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Would A Nuclear Iran Bring Stability To The Middle East?

by on Tuesday, July 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm EDT in Iran, Middle East, World

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:


Debate Transcript