Itchy trigger fingers can cause wars. A pre-emptive conventional weapons bombing strike against Iran’s known nuclear facilities could do more harm than good….or at least so say some.[i]
And indeed there is the real and frightening possibility that an Israeli or American attack might unite Iran’s disaffected anti-Mullah 30-somethings into a furious show of patriotism and thus lock in the current mullah-cracy (aka the Islamic Republic of Iran) for another generation. Such an attack might also have a similar effect on the current Syrian regime; radicalize the Muslim world against the West; ignite Hezbollah on the Lebanese border; re-invigorate a flagging Hamas; endanger US troops in Iraq; spark revenge terror attacks; propel oil prices skyward; trigger a regional war; prompt Iran’s closure of the Straits of Hormuz; and cause stock markets world-wide to plummet. And then again, it might not.
But what happens if one does not bomb?
Some current analysis suggests that an Iranian Islamist regime armed with nuclear weapons will trigger a regional nuclear arms race; destroy the non-proliferation treaty; increase the danger of miscalculation that could bring on a nuclear exchange; allow Iran to escalate its destabilizing influence throughout the region and the world; threaten Israel and moderate Arab regimes; manipulate energy markets to its benefit; pose as a guardian of Muslim communities even beyond the Middle East; and, perhaps worst of all, share its nuclear technology with its non-state proxies and terrorist groups. Thus empowered, Iran just might be able to throw its nuclear weight behind the current Syrian regime; radicalize the Muslim world against the West; ignite Hezbollah on the Lebanese border; re-invigorate a flagging Hamas; endanger US troops in Iraq; provide a measure of impunity for Muslim terror attacks; propel oil prices skyward; trigger regional wars anywhere it wants; close the Straits of Hormuz with impunity; and cause stock markets world-wide to plummet.
And to make matters worse, the Iranian nuclear threat may by now be global. Israeli sources disclosed that recently Iran began working on missiles with a 10,000 kilometer (c. 6,200 miles) range, capable of striking targets in the western hemisphere. But even worse is the slowly emerging reality that Iran and Hezbollah are working with drug cartels in Mexico and with the Venezuelan government to smuggle materials into South America, creating a conduit that could one day be used to smuggle nuclear weapons into South America for deployment against North America. An Iranian nuclear attack on North America, via long-range missiles or from bases in South America, could involve the detonation of a nuclear device high in the atmosphere to send a massive electromagnetic pulse that would paralyze virtually all U.S.-based electronic defense systems, destroying America’s electrical grid, and shutting down everything from cars to computers to airplanes and refrigerators. And if detonated closer to the ground, such a device would vaporize millions of Americans.
But Iran does not need to actually drop the bomb. The moment Iran goes nuclear, other countries in the region will feel compelled to do the same, sparking a nuclear arms race among the world’s most unstable and fanatical regimes and their proxy terrorist forces. And such threats, without a single missile being launched, would have a devastating effect on the Israeli economy and society: withdrawal of overseas and Israeli investors, a record number of Israeli emigrants, a sharp decline of Jewish immigration, dwindling tourism, intensification of military-political-economic dependence on the U.S., and the transformation of Israel from a strategic asset to a strategic liability.
Should Iran achieve nuclear military capacity, it will be free to advance its Islamist revolution throughout the world with impunity from attack. So it may well be that by not bombing, the world, and especially the USA and Israel, will pay a much higher and more horrific price.
But what about the IAEA, inspections, and sanctions?
The problem with the IAEA and its inspections is that it has failed numerous times to detect clandestine WMD activity in countries that are signatories to the non-proliferation treaty. Such embarrassing gaffs include North Korea, Libya, Russia, China and most recently Syria and Iran. Moreover, there is no method of enforcement of IAEA inspections. With complete impunity, Iran recently barred inspectors from the most sensitive and suspicious of its WMD sites.
Moreover, Iran possesses the most clandestine-capable nuclear-weapon technology in history: the gas centrifuge. Gas centrifuge installations can be housed in a room the size of a high school gymnasium, and require very little external power, thus making it almost impossible to detect. Iran can now make centrifuges on an entirely indigenous basis.
Sanctions have failed to bring Iran to its knees, even though the most recent ones have thrown the Iranian economy into turmoil. And this is one of the most problematic aspects of sanctions: in a country where leaders have no concern for the well-being of their own people, sanctions can harm the innocent without influencing the government. Enhanced incentives have not only failed to entice Iran to give up its nuclear program, but they have had the reverse effect of validating its uncompromising policy against making any concessions in the nuclear arena. Moreover, Iran has successfully evaded US sanctions against its state shipping company simply by painting new names on its ships. Equally problematic is the willingness of Russia, China, North Korea and Venezuela to supply Iran with whatever it needs, including WMD expertise and uranium, to vitiate the effects of the West’s sanctions.[ii]
The Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control reported in November, 2011 that by December 2008 Iran had one atomic bomb. By 2009 it had two, and by 2011, five. The IAEA garnered evidence that Iran was testing nuclear explosives and working on weaponization (fitting nuclear warheads to nose-cones of missiles). In January 2012 Iran announced publicly that its uranium enrichment site was about to become operational, prompting the IAEA to warn the world that Tehran now has the ability to make whatever nuclear weapons it chooses, within months.