What If Iran Obtains a Nuclear Bomb


Every indication points to the eventuality of Iran obtaining the technology to build a nuclear bomb.  It is my humble opinion that:

  1. A nation has the right to obtain such technology.
  2. We have no real ability to prevent this eventuality.

Rather than expend resources and political capital on attempting to prevent the inevitable, I think that we should prepare for the undeniable.  A nuclear Iran.  And as part of that planning, we need to address the following.

Can We Trust Iran To Be Rational

In other words, is Iran a nation ruled by people who respond to incentives in the way and manner that we would respond to those same incentives?

It turns out that Soviet Russia was.  They understood and reacted rationally to our nuclear stand-off.  Same goes with India and Pakistan.

Or do we think that Iran is led by a mindset that is mostly based in ideology, a religious ideology?  The most obvious example of which is the existence of Israel.

This question HAS to be answered.  And after it has been answered, all plans must account for the general agreement.

What Nations Put And Take With A Nuclear Iran

Who gains and loses when Iran obtains the technology and the ability to launch nuclear weapons?  The obvious losers are the United States and Israel.  But less obvious is who gains?  Understand not only who gains but why will allow us to negate many of the perceived “advantages” of those nations.

My guess is that the current modern world is mostly stable in terms of boundaries.  Certainly there will be small and rather negligent “map changes” but by and large the shape of our nations are mostly settled.  What isn’t settled is the economic influence of our nations as they stand.

How does China benefit, if they do, by a nuclear Iran?  Hell, how does Iran benefit from a nuclear Iran?

How Do We Negotiate With A Nuclear Iran

The Soviets had them and modern Russia does.  North Korea does, as does China.  Several other nations as well.  None of them have initiated a nuclear launch.

Why?

How will Iran be prevented from the same?  What will it take, what changes will have to be made, if any at all really, to prevent the launch of an Iranian weapon?  Is it the United States, in the end, that has to be the primary negotiator in these talks?  Is the United States the primary agitator in Iran’s mind?

In the end, these are the concepts that our leaders need to address.  There is little, if any, grounds to stand on that would allow us to prevent Iran from obtaining this technology.  Further, there is little, if any, hope that we’ll be able to prevent the

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5 comments
  1. I think this misses the main point.

    Of course Iran will be rational. The real problem is threefold:

    1) Iran’s possession of a nuclear weapon will lead to a regional proliferation spiral – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, and Turkey will all likely seek nuclear weapons. In fact, the Saudis have also announced publicly if the Iranians get nukes, the Saudis should seek them as well.
    2) As the number of proliferators increases the more likely it is that there is either a nuclear accident, miscalculation, or that nuclear weapons fall into the wrong hands. If you look carefully at the literature, there are multiple occasions in addition to the Cuban missile crisis when the Americans and Soviets almost nuked each other. Bombs were on planes and heading down the runway in one case. Because one such plane was on radio silence, officials had to chase the bomber down in trucks to prevent it from taking off. Heck, in the last five years, an air force bomber flew a nuclear payload across the United States without being aware of it. AQ Khan leaked Pakistani nuclear secrets to multiple countries. Today, in light of America’s successful penetration of Pakistani airspace, the Pakistanis are further dispersing their nuclear arsenal throughout an increasingly unstable countryside. Adding more nuclear powers to the nuclear club is unambiguously a bad thing with widespread agreement among both liberals and conservatives.
    3) Iran sits at the nexus of the lifeblood of modern civilization – oil. 40% of internationally traded oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz. With the help of nuclear leverage, the Iranians could control traffic through the strait that could lead to permanently high oil prices to help sustain the regime. This would be a disaster for American interests.

    Lastly, you claim that there is little hope the US could prevent them from obtaining nuclear weapons. How do you know? In fact, two precedents have been set in the last 35 years that show just the opposite conclusion – the Osirak reactor bombing in Iraq in the 1980s and the bombing of Syria’s reactor in 2007.

    Whether we have a right from a fairness standpoint sounds to me like a very liberal argument. This issue has nothing to do with fairness. Of course it’s not fair to the Iranians.

    But fairness has no place in warfare. We attack people at night with smart weapons and overwhelming force, because we have an advantage, not because it is fair. Life’s not fair.

    This is about American interests. An increasingly unstable Middle East with half a dozen nuclear powers in close proximity is akin to putting six knives on the jugular of modern civilization.

