Date printed: Fri 6th Dec 2013 3:42am PST
Would Iran really attack Israel with Nuclear Weapons with Palestinans/Arabs near?
Theres all this talk about Iran obtaining nuclear weapons but the interesting thing is even if they did get them would they really attack Israel with them knowing they would kill and/or injure many Palestinans and other Arabs in the process? Or is somebody really pushing for another goal so they can get a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem?
Not a chance. Only a "terrorist" organization would be crazy enough to use them. Israel need to cut their crap and sign the Non-proliferation treaty already. Israel has refused to sign the NPT despite international pressure to do so. Israel joins a motley crew nuclear weapons states such a as Pakistan, North Korea and India who refuse to do so. That region is fucked up enough, not having a NPT only adds to the chaos.
i would say it is not worth the risk. Even if they would not they may well allow one to be used that way.
(But I also believe that IRAN is killing their own scientists)
must remember not to...you know.
Really!? Why would you think that!?
Oops forgot about Daddy Jack (Jack Van Impe) use to talk about those nuclear suitcases that terrorist may try to use in the future....(so in that instance it wouldn't have to be Iran attacking Israel with a nuclear missile)
Israel is definitely using the threat as a preventative measure.
The reason for fearing a nuclear Iran so badly is that once Israel loses that advantage, they grow weaker.
Not to even MENTION the armageddon that would ensue should some zealot put a nuke in the hands of Hamas.
By St. Boogar and all the saints at the backside door of Purgatory!
I hear yaw, PurpleJedi
Which sidesteps the fact that Israel has hundreds of nukes and Iran, at present, doesn't have any.
I think that the general consensus would be that one nuke in the hands of Ahmadinejad and/or the fundamentalist zealots is more dangerous than a hundred in the hands of Tel-aviv.
By St. Boogar and all the saints at the backside door of Purgatory!
Hamas is not a "terrorist organization." Hamas only represents people who have had their land stolen from them in acts of past and ongoing terrorism. That is, they're called "terrorists" by people who are actually involved in terrorism as a form of Orwellian double-speak. The Zionists are most certainly terrorists -- as is self-evident in their past and present behavior.
Iran has invaded not a single of its neighbors for over 100 years while Israel has invaded all its neighbors and has occupied Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian Territories. Zionists are most certainly fundamentalist zealots -- and arguably the most dangerous group of people in the region.
But I think you have to agree that it makes it difficult to rationalize why one nation is allowed weapons that can wipe you out, but you can not.
We can say that Israel is just an innocent porcupine, a big rat with a coat of sharp quills to defend itself from the critters it surrounds itself, but trouble is, the critters surrounding Israel have hit the petroleum lotto. And they will do what any self respecting lotto billionaire would do; keep up with the Joneses. Israel has no other choice now but now but to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and put an end o this nonsense. There really is no other option left. THEN and ONLY THEN would I support an attack on Iran. If Israel also got rid of their nuclear weapons, they can with a clear conscience mount an attack Iran. But at the moment it, it is blatant hypocrisy.
Depends on which side of the fence you sit on.
I would agree with you, except for the fact that they rained missiles down onto the people of Israel simply to prove a point.
Personally I wish the USA would leave middle east matters to the people of the middle east...but there's the cursed blessing of petroleum there that makes it impossible.
You need not convince me that the people of Iran have gotten the short end of the stick since 1953. My past posts reflect this.
HOWEVER, you cannot deny that Ahmadinejad is about as benign as a raging bull.
By St. Boogar and all the saints at the backside door of Purgatory!
You have a point.
I'm not up-to-date with regards to this treaty...and honestly I'm not even STATING that Iran would launch an attack...I'm simply saying that if you ask the average, unbiased person, having 1 nuke in the hands of a person or organization who has publicly called for the destruction of Israel is a dangerous situation.
The porcupine has its sharp quills and to date has not launched any at its neighbors.
Could Iran under the control of the zealots resist the same?
If the people of Iran had been successful at overthrowing the fundamentalists, we wouldn't be having this conversation.
By St. Boogar and all the saints at the backside door of Purgatory!
Unbiased person in Iran or Israel? Or maybe an unbiased person in a allied nation.
OK...you got me there.
By St. Boogar and all the saints at the backside door of Purgatory!
via India Today
Why are Iran's 'nuclear plans' suddenly an issue?
