Why Iran Can’t Bomb Israel


Iranian missile test.jpg
Almost a year ago, my colleague Steve Clemons wrote a controversial piece titled “Why Bush Won’t Attack Iran” citing the internal political and bureaucratic constraints that held at bay a deliberate attack on Iranian nuclear facilities (but not an “accidental” provocation and ramp-up of tensions). A recent discussion between Joe Klein and Jeffrey Goldberg triggered in my mind a half-formed, perhaps non-unique, but nevertheless worthwhile examination of the geopolitical constraints Iran faces despite its bluster.
My contention is this: even if Iran were to develop a nuclear capability, and even if Iran developed the sophisticated engineering for weaponization and delivery of a nuclear missile to launch it at Israel, and even if the US nuclear umbrella, let alone Israeli’s nuclear arsenal, was insufficient to deter a nuclear attack by Iran, the presence of 1.5 million Israeli Arabs (20% of Israel’s population) and 4 million Palestinians in such close proximity in an area the size of Massachusetts could pose quite the effective deterrent and hamstring Iran’s nuclear options.
Israeli Arabs are not neatly confined to certain sections of the country such that Iran could avoid them. Targetting population centers for maximum strategic effect means targetting significant numbers of Israeli Arabs as well, whose identities are arguably intertwined with Palestinians based on state treatment and kinship ties. An attack on Jerusalem for instance would easily kill countless thousands of Palestinians, wipe out significant Islamic holy sites, and without impeccable guidance systems (something Iran is hardly close to mastering) risk a direct hit on the West Bank. Even a densely populated target away from the Occupied Territories such as Tel Aviv is still home to over sixteen thousand Israeli Arabs. Multiple targets to deal a crippling blow to the country as some have suggested would require a similar blow to the Arab/Palestinian population.

Based on Iran’s past technical struggles, they face significant hurdles to achieve precision steering and guidance in their missiles to narrow in on their targets. Also Iran neither possesses nor is close to developing miniaturization capabilities (something I’m told by nuclear experts is a capacity only the US and Russia possess) to deploy tactical nuclear weapons and confine the blast radius. So in addition to the thousands of Palestinians who could be killed in the blast, the likely fallout could kill thousands more in the Occupied Territories and the radiation could quickly spread to the surrounding Arab states including Egypt, Lebanon, Syria if not farther.
Once the pictures surface on Al-Jazeera of innumerable, charred Palestinian bodies and Arabs slowly dying of radiation exposure because Iran launches a pre-emptive, all-out assault to hedge against Israeli retaliation, it would deal a costly geopolitical blow to Iran and compound its own national security threats. Attacking one of the most critical regional actors and symbolic victims of the 60 year Arab-Israeli conflict would invite devastation to Iran’s shores. Certainly the death of Israelis would be tragic but the killing of Palestinians would have particular resonance that could stoke an uncontrollable fury amongst regional actors.
Overnight, Iran would double its enemies by opening itself as a target to all Arab states affected by the attack. Regional salafist terrorist networks like al Qaeda would pounce on an opportunity to turn their sights on Iran, as many see infidel Muslims (takfir) as even worse than foreign occupiers. And even Iranian backed groups like Hezbollah and Hamas could not afford to hold public sympathy for such deliberate acts of “collateral damage”.
Unless the Iranian government was able to sell this on the basis of an existential threat (which is possible but difficult given Iranians’ connections to the outside world and access to global information), the government could also face a severe domestic political backlash.
A leading scholar of grand strategy Edward Luttwak suggested in a talk last spring that Iran’s strategy in the region has long been to rise by playing down its sectarian distinctions as a Shiite state and by assuming the staunchest position on the cause celebre of the region — the Palestinians. If there is any singular act Iran could commit to squander this capital and move quickly into the category of public enemy number one in the region, it would be to launch a nuclear attack that killed on the Palestinians.
— Sameer Lalwani


23 comments on “Why Iran Can’t Bomb Israel

  1. george says:

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  2. WigWag says:

