Iran and the Bomb. Does it matter if Iran eventually acquires a nuclear bomb?

April 23, 2010

I have a host of questions rather than answers about the entire subject of Iran and the bomb. Perhaps more intelligent readers of my blog [if that is not a contradiction in terms] can supply some.

First, is it inevitable that Iran will one day soon acquire a nuclear bomb? Many analysts have poured contempt on the naivety of Obama administration's contention that sanctions, yet to be applied, will somehow stop Iran's determination to go ahead. Sanctions did not work against North Korea, and there is no reason to think they will in the case of Iran. Will China and Russia back the USA? Would a blockade work? How would that effect the price of oil? Is Obama seriously leaving open the option of using force, or is it more "let me make it clear" and "I am really serious this time" kind of pusillanimous rhetoric?

Second, why should Iran not have the bomb? Is it just Western arrogance that conludes that only the West can behave responsibly? After all Pakistan, India, China and North Korea also have the bomb, along with the USA, UK, Russia, France and Israel, and they have not used them, even when they were engaged in military conflict in the last sixty five years. Would the acquisition of the bomb by Iran not encourage others in the region to try and acquire one? It surely would, and the more states with nuclear bombs the greater the instability, especially in a region already unstable.

Third, is it also inevitable that Iran will use nuclear weapons against the West, and Israel? It would be foolish for Iran to launch any attacks against the USA or any of the NATO countries, since Iran would suffer heavy retaliation with millions dead. How could it possibly attack Israel without annihilating the very people it claims to be protecting, the Palestinians? It would not attack Jerusalem since that would obliterate a holy Muslim site. And again, Israel would reply in kind with devastating results.

In that case, why on earth does Iran want the bomb? Prestige? Does the bomb make the Iranians less vulnerable to attack? It is pointless trying to get into the mind of people who do not think like we do.

French philosopher Christian Godin recently pointed out that Islamic totalitarianism is potentially far more dangerous than either the Nazi or Communist variety, since the latter, despite their exterminating follies, presupposed their own preservation. For the Nazi, the inferior race does not deserve to exist; for the Stalinist, the enemy of the people does not merit to continue living; for the Islamist, it is the world itself that does not deserve to exist.

A Holocaust survivor, a man in his late eighties, was asked what lessons he learned after so many years of reflection on the terrible events of the Twentieth Century, thought for a minute and then replied, "When someone tells you he is going to kill you, believe him".




Comments:

#1 SimonSays on Friday April 23, 2010 at 2:58pm

One thing that should be noted that just about never gets mentioned. When Obama (or any other world leader for that matter), “leaves open the use of force” or says “all options are on the table”, etc. this is arguably a violation of Article 2 of the UN Charter:

4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Charter#Article_2

Why does anyone want a nuclear weapon? Generally as a deterrent. I am no fan of Ahmedinejad, however at least Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and Pakistan and submits to inspections unlike Israel, India, and Pakistan. Also, given that there are hundreds of thousands of US and NATO troops on countries on both west and east of Iran, warships going up and down the Persian Gulf, a history of foreign interventions, and an 8-year war with Iraq which was armed largely by the US it’s clear that *any* leader in his position has cause to be very uncomfortable, especially given the huge strategic disadvantage that Iran has without a NATO-like regional alliance.

My understanding is that the latest intelligence to come out of the US into the public domain was from end of 2007 and shows that they stopped pursuing weapons in 2003: http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/03/iran.nuclear/index.html

#2 Michael Labeit (Guest) on Friday April 23, 2010 at 3:43pm

Inescapable questions.

-Is it inevitable that Iran will one day soon acquire a nuclear bomb?

Its at least conceivable. The Iranian government possesses a multitude of uranium centrifuges as well as the vehicle for a nuclear warhead, i.e., the Shahab missile series. I’m no expert but I think that the following conditional proposition is true: If the Iranian government’s nuclear weapons program is not forcibly obstructed externally, then it will eventually yield a nuclear armament.

