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Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Iranian Nukes

Christian Science Monitor:

Defiance plays well in Iran. That's one reason why the Islamic republic is now resuming steps toward uranium enrichment - directly flouting a UN agency's demand to stop the development of technology that could be used in a nuclear bomb. Iran's calculation also shows that Tehran has learned lessons from US policy toward other fledgling nuclear states such as North Korea to Pakistan. In short: The West is more respectful and generous with nuclear-equipped states, rogue or not, experts say.
A couple of points here. First, if you believe that Iran's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, I got a bridge to sell you. Second, is the interesting point of whether it is, or is not, wise from Iran's point of view to acquire nuclear weapons. I am not sure that Iran is correct in their estimation here, although I do understand that they look at North Korea and Pakistan and see apparent benefits. Both of these countries are in situations that are quite different from Iran, and I think have more bearing on their situation than their possession of Nuclear weapons. First, North Korea. North Korea is backed by China, at least to a degree. China certainly wants NK as a buffer between itself and South Korea and would certainly be troubled by a U.S. occupation of that country. Added into this, getting China to work with us toward the goal of disarming North Korea has given us some hope that this situation can be resolved peacefully. Another factor that makes North Korea differnt than Iran is that even absent nuclear weapons North Korea's conventional weapons threaten a large percentage of the civilian population of South Korea, a key ally. Because of these factors, it is easy to argue that North Korea is in more jeopardy, rather than less because of it's nuclear program. Should we lose faith in the negotiations, or should we discover any selling of nuclear weapons (a very real possibility) I imagine that a military strike would follow quite quickly. Absent a nuclear program, North Korea would be peacefully left to destroy itself without outside interference. Pakistan is a different situation. I of course have no inside knowledge of what the negotiations between the U.S. and Pakistan were after 9/11 but it seems pretty obvious to me that we issued some serious ultimatums. Pakistan complied, buying for themselves a get out of jail free card and have been a strong ally in the war on terror, although internal opposition to Musharef, accompanied by not infrequent assasination attempts, is troubling. I expect that part of our deal with Pakistan includes monitoring of their nuclear capabilities and if the current government were to fall we would quickly take out those capabilities. Iran of course is quite differnt from both of these countries. They don't have strong backing from a powerful patron nation, they have not commited themselves to fighting the war on terror (well, at least not fighting it on OUR side) and they have little ability to threaten our allies with their conventional military forces. Nuclear weapons would change the scenario. It would make a strike against Iran more, not less likely.


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