July 19, 2007


The riddle of Iran: Iran's leaders think a nuclear weapon could rejuvenate their tired revolution. How can they be stopped? (The Economist, 7/19/07)

After the false intelligence that led America into Iraq, and the mayhem that followed, it may seem hard to believe that America or Israel are pondering an attack on a much bigger Muslim country. But they are—and they are not mad. This time, after all, there is no question of false intelligence: the world's fears are based on capabilities that Iran itself boasts about openly. Nor would there be another invasion: this would be an attack from the air, aimed at disabling or destroying Iran's nuclear sites. From a technical point of view, launching such an attack is well within America's capabilities (America has lately reinforced its carrier fleet in the Persian Gulf) and perhaps within Israel's, too.

Yet such an attack would nonetheless be a huge gamble. Even if it delayed or stopped Iran's nuclear programme, it would knock new holes in America's relations with the Muslim world. And if only for the sake of their domestic political survival, Iran's leaders would almost certainly hit back. Iran could fire hundreds of missiles at Israel, attack American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, organise terrorist attacks in the West or choke off tanker traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, the world's oil windpipe. How could any Western leader in his right mind risk initiating such a sequence of events?

The succinct answer of Senator John McCain is that although attacking Iran would be bad, an Iran with nuclear weapons would be worse. He is not alone: most of America's presidential candidates would consider military force.

...contrary to the gallons of ink that have been spilled, Iraq will have virtually no effect on our hastening into the next war, no matter who's president.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 19, 2007 7:08 PM
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