A Nuclear Iran... Now What?

by DR. ROBIN MCFEE November 23, 2011
“Judge a man by his questions, rather than his answers”
All of a sudden every cable news show is running a program asking the question “Is Iran nuclear?” as if that question is, well, news! Apparently Rumplestiltskin lives on in the press corps!
Asking ‘is Iran a nuclear nation?’ is naïve at best and ill informed at worst. When the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) folks increasingly announce concerns, and are pushing to look under the covers in Iran, you know something is up. When Iran’s representatives are making media globe-trotting and spin control their mission, appearing on Charlie Rose and other shows, affirming their innocence, asserting the IAEA has it in for them, the IAEA is becoming a tool for the West and that the US is looking for an excuse to pick on Iran….the old adage “me thinks thou protest too much” comes to mind.
While the IAEA has been pretty soft on Iran, especially under their former leader Mohammed ElBaredei, who is now busy contributing to the chaos in Egypt, is an agency that missed a few key nuclear accomplishments by less than savory regimes (and thankfully what the IAEA has failed to stop [Iraq, Syria], the IAF -Israeli Air Force - has not) in the past, it seems that they have eaten their Wheaties and are stepping up their game to the point where Iran is now critical of IAEA! Is IAEA getting too close? Or is Iran just playing with the West, again! If you have to ask.
When a Rand report all but says Iran is nuclear, you gotta think Tehran isn’t bluffing.
And then of course, your humble correspondent, cheeky gal that I am….I told you so…back in 2009! Iran is nuclear, some assembly required.
But that question is far less important than the ones we should have been asking, and now with a sense of criticality must address unless we are prepared to see the 2nd Holocaust come to full fruition (and yes, Israel’s survival depends upon what we in the West do), an increasingly aggressive terror presence emerging from the Middle East to South America and our southern border, more instability globally, and the very real threat of radiological if not nuclear terrorism.
In this and future articles we’ll talk about the nuclear landscape – and global implications. But this brief first article will posit some of the most critical questions we must ask. Unless we think nuclear proliferation, especially in the hands of crazies, unstable or unfriendly nations is a good idea, in which case, exit this article and get a latte, there are some hard choices facing us and our allies.
“The greatest danger to Israel, to the Middle East, and to all of humanity, is the encounter between extremist Islam and nuclear weapons.”
Benjamin Netanyahu
And the point of that encounter would be…..Iran.
Is Iran Nuclear?
That question is tantamount to asking how many angels fit on the head of a pin.
If Iran isn’t a nuclear weapons nation, then it is the stupidest place on earth. Twenty plus year program, millions/billions invested, scientific assistance by Russia and China, in addition to their own university experts, gift of plutonium from North Korea, and not unlikely a few memos from AQ Khan or others in Pakistan all to sympathetic to a fellow Islamic nation trying to counter the power hegemony of the West.
Then there is the axis of crazy – North Korea which is nuclear, has assisted Iran. Remember it doesn’t take a lot of glow in the dark stuff to make a kaboom!
Recall in 2004 North Korea sold over a ton of uranium to Libya. In 2005 the US learned North Koreas plutonium stockpile was ~50 kg. More than enough for several weapons if in fact it is high purity Pu239.According to several sources, Iran embarked upon a plutonium program; given both Iran and North Korea play well together and exchange military and nuclear expertise, this should not be a shocking revelation. If and it is an IF, North Korea had an excess inventory sale to Tehran, it would go far to fast track Iran’s capabilities. In 2005 Tehran admitted to the IAEA/UN that they in fact processed a “small” amount of plutonium in 1995 and again in 1998. The IAEA and other watchdogs admitted Iran’s repeated misrepresentation of their nuclear efforts “raises the question whether Iran is coming clean about its nuclear activities. “ You think?
Remember, this isn’t the 1940’s. We aren’t in the nuclear stone age! The genius of Oppenheimer, Fermi, and the folks at the Manhattan Project was in their ability to create two functional weapons out of essentially stone implements, bearskins, and candles. Today we are in the realm of miniaturization, global shipping, immediate information exchange – how to make a weapon is as well publicized today as it was in the theoretical physics journals of the 1930’s and 1940’s. Doubt me? Check out Dark Sun by Richard Rhodes. We joke that MIT educates half the world’s terrorists, but the fact is, the US has educated a bunch of nuclear physicists. Who we didn’t Russia and Eastern Europe did! The materials are everywhere. Expensive, largely controlled, but still available. The Russians created suitcase nukes. Many of which are unaccounted for. Part of that is negotiation ploy to play with the West, and part of it is true…they don’t know where all those portable nukes are. More happy news!
