When Mullahs Prepare for Nuclear War

A top advisor for Iran’s Defense Minister publishes a troubling article.

A top advisor for Iran’s Defense Minister, Alireza Saeidabadi, has published an article calling on the government to prepare for nuclear war. Its publication on a Ministry of Intelligence and Security website means it is an analysis that the government wants distributed and it is likely a preparation for the day when Iran declares that escalating threats require it to build nuclear weapons.

“But if the United States launches an unconventional attack, Iran needs to respond with a nuclear strategy,” Saeidabadi writes. His analysis focuses on a potential nuclear strike on Iran by the U.S. or Israel, but the vague term of “unconventional attack” is of special concern. The Iranian regime has consistently accused the U.S., Israel and other countries of sponsoring terrorism on its soil, actions which could conceivably be described as an act of “unconventional” warfare justifying a nuclear response. Saeidabadi’s call to prepare for such a confrontation implies that Iran needs to assemble the capacity to quickly produce nuclear weapons, if not actually build them.

Saeidabadi’s analysis is helping the regime set the stage for when it will declare that its “civilian” nuclear energy program must be converted into a weapons program in order to protect itself. This has been the strategy all along. As far back as January 27, 1992, a scientific advisor to President Rafsanjani flatly stated, “We should like to acquire the technical know-how and the industrial facilities required to manufacture nuclear weapons, just in case we need them. This does not mean that we currently want to build them or that we have changed our defense strategy to include a nuclear program.”  In other words, the creation of nukes isn’t completely ruled out, it’s just a matter of if and when they are necessary.

More recently in September 2009, President Ahmadinejad struck the same tone. When a reporter asked if Iran would ever build a nuke, he said “We don’t need nuclear weapons. Without such weapons, we are very much able to defend ourselves.” The reporter followed up by saying, “people will remark that you did not say no.” Ahmadinejad’s final response on the matter was “You can take from this whatever you want, madam.”

Article 10 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty allows signatories to withdraw from the treaty if “extraordinary events…have jeopardized the supreme interests of the country” and build nuclear weapons if they give 90 days notice. Iran will likely exercise this option in order to say it is acting legally in the hopes of giving Russia, China and other friendly countries some leverage with which to oppose U.N. action. The regime may even use an Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities as its pretext. This move would also help Iran shift the blame for its withdrawal to the West and especially Israel.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s former Supreme Guide, Muhammad Mahdi Akef, said during his tenure that Iran is “entitled to have a nuclear bomb.” The Brotherhood can be expected to use its worldwide network to support the depiction of Iran as acting in self-defense and within legal parameters and Israel as the aggressor who hasn’t signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It is also not far-fetched to question whether Iran will withdraw and offer to sign back onto the treaty on the condition that Israel also joins as another way of turning the tables on the West.

The West should be prepared for this trickery and will have to make the case that Iran had always planned on building a nuclear arsenal. Iran is in dire straits economically and yet the regime continues to expand an expensive nuclear program that has resulted in painful sanctions. As John Noonan observes, Iran’s program “far exceeds what’s needed to turn on the lights, but it’s also beyond what’s needed for a basic nuclear weapons program.” The regime is not just aiming to produce one nuclear bomb and then work on the rest. They are hoping to quickly produce an arsenal.

Iran has announced plans to build 10 more uranium enrichment facilities with construction beginning in March 2011. The Mujahideen-e-Khalq, an Iranian opposition group that has revealed secret nuclear sites in the past, says a secret underground site has been 85 percent completed to the west of Tehran. In September 2009, the existence of another secret site at Qom was revealed. It can only hold about 3,000 centrifuges, a far cry from the 50,000 required for an energy program—but it is enough for making the fuel for a nuclear bomb.

The regime has worked on developing a nuclear warhead, long-range ballistic missiles and the neutron initiator that causes a nuclear explosion. The military has even been simulating what appears to be an Electro-Magnetic Pulse attack that involves detonating a nuclear warhead in the atmosphere with the objective of destroying electronic components for hundreds or even thousands of miles.

Their own words are also damning. President Ahmadinjad’s radical spiritual advisor, Ayatollah Mohammed Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, has written that Iran needs to build the “special weapons” that only a few countries possess in order to “prevent [the] enemy’s military superiority,” an obvious reference to nuclear weapons. In February 2006, an influential cleric at a religious school in Qom that is a follower of Mesbah-Yazdi stated that it was “only natural” for Iran to make nukes and that “for the first time…the use of nuclear weapons may not constitute a problem, according to Sharia.”

Iran has a political strategy to accompany its public declaration of its status as a nuclear-armed state and the impulse of the United Nations and international community to be anti-Israel is a key element. Don’t be surprised if you wake up one day to find out that the regime has stated its “need” to build nuclear bombs—and Israel gets the blame.