At about 9 pm last Saturday night, Iran and a group of assorted World Powers reached a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program for six months while the two sides work out a permanent, more sweeping, agreement. By most accounts, it is a good deal all around. Iran has to stop enriching uranium beyond 5 percent and convert its stronger stockpile back to oxide and, in turn, it will receive some financial relief, but most sanctions will remain.
At about 9:08, Ari Fleischer tweeted The Iran deal and our allies: You can’t spell abandonment without OBAMA. Of course he had no idea what the deal was, but, apparently, he wanted to be first in line to denounce it. On Monday, the price of gold dropped 20%, reflecting the opinion of the realist community on this now being a safer world. I should probably start any comments about the deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program by the United States, France, Britain, China, Russia and Germany with a disclaimer. I think that the crisis around Iran having the bomb is a manufactured crisis. Let me explain.
By manufactured crisis, I don’t mean to say that Iran having nuclear weapons is OK, I think that it is awful. But I don’t see it as more awful than anybody else having nuclear weapons. I am of the opinion that nobody should have them. That they are dangerous to mankind – actually to all of God’s creatures – and, if there were a rational, just, loving, God, nuclear weapons would not even exist, not even as a concept. Nevertheless, lots of countries have them and we seem to be OK with that.
Pakistan is reputed to have about 100 nuclear weapons and rather than trying to get rid of them, Congress has just authorized more than $1.6 billion in military and economic aid. Israel is hysterically screaming about the danger of Iran having weapons and possesses a nuclear arsenal of somewhere between 80 and 200 weapons. The United States has, by treaty, 7,700 nuclear weapons, most of them loaded and ready for delivery (euphemistically put). According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, we have a stockpile of an estimated 4,650 nuclear warheads ready for delivery by more than 800 ballistic missiles and aircraft. That is probably enough killing power to kill everything on the planet down to the cockroach level. Of course our weapons are OK because they can not be used unless they are authorized by the President – or, in the unlikely case of somebody in the chain of command running amok – and we are not a terrorist country (unless you want to count killing people by drone or the 150,000 to 240,000 people we killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear weapons).
All those nasty details aside, I think that Iran getting a nuclear bomb wouldn’t change anything very much. These weapons are really only last resort, defensive, weapons. What would Iran do with their nuclear weapons? Attack Israel? That is ridicules. Imagine Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. The largest North Korean weapon, tested in 2009, is estimated at a destructive force of 2.35 kilotons and there is little reason to think early Iranian weapons would be any bigger. If they attacked, Israel would go ballistic (pun intended). Israel has buried ICBMs, submarines capable of launching nuclear cruise missiles, and nuclear equipped F-16’s capable of hitting Iran. If that isn’t enough, we could – and probably would – honor our treaties with Israel and retaliate. It would take only seventy five missiles – out of our arsenal of 450 silo-based Minuteman III ICBMs, each with a warhead of 330 kilotons – to destroy every city in Iran with a population over 100,000. Attacking Israel would be suicidal, we could essentially, turn Iran into glass.
Making a deal with Iran might be Obama’s most meaningful foreign policy act yet, even if it is the most surprising. It shouldn’t be, but it will be controversial. Controversial in that more Republican than just Ari Fleischer will be against it, if no other reason that it was negotiated by the Obama Administration. Senator John Cornyn of Texas has complained that Obama did it to distract us from Obamacare, being the first, I guess, to make wagging the dog about making peace rather than war. Controversial in that there is a large anti-Iran lobby (and a large pro-war, any war, lobby). The same people who wanted us to attack Iraq – and thought it would be easy and cheap – have been wanting us to attack Iran for a while. Of course, none of them want to go to war themselves or have their kids go to war but they are still anxious for war. And controversial in that Binyamin Netanyahu – and, strangely, the Saudis – have been cheerleader for war with Iraq War for years. They will be very disappointed and will let us know it and they have influence in Congress.
It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.