    “My point is that that Arabs don’t have the animosity towards Iran that WigWag suggests.”
    Joe, you should read up on the recent history of animosity between Arabs and Persians and Shiites and Sunnis. If you did, you wouldn’t have made the silly assertion that I quoted above.
    Why don’t you ask the one million Iraqi and Iranian families who lost loved ones in the Iraq-Iran War (1980-1988) about whether there is any love lost between Arabs and Persians? Or you could ask the victims of the mustard gas. Or you could ask the Kurds. Many people have described this as one of the most intense and hate filled conflicts since World War I. Joe if you don’t think either of the sides to this conflict would have contemplated using nuclear weapons if they had them, then you are misinformed.
    Or, if you wonder about the relationship between Sunnis and Shiites, perhaps you could ask the Shiite residents of Samarra how they felt about the bombing by Sunni insurgents of one of the sites most holy to the Shia, the al-Askari Mosque. Or maybe you could ask the same question to the families of the 178 dead Shiites who died in the holy City of Karbala during the Ashura Holiday in 2004 or the 68 people who died near the Golden Dome in the same city in 2007. Once you got your answer, you might travel north a bit and speak to the Imams of the Sunni Mosques that were destroyed in revenge. You might learn something if you asked them what they thought of their Shia brethren.
    And in case you think Iraq is a unique case, don’t you wonder why the United States received tremendous clandestine support in its war to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan from the Iranians? Why exactly is it that the Taliban hated the Iranians and the Iranians hated the Taliban? Could it be that one country was governed by fundamentalist Sunnis and the other country was governed by fundamentalist Shiites?
    After you did that, Joe you could check in with the Shia minority in Saudi Arabia and see what they think. Or you could talk with the first Sunni Imam you came across in Riyadh and chat with him about his feelings about the Shia.
    If you wanted to leave the Middle East altogether you could head over to Pakistan and do some research into how Shia are treated in that country.
    Or if you preferred to stay in the Middle East you could travel to Lebanon. If you did, you would be surprised to discover that the only people who think Hezbollah is universally popular are uninformed ideologues in the United States. There was just a mini civil war in Lebanon. Amal and Hezbollah made gains but those gains were limited. Why? Because the Druze (under Walid Jumblatt) and the Sunnis fought them to a stand still. Ask the Druze or the Sunnis in Lebanon how they feel about the Shia or head over to the Shia south and see how they feel about their brethren, the Sunnis. By the way, during the recent war, Nasrallah actually called for the assassination of Jumblatt.
    And Joe, all of this is just in the past 20 years or so. The enmity that I mentioned is ancient and it is pervasive.
    That’s why the Saudis, the Egyptians and Jordanians are scared to death of the Shiite bomb (or if you prefer) the Persian bomb.
    I would go so far as to say that all the trash talking about Israel is just a feign. If Iran is truly interested in getting the bomb (certainly still an if) I think they want it because of the influence they hope it gives them over their Arab neighbors.


  3. Mr.Murder says:

    You really think a Muslim would target a city that Houses the Dome of the Rock with a nuke and be damned forever for destroying it?


