analysis of force options against Iran.
Exceptionally comprehensive list of links useful to researching Iran’s nuclear programs using online resources. Avowedly non-partisan site; links are overwhelmingly information, not editorial.
Congressional Research Service report on Iran’s nuclear program 2007
Good basic primer with overview maps.
Rethinking Our Approach to Iran’s Search for the Bomb
Anthony Cordesman: a timely and important update (May 2012) on the current potential for Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and how Western governments may be missing the policy mark.
Bipartisan Policy Center analysis of US options versus Iran’s nuclear program:
Sep 2008 document. Washington policy think tank; analysis task force co-chaired by Dan Coats and Charles Robb. Very long and comprehensive. Contains much boilerplate about “robust diplomacy” and discussion of sanctions, but also acknowledges that kinetic strikes are a militarily feasible option. Discusses probable Iranian responses at a one-dimensional level. Of interest overall as a mainstream think tank product with the endorsement of retired Senators from both political parties.
Anthony Cordesman’s (CSIS) analysis of US/Israeli force options against Iran:
In-depth and accurate. Typically (with Cordesman), less optimistic than the McInerney piece below, but acknowledges feasibility of large-scale strikes. Good for anyone who wants to consider potential operations weapon system by weapon system.
Ret. USAF LtGen Thomas McInerney discusses US airstrike options against Iran:
Brief, punchy outline of a potential large-scale strike campaign, very much “Air Force” in character. More optimistic than I would be about length of time required to do the described damage, but reliable in terms of targeting approach and weapon systems involved.
MIT analysis of kinetic requirements to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities:
Very good, thorough analysis. Should be especially so to those who would like to understand some of the important aspects of kinetic targeting. Analysts overestimate the number of weapons that would be considered necessary by targeteers for some applications, but in general make accurate assumptions about the kind of weapon that should be used.
Air Combat Information Group treatment of Iran targeting problem:
From 2003. Now a little outdated in terms of identification of Iranian targets, but a superb description of the target analysis problem, one that gives an excellent sense of how air targeteers approach the Iran nuclear facilities.
9 thoughts on “The Iran Page”
Thank you for this useful and timely compendium. Can I suggest just one addition to your list of other resources?
Last year Patrick Clawson and Michael Eisenstadt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy produced a thought-provoking paper entitled “The Last Resort: Consequences of Preventive Military Action Against Iran.” (http://tinyurl.com/6mer5x).
It is worth reading in its entirety, but I summarized one of the most interesting points here (http://tinyurl.com/nlp4r8), and there is also a very informative comment by Soccer Dad at that post.
Thanks, Rich, those are both terrific additions.
Thanks for the link at your JCI blog as well, and the cite on the contentions comment. I’m working on a more extended treatment of that whole theme, which I hope to have posted tomorrow or Wednesday the 3rd.
I’ll get back and update the main Iran Page with your links as soon as that’s done. Thanks again!
I’ve got to shamefully admit that I’m just getting up to speed on the Camp Ashraf affair and am curious about your ideas on it, there doesn’t seem to have been much media coverage in the past or now. The EU and Britain seem to have changed their minds on the status of the MEK (or whatever they call themselves now) as a terrorist organization. What’s the chances of the US following suit? Is Iraqi pressure on these people related to the support they received from Saddam or something else? They seem to have carried out some pretty gruesome stuff in Iran, does US policy consider anyone that uses violence against, in this case government officials, terrorism? Does their Marxist history put them behind the 8 ball? Does any of this have any bearing on the bigger issues or is it small potatoes?
chuck martel — I think the bottom line is that it’s small potatoes (the MEK and Camp Ashraf). MEK has indeed done some bad stuff, with its members far from democracy-oriented freedom fighters.
Back when we were enforcing the no-fly zones over Iraq, we used to watch Iran launch attacks on Ashraf after the MEK had done something awful in Iran, and Saddam scramble fighter jets — prohibited by the UN NFZ rules — in response. Then, of course, US or British fighters would have to be vectored onto them and warn them down. Whereupon Iraqi air defense would shoot AAA or launch a missile.