Ironically, it is the United States that set off Iran on its road to nuclearisation. In the 1950s, Americans provided the Shah of Iran a 5MW research reactor fuelled with enriched uranium. Iran, unlike India and Israel, signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 and forswore making nuclear weapons. In exchange, plans were made for a massive civil nuclear programme involving as many as 23 nuclear power stations by the year 2000. But the overthrow of the Shah changed it all. Western countries pulled out of the projects underway.
More than anything, it was probably the bloody Iran-Iraq war which persuaded Teheran that the only way it could protect itself was to have some sort of nuclear capability. This lesson was hammered home by the manner in which the US dealt with its former ally Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War of 1991.
Being signatories to the IAEA safeguards and the NPT, Iran could not openly make nuclear weapons. So, it decided to take the Indian route - build up nuclear industrial capacity through the IAEA system, and work covertly on a bomb programme. So it got Russia to finish the Bushehr power plant. However suspicions were triggered off when it was revealed that Iran had begun work on an enrichment plant in Natanz and a heavy water plant at Arak. Later another enrichment plant surfaced.
The IAEA investigations have come up with a pattern of suspicious activity on the part of Iran. So serious was the systematic evasion, that the matter was reported to the UN Security Council which ordered Iran to desist from any further enrichment activity. However, Teheran has refused, and taken a defiant attitude, which only strengthens the suspicion of its motives. Under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the issue has taken on an Israel versus Iran hue. This is because Ahmadinejad has publicly denied the Holocaust and threatened Israel with retaliation against any attack on Iran.
But Americans like CIA chief Leon Panetta do not believe Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, but the capability to build one. The difference is subtle, but important. But the Israelis will have none of it. And even though senior security officials deny that Iran is close to the bomb, there are people like Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom who told BBC that "I believe that Iran has its own ambition to revive the Persian Empire and they would like to do it by taking control of all of the Middle East." So, the issue now has a geopolitical edge.
exerpt from an article on the huffpost
Iran: Only Half the Story
A parallel irony: President Obama champions an economic embargo to force Iran to back off its nuclear program. Yet, for more than half a century one American president after another declined to sound any alarums over Israel's secret drive for nukes. Indeed, U.S. leaders refused to even officially acknowledge the foreboding intelligence about Israel's intentions that American analysts were providing. That flimflam continues to this day.
[Perhaps the most incisive chronicle of this official deception is The Samson Option, written in 1991 by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. Most of the following is drawn from that book.]
The charade began in the early 1950s during the Eisenhower administration. Worried about Israel's survival in the face of massive Arab opposition, and unable to get assurances from Eisenhower that the new Zionist state would be protected by America's nuclear umbrella, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion set out clandestinely to provide Israel with its own nuclear weapons.
The secret facility would be constructed at Dimona in the Negev desert. The mammoth project would be off the books, paid for by wealthy Jews from around the world. France would also play a key but secret role, engineering a sophisticated reprocessing plant deep under the reactor at Dimona.
The Israeli leader who oversaw the clandestine program was Shimon Peres. These days, as president of Israel, Peres talks darkly of Iran's nuclear deception. For decades however, he repeatedly lied to American officials about Israel's nuclear intentions, claiming that Israel was working on a small reactor for peaceful purposes.
It was impossible however to hide the massive new construction from America's high-flying U2 spy plane. In late 1958 or early 1959, CIA photo intelligence experts, spotted what looked almost certainly to be a nuclear reactor being built at Dimona. They rushed the raw images to the White House, expecting urgent demands from the Oval Office for more information. This was, after all, a development that could initiate a disastrous nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
hit the link above for the complete article..
via The Daily Beast
Experts Say Iran Attack Is Irrational, Yet Hawks Are Winning the Debate
Feb 21, 2012 4:45 AM EST
From the chairman of the Joint Chiefs to the head of Mossad, the experts are speaking out against attacking Iran over its nuclear program, but hawks like the GOP presidential candidates are drowning out the warnings.
The debate over whether Israel should attack Iran rests on three basic questions. First, if Iran’s leaders got the bomb, would they use it or give it to people who might? Second, would a strike substantially retard Iran’s nuclear program? Third, if Israel attacks, what will Iran do in response?
