Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Iran Preparing a Nuclear Arsenal?

Just when you might have thought that we already had more than enough going on in the Middle East to occupy minds and sound alarms, the issue of Iran's nuclear attentions is again bubbling toward the top.  The Atlantic posts a brief report on the Obama administration's push-back on Seymour Hersh's new New Yorker piece on the issue.  (Hersh: the fears are being over-hyped, just as they were regarding Saddam's alleged WMDs in 2002; the White House: no, you're wrong.)

Adding a bit more pizzazz to the discussion:
  • the IAEA's newest report (see this NYT report), which claims that Iranian scientists are developing the components for a nuclear-bomb trigger
  • Moshe Yaalon's recent exhortation that the "civilized world" must be ready to step in and, if necessary, launch military strikes against the nefarious Persians.  Said he:
"We strongly hope that the entire civilized world will come to realize what threat this regime is posing and take joint action to avert the nuclear threat posed by Iran, even if it would be necessary to conduct a pre-emptive strike," Yaalon said. Ya'alon emphasized that not only Israel would be endangered by a nuclear-armed Iran. "An Iran possessing nuclear weapons would be a threat to the entire civilized world."
I won't go into how historically warped and orientalism-friendly it is to summon up the millennia-old canard of "civilized world" (the "West," of which Israel is surely a part) vs. "uncivilized" Persians/Iranians.  The people of Iran were creating and enjoying the benefits of "civilization" millennia before what became the tribes of Israel were starting to coalesce into something even approaching an organized polity.

But I will say that all this huffing and puffing about the Iranian nuclear peril and the mullahs' existential threat to the "civilized world" as a whole and Israel in particular is a huge waste of breath.  The Iranians will do what they will do when it comes to their nuclear program.  Countless experts and analyses have shown that a US and/or Israeli military strike would have little chance of real success, would likely be counterproductive in terms of getting the Iranians to terminate their efforts (as they would see even more reason to possess a nuclear deterrent a la North Korea, India, Pakistan . . . Israel), would enflame the entire region, and would potentially bring about the collapse of the global economy as the oil supply dropped and prices skyrocketed.

Nor, despite Yaalon's dichotomizing (which casts Iranians as uncivilized; ergo, irrational - those "mad mullahs" again), is Iran intent on attacking Israel, even were Iran to obtain nukes.  Whatever the apocalyptic yearnings of Ahmadinejad and others for the return of the Hidden Imam, the Iranian leadership will be loathe to bring destruction down upon themselves by launching such a foolish attack.  And the Iranian people are still scarred by the horrific memories (and thousands of suffering military veterans) of the long war with Iraq (1980-1988).

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