  4. Sweetness says:

    Dan writes: “So while I think Israeli fears of an Iranian nuclear weapons program are real and legitimate, that doesn’t explain Israel’s failure to support the kind of US diplomatic initiative that would seem to be the obvious solution. What explains the latter is that Israel fears the prospect of a renewed US friendship with Iran. If that friendship were to come about, the US might have two extra special Middle Eastern friends, rather than one. And both friends couldn’t always get their way.”
    If, in fact, Iran’s new special relationship with the US were the lever that got the US to pressure Israel to make peace with the Palestinians and bring about a Palestinian state–that would be a good thing. Someone needs to take the first step. I’ve argued for a while now that, rather than disengage from Israel, the US should use its special relationship to get Israel to make peace with the Palestinians…that is, IF the US really cares about the Palestinians and not just about blowback from all the folks who are pissed off at the US for supporting Israel. If the US drops Israel, what leverage will it have then?
    But if, as Iranian propaganda seems to suggest, Iran’s “way” is to pressure the Israelis to adopt a one-state solution against their will, or de-Zionize it if you will, that would be a very bad thing and would, in fact, justify Israeli fears in much the way many folks here argue that the US mantra about regime change in Iran justifies Iranian nuclear programs.
    Dan’s argument–and the others in this vein–seem to come down to some sort of petroleum blackmail. After all, oil is what Iran has to offer, yes? But if you take this argument two steps further, you can see that it makes little sense. The oil market is a world-wide market. Everyone pretty much pays the same price. IOW, oil is oil. (That’s how Saddam was able to sell his oil “illegally.”) A disruption in the flow of oil hurts ALL the consuming nations, not just one. So Iran can hardly pressure the US without pressuring everyone else–not a good move.
    Moreover, Iran needs to be able to sell the stuff to profit from it. Why would they forgo or jeopardize trillions and trillions of dollars from the largest, most addicted consumer for a small group of people they don’t really care about (that much).
    Moreover, as we’re seeing, every time the supply of oil seems endangered–or, what amounts to the same thing, the price goes up–the consuming nations start working in earnest on alternative energy sources. And the dangers of global warming give them other reasons to do so. Where does that leave Iran and its one trump card? Israel, it turns out, is rich in human resources and technical expertise. So a move toward solar is more likely to benefit Israel than any of the Muslim states. At the very least, it puts them on a par.
    It’s wrong to think that OPEC or “big oil” likes high oil prices. They like them to a degree. But if the price goes too high–and they are already touching that ceiling–consumption starts dropping and, more importantly, T Boone Pickens starts testifying before Congress that the way forward is blowing in the wind.
    Iran could say to the US, “Look, we’ll stabilize Iraq and let you get out quickly, but you have to do such and such with the Israelis.” This is a possibility and will become more pressing the longer we stay there. And if this sort of pressure were to result in a Palestinian state, it would be a good thing. But then, there might be some objections from S.A. and other states who hold the oil trump card, too. But this is a real possibility, IMO.
    And of course, many of these states know that their oil isn’t going to last forever and may be running out or require a insupportable oil price to make pumping out the last gallon worthwhile. So, in response to someone above, Iran may be turning to nuclear for electricity simply because they want to be able to export as much oil as possible. After all, what else do they have to trade with? What else do they produce that anyone wants? Sometimes, being resource poor is a blessing, and it’s a lesson Israel could give to its neighbor if real peace ever comes.
    Dan’s statement here is very wise: “Subtle calculations about the unlikelihood of such a first strike are unavailing.” I would apply this caveat to ALL reasoning about what a country is or isn’t going to do and why. Sitting behind one’s computer, one is sort of forced to suss out national interests and reason from there.
    But it isn’t unusual for countries to make mistakes…to act in ways that don’t advance their real interests. The annexation of the WB and Gaza are good examples of that. They SEEMED like good ideas at one time, at least to a very committed segment of the Israeli population, but they were not. In fact, Ben Gurion, I believe, urged them to give back the captured land back in ’67. Viet Nam is another good example for America and France. Afghanistan is a good example for Russia (and many before it). And perhaps China wishes she didn’t have to defend her Tibet invasion. And on and on.
    In fact, developing and using the atomic bomb might have been the US’s biggest mistake of all…especially if some whack job decides to detonate a dirty bomb in downtown DC. As Wigwag points out, we’ve come close to compounding our initial mistake several times and perhaps many more that we don’t know about.
    Similarly, it’s entirely possible that Iran could make some very bad moves that aren’t reasonable or rational. In this vein, it’s worth pointing out that Israel never threatened Iran with a strike of any kind all through the 1980s and 1990s, despite Iran’s open hostility toward Israel. It has only been since the days of enrichment that things have heated up.
    I guess the only other thing to say about this is: How much luck have we ever had pressuring ANY country to do ANYTHING they didn’t want to do? With force or without? If, in fact, Israel is worried that the US is going to be able to “force” it to do things it doesn’t want to do, it means that Israel is pretty close to doing those things anyway and is kinda sorta pushover. It’s been pointed out that Begin and Sadat were ready to make peace anyway, and Carter simply provided the venue.


  5. Not an alien says:

    I think, the intellectuals in USA military agencies and also the most powerful people at big companies really spend a big amount of money and time to produce war and sociological scenarios. Sometimes I think that the people governing in USA, the rich people are coming from an alien civilazition so that they have not any humane feeling to our world and civilization.
    The governing people in USA thinks that the best way to feel good is to kill all of the intellect, culture and the meaningful species on the world. Then they will feel good after all of the humane culture will collapse. I think today aliens came from Mars govern the world to destroy humanity. A state governed by a human cannot be this much brutal and selfish to the rest of the world. I wish the aliens show their real face which we thibk the presidents of the countries such as USA, France and UK.
    What a funny life.


  6. arthurdecco says:

    WigWag said: “The use of nuclear weapons by the Iranians doesn’t have to be likely to be scary; it only needs to be a reasonably foreseeable. That threshold it meets.”
    Only in the troubled minds of Israel’s most maniacal supporters is the use of nuclear weapons by Iran against Israel, “reasonably foreseeable”.
    As usual, WigWag, you’re spouting dangerous, half-baked nonsense.
    As always.


