Is Iran-Nuke Fear Realistic?

As U.S.-Iran tensions gain a dangerous momentum – with an Iranian court just giving a death sentence to an alleged CIA spy – neocon-dominated Washington has jumped on the bandwagon toward war. But the Independent Institute’s Charles V. Peña says the underlying assumptions deserve more scrutiny.

By Charles V. Peña

In the war of words between Iran and the United States, Tehran has drawn a line in the sand (actually, the Persian Gulf).

According to Maj. Gen. Ataollah Salehi, the commander in chief of the Iranian army, “We recommend to the American warship that passed through the Strait of Hormuz and went to the Gulf of Oman not to return to the Persian Gulf.” This comes hot on the heels of the Iranians test-firing a new radar-evading missile and threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz.

So what’s all the aggressive huffing and puffing about? Well, the United States is imposing economic sanctions on Iran, which the Iranians aren’t taking kindly to. Of course, the U.S. takes the position that imposing such sanctions is perfectly justified (I mean, what else is a superpower to do when another country doesn’t do exactly what we want it to do?).

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas

But according to Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman, if the Iranians reacted to sanctions by attempting to close the Strait of Hormuz (cutting off the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf, which is roughly equivalent to imposing economic sanctions on the United States and other oil-dependent countries), doing so would be “an act of war.”

This, of course, after the U.S. has already engaged in an analogous action that apparently isn’t considered an act of war (except to Ron Paul). Of course, that makes about as much sense as what the hullabaloo is about to begin with.

It seems that the United States doesn’t like the idea of the mullahs in Tehran and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad getting their hands on a nuclear weapon. Iran has an active nuclear program — it recently produced their first nuclear fuel rod — which the Iranians claim is for peaceful purposes, but the U.S. doesn’t believe that.

At the heart of U.S. disbelief are centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium to weapons grade. But there isn’t anything in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treat (NPT) — to which Iran is a signatory — that prohibits a country from enriching uranium.

Moreover, the foundation of the NPT is a false promise. Essentially, non-nuclear-weapons states (such as Iran) agree not to develop nuclear weapons (Article II) in exchange for nuclear-weapons states (such as the U.S.) agreeing to eventually (with no specific deadline) divest themselves of their nuclear weapons (Article VI). Apparently, the Iranians believe this about as much as that there is a bridge in Brooklyn for sale.

But why would the Iranians want nukes anyway? It couldn’t be that neighboring Israel has nuclear weapons (not that the Israelis are admitting that they do). And it certainly couldn’t be because U.S.-imposed regime change via military force (most recently right next door to Iran in Iraq) seems to happen to countries that don’t have nuclear weapons, e.g., notice that regime change in North Korea is happening because Kim Jong-Il died of natural causes.

Not that either of these could be considered legitimate concerns, from Iran’s perspective. And if the Iranians got nukes, the West’s argument goes, that would be the end of the world because they would most certainly use them. After all, Ahmadinejad supposedly threatened to wipe Israel off the map.

This assumes, of course, that the Iranians are suicidal. It is hard to imagine that the Israelis would sit idly by and not retaliate with their nuclear arsenal (which is likely enough to wipe Iran off the map). Ditto for any concerns about Iran lobbing a nuke at the United States (with an even larger and more capable nuclear arsenal that could wipe Iran off the map several times over — not to mention the minor detail that the Iranians don’t have a delivery platform capable of reaching the United States).

But Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, the argument goes, so wouldn’t they give nukes to terrorists? This, of course, was a central tenet of the Bush administration’s rationale for invading Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein in the wake of 9/11.

But the reality is that there is no history of any country with dreaded weapons of mass destruction giving them away to terrorists. Indeed, Saddam Hussein was known to have both chemical and biological weapons (in the 1980s) and he supported terrorists — but he never gave those weapons to terrorists.

It is also hard to fathom why the regime in Tehran would spend billions of dollars (perhaps tens of billions of dollars) in pursuit of nuclear weapons technology only to give it away to terrorists (the Bushehr reactor complex is estimated to have cost $4-6 billion, and the Iranians are believed to be constructing three to five more nuclear facilities at an estimated cost of $3.2 billion).

So strip away the veneer of threats and posturing, and the underpinning logic is anything but logical. Unfortunately, this passes for and seems to be accepted as sound foreign policy.