The vast majority of people opining on these questions—myself very much included—lack the expertise to answer. We’ve never directed a bombing campaign; we have no secret sources in Tehran; we don’t spend our days studying the Iranian regime. So essentially, we decide which experts to trust.
As it happens, both the American and Israeli governments boast military and intelligence agencies charged with answering exactly these sorts of questions. And with striking consistency, the people who run, or ran, those agencies are warning—loudly—against an attack.
Start with the first question: whether Iran would be suicidal enough to use or transfer a nuke. In 2007, the U.S. intelligence community’s National Intelligence Estimate on Iran argued that the Iranian regime—loathsome as it is—is “guided by a cost-benefit approach.” In 2011, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before Congress that “we continue to judge Iran’s nuclear decision-making is guided by a cost-benefit approach.” Last week, Gen. Ron Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Congress that “the agency assesses Iran is unlikely to initiate or provoke a conflict.” Last weekend, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria: “We are of the opinion that Iran is a rational actor.”
Most of the Israeli security officials who have commented publicly have said similar things. In December, Haaretz reported that Mossad chief Tamir Pardo had called Iran a threat, but not an existential one. Earlier this month, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy echoed that view, declaring that “it is not in the power of Iran to destroy the state of Israel.” That same week, former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said virtually the same thing: that “Iran poses a serious threat but not an existential one.” In other words, Iran might use a nuclear weapon to put additional pressure on Israel, but not to wipe it off the map.
Then there’s an attack’s likelihood of success. In congressional testimony this week, Clapper warned that an Israeli strike would set back Iran’s nuclear program by only one to two years. In January, Michael Hayden, who led the CIA from 2006 to 2009, said a successful strike was “beyond their [Israel’s] capacity.” This week in The New York Times, David Deptula, the Air Force general who planned the bombing campaigns against Iraq in 1991 and Afghanistan in 2001, mocked “the pundits who talk about, ‘Oh, yeah, bomb Iran’” and said that only the United States could launch a strike massive enough to seriously retard Iran’s dispersed and hardened nuclear program.
Finally, there’s the likely fallout. This week, Dempsey predicted that an attack would have a “destabilizing” influence on the region. Last month, Hayden warned that while the U.S. intelligence community does not currently know whether Iran has decided to build a bomb—as opposed to developing the capacity to build one—an attack would “guarantee that which we are trying to prevent: an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon.” Meir Dagan, who ran Mossad from 2002 to 2011, warned last year that attacking Iran “would mean regional war, and in that case you would have given Iran the best possible reason to continue the nuclear program.”
Can you find former military and intelligence officials who are more sympathetic to a strike? Sure. But in my lifetime, I’ve never seen a more lopsided debate among the experts paid to make these judgments. Yet it barely matters. So far, the Iran debate has been a rout, with the Republican presidential candidates loudly declaring their openness to war and President Obama unwilling to even echo the skepticism of his own security chiefs.
And who are the hawks who have so far marginalized the defense and intelligence establishments in both Israel and the U.S.? They’re a collection of think-tankers and politicians, most absolutely sincere, in my experience. But from Rick Santorum to John McCain to Elliott Abrams to John Bolton, their defining characteristic is that they were equally apocalyptic about the threat from Iraq, and equally nonchalant about the difficulties of successfully attacking it. The story of the Iraq debate was, in large measure, the story of their triumph over the career military and intelligence officials—folks like Eric Shinseki and Joseph Wilson—whose successors are now warning against attacking Iran.
How can it be, less than a decade after the U.S. invaded Iraq, that the Iran debate is breaking down along largely the same lines, and the people who were manifestly, painfully wrong about that war are driving the debate this time as well? Culturally, it’s a fascinating question—and too depressing for words.
[Edited 2/21/12 18:52pm]
You are acting like making sense has ever been part of this longstanding and dumb discussion. Not only that but there would be fallout going into Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, maybe back to Iran if the winds are right! Iran is not suicidal. Yea, the Imams want to kill Islamics. Bullshit. Even the Pentagon says that Iran sabrerattles so that it will deter attack and they will be treated like equal powers to other countries. They merely want respect.
Wave your wildsigns high!!
via New York Times
In Din Over Iran, Rattling Sabers Echo
By SCOTT SHANE
Published: February 21, 2012
WASHINGTON — The United States has now endured what by some measures is the longest period of war in its history, with more than 6,300 American troops killed and 46,000 wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ultimate costs estimated at $3 trillion. Both wars lasted far longer than predicted. The outcomes seem disappointing and uncertain.