  7. Carroll says:

    Sameer’s argument is o.k. as far as it goes. He leaves out a lot of other reasons. The main one being Iran doesn’t have to attack Israel to accomplish their goals.
    I am going to say what I have said from the begining. Israel doesn’t fear a nuke attack by Iran, they fear that Iran having nukes as a deterrent to US and Israeli threats will change the balance of power and leave Israel out in the cold as the US loses power to enforce, protect and intimidate Arab states. Not to mention that a state like Iran standing down the mighty US swells the pride and ego of the entire region’s populations and emboldens them further. The US has been able to bully states like Egypt and Jordon in Israel’s behalf but Saudi for example still maintains an trade embargo on Israeli goods. So the US’s control isn’t total. And now it has become even less so. When ultra polite Arabs laugh the US Sec of Defense out of a Gulf Countries conference as they did last spring you know the US has lost the ability to impress.
    Israel wants control of their region thru US force of course, not just for their security but for economics and power in their sphere. Iran is a threat to that control, therefore Israel wants the US to take Iran out.
    Iran won’t attack, wouldn’t attack even if they had nukes.. because they don’t have to, all they have to do is keep on doing what they are doing, playing the game and letting Israel continue it’s hysterics and the US zionist among us continue their agitations. Iran’s ace in the hole is that an attack might hurt them badly but it will be the begining of the end of Isr’merica.
    The ME has definitely never been about the short term.


  8. Dan Kervick says:

    Israel’s fear of a nuclear-armed Iran is perfectly reasonable. Relations between Israel and Iran are quite poor. In fact, they are openly hostile. Both have been involved in proxy conflicts with the other, and an Iranian ally operates an impressive militia on Israel’s northern border. Israel, in turn, appears to be involved, through its ally the United States, in attempts at covert subversion inside Iran.
    No state in the world, in the same situation, could view such a rival’s nuclear weapons program with anything less than alarm. Israel does possess a nuclear deterrent, it is true. But its territory is very small, and it is very close to Iran, two circumstances that make Israel particularly vulnerable to a first strike.
    Subtle calculations about the unlikelihood of such a first strike are unavailing. No state wants to rest its security on the faith that its enemy will continue to calculate its interests in the way that seems most reasonable to outside observers, or that its government won’t take a turn in a more fanatical direction. Any rational state would do whatever they could to prevent their enemy from developing nuclear weapons.
    From Israel’s perspective, I doubt Sameer’s arguments about Palestinian collateral damage are very persuasive. Iran fought a long bloody war in Iraq, and showed no great reluctance in killing massive numbers of Arabs in that war. In addition, Israel sees various radical Islamist groups all around them, some with a religious fervor so intense that it expresses itself in blowing up many innocent people along with the bomber himself. So, it’s only natural that Israel will take a dim view of the pragmatic restraint of a state that was founded in an Islamic revolution, with an extreme revolutionary ideology. That fervor in Iran does appear to have dissipated substantially since 1979, but it is still very much alive in some quarters.
    Now, Iran’s fear of Israel is equally reasonable, and it is unsurprising that Iran would seek nuclear weapons to defend itself against Israel. Israel is a nuclear armed state, with a proven ability to launch attacks deep into neighboring countries, and a proven record of having no compunctions about launching preventive first strikes against potential enemies. And from time to time, one even finds prominent Israelis like the historian Benny Morris, and prominent American allies of Israel, openly floating the idea of a nuclear first strike on Iran. So Iran is as right to be concerned about Israel as Israel is to be concerned about Iran.
    There is a solution to this impasse, and that is for Israel to encourage its great patron and ally, the United States, to make a deal with Iran that trades economic benefits and security guarantees for a verifiable halt to the Iranian nuclear program. The United States has had good relations with Iran in the past. There is no reason it can’t have them again. And Iran has made several overtures toward the United States, overtures that have mostly been rebuffed so far. I suspect Israel knows all this perfectly well. So why doesn’t it encourage this diplomatic approach?
    My hypothesis is this: The security of Israel’s position in the world, and its ability to continue its current policies of gradual annexation-by-settlement of the West Bank, depend heavily on its patron the United States. Israel enjoys a very, very special relationship with the United States, about as special as any relationship in the world. The service the United States provides to Israel is enormous. It blocks resolution after resolution in the United Nations, and works to prevent the enforcement of those resolutions that already exist. It generally looks the other way on a settlement policy that is openly deplored by almost every other country. It makes no real demands on Israel that Israel settle its problems with the Palestinians, withdraw from the occupied territories and dismantle its settlements there, and accede to the creation of a truly viable and realistic Palestinian state. Yet, the United States does provide a very useful smokescreen by perpetually paying lip service to some sort peace process or other, and holding out the seductive and illusory prospect of a resolution just over the horizon. This reduces the pressure from other countries that would otherwise be more forceful in their stance against Israel’s policies on occupation and settlement in the Palestinian territories.
    The service the United States provides comes virtually free of charge. In fact, due to the quirks of the US domestic picture, the United States is actually willing to pay Israel heavily for the privilege of being its protector.
    Israel’s interests depend on prolonging the extra super special relationship with the United States as long as possible. If they can keep it going another decade or two, they can continue the ongoing politicide of the Palestinian Arab community, and render the prospects of a Palestinian state so remote that no realistic thinker in the world will any longer support the creation of such a state. At that point, Israel wins its century-long war for Palestine. It’s over.
    But, it is not obvious that Israel can keep the US relationship going as long as it needs to. Israel is resource poor, and lives in a region with some very resource rich states arrayed against it. As the United States has shifted over the decades from a global petroleum supplier to a global petroleum customer, the pressure on the US to seek friendly relationships with states in the region has grown, and will continue to grow.
    This, I believe, is what Israel most fears: that ultimately, and sooner rather than later, the balance of power and interests that allows the United States to privilege its sentimental relationship with Israel over its somewhat less sentimental material interests will become untenable, and will shift in the direction of the material interests. If that happens, and there is a seismic shift in the US political culture, Israel can expect the United States to find some new friends in the region fairly quickly, and a result of that friendship might be that the US actually begins to bring pressure to bear on Israeli intransigence, in the same way most other countries already do. Israel then might see its hope of total victory in Palestine frustrated.
    Israel has for many years followed a consistent pattern of attempting to divide, set at loggerheads, weaken and intrigue against the Arab or Muslim states is in the region, and to do whatever it has to bat down and undermine the slightest hints of US courtship. We no longer hear quite as much noise from Israel about Saudi Arabia as we once did, that is true. But as recently as five or six years ago, we had prominent Israelis like Dore Gold publishing popular anti-Saudi tracts; and we had neoconservatives in Washington whispering that Saudi Arabia was the “strategic pivot” in the region, and ripe for overthrow. Now Israel has shifted its propaganda warfare to Iran, and is inclined to relax on Saudi Arabia to use the kingdom as a weapon against Iran.
    So while I think Israeli fears of an Iranian nuclear weapons program are real and legitimate, that doesn’t explain Israel’s failure to support the kind of US diplomatic initiative that would seem to be the obvious solution. What explains the latter is that Israel fears the prospect of a renewed US friendship with Iran. If that friendship were to come about, the US might have two extra special Middle Eastern friends, rather than one. And both friends couldn’t always get their way.


