Monday, January 09, 2006

Looking for more reasons not to fight Iran?

Not convinced that attacking the country is a bad, bad, bad idea? Here's two more reasons, courtesy of The Guardian article: Did the CIA give Iran the bomb? Extracts from New York Times reporter James Risen's new book. The book is called "State of War", but I haven't read it yet. Let me summarize the article.

Reason 1: the CIA did indeed leak the plans for a bomb to the Iranian government. The idea was to introduce a few flaws in the plan for the time "when [Iran's] scientists tried to explode their new bomb. Instead of a mushroom cloud, the Iranian scientists would witness a disappointing fizzle. The Iranian nuclear programme would suffer a humiliating setback, and Tehran's goal of becoming a nuclear power would have been delayed by several years." Do I need to explain why the plan wouldn't have worked? That the Iranians have some very smart cookies on their nuclear program? That they would have sussed out the errors and corrected the blueprints? Or possibly, improved them?

The CIA then decided to make it extra difficult for themselves. They hired a Russian nuclear engineer (a defector to the U.S.) to courier the plans to the Iranians in Vienna, but without telling him about the flaws. Their problem is that the defector found the faults himself (within minutes, it should be noted), realized the deep shit he was in, and decided to play both ends against the middle. He appended a little letter to the plans - something like "Guys. Boris here. I've been asked to give this to you. Just watch out for parts A, B and C. Let's just say they're - ahem - a little buggy? Nothing personal. Inshallah, all."

(If Bill Clinton really did approve the plan, as the article alleges, then I would say that this is the most imbecilic thing he's ever done. We're talking about 100 kiloLewinskys on the fuckup scare.)

Reason 2: the CIA wouldn't be able to find any secret nuclear sites the Persians may have up their sleeves - not any more. They ended up leaking all their spies to Tehran. How did they do that? By email. You see, one of their agents had incriminating information on their network in the country - all in a single file. She ended up attaching it to a message to the wrong "asset": one of her employees who happened to be a double-agent working for the Iranian security forces. It took Kim Philby years to do what she achieved in a single keystroke. Okay, it wasn't that easy; she probably had to drag her mouse a few times, and select from a dialog. I don't want to exaggerate here.

I like computers, but I have to say the whole affair makes one nostalgic for "old-skool" filing - when confidential documents were actually made out of paper and cardboard and kept in combination safes.

I do not like the idea of Iran having a nuclear weapons program. I do not really have any idea how to stop it. A couple of weeks ago, I would have thought a "Good Cops - Bad Cops" strategy would be the way to go, with the EU being the nice guys, and the US shouting and banging the walls in the interrogation room. Unfortunately, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - Iranian President - seems as mad as a cut snake.

But we can at least start by excluding strategies that will not work. One of those is to bomb Iran. Even if the USAF can find all the sites (see reason 2), the Iranians have got some nasty surface-to-air-missles. But there's a moral aspect as well. If they've got nukes, who's fucking fault is that? People notice this sort of hypocrisy these days.