Israel bombed the nuclear reactor under construction in Syria to prevent the Syrians and the terrorist groups they sponsor from acquiring nuclear weapons. Will anyone do the same to Iran? Alisdair Palmer argues in favor of such a course:
When the governments trying to acquire the technology for making nuclear bombs are known to train and supply Islamist terrorist groups – as Syria and Iran, for example, certainly do – the importance of preventing them obtaining the capacity to make such bombs is overwhelming.
That is why the Israelis destroyed Syria’s “not for peaceful means” nuclear facility last September, and why the rest of the world acquiesced in the destruction, which broke international law and had no United Nations resolution.
It is also why the US continues to send signals to Iran that it will not oppose, indeed might even join in, any attempt by Israel to hit Iran’s fledgling nuclear facilities: sending precisely that signal must have been at least part of the point of last week’s very public announcement that the Israeli raid on Syria’s putative nuclear bomb factory had been successful.
Governments can perhaps be deterred from leaking nuclear weapons to terrorist groups by the thought of what the Americans would do to them if there were a nuclear explosion in an American city and the construction of the fatal bomb could be traced back to, say, Iran or Syria.
The Americans have not been shy about letting those governments know what would happen. As one US official put it to me: “We would totally obliterate the country responsible” – a phrase echoed by Hillary Clinton when she said the US would “totally obliterate” Iran if that country was responsible for a nuclear attack even on Israel, never mind America.
Governments, however, are not always able to control all their members. Some members of the Iranian administration might not be deterred by the prospect of nuclear armageddon (indeed, some seem to welcome it). Which means that the only way to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists it to keep them out of the hands of national governments who might give them to terrorists.
If Iran builds a nuclear bomb factory, you can be sure that Israel will try to destroy it. You can also be sure that, when it happens, the rest of the world will not object.
I’m sympathetic with much of this. But, first, I’m not sure I find the “total annihilation” threat believable. Would we really obliterate millions of innocent Iranians, many of whom hate the regime that rules them, in response to an act of nuclear terrorism that we suspect used material of Iranian origin? Second, isn’t the Iranian nuclear facility already more advanced than the Syrian reactor? And yet we’ve done nothing. Third, “the rest of the world will not object”? The antiwar left in this country and in Europe would, if I may be forgiven a cheap pun, go ballistic.
Meanwhile, Austin Bay points to signs of impending aggression from North Korea and arrangements between North Korea and Syria, and becomes sardonic:
Feudal tyrants armed with weapons of mass destruction.
Anyone sane, honest, and cherishing the lives of loved ones still want to bitch about pre-emptive strikes by democracies?
Trust that Barack Obama will talk with these feudal tyrannies. As Glenn Reynolds would say, “Heh.”
It’s a dangerous world. A lot of politicians seem not to know that. Or maybe they simply know that lots of voters don’t want to hear it. I’m hoping for the latter.