  9. tomtom says:

    In the post you reference, Mr. Clemons provided very weak
    rationale as to why the the Bush/neocon administration wouldn’t
    attack Iran. He continues to ignore the blind, anti-intellectual
    adherence to ideology inherent to the neocon movement. The
    neocons possess no rationality. No objectivity. And absolutly
    no intellectual honesty. So arguing against them in any of those
    arenas is pointless.
    You on the other hand have provided a very reality-based
    rationale for why Iran wouldn’t instigate a nuclear strike against
    Israel. They’re very own interests would be devastated by it,
    mass-murdering their own Arab supporters.
    While this leaves out the inherent immorality of mass-murdering
    Israeli Jewish citizens if , it provides an undeniable realism
    argument that Iran will not attack Israel with nuclear weapons
    Simply because it would cause irreparable harm to their own


  10. Joe M. says:

    Chris Brown,
    I obviously know Iran is not an Arab country (though it does have a small Arab minority). My point is that that Arabs don’t have the animosity towards Iran that WigWag suggests. And even if some Arab leaders do, there are numerous ways to deal with that other than the hysterical propaganda of a belligerent Iran using nukes.
    You don’t make sense and are simply hysterical. I don’t have the energy to go point by point explaining why your argument is ridiculous, but trust me, it is. But anyway, it doesn’t matter.
    The one point I would specifically make against your argument is in reference to your point:
    “The use of nuclear weapons by the Iranians doesn’t have to be likely to be scary; it only needs to be a reasonably foreseeable.”
    This is the most ambitious empty hysteria possible. It is the equivalent of saying “the smoking gun will be in the form of a mushroom cloud”. But we have clearly seen that this is a bullshit argument used to create fear, rather than a serious position intended to explain or inform.
    I do not believe that there should be any discussion of Iranian nuclear weapons UNTIL there is solid evidence that Iran is making nuclear weapons. That simply does not exist today. I am not saying that there are no hypothetical reasons to think Iran could make nukes in a dream world. But I can come up with 10,000,000 various dreams that are far more likely than Iran making nuclear weapons. Just inventing some idiotic theory and getting hives from fear of it is just political hypochondria.
    Again, it is pathetic and should not be taken seriously.


  11. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Whether you like the Israelis, hate them (or something in between), strategically speaking, the fact that Israel has a nuclear aresenal has brought stability to the region”
    Yeah, the “region” is really “stable”, isn’t it?
    Gads, what horseshit.