So why is there already a new whiff of gunpowder in the air?
Talk of war over Iran’s nuclear program has reached a strident pitch in recent weeks, as Israel has escalated threats of a possible strike, the oratory of American politicians has become more bellicose and Iran has responded for the most part defiantly. With Israel and Iran exchanging accusations of assassination plots, some analysts see a danger of blundering into a war that would inevitably involve the United States.
Echoes of the period leading up to the Iraq war in 2003 are unmistakable, igniting a familiar debate over whether journalists are overstating Iran’s progress toward a bomb. Yet there is one significant difference: by contrast with 2003, when the Bush administration portrayed Iraq as an imminent threat, Obama administration officials and intelligence professionals seem eager to calm the feverish language.
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a CNN interview on Sunday that the United States had advised Israel that a strike now would be “destabilizing,” adding that Iran had not yet decided whether to build a weapon. And American officials are weighing an Iranian offer to renew nuclear talks as a stream of threats from Tehran continued on Tuesday and international nuclear inspectors reported their mission to Iran had failed.
Still, unforeseen events can create their own momentum. Graham Allison, a leading expert on nuclear strategy at Harvard University, has long compared the evolving conflict over Iran’s nuclear program to a “slow-motion Cuban missile crisis,” in which each side has only murky intelligence, tempers run high and there is the danger of a devastating outcome.
“As a student of history, I’m certainly conscious that when you have heated politics and incomplete control of events, it’s possible to stumble into a war,” Mr. Allison said. Watching Iran, Israel and the United States, he said, “you can see the parties, slowly but almost inexorably, moving to a collision.”
Another critical difference from the prewar discussion in 2003 is the central role of Israel, which views the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon as a threat to its very existence and has warned that Iran’s nuclear facilities may soon be buried too deep for foreign bombers to reach.
Israel’s stance has played out politically in the United States. With the notable exception of Representative Ron Paul of Texas, Republican presidential candidates have kept up a competition in threatening Iran and portraying themselves as protectors of Israel. A bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday released a letter to President Obama saying that new talks could prove a “dangerous distraction,” allowing Iran to buy time to move closer to developing a weapon.
Despite a decade of war, most Americans seem to endorse the politicians’ martial spirit. In a Pew Research Center poll this month, 58 percent of those surveyed said the United States should use military force, if necessary, to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Only 30 percent said no.
“I find it puzzling,” said Richard K. Betts of Columbia University, who has studied security threats since the cold war. “You’d think there would be an instinctive reason to hold back after two bloody noses in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
In the same survey, 75 percent of respondents said that Mr. Obama was withdrawing troops from Afghanistan at the right pace or not quickly enough, a finding in keeping with many indications of war weariness.
Micah Zenko, who studies conflict prevention at the Council on Foreign Relations, sees an old pattern. “It’s true throughout history: there’s always the belief that the next war will go much better than the last war,” he said.
Faced with an intractable security challenge, both politicians and ordinary people “want to ‘do something,’ ” Mr. Zenko said. “And nothing ‘does something’ like military force.”
Yet it is the military and intelligence establishment that has quietly sought to counter politicians’ bold language about Iran’s nuclear program, which the Iranians contend is solely for peaceful purposes. At a hearing last week, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, pressed James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence.
“Do you have doubt about the Iranians’ intention when it comes to making a nuclear weapon?” Mr. Graham asked.
“I do,” Mr. Clapper replied.
“You doubt whether or not they’re trying to create a nuclear bomb?” Mr. Graham persisted.
“I think they are keeping themselves in a position to make that decision,” Mr. Clapper replied. “But there are certain things they have not yet done and have not done for some time,” he added, apparently a reference to specific steps to prepare a nuclear device. Haunting such discussions is the memory of the Iraq war. The intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, which was one of the Bush administration’s main rationales for the invasion, proved to be devastatingly wrong. And the news media, including The New York Times, which ultimately apologized to readers for some of its coverage of claims of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, are again under scrutiny by critics wary of exaggerated threats.
