As Iran continues to develop its nuclear programme, Conor Feeney considers the likelihood of a pre-emptive military strike and its potential implications
The likelihood of the bombing of Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities is higher now than at any stage in recent years: the reality is that diplomacy is not working. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has continued in his tirade of words, orchestrated a crackdown on his own people, and continues to call for the annihilation of Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, has made it clear in the past that he will not stand by and allow Iran to obtain the capacity to develop nuclear arms. President Obama has also stated that a nuclear Iran is “not an option.”
The reality is that Israel will not; understandably, allow a radical and irrational government come close to obtaining a nuclear bomb. Even the mere possibility that Iran is close to developing enough enriched uranium, along with a rapidly advancing technical capacity, is not an acceptable scenario. This reality is fast approaching and there now exists a high likelihood of airstrikes before the end of the summer. The United States will most likely express regret at such an event, but the blame will be placed on Iran.
Credit must be given to the Obama administration’s diplomatic approach to the problem but unfortunately it has failed. The recent disclosure of the new uranium enrichment facility currently under construction in Qom is a blatant example of how seriously the Islamic Republic is regarding current diplomatic discussions. It also demonstrates the total lack of validity behind Iran’s claim their nuclear programme is solely for power purposes. Frankly it is becoming clearer now that President Obama’s good intentions have been perceived as weakness that can, and have, been exploited. The International Atomic Energy Agency took a severe hit to their credibility given the revelation’s impact on their past assertions.
President Obama has, in the past, stated that “if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.” The recent brutal repression of protestors throughout Iran has demonstrated just how tightly clenched that fist has become. The current suggestions are that tougher sanctions will be put forward in the coming month – Hillary Clinton has expressed a strong desire for tougher economic measures to be put in place. Russia and China, however, will take strong convincing to embrace such an idea, given their repetitive inclination towards inaction. One need look no further than China’s desire to maintain a business relationship with Sudan rather than acknowledge a brutal and ongoing genocide.
There are a few obvious reasons why Iran should never be allowed obtain a nuclear weapon. Firstly, a nuclear arms race throughout the Middle East could be triggered if such a reality were to ever take effect. Secondly, the government is irrational and therefore the basic assumptions underlying the MAD doctrine do not apply. The chaotic ramblings of President Ahmadinejad are perfect examples of this.
There are also however considerable negatives if an attack were to occur. Firstly, the price of oil will skyrocket on speculation of a wider Middle Eastern conflict. This would essentially reverse the international markets’ recent recovery, creating an instant nosedive. The immediate short-term impacts really depend on the Islamic Republic’s response – when Israel bombed a Syrian nuclear facility a number of years ago, both sides pretended as if the attack never happened. However the likely scope for bombing Iranian facilities would be of a much larger scale. This would not go unnoticed.
For those who suggest that bombing Iran would hurt the recent ‘green revolution’, consider a worse scenario. Not only would a nuclear device potentially lead to such devastating effects, but could strengthen the dictatorship considerably. This is because a bomb would considerably strengthen the country’s international standing, further cementing the positions of both Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad. Both would, therefore, be more willing to unleash further brutality on their own citizens.
People sometimes like to think of this world as the embodiment of an ideal that frankly does not exist. While we should always aim for such an ideal, we must also recognise the reality on the ground. The bombing of any country should be a last resort – but the Iranian government is playing a dangerous game. Even if new sanctions are imposed in the coming months, they will not satisfy a growing determination in both Israel and the US that Iran should, and will not, be allowed to develop an atomic bomb. Political procrastination and naïvety must never be allowed facilitate the worst this world has to offer.