Forest, trees, Tehran, potassium iodide and 3 1/2 options


One word: Potassium Iodide (KI)

Russ Imrie August 2012

The Middle East Institute — the day after last night’s (August 13) hot rhetoric by Israeli Ambassador Cohen* on television about time running out on Israel’s restraint, hosts a distinguished and experienced threesome of Middle East old hands who paint a very grim picture of the coming months, days, hours, indeed, minutes—remaining among dwindling options until a nuclear showdown in Iran. The authors of a spare, unadorned report share a credible analysis.

The report itself *can be read at the link. I have nothing much to add but a bit of critique later in the post. But I must say that as I chatted with others in the elevator to downtown Washington DC, think-tank central, some nervous talk was of plans to acquire some Potassium Iodide.*

Without sufficient diplomatic progress, there is “the uncomfortably real” possibility of Israeli military action because of the common Israeli perceptions of an existential threat. (from the report) r. Dr. Roby Barrett (former Foreign Service Officer), Melissa Mahle (C&O Resources, former M.E. Correspondent), Allen Keiswetter (MEI), Daniel Serwer (Moderator) - photo Russ Imrie r. Dr. Roby Barrett (former Foreign Service Officer), Melissa Mahle (C&O Resources, former M.E. Correspondent), Allen Keiswetter (MEI), Daniel Serwer (Moderator) – photo Russ Imrie

It’s obvious that there are three options that the West sees in dealing with a nuclear capable Iran. Diplomacy (recently amped up and of undetermined effectiveness thus far although it is discomfiting* Iranians), Containment (a messy and expensive option), and War.

Diplomacy is seen as a delaying tactic of the Iranians, almost a waste of time by Israelis, and as an option that may yet prove fruitful by the U.S. and its reluctant backers around the world. Indeed, many nations are participating in muscled-up sanctions only because of U.S. leveraging of monetary strictures around dollar transactions and the U.S. banking system. This may crumble though, as it seems U.S. – Iran trade is thriving and can be seen as exploiting the loss of competition from the EU who are suffering economically. How will this play out if sanctions are extended into the winter?

Containment, with “no-fly-zones”, embargoes, plus espionage and remote detection technology snooping has little support. It’s complicated, messy, and expensive.

The “War” option might include an Israeli-only strike on Iran or one of the popular “coalition” attacks now in vogue. According to the report, the U.S. might be inveighed to become involved as Iran retaliates and threatens Israel and Arab allies. This is not a desired option for the U.S. However recent developments in the Palestinian/Settlements conflict may indicate moves by the U.S. to leverage Israel’s need for U.S. support to force some desired Israeli adjustments in policy concerning the West Bank and Palestinian oppression. In fact, news is emerging that for the first time, the U.S. State Department has used “terrorists” as terminology to describe some recent actions by Israeli anti-Palistinian groups against mosques and properties. There are many subtleties that open up with this option that could ease resistance to U.S. involvement in an Iran venture. Something to watch.

Of course another option is that Iranians may demand change as the regime struggles to fulfill the subsidized commodity promises Iranians have come to expect in exchange for loyalty. Commodities like gasoline.* There is little sign of this and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei‘s regime seems to have solid support.

My sense, after some follow-up discussion with a person highly informed with facts on the ground in Iran confirmed my theory that the vast “base” (what one might tag as “The Tar Party” in a parallel universe to the U.S. “Tea Party”—an über conservative demographic) presently supports the regime. The educated and more moderate elites, as seen by Western audiences depicted in films such as “The Green Wave” have been largely marginalized, their voice reduced to futile protests. The regime does not need their political support.

Religious solidarity and nationalistic pride in the fact that despite sanctions, Iranians have been able to achieve much technologically advanced success, seems robust in the countryside. Hard data on this phenomenon while confirmed to me by an expert, is next to impossible to come by, though. On this I mean the accurate data flow is a two-way street (or should I say data stoppage) in that government archives of statistics and poll results are highly restricted (if any) and the information that is made available to the public is basically propaganda. A change in that dynamic (although in my opinion that holds the best hope for Iran and democracy)  is beyond the scope of the nuclear-driven situation which one way or another will be resolved if not within a few months, then soon after the U.S. Presidential elections in November.

