Letters

Iran: Nuclear arms could bring stability.

In the last edition, Yatindra Bhatnagar presented yet another case that Iran is “The greatest danger facing the world”: “Weapons of mass destruction are within the grasp of the most aggressive and daringly audacious country in the Middle East, and the threat of it is very real.” He then presents the case of why this is so.

His article, however, joins a long list of literature saying, in varying ways, the same things about Iran’s nuclear intentions.

Thirty two years ago, the late Chaim Herzog wrote a different piece about Iran. Titled “The Failure to Monitor Danger Properly,” he stated about the shock of the Iranian Revolution:

The recent and current events in Iran […] have tended to focus interest on the serious implications for the Western world inherent in them. But there is an aspect to these developments which has gone unnoticed and which must be a source of concern for the future.

The obvious question which must pose itself is why was the free world caught so unprepared by events which could have been anticipated […] given a balanced appreciation of developments in the world of Islam in general and in the Arab world in particular? [It’s] an alarming tendency on the part of intelligence organizations, foreign ministries and editorial boards to follow a line of least resistance, to adopt preconceived concepts, and to adhere to them even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

Herzog’s complaint about not enough original predictive analysis of the Shah’s collapse has been replaced by a chorus warning of Iran’s imminent acquisition of nuclear weapons for use against Israel and the Americans (if need be).

Says Bhatnagar: “The situation is even more dire considering Iran’s background and aims. […] Iran’s links with several terror organizations […] are well known.” And so on. This article speaks as a template for received and perceived wisdom about the pending nuclear danger that is Iran (to come).

Important to Iranian conduct are the impact of sanctions imposed because of its nuclear ambitions. Notes Bhatnagar, en passant: “In the last week of July, the United States’ congress was grappling with the issue of sanctions.”

A 2006 report in The Washington Quarterly, however, indicates Iran has sidestepped most sanctions:

Having survived 25 years of isolation, war, and sanctions, Iran’s leadership is no longer willing to bargain away its national security concerns, nuclear ambitions, human rights policy, or commercial creativity for unfavorable Western political and trade incentives. The Iranian regime is looking to the East, where human rights violations and proliferation proclivities are considered practical matters of regime survival.

Iran has searched for and found strategic partners willing to accept its nefarious activities and willing to deal with it on a quid pro quo basis. Iran’s carefully cultivated relationships with China, Russia, and India are providing it with the economic and political coverage that it could never obtain from the West.

As for sabre rattling rhetoric, entering the mindset of the Iranian leadership is more challenging. Like Hitler, will the Iranians do exactly what they say they will? Or is all of their talk basically proud chest thumping intended for domestic consumption? Bhatnagar rightly points out Iran’s use of “proxy” forces — the Hezbollah of Lebanon — to bolster the case of Teheran’s evil intent. But the United States has used proxies for years — CIA Funding for Mujahideen in Aghanistan during the Soviet occupation, the Iran Contra affair. “Evil” depends upon which end of the telescope is being used.

More importantly, supplying arms and funds to subversive groups is not on the same scale as preparing for a nuclear showdown or knowing exactly how this will be carried out. The blog Beyond the Cusp assessed the situation as follows in October:

If Iran is intending to try and bring about an Israeli apocalypse, what would they utilize as a delivery method? Would they use a ballistic missile, a bombing with aircraft, a ship with a registry which would not cause suspicion pulling into Haifa or Tel Aviv marinas, or a cement truck or other land vehicle capable of carrying the device infiltrating through the West Bank, or any other conceivable method.

Rather than lingering with dread and fear on Iranian rhetoric, assessing its’ leadership mindset is more critical. Is it rational, irrational, or simply insane (and/or suicidal). Each of these states of mind requires a different set of actions and determines what is needed to prevent Iran from an attack with WMDs on Israel.

It cannot be said that a preemptive strike on Iran will destroy it’s nuclear capabilities. It will either miss some facilities deliberately spread out. Or it will just delay Iran’s future capabilities once it recovers from any preemptive attack. Israel knows this and is sensitive to this.

So, reports Beyond the Cusp, “deterrence is the sole solution to the Iranian nuclear threat that can be considered and implemented which would be sane, rational, workable, and have any chance of effectiveness”:

The one thing that must be kept in mind is that the deterrence must be effective no matter whether the leadership of Iran is rational, irrational or simply insane. […] Unfortunately, one of the conditions that must be satisfied when deterring Iran is that the leadership is now or may in the future be suicidally inclined. So, we can rule out mutually assured destruction as a viable deterrence. It is at this point that […] makes the call for a preemptive strike. […] There is […] one thing which […] would be applicable not only to Iran, but would also apply to the rest of the Muslim world. Israel must make it known that should they face annihilation […] Israel would launch a massive retaliatory strike. […] Initial targets would be the major cities of the attacking nation or nations. This would not serve as sufficient deterrence should Iranian leadership be either irrational or simply insane. To make the deterrence actually workable, it needs to have a secondary set of targets. […] Israel needs to identify particular targets that are of such value to Muslims that to even consider testing Israeli resolve on such a threat would be unthinkable. […] For example, in Egypt the Aswan Dam would be destroyed which would cause irreversible damage to the entire Nile Valley and Nile Delta. The final sets of targets that Israel would include are targets that are universal in their value throughout the Muslim World. These would include but not be limited to Mecca; Medina; Qom, Iran; Mashhad, Iran; Najaf, Iraq; Karbala, Iraq; all Muslim Holy Sites upon the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Israel; and other selected locations which house other equally important sites important to all of Islam and to each of Islam’s major factions, Sunni, Shiite, and Sufi. By making the retaliatory attack diverse in order that all sects of Islam pay a price and also choosing those sites which are particular to each sect of Islam, this would cause every sect of Islam and Muslims everywhere to have a stake in preventing any such attack upon Israel.

Iran is on a dangerous path, indeed. Or is it?

In Foreign Affairs, Kenneth Waltz maintains that a nuclear Iran would probably be the best possible result: the one most likely to restore stability to the Middle East. He argues that other countries which have gone nuclear became very conservative with their threats and capabilities. India and Pakistan, for instance, have maintained very correct positions to each other despite their historic differences.

Peter Beeching
Toronto, Ontario

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