Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Another Reason Iran Might Have Dropped Its Nuclear Weapons Program

Well, this is familiar. The President claims a middle-eastern country has a WMD program, and then it turns out it doesn't. but the President keeps talking tough. Iraq? Yes, but it is not alone anymore. Now there is Iran. There are two questions that the new National Intelligence Estimate ("NIE")raises. First, when did the President know that his own intelligence community did not think Iran was engaged in constructing a nuclear weapon. Could it be when he said

I believe they want to have the capacity, the knowledge, in order to make a nuclear weapon…So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.
Look at the weasel words in that: "capacity", and "knowledge". The President denies he knew about the NIE conclusions when he said it. I'll let you reach your own conclusions.

The other question be bandied about is why did Iran cease its nuclear program in the fall of 2003. So far I have heard three theories. One is that the Iranians got scared by the invasion of Iraq and therefore, ceased its program. Another theory is that Iran was responding to international pressure (that seems to be the one adopted by the NIE). The third, what I call the NeoCon Wishful Thought, is that the NIE is wrong and Iran is still trying to make nuclear weapons.

But there is a fourth possibility. Before the invasion of Iraq, there were two huge military presences in the Middle East that were both seeking dominance in the region - Iran and Iraq. The only way for Iran to equal Iraq's threatened or actual nuclear program was a program of its own. After the Iraqi army was decimated by the U.S. invasion, and it became more clear there were no WMDs, Iran no longer had to engage in a financially costly and internationally reviled program to be the biggest guy on the block. Sure, the US was still there, but by the fall of 2003 it was becoming clear that the US might be the military threat to Iran it might have thought earlier because of the Iraqi insurgency. (This would especially be true if Iran was aiding the insurgency). And anyway, even Iran realizes that even with nuclear weapons, it cannot equal US power. So, Iran recognizes that the geopolitical advantages of a nuclear program have disappeared, and stops its program. In other words, prior to the invasion there was a military balance of power in the region. After the invasion, Iran was the only local power remaining, and a nuclear program was useless.

In short, President Bush created the conventional monster of an unopposed Iran by invading Iraq, but might have destroyed a potentially nuclear Iran that was subject to the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction. Which is better? Don't know.

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