Would A Nuclear Iran Bring Stability To The Middle East?
Kenneth Waltz, from the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, recently wrote a piece in Foreign Affairs entitled “Why Iran Should Get The Bomb,” in which he contends that “power begs to be balanced” — that Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear bomb would actually restore stability to the Middle East.
Waltz’s is a viewpoint largely excluded from mainstream media discourse. The beltway establishment point-of-view merely bounces between that of the far-Right: “We should bomb Iran now” vs. that of the Obama Admin: “We should give sanctions more time, but military options remain on the table.”
Of course, ALL the U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies recently revealed there is NO EVIDENCE that Iran is even pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
But since the mainstream media and our politicians routinely obscure this thorny fact, and for the sake of this discussion, let us move even beyond this point to a hypothetical worst case scenario. Let us assume that Iran is working towards developing a nuclear arms program.
The important question we should be focused on is: “Is Iran a rational actor that will act in ways that maximize its own strategic interests?” Only by answering this question can we realistically asses how a worst-case scenario — a nuclear Iran — would likely, if at all, harm vital U.S. interests, or threaten Israel’s existence.
Most of our ‘serious’ beltway political punditry speak as if it is a foregone conclusion that Iran is an irrational actor, who would gladly act in ways that would ensure its own nuclear-self-destruction (thereby annihilating its 74 million citizens), just as long as Israel were destroyed in the process.
Such a flimsy, unsupported attempt at fear-mongering, and yet it remains the bipartisan consensus in the nation’s Capitol (courtesy of AIPAC). Americans are being led to believe that they should assume enormous risks to their own vital national interests, including the certain death of more U.S. troops, increased terrorism against Americans abroad and possibly at home, the jack-hammering of our already bleak economy into a depression (as oil-prices would soar to levels never before seen); all of which would ultimately put the financial solvency of our nation in serious jeopardy.
Such serious risks attached to this policy of bombing Iran, yet, few mainstream media pundits or politicians have the courage to call into question whether a nuclear Iran actually even poses a threat at all.
As far as Iran’s true strategic concerns, as they relate to its alleged nuclear ambitions, I’ll leave it to neocon Eli Lake (writer for the Daily Beast/Newsweek) to explain. Lake recently slipped up in a Bloggingheads debate with The Atlantic’s Robert Wright, when Wright suggested that perhaps Iran no longer even wants to be a nuclear power.
To make the point that Iran is still intent on pursuing WMDs, Lake ADMITTED that Iran is a rational actor that obviously wants nuclear power as a deterrent, so that it won’t end up getting bombed like Iraq:
WRIGHT (on Iran building the bomb): … Maybe they did seven years ago, and maybe they don’t want to now…
LAKE: I find it hard to believe. Iranians look around and they see what happened to Qadhafi after he gave up his nuclear program. They look around and they see that Saddam was invaded when he didn’t have one. And they look around and they see that North Korea, you know, does horrendous things and is not, generally — there’s very little that’s really done against them. And they think to themselves.
And they look at Pakistan — that was harboring Osama bid Laden, it appears — you know, the number one enemy of America — and it’s still, you know, we make efforts to try to pretend that they’re allies. And [Iran] says, “what do the countries we don’t want to be like not have, and what do the countries we’d like to be treated like do have?”
WRIGHT: Okay, so if I understand you correctly, you are saying that Iran has a rational reason to pursue a nuclear weapon that has nothing to do with wanting to annihilate Israel.
LAKE: Well, …[ long pause. Doh!!!! ]… before we get into the annihilation of Israel ….
WRIGHT (screams): Eli!!!!! …
Yesterday, PBS’s Judy Woodruff invited two distinguished guests with deeply dissenting opinions onto her program to debate the merits of Waltz’s assertion that a nuclear Iran would bring stability to the Middle East. They include University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer and former George W. Bush-appointee at the Pentagon (and former PNAC member), Dov Zakheim.
