Opinion

Gregg Easterbrook

What will Iran do with nuclear weapons? Probably nothing

April 22, 2010

Gregg Easterbrook is a Reuters columnist. Any views expressed are his own.

World leaders meeting in Washington last week engaged in a competition to see which could make the strongest remark about Iran not getting an atomic bomb. President Barack Obama has asked Russia, China and other nations to form a united front against the Iranian atomic program. Vice-president Joe Biden recently said, “The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, period.”

The comments seem eerily similar to those made by presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, plus other world leaders, about preventing North Korea from acquiring the bomb. This happened anyway. Current anti-Tehran blustering and posing will be about as effective. Soon Iran will become an atomic power. The world community must prepare for this moment.

The simple reality is that other nations cannot prevent Iran from fashioning an atomic device. Cannot, except perhaps by an all-out nuclear first strike that obliterates much of the country, or invasion and permanent occupation of a nation substantially larger than Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Conventional aerial attack might slow but cannot stop an atomic program using underground facilities – or conventional aerial attack would have been used against North Korea. (See details below on the reasons conventional airstrikes aren’t the answer regarding the Iranian program.)

Iran will acquire an atomic bomb — and it may happen soon. Here, U.S. military officials estimate  that Iran should have sufficient fissile materials for a bomb by 2011.

Various forms of American and Western fist-shaking against Iran have had little apparent impact beyond convincing Tehran to accelerate its bomb program. Last year, Obama set a “deadline” Iran had to meet, then another “deadline,” then a third “deadline” – all of which were ignored and promptly forgotten. In March, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said there would be “real consequences” if Iran did not immediately end its atomic program. Iran did not, and there were no consequences.

Western nations cannot so much as agree on a new sanctions policy against Tehran. And this is just as well.  The recent history of sanctions show that they do not change government behavior, but do cause the innocent to suffer. Strong sanctions against Cuba, North Korea and Iraq when under Saddam Hussein resulted in no government-behavior changes. Sanctions are a factor in starvation in North Korea and poverty in Cuba, and caused a dramatic increase in child mortality in Iraq in the 1990s — the dead being children of average families, not of government elites. If stronger sanctions were imposed against Iran today, this would only make the Tehran government all the more determined to acquire the bomb, while causing average Iranians to suffer. Iran has a significant pro-democracy movement, one gaining in size and influence. What justice could be found in causing Iran’s pro-democracy citizens to suffer?

The lack of practical ways to stop the Iranian atomic bomb effort is seen in the fact that since the world leaders’ anti-proliferation summit in Washington, the focus of Western action has shifted to producing yet another United Nations resolution tut-tutting about Iran’s bomb project. Three Security Council resolutions on this topic since 2006 have accomplished little. Maybe the next one will contain different adjectives — that’ll show ‘em!

Of course is it alarming to think of an atomic bomb in the hands of a nation at least nominally ruled by the dull-witted anti-Semite Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But experience suggests that an Iranian atomic bomb would be employed in the same way as all other atomic munitions since 1945 – to deter attack. That is to say, Iran will use an atomic bomb by not using it: the observed pattern followed by other nuclear-armed states.

Since Nagasaki, no nation possessing atomic or nuclear weapons has employed this power, because the logic of nuclear deterrence is overwhelming, If Iran acquires an atomic bomb and fires one against Israel, Tehran will be leveled 30 minutes later. The current rulers of Iran may be repugnant, but they are not madmen.

Wouldn’t possession of an atomic bomb enable Iran to bully other nations? Nuclear missiles did not do much for the old Soviet Union, even enable it to bully its weak neighbor Afghanistan. Nuclear bombs haven’t helped China bully anyone – Beijing still has little credibility in Tibet, despite its fantastic edge in power. As Peter Scoblic noted in his important 2009 book “Us Versus Them”, thousands of nuclear missiles failed to restrain America’s adversaries in the Korea and Vietnam wars, failed to intimidate Saddam, and have not helped the U.S. position in Iraq or Afghanistan. Atomic power hasn’t allowed Pakistan or India to bully neighbors, and surely has not allowed Israel to get its way.

