Concerns and tension over Iran’s nuclear capacity appear to be escalating. Seymour Hersh’s latest article in The New Yorker suggested that the United States was considering nuclear options against that country, and Iran has announced that it has successfully enriched uranium. But if the news is de-sensationalized, then one can see that little is likely to happen in terms of military confrontation in this “crisis,” and frankly, little is warranted.
First of all, it is not necessarily certain that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Iran’s leaders have repeatedly claimed that they are simply committed to developing nuclear energy technology and want the capability to develop that power independently. This is not an irrational argument. The desire to maintain autonomous control over one’s energy supply is quite normal. Just as in the case of the U.S., dependence on foreign nations for energy can be highly restricting for any country.
It is also important to note that the enrichment of uranium isn’t actually prohibited by the non-proliferation treaty that Iran signed. Our leaders have not actually proven that Iran has violated any international law concerning nuclear energy. Calls for sanctions are all based upon the suspicion that Iran may develop nuclear weapons sometime in the future. Entertaining ideas for an attack based solely on mere suspicion is foolish.
It is entirely possible that Iran is working to develop nuclear arms, and they have good reason to desire such weapons. Look at Iran’s two peers in the so-called axis of evil: Iraq and North Korea. Let us consider what has happened since President Bush’s condemnation of these countries: Iraq was invaded and its administration was overthrown, but North Korea, which has been public about its desire for nuclear weapons, has faced a softer response. Basically the lesson is that if you’re on the list there are two ways to get taken off: get overthrown or get nukes.
Even if Iran did acquire nuclear weapons, it’s important to recognize that the Muslim country wouldn’t actually use them. The true purpose of such weapons would be to serve as a deterrent against countries that would try to overthrow them. Iran couldn’t blackmail the United States with a nuclear arsenal, because attacking America would illicit a powerful response that would have consequences for Iran’s people and its existence.
Iran wouldn’t use nuclear weapons against Israel for the same reasons. The former head of Israeli Military Intelligence, General Shlomo Gazit, dismissed Iran’s nuclear potential and argued Iran didn’t pose a serious threat to Israel. The Israeli nuclear arsenal far exceeds anything Iran could imagine developing in the foreseeable future, and would also assure total destruction.
Iran wouldn’t pass its weapons to others for the same fear of retaliation. There are only a handful of countries on Earth that possess the capacity to enrich uranium. If a nuke that Iran passed off were used in an attack, the world would know it and retaliate. There is an enormous difference between giving terrorists the technology for a conventional roadside bomb and passing along a nuclear bomb.
It’s also doubtful that the United States will seriously consider any military options against Iran in the foreseeable future, and the Iranians know it. They are well-aware that the bulk of our military resources are rotating in and out of Iraq at the moment, and we simply do not have the capacity to do anything in the neighboring nation. Rather than increasing our ability to deal with “rogue” states, the war in Iraq has severely diminished our capacity to intimidate anyone. Our threats against other dangerous nations are seen as empty. The truth of the matter is, while both sides may huff and puff, no one’s house is getting blown down anytime soon.
-The writer, a senior majoring in Middle Eastern studies, is a Hatchet columnist.