And, if Iran isn’t, it will be. It has all the requisite ingredients to create nuclear weapons. For starters a well known set of nuclear reactors including breeder types. Does a “civilian” or energy nuclear program translate to or hide a weapons program? Hmmm, ask Israel, Russia, the US, China, France. To be sure, not all, and in fact most utility company or research reactors are not utilized or even capable of creating weapons grade materials, never the less, it is not a Herculean task to build or fit some to do so. And without adequate oversight to distinguish the difference, folks like Iran can in fact bury a military nuclear program within a civilian system.
Does anyone but the village idiot think Iran would overlook an opportunity to obtain a nuclear capability? Let’s take a look at their inventory: an ample uranium and plutonium supply, the capability to process uranium - Stuxnet virus notwithstanding, a robust scientific community, the financial resources to obtain and/or develop the triggers, explosives, packaging to fashion a weapon, and the missiles necessary to deliver them. Moreover they have nuclear friends who are more than happy to sell vital technology and expertise – Russia and China.
But why is the world surprised? The crazy dictator gnome of North Korea all but admitted sending a gift of plutonium to Tehran several years ago. Iran has a plutonium breeder reactor.
Whether Iran is nuclear weapon capable in 2011, 2009 (as I’ve asserted) or 2012….there are bigger questions and critical issues that must be addressed, both for the sake of the US, the West, the Middle East and Israel.
Questions to consider
·         Is it ok for Iran to have nuclear weapons?
Not a trick question. For the past few years, the elephant in the room has been the issue of nuclear capability in the hands of the Iranian Republican Revolutionary Guard, Ahmadinejad and the clerics – the fine friendly folks who run, defend and guide Iran. Some would argue, including me, that this point is moot. Iran IS nuclear. The genie is out of the bottle. Now what do we do?
In terms of Iran, others would argue the genie is out, but if none of the parties actually come right out and say so, it leaves negotiating room, much like what happened with Libya, when the US brokered a deal with Gaddafi to surrender his nuclear program/critical materials to France in a face saving swap for lots of money and other considerations. Certainly that would seem to a cogent argument – give time for diplomacy, put forth back room negotiation and allow Ahmadinejad some face saving.  Perhaps that is why whenever a leading member of the US government or military says that Iran is nuclear, another equal or higher ranking person provides a counterpoint.
Except for the fact that we have far different administrations at 1600 Pennsylvania, and with far different street credibilities on the global scene than we did when the Gaddafi negotiations occurred. This administration is allowing our puppets and allies to be killed or ousted from office (more on this in an upcoming article “Arab Winter”). More importantly Ahmadinejad is not Gaddafi, even if the latter still had a pulse. He doesn’t want to negotiate. He likes the nuclear effect, the power, the attention. No one took Iran seriously until nukes became part of the dialogue.
And Tehran, unlike Tripoli, has far different aspirations – internally and internationally, and has demonstrated them adeptly and loudly by words and action. The nuclear option has allowed Iran to become a global player, an agent provocateur, and a great big pain in the rear end for the West. And while it has also earned Iran some sanctions, remember those only work when no one is helping you behind the scenes (ahem, China, Russia and several other lesser players including our ‘allies’ which we’ll discuss in future articles). The sanctions end up hurting the people of a nation often far worse than the leaders you wish to curtail or control. Given the increasing size of Iran’s military, the advancements on their missile program, their expansion of influence globally, the near endless supply line of weapons, money, materials and manpower from Tehran to Gaza and Lebanon, Africa and parts of South America, I’d say money was not a huge problem and the sanctions weren’t working.
So getting back to the first question….is it ok for Iran to have nuclear weapons? Or even just a nuclear program? Is it ok for any non-super power or the original members of the nuclear club (US, Russia, China, UK, France, India, Pakistan) to have such weapons? Enter Israel and N.Korea.
This question is not new. The IAEA and original club members have been concerned for decades, and have led mission after mission internationally to detect, inspect and try to limit proliferation. How well is that working for us?
And in terms of future issues….
Suspected nuclear facility near the city of Qom.
Is it ok for other nations to develop nuclear weapons programs?
