Posts Tagged ‘Iran nuclear weapons’

Why do Trump, the GOP oppose peace with Iran?

January 12, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress say they want to cancel the agreement for controls on Iran’s nuclear program.

This would have two bad results.

Iran and its neighbors

Iran and its neighbors

It would strengthen the hard-liners in Iran who want their country to have nuclear weapons capability, and who opposed the agreement in the first-place.

It would undermine one of Trump’s announced goals, which is to form an alliance dedicated to fighting the Islamic  State (aka ISIS or ISIL), Al Qaeda and their offshoots.

Juan Cole, a historian of the Middle East, reported that many Iranians are happy about the election of Trump.  Trump is friendly with Iran’s ally, Russia, and wants to aid another Iranian ally, the Assad government in Syria, against its enemies, the Sunni extremist rebels fighting Syria.

So if the United States is an ally of Iran’s allies, and an enemy of its enemies, the U.S. should be an ally of Iran.  Isn’t that logical?

And, in any case, resuming sanctions against Iran would not produce a better deal.


If the US attacks Iran, what happens next?

March 15, 2015

Suppose the United States attacks Iran, as we did Iraq, in order to destroy its nuclear weapons program.

That’s pretty much what Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu wants.  It’s what Senator Tom Cotton and his supporters want.  It’s what influential neo-conservatives such as Joshua Muravchik, writing in last week’s Washington Post, want.

Put to one side the question of whether such a program actually exists.  Also put to one side the morality of attacking a nation that is not a threat to the United States and killing bystanders who have as much right to live in this world as you or I or the people who worked in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

What would happen next?

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani

Given the U.S. experience in Iraq, I don’t think the United States would actually attempt to invade Iran, a nation whose population is more than double Iraq’s and whose area is three times as big.   What is more likely is a bombing attack—hopefully not nuclear—to destroy Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

What would happen after that?  Whether or not the Iranian government has the intention of developing nuclear weapons now, it surely would do so then.   Muravchik wrote that this would not be a problem.  Just drop more bombs.

What if Iranian-backed Shiite Muslims, in retaliation, attack Americans in the Middle East or even in our homeland?  Muravchik said this would be a price the U.S. would have to pay in order to keep bombing Iran as long as necessary.

Would this be a solution to the Iran problem?  The U.S. pursued an policy similar to this with Iraq following the 1991 Gulf War, with economic warfare and intermittent bombing.  It didn’t solve the problem.

Israel’s attacks on the population of Gaza haven’t made Israel safer.   Turning Iran into a Gaza writ large wouldn’t make either Israel or the United States safer.  The only result would be to make both countries more hated.


Iran and the bomb

March 10, 2012

The excellent documentary by Al Jazeera reviews the evidence that the Iranian government is working on nuclear weapons.  Unlike, say, CBS’s 60 Minutes, Al Jazeera goes beyond the usual English-language sources and the default assumptions of American journalism.  The documentary provides strong circumstantial evidence that Iran obtained nuclear weapons technology from Pakistan, shows that a recent International Atomic Energy Agency report condemning Iran is based in part on a forged document, and concludes that it is impossible to say for sure what the Iranian government is doing.

My own guess is that the Iranian government probably is trying to acquire either nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons capability.  This is based partly on circumstantial evidence but more on the logic of the situation.   But I don’t claim to know, and I easily could be wrong.

My question is:  Why is the threat of Iran developing nuclear weapons a worse threat than the acquisition of nuclear weapons by the Soviet Union, Communist China or other countries?  I’m old enough to remember that there were people who seriously advocated “preventive war” against those countries.  And while we Americans, thankfully, rejected those arguments, they were stronger in the case of Russia and China than they are in the case of Iran.

Both countries were totalitarian dictatorships which were much worse than the authoritarian governement of Iran.  Both were avowed enemies of freedom and democracy as we Americans understand them.  The governments of both countries were rivals of the U.S. government for world power, and both supported anti-American political movements across the world.

Moreover the Soviet Union, unlike Iran, was able to develop the nuclear missile capability to destroy the United States as a functioning society (which power is retained by the Russian Federation today).  Mao Zedong, at the time China acquired nuclear weapons, made statements that sounded a lot crazier than anything Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is saying.  Mao for example said that it wouldn’t matter if hundreds of millions of Chinese were killed in a nuclear war because hundreds of millions would be left.

