the problem with iran

I have a few questions after reading this and this about Iran’s attempts to acquire The Bomb, and some assumptions made in the public debate about it:

  1. “Iran acquiring the bomb represents an immediate threat to Israel’s security because of the threat that Iran would launch a pre-emptive strike, as evidenced by Ahmadinejad generally being a crazy fucker in public.” Is that really the case? Let’s not forget that Israel is already packing and has been for a while now. A nuclear strike on Israel by Iran would mean Iran would quickly be turned into a glass parking lot, if not by Israel, then by the US. Ahmadinejad’s crazed rhetoric should be treated as just that. Provided he’s even still around by the time Iran would ever feasibly acquire the bomb, I’m not prepared to assume that a suicidal strike on Israel follows.</li>

    • “Iran acquiring the bomb represents an immediate threat to Israel’s (or any other pro-western country, including the US itself) security because even if they didn’t launch an attack, they could leak uh, something, to terrorists who could then use it without (or in spite of) the danger of nuclear reprisal.” But how likely is this?

      First of all, we’ve already had instances of nuclear material and technology being unaccounted for after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and yet we’ve never seen even a “dirty bomb” attack, much less an actual nuclear strike. Second, is Al Qaeda-type an organization capable of taking much of anything beyond the final product of a nuclear weapons program and using it? Not likely. Is Iran’s nuclear program going to be capable of producing the sort of suitcase nukes that would be the most dangerous result of a nuclear program in even 10 years? 15? Not likely. The IISS’s dossier on Iran’s nuclear program puts even basic capabilities for bomb production at 10 years out – other assessments are more pessimistic, but they make assumptions of an optimum of efficiency along with no entanglements with the international community which are, quite frankly, not very realistic.</li>

      • Is the political situation in Iran not one that would favor a more even-handed approach? There’s a larger middle-class and a thriving, if stifled, reformist opposition to the hard-liners. Could the political status-quo in Iran survive UN-imposed sanctions (assuming we avoid the sort of humanitarian disasters that plagued the UN sanctions in Iraq)?</ol>

      So while I don’t entirely subscribe to Waltz’s take on nuclear proliferation in general, I think it’s a good reference for the situation in Iran. What do we really stand to lose in the near-term by attempting to allow inspections and diplomacy to run its course? Very little, in my opinion. That’s not a prescription for complacency, but just something to keep in mind as the Bush administration interventionist war-machine starts gearing up, or in the case that Israel launches a pre-emptive strike in an attempt to draw in the US.