Both the ombudsman of The Washington Post and the public editor of The New York Times in his online blog have scolded their newspapers since December for overstating the current evidence against Iran in particular headlines and stories. Amid the daily drumbeat about a possible war, the hazard of an assassination or a bombing setting off a conflict inadvertently worries some analysts. After a series of killings of Iranian scientists widely believed to be the work of Israel, Israeli diplomats in three countries were the targets last week of bombs suspected to have been planted by Iranians.
In October, an Iranian American was charged in what American authorities assert was an Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States, possibly by bombing a Washington restaurant. Mr. Clapper, the intelligence director, told Congress in January that the accusation demonstrated that Iranian officials “are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime.”
An actual Iranian attack inside the United States — possibly following an Israeli strike on Iran — would inevitably result in calls for an American military retaliation.
Peter Feaver of Duke University, who has long studied public opinion about war and worked in the administration of President George W. Bush, said the Obama administration’s policy was now “in the exact middle of American public opinion on Iran” — taking a hard line against a nuclear-armed Iran, yet opposing military action for now and escalating sanctions. But as the November election approaches, Mr. Feaver said, inflammatory oratory is likely to increase, even if it is unsuited to a problem as complicated as Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“This is the standard danger of talking about foreign policy crises in a campaign,” he said. “If you try to explain a complex position, you sound hopelessly vague.”
short answer: YES Iran will strike first if it feels "threatened"
Iran threatens pre-emptive action amid nuclear tensions
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran would take pre-emptive action against its enemies if it felt its national interests were endangered, the deputy head of the Islamic Republic's armed forces was quoted by a semi-official news agency as saying Tuesday.
"Our strategy now is that if we feel our enemies want to endanger Iran's national interests, and want to decide to do that, we will act without waiting for their actions,'' Mohammad Hejazi told the Fars news agency, NBC News reported.
Iran announced air defense war games to practice protecting nuclear and other sensitive sites, the latest in a series of military maneuvers viewed as a message to the West that Iran is prepared both to defend itself against an armed strike and to retaliate.
The U.S. and Israel have not ruled out military action against Iran's nuclear program.
The official news agency IRNA said the four-day air defense war games, dubbed "Sarallah," or "God's Revenge," were taking place in the south of the country and involve anti-aircraft batteries, radar, and warplanes.
The drill will be held over 73,000 square miles near the port of Bushehr, the site of Iran's lone nuclear power plant.
Hejazi's remarks came as an Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday that a United Nations' team visiting Iran had no plans to inspect the country's nuclear facilities and would only hold talks with officials in Tehran.
The remarks by Ramin Mehmanparast cast doubt on how much the U.N. inspectors would be able to gauge whether Iran is moving ahead with its suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The two-day visit by the International Atomic Energy Agency team, which started Monday, is the second in less than a month amid growing concerns over alleged Iranian weapons experiments.
Iran denies charges by the West that it seeks atomic weapons, insisting its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes only, such as power generation.
Iranian Presidency via EPA
Mehmanparast said the visiting IAEA team was made up of experts, not inspectors.
He told reporters that the IAEA team was holding discussions Tuesday in Tehran to prepare the ground for future cooperation between Iran and the U.N. watchdog. He said this cooperation is at its "best" level.
"The titles of the members of the visiting delegation is not inspectors. This is an expert delegation. The purpose of visit is not inspection," Mehmanparast said.
"The aim is to negotiate about cooperation between Iran and the agency and to set a framework for a continuation of the talks," he added.
Visits to individual Iranian nuclear sites were also not part of the IAEA earlier visit three weeks ago.
But on Monday, Iranian state radio said the U.N. team had asked to visit the Parchin military complex outside Tehran that has been suspected as a secret weapons-making location and also to meet Iranian nuclear scientists involved in the country's controversial program.
"Iran's cooperation with the (IAEA) agency continues and is at its best level," added Mehmanparast.
UN nuke expert: no 'way forward' with Iran
VIENNA (AP) — A top U.N. nuclear official says his team could "could not find a way forward" in attempts to persuade Iran to talk about suspected secret work on atomic arms.
Herman Nackaerts of the International Atomic Energy Agency says the talks in Tehran were inconclusive, although his mission approached the talks "in a constructive spirit."
Nackaerts spoke to reporters at Vienna airport Wednesday shortly after returning from the Iranian capital.
An IAEA statement published overnight already acknowledged the talks had failed.
Iran denies it has experimented with nuclear arms programs but has refused to cooperate with an IAEA probe on the issue for nearly four years.