Sixty years of actual experience suggests that atomic weapons are practical only for one purpose: to prevent your nation from being attacked. You don’t have to be political scientist Kenneth Waltz (see his 2003 book “The Spread of Nuclear Weapons”, which argues that nuclear proliferation is mainly good because it prevents war) to want to live in a world where nations don’t attack each other. Deterrence has, since 1945, ended great-power war. Deterrence has  reduced and might end regional war. There is a gamble involved, obviously. But the likely outcome of Iranian possession of an atomic bomb is that no nation will attack Iran. Why shouldn’t Iran desire this? The United States, Russia, United Kingdom and other nations desired deterrence against attack and would have been entirely outraged if lectured otherwise by the Security Council.

Assuming Iranian acquisition of atomic weapons is near-inevitable, the international response should not be more fist-shaking for the cameras and empty verbiage, but outreach to return Iran to the family of nations. A core lesson of the Cold War is that bluster fails, constructive engagement succeeds. Engagement with Iran would lower regional tensions and lend support to the Iranian democracy movement. The first step regarding Iran “should be a much more aggressive approach to diplomacy than we’ve displayed thus far,” Obama said while a senator. The best defense against Iranian nuclear arms is better diplomatic relations with Iran.


WHY WOULDN’T A MILITARY STRIKE SOLVE THE PROBLEM?

The reasons are four: that Iran is too far from Israel for that country’s air force to handle this task; that Iran’s atomic installations are too numerous and too deeply buried for the United States to handle the task without weeks of bombardment; that any attack on Iranian atomic facilities would kill Russians, with awful international consequences; and the morality of trying to solve a political problem by dropping bombs that, no matter how accurate, will kill civilians.

In 2008, Israeli fighter-bombers staged a training exercise in which they flew 900 miles across the Mediterranean, carrying ordinance and refueling in the air: 900 miles is the distance from Israel to Bushehr, location of Iran’s large nuclear reactor. The exercise was a reminder to Tehran that in 1981, Israeli warplanes badly damaged a reactor in Iraq, while in 2007, Israeli fighter-bombers destroyed an atomic facility in Syria.

But the 1981 and 2007 raids were against single installations, neither underground. Multiple raids on many Iranian installations would be far more daunting. And while Syria is adjacent to Israel, and Iraq can be reached by flying across Israel’s enemy Syria, there is no route-of-flight from Israel to Iran that does not involve airspace violation of neutral or friendly nations.

To use the best route of flight to Bushehr, Israeli warplanes would need permission to cross Saudi Arabia, permission the Saudis are unlikely to grant: Israeli breach of Saudi airspace could spark war. Israeli planes could fly across Iraq to Iran. But an attack on its territory staged through Iraq would give Iran a casus belli against Baghdad, and create a legal pretext for Iran to target U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Flying much of the way through Syrian airspace is possible – Israel used U.S.-built electronic countermeasures to blind Syrian radars during the 2007 raid. But in this case, Israeli warplanes still would need to cross part of Iraq, or violate the airspace of Turkey, the region’s sole Islamic democracy. Israeli violation of Turkish airspace might radicalize Turkey against Israel, only adding to its enemies.

In theory, Israeli warplanes could fly hundreds of miles out of their way, first south along the Red Sea, then turning north across the Arabian Sea, and enter Iran without use of a neighbor’s airspace. This would require so many airborne refuelings both going and coming back that the logistics are hard to imagine. All Israel strike aircraft are short-range fighters: the country does not possess heavy bombers that can travel long distances without refueling, or aircraft carriers that could launch a strike from international waters. And even if an all-overwater flight worked, Israel would need to stage many such raids to more than damage Iran’s multiple nuclear installations.

The United States, which has long-range bombers and aircraft carriers, could conduct a sustained air campaign against Iranian weapons sites. In 2006 and 2007, Pentagon planning for an attack on Iranian atomic facilities assumed not some quick event but two weeks of air and cruise-missile strikes involving hundreds to thousands of tons of munitions. U.S. pilots would be flying against Russian-built air defenses, some of them late-model. Russian technicians would die in the strikes. Moscow-Washington relations might be sent back to the Cold War: imagine how the United States would feel if Russian bombers spent weeks attacking an American client state, killing many Americans in the process. Even if bombing of Iranian atomic facilities worked in the technical sense, it would be likely to make the international situation worse rather than better.