Here are a few key points made by Mearsheimer worth pondering:
- We have nearly three-quarters of a century of empirical evidence showing that a nuclear balance between opposing nations ultimately leads to a deterrence of war, not more war.
- Israel (and the United States) has a well-documented history of aggressive military escalations in the region against non-nuclear countries, and do so with complete impunity. A nuclear Iran would help to balance Israeli hegemony in the region, thereby helping to deter aggressive military actions.
- Nuclear proliferation by other countries in the region (like Saudi Arabia & Turkey) would be unlikely since the U.S. would just extend its nuclear umbrella to cover its allies in the region exactly as it did for Germany and Japan during the Cold War.
WATCH the debate:
New IAEA Report To Be Harsh On Iran, But WikiLeaks Doc Exposes IAEA Dir. General Subservience To U.S. On Iran Nuclear Program
On March 5, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will release a follow-up report on Iran’s nuclear program, and it is expected to be even harsher than its November 2011 report — which ultimately led to the current international sanctions and oil embargo against Iran.
The upcoming follow-up report from the IAEA will apparently include new details about the effort by Tehran to develop a nuclear warhead for a ground-to-ground missile. Last week an IAEA delegation visited Tehran for another round of talks with Iranian authorities. Western diplomats told news agency reporters in Vienna, where the organization is based, that the Iranian visit was a total failure.
The diplomats told the Reuters news agency that the delegation again asked the Iranians to give inspectors access to visit the military facility at Parchin, southeast of Tehran, but the Iranians refrained from responding to the request. Parchin is thought to be a main site of the weapons program. According to the same sources, after two days in which there appeared to be some progress in the talks, the Iranians began deliberately stalling – under the guise of changing the rules for the discussions – and he visit accomplished nothing.
IAEA chairman Yukiya Amano said in an official statement that the agency is “committed to intensifying dialogue” with Iran over its nuclear program.
But in December 2010, the Guardian published a WikiLeaks document which exposed the IAEA Director General-designate Yukiya Amano thanking the United States for their efforts in pushing for his candidacy. It revealed how Amano “took pains” to assure the U.S. Ambassador that “he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision,” including the “handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program”:
In a meeting with Ambassador on the eve of the two-week Board of Governors (BoG) and General Conference (GC) marathon of mid-September, IAEA Director General-designate Yukiya Amano thanked the U.S. for having supported his candidacy and took pains to emphasize his support for U.S. strategic objectives for the Agency. Amano reminded Ambassador on several occasions that he would need to make concessions to the G-77, which correctly required him to be fair-minded and independent, but that he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.
In other words, under the direction of IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, that agency’s entire credibility, especially with regards to Iran’s nuclear program, should be called into question.
Ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern also reminds us that despite the ramped-up accusations, and ever-growing calls for bombing Iran — so reminiscent of the same case made by the very same people who mislead us into Iraq — the actual facts paint a startlingly different picture.
He brings up the January 31, 2012 “Worldwide Threat Assessment” that the top U.S. intelligence officials presented to the Senate Intelligence Committee:
Watching top U.S. intelligence officials present the annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment” before the Senate Intelligence Committee, I found myself wondering if they would depart from the key (if politically delicate) consensus judgment that Iran is NOT working on a nuclear weapon.
In last year’s briefing, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had stood firm on this key point, despite severe pressure to paint Iran in more pernicious terms. On Tuesday [January 31, 2012], I was relieved to see in Clapper’s testimony a reiteration of the conclusions of a formal National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of November 2007, issued unanimously by all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, including judgments like this:
“We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; … Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005.”
In stark contrast to what Israeli officials claim about Iran’s nuclear intentions, Clapper stated in his unclassified testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee nine days ago, “We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.“
Meanwhile, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has scheduled his speech at the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC’s annual policy conference in Washington, DC on March 5, to coincide with the IAEA report’s release. The event will be attended by “more than half of the U.S. Senate, a third of the House of Representatives and countless Israeli and American policymakers and thought leaders.”