Friday, September 19, 2003

Iran On the Brink

Well, we're all over CSM's stories today. As you know I've been taken with quite a fascination of Iran for some time. They've been in the news quite a bit recently as the Bush administration has successfully pushed through an IAEA resolution calling for Iran to give a full disclosure of their nuclear program by Oct. 31. Or else. This is a huge turning point for Iran. CSM ran a very nice story summarizing the situation today. My gut feeling is that they'll tell the IAEA to take a hike. I think they have the feeling, now more than ever, that they need to have a nuclear deterrent. They know that if George W. Bush gets reelected as President, there is a very real chance that the US will invade their country. Further, with Iraq gone, I think they see an opportunity to become the key strategic power in the Middle-East, and to play a leadership role amongst the Muslim nations.

They also know that there will never be a better time to move on their weapons program than the present. The US is completely tied down with Iraq. The budget and the military have been pushed to the limit. And to make things even more opportune, North Korea is playing the same game. If both nations flout the nuclear non-proliferation treaty certainly the US cannot afford to go to war with them both. Basically, if Iran can have a functional weapon ready within the next year or two, they will never have a better opportunity than they do now.

I do not believe that international censure or sanctions will move them too much either. They have spent the better part of the last 25 years being despised by the West, and their recent efforts to make friends have largely been rebuffed due to this terrorism flap. The biggest remaining threat is Israel. There is no love lost between the two nations, and frankly I think Iran enjoys antagonizing Israel with their weapons program. They will need to be careful to ensure that their nuclear program is not so easily destroyed as Iraq's twenty years ago.

The underlying problem here is that any nations not closely aligned with the US are starting to feel very insecure. This is a stated goal of the administration's aggressive national security plan. To let the Evildoers know that nobody is safe. But the Evildoers know better than that. Anyone can be safe if they have enough nuclear weapons. The Evildoers also know that the US has a limited capacity to intervene in their weapons programs. As such nuclear proliferation becomes an extremely attractive option to any nation concerned about being labeled an Evildoer. Perhaps the administration did not really think through what it would mean for the world to become a more aggressive and belligerent place.

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