Predictably, the Iranian leadership is continuing its nuclear program in spite of the bite of sanctions on the economy and the people. It will continue to do so. Iran has been stalling for years in P5+1 talks, and there is no reason whatsoever to believe that the mullahs will change their tactics, when those tactics have successfully bought them time for the last eight years.
Intelligence may not tell us the Iranians’ intentions, but it certainly tells us what they have been interested in, from nuclear-warhead design to nuclear-warhead detonators and long-range missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Their interest in these elements of a nuclear weapon goes back to 2003 and before. They have been interested in burying their program and putting their missiles in ground silos in the side of a mountain. They want to enrich more and more uranium, and enrich uranium to higher than 19.75% purity, the latter ambition being one for which there is no non-military purpose. There is no aspect of a hardened, extended-range nuclear-weapons program which they have not exhibited.
We don’t know exactly how close the Iranians are to having a working warhead. The idea that we infallibly could is not a meaningful one for national-security decisions. You cannot detect a smoking gun until it’s been fired, and then it’s too late, at least for limited action. Israel can’t afford to wait until even Mondoweiss is convinced the Iranians have the bomb. Once they do, Israel’s options expire.
Ours don’t, but they are ratcheted up to a level that will be politically unacceptable. Politically, we can’t invade and regime-change Iran because she has developed a bomb. Living with a nuclear-armed Iran is not a better option, however. Once Iran nukes up, Egypt will too, and possibly Saudi Arabia and Turkey. If Iran establishes an immunity to U.S. counteraction, the face of the Middle East and everything around it will change forever. This will affect the United States immediately; there will be no grace period.
The blinders-on complacency of the current US administration is breathtaking. I am saddened to see the day when our top general tries to shed responsibility in advance, rather than remembering that we are all trying to deter Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and the only way to do that is to be tough with Iran. I believe Netanyahu and his voters know that Dempsey’s words are not representative of the American people’s attitude. The question remains what Netanyahu will deem it necessary to do in the next three-odd months, since it’s extremely obvious Obama won’t be doing anything.
Originally published at the Optomistic Conservative blog.