  12. WigWag says:

    Respectfully, Joe, your position is not justified by history. On at least three occasions, the world came dangerously close to a nuclear war between states witched viewed themselves as adversaries.
    1. The Cuban Missile Crisis (October, 1962) when the Americans detected Soviet nuclear armed missiles in Cuba and initially responded with a naval blockade of Cuba. It is generally believed that this is the closest the world has ever come to a nuclear war. President Kennedy was advised by several of his advisors that a nuclear first strike was his best option.
    2. Able Archer War Games (November 1983) when Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov became convinced that Ronald Reagan was contemplating a first strike against the Soviets. This was the year that Reagan announced his star wars initiative, planned to deploy Pershing II intermediate range missiles in Europe, the Americans invaded Grenada and the Russians shot down Korean airliner 007. In early November, NATO began a series of war games code named Able Archer that was so realistic that the Soviets thought that a real attack might be imminent. They raised their nuclear readiness to a status of high alert (the equivalent of DEFCON-1) and in response NATO did the same. The world came so close to nuclear war, and Reagan himself was so horrified ,that he changed the whole orientation of his policy towards the Soviets and negotiations with Gorbachev (who replaced Andropov when he died shortly thereafter)on reducing strategic stockpiles soon ensued.
    3) India/Pakistan Nuclear Crisis (May 1998). As tensions increase over the disputed territory of Kashmir throughout 1998, repeated skirmishes between the Indian armed forces and Pakistani armed forces (aided by Kashmiri rebels) took place. On May 11, 1998 the Indians conducted an underground test of a nuclear device and on May 13th conducted two additional successful tests. On May 28, 1998 Pakistan responded by exploding 5 nuclear weapons of its own. India and Pakistan had previously fought 3 wars over the region and it was widely believed that a 4th war, this one with nuclear weapons, was a distinct possibility. Only an intensive diplomatic initiative by the Clinton Administration (with the help of the Chinese and others) diffused the situation.
    And Joe, these are only the near conflagrations that we know about.
    Your suggestion that relations between the Iranians and the Sunni Arab states are any less rancorous than the disputes between the Americans and Soviets or the Indians and Pakistanis just doesn’t hold water. The use of nuclear weapons by the Iranians doesn’t have to be likely to be scary; it only needs to be a reasonably foreseeable. That threshold it meets.
    Joe, you say the Iranians aren’t even developing nuclear weapons and that the NIE proves that. It’s funny how opponents of the Iraq war are so willing to lambaste intelligence from the CIA that rationalized that war, but then have complete confidence that intelligence about Iran, produced by the very same agency (the CIA), must be entirely accurate. That sounds alot like the Bush Administration’s interest in supporting only the intelligence that backs up the conclusions it has already reached.
    And while they may or may not intend to produce weapons, it’s hard to figure out what exactly they are planning to do with all of that enriched uranium that their centrifuges are working day and night to produce. They have all the oil they will ever need. They don’t need the uranium for electricity. So what exactly do you think they are planning to do with all of that enriched uranium?
    Iranian nuclear weapons will make the world less safe. They should be deterred not attacked. Attacking Iran would be a tactical mistake and immoral. But a nuclear armed Iran is not a good development. It makes the world less safe for everyone, including them.


  13. Chris Brown says:

    Iran is not in the “Arab World”.
    Aside from that, if I was an Iranian leader I would be advocating the immediate development of nuclear weapons to deter the Israeli nuclear arsenal and USA imperial ambitions.
    Why all the fuss over Iran’s nuclear development? Three USA allies, Israel, India, and Pakistan, (possibly Brazil) possess nuclear arsenals and none are signatories of the international non-proliferation treaties.


  14. JohnH says:

    I LIKE Sameer’s argument. Among other things it means that Israel should cherish and protect its Palestinian population.
    However, I think the argument is the third most important reason Iran would not launch a pre-emptive strike against Israel.
    1) Mutually Assured Destruction. Israel would retaliate and devastate Iran. If the NIE said one thing of enormous significance, it is that the Iranian regime is comprised of RATIONAL actors, which basically means that they worry about their own untimely demise and do not relish it. Nukes for pre-emptive attack worthless.
    2) Iran has other, nearby targets which offer it significant deterrence against US or US-endorsed attacks: the entire Persian Gulf oil infrastructure and the Strait of Hormuz are within easy shooting distance. Iran crippled Iraq’s oil industry 20 years ago, and it could potentially do the same to the industrialized world’s oil industry today. Nukes not needed.
    3) Sameer’s argument. Again, nukes for pre-emptive attack worthless.
    For the above reasons, I do not believe that Iran is developing nukes. The benefits do not outweigh the costs. However, they do have significant, valid reasons for wanting their own nuclear power industry.
    The three reasons above should convince any rational actors in the Bush regime that Iran is not a nuclear threat to Israel. The real question is whether there are rational actors at the helm in Washington. Oil seems to addle the brains of oilmen…


  15. Kathleen says:

    Because their slingshot won’t go that far….??? Duuuuh, hasn’t the UN IAEA reported that Iran is NOT developing weapons grade uranium??? Annnnnd, why would Iranians be any more dangerous than other nuclear countries or for that matter stupidly suicidal?


