Report: Iran’s nuclear program a shambles?

posted at 2:53 pm on January 29, 2007 by Allahpundit

Didn’t get around to this one this weekend, partly because I’m bored with Iran stories and partly because the “debate,” such as it is, has assumed the same Rorschach properties as Iraq. If you’re a hawk, you’ll dismiss the following as propaganda cooked up by Eurodoves to buy more time for negotiations. If you’re a dove, mangia.

Despite Iran being presented as an urgent threat to nuclear non-proliferation and regional and world peace – in particular by an increasingly bellicose Israel and its closest ally, the US – a number of Western diplomats and technical experts close to the Iranian programme have told The Observer it is archaic, prone to breakdown and lacks the materials for industrial-scale production…

The centrifuges were supposed to have been installed almost a year ago and many experts are extremely doubtful that Iran has yet mastered the skills to install and run it. Instead, they argue, the ‘installation’ will more probably be about propaganda than reality…

Instead, say experts, the break-up of the nuclear smuggling organisation of the Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadheer Khan has massively set back an Iran heavily dependent on his network.

Another good one from the weekend was the New York Times Magazine’s meandering look at the power struggle in Tehran. Lots of red meat about the murderous fascist wackjob cleric with whom Ahmadinejad is presently allied, possibly because he shares his beliefs, possibly as a marriage of convenience. Only in the Islamic Republic could one benefit politically from being aligned with someone who winks at suggestions that he’s had his opponents killed. The ironic zenith:

[I]t is a puzzle that has vexed political analysts since the president took office in August 2005, bringing with him a faction that was largely new to the post-revolutionary political scene. Composed partly of military and paramilitary elements, partly of extremist clerics like Mesbah-Yazdi and partly of inexperienced new conservative politicians, those in Ahmadinejad’s faction are often called “neoconservatives.”

Tee hee! Here’s the important part, a Catch-22 that leaves Iran with no good options except perhaps to provoke a massive attack from the west, thereby giving the regime the popular support it needs to take tough action economically:

The Iranian economy has been mismanaged at least since the revolution, and to fix it would require measures no populist would be willing to take. Under Ahmadinejad, inflation has risen; foreign investors have scorned Iranian markets, fearing political upheaval or foreign invasion; the Iranian stock market has plummeted; Iranian capital has fled to Dubai. Voters I talked to pointed to the prices of ordinary foodstuffs when they wanted to explain their negative feelings about the government. According to Iranian news sources, from January to late August 2006 the prices of fruits and vegetables in urban areas rose by 20 percent. A month later, during Ramadan, the price of fruit reportedly doubled while that of chicken rose 10 percent in mere days. Housing prices in Tehran have reached a record high. Unemployment is still widespread. And Ahmadinejad’s approval rating, as calculated by the official state television station, had dipped to 35 percent in October.

Iran is not a poor country. It is highly urbanized and modern, with a sizable middle class. Oil revenues, which Iran has in abundance, should be channeling plenty of hard currency into the state’s coffers, and in fact the economy’s overall rate of growth is healthy and rising. But as Parvin Alizadeh, an economist at London Metropolitan University, explained to me, what ultimately matters is how the state spends its influx of wealth. The Iranian government has tried to create jobs swiftly and pacify the people by spending the oil money on new government-run projects. But these projects are not only overmanned and inefficient, like much of the country’s bloated and technologically backward public sector; they also increase the demand for consumer goods and services, driving up inflation.

Ahmadinejad has continued this trend. He has generated considerable personal good will in poorer communities, but hardly anyone I asked could honestly say that their lives had gotten better during his presidency. He fought to lower interest rates, which drove up lending, leading to inflation and capital flight. The government cannot risk infuriating the public with the austerity measures that would be required in order to solve its deep-rooted economic problems. But as long as its short-term fixes continue to fail, the government will go on being unpopular. The last two presidents have lost their constituencies over this issue. And so officials seek to distract people from their economic woes with ideological posturing and anti-Western rhetoric. Not only has this lost its cachet with much of the Iranian public, it also serves to compound Iran’s economic problems by blackening its image abroad. “Iran has not sorted out its basic problem, which is to be accepted in the international community as a respectable government,” Alizadeh said. “Investors do not take it seriously. This is a political crisis, not an economic crisis.”

Sounds like they need a revolution of the proletariat. In the meantime, they’re going to dump money and materiel into Iraq and see if they can’t rob that country blind, presumably with the help, or at least acquiescence, of the Shiite government. Maliki and his ministers are already derided as “Persians” by Iraqi Sunnis; to welcome an Iranian bank in Baghdad is to practically accept the label.

How’d you like to be a security guard at First National of Iran in Baghdad?

