Countdown to Armageddon?
Iran has once again, and in spectacular fashion, flipped the bird to the UN by breaking the seals on its Natanz nuclear facility and announcing that it is going forward, come what may, with nuclear enrichment research. Notwithstanding their forked-tongue protestations, this will obviously include the production of weapons-grade material.
It’s a little hard to blame them for proceeding merrily according to plan, since the big cheeses of the world can’t seem to do much more than stamp a foot or two and threaten to bring Iran before the UN Security Council. I don’t get the impression that being hauled up before the UN Security Council is anything that will give Supreme Pan-Islamic Honcho and Cheerful Nutcase Ahmadinejad any sleepless nights, and besides, the US and EU3 (Britain, France and Germany) have been uttering the Security Council threat since…2003. Even they know it’s an empty threat. As military historian (and personal hero of mine) John Keegan notes, neither the Security Council nor the IAEA has any power to actually enforce the NPT. This is due primarily to what Keegan describes as a lack of “will” among UN member states to take meaningful action — particularly Russia, whom the other states are loath to offend. (Russia is busy building a reactor for Iran, so other considerations, like a nuclear holocaust initiated by a foam-flecked sociopath, naturally fall by the wayside.)
So what is to be done? Keegan points out that the sanctions option, sure to appeal to the Europeans, will cause the Iranians some “inconvenience” but will not only not in any way hamper their nuclear progress — it will to some degree serve the interests of the ruling theocrats, who would like nothing better than to starve their educated young population of Western contact. He goes on to say:
To stage a second war in the Middle East would not be a desirable initiative at present for America and would certainly be highly unpopular at home and among its allies. Moreover, Iran, as the possessor of the second largest oil reserves in the world and occupier of a strategic position athwart the sea routes delivering oil to most of the consuming world, has its own means of retaliation ready to hand.
Which brings us, as always in the geopolitics of the Middle East, to Israel. Israel makes no attempt to conceal that it has considered and undoubtedly is now considering its ability to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities by military action.
Keegan then makes a point I don’t agree with — that Israel’s current political situation will hamstring decision-making at this level — but does make the practical and indisputable point that logistically, Iran’s nuclear facilities are much harder for us to get at than were Saddam’s in 1981 (please see my October 27 post on Iran for a further discussion of this point).
The Glasgow Herald (via Israellycool) has pounced on the Israeli option: according to them, we are contemplating a preemptive airstrike against Iran’s nuclear facility as early as March. I haven’t seen this anywhere else, and the Glaswegians are depending for their information on an “unnamed Israeli source” (who could, presumably, be my dishwasher repairman), so take this with a grain of salt. Still, I suspect the unspoken hope of many around the globe who are unnerved by Iran’s chest-pounding is that we will get on with it and take care of things — a signal service that will undoubtedly be repaid by heaps of opprobrium, as would an American military strike.