Of course not, of course they wouldn't Mr. U.N. nuclear official and IAEA!!!!
Wife Admits: Slain Iranian Nuke Scientist‘s ’Ultimate Goal Was the Annihilation of Israel’
Wife of Assassinated Scientist: Annihilation of Israel "Mostafa's Ultimate Goal"
TEHRAN (FNA)- The wife of Martyr Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan Behdast, who was assassinated by Mossad agents in Tehran in January, reiterated on Tuesday that her husband sought the annihilation of the Zionist regime wholeheartedly.
"Mostafa's ultimate goal was the annihilation of Israel," Fatemeh Bolouri Kashani told FNA on Tuesday.
Bolouri Kashani also underlined that her spouse loved any resistance figure in his life who was willing to fight the Zionist regime and supported the rights of the oppressed Palestinian nation.
This is from Glen Beck's website The Blaze. I just mention this to put this story in perspective. Glen is very agenda driven.
Tel Aviv readies bomb shelter amid Iran tensions
(CBS News) JERUSALEM - Israel is transforming the parking lot of the Habima National Theater in Tel Aviv into a sophisticated bomb shelter for 1,600 people amid fears of war with Iran. When the theater was renovated last year, city officials decided to kill two birds with one stone: bringing the old theater into the 21st century and upgrading the fortified underground parking lot into a shelter in the event of a national emergency. The facility can be sealed and has ventilation to keep air safe if Israel comes under attack with chemical weapons.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but Israel and the West believe Iran is building nuclear weapons. Israel sees that as an existential threat and has threatened to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, if Western diplomacy fails.
But officials here have warned that an Israeli attack could prompt a massive missile barrage from Iran, as well its Islamist proxies: Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. The military says Hezbollah alone has 60,000 rockets and missiles aimed at the Jewish state.
Israel has been beefing up the home front to deal with the threat. Many parking lots can be quickly turned into bomb shelters and there have been frequent civil defense drills. Most homes and apartments also have bomb shelters. But one thing is curiously missing: Israel has not distributed gas masks to the public as it did ahead of the First Gulf War in 1991 and the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Does that mean that an Israeli attack on Iran isn't imminent? Is Israel simply bluffing to get the US and the West to impose tougher sanctions on Iran? No one knows. But there's plenty of saber rattling and Israel seems content with holding its cards close to its chest and keeping everyone guessing.
Obama: All options remain on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. President Barack Obama said on Sunday that the entire world has an interest in preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and that all options remain on the table to keep Iran from going nuclear.
"We all prefer to resolve this issue diplomatically," Obama said in an address at the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC's policy conference in Washington. "Having said that, Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States, just as they should not doubt Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs. I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say."
[EDITED FOR COMPLIANCE]
Iran has continued enriching uranium. It is acquiring the technology it needs for a weapon. Deep underground, at Fordow, near the holy city of Qom, it is fitting out a uranium-enrichment plant that many say is invulnerable to aerial attack. Iran does not yet seem to have chosen actually to procure a nuclear arsenal, but that moment could come soon. Some analysts, especially in Israel, judge that the scope for using force is running out. When it does, nothing will stand between Iran and a bomb.
The air is thick with the prophecy of war. Leon Panetta, America’s defence secretary, has spoken of Israel attacking as early as April. Others foresee an Israeli strike designed to drag in Barack Obama in the run-up to America’s presidential vote, when he will have most to lose from seeming weak.
A decision to go to war should be based not on one man’s electoral prospects, but on the argument that war is warranted and likely to succeed. Iran’s intentions are malign and the consequences of its having a weapon would be grave. Faced by such a regime you should never permanently forswear war. However, the case for war’s success is hard to make. If Iran is intent on getting a bomb, an attack would delay but not stop it. Indeed, using Western bombs as a tool to prevent nuclear proliferation risks making Iran only more determined to build a weapon—and more dangerous when it gets one.
A shadow over the Middle East
Make no mistake, an Iran armed with the bomb would pose a deep threat. The country is insecure, ideological and meddles in its neighbours’ affairs. Both Iran and its proxies—including Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza—might act even more brazenly than they do now. The danger is keenly felt by Israel, surrounded by threats and especially vulnerable to a nuclear bomb because it is such a small land. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, recently called the “Zionist regime” a “cancerous tumour that must be cut out”. Jews, of all people, cannot just dismiss that as so much rhetoric.