Charles V. Peña is Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute as well as a senior fellow with the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy.

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16 comments on “Is Iran-Nuke Fear Realistic?

  1. F. G. Sanford on said:

    See the video documenting the exchange between Kennedy and Curtis LeMay during the Cuban Missile crisis. LeMay insisted that the only option was war. Kennedy reminded him that the retaliatory move would be a Soviet takeover of West Berlin. LeMay said he didn’t think that would happen. Keep in mind, when General Clay moved his tanks to the Berlin Wall against Kennedy’s orders, The Soviets immediately followed suit. Kennedy told Clay to, “Get those Goddamned tanks out of sight”. The conventional wisdom was that Kennedy would appear weak both at home and abroad if he was unwilling to commit to war. It took courage to ignore public opinion and do the right thing. Kennedy was right to avoid war. We haven’t seen such courage since. Conservatives know that, and just can’t live it down. Has anyone noticed that every war we’ve been lied into since was against some country the conservatives thought would provide an easy victory? The oil companies profit, the weapons industry profits, the bankers profit, and they use the profits to buy our politicians. It’s no coincidence that so many of our representatives became millionares AFTER taking office. Who’s willing to bet we won’t send another carrier through the Strait of Hormuz, a la Lucius Clay?

  2. Hillary on said:

    This whole Iran issue is only being pushed by people whose loyalties are
    with Israel and not to America’s best interests.

    Like Iraq it is based on lies and purposeful distortions to lead the US into another proxy war based on lies for the sole benefit of Israel.

    Iran is a peaceful country that hasn’t started a war in over 100 years.

    The USA on the other hand ,under neocon control, started a “War on Islam” with Iran as the principal objective.

    Iran & the rest of the world has called for a nuclear free Middle East.

    Martin Luther King described the US as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” —He was then shot dead.

    When J.F.Kenedy was adamant that Israel not develope a Nuclear Bomb — He was then shot dead.

    For over 50 years the U.S.(neocons within US Administrations)has had its sights set on Iran

    Iran only wants to protect & defend itself.

    After what happened to Iraq how can anyone blame it.

    The Algiers Accords of January 19, 1981 freed 52 American Embassy hostages in exchange for a US PROMISE “not to intervene directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran’s internal affairs”.

    Todat Iranians are living daily under the terror of Nuclear attack.

    Mossad chief Tamir Pardo says a nuclear-armed Iran wouldn’t be a threat to Israel.

    http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/mossad-chief-nuclear-iran-not-necessarily-existential-threat-to-israel-1.404227

    Former centcomm commander Adm. Fallon said “Iran is no threat to the USA, if and when they are, we can squash them like an ant”.

  3. A nuclear attack on Iran is illogical – but not impossible since America is the only nation who’s ever had the gall, the brutality, to nuke two cities filled with old men, women, and children. This war could also start a global war but that wouldn’t bother the fanatics in Washington. I wouldn’t put it past them to do it again. It’s a militarized nation becoming even more militarized and it’s probably going to be a great shock to all of us out here when the day comes and humans completely destroy themselves. The stupidity of mankind is profound.

  4. hopeful pessimist on said:

    Re: Amir Hekmati, the American alleged CIA spy, Iran has produced a video, many versions of which are viewable on Youtube, and related to which the Iranians have also published an English language transcript in the Tehran Times. If Mr. Hekmati’s confession was truthful and the allegations are true, then the Iranians have something to rely on, though it would be horrendous if they were to execute the sentence.

    If, instead, Mr. Hekmati was tortured, or otherwise put under duress, to make him “confess”- and that is clear possibility- then that would be a tragic irony, given the CIA’s interrogation protocols which for at least 10 years have been authorized to include torture and other forms of coercion, despite their illegality and unreliability.

    Maybe, both sides will take a deep breath and a step backwards, and finally begin to negotiate out of this immediate mess and use it as a starting point for a serious effort at a more rational diplomacy on the big issues that divide us.

  5. Amy Torg on said:

    Iran has stated it will no longer accept US Dollars in exchange for its oil. This is the same offense for which Saddam Hussein was removed from power in Iraq, and Gaddafi in Libya. The whole nuke scare is a hoax. If Iran refuses dollars, that would be a big blow to the US economy.

