It has been known since the mid-1970s that Iran had begun its quest for nuclear weaponry while the Shah was still in power and that by the mid-1980s when the Ayatollahs took over after the Iranian revolution. It has even been made clear that the 2003 NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) which put forth the claim that the Iranians had halted their research towards becoming the next nuclear power was totally false. And now, with last week’s IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) report making it abundantly certified that the worst predictions on the Iranian drive to nuclear arms are valid, what steps will the Security Council of the United Nations and the leaders of the top countries of the world take to prevent Iran attaining nuclear military capabilities. Whether anybody takes action or decides no action is necessary will boil down to the single question; would Iran be using nuclear weapons freely as just another weapon in their arsenal or could they be deterred or relied upon to use discretion and restrain from unleashing such unthinkable devastation with the accompanying lingering consequences that go with a nuclear attack. A miscalculation here could very well lead to unthinkable horrors for the world, and not just Israel as many so-called experts have claimed.
What has become evident is that the old Cold War rivalry that was pronounced dead with the falling of the Berlin Wall has been resurrected placing both Russia and China in the contrarian position of opposing any and everything proposed by the West, Israel, or against the Arab and Muslim world which they have chosen to back with arms sales and nuclear technological. Such aid has taken the form of assistance with building nuclear reactors, advanced missile technology and assistance in their nuclear efforts. This renewed rivalry guarantees inaction by the Security Council or any other arm of the United Nations. It was this opposition to meaningful sanctions from round one through every set of sanctions that had to be watered down to the point of being meaningless and little more than an inconvenience rather than a prevention of the Iranian nuclear program. With the United Nations and related institutions and agencies out of the picture due to the guaranteed veto in the Security Council and the Socialist and Muslim mutual support faction controlling the General Assembly, solutions are going to have to come from somewhere else. This leads either a NATO operation or an alliance of Western Nations to take definitive action. This would beg an initial question of what form such action should take that would have a definitive possibility of success.
The preferential route would be straight forward negotiations. Unfortunately, Iran has already displayed that they simply use negotiations as a means of stalling other potentially more effective actions from being implemented. Any seeming agreement for negotiations should be seen as a stalling maneuver and not an honest desire for reaching an accord. The next slightly more assertive alternative which has been explored in a limited manner would be sanctions. The limited sanctions which were allowable by Russian and Chinese opposition to stricter restrictions have proven not only inadequate but borderline useless. Even the more strident sanctions put in place by most of the NATO nations have not been as effective as intended mostly due to the combination of some countries disregarding their promises to restrict their trade relations with Iran and the number of countries who refused to even sign on to punishing Iran for their continued nuclear program. The probability of assembling sufficient countries to apply the extremely restrictive sanctions necessitated to actually affect the Iranian nuclear program at its current advanced state is actionably impossible.
Before considering the next more active alternative, namely military strikes to delay or destroy the Iranian nuclear program, it is necessary to honestly assess the Iranian intent in attaining nuclear armaments. Some have made the claim that Iran would be deterred from ever deploying or using nuclear weapons once they attain such a capability simply by the same MAD (mutually assured destruction) policies which thankfully prevented a nuclear exchange during the many years of the Cold War. But, is that a valid point or are their reasons to doubt the ability of MAD to be an effective deterrent. Iranian leadership has been quoted as saying that, “Israel is a one bomb nation.” This is only a valid point if one is planning on using a thermonuclear warhead or a multiple warhead missile with simple atomic bombs. The Iranian leadership has often made references to using any means at their disposal to eradicate Israel and the United States even should it bring devastation upon Iran and the Iranian people. All of these types of comments are indications that Iran is developing nuclear weapons with the intent to actually use them. Even if there is the chance that such statements are simple bluster meant for internal consumption, except that many of these statements have been repeated outside of Iran and in broadcasts which were guaranteed to be heard and reported outside of Iran. Can anybody truly be completely assured that this is the case and not actual statements of intent? One must assume the worst when the ramifications of an action are as destructively devastating as a nuclear attack on any major city in any country. As such, all steps must be implemented in order to prevent those currently ruling in Iran from attaining nuclear weapons as it must be assumed by their own words that once they have some number of warheads, they will begin to use them.