We will see action around this issue as maneuvering happens, both in the open and deep in the depths of M. E. strategic alignments. For example, what about Iran-funded early warning radar deployed in Syria? No one is backing down and the U.S. elections will motivate either action before November or else continued stalemate in the case of a Romney victory and a period to form new policies, an unpleasant prospect that gives Iran more time for nuclear development. An Obama victory will free up space for decisive decisions and as we have seen with President Obama’s style in the Drone deployment and the finishing of OBL, .

Bios:(from MEI site)

Allen Keiswetter (MEI)

Allen Keiswetter (MEI) – photo Russ Imrie

*Allen Keiswetter, a retired senior Foreign Service officer, is a scholar at the Middle East Institute, senior consultant at C&O Resources, and an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland. He has taught courses on Islam and on the Middle East at the National War College and the National Defense Intelligence College. He served as the senior adviser on the Middle East to the U.S. Delegation to the General Assembly. In his 36 years at the Department of State, he was deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, director of Arabian Peninsula Affairs in the Near East Bureau, and director of the Office of Intelligence Liaisonin the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. He also served as NATO deputy assistant secretary general for Political Affairs in Brussels. While director of regional affairs in the Near East Bureau, he chaired the Middle East Peace Process Multilateral Working Group on Water Resources. Previously, he held posts as political counselor in the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen. He also served at the U.S. embassies in Tunis, Khartoum, Baghdad, and Beirut.

Dr. Roby Barrett (former Foreign Service Officer) - photo Russ Imrie

Dr. Roby Barrett (former Foreign Service Officer) – photo Russ Imrie

*Dr. Roby Barrett is the president of a consulting form specializing in defense and security technology applications and systems including nuclear issues, police-border security, command and control, and weapons acquisition issues. He is a former Foreign Service officer and a graduate of the Foreign Service Institute’s intensive 2-year Arab Language and Middle East Area Studies program as well as the Counterterrorism Tactics and Special Operations University and the Air Force Special Operations School. He was an Eisenhower-Roberts fellow of the Eisenhower Institute in Washington D.C, a Rotary International fellow at the Russian and East European Institute at the University of Munich, a Scottish Rite Research fellow at Oxford University. Dr. Barrett supported numerous military units including the 5th Special Forces Group, 101st Airborne both in the U.S. and Iraq, Naval Special Warfare Command both in the U.S. and the Arabian Gulf, 4th Psychological Warfare Group, and 19th Special Forces Group.

(Absent due to illness) Geneive Abdo is the director of the Iran Program at the Middle East Institute. Her current research focuses on contemporary Iran and political Islam. She is the creator and editor of the newly-launched website: She was formerly the Liaison Officer for the Alliance of Civilizations, a U.N. initiative under Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Before joining the United Nations, Abdo was a foreign correspondent. From 1998-2001, Abdo was the Iran correspondent for the British newspaper the Guardian and a regular contributor to The Economist and the International Herald Tribune. Abdo is the author of No God But God: Egypt and the Triumph of Islam (Oxford University Press, 2000). Her latest book on Muslims in America, Mecca and Main Street: Muslim Life in America After 9/11, was published in September 2006 by Oxford University Press. This book explains the changing identity among American Muslims as they struggle to keep true to their faith while deciding to what degree they will integrate into American society. From 2001-2002, Abdo was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. That year, she also received a prestigious John Simon Guggenheim fellowship. Abdo has also received research grants from the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the United States Institute of Peace.

*Melissa Mahle is a senior associate at C&O Resources. She has 16 years’ experience in the intelligence community, with career assignments in the Middle East and North Africa with the Central Intelligence Agency in operations. Her areas of expertise include Arab political, security, and terrorism issues. Mahle is a specialist on the Middle East peace process and Islamic extremism. She has participated in senior level security cooperation development initiatives and has had extensive interaction with policymakers and intelligence officials in the Middle East region.

distant US Capitol dome

U.S. Capitol SOTU eve, 2011 – photo Russ Imrie

Russell Imrie is a  Networking and Content Specialist, webmaster and an American Indian blogger living in the Washington DC area.

Copyright © forever and 2012 by Russell Imrie


3 responses to “Forest, trees, Tehran, potassium iodide and 3 1/2 options

  1. I think Melissa Mahle was absent and Genieve Abdo spoke at this event…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s