    A nuclear Iran is simply not an attractive option.

    • pino said:

      Of course Iran will be rational.

      In the end, I think you’re right. However, I feel much of the fear of a nuclear Iran is based on the concept that the nation is run by a bunch of “religious loons.” Folks that would destroy Israel even if it meant the mutual destruction of Iran.

      As the number of proliferators increases the more likely it is that there is either a nuclear accident, miscalculation, or that nuclear weapons fall into the wrong hands.

      This is most likely true. While I’m uneasy with nukes in anyone’s hands, I mostly fear that ideological individual controlling one. A suicide bomber doesn’t bu insurance.

      Iran sits at the nexus of the lifeblood of modern civilization – oil. 40% of internationally traded oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz.

      I am a big proponent of fossil fuels. However, I’m also aware that the time will come when we shift off of them. It seems as if that date is arbitrary. And while I don’t agree with the movement that wants to push us to new technology before its time, I don’t think that we should push too hard to delay that time either.

      Lastly, you claim that there is little hope the US could prevent them from obtaining nuclear weapons. How do you know?

      I sure we can delay. I’m equally sure we can’t prevent.

      Whether we have a right from a fairness standpoint sounds to me like a very liberal argument.

      Et tu, Brute? 😉

      I acknowledge that the morals and ethics of a nation or different from those of an individual. And that at some point, a society has the right to act for its survival. I’m not sure preventing the Iranians from obtaining technology fits in there though.

  2. I agree Iran is rational — they’ve shown that over the years. Rational and Machiavellian!

    Regional proliferation is possible not not guaranteed. When North Korea was pursuing nuclear weapons the fear was Japan and other states around would be forced to respond in kind. So far that hasn’t happened. There are ways we could work against regional proliferation.

    I think we also have to weigh the potential consequences of escalating conflict with Iran in order to try to prevent them from achieving a nuclear weapon (if that’s what they’re really trying to do — it could be a bluff, as much for domestic and regional purposes as anything). I’ve heard the Pentagon has war gamed this out and it leads to very scary conclusions. If that’s the case — and as we learned with Iraq, things can go in unpredictable ways — we have to be wary of assuming success. Perhaps the policy now is a limited one — covert means to try to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapon, but rejection of all out war should that fail.

    That’s the wildcard in calculating American interests. A nuclear Iran poses real threats. Starting a war with Iran guarantees the likelihood of regional disruption and bringing about much of what we fear a nuclear Iran will bring. Starting a war dramatically increases the odds that regional disruption will severely harm US interests, while a nuclear Iran alone only makes it somewhat more probable.

    And to be honest, without access to intelligence reports from the region, I can only speculate. I think that given the state of the US economy, the public’s distrust of war after Iraq and the need for global cooperation to deal with the economic crisis, I’d say starting war with Iran over this would be extremely dangerous, perhaps catastrophic to US interests. However they decide, it’s really important to consider what could go wrong — you lose control of a war once it starts.

    • pino said:

      I agree Iran is rational — they’ve shown that over the years. Rational and Machiavellian!

      I hope so.

      I’ve always felt that Iran is a “push me/pull you.” At the same time they are one of our worst fears, they are our greatest hope. The people of Iran give me that hope.

      Perhaps the policy now is a limited one — covert means to try to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapon, but rejection of all out war should that fail.

      Reading Sean’s work on this leads me to believe that this is already underway.

      Starting a war with Iran guarantees the likelihood of regional disruption and bringing about much of what we fear a nuclear Iran will bring. Starting a war dramatically increases the odds that regional disruption will severely harm US interests

      I agree that starting a war with Iran will be massively disruptive. And yes, it will result in the consequences discussed above as it regards American interests.

      And to be honest, without access to intelligence reports from the region, I can only speculate.

      This is a key reason I usually am reluctant to weigh in on matters of statecraft. If people think I’m ignorant on matters of economy and domestic politics that’s one thing, but I really AM ignorant on matters of state; by definition, nations engage in deception and secret keeping.

      It will be an interesting year to be sure.

  3. ‘I really AM ignorant on matters of state; by definition, nations engage in deception and secret keeping.’ As am I really. That said I can’t see blustering out government into acting rashly. It’s been argued that democracies rarely act aggressively, but if we start yet another war on what prove perhaps to have been questionable grounds: maybe that’s not true.

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