  6. Why Anti-Semitism Is Moving Toward the Mainstream

    by Alan M. Dershowitz
    January 3, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    For the first time since the end of World War II, classic anti-Semitic tropes—”the Jews” control the world and are to blame for everything that goes wrong, including the financial crisis; “The Jews killed Christian children in order to use the blood to bake Matzo; the Holocaust never happened—are becoming acceptable and legitimate subjects for academic and political discussion. To understand why these absurd and reprehensible views, once reserved for the racist fringes of academia and politics, are now moving closer to the mainstream, consider the attitudes of two men, one an academic, the other a politician, toward those who express or endorse such bigotry. The academic is Professor Brian Leiter. The politician is Ron Paul.

    You’ve probably never heard of Leiter. He’s a relatively obscure professor of jurisprudence, who is trying to elevate his profile by publishing a gossipy blog about law school professors. He is a colleague of John Mearsheimer, a prominent and world famous professor at the University of Chicago.

    Several months ago Mearsheimer enthusiastically endorsed a book, really a pamphlet, that included all the classic anti-Semitic tropes. It was entitled “The Wandering Who” and written by Gilad Atzmon, a British version of David Duke, who plays the saxophone and has no academic connections. Atzmon writes that we must take “very seriously” the claim that “the Jewish people are trying to control the world.” He calls the recent credit crunch “the Zio punch.” He says “the Holocaust narrative” doesn’t make “historical sense” and expresses doubt that Auschwitz was a death camp. He invites students to accept the “accusations of Jews making Matzo out of young Goyim’s blood.”

    Books and pamphlets of this sort are written every day by obscure anti-Semites and published by disreputable presses that specialize in this kind of garbage. No one ever takes notice, except for neo-Nazis around the world who welcome any additions to the literature of hate.

    What is remarkable about the publication of this hateful piece of anti-Semitic trash, is that it was enthusiastically endorsed by two prominent American professors, John Mearsheimer and Richard Falk, who urged readers, including students, to read, “reflect upon” and “discuss widely” the themes of Atzmon’s book. Never before has any such book received the imprimatur of such established academics.

    I was not shocked by these endorsements, because I knew that both of these academics had previously crossed “red lines,” separating legitimate criticism of Israel from subtle anti-Semitism. Mearsheimer has accused American Jews of dual loyalty, and Falk has repeatedly compared Israel to Nazi Germany. Both were so enthusiastic about Atzmon’s anti-Zionism—he has written that Israel is “worse” than the Nazis—that they were prepared to give him a pass on his classic “blood libel” anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. No great surprise there.

    What was surprising—indeed shocking—was the fact that Mearsheimer’s relatively apolitical colleague, Brian Leiter, rushed to Mearsheimer’s defense. Without bothering even to read Atzmon’s book, Leiter pronounced that Atzmon’s “positions [do not mark him] as an anti-Semite [but rather as] cosmopolitan.” Leiter also certified that Atzmon “does not deny the Holocaust or the gas chambers.” Had Leiter read the book, he could not have made either statement.

    Atzmon himself credits “a man who…was an anti-Semite” for “many of [his] insights” and calls himself a “self-hating Jew” who has contempt for “the Jew in me.” If that’s not an admission of anti-Semitism, rather than “cosmopolitanism,” I don’t know what is. As far as the Holocaust is concerned, Atzmon asserts that it is not “an historical narrative.” And as to the gas chambers, he doubts that the “Nazis ran a death factory in Auschwitz-Berkanau.”

    Leiter went so far as to condemn those who dared to criticize Mearsheimer for endorsing Atzmon’s book, calling their criticism “hysterical” and not “advance[ing] honest intellectual discourse.” And he defended Mearsheimer’s endorsement as “straight forward.”

    The Brian Leiters of the world are an important part of the reason why anti-Semitic tropes are creeping back to legitimacy in academia. His knee-jerk defense of an admitted Jew hater—who, according to Leiter is not a despicable anti-Semite but an acceptable “cosmopolitan”—contributes to the legitimization of anti-Semitism.