Iran’s ambassador to Baghdad outlined an ambitious plan on Sunday to greatly expand its economic and military ties with Iraq — including an Iranian national bank branch in the heart of the capital — just as the Bush administration has been warning the Iranians to stop meddling in Iraqi affairs…

The ambassador, Hassan Kazemi Qumi, said Iran was prepared to offer Iraq government forces training, equipment and advisers for what he called “the security fight.” In the economic area, Mr. Qumi said, Iran was ready to assume major responsibility for Iraq reconstruction

Other elements of new economic cooperation, he said, include plans for Iranian shipments of kerosene and electricity to Iraq and a new agricultural cooperative involving both countries.

He would not provide specifics on Iran’s offer of military assistance to Iraq, but said it included increased border patrols and a proposed new “joint security committee.”

Bush is planning to go public this week with intel about Iranian involvement in Iraq. They’re vetting what they have right now to make sure it doesn’t expose their spooks in the field or embarrass any of their allies. Exit question: what are the odds, do you suppose, that that intel will also end up Rorschachized?


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fo shizzle.

locomotivebreath1901 on January 29, 2007 at 3:03 PM

The Iran question is in the process of being repositioned in the press and in Congress. It’s being framed in the same way that everyone on the left wishes Iraq had been framed in 2003, but no one (except the nutroots) had the stones to do so at the time.

The waters are being muddied. No one but rednecks and cowboys fish in muddy water.

spmat on January 29, 2007 at 3:05 PM

When India detonated a nuke, we were surprised.

When Pakistan detonated a nuke, we were surprised.

When NK detonated a nuke, we were surprised. ‘Cause it didn’t have a big enough yield. I.e., we were surprised at their incompetence.

When Iran detonates their nuke, NO DOUBT, we’ll be “oficially” surprised again.

Same-o, same-o

georgej on January 29, 2007 at 3:15 PM

Yes, an increasingly bellicose Israel. Like those constant attacks on Lebanon and Gaza and near-daily calls for Iran to be wiped off the map. It’s the Guardian–it’s bullshit. Muddying the waters, indeed.

G on January 29, 2007 at 3:19 PM

He fought to lower interest rates

I thought interest was forbidden in Islam. Is there a different rule for Shiites?

Exit question: what are the odds, do you suppose, that that intel will also end up Rorschachized?

Metaphysical certainty.

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on January 29, 2007 at 3:25 PM

NK won’t have a nuke for ten years.

tarpon on January 29, 2007 at 3:29 PM

It sounds like a race to see if ahmawackjob can run his country into the ground before or after Pelosi & co. runs the US into the ground, effectively surrendering the WOT.

Buck Turgidson on January 29, 2007 at 3:44 PM

Sounds like they’re about where the U.S.A. was in the 40s… Wait a minute, we actually set off a couple of nukes in the 40s!

No one but rednecks and cowboys fish in muddy water.

I’ve been offended twice in one sentence. Even cowboys are smart enough not to fish in muddy water.

High Desert Wanderer on January 29, 2007 at 3:48 PM

Allahpundit
Sir,
for being bored with Iran, you sure put out good product.

For the life of me I can’t think of how to refute the idea that Iran will reconstruct Iraq, the way Hezbollah rebuilt South Lebanon, as the NYT links suggests.

rockhauler on January 29, 2007 at 4:29 PM

Fissile Fizzle?

Clever.

shooter on January 29, 2007 at 4:34 PM

I thought interest was forbidden in Islam. Is there a different rule for Shiites?
Attila (Pillage Idiot) on January 29, 2007 at 3:25 PM

1. [2.275] Those who swallow down usury cannot arise except as one whom Shaitan has prostrated by (his) touch does rise. That is because they say, trading is only like usury; and Allah has allowed trading and forbidden usury. To whomsoever then the admonition has come from his Lord, then he desists, he shall have what has already passed, and his affair is in the hands of Allah; and whoever returns (to it)– these arc the inmates of the fire; they shall abide in it.
2. [2.276] Allah does not bless usury, and He causes charitable deeds to prosper, and Allah does not love any ungrateful sinner.
3. [2.278] O you who believe! Be careful of (your duty to) Allah and relinquish what remains (due) from usury, if you are believers.

I would say you are right! But just like anywhere else, rules/laws are subject to selective enforcement.

brtex on January 29, 2007 at 4:43 PM

If we have secret agents deep in Iran and we somehow know that their nuke program is a long way from actually being a threat, that would explain a lot of the administration’s seemingly passive behavior (and that’s about the only thing that would explain it). Without access to the inside info W has, we mere mortals only know what we don’t know.