As for morality, let’s hope things have not gone so far that the United States has stopped considering this.

Comments
64 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

The borders of the Persian empire stretched from the Indus and Oxus Rivers in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, extending through Anatolia (modern day Turkey) and Egypt. If they can they will use any means available to them to make their dreams of conquest and terror come true. They are an angry satellite of the corrupt Russian nation. They must be dealt with as they are – enemies of the United States of America.

Posted by cranston | Report as abusive
 

Yes, Cranston, because obviously the same people are in power now as they were during the height of the Persian empire. No wait, you’re about 2400 years off. I’m sorry if you watched 300 recently and still believe all middle easterners are like that.

Posted by Propagandahour | Report as abusive
 

The whole world hates the US no matter what we do. Let’s start with that premise and move.

Posted by Storyburncom_is | Report as abusive
 

One cannot deny the virtues of any people and it is this, and this alone that decrees all hostility. To imply that Cyrus, buried deeply in the foundations of Persia, would not instill in their presence that of a geniological disorder as that not out of align with the remainder of the global community is absurd. I agree, and Israel’s Ehud Barack has echoed, Iran will never do anything and the insult to the human ingenuity is the imposing of sanctions. We look like communist invaders of the former Soviet bloc.

Posted by Lockport | Report as abusive
 

There is ZERO evidence of any “bomb program” in Iran. Irans nuclear program started under the Shah with the active assistance and encouragement of the US because it makes economic sense. Other countries such as Brazil and Argentina have developed the same technology as Iran and more will follow because as oil runs out developing nations must rely on nuclear power. To say that Iran has a nuclear weapons “capability” is nonsense since any country with a purely civilian nuclear program has the theoretical capability to one day make nukes. According to the IAEA there are today about 40 countries with this capability. However the Iranians have offered to put additional restrictions on their nuclear program well beyond their legal obligations to address even the theoretical chance that the program can be used to secretly make nukes. For example they offered to open their program to equal participation by the US. These and other Iranian offers were ignored because the entire nuclear issue is pretextual, much like WMDs in Iraq were pretextual.

Posted by Hassani1387 | Report as abusive
 

Some issues need to be solved and solved fast before the conquest starts. You need to think about the many christians who live in that part of the world, and the life they might have to live if Iran truly spreads its thorns allover the area.
One of the ways to fight that expansion would be to fortify surrounding nations and i do not mean Israel.

Posted by Brave | Report as abusive
 

This is the typical comment of a semi-informed pundit who misreads history.Atomic weapons have not been used in the past because they were in the hands of relatively stable nations who were readily indentifiable as the source of an attack on another country. Today, the script has changed because Iran is the biggest national sponsor and supporter of terrorism in the world and is careful not to leave its fingerprints on any transactions or deals or interventions that would be traced back to it. Does any rational and reasonably intelligent person honestly believe that a scheming and sneaky Iran would not give atomic materials to a terrorist group if the actions of that group would further its intetrests and harm its enemies? In addition, rationality and morality are washed away in this case by religious fanaticism and obsession.Mr. Easterbrook should worry not about the morality of the United States being compromised, but the total lack of morality of Iran and its constituent terrorists connections. Morality and being the good guy will mean little to the Israelis if they are all dead. Get out of your smug condescending unrealistic attitude and realize there is a new narrative and evil here and the Israelis, unlike the morally superior and challenged Obama Administration don’t intend to become the victims of it.

Posted by BIGGUY001 | Report as abusive
 

Robert Oppemheimer agonized over the invention of the nuclear bomb. He feared exactly what we are seeing today; the world hijacked by 3rd world countries with the bomb. In the case of Iran, moral evolution did not keep pace with technological evolution. These are the ethical and moral consequences of developing weapons of mass destruction capable of obliterating all life from the planet. Now, even if the world should become successful in negotiating treaties to eliminate nuclear weapons from the world, 3rd world countries like Iran and N.Korea will stubbornly cling to their weapons. Allowing Iran to get the weapon will cause a delay of hundreds of years in eventually ridding the world of these stupid childish weapons of narcissistic destruction.

