The US government estimates Iran may be able to produce a nuclear weapon in five to 10 years.
Independent experts set that date several years farther into the future. According to David Albright, president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, when Iran boasts of great nuclear progress, “they’re hyping it.”
The New York Times reports that western nuclear analysts doubt Iran has “the skills, materials and equipment to make good on its immediate nuclear ambitions.”
So when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rolled out the trumpets and drums last week to announce that Iran had manufactured a thimbleful of enriched uranium, the occasion was meaningless — meaningless from a scientific point of view, that is.
Politically, it was fraught with meaning.
Iran is one of the world’s richest oil producers.
It’s also a major military power, sitting right in the strategic heartland between two American wars, and is the only government on the Persian Gulf that’s hostile to US military and corporate interests.
Furthermore, it’s ruled by an anti-Semitic religious fanatic with nuclear ambitions. When such a country starts saber-rattling, it’s bound to draw world attention.
Enter Uncle Sam, not exactly speaking softly, but carrying a very big stick.
According to Seymour Hersh, one of the most respected investigative journalists in America, the Pentagon is planning open war on Iran while already conducting clandestine war there.
The clandestine war involves secret missions by special forces. The open war would involve massive bombing, and the use of nuclear weapons has not been ruled out.
The White House’s denial of Hersh’s claim has been both half-hearted and implausible.
Hersh spoke to generals, administration officials, consultants with close ties to the White House, and senior Pentagon advisers. The overwhelming message was that the US is preparing for war, as well as preparing a case for war.
One insider told Hersh that military thinking is “a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.”
When we speak of regime change in Iran, it’s hard not to believe that any change would be an improvement, but recent experience would suggest otherwise.
Four years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan have served to depose a pair of brutal controlling regimes, only to replace them with new brutal regimes and general chaos.
Certainly it was a good idea to get rid of the Baathists and the Taliban, but the cost in suffering has been extreme and the results dubious, whether from a human rights or a security perspective.
It’s always legitimate to worry when another nation threatens to join the “nuclear club” as Ahmadinejad called it, but to draw another 68 million people into the current Gulf War on the grounds that Iran may some day in the future become a member of that blighted association is to ignore the far larger reality: The threat of nuclear war looms over the world every minute of every day, and it’s not because of Iran.
When the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War was pronounced dead, nothing really happened to all those infamous missiles.
They’re all still there, still, as they used to like to remind us, enough to blow up the world many times over, still on hair-trigger alert, still with frighteningly unpredictable fingers on the buttons.
It’s common now to speak of America as the world’s only superpower, and it’s true that Russia can’t afford the old geopolitical dance of armies all over the globe any more. But they can and do still play at Mutually Assured Destruction.
The US, for its part, continues to escalate the nuclear threat to the planet. Its Missile Defence Plan is a clear challenge to Russia and other nuclear-armed enemies, and the US has now developed “tactical” nuclear weapons and is making plans to use them.
One tactic under consideration is the use of the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator — the so called ‘bunker buster’ bomb, to destroy Iran’s underground nuclear facilities.
This planning goes on even after last year’s report from the US National Research Council revealing that a single use of the RNEP could kill more than a million people.
No one wants to see Iran develop the Bomb, but to keep things in perspective, the most dangerous and unstable actor on the nuclear scene today — the one that has shown itself willing to wage unsanctioned war, to ignore UN resolutions and the Geneva Conventions, and to commit crimes against humanity on a massive scale — already owns 7,650 nuclear weapons.
So let’s be clear as we watch the US-Iran situation unfold, that George W. Bush is not the world’s saviour from the threat of Armageddon. He is the threat.
The excuses for war in the Gulf haven’t changed much — it’s still the same weapons-of-mass-destruction bogeyman — and the real reason hasn’t changed either
A “high-ranking diplomat” told Hersh: “This is much more than a nuclear issue. That’s just a rallying point … The real issue is who is going to control the Middle East and its oil in the next 10 years.”