Complacency on the part of the international community paved the way for Iran to go nuclear sometime in the near future. Whatever the time constraints, it’s already too late for Western powers, especially the U.S. or Israel, to intervene. Since the early ‘70s under the late Shah Reza Pahlavi, Iran has developed with U.S. help a nuclear industry. Only after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei ejected the Shah and sacked U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979, did Iran’s nuclear program go dormant until revised by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei soon after taking office. With the help of Pakistan and Russia, Iran has vigorously pursued uranium enrichment, building more underground facilities around the country. After Sept. 11, the U.S. was mired in a fight against Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terror organization, leaving Iran free to enrich uranium and work on an A-bomb with impunity.
Waking up after a long sleep, the U.S. and Israel find themselves behind the eight-ball trying to contain Iran’s growing nuclear industry. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has already declared Iran a “nuclear power.” Rejecting all attempts by the U.S. or its allies to dictate its nuclear ambitions. Iran’s leaders watched carefully while Pakistan went nuclear in 1998, containing growing aggression with its archrival India. When Pakistani began developing their nuke program during the Nixon administration in 1972, the same voices now threatening war with Iran turned a blind eye. Pakistan marched forward to the bomb with the help of nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan, now selling Iran enrichment and bomb-making plans. On Nov. 12 at a Republican debate in Spartanburg, S.C., Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Mass Gov. Mitt Romney threatened war with Iran.
Only one nuclear power in world history has ever used an A-bomb for military purposes: The United States. All other nuclear-armed powers stockpile nukes for their deterrent value, the so-called “peacemaker” effect known as Mutual Assured Destruction. When Iraq went to war against Iran in 1980, the eight-year standoff resulted in 1 million casualties. From that point forward, Iran decided they needed nukes to defend future aggressors, including the U.S. and Israel. What’s ironic is that had Iran’s fiery President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not threatened to “wipe Israel off the map,” the international community would be more tolerant of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Iran’s feverish work at enriching uranium and building its first A-bomb directly relates to outside threats, not Iran’s attempt at hegemony in the Middle East or elsewhere. Under the Shah or its currently regime, Iran hasn’t sought more territory.
U.S. and Israeli officials have long argued that Iran funds terror operations and proxy wars like Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Taliban in Afghanistan, Muqtada al Sadr in Iraq, etc. While there’s no doubt that Iran supplies Improvised Explosive Devices and other weapons to these groups, it’s also true that many other countries are involved in peddling arms. Forty-years of feckless attempts to stop Iran’s nuclear program hasn’t worked then and doesn’t work now. Iran’s enrichment and nuclear weapons program is too far advanced and spread over different parts of the country in heavily fortified underground bunkers to stop. Dropping bombs now on various Iranian nuclear sites won’t stop Iran’s fission and bomb-making operations. Targeting bombing campaigns will start a regional war in the Persian Gulf, causing world oil prices to go through the roof, potentially triggering a global recession.
White House officials walk a razor’s edge on its policy about containing Iran’s nuclear program. While it’s easy to criticize President Barack Obama for not doing more, the Bush administration, and indeed every administration since Richard M. Nixon, have done next to nothing to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Before the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the U.S. supplied the Shah nuclear support and technology. Interviewed on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak expressed grave concerns about the inevitability of Iran’s nuclear program, hinting at possible military intervention. “I don’t think that is a subject for public discussion,” said Barak, refusing to speculate on possible Israeli options. In reality, it’s too late. Neither the U.S. nor Israel can stop Iran’s march toward the bomb. Going to war against Iran would throw the region into chaos.
Iran’s pursuit of fissile material and plans and technology to build its first A-bomb is a fait accompli or a done deal. With the economy teetering on a double-dip and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan scaling down, the U.S. can’t afford a short or drawn out war with Iran. Targeting bombing by the U.S. or Israel on Iran’s nuclear sites will accomplish nothing other than regional chaos and global economic instability. Despite the election year, cool heads need to prevail over trigger-happy Republican candidates talking tough pandering to their GOP base. Unless the U.S. is prepared for regime change in Tehran and all that goes with it, including a protracted air and ground war, working with the NATO and the U.N. is the only sensible option. Wild speculation about Iran turning nukes over to terrorist groups isn’t a clear-and-present danger worthy of starting a new war.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.