Posted by vintel7 | Report as abusive
 

“The whole world hates the US no matter what we do. Let’s start with that premise and move.”? Are we back to kindergarten?

The world doesn’t have US, they hate actions as those described in the text (use some crazy premise and start to kill people). You can not impose your point of view to everybody…it really doesn’t work like that. If US has a very bad image right now, you can blame Bush. Also, US has thousands of atomic bombs and Iran might have one. I really do not understand why everybody is afraid.

Posted by aveiro | Report as abusive
 

If a country declares itself an enemy of another and proclaims that want destroy it, too, is geographically close to it and there is imminent a conflict, even if this country, in this case, Iran obtains weapons too dangerous, what can a world that seeks more peace can expect from him?” If we proteges wolves , the sacrificed are the sheeps”. The whole world don’t hate US, only the left and very retrograde people.

Posted by Jorgegaucho | Report as abusive
 

History isn’t a good indicator in this situation. Nations realize that using a nuclear weapon as a deterrent is safer than using it as a weapon.

However, terrorists have already demonstrated that they can engage in heinous acts without repercussions to their nation of origin.

The rules of engagement have changed over the past few decades.

Posted by breezinthru | Report as abusive
 

These kind of articles are “one sided”. Look like in today’s world it is not about countries at war, but more about so called “non state actors”. These kind of regimes conduct theie war via proxies such as Al Qieda etc. That’s what is and should be worrysome. What you have written about any country which is possession of nuclear weapon not using one is prob. known to everyone. – Don’t know what the author of this article was trying to prove !!

Posted by ak99 | Report as abusive
 

@Storyburncom_is
The US is perceived as pig headed and belligerent. We maybe thought of as hated, but when trouble does arise where a nation cannot handle the problem, who do they ask first for help? The US or the UN?

Posted by MaarekStele | Report as abusive
 

Another consideration is that Iran would feel empowered to act more boldly in exerting conventional military control over the Strait of Hormuz.

Posted by breezinthru | Report as abusive
 

The military problem is enormous. The cost would make the Iraq war look like a bargain. From the vulnerability of our big naval vessels in the Gulf (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/12/washi ngton/12navy.html) to the economic cost of the inevitable, massive disruption of the flow of oil to the onslaught of terrorist attacks Iran will unleash through its proxies, war is not a realistic option. Only someone in the Cheney wing of the extreme right would be reckless enough to actually try it.

Posted by tancredi | Report as abusive
 

“This would require so many airborne refuelings both going and coming back that the logistics are hard to imagine”

But how does it compare to the distance from Ascension Island to the Falklands? The RAF may be the best air force in the world, but they can’t be the only ones who can mount such a spectacular when national pride is at stake. The sad, pragmatic truth may be that shaking the world’s fists at Iran may be the best way for the rest of us to prevent some piqued Israeli politician from ordering something very stupid indeed.

Posted by Ian_Kemmish | Report as abusive
 

Gregg,
This is the dumbest article I’ve ever read on Reuters.
Congratulations.

Posted by yr2009 | Report as abusive
 

US as we know will not exist after attacking Iran, period. Persian empire, Roman empire, Chinese empire and so on went extinct just because they thought they are invincible, that they can attack smaller nations one after another and get away with that. The problem is US does not have much history and obviously its people do not like or do not find time to read history.
Nuclear weapons should not have been developed to begin with but they were developed and used by US for ‘quick results’ and to show US supremacy. That is were you went wrong. You used it over Japan twice. How can you talk about morality and police others not to have the nuclear weapon when you are the sole criminal nation who used it against poor Japanese civilians.
But all these aside, days of bullying others with your weapons and nukes are over. US has wise people in control of the White House and they know better. Iran not only will have the weapon but by all means is entitled to have it as long as there are bad tempered bullies out there that do not have a grain of brain left and say, “The whole world hates the US no matter what we do. Let’s start with that premise and move.”