  16. YY says:

    The only nuclear devices that will be used will be a black market device delivered in a shipping container and will leave no return address. The device will come out of the arsenal of one of the larger actors who has enough war heads to have confused inventory and enough trained personnel who may be bought that will allow for rogue operations to occur undetected. No state actor can push the game of chicken to the point of use, exception may be for some misguided tactical notion against a non-nuclear state. Never the less development of weapons confers some sort of a magical power that translate to quite a lot of political clout. Why it has to be own development and not leased weapons from another state (regardless of treaties) is a mystery.
    The best and only way to keep Iran from going down the nuclear weapon route is for Israel to start to disarm unilaterally its nuclear arsenal.
    If they are crazy enough to realistically have use scenarios, they shouldn’t have them anyway.
    Otherwise they are useless and impede any hope of its neighbors helping in continuing any real peace.
    It almost sounds as if Israel needs to destroy, by conventional means, potential Iranian nuclear capability, so as to avoid the future of having to use real nuclear weapons to take out real nuclear capability. If this is what they are locked into, they need to rethink fast.


  17. Joe M. says:

    I will just add, to make my point even more clear, that Ahmedinejad is consistently shown to be the second most popular leader in the Arab world (after Nasrallah).


  18. Joe M. says:

    your statement below is totally ridiculous:
    “It is actually quite easy to imagine a conflict between the Iranians and Sunni Arab countries escalating to the point where the use of nuclear weapons was possible.”
    I can’t believe that this is the level of discussion that we are dealing with. Half-baked, manic theories about nuking everyone… It is so pathetic.
    NO ONE IS NUKING ANYONE! Even the most violent people in the world are not going to nuke anyone. Even Bush isn’t nuking anyone. If you think it is “actually quite easy” to consider the use of nuclear weapons, you are not a serious thinker and also just repeating propaganda.
    The relationship between Shia Iran (the people or the government) and other Sunni Arabs (the people or the governments) is not bad because of religion or nationality, it is bad because most of the Arab leaders answer to Washington rather than their own people. Relations between Iran the countries with independent foreign policies (Qatar, Libya, Syria) are actually quite good. And if Iran wanted to change its relations with the puppet governments of Egypt, Saudi and the likes, it would do so through different means than using the nuclear weapons that it does not have.
    Again, this is so low a level of discussion it is pathetic. And yes, I am ranting. But it is an effort to rid a generally respectable blog of such stupidity as this. I don’t think it is possible to have a rational discussion if every post resorts to these crazy theories of nuking everyone.


  19. David says:

    Unlike Joe M., the post made sense to me. I think it is essential in trying to understand this situation for one to try to imagine the Israeli fear that Iran will use nuclear weapons if it can produce them. I can come up with no rational scenario in which Iran launches a nuclear first-strike against Israel, and thus I agree with those critics who argue that we can live with a nuclear-armed Iran. The only reason I can see to lean so hard on Iran to stop its nuclear enrichment program is to keep Israel from doing something really stupid and launching “pre-emptive” attacks on Iran, the most irrational thing they could do at this point. I am driven to suspect, at this point, that the religious leaders in Iran with real power are actually somewhat more rational than the pro-attack leaders in Israel. Who’d have thought it?


  20. Joe M. says:

    Thank you for admitting, at least, that it is half-idiotic.
    As for your statement:
    “it has to be able to credible threaten it for it to have any deterrent or compellence capabilities.”
    Do you know that Iran has made a million public statements saying it is not making nuclear weapons? This is pretty common knowledge. Given that, what makes you think that are trying to posture in such a way to increase their “deterrent or compellence capabilities.” Again, you are just reflecting propaganda, not making a serious argument here. Even the USA’s intelligence estimate said Iran gave up any attempt to produce nuclear weapons years ago. Again, this just becomes an absurd discussion.
    Then, assuming you know that they have said they are not producing nuclear weapons, what does a statement like this mean:
    “However, I am suggesting that Iranian leadership and the levers that control nuclear decision making are largely pragmatic and far less revolutionary than in the 1980s and would thus respond predictably to the high costs of first-use.”
    It’s just a repetition of propaganda. If there is any credible evidence that Iran is making nuclear weapons, then that is one thing. But given that there is ABSOLUTELY NONE, this entire discussion is senseless and a dehumanization of the Iranians through a repetition of the worst propaganda.


