Today, the 31st anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared
his country a "nuclear state." Experts agree that the claim is "impossible
" given the raw state of its nuclear program
and the slow pace of its enrichment. But there's little doubt that it
remains a goal of Iran. Western commentary has focused on deterring Iran
and diplomatic talks
, and a new strain of debate
is emerging: What would happen if Admadinejad had been telling the
truth and Iran truly did become a nuclear state?
- Middle-Easterners Ally With U.S. Against Iran Military analyst Adam Lowther argues
in The New York Times that it would push Iran's neighbors into a closer
alliance with the U.S. "Washington could offer regional security —
primarily, a Middle East nuclear umbrella — in exchange for economic,
political and social reforms in the autocratic Arab regimes responsible
for breeding the discontent that led to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001."
Additionally, "becoming the primary provider of regional security in a
nuclear Middle East would give the United States a way to break the
- Middle-Easterners Ally With Iran Against U.S. The New Republic's Matthew Kroenig predicts
that Iran's nukes would be used in defense of its neighbors against
U.S. influence. "The United States’ global power-projection capability
provides Washington with a significant strategic advantage: It can
protect, or threaten, Iran and any other country on the planet. An
Iranian nuclear weapon, however, would greatly reduce the latitude of
its armed forces in the Middle East," he writes. "[A] nuclear-armed
Iran would certainly mean a more constrained U.S. military in the
- Good News for China and Russia Matthew Yglesias suggests
"Iranian nuclear weapons program as a possible countermeasure against
American power-projection" would limit that projection in China and
Russia's respective back yards. "I think too little attention has been
paid to another aspect of the situation from the Russian point-of-view,
namely that Russia would be a major beneficiary of a disruption in
production/export of oil from the Persian Gulf. If I were in Moscow,
I’d be thinking that some kind of military confrontation between the US
and/or Israel and Iran would likely do wonders for Russia's finances."
In Today's World? Won't Change Much Defense professor Robert Farley looks at Pakistan's nuclear program. "The Pakistani nuclear deterrent hasn't prevented the United States from
overthrowing Pakistan's client in Afghanistan, continuing the fight
against that client for nine years (as the fight destabilized
Pakistan's border regions), and even launching a long campaign of
attacks within Pakistan's borders. It's almost enough to make one doubt
that nuclear weapons actually provide any serious leverage in ordinary
diplomatic and military disputes."
- Probably Means Less Than You Think Foreign Policy's Stephen Walt is tired of the grand prognosticating about Iran's nuclear program.
In fact, history suggests that
an Iranian bomb would have a far more modest impact than either side of
this debate is now suggesting. Getting the bomb didn't transform Red
China or North Korea into great world powers overnight; it was economic
modernization that did the trick for Beijing, while North Korea remains
a basket case with virtually no global influence. The mighty Soviet
Union couldn't blackmail anyone despite having tens of thousands of
nuclear weapons, and having a few hundred nuclear weapons doesn't
enable Israel to simply dictate to its neighbors either. You may have
also noticed that America's own nuclear arsenal hasn't given Washington
the capacity to compel everyone to do its bidding either.
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