J L Actually your argument isn't correct. There are numerous reports that Iran has received significant outside help from scientists in Russia and Pakistan on their nuclear program. And my argument is not entirely based upon that one point. In addition, nuclear weapons are in their own category from just about any other kind of weapon on the planet, and cannot be compared to an admittedly high-tech regular bomb.
J L Faizan, Thank you for your comments. As I noted, Israel does have a security complex; I could write another entire article on why. No, obviously this sale will not create Israeli-Palestinian peace itself. But the 10-month West Bank settlement freeze, although it failed to restart negotiations, was at least an attempt to do so, and appears to have been related to this sale. Concerning the "tit for tat", you may have a point with other kinds of weapons sales, but these bunker busters are pretty clearly meant to deter Iran. As I noted, Iran's response has been opposed (naturally), but relatively muted. Since Ahmadinejad likes to bluster of the extermination of Israel and Iran has a shady nuclear program, this sale should be unsurprising.
J L Nonproliferation can be (mostly) handled with a treaty; a nuclear custodianship treaty is different. Mutually Assured Destruction has had a lot of time to prove itself during the Cold War when hostilities were on a mostly 1-to-1 basis of US vs Soviets, but it's unknown whether it would hold up in a three or more way nuclear standoff. Opening the door for dozens if not more nuclear powers is incredibly dangerous. Concerning Turkey yes you're right it's a long way off. If Egypt were still under Mubarak I would agree with you, but while we still supply their military we have no idea how their new civilian government will turn out. And yes, Pakistan is probably the largest proliferation threat, but the US has more hostile relations w/ Iran
J L Hey Tarek, You bring up a good point. An open secret nuclear weapon like Israel is similar to the concept of reaching "breakout capacity" which I touched on briefly at the beginning. Considering the significant costs of being blunt about having a nuclear weapon, this may be the smartest option for Iran to take. If I had more room in the article I could have gone more in-depth on this subject, but suffice it to say that it would be harder to bring international pressure to bear on Iran if they have plausible deniability, and it would still likely prompt the Saudis to go nuclear. In this case, I think our best bet would be to attempt to out Iran's nuke to the international community with satellite imagery, spying, defections, etc
J L Hi Georgi, Thanks for commenting. Nonproliferation is definitely a challenge, but I disagree that that we can have no impact on it. The NPT certainly has its breaches and problems, but for the most part it has been a big success over the decades. To have Iran develop a nuclear weapon, and then accept it and work with them would destroy the NPT entirely since Iran is a signatory. Besides the Saudis stated desires, without a relevant NPT I can see Egypt or even possibly Turkey attempting to create a nuclear weapon next to equalize the field with Iran and Saudi Arabia. Also, if the Iranian regime falls someday (as I think is plausible in the medium to long term), these nuclear weapons could easily fall into much less rational hands.
J L Hey all, Thanks for the comments! Concerning Iran's rationality, being rational is in the eyes of the beholder I suppose. I could make the argument that the overthrow of Mossadeq was rational at the time, if not smart or moral. Still, I did qualify Iran's rationality: "(at least in terms of avoiding mutually assured destruction with a nuclear strike)" Whatever else you can say about Iran behaving rationally, I reject the notion that the Supreme Leader would literally sacrifice the Persian civilization (and his own life) to hit the US or destroy Israel. He seems to really enjoy the world of the living (otherwise what point would there be in brutalizing Iranian protesters to stay in power?)
J L Micheal, I don't think it's accurate to say "the proposed solution" is more settlements. That has been proposed as a possibility by some members of the Yisrael Beiteinu faction of the current Likud coalition government, but it has not been taken up seriously or even considered by Israeli PM Netanyahu. The PM has currently proposed an expert panel to try to find economic solutions, we'll have to see what they come up with. The Israeli protest leaders also have a team of experts trying to formulate an economic solution.
J L So you're right, Iran is not breaking the law by reaching breakout capacity, that's the point of reaching it: it avoids breaking the law while essentially giving Iran some or most of the powers of a nuclear-armed state. As for what we should do about it, I support current UN economic sanctions and unilateral sanctions. Negotiation, perhaps with Turkish mediation, is still the ideal way to solve our current impasse. That being said, I'm open to harsher measures short of a military intervention (which clearly won't work) depending on how the future plays out. Concerning legality, do you mean under international law or US law? Does international law trump US law concerning the US government's possible responses in your opinion?
J L Clint, Yes there is a lot of Western propaganda about Iran's nuclear program, but that doesn't mean that Iran isn't hostile. I cannot categorically prove that they are creating a nuclear weapon and you cannot categorically prove the opposite. This being the case, it's a matter of analyzing the Iranian regime's motivations/intentions. In addition, there is a lot of gray area. For example, Iran could reach "breakout capacity" (e.g. the ability to create a nuclear weapon within a matter of weeks if they so chose), and this would neither be considered a violation of the NPT nor would it falsify the DNI's statement, yet it would still be a hugely destabilizing event. I might be wrong, but I just can't assume their intentions are benign
J L I agree, I don't believe that they would start a nuclear war; if the 2009 Green Movement protests showed us anything, it was that the Iranian regime has a great desire to stay in power. But there are still negative consequences for peace and stability short of nuclear war that would occur if Iran created a nuclear weapon.
J L Interesting piece, but I strongly disagree with your premise. Yes, sanctions are unlikely to stop an Iranian nuke and a military option is absurd. I do think that diplomacy is the only way to go, and possibly with Turkish help and mediation a compromise may be possible that doesn't end with an Iranian nuke. Your "fear debunking" has flawed logic. Firstly, senior Saudi officials have already said publicly that they will develop a nuclear weapon if Iran does. Secondly, if you believe that Iran will maintain "order" in the region, I can't agree. As a rational power, they will advance their interests, namely empowering Hezbollah, Assad, and Hamas, and securing political leverage in Iraq. That doesn't count as stability in the region.
J L Concerning your comments about Syria's weak economy, it might not be strong, but there still has been ~4% growth/yr. over the last decade. As for sanctions, the West isn't enough to be effective alone; China and Russia won't even agree to condemn Syria in the Security Council, let alone sanctions.