Even if Iran were to gain a weapon only for its own protection, others in the region might then feel they need weapons too. Saudi Arabia has said it will arm—and Pakistan is thought ready to supply a bomb in exchange for earlier Saudi backing of its own programme. Turkey and Egypt, the other regional powers, might conclude they have to join the nuclear club. Elsewhere, countries such as Brazil might see nuclear arms as vital to regional dominance, or fear that their neighbours will.
Some experts argue that nuclear-armed states tend to behave responsibly. But imagine a Middle East with five nuclear powers riven by rivalry and sectarian feuds. Each would have its fingers permanently twitching over the button, in the belief that the one that pressed first would be left standing. Iran’s regime gains legitimacy by demonising foreign powers. The cold war seems stable by comparison with a nuclear Middle East—and yet America and the Soviet Union were sometimes scarily close to Armageddon.
The dream of pre-emption
No wonder some people want a pre-emptive strike. But military action is not the solution to a nuclear Iran. It could retaliate, including with rocket attacks on Israel from its client groups in Lebanon and Gaza. Terror cells around the world might strike Jewish and American targets. It might threaten Arab oil infrastructure, in an attempt to use oil prices to wreck the world economy. Although some Arab leaders back a strike, most Muslims are unlikely to feel that way, further alienating the West from the Arab spring. Such costs of an attack are easy to overstate, but even supposing they were high they might be worth paying if a strike looked like working. It does not.
Striking Iran would be much harder than Israel’s successful solo missions against the weapons programmes of Iraq, in 1981, and Syria, in 2007. If an attack were easy, Israel would have gone in alone long ago, when the Iranian programme was more vulnerable. But Iran’s sites are spread out and some of them, hardened against strikes, demand repeated hits. America has more military options than Israel, so it would prefer to wait. That is one reason why it is seeking to hold Israel back. The other is that, for either air force, predictions of the damage from an attack span a huge range. At worst an Israeli mission might fail altogether, at best an American one could, it is said, set back the programme a decade.
But uncertainty would reign. Iran is a vast, populous and sophisticated country with a nuclear programme that began under the shah. It may have secret sites that escape unscathed. Even if all its sites are hit, Iran’s nuclear know-how cannot be bombed out of existence. Nor can its network of suppliers at home and abroad. It has stocks of uranium in various stages of enrichment; an unknown amount would survive an attack, while the rest contaminated an unforeseeable area. Iran would probably withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, under which its uranium is watched by the International Atomic Energy Agency. At that point its entire programme would go underground—literally and figuratively. If Iran decided it needed a bomb, it would then be able to pursue one with utmost haste and in greater secrecy. Saudi Arabia and the others might conclude that they, too, needed to act pre-emptively to gain their own deterrents.
Perhaps America could bomb Iran every few years. But how would it know when and where to strike? And how would it justify a failing policy to the world? Perhaps, if limited bombing is not enough, America should be aiming for an all-out aerial war, or even regime change. Yet a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan has demonstrated where that leads. An aerial war could dramatically raise the threat of retaliation. Regime change might produce a government that the West could do business with. But the nuclear programme has broad support in Iran. The idea that a bomb is the only defence against an implacable American enemy might become stronger than ever.
That does not mean the world should just let Iran get the bomb. The government will soon be starved of revenues, because of an oil embargo. Sanctions are biting, the financial system is increasingly isolated and the currency has plunged in value. Proponents of an attack argue that military humiliation would finish the regime off. But it is as likely to rally Iranians around their leaders. Meanwhile, political change is sweeping across the Middle East. The regime in Tehran is divided and it has lost the faith of its people. Eventually, popular resistance will spring up as it did in 2009. A new regime brought about by the Iranians themselves is more likely to renounce the bomb than one that has just witnessed an American assault.
Is there a danger that Iran will get a nuclear weapon before that happens? Yes, but bombing might only increase the risk. Can you stop Iran from getting a bomb if it is determined to have one? Not indefinitely, and bombing it might make it all the more desperate. Short of occupation, the world cannot eliminate Iran’s capacity to gain the bomb. It can only change its will to possess one. Just now that is more likely to come about through sanctions and diplomacy than war.
I don't want you to think like me. I just want you to think.
Date printed: Fri 6th Dec 2013 3:42am PST