What is depressing is that it just simply does not seem that any country is willing to take the Iran threat sufficiently seriously to take the needed action. France declared this past week that any military action against Iran was not an option that they would consider. President Obama has spoken and acted as if the United States was willing to take economic and political actions but are extremely reluctant to take any stronger measures and seems convinced that the MAD theory is applicable. Such lack of leadership by the United States would pretty much rule out any actions by the other NATO member countries as their militaries are pretty much dependent upon American assistance. This basically leaves Israel alone to possibly take the needed measures should Iran’s nuclear program reach such a critical and verifiable point. That begs the question that even should Israel take such a risk, would it be effective and how severe would be the reactions that most assuredly would result. It is a given fact that upon the first signs that the Iranian places of nuclear research, missile locations, military installations, communications centers, or ruling hierarchy had come under identifiable external military strikes, then Hezballah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and probably Syria would all begin launching missiles and rockets of all sizes, ranges and types of warheads into Israel with Tel Aviv being one of the main targets. There is the additional threat of having the Palestinian Authority joining the action as well as either Egypt or Turkey or both. No matter what combination of these forces which would begin hostilities against Israel, be Iran attacked by Israeli or United States forces, Israel would have to then divert every military capability they possess in order to prevent being overrun. This would not only make any Israeli strike on Iran a one shot deal before every military aircraft would be forced into defense of the home-front and targeting the launching points of the larger and most destructive missiles. Iran also would be using their longest range missiles to hit Israel as best they could. This has been an Iranian promise (threat) from day one if they were attacked by anybody. One could safely bet that even should Saudi Arabia attack Iran, Iran would first strike Israel before turning on Saudi Arabia. With the only Israeli option a one-time flight of, at most, half of their air force upon the Iranian nuclear weapons research centers and any other targets of particular interest, the larger part of Iranian facilities would not be able to even be struck successfully, let alone damaged. An Israeli attack would set Iran back probably less than two years, if that much, and would fill them with a deep resolve to finish their research and build the weapons needed to hit Israel with a devastating blow.
So, even an Israeli attack using a fair portion of their air force and a number of their long range missiles would leave Iran still pretty much in business nuclear speaking. The only form of attack from Israel that would guarantee an end to the Iranian missile and nuclear development and armament would have to include Israeli nuclear weapons, something Israel has sworn they would never use as a first strike weapon. The Israeli policy stands that if they have nuclear weapons, something assumed but never verified or admitted, that they would never be the first to use any weapons of mass destruction but reserved the right to use such weapons as an answer to being attacked by any country using weapons of mass destruction. Many hold that this threat is what prevented Saddam Hussein from using nerve agents on Israel when he launched scud missiles towards Tel Aviv during the Gulf War. This policy, which I have absolute faith would not be broken (Yes, even by Bibi Netanyahu or Avigdor Lieberman), precludes an Israeli attack on Iranian targets that would have sufficient impact to do enough damage to warrant even attempting the attack. So, an Israeli overt military attack is of doubtful, if any, effect and would not be sufficient a delay or deterrent to be worth the effort. Where does that leave the world?
We are right back where we started with an United Nations that has been castrated by those who are supporting Iran and working against the West and Israel, and with a NATO force without any support from the United States for as long as President Obama is in office (and very likely through whoever is elected in 2012 as the economy will be job one and only initially), and a United States concentrating laser-like on economic problems both at home and throughout the world (all of which promise to get a lot worse before they improve sufficiently to allow a broadened view of the world), and an Arab and Muslim world that is in flux and very unstable with Iran very likely to gain more allies as the new governments decide to turn towards Islamic Sharia as their base for governing. So, unless somebody steps into the breach in a Churchillian manner and boldly addresses the Iranian nuclear issue, it appears that very soon Iran will join the club of nuclear armed nations. Should such come to pass we can expect a flood of other countries to go nuclear within the following three to five years and a very unstable and unknowable future after that. Allowing Iran to go nuclear will usher in a whole new world which will likely not be a better place but rather a far more dangerous place that quickly dives right off the charts into unknowable and dangerous potentials. The one thing I can guarantee about such a world, no matter where you live outside Madagascar, your safety will be greatly decreased.
Beyond the Cusp