The ambiguity with the MEK is that it has, in fact, provided some good intel to the US. And in 2003 we designated the MEK at Ashraf as protected persons under the Geneva Convention. The intention was NOT to enable MEK to attack Iran, but to prevent its membership from being attacked BY Iran in the period of border instability.
FWIW, I agree with the policy of shutting down Camp Ashraf and not allowing the MEK to persist in accessing Iran for attacks. That’s the right way to proceed. MEK fighters should not be repatriated for torture and execution, but it does no good, and much harm, to leave them there in a camp across the border, functioning as an irritant between Iraq and Iran.
The problem that has arisen is that when security for Ashraf was turned over to the Iraqis, from US forces, the Iraqis started basically starving the MEK out, no doubt in response to pressure (or bribery) from Iran, at some level — not necessarily that of the central government in Baghdad.
So it’s one of those nasty little situations that always crop up in war. Should the US have these guys immigrate to our shores, because they’ve provided us intelligence and we committed to offering them protection? These are a very different set of folks from Iraqis who have cooperated with us (e.g., interpreters), and who are now in danger from jihadists. They’re dedicated gunslingers and bomb-throwers — not the sort of upstanding Iranians who come to the USA and become engineers and dentists.
From a crudely pragmatic standpoint, however, as long as the MEK is shut down in Iraq, its potential to function as a core around which anti-mullah violence can coalesce will decline to nil. The MEK isn’t the Nicaraguan contras in El Salvador; this is a different situation, and the MEK is not keeping an ideal of liberalization — one with electoral value — alive across the border. The Iranian people’s path to liberalization doesn’t lie with the MEK, which is probably the bottom line of bottom lines on this one.
I just ran into this J.E. and would welcome your thoughts on it. The report is unconfirmed, so this may not be true but if it is true…
Final Destination Iran?
Here’s the comment on the Belmont Club that piqued my interest; 37. Subotai Bahadur:
Subotai suggests that Israel might be the target.
I find that hard to credit, even though I think Obama to be generally hostile towards Israel. However, it did occur to me that Obama ‘might’ attack both. As doing so, might greatly discredit both Iranian protests and Russian and Chinese objections.
Hey, GB — it’s a good thing your query above came in as being from an unknown commenter, otherwise I wouldn’t have seen it! I unfortunately don’t get around to this page every day.
I actually commented on that Scottish Herald report, in response to Emanuele Ottolenghi’s discussion of it, at “contentions” today. Here’s a link:
I don’t make much of the movement of bombs. The characterization of them by the hyperventilating Herald reporter is very misleading. He keeps babbling “bunker-buster,” but the bombs he actually names are retrofitted “mini-busters” — general-purpose bombs that we have about a gazillion of, and decided to put to good use by coupling with shaped penetrators and slapping modern guidance packages on.
Our serious, take-no-prisoners “bunker-busters” are all in much bigger weight classes. Meanwhile, just moving bombs to a forward location is never an indicator that we’re about to attack.
I don’t agree with Subotai at your link that Obama is preparing to attack Israel. Trying to do it with manned aircraft from CENTCOM would be brainless anyway.
Of course, Obama is handling relations with Israel in a manner both hostile and unprofessional, and I have the sense that his antipathy goes even beyond his general disdain for all our best allies. (See comments from my earlier posts about Britain and Japan, for example.)
But if he were actually preparing to strike Israel, I think we’d already have heard about it through leaks. I also think he’d meet serious resistance from the officer corps and many civilian officials in DOD. Attacking an ally is something many people would find so egregiously wrong — evil, unlawful — that they’d complain to Congress and leak to the press rather than let Obama plan and execute such an operation in secret.
Thanks J.E. that clarifies the issue for me,
as pre-positioning smaller ordnance in general contingency maneuvers makes perfect sense.
But it also supports my instincts about Obama. Politically, an unprovoked attack upon an ally would never fly, it would be an act of war. Of course Obama’s thinking and precepts are certainly questionable but I don’t think he generally takes a position that requires a direct, frontal assault. In my judgment, that’s just not his style.
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