Missing the Lede

At Foreign Affairs Ray Tayekh outlines the risks of Iran’s joining the list of countries with nuclear weapons:

Soon after the Iranians test a nuclear weapon, there will be much handwringing and finger-pointing. American credibility will be in tatters, and U.S. allies and partners in the region will begin to doubt Washington’s commitment and ability to protect them. Iran will be seemingly at the height of its power.

But the Islamic Republic will then discover the reality that all other nuclear-armed states, including the United States and the Soviet Union, have eventually grasped: it is nearly impossible to translate an atomic capability into strategic advantage. The mullahs who rule Iran have spent decades pursuing the bomb—weathering international isolation, sanctions, and a campaign of assassinations and subversion—and they will surely try to press their perceived advantage. They will brandish their arsenal and make demands, such as insisting that U.S. forces leave the region and that oil prices be set according to their preferences.

But what will they do if they are rebuffed? What happens if Israel and Saudi Arabia, backed in no uncertain terms by Washington, react to Iran’s provocations with their own show of determination? It is extremely doubtful that Iran would risk its own obliteration by using nuclear arms against them. In the end, the weapon that was supposed to enshrine Iran’s regional hegemony will likely result in no measurable change in Iranian power.

He’s missing the obvious. It makes little difference how Washington or Ankara or Riyad respond. A nuclear-armed Iran is an intolerable risk to Israel and they can’t afford to wait until the Iranian regime has used its nuclear weapons. It only takes one nuclear weapon to destroy Israel completely and, even if Washington were to attempt to dissuaded the Israelis from acting, they simply can’t afford to depend on us. The likelihood is that should Iran test a nuclear weapon it would itself provoke nuclear war.

9 comments… add one
  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    Looking at the map.

    Pakistan, India, Israel and Russia all have nuclear weapons. There are rumors Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have an arrangement that if Iran becomes a full-fledged nuclear power, Pakistan will transfer the necessary technology to Saudi Arabia to become one too.

    Don’t forget Turkey; we don’t know how long Erdogan will be power but is he satisfied being protected by the American nuclear umbrella?

  • Drew Link

    That’s fine that SA and Pakistan have a deal. But I think the point Dave makes, or at least the one I have had for decades, is that Israel faces an existential threat from a nuclear capable zealous leadership like Iran. I think it was the primary folly of Obama’s “Oh c’mon, we will trust or inspect” policy.

    Israel can’t afford the mistake of a nuclear Iran; they can’t even afford to be late. So they won’t. Its why Obama’s policy was ludicrous on its face.

  • steve Link

    Obamas policy was ludicrous, which is why we abandoned all inspections and let Iran make plutonium and enriched uranium again. Talk about beclowning.

    Stev e

  • bob sykes Link

    Israeli has a reckless, aggressive government that routinely commits political murders and terrorist bombings. The killings go back decades, and have been committed in Europe as well as the Middle East.

    It’s own nuclear arsenal destabilizes the region and increases the chance of world war. They arrogantly attacked the USS Liberty killing and wounding dozens of American servicemen.

    The US should insist on Israeli denuclearization.

  • Grey Shambler Link

    Do we know for a fact that the religious leadership in Iran is determinably
    apocalyptic? Do we know they are not? Would we in the place of
    Israel, behave differently in our own defense?
    But even as a first nuclear strike by Israel against Iranian nukes will probably never happen because they have better options, Israel cannot tolerate the possibility of Hezbollah suicide bombers with backpack atomic devices.
    Some think Israel should submit, love of the underdog. Palestine’s and Iran’s governments need to earn trust or forever remain hermit kingdoms.

  • I don’t believe they see it as apocalyptic. I think they believe that God will defend them. There’s no way to compare our situation with that of Israel—Israel is tiny with a population very concentrated within that small area. They are extremely vulnerable.

    As evidence that is the mullahs’ view that was their explanation of the failure of Operation Eagles’ Claw.

  • steve Link

    One nuke to destroy Israel. How many to destroy Iran? Is there any doubt Israel has enough to do it?


  • Grey Shambler Link

    Do you love the temporary underdog?
    Do you find Iranian clerics appealing?
    Do you hate Jews?
    (Don’t feel bad, most do.)
    Do you have any reason to believe Israel wants Iran obliterated?
    If you do hate the Jews, you might want to consider why expressing that benefits you in your social circle. You are well educated, explore your motivations.

  • steve Link

    The only people in real life that I discuss Israel politics with are Jewish friends. Any criticism of israel policy on the net means you are anti-semitic, hate Jews or something. How dare anyone suggest Israel has enough nukes to destroy Iran!

    Feel free to remind me of all the positive things i have said about Iranian clerics in the past.


Leave a Comment