The Cable

What happens the day after Iran gets the bomb?

A team of conservative policymakers and thinkers believes that there's a real chance that Western efforts to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon will fail, in which case the United States would have to lead an international effort to contain Iran and deter the Islamic Republic from using its nuclear weapons capability.

Experts at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative Washington think tank, have spent the last six months thinking about how the United States should respond to a nuclear-armed Iran. They are getting ready to release an extensive report tomorrow detailing a comprehensive strategy for dealing with that scenario, entitled, "Containing and Deterring a Nuclear Iran."

"The report is very much an acknowledgement of the very real possibility of failure of the strategy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and any responsible party should recognize that failure is an option. There's been a huge disservice done by all who have spent their lives in denial of that possibility," AEI Vice President Danielle Pletka told The Cable in a Monday interview. "Whenever you devise a strategy for what happens before a country gets a nuclear weapon, you should have a strategy for what happens after they get one as well."

Pletka will unveil the report on Tuesday morning at an event with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), and fellow AEI experts Tom Donnelly, Maseh Zarif, and Fred Kagan. The project brought together Iran experts of all stripes to brainstorm what would be needed to create the maximum level of confidence that, if Iran does develop a nuclear weapon, it would not decide to use it.

"While there can never be certain deterrence, Cold War presidents often had confidence that the United States had sufficient military power to support a policy of containment through a strategy of deterrence; for most of the period they felt that deterrence was assured," the report states. "It is worth repeating Dean Acheson's basic formulation: ‘American power would be employed in stopping [Soviet aggression and expansion], and if necessary, would inflict on the Soviet Union injury which the Moscow regime would not wish to suffer.' Assured deterrence began with assured destruction of the Soviet regime."

Pletka said that while the geopolitical environment is now different, the basic goal of U.S. policy is the same -- to create a situation whereby Iranian leaders would credibly believe that any nuclear attack would mean the end of their regime. But Pletka doubts whether this administration has the stomach for such a stance.

"Take out Soviet and Moscow from Acheson's quote, and sub in Iran and Tehran. Are we willing to inflict on Iran injury which the Tehran regime would not wish to suffer? I doubt it," Pletka warned. "There's no question that a country can be deterred from using a nuclear weapon, the only question is if there is the will to put those tools in place."

The report works under the assumption that Iran is working to build a nuclear weapon now and could complete one before the 2012 U.S. presidential election, after which it would continue to build nuclear weapons at a rapid pace. The report also assumes that the Obama administration is unwilling to go to war with Iran before November 2012 over the issue, and that even a limited strike by Israel would not achieve a full destruction of Iran's nuclear capabilities.

"Strategically, Iran's leaders would be foolish to wait until after November 2012 to acquire the capability to permanently deter an American attack on their nuclear program," the report states. "Sound American strategy thus requires assuming that Iran will have a weaponized nuclear capability when the next president takes office in January 2013. The Iranians may not test a device before then, depending, perhaps, on the rhetoric of the current president and his possible successor, but we must assume that they will have at least one."

"Make no mistake -- it would be vastly preferable for the United States and the world to find a way to prevent Iran from crossing that threshold, and we wholeheartedly endorse ongoing efforts that might do so," the authors write. "But some of the effort now focused on how to tighten the sanctions screws must shift to the problem of how to deal with the consequences when sanctions fail."

For Donnelly, part of the report's value is that it highlights the high costs of a deterrence and containment strategy compared to the costs of taking stronger actions now to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

"Deterrence and containment are the default mode for the people who are not up for going to war, but we wanted to point out that this was not a cheap or easy alternative, which is the way a lot of people make it sound," Donnelly told The Cable in an interview.

At Tuesday's event, Kirk will make the argument that the deterrence and containment strategy are too costly and too uncertain to depend on. His speech will be entitled, "If Iran gets the bomb..."

"Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran is on the march to nuclear weapons.  And if this brutal, terrorist-sponsoring regime achieves its goal -- if Iran gets the bomb -- we, the United States of America and freedom-loving nations around the world, will have failed in what could be our generation's greatest test," Kirk will say, according to excerpts of his speech provided to The Cable.

"Iran remains the leading sponsor of international terrorism -- a proliferator of missiles and nuclear materials -- a regional aggressor -- and an abuser of human rights. We cannot afford to risk the security of future generations on a policy of containment."

The Cable

Memogate update: Haqqani threatens to sue Newsweek over new Ijaz claims

This weekend was full of developments in the U.S.-Pakistani scandal known as "Memogate," as former Pakistani Ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani threatened to sue Newsweek magazine for publishing new and startling accusations leveled against him by Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz.

