• 28 October 2010
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 2 Comments
  • Congress, Election 2010, Neo-Con Agenda, Nuclear file, US-Iran War

The Danger of the “Nuclear Capable” Standard

How difficult would it be for a President to drag us into another war in the Middle East based on questionable justifications?  According to George Friedman of Stratfor, it would be quite easy:

The most obvious justification would be to claim that Iran is about to construct a nuclear device. Whether or not this is true would be immaterial. First, no one would be in a position to challenge the claim, and, second, Obama’s credibility in making the assertion would be much greater than George W. Bush’s, given that Obama does not have the 2003 weapons-of-mass-destruction debacle to deal with and has the advantage of not having made such a claim before. […] The Republicans could not easily attack him. Nor would the claim be a lie. Defining what it means to almost possess nuclear weapons is nearly a metaphysical discussion. It requires merely a shift in definitions and assumptions. This is cynical scenario, but it can be aligned with reasonable concerns.

Friedman is right on one thing: while many policymakers intone the need to keep “all options on the table”, there is no real standard for what the US considers “unacceptable” in terms of Iran’s nuclear progress.  Previously, President Bush warned that if Iran acquired nuclear weapons “knowledge” it would trigger World War III.  Now, the current standard being thrown around in Washington is that a “nuclear capable” Iran is unacceptable.  But it is unclear what “nuclear capable”, actually means.  In fact, it is a completely malleable term—a placeholder—for which the “definitions and assumptions” could be adjusted at will.  Thus, there is an enormous vacuum that could be exploited by a President—or, more likely, a Presidential candidate or an opposition Congress seeking to paint a President into a corner.

Ron Kampeas writes in JTA on how a new Congress may press Obama for military confrontation and undermine engagement efforts with Iran (via Lobelog):

[GOP House Minority Whip Eric] Cantor, in his interview with JTA, emphasized that Obama must make it clear that a military option is on the table.

Congress, however, cannot declare war by itself, and while a flurry of resolutions and amendments pressing for greater confrontation with Iran may be in the offing, they will not affect policy — except perhaps to sharpen Obama’s rhetoric ahead of 2012.

Should Obama, however, return to a posture of engagement — this depends on the less than likely prospect of the Iranian theocracy consistently embracing diplomacy — a GOP-led Congress could inhibit the process through adversarial hearings.

One problem with Kampeas’ piece, however, is that Congress is the very branch of government that can declare war.  But short of such a drastic step, the power of the gavel means Congress could have plenty of options to confront Obama on Iran and help define the terms of the debate as we enter the 2012 Presidential campaign. A Congress itching to portray the President as soft on national security could unilaterally declare, with the help of a few hearings, that Iran is imminently “nuclear capable”.  And in lieu of a real standard for what that means, we could start hearing familiar echoes that “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”.

Posted By Jamal Abdi

    2 Responses to “The Danger of the “Nuclear Capable” Standard”

  1. Aaron says:

    Regarding declaration of war – just as a technical matter, Congress *can* declare war – but it’s meaningless without an executive being willing to actually follow through. Furthermore, if Congress were to completely fall off the cliff and declare war on Iran (note that most wars are fought these days without said declaration), it could probably be vetoed by the President, thus requiring a 2/3 majority of both Houses to override his veto – you’d never, ever get 2/3 of the Senate to agree to do anything at all short of adjournment in this climate – it’s hard enough to muster 60 votes right now, and will probably be even harder come January. So, combining the legal considerations, the fact that the President has near-plenary power over the armed forces, and the fact that the Senate is nearly entirely paralyzed, the likelihood of a declaration of war against anyone coming from Congress in our lifetime, short of the US being attacked by a state-sanctioned foreign army, is pretty marginal.

    So Kampeas was technically wrong – he would’ve gotten that bar exam question wrong, had he given that answer. But as a practical, real-life matter? He was 100% correct – not only could such a declaration probably be vetoed, but the President could simply refuse to direct any related orders to the military.

    Congress can declare war, but in the event that that Congress were to attempt to do so over the President’s objections, it would be met in public with a shrug and in private would likely lead to the resignation of the leader(s) of the originating House(s) of Congress.

  2. BRUCE WILLIAMS says:

    DO,T FORGET THAT THE SHAH WAS OVERTHROWN BECAUSE THE WEST FEAR THE IRANIAN SUPERPOWER,SO LEST WE UNDERSTAND FROM WITH THIS CAME ABOUT CAN WE UNDERSTAND WERE WE ARE GOING.THE ISSUES WHICH YOU SHOW CONCERNS ARE GREATLY UNDERSTOOD.YOU AS IRANIAN HAVE TO FIND AWAY TO TALK TO THE GOVERNMENT AND EXPRESS YOUR CONCERNS NOT JUST STAND BEHIND A GOVERNMENT AND ASK FOR THEIR HELP.AS FAR AS AN ATTYCK ON IRAN THAT IS THE LEAST OF MY WORRIES AND OF YOURS IT SHOULD BE.THE PROBLEM OF ECONOMIC SANCTION AND THE EFFECT ON THE PEOPLE YOU BE YOUR MAIN CONCERN.

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Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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