Crow Violation

Location: People's Republic of Madison, Wisconsin

Monday, December 25, 2006

A very Mullah Christmas

In the spirit of the season, I'll be writing about a couple of things the come naturally to mind at Christmas: uranium enrichment and the strategic petroleum reserve. In response the the laughably weak UN Sanctions, Iran has announced that it will accelerate work on its uranium enrichment program:

TEHERAN - Iran will on Sunday start putting in place 3,000 uranium enriching centrifuges at a key nuclear plant in an immediate response to a UN sanctions resolution, top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani told the hardline Kayhan newspaper.

“Our immediate response to the UN Security Council is that, as of today, we will start the activities at the site of the 3,000 centrifuge machines in Natanz and we will go ahead with full speed,” Larijani told the paper.

Natanz is the plant where Iran carries out uranium enrichment, a process the West fears could be diverted to make a nuclear bomb, a charge vehemently denied by Iran.

“We will accelerate our programme to install the 3,000 centrifuges” in response to the resolution, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the influential head of parliament’s security commission, told state radio.

Installing 3,000 centrifuges would be an important step for Iran towards enriching uranium on an industrial scale. So far it has two cascades of 164 centrifuges at its uranium enrichment plant in the central city of Natanz.

Iran has maintained that it wants to have the new centrifuges installed by March and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said the Islamic republic will be able to celebrate its “nuclearisation” around that time.

The exact meaning of this can vary tremendously depending on assumptions, as I showed earlier. The article does not mention whether these 3000 centrifuges are to be the old P-1's, or the faster P-2 centrifuges that Iran claims to possess. Nor does it speculate on how quickly the whole cascade can be brought online (the Iranians themselves probably aren't sure). If we assume that they will add 3000 P-2 centrifuges over a three year period, then the Uranium Enrichment Calculator says that they would have enough material for a bomb in less than two years. Even that may be a bit optimistic. The Calculator assumes that Iran will be making a gun-type bomb, which would require 50kg of Uranium. An implosion-type bomb (the design for which may have been passed from Pakistan) would take only about 1/3 as much. In other words, under reasonable assumptions, Iran could have enough material for an atomic bomb before the end of 2007. Once the 3000 centrifuges are all operational, the mullahs could crank out another atomic bomb every three months.

It is beyond obvious that Iran needs to be bombed flat before this can happen. Destroying the known facilities will set the mullahs back only a few months or years. The bombing campaign must also target Iran's ability to rebuild, by cratering its economy, wiping out its electrical and transportation systems, and targetting the scientists and engineers who are the most important part of the infrastructure.

None of this will happen. In a world where the UN spends months wrangling over some truly meaningless sanctions, we can't expect anyone to go Old Testament on Iran's ass. The fallback might be sanctions, or a naval "quarantine". The mullahs like to flex their muscles over the cutoff of oil, but the fact is that the Iran is in a very weak position in that regard. First, it has very little refining capacity. Without foreign imports, Iran would run out of gasoline in short order, causing some regime-threatening unrest. Heck, the Iranians get grumpy when the price of gas hits 50 cents a gallon.

Even with respect to oil exports, Iran's strength is overrated. It is estimated that 50% of Iran's national budget comes from oil exports. How long could the regime survive without any exports? Probably not more than a few months. The counter argument has always been that such a cutoff would affect dramatically affect the world economy. It just isn't so. In 2004, Iran exported 2.55 million barrels of oil per day. This amount could easily be covered by our Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is currently near its full capacity of 700 million barrels of oil. If the Reserve replaced half of Iran's exports, the United States could endure an 18-months showdown with Iran.

The mullahs would be swinging from the lampposts long before our reserves ran dry.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Yom Kippur Imams

A little history lesson

In early 1973, Egypt held large and provocative maneuvers near the Israeli defense lines in the Sinai peninsula. These were sufficiently threatening that Israel partially mobilized its reserves. But this was a false alarm; no attack was coming that spring. A few months later, Egypt did the same thing. By the time Yom Kippur was near, the Israelis had grown complacent about large Egyptian forces near its lines. And it was exactly then that the large Egyptian maneuvers turned out to be a real attack. All of the previous feints had set the stage for the strategic surprise that Egypt achieved at the start of the Yom Kippur war.

I was reminded of Egypt's successful deception when I read this editorial from Investor's Business Daily:

The police report detailing the US Airways flap gives us serious pause. The imams acted more like provocateurs than victims. At the gate before boarding, they angrily cursed the U.S. Then they bowed to Mecca and prayed "very loud," chanting "Allah, Allah, Allah," according to the gate agent and another witness.

On the plane, they didn't take their assigned seats and instead fanned out to the front, middle and rear of the plane. One even "pretended to be blind" to gain access to another passenger's seat, according to a flight attendant.

Some ran back and forth speaking to each other in Arabic. Adding to suspicions, most of them asked for seat belt extensions even though they didn't need them — or even use them.