But we Americans were able to co-exist with these two countries through a combination of deterrence and diplomacy.  There were two good reasons for not attacking Russia and China before they had the capability to retaliate with their own nuclear weapons.

First, it would have been a crime against humanity.  If Presidents Truman or Eisenhower had ordered such an attack, they would have made themselves mass killers on the same scale as Stalin and Mao, and an infinitely greater scale than Osama bin Laden.

Second, it wouldn’t have worked.  The Russian and Chinese nations would still have existed, and would have been more determined than ever to acquire nuclear weapons and strike at the United States.  Deterrence would not longer have worked because, if a nation is going to be attacked no matter what its leaders do, the fear of attack will not influence its leaders’ actions.

This would have meant that the United States would have had to repeat its attack every 10 or 15 years, with increasing murderousness and decreasing effectiveness—what an Israeli called “mowing the lawn” in the case of Iran.  Thankfully our Presidents in the early Cold War era had sense enough to refrain from going down that path.


What an attack on Iran would mean

March 5, 2012

We Americans talk of the Iranian leaders as madmen, but it is our leaders, not theirs, who are talking about launching an unprovoked military attack that could cost thousands of lives of people who have just as much right to live as the people working in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

In an Orwellian use of language, we said that for the Iranians to acquire the means to retaliate against an attack is an act of aggression.  Recently I came across an article by Marcia B. Cohen on Alternet about just what an attack on Iran might mean.  She quoted from a 114-page study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which devoted just two pages to the human and environmental consequences for Iran.

Bushehr nuclear plant

Any strike on the Bushehr Nuclear Reactor will cause the immediate death of thousands of people living in or adjacent to the site, and thousands of subsequent cancer deaths or even up to hundreds of thousands depending on the population density along the contamination plume.

The bombs and missiles used against Iran would use depleted uranium, which is much heavier than lead, to give it greater penetrating power.  She went on to say:

No one is talking about the harm that “surgical air strikes” against “suspected Iranian nuclear facilities” with GBU-28 “bunker-buster” bombs, which derive their ability to penetrate concrete and earth from depleted uranium, would inflict on 74 million Iranians, nearly a quarter of whom are under the age of 14 and under and half of whom are under the age of 30. … …

No worries are being expressed about the release of radioactive materials into the biosphere of Central Asia (and by eventual extension, the entire earth).  If the depleted uranium in the bombs comes into contact with radioactive nuclear materials present in the targeted nuclear research sites–nearly all of which operate under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supervision–the potential for disaster would be magnified exponentially.

Israeli F-16

Israeli Military Intelligence Chief Major General Aviv Kochavi grimly told the hawkish Herziliya Conference recently that Iran possesses more than 4 tons of low-grade enriched uranium as well as almost 100 kilograms of uranium enriched at 20%.  If true, is it really a good idea to send these radioactive materials spewing into the air and water of Central Asia and beyond?  Is it any wonder that Russia, China and India–all whom are much closer geographically to Iran, as well as downwind of the direction in which radiation and toxin-tainted winds would initially blow–are the UN Security Council members most opposed to attacking Iran?

Nor is anyone questioning the wisdom of dropping unprecedented numbers of 5000 lb. “bunker busters” capable of penetrating 100 feet of earth or 20 feet of concrete into the bowels of an already earthquake-prone region.  No one seems to care about the irreparable and uncontainable environmental damage that could be done to miles of Iranian coastline: the adjacent Caspian Sea to the north, the Arabian Sea to the south, and the Persian Gulf to the west.  What about the permanent damage to the underground aquifers of Central Asia, where water is already scarce?  If fracking for natural gas can render US drinking water flammable, imagine what pounding some of the most plentiful natural gas fields with bombs could do.

via AlterNet.

President Obama is holding back on attacking Iran, but at the same time he says that it is unacceptable for Iran to develop nuclear weapons and that all options, including an attack on Iran, are on the table.  The U.S. already is waging economic war against Iran, and Israeli intelligence agents are believed to be murdering Iranian scientists.  Since it would be illogical for Iran’s leaders to stop trying to acquire the means to defend themselves when they are threatened by two nuclear powers, the United States and Israel, there doesn’t seem to be any way out.