Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Threat of Iran's Nuclear Program

I read today again that Iran having a nuclear weapons capability - which spelled out means the technology to build a weapon inside its borders - would lead to an arms race. Like a lot of analysis of the Middle East, that statement is more deliberately misleading than true, yet not an outright lie.

The type of rivalry that would lead, say Saudi Arabia to arm itself for a nuclear attack against Iran or to contemplate a nuclear retaliation against any kind of attack by Iran does not exist. And any rivalry with Egypt or Turkey is even less consequential.

The phrase "arms race" as used in this context by western commentators, deliberately draws this false picture. Iran would in no plausible context race against any of the other Muslim nations to create MAD, or second strike capabilities or any of the concepts that characterized the famous arms race between the US and USSR.

Actually though, Iran having a nuclear capability would spur the other Muslim nations to do the same. An arms race between Iran and Turkey? No. An arms race between the Muslim world and Israel.

Planners in US allies - and the most shameful aspect of US global policy is these pro-Israel corrupt dictatorships the US counts as allies in the Middle East - today are able to say to themselves primarily and also to their colleagues and lastly to their populations whose opinions they value lightly that the US will not tolerate any Muslim nation in the region having a nuclear capability. They don't like it, but it is the way of the world, they say to themselves.

Iran having a domestic enrichment plan smashes that. Not only has Iran offered to teach enrichment to any Muslim nation that asks, but when these planners look in the mirror they have to see their eyes and they couldn't look into their own eyes knowing they go along with the US desire for Israel to have a nuclear monopoly after Iran has shown it does not have to be tolerated.

It is very interesting to see the efforts western commentators are willing to expend to distract their audience away from Israel. A reader of these reports will get the false impression that the US is protecting, say Kuwait's interests from a nuclear-capable Iran. Iran being nuclear capable, without building a bomb is no threat to Kuwait or any of the Muslim states. Saudi Arabia, from memory, has actually announced that Iran having nuclear technology without a weapon is not a threat.

Israel is threatened by an Iranian program even if no weapon is produced - which is why the US position is that Iran must not have a program that could produce a weapon. Israel does not hope to actually use its weapons, but to keep the threat of their use to prevent conflicts from escalating to the point where Israel itself is threatened. That threat is blunted if Iran can announce that six months after Cairo is destroyed, Tel Aviv will be destroyed. Just the counter-threat reduces the power of the threat. In Iran's case no actual weapon has to be made.

Iran wants to be able to make that counter-threat, but Cairo, Baghdad, Riyadh and Demascus all being able to make the same counter-threat is seen in Tehran as a good thing.

So it is possible to say Iran being nuclear capable would spur an arms race, especially if I ignore the attempt by the commenter making the claim to distract attention away from Israel. But it is important to be clear, the race is not an actual arms race, and it is certainly not a race between Muslim states. The race is a race of threats and counter-threats and the participants are all of the Muslim states as one side and Israel as the other side.

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