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January 14, 2006

Keeping Iran a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone

John Noonan at the Officers' Club has some trenchant observations about the escalating crisis viz a viz Iran's nuclear weapons program. He argues that:

The United States, striking from carriers in the Persian Gulf, bomber bases in Guam, and air bases in Turkey (long-time adversaries of the Iranians) should initiate a 3-4 day air campaign similiar to Operation Desert Fox against Saddam in 1998. The objective would be two-fold: knock the Iranian nuclear capabilities back to the stone age, and sting their military to the point where the Ayatollahs understand that their own bomb "just ain't worth the effort."

However, he also notes that economic sanctions against Iran -- if they are effectively enforced -- might achieve the same result:

A caveat though. Sanctions may actually work, and Secretary Rice has expressed strong interest in the Security Council resolution route. Why? Because moderate and liberal Iranians have grown increasingly disillusioned with Ahmadinejad's series of embarassing fundamentalist gaffes, from his calls for the destruction of Israel to his denial of the Holocaust. If Iran's street sees sanctions as a direct result of Ahmadinejad's blustering, the Iranian populace may offer us a more long term solution to the nuke problem via civil uprising.

That is, after all, what everyone really wants out of this Persian mess. A democratic Iran, where bumbling clerics preach from their Mosque soap-boxes, instead of parliment.

Frankly, I agree with him that air strikes can effectively delay Iran's effort to obtain nuclear weapons. However, it won't all be beer and skittles. Ignoring, for the moment, Iran's air defence capabilities (which I am not familiar with), my understanding is that many of Iran's nuclear facilities were intentially located in built up areas. There is therefore a significant risk of "collateral damage" to civilians, either through weapons that go astray or through the release of radioactive material from the destroyed facilities. Either way, it would not be pretty.

As for sanctions, the EU may be willing to go along (though this is hardly clear) it is difficult to see how China would be willing to forgo its consumption of Iranian crude. Of course, China may not be a suitable supplier of modern oil production equipment, but it may be willing to block sanctions by using its UNSC veto.

In spite of the risks, keeping nuclear weapons out of the Mullah's hands is vitally important to the West's security interests.

January 14, 2006 at 05:26 PM | Permalink


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