One has to argue, even if we identify emerging programs, what methods are available and acceptable to stop such programs? As someone who has been involved in radiation/WMD preparedness, it is the most fundamental of all questions. Asking who wants weapons, who is building weapons, who should be allowed to pursue nuclear programs for peace or war is only a third of the issue. The overarching questions that demand answering are….
Who should be allowed to have nuclear materials – for energy, research or weapons? And, for those who break the rules, what recourse does the world have, under what circumstance and timeline?
Should we use a matrix – human rights record, health outcomes, democratic form of government, peaceful relations between neighbors, not on a list of terror or unsavory nations, lack of alternative resources to provide heat and energy to its citizens – to determine whether a nation is justified having any nuclear program? Or is it a benefit of sovereignty….if you have the money, you can have reactors, warheads, missiles?
It would seem to be, in terms of Iran, that the only questions now worth considering, and ones the West, the UN, the US, should have clear answers to….
What do we do when someone breaks the rules?
What options should and can we utilize when a nation is close to nuclear?
And who will carry out those options? The UN? The Russian Alliances aka Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)? Oh wait, Iran is a guest of that organization. NATO? The Nuclear Club?
In terms of Iran we must now openly and clearly ask…
·         Do we think Iran will use nuclear weapons directly?
·         Will Iran help other allied nations develop a nuclear program much the way North Korea and Russia and China and Pakistan helped them?
·         Is it a threat to the West for another nation that at least in part assists radical regimes to have nuclear capability?
Recall Pakistan is nuclear. Not an ideal situation given they are not a stable nation, part of the region is Taliban controlled if not fully aligned with folks in Afghanistan. As discussed in an earlier series of articles, the World at Risk Report and panel clearly defined the real threat having nuclear weapons in Pakistan, the instability of the FATA region and the need for concise and decisive strategies designed to avert such weapons falling into the hands of the wrong folks.
One could argue that Iran is using their nuclear program to become the first Islamic nuclear power. Pakistan still remains a non theocracy, at least for the moment. That cannot be said of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a nation ruled by clerics starting in 1979 with the return of the Ayatollah. Iran has assisted Jihad, exported terrorism – money, weapons, training – fomenting much of the instability in Palestine and Lebanon through Tehran’s proxies of Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as their own intelligence forces which were clearly involved in Bahrain and military support which has helped turn Southern Lebanon into a province of Iran if not Hezbollah. Not exactly the folks you want having nukes.
One has to consider that Iran will guide other nuclear wannabees in the Arab world. This spells catastrophe for Saudi Arabia and Israel. Perhaps Iran is poised to accomplish two things that no other Arab country has been able to do…
1.    Bring Israel closer to war, if not annihilation
2.    Bring moderate Arab nations into outward alliance with Israel
As I’ve written from the midst of the revolution in Bahrain, that tiny island nation is in the middle of a tug of war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The two nations that are vying for leadership in the Arab world.
While Cairo may have been held that title, after the Arab winter, it is up for grabs. Saudi Arabia holds 2 of the most holy cities in Islam – Mecca and Medina. Tehran holds nuclear capability, a vocal antipathy towards the West, is aligned with radical Islamists who perpetrate terror and political instability. One could argue, Tehran would have little influence if the Middle East had peace and stability. Once could argue that the peace process between Israel and Palestine is constantly unsettled by Iran.
Let’s look at this from another perspective. Israel.
Israel is in a ‘no-win’ situation thanks to Iran’s great nuclear strategy.
·         Israel can join the world in allowing Iran to continue with its nuclear program in the hope those weapons won’t be aimed at Tel Aviv. Hope is not a strategy.
·         Israel can attempt to move world opinion that a nuclear Iran is bad for everyone. How well has that worked for Israel in the UN?
·         Israel can attack Iran – and face the significant reality of losing a large portion of the Israeli Air Force strike force, and in the process invoke the wrath of radical Islam geoglobally. This action may invite a direct attack by Arab nations trying to silence anger in the streets, or an indirect attack through proxies
There be increased attacks using street crime/violence, IEDs (improvised explosive devices) from Tel Aviv to Sderot, from Jerusalem to Eilat, but worldwide from London, to Boca Raton. The moderate Arab nations may privately support, sponsor, even encourage Israel to attack, but those countries will face significant blow back. Especially since their ranks are shrinking.