The Memogate scandal relates to a secret memo delivered to then Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen in the days following the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, which asked for U.S. government help to prevent a rumored takeover of the Pakistani government by Pakistan's military and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. In exchange for U.S. help, the memo offered to reshape Pakistan's national security leadership to place more power in the hands of the civilian government, and to reorient Pakistani foreign policy in line with U.S. interests.

Ijaz delivered the memo to former National Security Advisor Jim Jones on May 10 -- only nine days after bin Laden was shot dead in the Pakistani military town of Abbotabad -- who then passed it on to Mullen. Ijaz, who has a long and controversial record of back channel diplomacy, has accused Haqqani of being the author of the memo and the architect of the scheme it outlines. Haqqani resigned from his post amid the scandal, but adamantly denies being involved in the drafting or the delivery of the memo.

On Dec. 3, Ijaz published an op-ed in Newsweek that levels brand new charges against Haqqani and his boss, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari -- namely, that the two were aware of the bin Laden raid in advance and allowed the U.S. military to violate Pakistani sovereignty by conducting the raid.

"In my opinion ... Zardari and Haqqani both knew the U.S. was going to launch a stealth mission to eliminate bin Laden that would violate Pakistan's sovereignty. They may have even given advance consent after CIA operations on the ground in Pakistan pinpointed the Saudi fugitive's location," Ijaz wrote. "The unilateral U.S. action, they might have surmised, would result in a nation blaming its armed forces and intelligence services for culpability in harboring bin Laden for so many years. They planned to use the Pakistani public's hue and cry to force the resignations of Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani and intelligence chief Gen. Shuja Pasha."

Ijaz pointed to the fact that Haqqani was in London when bin Laden was killed as evidence that Haqqani was working with Western powers to brief them on the raid and prepare for the aftermath. He also accused Haqqani of changing Blackberries three times to scrub the records of his involvement in the memo.

"Maybe he hoped that changing PINs would erase his damning conversations from my handset. Unfortunately for him, they remain preserved-now in a bank vault-in exactly their original form on my original device as he and I exchanged them," Ijaz wrote.

Haqqani, who is now banned from leaving Pakistan while his involvement in the Memogate scandal is investigated, wrote to Newsweek editor Tina Brown on Dec. 3 to demand a retraction of the latest Ijaz piece.

"In the strongest terms possible, I categorically reject as reckless, baseless and false the allegations levied against me by Mr Mansoor Ijaz about prior knowledge of US plans for a raid in Abbottabad in violation of Pakistani sovereignty to eliminate Osama bin Laden as well as his earlier charges about my role in a memo he wrote and sent to the US Chairman Joint Chiefs," Haqqani wrote in the letter, obtained by The Cable.

Haqqani said that although he boarded a plane for London on the evening of May 1, as Ijaz said, he never left Heathrow airport and cancelled a planned trip to Dubai and Islamabad when the news of the bin Laden killing broke and returned to Washington immediately.

"My British interlocutors would attest to the fact that I did not discuss any fears about domestic political developments in Pakistan and certainly did not talk about any hare brained scheme against the Pakistani military," Haqqani wrote. "Unless Newsweek retracts the article by Mr Ijaz, and his impugning of my patriotism and loyalty to Pakistan, I intend legal action to right the wrongs done to me by these outrageous allegations."

Meanwhile, Ijaz is doubling down on his original claims about Haqqani's involvement in the memo. He appeared Sunday on CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS, where he railed against Section S of the ISI, which he accused of meddling in Pakistani domestic politics and supporting violent extremists in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. "It's an organ of the state that nobody can control," Ijaz said.

Zakaria asked Ijaz why he had publicized the memo -- a strategy that seems to be harming the civilian government's credibility and helping the ISI gain power.

"If you ask me, we have strengthened Pakistan," Ijaz responded. "Maybe we haven't strengthened the civilian side of Pakistan's government. But there may have been a rot there that needs to be cleaned up. And if that rot is cleaned out, you might find a very strong Pakistan emanating out of this, in which the judiciary does what it's supposed to, the military does what it's supposed to."

Haqqani and Zardari's involvement in Memogate is now being examined by a parliamentary committee and Pakistan's Supreme Court has ordered its own inquiry, the details of which are set to be finalized this week. Ijaz told The Cable that he has handed over his Blackberry to be examined forensically in order to corroborate his claims that Haqqani was involved.

If Haqqani was involved, he certainly erred by trusting his secret mission to Ijaz, an irony Ijaz acknowledged in his Newsweek piece.

"Haqqani made just one critical mistake -- seconding me into his scheme," Ijaz wrote.

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