Posted by Persian | Report as abusive
 

This is a wonderful article, very logical and convincing.
I fully agree with the author. And the guy who declares “Russian nation” corrupt is certainly brain-dead.

Posted by Heretic1 | Report as abusive
 

“If Iran acquires an atomic bomb and fires one against Israel, Tehran will be leveled 30 minutes later.”

That’s true. But if Iran acquires an atomic bomb and sells it to a terrorist sect that has no home city or country, it can use it with impunity. Of course, any country that has the bomb could sell it (or just lose it), but part of anti-proliferation is to keep the number small to make keeping track of them easier.

Posted by drewbie | Report as abusive
 

This is a great column, and I agree with the writers opinion. We should look at the possible ramifications, and consequences before taking any course of drastic action against Iran, weather through direct American intervention or through Israel. As much as Mr. Ahmadinejad rambles about obliterating Israel, i dont think he is foolish enough to actually go through it, let alone pocess the technology to launch a pre-emptive attack against Israel. I think his speeches are more geared towards rilling up the conservative base in Iran filled with rhetorics and gathering support for his own reelection. I do believe that diplomacy in this matter will be more successful in the long run, considering that in the most recent election in Tehran, the opposition party “almost” won the majority votes.

Posted by Zane | Report as abusive
 

Whether history shows anything, you can use Murphy’s Law to conclude that even if its a possibility it needs to be avoided especially any Nuclear Bomb going off. The risk is to great, no country needs nuclear bombs and if a war does happen, it should be fought by men\women. Plus, on a logical note you don’t let kids have NB and I believe only the G6 should have only a few in the short term.

Posted by Ryujin | Report as abusive
 

Since it was the United States who provided Iran with detailed plans on how to build an atomic bomb (this during the Eisenhower admisistration), I find all of this rather silly–silly as arming Iraq and then going to war against them. This “enemy of my enemy” foreign policy we’ve been maintaining for generations is coming back to bite us in oh so many ways.

Posted by stainpouch | Report as abusive
 

I personally don’t fear much from a nation which last agression war dates back to the Persian Empire…
Moreover if the government trying to convince me that Iran is a real threat is currently waging 2 agression wars, has invaded more nations than anyone else in the last 50 or so years, and has been the sole to ever use nuclear weapons agains foreign nation not once, but twice…
These weapons are a plague, but I doubt Iran would use it for anything else than to deter invasion.

Posted by Khaarl | Report as abusive
 

Only someone who had slept through the past two years would deliver a core premise as absurd as this. One thing that the UNPRECEDENTED real estate market collapse has taught us, is that rationality and predictability are both far from certain.

Posted by Thucydides | Report as abusive
 

Agreed. But there is alot that the states are not mentioning like how Obama openly threatened Iran with Nuclear weapons. It is available on multiple news sites mostly those related directly to news out of Iran. We cannot let Iran get hold of a nuke because of the devistation it can cause, but threatening them with a nuke is no solution. Global research had this to say : “In his latest statements, President Obama has expressively warned Iran against an imminent nuclear strike. The surprising remarks by the politician who snatched the Nobel Peace Prize for his conciliatory stance in recent years, violated the UN Charter and astounded public opinion.” Answer me why US refuses to join the Internation Law? Obama would surely get charged for war crimes and thretening a country with a nuclear weapons. We gave him a peace prize… and he is sending people away to die and kill, and thretening countries with nuclear weapons.

Its all a huge mess.

Posted by The_Experienced | Report as abusive
 

It’s not nearly as easy for a terrorist to create, smuggle, and use nuclear weapons as you guys seem to think.

Also, let them nuke us. Bin Laden would find every non-Islamic/non-radical suddenly champing at the bit to have him taken down, unlike now where WE don’t even care that much anymore.

Posted by Jarlent | Report as abusive
 

Countries with nuclear weapons do not get attacked, it’s that simple.

Posted by feverhost | Report as abusive
 

If, Maybe, Probably!!!! and now What if?

Has anyone seen a legitimate report except all these misinformation about Iran’s nuclear activities coming only from Israel?

