The Coming of the Bomb
Readers may want to download and read Getting Ready For A Nuclear-Ready Iran, from the US Army War College. It's a wide ranging discussion of the entire Iranian nuclear weapons issue set within the larger context of nonproliferation strategy. The basic premise is that it probably impossible for the US to stop an Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, short of a full-scale invasion. And once Iran acquires nuclear weapons it will simply be a matter of time before Arab states follow.
Yet, the truth is that Iran soon can and will get a bomb option. All Iranian engineers need is a bit more time 1 to 4 years at most. No other major gaps remain: Iran has the requisite equipment to make the weapons fuel, the know-how to assemble the bombs, and the missile and naval systems necessary to deliver them beyond its borders. ... As for eliminating Iran’s nuclear capabilities militarily, the United States and Israel lack sufficient targeting intelligence to do this. In fact, Iran long has had considerable success in concealing its nuclear activities from U.S. intelligence analysts and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors. (The latter recently warned against assuming the IAEA could find all of Iran’s illicit uranium enrichment activities). As it is, Iran already could have hidden all it needs to reconstitute a bomb program, assuming its known declared nuclear plants were hit. ...
What should we expect when, in the next 12 to 48 months, Iran secures such a breakout option? If the United States and its allies do no more than they have already done, two things. First, many of Iran’s neighbors will do their best to follow its “peaceful” example. Egypt, Algeria, Syria, and Saudi Arabia will all claim that they too need to pursue nuclear research and development to the point of having nuclear weapons options and, as a further slap in Washington’s face (and Tel Aviv’s), will point to Iran’s “peaceful” nuclear program and Israel’s undeclared nuclear weapons arsenal to help justify their own “civil” nuclear activities. Second, an ever more nuclear-ready Iran will try to lead the revolutionary Islamic vanguard throughout the Islamic world by becoming the main support for terrorist organizations aimed against Washington’s key regional ally, Israel; America’s key energy source, Saudi Arabia; and Washington’s prospective democratic ally, Iraq.
Iran's acquisition of a nuclear weapon may have more than regional significance. It could mark the final end of efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation and provide Islamic terrorism with a nuclear deterrent. Islamic terrorism will literally be a Great Power. The study comes to the conclusion that only a regime change will remove the sinister edge from these developments.
Ultimately, nothing less than creating moderate self-government in Iraq, Iran, and other states in the region will bring lasting peace and nonproliferation. This, however, will take time. Meanwhile, the United States and its friends must do much more than they are currently to frustrate Iran’s efforts to divide the United States, Israel, and Europe from one another and from other friends in the Middle East and Asia; and to defeat Tehran’s efforts to use its nuclear capabilities to deter others from taking firm action against Iranian misbehavior.
An earlier post argued that only a regime change could keep Teheran from getting a nuclear weapon. Since the US Army War College paper cannot envision that happening in the short term, what we are left with then, is a new Cold War with an ideology as strong -- and probably much stronger than -- Marxism in its prime. It's hard to remember, now that the Berlin wall is a relic whose fragments have literally been sold for souvenirs, how perilous a time the Cold War was. It took more than 100,000 American lives on the battlefields of Korea and Vietnam. On at least once occasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the US and the Soviet Union came close to the nuclear brink. The difference between the Cold War and the new prospective struggle is that the former was between nations while the latter is between nations and secret societies bound together only by a common hatred.
Diplomats and statesmen since the Treaty of Westphalia had grown accustomed to seeing nothing smaller than nation-states. This conceptual blindness prevented foreign ministries, academics or the United Nations -- the very name a testament to the limits of its sensibility -- from understanding that sub-national units under the banner of a world religion could arise to challenge the established international order. It was simply impossible, and yet it was. In retrospect all the signs were there. Though globalized business, unprecendented mobility, worldwide communications long weakened the prerogative of nations, they were still regarded as supreme. The world grew accustomed to the growing influence of transnational corporations without realizing that the same factors would empower other forms of transnational organization. H.G. Wells described how complacent men could be in the presence of unseen but growing danger.
No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most, terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.
With a few changes Wells' paragraph could describe the mixture of smug amusement with which the Western intellectual elite watched the growing number of Wahabist mosques, the photography of landmarks, the application for flying lessons and the attendance at courses of nuclear physics by students from older worlds. They laughed, for nothing could threaten the dominion of Western Man, supreme in his socialized state at the End of History. Even after September 11 the only question for many was how soon history would return to normal after a temporary inconvenience. Little did they imagine that the expansion of the European Union, the Kyoto Agreements and Reproductive Rights -- all the preoccupations of their unshakable world -- might be the least of humanity's concerns in the coming years.