Halley on January 29, 2007 at 4:44 PM

Hmmm… two points…

Iran, with its great ECONOMY (the one with high unemployment, and gas rationing) is going to help REBUILD Iraq??? HUH??? No doubt they will help (themselves) with the oil fields as well… you know… because they have done such a great job with their own (look it up, declining production…)…

BUT, it only took America 6 years to build the first Nukes, and no one knew if it could even be done… its much easier to recreate a technology, than to come up with it from scratch… if they got the fuel… they can do it… they don’t need centrifuges, there are other methods of seperating out fissionable material…

Romeo13 on January 29, 2007 at 4:48 PM

Equivalence:

Messrs Bush (43) and Ahmadinejab at around 35% approval ratings, and

Iran has not sorted out its basic problem, which is to be accepted in the international community as a respectable government

Sound familiar?

Wishfulness:

…in particular by an increasingly bellicose Israel and its closest ally, the US…

Entelechy on January 29, 2007 at 4:50 PM

If we have secret agents deep in Iran and we somehow know that their nuke program is a long way from actually being a threat, that would explain a lot of the administration’s seemingly passive behavior..”

There-in lies a part of the problem.
We are inside.
The Dems want to expose the operators.
The Dems don’t want us to listen to terrorists anymore without a not-so-private warrant, hence going public, which exposes the operation.
We can be sure, if we lose ‘contact’ with some elements inside Iran, we can not be passive for too long. Not knowing drives people crazy.

I would like to know how many of these Persians want Armimadjihad OUT? Persians are far different than Arabs, they will stress this point.
From my tiny bit of knowledge, it seems the majority of Iranians would not want this guy in office another day, let alone til he’s got a nuke. But the Ayatolla keeps him? Whats their hidden truth?

shooter on January 29, 2007 at 4:57 PM

Hmmm Halley – According to Donald Rumsfeld that is a “known unknown!”

Babs on January 29, 2007 at 5:53 PM

Was that J F’ing Kerry that said Israel and the U.S were
bellicose? Oh no, I believe he said we were a pariah in the world. Since he is in Switzerland, maybe he would swing by Iraq and we can show him how the hangman’s noose works. Right over here Mr Kerry, just put this over your head and stand inside this box to get a good look. Shhhwinggg!

Vanquisher on January 29, 2007 at 6:02 PM

Yah, what’s up with Kerry dissing the U.S. on foreign soil. How crazy are Mass. voters anyway. Kennedy and Kerry; Dumb and Dumber; Or my fave, Traitor and Traitorer.

Mojave Mark on January 29, 2007 at 8:34 PM

Iran is vulnerable.

A recent report (that I’m too lazy to link to) predicted that Iran will not be exporting oil within a decade. A lack of investment in oil infrastructure and increased domestic demand has put the regime in a bind. Until now gasoline has been a subsidized 35 cents a gallon, but Pres. Mahmoud Eichmanthenutjob has spoken of a rationing system that would allow a couple of tankfuls a month at the low price and then something closer to market rates.

In addition, Iran is a net importer of gasoline and diesel fuel. As with the drilling and pumping, Iran hasn’t invested in refineries. There are nine refineries in Iran. They operate at 130% capacity and are deteriorating. Iran has to tanker in refined gasoline and diesel to meet domestic needs.

We don’t need to nuke Iran. We don’t need to invade Iran. We just need nine cruise missiles and the mullahs’ regime will collapse in the face of the Iranian people as their economy screeches to a halt.

To paraphrase the late great Billy Sol Hurok, refineries blow good, blow up real good!

rokemronnie on January 29, 2007 at 10:36 PM

I’ve been offended twice in one sentence. Even cowboys are smart enough not to fish in muddy water.

High Desert Wanderer on January 29, 2007 at 3:48 PM

You’ve obviously never heard of grabbling.

spmat on January 30, 2007 at 12:15 AM

Yes, an increasingly bellicose Israel. Like those constant attacks on Lebanon and Gaza and near-daily calls for Iran to be wiped off the map. It’s the Guardian–it’s bullshit. Muddying the waters, indeed.

Today it’s also Pat Buchanan up to his usual bullsh*t (see link below). According to Pat Buchanan, if it looks like a falcon, and flies like a falcon, and hunts like a falcon, it’s probably a falcon, unless it’s an Arab falcon, in which case it’s only a duck, and if you’re a Jew or a neo-con (his code-word), then it’s only a harmless parakeet.
http://www.townhall.com/columnists/PatrickJBuchanan/2007/01/30/hysteria_at_herzliya

Why do conservative web-sites keep publishing this guy’s drivel? He should marry Jimmy Carter and move to Bimini.

smellthecoffee on January 30, 2007 at 9:05 AM