  21. WigWag says:

    The comment by Joe M contributes nothing to an intelligent debate; it is little more than a rant. The comment by Sameer Lalwani does and his comment is precisely right. The idea that Iran would attack Israel with nuclear weapons seems preposterous.
    It has often been suggested that what the Israelis and others in the region fear, is not a direct nuclear attack by Iran, but the proliferation by Iran of nuclear weapons to non-state actors that might attack Israel or the Sunni Arab states.
    But even this seems highly unlikely to me. Given the historical enmity between Shiites and Sunnis in the Moslem world, it is hard to imagine the Iranians (unless they’re totally incompetent) allowing terrorist organizations to obtain nuclear material. After all, once it is released to terrorist allies, Iran would have little or no control over where that material ended up. The risk would simply be too high that it might inadvertently come into the hands of Sunni extremist groups that actually detest Iran far more than they detest Israel. Iran could easily find itself the target of nuclear material that it had released instead of the Israelis. The risk of this is simply too high, so they won’t proliferate.
    While Sumer Lalwani is right that Iran “can’t” attack Israel, his post does not address whether Iran might attack Sunni Arab states. The historical animosity between Sunni Arabs and Shiite Persians is far more bitter than any animosity either group has had with the Jews. It is actually quite easy to imagine a conflict between the Iranians and Sunni Arab countries escalating to the point where the use of nuclear weapons was possible. If this seems unlikely, remember that it wasn’t very long ago that the prospect of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan was frighteningly real.
    And his post fails to make note of the reaction of the Saudis, Egyptians, Jordanians and others to the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon, the “Shiite Bomb.” Does anyone doubt that one or more of these countries will feel compelled to develop their own nuclear weapons to counter the Iranians? If that happens the risk of a nuclear war between Arabs and Persians will be more threatening than ever.
    Whether you like the Israelis, hate them (or something in between), strategically speaking, the fact that Israel has a nuclear aresenal has brought stability to the region. That’s why all of the Arab states have acquieced to a nuclear Israel for 30 years with barely a peep. An Iranian bomb will be destabilizing. That’s why Arab regimes are so terrified of the prospect. They’re not afraid of the Israelis. They are afraid of the Iranians.
    If the Americans or the Israelis (or both together)are stupid enough to attack Iran, you can take it to the bank that the main cheeer leaders, standing on the sidelines providing all the logistical and moral support that they can, will be the Sunni Arab regimes. How ironic that they would be praying for a swift Israeli victory. Of course to appease their restive “streets” these governments would shed a tear over Israeli aggression. But those tears would be crocodile tears.


  22. Sameer says:

    To the charge of idiocy, I believe I prudently hedged against this by admitting up front this post was a half-formed thought — a sketching of ideas meant to initiate thoughtful dialogue — thus I’d proffer that if anything, this is only half idiotic.
    But sometimes it might be worthwhile to consider alternate scenarios which is what I’m seeking to do. In this case, it is the geopolitical costs merely at the regional level — leaving aside the international level — that could prove prohibitive for Iran’s use of a weapon.
    Regardless of Iran’s actual likelihood of using a nuclear weapon, it has to be able to credible threaten it for it to have any deterrent or compellence capabilities. Moreover, I think its more than fair to state that numerous Israeli leaders REALLY do believe that certain ideologues and the equivalent of neo-cons in Iran jockeying for power who are followers of Yazdi would consider using a nuclear weapon against Israel.
    However, I am suggesting that Iranian leadership and the levers that control nuclear decision making are largely pragmatic and far less revolutionary than in the 1980s and would thus respond predictably to the high costs of first-use. I’m willing to defend that Iranian political leadership would face a much stiffer moral and political cost by regional onlookers and constituents for killing Palestinians rather than Israelis, thus I think if Palestinians were killed in the thousands or millions, it would do considerable damage to their security interests.


  23. Joe M. says:

    This is a truly idiotic post. Iran is clearly not going to nuke anyone. Whether Israel or anyone. This hypothetical is completely absurd. Only American are so immoral to nuke entire cities (and glorify such attacks), the rest of the world is much more civilized. It is proof of the dehumanization of Iranians and their leaders that such a post could even be written.
    But even writing this post as if it is serious proves you must be a complete knit-wit. The entire level of discussion in the USA is lower than kindergarten students could have. it is so sad. When are we going to have a sensible discussion about these issues that is not simply a reflection of the most insane Israeli propaganda?
    Even if you don’t give a damn about the Iranians or the Palestinians (Zathras), it is still necessary to think clearly for the sake of the USA. Discussions like this are so absurd it is pathetic.


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