On Iran

The proliferation of nuclear weapons is a threat not only to Israel and the United States, but to the entire world. Oppenheimer was right that we should have never built these weapons in the first place, but we did, and now it the duty of the American Republic, as well as it’s steadfast Israeli ally, to bear the ark of liberties of the world and ensure that these weapons spread no further. The best way to prevent proliferation in the Middle East is to stop the first domino from falling.
President Trump made a bold move in signing a referendum to exit the Iran Deal, a move which created more questions than it answered. What comes next? Will the deal survive without the US? Will a new deal be authored up? What will that deal say? Would Iran enter into another deal? Will they now march unabated towards a nuclear weapon? Will Israel and the US have no choice but to take military action to prevent Iran from weaponizing Uranium?
No one knows. However Trump's logic in withdrawing from the deal is that it was only delaying, and not preventing, Iran from developing nuclear weapons. This needs tremendous qualification, but if we take the Mossad’s recent intelligence coup as fact, it sure seems as that Iran is getting closer to this capability daily.
I’ve always been skeptical of the Iran Deal due to my studies of the 1994 Agreed Framework between the US and North Korea. To be clear, Iran and North Korea are two dramatically different countries with very different governing systems, so I’m usually critical of those who claim that Trump’s thrashing of the Iran deal will negatively impact his talks with Jong-Un. However the Agreed Framework and, to use the official name for the Iran Deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), are more similar than they are different.
The same pattern seems to be emerging: the state looking to acquire nuclear weapons signs an agreement in order to get temporary relief, while secretly sustaining and in fact advancing their nuclear programs outside of the International Atomic Energy Agencies’ eyes.
These agreements slow a nations march toward a nuclear capability, but don’t end it; they focus too much on the symptom, and not enough on the root, namely insecurity.
After Trump withdrew from the JCPOA, Obama released a statement of defiance, noting:
“If the constraints on Iran's nuclear program under the JCPOA are lost, we could be hastening the day when we are faced with the choice between living with that threat, or going to war to prevent it.”
This line amazed me, as Obama is essentially saying that bringing the issue to the fore today is worse than bringing it to the fore in seven years. I wholeheartedly disagree, for waiting is equivalent to putting this geopolitical issue off to Iran’s advantage.
Surely it’d be much easier for the president to do nothing, get duped, and ten years from now his successor would have to deal with an Iran that’s missile and nuclear programs are much further ahead. The key is to bring the issue to the fore before reaching that point.
As Clausewitz teaches us: "It is better to act quickly and err than to hesitate until the time of action is passed."
It’s also less likely conflict will arise by getting this under control now, as opposed to letting it spiral further.
All of this assumes that Iran should never be allowed to obtain a nuclear capability. This requires qualification.
Some would surely ask that if Israel has nuclear weapons, than wouldn’t Iran having them serve as a countervailing force and thereby increase peace in the region? They’d also ask that since deterrence worked with the USSR and PRC, as well as the DPRK, India, Pakistan and so forth, why wouldn’t it work with Iran?
The thought of Iran using a nuclear weapon against Israel, the US or Europe doesn’t keep me up at night. I don’t believe they are masochistic, though I don’t know, and highly doubt they would make a move that would be their last.
Iran’s acquisition of these capabilities concerns the region’s security, and therefore America’s since they’re the principal guarantor of security in the region, for two reasons: 1.) An Iran with nuclear weapons would be emoboldened to carry out their hegemonic ambitions 2.) If Iran even comes close to weaponizing Uranium, leaders in Ankara, Cairo, Riyadh, among other Arab capitals, will push for a nuclear deterrent of their own.
The best way to prevent this is by preventing the first proliferator.
Iran traces it’s Persian heritage back millennia, and has ancient ties to the regions of Herat in northern Afghanistan, parts of Iraq, and Baluchistan, to name a few. Envision a scenario in which Iran invades Herat, while having nuclear weapons. Would the US intervene? I’m not sure it’s worth risking a nuclear war over Herat. For comparison, remember Saddam Hussein’s famous statement that his only regret in life was that he didn’t acquire WMD’s before invading Kuwait, for if he had, the US wouldn’t have been able to get him out. Imagine that he did; would the US have underwent Desert Storm? The Democrats in the House and Senate opposed it at the time though Hussein didn’t have WMD’s, so given these political realities, the US may not have.
Therefore, a nuclear Iran would be much further emboldened to make expansionary moves in the Middle East, destabilizing the region, leaving key US gulf allies in an insecure position and making US extended deterrence less reputable.
For the sake of not only American, but also global interests, the proliferation of WMD’s is perhaps the most dire issue of our time. If word gets out that Tehran is close to completing a nuclear capability, leaders all over the wider region will want their own. Egypt could probably have a nuclear capability within a year, for if the Persians have a bomb, the Arabs will have too as well. This sets off a domino effect can only be prevented by making sure the first domino doesn’t fall. 
This by no means vindicates Trump’s decision, for merely exiting the deal in no way stop’s Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon or ensuring peace. Iranian troops are reported to be making movements in Syria, Syria is reported to have fired missiles into the Golan Heights and had sustained the largest direct conflict with Iran yet fighting through the morning of May 10th, while meanwhile the Houthis fired at Riyadh.
In the long-run, the hope is that this will make the region more peaceful, however it certainly isn’t in the short-run, for Israel and Iran are closer to conflict than they were a week ago.
Hopefully this sort of posturing shows Khomeini and Rouhani that Israel and the US are ready to preemptively strike Iran’s nuclear capabilities if that’s what it will take to prevent them from developing a nuclear capability, and therefore deter them from doing so. Yet I don’t recommend a strike, for such could open up into a war involving superpowers, would take weeks considering Iran has many Russian-made anti-aircraft batteries that would have to be destroyed, Iran may go after key US oil installations in the Arab gulf, it would hurt America’s reputation among many Arabs and Muslims, and the ability for Shi’a terrorists to attack the US should not be discounted.
It also wouldn’t destroy the program, only delay it, and perhaps even push the Iranian people further into the regime’s hands.
We must seek to integrate Iran into a regional security alliance that way they feel more secure and are less apt to develop WMD’s.
A key portion of Trump’s speech came in his pathos-infused appeal to the Iranian people, asserting that American people stand with them against their oppressive overlords. In short, the US is pushing for popular support against the Ayatollah in order to make the regime’s hold on power increasingly unsustainable. NSA Director John Bolton and Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani are huge supporters of the Mojahedin El Khalq, which aims to overthrow the regime. Remember that in 1953, the CIA carried out a coup to replace the democratically elected Mossadegh and keep Iran open for Western business.
This, combined with crippling economic sanctions, is aimed principally at forcing the regime to curb their nuclear aspirations in the short-run and overthrow them in the long-run, two contradictory goals.
In sum, Trump’s decision to do something, as opposed to maintaining the status quo, is a good first step. However, it’s what comes next that really matters. Through a combination of incessant diplomacy, crippling sanctions and the omnipresent threat of nuclear force, the US may be able to reconstitute a deal much better than the JCPOA. If this can’t be achieved, and Iran moves even faster towards a bomb, than regardless of what Washington says, there may be no stopping Israel from eliminating an existential threat. Let’s hope we never reach that point.
Mr. Smith can be reached by email [email protected] Follow him on twitter @Dsmith1794