Shahin himself has ties to terrorism. He served (unknowingly, he now says) as an agent and fundraiser for a Hamas front. He ran a mosque in Tucson, Ariz., attended by several al-Qaida operatives including the hijacker who flew the plane into the Pentagon. And he now runs an imam federation that counts an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing among its trustees.

Shahin also teaches at an Islamic school fully accredited by an Egyptian university tied to the dangerous Muslim Brotherhood. The school's founder preaches sharia law. One of the imams kicked off the US Airways flight, an Egyptian native, praised sharia law, according to a passenger who sat next to him.

The actions of these imams have the same goal as Egypt's feints back in 1973. They want to raise a furor, only to have it die away. And raise another furor that turns out to be nothing, and then another. They want us to become complacent about Muslims doing outrageous things on flights, or at least to become so timid about being labeled bigots that we don't dare question them.

There are many many ways to participate in the global jihad, and these imams have found one of them.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Iraqi Civil War: Making it work for you

It now seems inevitable that we will shortly withdraw from Iraq. When we do, the country will collapse into civil war. (You think that it's a civil war now? Ha! You ain't seen nothin' yet.) The question now is how we can minimize the damage and maximize the benefit from that event.

The most obvious fact is this war involves Sunni vs. Shiite. (There's also an ethnic dimension, but I have no suggestions there.) Both Islamic traditions are producing hoards of radicals bent on conquering the infidel. But in Iraq, these radicals mostly want to kill each other. We should help them do it. That way Iraq can continue to be the dumping ground (it was never actually the breeding ground) for terrorists. If we don't, then Afghanistan will become the new dumping ground.

The main concern here is that one group or the other might win before they succeed in blowing each other to bits. Then we would have either the new Taliban or Iran West. So we need to figure out who is more likely to win, and impede them. The Arab Sunnis have traditionally run Iraq, and are more experienced in such things, but there are two or three times as many Shiites, and they have Iran's backing. My money would be on the Shiites. One way to offset this strength would be to encourage the Saudis to back the Sunnis (the Saudis are probably horrified by the thought of a Shiite-run Iraq, especially a militant Shiite theocracy allied to Iran.) With any luck, we might even induce the two biggest state sponsors of radical Islam to go to war against each other.

Ok, there a couple of downsides to this. I would feel sorry for the few percent of Iraqis who actually wanted to build a free secular society. But after we leave, they're screwed anyway. The Kurdish region has been the most successful in Iraq, and might even be worth saving. We could still deploy some troops there to protect them, and have bases from which we could attack Iran as necessary. The biggest risk is that a war between Iran and Saudi Arabia would definitely send oil over $100/barrel. That would be unpleasant, but it's better to face the problem now than to go through it in a few years, when half a dozen Islamic countries have nuclear weapons.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Iranian Nuclear Countdown

The debate over Iran's nuclear program has narrowed significantly. Once you leave the fever swamps of DailyKos, it's hard to find even a determined leftist who will argue that Iran's programs are just civilian. The question now is how much time we have before Iran has a nuclear weapon.

According to the Washington Post, a National Intelligence Estimate has given the time of about ten years. This is now a very popular figure being circulated among those who oppose striking Iran. We can take it as an upper bounds, the most optimistic estimate available.

If we go by history, then it might be useful to examine the case of Pakistan. Armed Liberal at Winds of Change notes that it took Pakistan about 7-8 years to go from start of enrichment (about where Iran is now) to a working bomb. Of course, Iran probably has the benefit of Pakistan's experience, being one of the beneficiaries of the A.Q. Khan network.

A more technical estimate can be found from the Federation of American Scientists, which has a Uranium Enrichment Calculator. This allows you to enter various assumptions and get an estimate of time required to get enough highly enriched uranium for one bomb. While interesting, this excersize is also nearly useless; reasonable estimates can vary from less than one year, up to five years. After having the bomb-grade uranium, Iran might require more time to put it into a working bomb. For the US during WWII, that took a few months - for Pakistan, a couple of years.

The bottom line is that we really have no idea how long it will take Iran to get the bomb. Long before the mullahs have a workable weapon, it may be too late to stop them with airstrikes. Recall that the Israel strike on Iraq's Osirak facility was timed to hit just before fuel was loaded into the reactor. If Iran has centrifuges full of nearly-bomb-grade uranium, some will no doubt argue that it would be an atrocity to bomb the uranium plants. Most likely, these will be the same people who had previously argued that we must not attack Iran because the diplomats still have years to sort out the problem.

In the end, it really doesn't matter. We know that Iran is a mortal enemy and is determined to obtain a nuclear bomb. That's all we need to know. We have no moral obligation to wait until the last possible instant. Bomb now.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Cartoon Dhimmitude at NYU

Those who disparage the publication of the Mohammed cartoons usually do so on two grounds. These two points directly contradict each other, but that is apparently an objection from another age.

1) The cartoons unfairly tar Islam itself as violent; most Muslims are peaceful.
2) The cartoons incite widespread Muslim violence.

