Nuclear Iran

The Iranian mullahs are intractable in their all-out push to achieve nuclear weapons as soon as possible. They cunningly toy with the West, while cynically insisting that their nuclear program is intended to only produce peaceful nuclear energy.

Rachel Neuwirth,

Rachel Neuwirth
Rachel Neuwirth
The Iranian mullahs are intractable in their all-out push to achieve nuclear weapons as soon as possible. They cunningly toy with the West, while cynically insisting that their nuclear program is intended to only produce peaceful nuclear energy. Meanwhile, they prevent full inspection, and disperse and hide their facilities in underground sites protected by ground-to-air missiles. They are repeatedly caught lying about their nuclear preparations and respond with more lies. They openly acquire offensive missiles with increasing capability to deliver nuclear payloads ever further and more accurately. They vow to exterminate Israel as soon as they achieve nuclear capability. The brazenness of the mullahs suggests a deep contempt for the West, and especially America, as they confidently flaunt their hatred and provocation and then dare us to do something about it.

The Bush Administration faces a grim dilemma while the mullahs pour out their invective and contempt towards us. Our so-called European 'allies' are insisting on a diplomatic solution, which means that we cannot count on them for much more than talk. Our government says that we are prepared to bring the matter before the Security Council, as if that is supposed to impress Iran. Such empty talk actually makes us look foolish and weak, because China, France and Russia will likely veto any UN sanctions, and even Britain is edging away from support for the US.

China just signed a seventy-billion-dollar deal to buy Iranian oil and Russia is proceeding to supply Iran with nuclear fuel to start up their 'peaceful reactor', despite urgings by the Bush administration to refrain from doing so. There are also reports that Iran was having difficulty processing uranium to weapons-grade concentration and may be opting to simply purchase it from cash-strapped North Korea. Yet, even suggesting a serious economic embargo at this time might be asking too much of our so-called allies, because it could raise the high price of oil still further and damage Western economies. Ultimately, they may even be prepared to live with a nuclear-armed Iran while retreating into their own world of denial and engaging in business-as-usual with Iran's mullahs, offering endless rationalizations.

Having stated repeatedly that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, President George Bush, who heads the world's presumed superpower, has raised the stakes and he must now deliver soon. If he doesn't, he will lose credibility, which would then further embolden our enemies. Iran and the world will smell fear and hesitation coming from the Bush administration.

The United States faces daunting choices. Unilateral military action to disarm Iran would entail great difficulty and high risk. We would be limited to air strikes against many dispersed and highly protected sites. A ground invasion is unlikely because our all-volunteer army is already deployed in Iraq, and Iran is strong on the ground. Iran's military has substantial firepower and could react fiercely if attacked, including missile strikes on US bases in the region. They could also attack Israel, which by now has no reason to heed any more US urgings about 'showing restraint' while their people are being blown up. An Israeli response could be massive, which could generate widespread Muslim rage against America. Having waited far too long to confront Iran, we are now virtually without allies while facing a powerful enemy who cannot be knocked out in a quick air strike, and who is totally ruthless.

Another daunting scenario is that Israel might be compelled to preempt to avoid facing nuclear annihilation. That would embarrass us with the Muslims, who would naturally blame America for anything done by Israel. George Bush and Bill Clinton both ignored long-standing and repeated Israeli warnings about Iran's nuclear weapons program and its public threats to exterminate Israel. But our government did express concern over Israel's possible preemptive action to neutralize the Iranian threat and how that would complicate our relations with the Arabs.

Another unspoken consideration may also be guiding US thinking. In World War II, we fought a schizophrenic war against Nazi Germany. On the one hand we fought the Germans fiercely and also aided our allies and various victims of the Nazis as well - but with one glaring exception. The US carefully avoided any action that would interfere with the extermination of European Jewry. For example, we bombed German rail lines, but never those leading directly to the death camps, even when asked to do so. Even then, were we pandering to the Arabs, who supported the Nazis and who opposed any help for the Jews?

In 1981, US intelligence had to know that Saddam Hussein's nuclear reactor at Osiraq was nearing completion and intended to provide nuclear weapons to attack Israel. And yet, the US allowed France to build that reactor, perhaps assuming that if Israel were the only target then 'we could live with that'. Also note the very harsh response of the US administration against Israel following its air strike on Osiraq. Instead of deserved congratulations, there was a suspension of American support as punishment and Vice President Bush was reported to have demanded that we bomb the Israeli air base that launched the strike. Yet, even Iraq's neighboring Arab countries felt relieved and safer after the Israeli action.

Today, the US and even the Europeans rightly fear a nuclear Iran under the extremist mullahs. But given the Jewish experience of World War II and of seeing the West allow Saddam Hussein to seek nuclear weapons - not once, but twice - we can now pose an 'ugly' question, however hypothetical. If the West could be assured that only Israel, and not the US or Europe, would be threatened by a nuclear Iran, would that then be acceptable? History suggests that the 'ugly' answer is probably "yes". But the problem now is that, unlike during World War II, those 'troublesome' Jews may refuse to die quietly for our convenience. Israel may realize that the US is an unreliable ally and decide to preempt. In a worst case scenario they can deliver a massive nuclear punch of their own with huge consequences. It seems that our problem is more to hold Israel back than to disarm Iran.

In all of this, our government seems reluctant to openly discuss other ramifications of a nuclear Iran. Iran's launching nuclear missiles directly at the West is not likely because that would obviously reveal their origin and bring immediate and awesome retaliation. The Iranians could easily intimidate the Europeans by merely issuing credible threats to 'play ball or else'. With Europe neutralized, they could then distribute easily smuggled small-size nuclear weapons and dirty bomb devices to Al-Qaeda for use inside the US while claiming plausible deniability. We cannot retaliate against an unknown enemy and Al-Qaeda has long sought, and may now have acquired, such weapons on their own. It would be very difficult to strike Iran without proof of culpability, which may prove elusive to obtain.

A further problem for the Bush administration is that we have failed to prevent North Korea from going nuclear, and our earlier bribe under the Clinton Administration with Jimmy Carter as negotiator was a total failure. Those opposed to military measures will argue that after our having 'allowed' North Korea and Pakistan to go nuclear, we cannot now make an 'exception' for Iran, which would then insult and enrage the entire Muslim world.

Will the Bush administration act in time to use necessary military force to disarm Iran? Only a revolution against the mullahs would derail the apocalyptic scenario we now face. It may not take long to find out.