The dark horizon
The Times of London reports that "Six Arab states join rush to go nuclear". It basically says that Arab states, fearing an Iranian nuclear weapon, have renounced their former disavowal of nuclear programs, leading some experts believe they want the bomb.
The specter of a nuclear race in the Middle East was raised yesterday when six Arab states announced that they were embarking on programmes to master atomic technology.
The move, which follows the failure by the West to curb Iran’s controversial nuclear programme, could see a rapid spread of nuclear reactors in one of the world’s most unstable regions, stretching from the Gulf to the Levant and into North Africa.
The countries involved were named by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. Tunisia and the UAE have also shown interest. ...
“If Iran was not on the path to a nuclear weapons capability you would probably not see this sudden rush [in the Arab world],” he said.
The announcement by the six nations is a stunning reversal of policy in the Arab world, which had until recently been pressing for a nuclear free Middle East, where only Israel has nuclear weapons.
Noah Feldman, in an article discussed on the Belmont Club only some days ago, predicted this very thing. The enmities within the Islamic world are enough to fuel the fires of Armageddon. Feldman made the argument that Arab states were never worried about the Israeli bomb. Sadat attacked a nuclear armed Israel in 1973 without worrying he would be nuked by the perfidious Jew.
Today the nuclear game in the region has changed. When the Arab League’s secretary general, Amr Moussa, called for “a Middle East free of nuclear weapons” this past May, it wasn’t Israel that prompted his remarks. He was worried about Iran, whose self-declared ambition to become a nuclear power has been steadily approaching realization.
The anti-Israel statements of the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, coupled with Iran’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas, might lead you to think that the Arab states would welcome Iran’s nuclear program. After all, the call to wipe the Zionist regime from the map is a longstanding cliché of Arab nationalist rhetoric. But the interests of Shiite non-Arab Iran do not always coincide with those of Arab leaders. A nuclear Iran means, at the very least, a realignment of power dynamics in the Persian Gulf. It could potentially mean much more: a historic shift in the position of the long-subordinated Shiite minority relative to the power and prestige of the Sunni majority, which traditionally dominated the Muslim world. Many Arab Sunnis fear that the moment is ripe for a Shiite rise. Iraq’s Shiite majority has been asserting the right to govern, and the lesson has not been lost on the Shiite majority in Bahrain and the large minorities in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah of Jordan has warned of a “Shiite crescent” of power stretching from Iran to Lebanon via Iraq and (by proxy) Syria.
But geopolitics is not the only reason Sunni Arab leaders are rattled by the prospect of a nuclear Iran. They also seem to be worried that the Iranians might actually use nuclear weapons if they get them. A nuclear attack on Israel would engulf the whole region. But that is not the only danger: Sunnis in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere fear that the Iranians might just use a nuclear bomb against them. Even as Iran’s defiance of the United States and Israel wins support among some Sunnis, extremist Sunnis have been engaging in the act of takfir, condemning all Shiites as infidels. On the ground in Iraq, Sunni takfiris are putting this theory into practice, aiming at Shiite civilians and killing them indiscriminately. Shiite militias have been responding in kind, and massacres of Sunni civilians are no longer isolated events.
Adding the nuclear ingredient to this volatile mix will certainly produce an arms race. If Iran is going to get the bomb, its neighbors will have no choice but to keep up. North Korea, now protected by its own bomb, has threatened proliferation — and in the Middle East it would find a number of willing buyers. Small principalities with huge U.S. Air Force bases, like Qatar, might choose to rely on an American protective umbrella. But Saudi Arabia, which has always seen Iran as a threatening competitor, will not be willing to place its nuclear security entirely in American hands. Once the Saudis are in the hunt, Egypt will need nuclear weapons to keep it from becoming irrelevant to the regional power balance — and sure enough, last month Gamal Mubarak, President Mubarak’s son and Egypt’s heir apparent, very publicly announced that Egypt should pursue a nuclear program.
The fundamental critique of the "neocons"
in the Vanity Fair article criticizing the Administration on Iraq is not
that Bush went too far but that he didn't go far and decisively enough.
"Michael Rubin, former Pentagon Office of Special Plans and Coalition
Provisional Authority staffer said "where I most blame George Bush is that
through his rhetoric people trusted him, people believed him. Reformists came
out of the woodwork and exposed themselves." By failing to match his
rhetoric with action, Rubin adds, Bush has betrayed Iraqi reformers in a way
that is "not much different from what his father did on February 15, 1991,
when he called the Iraqi people to rise up, and then had second thoughts and
didn't do anything once they did."
We hear over and over again in the interview: It was a performance problem. Bush was right but he couldn't deliver. Kenneth Adelman is quoted as saying: "I guess that's what I would have said: that Bush's arguments are absolutely right, but you know what, you just have to put them in the drawer marked can't do. And that's very different from let's go."
The problem is that the US can't have a drawer marked "can't do". The problems of Middle Eastern nuclear arms race, North Korean belligerence, the problems in Iraq and terrorist threats can't be labeled "can't do". If the US political system hasn't found a way to solve those problems under the current administration then it has to find another way under a different administration. But if the choice is between an adminstration which "can't do" and an administration in waiting that "won't do" then the options for the future are threadbare indeed. But they are only as threadbare as the inability to solve the problem. On that note, here's a YouTube video.