Before we start destroying another country like we did in Iraq and kill and displace millions and also send our son’s and daughters to die for nothing. I think this time we should ask our leaders for a proof?

What makes us (Americans) different from Iranians is we can question our leadership for their actions and we are responsible for their actions and we can stop them. We chose them not AIPAC or NRA or some christian conservatives.

Posted by Taghee | Report as abusive
 

Iran will come to the same realization that North Korea did i.e. we have this great new (very expensive) toy and nowhere to play with it. Their next move will be the same as North Korea and Russia, that is “If we can’t use it, we can at least make money selling it”. They will began selling the technology to every tinpot dictator that can scrape up the cash to pay them for a “bomb”. All the sudden a nuclear Venezuala, Syria, Nigeria, etc. etc. is the real threat.

Posted by estomtes | Report as abusive
 

@ cranston: The British Empire extended to every continent, the Roman throughout Europe and into Africa and the middle east, the Mongol empire across most of middle Asia parts of the middle east and Eastern Europe. I could go on and on; does this mean we should view Britain, Italy and Mongolia as enemies of the US?

Posted by nydude | Report as abusive
 

I am an Iranian and a pro-reformist pro-democracy wish to see the democratic institutions get stronger in Iran day by day. I don’t like the way Mr Ahmadinejad talks in international affairs and I am one of those who believe that what he or the likes of him say are empty words that cause more harm than good to Iranian nation. But I also want to share a secret with you. About 30 years ago Saddam attacked our nation with the help he was getting from many Western governments. He was armed with a variety of conventional or non-conventional weapons to succeed in taking our land. Iranian nation resisted the attack while post revolution political chaos had resulted in a situation where we didn’t even have a functioning army. Many ordinary people without full military training came forward and they found out that without the arms that used to be imported from the United States there is absolutely nothing to fight with. They had faced the bitter reality in its worst form.

So if you want to understand why we want nuclear capability visit history books. Of course we are wise enough to understand that civil nuclear energy capabilities are enough to create the deterrent effect. That is why we have stayed in NPT and obey its rules. Of course for Iranian nation it is so near that they don’t even need history books, the only thing they need to do is to ask their dad or bigger brother and the logic is very simple, we don’t want to be at the mercy of those who think they are better than us.

Posted by Masoud | Report as abusive
 

There’s been thirty years of fallout from the US decision to destabilize Iran by funding and training SAVAK to terrorize minorities in that country, the cost of this being a predictably ensuing backlash from hell to breakfast.

Not to give Iran any free passes here, but the campaign against Iran’s (relatively) moderate current leadership reads like the playbook from We’ve “Found” WMD all over again. And if that means turning the rest of the Middle East into the same vast prison camp strewn with Depleted Uranium that Iraq now is, then it will have been almost as bad as nuclear holocaust itself.

So really, it is time for the US to get off its high horse. Nuclear weapons are bad no matter who has them. Alleging that others have them who don’t is quite simply improper, shameless behavior for any self-respecting nation.

We already know who does have nukes. Apparently none of these countries can be trusted with reactors, bombs or telling the truth. Not one. This is a disease Iran can probably do without, and it’s up to them to recognize this for themselves, definitely not up to the circle of nuclear liars operating the spin control.

Posted by HBC | Report as abusive
 

@vintel7

A nuke is many things, but “childish” is not one of them.

Posted by RexMax46 | Report as abusive
 

Firstly: I agree with Drewby.
I think that Gregg Easterbrook spent a lot of (right) words about conventional strategy. But the new risk does not come from conventional war – come from terrorism.
Second: The historical argument is not robust. The history change. It is not clear if Iran will not use their nuclear devices. This a kind of very risky logic.

Posted by HdrHey | Report as abusive
 

“Since Nagasaki, no nation possessing…. ”
Please change “Since Nagasaki” to Other than the USA.

It’s like the bully in grade 6 who doesn’t want you to grow big because he wants to have the ability beat you all the time. Countries possessing nuclear weapons want to have that advantage over others. That ability to declare war without suffering serious consequences. I don’t believe Iran is developing weapons to attack Israel directly or indirectly through terrorists. It’s to deter attacks from countries like the last one to use nuclear weapons.

