Trent is positive that Iran has or will shortly have one or more working nuclear weapons, and that they will test them soon (within months) and then blackmail us with those tests.
I’ll skip over the notion that his position represents the absolute-worst case possibility, and that there are much higher-probability states for the situation, that no one who is likely to know is acting like this is true, and that the actors most likely to know – and act – the Israelis – haven’t acted.
So I don’t see a lot of evidence that supports his case.His specific claim as I read it is that Iran has bought fissile materials, or a working bomb from the Norks, and that they are likely to test it this spring or summer.
Again, a possibility, but not a probability much less a certainty, and I’d suggest that we’d see Israeli action – diplomatic and military – if they believed it to be the case.
So I don’t think it’s true.
Having said that, let me take it to another level – what difference does it make?
Trent doesn’t have a specific set of actions he proposes in his post, so I’m assuming he’s simply echoing what Tom H or Joe suggested a while ago – that we invade or bomb Iran.
And I’ll reply now, as I did then – ‘then what?’ Because the issue simply isn’t going to solved by defeating Iran alone, and alone we don’t have the power to defeat – as opposed to kill – everyone we’d have to defeat in order to make the problem go away.
We know for a fact that the Iranians have an interest in getting a bomb; they have said so. We believe that they are taking actions in the direction of researching and developing nuclear weapons capability. We know for a fact that they are taking actions that would support making a bomb – in the form of enrichment, at minimum.
So pretty much anyone reasonable is aware of the direction things are taking. I’m going to put aside the folks who take the Iranian claims at face value – I flat don’t believe that they are entering into a nuclear enrichment program solely for peaceful purposes. There are substantial differences between the “it doesn’t matter if they get a bomb” group and the “it’s better to go to war than let them get a bomb” group, and those differences are well worth exploring – another time.
Right now, the issue is what to do to keep from getting to that crossroads, and there’s a simple question I’ll toss out. If you were Iran, and you had three nuclear weapons, what would you do with them?
Here’s what I’d do.
I’d put them in cargo containers, after a lot of driving and shuffling around, and ship them to Rotterdam, Haifa, and Los Angeles. And I’d set them off.
And I’d do it while there’s still a lot of doubt about my ability to build a bomb, so I could deny it.
Iran gets nothing for a test except a war. What else would Europe, Israel, and the US do? And Saudi Arabia would be happy to see it happen – just as they were happy to see the US invade Iraq.
The only defendable position (i.e. position that leads to stalemate) for Iran is one where, like France, they acquire a nuclear weapons capability strong enough to really sting an opponent – France’s ‘force de frappe’ was meant to allow them to deter a Soviet invasion by plausibly hitting the Soviet Union with 10 or more hydrogen bombs – on a mix of manned bombers and SLBM’s. At that point, they have the equivalent of the Israeli ‘Samson option.’ Until Iran gets that capability, they can’t realistically deter foreign invasion with a conventional nuclear capability. By conventional, I mean ‘acknowledged’ as in the French nuclear forces which are acknowledged to be a part of the French military.
An unconventional nuclear capability – one that can put hard-to-trace nukes in shipping containers or trucks that can be driven across borders – is a time-limited opportunity for them as well, because once you obviously appear have the capability to build bombs, you’ll get blamed for them anyway. If nukes go off in Red Hook next week, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they’ll be going off in North Korea and possibly Iran shortly thereafter.
So the wall they have to climb to get to ‘stalemate’ is a tall and steep one. They’re not nearly there yet, and won’t be this year.
I’m not suggesting that this problem – of a hostile theocracy working to obtain nuclear weapons – isn’t incredibly serious. I’m not suggesting that the click isn’t ticking. I am suggesting that it unlikely that the breakout will consist of saber-rattling in the form of a test, followed by demands (and I’ll suggest that the war in Iraq is part of the reason why – they know we have the will to invade), and most of all what I’m suggesting is that the actions we need to take in a matter of months don’t involve mobilizing troops, but recruiting and training them.
Today, we only have five levels of options: diplomacy, sanctions, bombing, invasion, and nuclear attack.
Trent, Tom, and Joe are pushing for moving ahead toward levels 3 & 4. I’m suggesting we move up option no. 5, put some clear tripwires around it in the sense of ‘if a bomb goes off in New York, you’re getting bombed’ while we work hard on 1 and 2 and build a stronger base for 3 & 4.
We have to deter them – if that’s possible – from a nuclear terrorist strike, not prevent a nuclear test.
This is a scary time, for sure.
But, to recap what I said when we discussed this before:
Let’s remember that Iran is 30 minutes away from becoming a sheet of glass at our command. That power is real, and gives us both the space to maneuver and the responsibility to use it wisely.