    The same can be said of Ron Paul, who everyone has heard of. Paul has, according to The New York Times, refused to “disavow” the “support” of “white supremacists, survivalists and anti-Zionists who have rallied behind his candidacy.” (These “anti-Zionists” believe that “Zionists”—Jews—control the world, were responsible for the bombing of the Oklahoma federal building, and caused the economic downturn, because “most of the leaders involved in the federal and international banking system are Jews.”) He allowed his “Ron Paul survival report” to espouse David Duke type racism and anti-Semitism for years during the 1990s, claiming he was unaware that they were being promoted under his name. Edward H. Crane, the founder of the libertarian CATO Institute, has said, “I wish Ron would condemn those fringe things that float around” his campaign, but he refuses to reject the support of these anti-Semites who form a significant part of his base. The New York Times has criticized Paul for his failure to “convincingly repudiate racist remarks that were published under his name for years—or the enthusiastic support he is getting from racist groups,” including those that espouse “anti-Semitism and far right paranoia.”

    Even now, Paul continues to accept contributions from Holocaust deniers, from those who blame the Jews for everything and from other bigots, thus lending some degree of legitimacy to their hateful views.

    When Nazi anti-Semitism began to achieve mainstream legitimacy in Germany and Austria in the 1930′s, it was not because Hitler, Goebbels and Goering were espousing it. Their repulsive views had been known for years. It was because non Nazis—especially prominent academics, politicians and artists—were refusing to condemn anti-Semitism and those who espoused it.

    It has been said that “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Leiter and Paul may or may not be good men, but they are guilty of more than merely doing nothing. They are, by their actions, helping to legitimate the oldest of bigotries. Shame on them!

    • Hossein on said:

      So you are saying that if one questions the Jewish history or question the “facts” or even just Question Jews in the light of all the attrocities commited by the Zionists with irrefutable evidence of guilt, then we are automaticly Anti-zionist. It sounds like the old zionist labeling propaganda. Why is it that if a professor of history in Europe would face mandatory 5year jail sentence just by questioning any part of the Holocaust? Is freedom of speach valid only if you agree with the establishment? Alan M. Dershowitz is the biggest mouth piece of the Zionist propaganda machine and by quoting him I understand were you are coming from. Alan Dershowitz is an imoral zionist whos loyalty truly is to the Zionists and not even to “Jewish” Irsrael. If any one likes to know who Alain Dershowitz is then read “Beyond Chutzpah” by Norman Finkelstein. I also recomend the read to “Flat5″.

      • your just an antisemite period….

        • (2 Cor 5:16 KJV) Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.

          The above term teaches us that when we become a true Christian, that no longer are we to view each other according to the flesh. For example, I am Hungarian but that does not mean my new title in Christ is Hungarian-Christian or Messianic Magyar (Hungarian).

          Therefore, the moniker of Messianic Jew is absolutely inconsistent with the teachings of Scripture. The title given to every redeemed of God is “Christian” and that is it. The title ‘Messianic Jew” is nothing more than an attempt to have one foot in the church and the other with the identifying of National Israel which is no friend of Christianity.

          Christians have been duped. Preachers like John Hagee and the free-will, Pro-Israel church people have been duped by their pastors and radio preachers to believe that the Jews are God’s “chosen people.” That term was started by a Presbyterian Laymen in 1956 (Read Prophecy and Politics by Grace Halsell) and it is not a biblical statement or fact. The problem is that if someone opposes a Jew on anything whether they are saved or not, is labeled Anti-Semitic and quite frankly I am sick of seeing doltish Christians defend the enemies of Christ (and all unsaved are) against other Christians. The greatest source of lies and deceit are found in prophecy books written by preachers who are so entwined with Zionist politics and the Zionist Lobby that they have completely lost their ability to discern truth. Yet, Christians buy these Hollywood-style scripts by the millions and then interpret the Bible according to them.

          What is a Political Semite? The political definition of a Semite is one who is a member of any of a number of peoples of ancient southwestern Asia including the Akkadians, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs. It is one who is a descendant of these people. They are a member of a modern people speaking a Semitic language.

          Did you notice the number of groups? Four not One! These four groups make up the Semitic peoples of the earth. I have already checked the following out in two dictionaries.

          The term Anti-Semitic is used only of those who dislike or hate Jews, or as a weapon against whoever the Jews don’t like. Hey, wait a minute, there are four groups who are considered Semitic. If I hate the Arabs it is not Anti-Semitism but if I hate the Jews it is? Someone is selling the literary world a bill of goods in the dictionaries. If the Semitic people are comprised of four groups, then any hate toward any group needs to be classified as Anti-Semitism. Therefore, if the Jews hate the Arabs, then they are being Anti-Semitic, if the Phoenicians hate the Akkadians, it is Anti-Semitism. Eclectic definitions of Anti-Semitism must not be tolerated in favor of one race.

