Iran's Bomb

There’s been a lot of talk recently about Israel and/or the United States bombing the nuclear facilities in Iran. I wouldn’t worry about that. I believe they are both bluffing.

In the first place, just the talk has kicked up the price of oil. In the second place, there is no proof that Iran really wants to develop nuclear weapons. So far, what the Iranians have done and propose to do are legal. They have a reasonable explanation for why they want to develop nuclear power. Oil is their biggest and most valuable export. The less they use for domestic purposes, the more they will have to export.

On the other hand, they are surrounded by nuclear powers — Israel, Russia, Pakistan, India and the U.S. (through its heavy presence in the Persian Gulf and Iraq). So maybe they do want to develop a nuclear bomb. Personally, I don’t care if they do. Having lived most of my life with 30,000 nuclear warheads and the means to deliver them in the Soviet Union, I’m not going to worry about the Iranians having six or seven.

I’m not one of those people who think the world will end with a nuclear explosion. There have been a lot of nuclear explosions. We dropped two on Japan, and all the nuclear powers tested their bombs in the atmosphere as well as underground. Despite the urban legends about plutonium, we are all still here. A nuclear weapon is, after all, a bomb, and like all bombs there is a limit to its radius of destruction. As Brother Dave Gardner put it, the place to be when a nuclear bomb goes off is wherever you can say, "What was that?"

In the meantime, what the United States should do is talk to the Iranians, instead of talking at them, threatening them and insulting them. Civil discourse and honest diplomacy are too much to ask of this reckless and immature administration, which, despite evidence to the contrary, seems to believe it can bully the whole world into doing its bidding.

Right now, the U.S. is banking on getting the International Atomic Energy Agency to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council. Winning this vote is not a certainty, but even if the U.S. does, Russia or China would likely veto any attempt to apply sanctions on Iran. A high-ranking Chinese official has just publicly announced that Iran is to become China’s major trading partner. Russia has a heavy investment in Iran’s nuclear facilities. President George W. Bush is about to have his bubble of delusions pricked. We are not the world’s only superpower, and there are plenty of people who don’t jump when Bush snaps his fingers.

As for the Israelis, they would attack Iran in a New York second — if they had the capability, and I don’t believe they do. If they take a northern route, they will need permission from Turkey to use its airspace. They won’t get it. If they fly to the south through airspace we control, they would need our permission, and that’s not at all certain. Moreover, they don’t have the planes capable of taking enough ordnance to do sufficient damage to fortified, underground installations that are widely dispersed.

Iran, despite its problems, is not without the means to retaliate, whether attacked by Israel or the U.S. One thing the Iranians might do is wreck the oil facilities in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, as well as closing the valves on their own oil. This would throw the world oil market into chaos, and the world economy would quickly follow.

Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are far too close to the oil industry to risk that kind of worldwide economic train wreck.

Presumably, we didn’t want Israel to have the bomb, but the Israelis built them anyway. Ditto Pakistan, India and North Korea. In the end, despite the hot rhetoric, if the Iranians want a bomb, they will probably end up building it. That might cause the Israelis to lose a little sleep — though not much, as they have 200 nuclear weapons — but it shouldn’t bother us in the least.

The Iranians are just as sensible and levelheaded as anyone else. Don’t buy the propaganda that they are all a bunch of crazies. They’ve been around a lot longer than we have. I would trust them with nuclear weapons as much as — perhaps even a hair more than — I trust Bush. Americans must stop allowing politicians and propagandists to scare them into reckless behavior.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.