If we aren’t going to bomb, we have to deter

Only the fear of instant annihilation might dissuade a nuclear Iran from pursuing its expansionist goals.

By BOAZ GANOR
November 23, 2010 22:42
THE MEDIUM-RANGE Shihab-3 ballistic missile’s

shibab 3 missile 311. (photo credit: AP)

 
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The Obama administration seems intent on going down in history as the American administration under which Iran attained nuclear military capability.

Looking at the existing constellation of realities – the fact that the regime is led by a spiritual leader, Ali Khamenei, who was appointed by and receives his instructions directly from Allah; the fact that its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is of arguable sanity, systematically abuses the rights of minority groups, denies that the Holocaust took place, and calls for the destruction of Israel; and the fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran, from its very establishment in 1979, took up Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s decree to “export the Islamic revolution” as the heart of its worldview – all these facts spell danger for the Middle East and Central Asia.

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Once this malevolent regime harnesses its resources in a race to become a nuclear power, the safety of the entire world will be at risk.

When the sun rises the day following Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear bomb, the world will awaken to a highly combustive reality: The US, the dominant nuclear superpower, will instantly lose its international hegemony, as we will witness the emergence of a radical Islamic nuclear superpower. Many Middle Eastern and Asian states will race toward nuclear proliferation.

But the most immediately threatened and first to capitulate will be the oil emirates of the Gulf and Arab states, like Iraq and perhaps even Saudi Arabia, whose oil reserves will be swiftly conquered by Iranian forces.

Who would dare block the “messenger of Allah,” armed with a nuclear bomb, from attaining regional hegemony from Lebanon to Oman? To be sure, we will see an outpouring of protests and condemnations, but the world will likely sit back as Iran marches toward realizing its strategy of enslaving the oil-dependent West.

Iran will match its military conquests with intensified support of subversive activity in other states. A nucleararmed Iran will reach out to local Islamic fundamentalist movements in Arab and Muslim countries and assist their takeover through either democratic elections or violence, and then will sign pacts with its new allies.

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Iran will not hesitate to use vassal terror organizations – Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian arena, Shi’ite elements in Iraq and elsewhere – to promote its interests. Under the Iranian nuclear umbrella, these organizations will be immune to reprisal.

THIS IS not a worst-case scenario, but a completely reasonable estimate of what will happen from the moment Iran achieves nuclear capability. Efforts to persuade it to forgo its nuclear aspirations through negotiation or sanctions are doomed to fail. This is a regime which sent its own children to their deaths during the Iran-Iraq war. At that time, thousands of children were ordered to obey a “divine command” and march directly into Iraqi minefields, paving the way for Iranian troops with their young corpses. Such a regime would not even blink when it comes to jeopardizing its economy or sacrificing its international interests for the sake of its ultimate goals.

The only way to prevent this scenario is through a sweeping military operation. Only one country has the power to take on an operation of this scale; it is the country with the most at stake and the greatest interest in preventing this new world disorder. That country is the United States.

US motives for preventing a nuclear Iran are numerous, starting with the direct threat already posed by an Islamic fundamentalist state openly developing long-range missiles capable of reaching any target in the Western world. Add the fact that Hizbullah has already infiltrated American soil, cultivating sleeper terror cells.

Yet by far the greatest motive is that a nuclear Iran will signal the instant loss of support from its traditional Middle Eastern allies, beginning with Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf states. Iran’s intensive courtship of these countries has long been in full force, lobbying them to cut their American ties and transfer allegiance to the rising regional nuclear power. This trend will only intensify once Iran has the Bomb. Having felt that they have bet on the wrong horse by opting for a special relationship with the US, we will see one country after the other cash in its American chips to buy Iranian favor.

A parallel and no-less-dangerous process will be the wave of nuclear proliferation across the Middle East and central Asia. Iran’s traditional adversaries, fearful of an Iranian invasion, will do everything possible to acquire their own nuclear weapons. This process obviously flies in the face of the Obama administration’s openly declared objective to prevent nuclear proliferation.

Worse yet is the clear and present danger of Iranian Islamic radical terrorist affiliates, armed with a divine command, unleashing nuclear weapons far beyond Iran’s borders.

Should President Barack Obama refrain from taking proactive steps and attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities, every country in the world will be thrown into a new, much more complicated and dangerous Cold War-like situation, triggered by the multi-polar nuclear environment.

Next to the tough dilemmas this new state of affairs will pose, the Cuban missile crisis will seem like child’s play.

ONLY THE fear of instant annihilation might dissuade a nuclear Iran from pursuing its expansionist goals.

Western states pitted in conflict against a fundamentalist adversary that follows a divine authority will have a hard time predicting Iran’s next moves or creating deterrents. There is but one option in the face of the Iranian nuclear threat: a new American-led nuclear alliance.

The “second-strike nuclear alliance” would include Western states, pro-Western states and others who fear being targeted by an Iranian nuclear attack. Unlike NATO, the SSNA would not oblige members to supply mutual assistance in the event of a conventional war, but would provide vital strategic backup: the guaranteed destruction of any aggressive nuclear attacker of any of its members – the “second strike” capability. Making an SSNA nuclear umbrella available to members could even prevent a nuclear proliferation trend; it could neutralize Iran’s military advantage over its weaker neighbors, strengthen the West and like-minded countries, and might even deter Iran from threatening to put its nuclear capability to use.

The more determination we see on the part of the Obama administration to avoid military confrontation, the more it must establish doctrines for a new, multipolar Cold War, of which the SSNA would be a pillar.

These principles must become clearly articulated, and set into motion from the moment we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Iran has attained nuclear weapons.

The writer is deputy dean of the Lauder School of Government Diplomacy and Strategy and director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at IDC Herzliya.

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