Thursday, February 11, 2010

Biden: I worry that Iran may gain "even a modicum" of nuclear weapons capability

US Vice President Joe Biden gave an interview with Larry King on February 10 in which he discussed the danger of Iran getting "even a modicum of nuclear capability":
KING: Iran, nuclear -- worry?

BIDEN: A concern. A -- a -- a real concern, not an immediate concern in the sense that something could happen tomorrow or in the very near term. But what I worry most about with regard to Iran, if they continue on the path of nuclear weapons and were able to gain even a modicum of the capability, then I worry what that does -- Larry, and you know the Middle East, what that -- what pressure that puts on Saudi Arabia, on Egypt, on Turkey, etc. To acquire nuclear weapons. That's --

KING: That's all you need.

BIDEN: That's very destabilizing.
It is unfortunate that the United States does not have a press corps that understands the issues around Iran's nuclear case well enough and is independent enough to catch the position Biden expressed and ask him to define or clarify exactly what he means by "even a modicum of the capability".

I'm not sure King understood that Biden was saying that Iran must not enrich uranium at all, as any country with domestic enrichment has the capability to build a weapon if it was to make that political decision. This is the position held by the Bush administration, that John Kerry in June called ridiculous on its face.
The Bush administration [argument of] no enrichment was ridiculous, on its face, because Iran is a signatory to the [nuclear] Non-Proliferation Treaty and whether they are inside or outside their obligations, to ask them to give up something that was within their rights within the treaty assuming they were up to their obligations is a non-starter.
If Biden worries about Iran getting a modicum of that capability, he's going to be worrying until he leaves office. Repeated analysis and simulations demonstrate that sanctions will not prevent Iran from continuing its enrichment program. A military attack would ultimately accomplish the opposite of preventing Iran from getting a modicum of weapons capability. Regime change, as unlikely as that is, still would not lead to Iran disavowing its nuclear program.

The United States foreign policy establishment is psychologically unable to accept Iran having enrichment, despite the fact that it is well understood by now that there is no option available to the US that could effectively stop it. Israel and anxiety around a fear of false accusations of anti-Semitism create an atmosphere in which US policy analysts are not able to observe the Middle East region rationally. This irrationality is where the idea that any deal supplying fuel to the Tehran medical reactor must give the US leverage to stop Iranian enrichment comes from.

The distortions of the US perception of the region, regarding the Iranian nuclear issue and other regional issues, will continue to crash into reality until the US chooses or is forced to adjust its priorities.

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