The dhimmi administration at New York University chose to highlight the second argument yesterday. The NYU objectivist club held a panel discussion at which the cartoons were supposed to be unveiled. Two days before the event, the university informed the NYU objectivists that they must either close the event to outsiders or refrain from unveiling the cartoons. Vague references to security were made. I suppose that sounds better than "We collaborated with radical Muslims to squelch criticism of Islam."

But what were the security concerns? Even the most delusional leftist would be hard pressed to argue that people were going to see these cartoons and then go trash the local mosque. Clearly the concern was for violence against the event itself; the metal detectors at the doors should attest to that. So NYU is implicitly admitting that the religion of peace has a violence problem. Of course the first administrator to say that out loud would be fired within days, if not hours.

It only shows how important it is for every American to see and understand these cartoons.

Diana at Noodle Food has the best coverage of this whole sorry episode.

Update: A spokesman for NYU discussed the school's reasoning with Professor Volokh. It's astounding to see such weak-assed excuses:

(1) "NYU has to be concerned with its students' safety and well-being, which are among the factors that drove our decision in this matter."

(2) The decision was also based partly on NYU's "larger obligation as a university to the sensibilities of its students," many of whom are offended by the cartoons.

(3) As to the policy, "No-one's speech was curtailed." "If you read the policy, it talks about speakers' speech being curtailed, and to the best of my knowledge none of the speakers were the cartoons' authors."

As Volokh points out, by those standards NYU could ban the Koran.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Jailhouse Jihad

Palestinian terrorist Ahmed Saadat was in a Jericho prison until yesterday. He is believed to be the mastermind of the 2001 assassination of Rehavam Zeevi, Israel's Minister of Tourism.

I use the term "prison" extremely loosely. It seems that he had several TVs and telephones in his "cell". And a kitchen. And a reception area for visitors. There were also three British monitors at the prison, but they set up their command post on the roof, because it was too dangerous for them to be inside.

None of this was good enough for the Palestinians. The new Hamas government threatened to let Saadat go. That shows the main difference between Hamas and Fateh. Both are terrorist groups bent on destroying Israel, but Fateh was willing to dissemble, to pretend to negotiate, to "arrest" known terrorists. Hamas is more honest; it wears its genocidal hatred on its sleeve.

So the Israelis raided the prison, capturing Saadat. (The British monitors had left minutes earlier.) So let's check on the world reaction to the raid.

There's been no outrage over the phony detention of a terrorist, or the fact that he was probably being allowed to plan more attacks from his "cell". No hint of criticism for the intimidation of the monitors, or for Hamas's threat to release the terrorist.

But the world is pissed that the Israelis wouldn't just let the terrorist walk free.

The Palestinian President called the raid "an ugly crime which cannot be forgiven".

In the West Bank and Gaza strip, Palestinians went on the usual rampages.

Islamic Foreign Ministers called the raid an act of terrorism.

Several members of the EU parliament condemned the attack, on the grounds that this capture of a terrorist would be a blow to the peace process. Some peace process.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Simpons Jihad recently ran one of the usual photoshop threads. This photoshopping is much more dangerous than the usual, because the theme was "Sitcom situations for Mohammed". Here at Crow Violation, our distinguished judging panel (consisting of... me) has given awards for the two best photoshops. The lucky winners will receive a free subscription to Crow Violation.

And without further ado, the winners are:

Please address all fatwas to

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Month of Jihad: Day 9

Pakistan: A mob burned two movie theaters after some Korans were found in a sewer.

A suicide bomber killed at least 10 Shiites who were celebrating Ashura, the holiest day in their calender. Shiite mobs later destroyed cars and shops in retaliation.

Israel: Members of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) were forced to leave the city due to continuing violence over the Danish cartoons.

Afghanistan: Cartoon riots continue here as well, with 3 killed and 27 wounded in the last few days.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Month of Jihad: Day 7

Thailand: At least six suspected Muslim terrorists shot dead two policemen at a market in Yala province, then gunned down a paramilitary officer who opened fire in retaliation, officials said.

Iran: The cartoon jihad continues. Hundreds of angry protesters hurled stones and fire bombs at the Danish Embassy in the Iranian capital Monday to protest publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. The Austrian Embassy was also attacked, just for good measure.

Afghanistan: Suicide Bomber kill 13

Israel: Hezbollah has repeatedly attacked border posts near Shabaa farms in the last few days. The terrorists claim that Israeli soldiers killed a shepherd just inside Lebanon.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A Month of Jihad - Day 2

Thailand: Three bomb attacks kill three in Thai Muslim south

India: Police have arrested a suspect in an attack on Bangalore's Science Institute. He is linked to Islamic terrorists in Kashmir.

Israel: Hamas leader: We will not sell our people or principles for foreign aid. The main principle being its determination to destroy Israel.

More violent threats over cartoons. Armed men in Gaza surrounded EU offices and threatened to kidnap foreigners unless European governments cracked down on newspapers that printed the Mohammed cartins.

The Netherlands: Theo van Gogh's killer was in court on more terrorism charges. He said that he felt "honored" that prosecutors would compare his philosophy to Osama bin Laden's.