Ahmadinejad nuclear unveiling 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
VIENNA - Pre-emptive military strikes aimed at forcing Iran to abandon
its nuclear activities may end up having the opposite effect: convincing
the Islamic Republic's leaders they need an atomic arsenal to secure
their hold on power.
That is the argument from those in the West and elsewhere who say the
negative impact of an Israeli or US attack would eventually outweigh any
gains - pushing Iran towards a decision that Western intelligence
services believe it has not yet taken.
"It is difficult to see a single action more likely to drive Iran into
taking the final decision to acquire nuclear weapons than an attack on
the country," the foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland said in an
opinion piece in the New York Times. "And once such a decision was made,
it would only be a matter of time before a nuclear-armed Iran became a
reality," Carl Bildt and Erkki Tuomioja added.
Israel says Iran's nuclear ambitions are a threat to the Jewish state's
very existence and that time is running short to stop Tehran taking the
irreversible step of acquiring the bomb.
But an attack may delay Iran's nuclear drive only by a few years and
would probably lead to an acceleration of the atomic program, the
expulsion of UN inspectors and the Iranian people rallying around their
leaders, the International Crisis Group think-tank said in a report
citing unnamed US officials.
"Once UN inspectors are expelled, Iran could reconstitute its nuclear
infrastructure, this time unambiguously geared to producing a bomb," ICG
analyst Ali Vaez told Reuters.
A similar message came from former CIA director Michael Hayden, who said
the George W. Bush administration had concluded that a strike on the
Islamic Republic's nuclear sites was a bad idea, according to a Foreign
Policy magazine blog.
An attack would guarantee the very thing that the West was trying to
prevent - "an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon and
that would build it in secret", Hayden was quoted as telling reporters
and experts in January.
Iran is relatively weak in conventional weaponry, compared to Israel and
other Middle Eastern states, and may feel it has little choice but to
develop nuclear bombs if "pushed into a corner," said military
researcher Pieter Wezeman. He added that Iran wants to be seen as strong
both internationally and within Iran.