Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The consequences of a nuclear armed Iran

Iran's continuing defiance of the International Atomic Energy Authority, the US and the EU over its nuclear power program, their President's claims that the Holocaust did not happen and his suggestion that Israel should be wiped off the map are all naturally making people nervous that some sort of military clash with Iran is brewing.

The fear behind this conflict, on the part of the West at least, is the fear that Iran may be trying to develop nuclear weapons for themselves. One must hope that this conflict can be resolved peacefully, but Iran's actions seem to suggest a willingness to test the will of the international community to prevent them acquiring these weapons, if not to actually acquire them. Of course they deny trying to do so, but their lack of cooperation with the IAEA over the matter and their secrecy naturally lead to suspicion. They would not be the first state to develop nuclear weapons clandestinely, e.g. consider India, Pakistan and Israel. So the possibility they are trying to develop nuclear weapons must be taken seriously.

Why is there so much concern over Iran obtaining nukes, when we already have a nuclear armed US, Britain, France, Russia, China, Israel, Pakistan and India? It seems to me there are a number of reasons (in no particular order):

  • The more countries who have nuclear weapons, the more likely they'll end up being used, with devastating consequences. Containment combined with the deterrence of Mutually Assured Destruction(MAD) may have worked in the cold war (even then we nearly ended up in a global nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis) between two large evenly matched power blocks, but we may not be able to rely on MAD working if nuclear weapons proliferate amongst religious fundamentalists in an unstable area of the world.
  • The Iranian regime is a sworn enemy of the US, Israel and indeed the West generally and is ruled by a president who seems to see himself as some sort of messianic/prophetic figure.
  • The Iranian regime is a Islamist fundamentalist theocracy, sitting on a large chunk of the oil that fuels the world's economy, and sitting in one of the more unstable regions of planet.
  • A nuclear armed Iran would thus be far more powerful, and would likely try to use that influence to spread Islamist fundamentalism around the world (note they are known to support Islamist terrorist groups), whilst undermining the West.
  • Iran's neighbours would naturally be nervous and would either ally themselves or seek to acquire their own nuclear weapons or both.
Allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and I'd thus expect a nuclear exchange in the region within a decade, if not less, alongside a serious boost to a totalitarian religious ideology. It must not happen. Hopefully this scenario can be averted peacefully and there is still some way to go before the diplomatic road runs out. However, it seems Israel will attempt other options if she deems it necessary. It would be far better if the international community united to stop Iran on this and far more likely to end peacefully too.

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