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Should Iran Get the Bomb?

The Western world is united in efforts to prevent Iran from enriching uranium to weapons-grade level and creating nuclear weapons. Sanctions are being ratcheted up and Iran's financial sector is increasingly isolated. In the current (July-August) issue of Foreign Affairs, Kenneth Waltz offers a contrary view, "Why Iran Should Get the Bomb"; he argues that this is "most likely to restore stability to the Middle East."A balance-of-power political scientist, Waltz believes that instability in the ME derives from "Israel's regional nuclear monopoly, which has proved remarkable durable for the past four decades, has long fueled instability in the Middle East. In no other region of the world does a lone unchecked nuclear state exist. It is Israel's nuclear arsenal, not Iran's desire for one, that has contributed most to the current crisis. Power, after all, bets to be balanced. What is surprising about the Israeli case is that is has taken so long for a potential balancer to emerge."The number of debatable points in that paragraph and the fact that he doesn't seriously discuss proliferation if Iran gets the bomb (e.g., Turkey, Sauda Arabia, Iraq), shouldn't deter us from considering the possibility--especially given the alternative of an attack by the U.S., the fall-out from increasingly harsh sanctions, and, that fact that Foreign Affairs published the article, suggests that the FP establishment is thinking about this. Foreign Affairs (pdf for purchase, $2.95, or visit your dentist!)Stephen M. Walt comments on the article on his blog.

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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No, Iran should not obtain nuclear weapons. "In no other region of the world does a lone unchecked nuclear state exist." North America and South America is one such region. South Africa was another until South Africa unilaterally disarmed."It is Israels nuclear arsenal, not Irans desire for one, that has contributed most to the current crisis." What crisis? The spate of suicide bombers directed at Israel? I woudl suggest the Israeli handling of settlements and the West Bank contributes the most to any current Israeli crisis. The Iranian crisis is not a crisis. Interstingly, the article assumes that Israel actually has nuclear weapons depsite zero tests, zero demostations of capablity and zero threats of actual use or any other saber rattling. In addition, there is an exteme taboo against the use of nuclear weapons, respected by all countries possessing nuclear weapons.Now, I actually believe that Israel does have ICBM capabilty and I also think that capablity will not be used first against a middle eastern state. In fact, it is sort fo useless agaisnt any middle eastern state. Instead the ICBMs will be used, if at all, based on Pollard's targeting information stolen from the US. I'm guessing that targeting information did not include Iranian targets.

I see this as no-brainer. The US would have certainly attacked North Korea if it did not have nuclear weapons. No nuclear powers have gone to war against each other. Such an irony that Israel is the stumbling block to peace in the Middle East. The senior Bush when he was in office was one of the few presidents who put pressure on Israel. We give Israel four billion a year while people in this country cannot pay their mortgages. The right does not oppose this donation since they fear the powerful big money supporters of Israel

Perhaps mutually-assured destruction (MAD) would temper Middle East tempers to some degree, but IMO it would be MAD-ness to willingly provide Iran with nuclear weapons capability. Nuclear parity between Israel and Iran might cause both nations to think before reacting instinctively, but there would be no nuclear parity between Iran and its skittish-about-Iran neighbors, most notably Iraq and Saudi Arabia, who could not rely on Israel to provide bodyguard protection for them. Haaretz has proposed a better solution to the Israeli-Iranian face-off:Peace between Israel and Palestine would neutralize the poisonous sting of Iran's hatred for Israel and shatter the political-imaginative mechanism that makes it see Israel as the little Satan that must be destroyed at all costs. A joint peace front by Israelis and Palestinians could cause the Iranian people to recoil from the madness that has taken over the religious leadership of this great and honored nation. Therefore, the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would have a much greater impact than any Israeli or American military operation. That would only perpetuate this region's pain and suffering.

"The US would have certainly attacked North Korea if it did not have nuclear weapons."No. Our allies South Korea and Japan vehemently oppose such action. Our likely opponent, China, would invervene--again."No nuclear powers have gone to war against each other."India and Pakistan (India called Pakistan's nuclear bluff). Not to mention numerous proxy wars fought between the United States and Russia.I agree with William Collier. Find peace with the Palestinans and all else will resolve.

Given Iran's terrorist agenda, and calls for the destruction of Israel, a nuclear Iran would cause too much insecurity and fear in the ME, especially in Israel. The real issue at the moment is "will Israel attack Iran if sanctions don't work"? The Israel prime minister has already proclaimed Israel's right to protect itself from aggression (hint, hint, a nuclear Iran). Resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and all else will go away, is wishful thinking and not likely in the short term.

"Should Iran get the bomb?"No. I don't see how more countries with bombs can be a good thing. I also don't think that resolving the problems between the Israelis and the Palestinians will solve the problems in the middle east.

I saw this article on the cover of Foreign Affairs at Barnes and Noble last night and was immediately struck by it and viewed it as you say: "fact that Foreign Affairs published the article, suggests that the FP establishment is thinking about this."

No one could be enthused about Iran getting the bomb. But in reading Waltz's article, I was struck especially by it being published in Foreign Affairs. Can we think that it is a sort of thought experiment for the establishment? No one will give Iran a bomb (not even Pakistan, I hope), but if they enriched to weapons level, and then stop but have the potential isn't that virtually the same? Is that likely to serve as a deterrent? Or is it more of a threat and an inducement for an attack? Someone recently said that especially if we bomb their nuclear sites, they will pursue a bomb with vengeance.... Tricky!

I think each and every country should have "the bomb." The more the merrier.As a parallel, the US is awash in virtually unrestricted weaponry and look how safe we have become. Something about a well-regulated militia and all that.

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