-Will China and Russia back the USA?

No, I don’t think so. The Chinese and Russian governments are actually accessories in the Iranian government’s nuclear weapons program. The Chinese government wants resources to fuel the growth of its economy, specifically original factors of production like copper (which they get from Peru) and sugar (which they get from Brazil). The Chinese, perhaps above all, want oil and the Iranian government (which controls the production and distribution of oil within Iran) has been willing to supply Chinese with cheaper oil with the condition that the Chinese government obstruct attempts to levy sanctions and condemnatory human rights declarations upon the Iran at the UN.

The Russian government is participating in the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran and has planned on selling anti-aircraft paraphrenalia to the Iranian government, presumably to enable the Iranian military to defend against an airstrike.

-Would a blockade work?

I don’t think so. I assume that the Iranian government can be supplied inland with the capital goods it needs to construct a nuclear warhead. If the U.S. blockaded the Strait of Hormuz and discriminated against Iranian-bound ships, this would perhaps encourage the Iranian navy to attack in an attempt to lift the blockade. The U.S. submarine fleet would subsequently trounce the Iranian navy.

-How would that effect the price of oil?

If the U.S. navy blockaded the Strait of Hormuz, then the Iranian government woud probably halt the production and exportation of crude oil, sending the price exorbitantly high and making oil speculators fantastically wealthy. However, the Iranian government needs to export oil in order to earn revenue, so its production and exportation halt would have to be temporary.

-Is Obama seriously leaving open the option of using force, or is it more “let me make it clear” and “I am really serious this time” kind of pusillanimous rhetoric?

Officially, yes. The Nuclear Posture Review of 2010 allows the use of nuclear weapons against the governments of Iran and North Korea. However, I don’t think for a second that Obama is willing to use military force against the Iranian government. Instead, President Obama has, I think, tried to gain cooperation from Iran and other Islamic belligerents by criticizing the conduct of the Israeli government. I do not think it will work. He has yet to warn the Iranian government, a la Harry Truman, that further refusal to cease their nuclear weapons programs will result in a forcible military response.

-Second, why should Iran not have the bomb?

The Iranian government should not possess a nuclear weapon because it is not at all certain that the Iranian government is deterrable. They may actually use it. The Soviet goverment was deterrable because it had no religious, supernatural agenda, ergo it was made up of people who did not believe that an afterlife awaited them after death. By contrast, the mullahs who run the Iranian government, including Ahmadinejad and the leaders of the Revolutionary Guard, believe that they can summon a prophet (the 12th Imam) by launching a nuclear attack against Israel or the U.S.

A nuclear Iran would also be the greatest insurance policy for the terrorist proxies of the Iranian government, Hamas and Hezbollah. They would be enabled to resume attacking Israel almost with impunity, since the Israel government would be unable to attack the Iranian government which finances the operations of those groups.

-Is it just Western arrogance that conludes that only the West can behave responsibly?

This is a popular notion within American academia. Unlike what I think many argue, there is not a moral equivalence between the governments of the West and the Iranian government. The military history of the West, I argue, demonstrates that Western nuclear powers are both capable and willing to act responsibly with respect to their possession of nuclear weapons. The only time a Western government used nuclear weapons was against an aggressor (I willing to debate the morality of Hiroshima and Nagasaki if anyone’s interested, since I don’t assume that we all agree that those incidents were moral or immoral).

However, the history of the Iranian government demonstrates clearly that it is more than willing to use Islamic-inspired coercion against innocents. A nuclear weapon would enhance their ability to do so.

-After all Pakistan, India, China and North Korea also have the bomb, along with the USA, UK, Russia, France and Israel, and they have not used them, even when they were engaged in military conflict in the last sixty five years.

Again, all those who possess the authority to use nuclear weapons within the above respective countries are deterrable. Even in Pakistan - the nuclear weapons there are safeguarded by a military who would cordially execute any Islamic coup attempters.

