At the very least, the Iranian nuclear program represents a challenge to the economic and political hegemony of the US and Europe that has dominated most of the world since the fall of the Soviet Union. At most, it may presage a revolutionary change that will replace the Western rationalist politics that have been dominant since the Eighteenth Century with something totally different. The fact that such a revolution will have as a side effect the disappearance of the tiny Jewish state is only a small part of it.
Those of us who think that the values of the Enlightenment represent an improvement over what preceded them, therefore, must be concerned with this development. Unfortunately, most of the world does not have the means to do anything about it, some nations applaud it, and others — like Russia, perhaps — think it is in their short-term interest.
The US, despite being overextended and despite a desperate economic situation may still be able to take action that will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear capability. There is no doubt that only military action will work, because the worldwide will for effective diplomatic action does not exist. But we need to understand what is at stake.
There is evidence that elements in the US government have decided that Iranian nukes are inevitable, and that we need to find a way to live in this new world.
Michael Freund, a former official in Benjamin Netanyahu’s Prime Ministership, lists five reasons that accepting this position would lead to disaster:
1. An Iranian nuclear arsenal would transform the strategic dynamic of the entire Middle East, shifting the balance of power squarely in the direction of radical Shi’ite fundamentalism.
An atomic Iran will be able to threaten the region and the world with nuclear blackmail and destruction, and they will use that leverage to further their fanatical and revolutionary aims.
Interestingly, the primary means that this will be carried out is by threats to the West’s oil supply. This form of economic warfare has already begun even before the nuclear weapons have been armed, as Iranian-fomented instability has pushed the price of oil up to almost $100/bbl. The cost of fuel in the US has shot up in the past year, adding to the inflationary pressures caused by war spending. There is talk of denominating the price of oil in Euros, which could trigger a massive currency devaluation.
2. A nuclear-armed Iran will pose an existential threat to Israel, and ultimately to the West too. Iranian leaders have repeatedly and explicitly promised to wipe Israel off the map and to strike at the United States.
Teheran has been backing up its words with actions by steadily improving its ballistic missile capability. The Shihab-3 missile, with a range of 1,200 km, can hit all of Israel as well as US military targets in the Middle East. Iran is busy developing the Shihab-4, with a range of 2,000 km, that will put parts of Europe within striking distance. Teheran is also striving to build even longer-range intercontinental missiles that can hit the US as well. All of these weapons have the ability to deliver atomic warheads.
3. If Iran goes nuclear, it will inevitably tilt the neighboring Arab states further in the direction of extremism, as they seek to mollify the nuclear-armed ayatollahs. Whatever limited chances there might be of drawing at least some Arab states into the moderate camp are likely to be stymied rather quickly.
4. Failure to take action against Teheran will trigger a region-wide nuclear arms race, as countries throughout the Middle East will seek to achieve strategic and military parity.
A number of states, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have already announced plans to build their own nuclear power plants, and others will undoubtedly do so as well out of fear of being left behind. Permitting Iran to go nuclear essentially paves the way to a Middle East that will be brimming with atomic weapons.
5. If Iran were to develop “the bomb,” what is to stop them from putting it into the hands of one of the myriad anti-Israel and anti-American terrorist groups that they support, such as Hizbullah or Islamic Jihad? Do we really want to take a chance that terrorists might at last be able to get their hands on nuclear weapons? This is not some “neocon nightmare scenario” or “warmonger wishful-thinking.”
The consequences of a nuclear Iran will be the destruction, not only of Israel, but of the United States. We will be weakened by economic warfare, further damaged by terrorist attacks against our financial, industrial, and perhaps even agricultural infrastructure, and ultimately reduced to third-rate power status. This does not even require that the Iranian weapons be actually used!
Enlightenment values in Europe are already under attack by the steady growth of Islam — and radical Islam. What will happen when it is in range of Iranian nuclear missiles?
It’s possibly not too late for US leaders to grapple with these problems and take action. They will have to put aside political and personal considerations and understand the fact that we are at a historical tipping point from which the future may go either way.