Posted by Tical | Report as abusive
 

The people who have hijacked the Iranian government are “MADMEN”. They are of the belief that once the streets of Jerusalem is filled with blood, then and only then, Mehdi the next imam will appear. This is not something I am making up, I am not a Jew, on the contrary I am a Muslim and I know this fact. Not all Islam is the same just like other religions Islam has different strands. I just don’t understand why it’s so hard for Americans to understand other cultures. The government of Iran is killing its own people and you think that they will not use the bomb on others. They want to die, they think that is the only way to get to heaven. Please understand this.

Posted by mjay | Report as abusive
 

Tical, where have you been in the last 20 years? Hizbollah has more than 20,000(!)missiles poised and pointed at Israel across the border in Lebanon. Where are you coming from saying that Iran is not developing weapons to attack Israel “directly or indirectly through terrorists”? The UN has no jurisdiction and is powerless at preventing its own mandates in Lebanon. Where are you going with your naive and stupid beliefs? Israel cannot afford to lose ANY war, and so it was in 1967. Did the Arab nations just want to “scare” the Jewish State by amassing all their armies at the same time and moving them towards the Israel borders? Sure! And storks deliver babies…

Posted by DaBond | Report as abusive
 

The Hypocrisy of the US and other Nuclear powers with regard to Iran is too much. But mostly the US, for having been the only nation to have used a nuclear/atomic bombs against a civilian population, not once but TWICE.

Posted by dushenko | Report as abusive
 

“Sanctions are a factor in starvation in North Korea and poverty in Cuba, and caused a dramatic increase in child mortality in Iraq in the 1990s — the dead being children of average families, not of government elites.”!!!

Cuba, perhaps – the Mafia cast Cuba’s image with the USA when Nixon was in power.

But North Korea? Iraq? COME ON!!! These are blatant lies – precisely the sort of thing the North Koreans and Iraqi Ba’athists want people to believe.

Iraq deliberately starved their own people and deprived them of medical care, in order to get Western people to protest against the sanctions which permitted Iraq to import as much food and medicine as they wanted.

North Koreans have only been kept alive by Western aid- but you can bet your bottom dollar the North Korean government does everything they can to give their people the impression the aid comes straight from the Great Leader himself, and not from those ostensibly belligerent bourgois charlatans across the border in the South…

Sanctions on military technology have not been a problem for food for a long time… But there are plenty of dictatorships that see an opportunity for national unity in the prospect of maintaining a “siege” mentality among their people.

Who is to blame in North Korea? They let millions of their own people die or come close to starvation, before allowing the West to get some idea that their “Juche” self-reliance ideology had failed them. We can all see clearly that ideology is more important than human lives, to these little dictators who seek to prevent Western “interference” through the acquisition of nuclear arms.

Posted by compsci | Report as abusive
 

Agree with drewbie but not quite sure where Tical has been for the last decade. The entire premise of this article is fundamentally flawed.

The argument above is primarily predicated on the nation of Iran choosing not to engage as a nation. The argument is likely a sound one and if that’s all that was at stake, we would be far less concerned. Self-determination and self-defense are valid rights and the Iranian people have every reason to expect to be able to assert them. All the bluster with the Shahab launches is probably geared towards advancing the “Don’t bully me” component. However…

Use the words proliferator or the term state sponsor on here and you get a regrettable reflex post terming the US or other major powers as hypocritical for their own stances, but US$200 million a year flows from Iran to Hezbollah and to think that Iran wouldn’t (quickly) give Hezbollah a fissile device and work with them to deliver it is simply stupid. The 60 ton weapons shipment interdicted by Israel on 4 November last year from the Iranian government to Hezbolloah is but one example why one ought be very concerned.

Regardless of your stance on Palestinian rights or that of Israel’s, logic screams that Iran’s current anti-Semitic leadership would get behind the wheel of the weapon carrier themselves to take an atomic weapon to the Lebanese border via Syria if need be to ensure delivery. That stance has nothing to do with Iranian sovereignty or self-defense, and everything to do with deep and abiding ties to a group willing and able to carry out a strike with such a weapon, and in so doing carry out Iranian leadership’s regional goals.