-Would the acquisition of the bomb by Iran not encourage others in the region to try and acquire one?

Probably.

-Third, is it also inevitable that Iran will use nuclear weapons against the West, and Israel?

Its certainly possible, but such a possibility is fundamentally different from, say, the possibility that the U.S. will nuke Malta. Strictly speaking, the latter is metaphysically possible, yet its astronomically improbable. The possibility of an Iranian-influenced nuclear attack against the U.S. is not astronomically improbable. Its even more probable against Israel. In fact, the Ahmadinejad has expressed his yearning to “wipe Israel off the map.” Some will say this is mere saber-rattling. I’m disclined to believe this, given that the Iranian government eagerly finances Islamic terrorism and that its motivated by Islamic radicalism.

Sure, it would be fantastically haphazard for the Iranian government to launch a nuclear attack, since such an attack would provoke a holocaustic response from both Israel and the U.S.

However, the Iranian government would not have to launch its nuclear weapons in order to use its nuclear weapons. As long as it can give the global community the impression that its willing to use nuclear weapons, it can make extraordinary demands and conduct itself without regard to individual rights.

With regard to attacking Israel, the Iranian government indeed would not attack Jerusalem but I’m guessing their primary target would be Tel Aviv.

-In that case, why on earth does Iran want the bomb? Prestige? Does the bomb make the Iranians less vulnerable to attack?

Again, so that it can make extraordinary demands and further misbehave within the region.

#3 Michael Labeit (Guest) on Friday April 23, 2010 at 3:56pm

SimonSays writes,

“I am no fan of Ahmadinejad, however at least Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and Pakistan and submits to inspections unlike Israel, India, and Pakistan.”

I argue that the Iranian government’s status as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not lend much credit to the Iranian government. This status does not existentially prohibit them from pursuing nuclear weapons, it does so only legally. Even Chomsky believes they are pursuing nuclear weapons. Furthermore, I think its indisputable that the Iranian government wants nuclear weapons in its possession. (Unfortunately, I can’t post any links)

#4 Michael Labeit (Guest) on Friday April 23, 2010 at 3:59pm

I should have added that I don’t share your trepidation over the lack of inspections of Israeli nuclear armaments. I argue that Israel is a liberal, market economy and its government has given no serious indication that its willing to use nuclear weapons recklessly.

#5 Max (Guest) on Saturday April 24, 2010 at 6:44am

Iran’s nukes would be worse than North Korea’s nukes. North Korea signed the NPT too before pulling out. What does North Korea do with its nukes? Hold South Korea hostage, demand food and oil and tell its citizens that the foreign aid is “offerings”, proliferate nuclear technology to countries like Syria, etc.

Iran’s threats already compel Arab states to spend billions of dollars on missile defense, because they’re the likely targets.
But if Iran does attack Western targets, don’t expect it to be an ICBM attack that prompts immediate nuclear retaliation. Expect Hezbollah to use a truck bomb, as they did to bomb the US and French barracks in Beirut and the Israeli embassy and a Jewish cultural center in Argentina. By the time the bombing is traced to Iran, nuclear retaliation will seem less urgent.

SimonSays,
>My understanding is that the latest intelligence to come out of the US into the public domain was from end of 2007 and shows that they stopped pursuing weapons in 2003

This news is from last week, April 14
“Pentagon: Iran needs 3-5 years to build usable atom bomb”

#6 Max (Guest) on Saturday April 24, 2010 at 6:48am

Here’s the link to that news item
“Pentagon: Iran needs 3-5 years to build usable atom bomb”
reuters.com/article/idUSTRE63D3FC20100414

#7 SimonSays on Saturday April 24, 2010 at 7:13am

Max: From the Reuters article you supplied:

U.S. intelligence agencies sought to complete a new National Intelligence Estimate that will assess Tehran’s nuclear progress.

The latest National Intelligence Estimate was published in 2007 (see my link). The 3-5 year time frame is not different from the 2007 report which had a 2010-2015 time frame.

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