A grim warning from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to President Bush that Iran is much closer to producing nuclear weapons than U.S. intelligence believes has triggered concern here that Israel is seriously considering a preemptive strike against Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor.
...Sharon's description of the unacceptable risks of Iran's being able to launch "a nuclear holocaust" comes just as the Bush administration is making headway in constructing a diplomatic containment strategy for the nuclear weapons programs of Iran and North Korea.
A diplomatic containment strategy against Iran and North Korea? The Foggy Bottom diplomats in the US State Department are dreaming. Do they think their diplomatic strategy can stop Iran and North Korea from developing nuclear weapons? How exactly? The US is trying to get the European Union to cut trade with Iran and to get the Russians to refuse to sell the uranium needed to make the Bushehr reactor operational. But the Iranians are operating their own uranium mines.
The prospects of stopping North Korea's nuclear weapons program diplomatically are even worse than those for stopping Iran's. As long as China and South Korea support North Korea the US is going to be hard pressed to stop North Korea's nuclear program. The Bush Administration's embrace of a diplomatic strategy is either a sign that they know their hand is weak and that they don't have the support and resources to pursue a more hardball strategy or maybe they think they see some advantage of going down a diplomatic route to demonstrate to other countries that it is a path that will not work. I'm inclined to the more pessimistic view that their hand is too weak and that they can not or will not stop either Iran or North Korea from going nuclear.
Writing for Haaretz Nathan Guttman reports on the Israeli view about a preemptive strike on Iran.
But attacking Iran's nuclear facilities would be far more complicated than the 1982 strike outside Baghdad. First, Iran's nuclear program is dispersed at several sites, some of which are protected from conventional weapons; the distance to fly is much greater; and perhaps most importantly, the Iranians could respond in a painful manner.
What exactly is "a painful manner"? How could the Iranians strike back at Israel? Anyone know? Chemical laden missiles perhaps?
If the threat of an Israeli strike forces the Bush Administration to take more forceful steps to stop Iran's nuclear weapons development program then the Israelis are doing the world a valuable service. Unfortunately, North Korea's nuclear weapons program is further along and the Israelis can not credibly threaten to launch a preemptive strike against it.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2003 August 15 11:48 AM US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control|