Everyone has given their picture of the horrors which would follow a nuclear armed Iran. Most of these warnings point to the possibility of Iran distributing their nuclear capabilities to their closest allies Syria and Hezballah in Lebanon. They explain how Iran might choose to attack Israel with a nuclear device smuggled into Israel by Hezballah in the north, by Hamas from the southwest, or Bedouins or others from within the Sinai Peninsula in the south. They mention that Iran could threaten Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE, and Bahrain with severe and dire consequences while loosing the Shiite populations in each country to serve whatever ends the Ayatollahs decide. Where these scenarios are troubling enough, they completely miss a far worse situation which is actually more likely. There have been some who have hinted at these problems but they warrant retelling.
All of the Sunni nations in the Middle East are fully aware of the threat they would face should Iran become a nuclear armed nation. The struggle for supremacy between Shiite and Sunnis Islam would become far more competitive with Iran having nuclear weapons with which to threaten the major Sunni powers who currently enjoy a measure of preeminence provided by their oil wealth. What has been omitted from many explanations of a future after Iran goes nuclear is that when Pakistan faced a nuclear armed India they went on an emergency nuclear weapons development program. This was an exceedingly costly program far beyond anything the Pakistani government could ever have afforded. Enter the ever helpful but not too egalitarian Saudis with all the cash that Pakistan would need. There was a very simple price for the assistance of the Saudis, the promise of nuclear weapons on demand should Saudi Arabia ever find themselves on the wrong end of a nuclear situation, say like Iranian threats. This agreement would provide the Saudis with a number of operative nuclear weapons along with the plans for building their own weapons once they put the processing and other required productions into place. There have been numerous conjectures to the number of weapons which would be provided the Saudis on demand with a dozen being the median figure which would be more than sufficient to keep Iran in check while the Saudis brought their own nuclear weapons program online. But the Saudis are but the first in a line of new nuclear powers which would result from a nuclear Iran.
There are other countries who would feel compelled to reply to a nuclear Iran by immediately developing their own nuclear arsenals. The idea that every nation in the Middle East, and even further, would be satisfied to rely on the United States nuclear umbrella to keep them safe is a foolish and silly belief. For starters, any nation which currently views themselves as being major players in the Middle East would take a nuclear armed Iran as an unacceptable challenge to their place in the order of the Middle East. Of these the first two which come to mind are Turkey and Egypt. Turkey and Egypt both have sufficient technology available to them to produce their own nuclear weaponry within a nominal amount of time, likely less than three years from inception to production of their first two or three devices. They would require negligible research times as access to plans for a nuclear weapon are readily available to any nation with sufficient money. The readily available sources for such plans are well known and include but are not limited to North Korea, Pakistan, China, Russia, and other former Soviet countries. Even without any assistance from a current nuclear power the designs for a simple nuclear device are readily available on the internet though not necessarily in sufficient detail to assemble one straight off those plans. But with sufficient engineering and nuclear physics expertise, nuclear weapon designs require mere months to successfully develop. With computer aided design it becomes even more readily accomplishable. But who else might decide they were in need of a nuclear arsenal should Iran complete their nuclear weapons plans?
The first suspects would likely be many European countries; especially Germany, Poland, Romania, and very likely all of the rest would either desire their own or would ally forming treaties of mutual protection with neighboring countries that were developing such weapons. England and France would likely resume building nuclear weapons and update any nuclear weapons they currently hold. Once any of the nations of North Africa developed nuclear weapons they might start a nuclear arms race through the rest of Africa. South Africa was once a nuclear power and who knows where those plans are now. Then one needs to reevaluate the equation even if only three or four nations in Africa manage to go nuclear and also look to Asia and South America. If Iran is allowed to go nuclear then the entirety of Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty goes out the window and a truly horrific domino theory will come to fruition. Such a world becomes the most ominous threat condition from which mankind may cease to exist along with near extinction event enveloping the world. Many of the nations which would become nuclear armed and enabled were either nonexistent or uninterested in the last World War and may not have taken the lesson of Nagasaki and Hiroshima to heart as those nations involved in World War II.
The United States and allies faced off against the Soviet Union and its allies in a nuclear standoff in which great care and mechanisms were built in to assure that no accidental confrontation would occur. Even with these precautions there were a number of times when the two sides came perilously close to the brink but fortunately never went beyond the cusp and committed their nuclear response. Once even one-third of the nations of the world possess nuclear weaponry the possibility of either a mistake or an intentional use of nuclear weapons would simply become a matter of time. Once one nation utilized nuclear weapons then either the attacked nation and the nations with which they have mutual defense treaties either respond in kind leading to an ever escalating nuclear conflagration or they stand down at which point every other nations’ nuclear deterrent becomes just one small bit less effective. Once a nation and their allies allow a nuclear attack to go without a response in kind then it becomes a measured consideration which would make the offensive use of nuclear weapons just a small amount more tempting. Since mankind has always used the weapon of previously unequaled destruction which ended the previous war to start the next war, how long before nuclear weapons become the first strike weapon of choice? Look at the evidence, the Ancient Greek used the Phalanx which was perfected by the Romans. World War I brought into use tanks and aircraft and World War II revolved around armor, bombers, and fighter aircraft. World War I used dreadnaughts which were the follow-up to the ironclads and metal warships of the American Civil War and the other wars between then and the outbreak of World War I. It may have been inevitable once mankind invented the nuclear weapon that it would be the weapon of initiation for World War III which may very likely be World War Last until the next intelligent species rises from the mire left afterwards. Maybe we should press for more actions to be committed for preventing Iran or anybody else developing and building nuclear weapons.
Beyond the Cusp