In a speech to diplomats back in August, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the following:
“A nuclear-armed Iran is for me unacceptable…This [diplomatic] approach is the only one that would prevent a catastrophic alternative: the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran.”
There are a number of interesting things about this statement. Obviously, Mr. Sarkozy thinks that a diplomatic initiative that would succeed in keeping Iran from getting the bomb is the desirable alternative, and that is supposed to be the main point of his remark.
But it also means that he believes that barring a diplomatic solution, one of two things will happen: Iran will get the bomb soon, or someone will bomb Iran, postponing or even preventing it.
Nobody is going to bomb Iran. Not the US and not Israel (except in the case of a credible warning that Iran is about to bomb Israel). This is because even if Iran’s nuclear capability is wiped out, it still maintains the ability to do enormous damage directly and by proxy to Israel, the US, and — last but not least — the world’s oil-based economy. Possibly the US has the power to preempt the response to some extent by turning the entire country into slag, but they are not going to do this.
So that means that either there will be a diplomatic solution, or Iran will get the bomb.
Although it seems insane, there are nations that are opposed to a diplomatic solution, at least at this time. For example, apparently Russia is quite happy with the present uncertain situation, since — as an energy exporter — the stratospheric price of oil is desirable. I think also that Putin believes that he can control Iran and either prevent nuclearization at the last moment, or actually derive advantage from a nuclear Iran.
And there are other nations which feel that it’s possible to live with it — especially if they are big customers of Iranian oil today, like China. After all, Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons and nobody’s been bombed by them (yet). These major players can do much to prevent a diplomatic solution.
I could be wrong about either or both of these factors. Maybe the US or Israel will see the prospect of an Iranian bomb as so threatening that they will take military action. If so, it will not be ‘surgical’. It will probably extend beyond Iran’s nuclear facilities and be open-ended to deter Iranian counterattacks. Or maybe Russia will realize that it really is not in her own interest to allow Islamic fundamentalists to have this much power. Or something totally unexpected could happen.
But as things stand today it looks as though Iran will be a nuclear power.
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