posted on May, 9 2006 @ 01:19 PM
Many people have been wondering why Iran has been so actively pursuing a nuclear capability. Iran possesses more energy resources on hand then they
could ever hope to expend in the next 50 years, and is number 2 on the OPEC exporting list.
To some, the obvious choice is a military capability. I agree with this opinion. However, I do not believe that Iran wishes to attack Israel (or any
other regional threat) with nuclear weapons. While it is possible that the Iranian leadership may believe that they can act more unilaterally if they
possessed nuclear weapons, and do things like openly support Hamas and pro-Shiite forces in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, I do not believe that this is their
ultimate goal in possessing nukes.
Do not think for a minute that Gulf War I and II didn’t have a major impact on the minds of the Iranian leadership. They have seen the power
projection capabilities of the U.S., and the willingness in which the other Gulf States “fall into line”, and the rapidity in which the U.S. was
able to smash the Iraqi armed forces (a task that the Iranian themselves where never able to do). They are a frightened group, and with good
The Iranians have realized, along with the rest of the world, that the U.S. has been gradually moving away from the theory of “mutually assured
destruction”, or MAD, and have been slowly but surely been creeping towards the status of unchallenged nuclear power. This new status is being
referred to by strategic planners as “nuclear primacy”. Nuclear primacy is characterized by nuclear capable country that has an overwhelming
advantage over all other potential adversaries, and could effectively implement a first strike strategy, with little or no risk of an effective
counterstrike. The U.S. has always desired to return to this position, return to those happy post-WWII days when only the U.S. had the bomb, and
Americans felt safe in their homes, and confident in its foreign policy. As we look around the world today, who is left to challenge the US for
With the fall of the Soviet Union, the nuclear capabilities of Russia have been slowly crumbling over the last 15 years. They are no longer in a
position where the can effectively threaten mass destruction of the U.S. and the west, and their forces continue to shrink. The Chinese have never
been a credible strategic threat, and mostly spend their defense funding in conventional warfare and naval power projection.
However, the U.S. has been slowly and surely modernizing and reconfiguring its nuclear forces, while at the same time staying within the boundaries
and limitation of disarmament treaties. U.S. Navy SSBNs will soon have a precise, hardened-target strike capability, where previously they were used
to target mostly urban areas and military depot areas. The effectiveness of USAF stealth aircraft is unquestioned, and recent upgrades to US ICBM’s
are increasing their accuracy, payloads, and survivability.
Despite it being advertised as a defense against “rogue nations”, I believe that the recent U.S. work and advances in missile defense is just as
important as a shield against a feeble retaliatory strike that is in response to a theoretical US first-strike. When this missile defense capability
is fully implemented, it will undoubtedly provide defense against an errant or rogue ICBM. However, it will also be just as effective in knocking out
those few “leakers” that escape a potential U.S. first strike.
The balance of world power, with regards to nuclear weapons, is clearly shifting. MAD is no longer viable for Russia, and it has never been one for
China, or the other nuclear-capable states. U.S. war planners see the advantage of nuclear primacy, and no doubt it has an effect on U.S. foreign
policy. By sharpening our nuclear swords, while simultaneously beating old ones into plowshares, the U.S. is able to maintain it’s dominant lead in
world military power and project the image of a leader in arms control.
Iran must see these things, and is probably terrified that the U.S. will act unilaterally against them. To the Iranian leadership, the U.S. is the
obvious antithesis of Iranian-bred Shia-Islam, and the U.S. represents and protects all things that the Iranian mullahs declare to be evil. To them,
U.S. action against Iran must seem like an eventuality, as the U.S. is slowly but surely going through its list of “bad guys” that must be dealt
with. Whether or not this is true is highly debatable. With Iraq defeated and North Korea temporarily contained, Iran probably feels like it is in
the “crosshairs”. Iran no doubt feels that their only chance at avoiding a military confrontation with the U.S. is by nuclear deterrence. They
have learned that other countries have kept the U.S at bay through the threat of nuclear warfare.
The irony of this belief is that a nuclear capable Iran is exactly the kind of thing that would spark the U.S. into action. Even worse, the new U.S.
doctrine of nuclear primacy, coupled with an advanced missile shield, would make the option of nuclear first-strike much more palatable. Other
countries had the advantage of developing nukes in parallel with the U.S., or catching the U.S. by surprise. Iran does not have these advantages.
The logical solution would be for Iran to back off its nuclear ambitions and garner world support for its causes. It already has a potent weapon,
albeit economic, in its massive energy reserves and influence in OPEC. If they were wise, they would use that to their advantage.
The questions that remain unanswered are:
1. With the advent of U.S. “nuclear primacy”, will the U.S. feel free to exercise its foreign policy more unilaterally? Have we already seen this
2. Will third world nations knuckle under and refrain from developing nukes in the face of U.S. disapproval and threats?
3. Will Russia and China ever gain/regain enough power to challenge the nuclear primacy of the U.S.?