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Monday, May 03, 2010

How to deal with a nuclear Iran

In Sunday's Wall Street Journal, former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton discusses the prospects for 'containing' a nuclear Iran.
The further pursuit of sanctions is tantamount to doing nothing. Advocating such policies only benefits Iran by providing it cover for continued progress toward its nuclear objective. It creates the comforting illusion of "doing something." Just as "diplomacy" previously afforded Iran the time and legitimacy it needed, sanctions talk now does the same.

Speculating about regime change stopping Iran's nuclear program in time is also a distraction. The Islamic Revolution's iron fist, and willingness to use it against dissenters (who are currently in disarray), means we cannot know whether or when the regime may fall. Long-term efforts at regime change, desirable as they are, will not soon enough prevent Iran from creating nuclear weapons with the ensuing risk of further regional proliferation.

We therefore face a stark, unattractive reality. There are only two options: Iran gets nuclear weapons, or someone uses pre-emptive military force to break Iran's nuclear fuel cycle and paralyze its program, at least temporarily.

There is no possibility the Obama administration will use force, despite its confused and ever-changing formulation about the military option always being "on the table." That leaves Israel, which the administration is implicitly threatening not to resupply with airplanes and weapons lost in attacking Iran—thereby rendering Israel vulnerable to potential retaliation from Hezbollah and Hamas.

It is hard to conclude anything except that the Obama administration is resigned to Iran possessing nuclear weapons. While U.S. policy makers will not welcome that outcome, they certainly hope as a corollary that Iran can be contained and deterred. Since they have ruled out the only immediate alternative, military force, they are doubtless now busy preparing to make lemonade out of this pile of lemons.

President Obama's likely containment/deterrence strategy will feature security assurances to neighboring countries and promises of American retaliation if Iran uses its nuclear weapons. Unfortunately for this seemingly muscular rhetoric, the simple fact of Iran possessing nuclear weapons would alone dramatically and irreparably alter the Middle East balance of power. Iran does not actually have to use its capabilities to enhance either its regional or global leverage.

Facile analogies to Cold War deterrence rest on the dubious, unproven belief that Iran's nuclear calculus will approximate the Soviet Union's. Iran's theocratic regime and the high value placed on life in the hereafter makes this an exceedingly dangerous assumption.

Even if containment and deterrence might be more successful against Iran than just suggested, nuclear proliferation doesn't stop with Tehran. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and perhaps others will surely seek, and very swiftly, their own nuclear weapons in response. Thus, we would imminently face a multipolar nuclear Middle East waiting only for someone to launch first or transfer weapons to terrorists. Ironically, such an attack might well involve Israel only as an innocent bystander, at least initially.

We should recognize that an Israeli use of military force would be neither precipitate nor disproportionate, but only a last resort in anticipatory self-defense. Arab governments already understand that logic and largely share it themselves. Such a strike would advance both Israel's and America's security interests, and also those of the Arab states.
This, my friends, is the stark reality. And perhaps the only way to deal with it now is to begin pushing for increased American arms sales to Israel to make up in advance the potential shortfall resulting from losses in an attack on Iran.

In Ethics of the Fathers (Massecheth Avoth) it says "in a place where there are no men, be a man." We are rapidly approaching that reality.


At 12:16 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

For Israel there is only one option. And sanctions are not going to be effective quickly enough to stop Iran. That is why Israel has to keep the military option on the table and time is growing short to deal with the nuclear threat from Iran.

At 4:17 PM, Blogger Andre (Canada) said...

I think John Bolton is wrong in one way: Obama has not already accepted the fact that Iran will become a nuclear power. Obama is actually actively encouraging it as demonstrated by the fact that he is pushing for watered-down sanctions through congress so that Russia and China could continue supplying Iran unencumbered. This is just one step short of supplying Iran with whatever it needs. Obama is in fact helping Russia and China continue their policy of supplying Iran with the raw materials, equipment and know-how to become a nuclear power. Obama should be remembered as the real father of the Iran atomic bomb.

At 5:06 PM, Blogger nomatter said...

The military option truly is the only way out however where do they re-fuel? What about emergency landings? How many planes are needed and who will mind the "store" in the event neighbors attack and air attacks are needed in response?

Sadly, the world has turned their backs again. The weak sanctions of the past lacked any kind of bite. (Sort of like shooting honey at a swarm of bees.) No one can tell me, those that imposed them thought for one second they would work. What does that tell you?

When Bolten speaks of "containment" he has to know the time has passed and plan B is the only way out. Ok, so they are loading us up on the trains again and no one gives a flying you know what.

At 5:16 PM, Blogger nomatter said...

Andre Canada
"Obama should be remembered as the real father of the Iran atomic bomb."

Obama will be remembered for allowing the Genie out of the bottle but those before him knew the direction Iran was headed and did nothing except pass the gauntlet on to the next occupant of the White House. The only thing they didn't know was the next occupant would be a flaming Utopian narcissist, hostile against Israel.

Everything has a beginning. Every road leads to the same place. Iran was working toward being a nuclear force to be reckoned with long before Obama. Therein lies the rub.

Ignore the obvious and a price will be paid.


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