The world’s favourite problem child has decided to expand beyond supporting terrorist groups like Hezbollah, propping up a ruthless dictator in Syria, oppressing democracy internally and thwarting Western interests wherever possible.
If this were strictly a numbers game, it might not seem like that big of deal. The United States and Russia have thousands of nuclear warheads and the rest of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council hold hundreds. Israel won’t admit to it, but the international community knows about its arsenal. India and Pakistan are well-armed with nukes. Hell, even North Korea has one (or more). Aside from its impending violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, should we really be that concerned if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon?
The answer is yes.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, undoubtedly sees nuclear weapons as a tool for survival — not only as a means to deter an attack but also to shore up domestic support. Enough national pride has been invested in the weapons program that he cannot back down in the face of international efforts to stymie Iran’s nuclear program without losing a great deal of legitimacy.
But where are the lines drawn between realism and theocracy? Should we believe that Iran will behave like other nuclear-armed states given that the regime has called for the destruction of Israel and supports terrorist entities? If Iran is already willing to provide conventional arms to Hezbollah and Hamas, might it provide a nuke or a “dirty bomb” in the distant future?
North Korea’s nukes may be bad, but Iran’s would be worse.
Another concern is the possibility of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Of all places, the Middle East has had enough instability and intra-regional threats. An Iranian nuke will not help.
If Iran obtains nuclear weaponry there is a good chance that at least one of either Saudi Arabia, Turkey or Egypt will follow suit. Israel might even pursue a missile defence system or decide that a pre-emptive strike on Iranian facilities is the only course of action. We should rejoice that no nuclear attacks have occurred since the end of the Second World War. Further proliferation might push our luck.
Nuclear disarmament is probably centuries off, if it is at all possible. After all, I can’t think of a single weapon the human race has successfully stopped using and destroyed, especially one as effective at destruction as a nuclear bomb.
Yet there is hope in the form of a number of arms control measures, which the international community should do its best to promote and uphold.
Shame on those who condemn diplomacy. Iran may not be an ideal international partner, but it has interests beyond stockpiling weapons, and a halfway point should not be ruled out between pre-emptive war and Iran achieving its nuclear goal.
But if threats, arms control agreements and diplomacy fail, can we cope with an Iranian nuke? As is often the case in a complex world, all options are poor. High-five to the human race for another senseless dilemma.
Graphic: Samantha Braun/The Sheaf