The hottest novel making the rounds in global government circles these days is 2034: A Novel of the Next World War (by Admiral James Stavridis and Elliot Ackerman), in which China and Iran defeat America in a nuclear shootout.
Tens of millions of people are incinerated in San Diego and Shanghai, millions more die of radiation poisoning in wretched refugee camps and cyclical outbreaks of typhus, measles and rubeola spread across America and China.
Smallpox sprouts from latrines and rows of plastic tenting. America sinks into depression and becomes dependent on international aid, while India and Russia take its place as global power brokers.
The book makes it clear how slippage into tactical nuclear war is eminently possible through miscalculation, hubris and ideological stridency.
All of which leads me to shudder at the thought of the Islamic Republic of Iran obtaining a nuclear bomb, something that is not far off unless Tehran’s nuclear march forward is completely quashed.
After all, Iran is now enriching uranium to the 60% level and manufacturing uranium metal for the purpose of a bomb without effective International Atomic Energy Agency supervision of its nuclear sites. It is barreling ahead with weaponization work and with its ballistic missile bomb-delivery program.
All the while, US President Joe Biden and the Europeans have been able to muster only the courage to “implore” Iran to re-enter negotiations about harking back to the disastrous Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action of 2015 – which apparently will happen at the end of November. They are preparing to drop all Western sanctions against Iran in exchange for yet more phony Iranian promises to refrain for a while from dashing toward a bomb.
This moves Israel and Iran closer than ever to direct military conflict, and perhaps nuclear conflict too. The IDF keeps warning that a next war with Iran and its allies such as Hezbollah will bring tens of thousands of missiles raining down on Israel’s heartland.
And as the war inevitably expands, Gulf states probably will be hit, as well as US assets in the region. Through miscalculation, hubris and ideological stridency the conflict could escalate to world war.
War certainly will devastate the world oil supply and hit western economies hard, even if Iranian terrorist cells don’t simultaneously wreak havoc in Europe and the US.
AND YET, according to all reports, when Prime Minister Naftali Bennett this week raised the Iranian danger in meetings with world leaders at the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow, no one was really listening. They nodded politely as Bennett sounded the alarm about Iran without really engaging the issue.
They were more interested in hearing from Bennett how Israel has handled the COVID-19 pandemic and how Israel is getting by with a very diverse coalition government than they were interested in hearing yet another warning about Iran.
World leaders were much too busy waxing and rhapsodizing with great hyperbole about the addiction to fossil fuels, beginning with UN chief Antonio Guterres who said that “we are digging our own graves” and “pushing humanity to the brink,” and that the “climate bomb” must be defused immediately.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that “we are one minute to midnight on the doomsday clock” in preventing “climate catastrophe.”
US President Joe Biden said that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is “the challenge of our collective lifetime.”
Not a word about the obligation of the international community for “collective security” in stopping Iran. Not a word about being pushed by the Iranians to the brink of nuclear catastrophe and world war.
In short, world leaders are taken more by the expanding ozone hole than Iran’s deepening nuclear bunkers. They are prepared to bravely declare “war” on polluters but afraid to threaten Iran with war – which is the only way to reach accommodation with Iran. They are prepared to heroically escalate their rhetoric against carbons, but not prepared to boldly put the threat of military escalation on the table against Iran.
They can gather in the thousands in Glasgow for an environmental gabfest that will go on for weeks, which will be covered in tens of thousands of breathless and dramatic media stories in every language on the planet. Apparently, in the view of the UN and world leaders, this is more pressing and of weightier concern than the near-term, concrete threat of nuclear annihilation of Israel and an Iranian hegemonic umbrella being spread across the Middle East. Why organize a glitzy global conclave to combat that latter threat?
There is another relevant parallel between the two issues. Alas, the human mind tends to ignore problems when they are small and less threatening, waking up to threats when it is “almost too late” – which is what was said about climate change this week. But of course, the same logic applies to the Iranian threat. The world ought to avoid a nuclear crisis of dramatic magnitude by dealing forcefully with Iran before it goes whole-hog nuclear. Shying away from near-term confrontation with the radical Islamic Republic is penny wise, pound foolish.
As an aside, note also the following cynical and unfriendly facts: World leaders are more concerned about the rights of terrorist-backed Palestinian NGOs than the rights of Israelis to live without a perpetual Iranian nuclear threat hanging over their heads. They are more upset about Jewish home-building in Jerusalem and Judea than the building of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps bases on Israel’s northern border (and in Iraq, Yemen, Western Africa, etc.).
DON’T GET me wrong. I am in favor of taking climate issues seriously.
Indeed, the world should end deforestation, cut emissions, provide access to clean and affordable power and increase investment in green energy and climate solutions – without delay! Rich nations can even fork over $100 billion a year to poor nations to adapt and mitigate, as demanded by speakers at the UN conference.
Israel can and should contribute its hi-tech brainpower to these goals too, in partnership with scientists, innovators, NGOs and governments everywhere.
But what poses a clearer and more present danger: greenhouse gas emissions or Iranian nuclear weapons? What needs to be tackled most immediately and with the greatest urgency: curbing the addiction to fossil fuels or nullifying Iran’s nuclear bomb drive?
The writer’s diplomatic, defense, political and Jewish world columns over the past 25 years are archived at davidmweinberg.com