“What will Iran do with nuclear weapons? Probably Nothing” direct – they’ll give it to a proxy that will do it for them.

Posted by johannesg | Report as abusive
 

>>>HBC: “Alleging that others have them who don’t is quite simply improper, shameless behavior for any self-respecting nation.” Well, Iraq pretended they had them… They pretended it all along. They defied the international sanctions, not because they had WMDs, but because they wanted to APPEAR to the Iranians as though they had them. So who is to blame here?

Posted by compsci | Report as abusive
 

Mr. Easterbrook writes that “atomic power hasn’t allowed Pakistan or India to bully neighbors”. Wrong. India has been for many years the victim of numerous terrorist attacks, the most shocking of which was the 2008 Mumbai attack. Most if not almost all of those attacks have had their origins in Pakistan, directly or indirectly. Pakistan has supported terrorism against its arch rival India in the knowledge that it can act with impunity due to its atomic arsenal. This is where the real threat of a nuclear Iran exists. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons most observers do not believe that Iran will launch an unprovoked attack. Rather, it will use its new status to dramatically increase its destabilizing activity across the Middle East.

As for diplomatic engagement, it works most of the time but it has been a failure with North Korea because the regime is irrational. Iran likewise has an irrational regime, so prospects for diplomacy are questionable.

Posted by DanToronto | Report as abusive
 

Great point, Tical

Posted by Denisok | Report as abusive
 

This has got to be the most sensible intellegent article I have ever seen regarding Iran and nukes. My hat is off to Mr. Easterbrook.

Posted by soWhatever | Report as abusive
 

Gregg Easterbrook is spot on, all the noise making on Iran is to do with power and domination. Not about Mullahs, Human rights, security or threats against Israel like these pea headed leaders would want us to believe and i fully support the Iranian quest for Nukes. Its the only deterent bullies respect.

Posted by Alive | Report as abusive
 

“dull-witted anti-Semite Mahmoud Ahmadinejad” gave the world many reasons to be despised for, but there’s one thing for which he deserves due credit. He speaks as he thinks, and he does as he speaks. Many times over he declared his desire to “wipe Israel off the map”. So far he has no means to follow through. However it would be only a question of time when he acquires the means. Nukes are the means. The thought of Tehran being obliterated by Israeli response would hardly deter him for the following simple reasons. Firstly, he, his cronies, and their families will be sheltered deep underground in a bunker. Secondly, he sincerely believes that the ordinary Iran citizens that would die in the strike shall go directly to their muslim paradise complete with virgins, so they would actually be benefited.
The Soviet, Chinese, and even N. Korean Communists were/are mostly concerned with their regime survival, but they were/are rational. The Indian and Pakistani leaders are mostly concerned with deterrence against each other, but they are rational, too. The religious fanatics like Ahmadinejad are irrational.

Posted by An0nym0us | Report as abusive
 

Not a very deeply researched article, I’m afraid:
Unlike some other countries that possess nuclear weapons, Iran is seeking to dominate the region it’s located in, I.E. the Middle East, by exporting their aggressive ideology, and by financing and arming various militant groups and political parties in neighboring countries (E.G. Hamas, Hezbollah, Taliban, Al Qaeda etc.)

A nuclear Iran is the world’s worst nightmare, since it would mean a substantial increase in the chronic instability of that strategic, oil-rich region.
It must not happen.

Posted by yr2009 | Report as abusive
 

Israel needs to fight its own wars, instead of having the US do it for them. The only reason the United States is threatened, is because we support Israel. The problem is having rich Jews involved in our politics.

Posted by husseinstein | Report as abusive
 

In respect of “Probably nothing”, the comments on the Persian Empire and reference to the 300 remind one that Sparta was also known as Laconia and famous for its economy in expression. When advised by the Athenians that, if they were to invade Sparta, the results would be unpleasant, the Spartans were reported to have replied simply “If”. I personally am uncomfortable betting on “Probably” as a guide to formulating policy.

Posted by getpress | Report as abusive
 

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