On a theoretical level, one may be willing to minimize the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran due to Israel’s and America’s deterrent power, and willing to accept Iran’s regional influence under the protection of a nuclear umbrella. I think there are reasonable arguments in defense of both propositions.
But on a very practical level, there are three reasons why Iran’s mastering of the nuclear fuel enrichment cycle while remaining non-compliant with the NPT poses real threats to regional and global stability. To begin with, it further de-legitimzes the NPT at a time when it has already been severely destabilized. (Yes, the US-India deal contributes to this process.) Second, it has already caused a rush on the nuclear bank, with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Morocco and Libya already declaring their intentions to go nuclear within the next 15-20 years. (Keep a close watch on Turkey, which for the time being has had trouble finding a seismically safe location for its declared nuclear ambitions.) That process could be reversed with a NPT-based resolution to the Iran standoff. It’s unstoppable in the absence of one. Third, it will likely push Israel to shed even more of its posture of nuclear ambiguity than what Ehud Olmert revealed in apparently off the cuff remarks earlier this year, which would only accelerate the aforementioned regional race for nuclear capacities.
In other words, it’s a good thing that Cheney and his gang’s nonsense have been revealed for the Iraq redux they are. But that doesn’t diminish the need to deal very carefully with the very real dangers presented by an Iranian nuclear program outside the auspices of the NPT. One of the strongest arguments often made against the Iraq War, both in the run up and the aftermath, was that it was a needless distraction from North Korea and Iran, two countries whose nuclear ambitions were further advanced and more determined. Nothing about the catastrophic nature of the Iraq War diminishes the argument, as demonstrated by North Korea’s newfound nuclear status. The NIE confirms that Iran has proven more cautious than North Korea, but it doesn’t say anything about what happens next.
Judah @ Headline Junky, Hold The NIE Euphoria
h/t Kevin Drum
Related: Reese Erlich:
The real dispute between the United States and Iran has little to do with Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons. The Bush administration declared Iran to be part of the “axis of evil” and has been pursuing a policy of “regime change,” a euphemism for the U.S. overthrow of an internationally recognized government. The United States has adopted different tactical positions, sometimes calling for tightening sanctions, other times threatening military strikes. But the long-term goal is installing a friendly regime.
Let’s say Iran stopped all nuclear programs tomorrow, which was verified by international inspectors. The United States could start a new campaign based on its current claim that Iran is “the most active sponsor of state terrorism” in the world.25 Iran could give terrorist groups chemical weapons. Iran has missiles capable of hitting Tel Aviv and U.S. military bases in the Middle East. Iran presents an immediate danger because of its support for terrorism. Time for regime change.
Is Iran currently developing nuclear weapons? No. Could it do so sometime in the future? Sure. According to the [IAEA Director General Mohamed] ElBaradei, some 49 countries “now know how to make nuclear arms,” including Japan, South Korea, and other U.S. allies. Neither the United States nor the UN Security Council can militarily prevent each of those countries from making a bomb, said ElBaradei. “We are relying primarily on the continued good intentions of these countries, intentions which are in turn based on their sense of security….”26
The only way to insure Iran doesn’t make nuclear weapons is to devise a political, not a military solution. If the people of Iran have a government that truly represents them, and the United States ceases its hostility and negotiates in good faith, Iran won’t see a need to develop nuclear weapons.
As they say, read the whole damn thing.