Quite a few people seem to be all a-twitter about Seymour Hersh’s article in the New Yorker about Mr. Bush’s plans to use nuclear weapons to end Iran’s nuclear weapons development program. I was going to to a complete round-up of my own but I see that it’s been ably done for me by Rick Moran and Joe Gandelman.
Like Marc Danziger, I’d be disappointed if there weren’t contingency plans of this sort and presume that what we’re hearing right now is gamesmanship. Are they more than contingency plans? Beats me.
Just for the record I oppose either invading Iran or bombing it. I do think that reminding the Iranian government that if an Iranian nuclear weapon is used against America, Americans, or American interests either here or overseas (fissibles have detectable signatures; if it’s an Iranian bomb we’ll know) that we will respond in kind with disproportionate force is long overdue. That’s been our policy for more than a half century.
We also need to take this matter very, very seriously without dilly-dallying. I don’t know of a single government (other than the Iranian government) that denies that Iran has a nuclear weapons development program. The evidence, which I’ve gone into before, is pretty dispositive. I don’t deny that it’s a perfectly reasonable thing for Iran to (in fact, I’ve argued in favor of the Iran regime’s rationality) but I also don’t much care: it’s perfectly rational of us as well to do what we can to prevent their acquiring nuclear weapons.
If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, everybody in the region will want some (notably the KSA). We shouldn’t be in the business of propping up regimes we despise to keep the nuclear weapons they possess out of the hands of thugs who are even worse. Pakistan is bad enough.
The optimistic view (which many held as recently as a couple of months ago) of Iran’s program was that Iran’s production of nuclear weapons was something like 5 to 8 years out. Recent revelations about the state of their centrifuge program has thrown the optimistic scenario into a cocked hat: a more reasonable projection at this point seems to be 3 to 5 years. Three years is just too soon for the more benign options e.g. peaceful revolution by internal liberalizers to take effect. Russia and China continue to be playing their own game and bid likely to block any serious sanctions (and anything but completely solid sanctions will take too long to have any effect).
As best as I can tell here’s the consensus view:
- Iran is developing nuclear weapons
- the horizon for production is something like 3 to 5 years
- Iranian possession of nuclear weapons is troubling for any number of reasons
- none of the available options are very appealing
The available alternatives aren’t getting any better. Blockade is still a possibility. And I believe that disrupting Iran’s oil production capability just as the terrorists in Iraq are disrupting Iraq’s is completely within our capability. Two can play at that game.
Here are some of my previous thoughts on Iran:
That last post contains links to my prior posts on the subject.