          It is obvious then that the term Anti-Semitism has been fostered on the non-thinking public as only alluding to the Jews which makes the modern definition a well-planned deception.

          The other well-planned deception is that if you oppose Israel, you oppose God. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hebrews 1:1-2 says that in the last days God spoke to us through His Son, not the nation of Israel. Mention the name of Jesus Christ in Israel and you will get arrested or killed. Any Christian who supports Israel is supporting the enemies of Christ, whether by ignorance or not. I am not calling for the elimination of Israel, perish the thought because there are many of God’s elect in Israel but that nation should not be looked upon as special in God’s sight because nowhere in the Bible is it set apart as a special nation in the latter days (post-ascension era). God is dealing with His elect, the Israel of God, throughout the whole world and no longer with one nation as He did in the pre-Bethlehem days. His eyes are on the church, the TRUE ISRAEL OF GOD.

    • No wonder this has started happening. Any argument, no mater how valid, if you use it as a propaganda tool has a certain shelf-life. This could’nt be truer in case of ‘Antisemitism’, a notion whose over-use (rather misuse) has diminished it’s value as a valid concept. And Zionist themselves are to be blamed for this. They are doing a disservice to those Jews who actually suffered in the recent past and in that sense intentionally or otherwise committing antisemitism. Their intentional antisemetism is also evident from their treatment of Palestinians who are also Samites and have no role in the annihilation of Jews in Eorope.

  7. The Intrigues of Persia

    Humanitarian gestures and covert actions won’t stop Iran’s bomb..

    As a supervisor at the uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan was engaged in building a nuclear bomb in violation of four binding U.N. Security Council resolutions. On Wednesday he was assassinated after a bomb was attached to his car, making him the fifth senior Iranian nuclear scientist known to have been killed in recent years.

    His death will serve a useful purpose if it convinces a critical mass of his colleagues to cease pursuing an atomic critical mass. That wouldn’t be a bad way to bring the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear program to a peaceful conclusion. But don’t count on it.

    Opponents of Tehran’s nuclear ambitions have been attempting for years to use a combination of diplomacy, sanctions and covert action to persuade the mullahs that they have more to lose than gain from building a bomb. So far, none of it has worked: Diplomacy has mostly allowed the Iranians to play for time. Sanctions so far have been too narrowly targeted to have much effect, though that may change now that the U.S. and Europe are finally targeting Iran’s oil trade.

    As for covert activity, we may someday learn the full story of who did what, how they did it, and what effect it all had. But to judge by last November’s report on Iran’s nuclear programs by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Tehran is closer than ever to a bomb. That’s despite the Stuxnet computer worm, the assassinations, and last year’s mysterious explosion at a missile factory.

    What goes in the cloak-and-dagger world also goes for public diplomacy. Americans can take pride in last week’s dramatic rescue by the destroyer USS Kidd of 13 Iranian sailors who had spent 40 days as hostages of Somali pirates. But if the Administration thought that would break the tension following Iran’s threats over the Strait of Hormuz, Tehran had other ideas.

    Days after the Kidd rescue, Iran imposed a death sentence on 28-year-old Amir Hekmati, an Arizona-born Iranian-American and former U.S. Marine. Mr. Hekmati was charged with spying for the CIA and convicted of being moharebe, or an enemy of God, the worst offense in the Iranian penal code. The U.S. government categorically denies that Mr. Hekmati worked as a spy. His family says he was in Iran on his first visit to see his grandmothers when he was arrested last August.

    The Islamic Republic has a long history of detaining foreigners on dubious espionage charges and then trying to use them as diplomatic bargaining chips. But if Mr. Hekmati is simply their latest victim, the death sentence is unprecedented for an American citizen. It is also a reminder of how little U.S. gestures like Thursday’s rescue count in Tehran’s calculus. An evil regime will not be swayed by the conspicuous performance of good deeds.

    Much of the world wants to believe that force won’t be necessary to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but the explosions and killings show that a covert war involving deadly force is already underway. The Obama Administration says Iran plotted to kill a Saudi ambassador in a Washington, D.C. restaurant, and Iran is trying to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan as it previously did in Iraq. Many more people will die if the world doesn’t get serious about stopping this rogue regime.
    Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page 16