The so called ‘Arab Spring’ and protests across the Gulf region have not promoted real democracy with few exceptions, but did lead to a shrinkage of US allies and moderate states. The Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey – all have their own internal problems – Muslim Brotherhood, proxies of Hamas/Hezbollah/Iran, Al Qaeda franchisees. Jordan has its own internal threat from a large Palestinian population.
While Israel has always stood alone, with the exception of a big brother in the back of the room – the United States – under this administration one has to wonder how far will Washington go to protect Tel Aviv? 
It is a strange era indeed when Israel’s best friends on the world stage are Russia and Australia!
If Israel does nothing, she can in all likelihood watch her technological advantage – the nuclear option – be negated by Iran, and ultimately whomever Tehran decides to share such weapons or technology with. In which case, Israel will die the death of a thousand cuts. Her adversaries will continue to fire rockets into civilian areas from Gaza, use IED, kidnappings and incursions from Lebanon, unwitting threats and intentional ones will occur along the coast, and globally Jews will continue to be targeted, assaulted, their civil rights undermined – all in the name of keeping peace on the streets and appeasing an ever growing radical presences in major European and US cities. Jews are outnumbered; their insignificant number makes them an easy target.
If Israel does nothing, then in the aftermath of the 2006 War, she affirms that the tiger is aging, and toothless, inviting more aggressive attacks.
If Israel attacks, and loses big, she invites more aggressive attacks.
Given Iran plays the game far better than the West expected – on the world stage, in international affairs, at building geoglobal alliances, at procuring highly controlled technologies, in energy circles and in intelligence/paramilitary affairs – at least for the moment, it is unlikely Ahmadinejad would do more than aim his missiles and warheads at Israel. The saber rattling alone has earned him quite a lot! And he has been able to chide Israel – in the process making Tel Aviv look hawkish on the world stage and in the minds of Muslims. Ahmadinejad to be sure has a willing audience – most people want to treat Israel as the aggressor even when she is a victim. Part of that is Israel’s fault – poor communications. Part of it is the world’s intent and culpability to appease the mob threat at the expense of a tiny nation and tiny tribe of people who only want to survive and live without the daily threat of extinction.
What Israel and the world may expect as more likely a threat from scaled down – improvised nuclear devices – in the hands of Tehran’s proxies.
Again the question….Would they be in terms of Israel for the purpose of extortion or extinction – with plausible deniability from Iran?
The backdoor from the West Bank and Gaza, as well as the Lebanon border is porous enough to allow for all manner and means of weapons, the “fence” notwithstanding. A page from a Clancy or Ludlum novel? Worth considering.
Is Ahmadinejad crazy or evil or tactical enough to allow a device to actually explode?
So then lets suggest that neither he, nor his government sanction an off the back of the truck nuclear gift to any of the myriad terrorist groups in the region. Does that mean some of the materials won’t get out – either in the form of dirty or true nuclear bombs? Can we take that chance? Can Israel?
So far North Korea has used its nuclear capability to keep the other players honest, to extort some concessions from the West and demonstrate they are a player (or proxy of China). Perhaps that is all Iran will do – use it as a deterrent, much like Israel did when Iraq threatened chemical weapons during the first Gulf War in 1991. At the end of the day, Iraq loaded conventional explosives on the SCUDs fired into Israel. The nuclear option perhaps prevented SARIN attacks.
Israel is faced with far more daunting questions than the West because that tiny nation is surrounded by hostiles. Israel has remained a nation because it has been able to convince adversaries that attacks will result in heavy losses for the aggressor. And up until 2006 when Israel got badly spanked by Lebanon – a first and a painful lesson, if not reality check for Tel Aviv – Israel was able to keep its enemies at bay. But the technology gap is shrinking. The numerical disadvantage between a tiny nation with a small population against many larger nations with lots of people, many of which all too willing to die for Allah, martyrdom and their families (who, largely impoverished, obtain for that region large sums of money).
Iran has deftly placed Israel in a position where the risk from inaction is as unpalatable as the risk from action.
Will Israel use the military to attack Iran?
From a practical perspective – should it, can it, can it afford not to? Or should Israel continue to allow its cyber forces (Stuxnet) to slow down the process? That only works for so long, and is not a solution. Remember, Iran has uranium and plutonium – and all their programs are spread out. If it takes a well financed nation 20 years even with nuclear buddies sharing, giving, teaching, selling all they know….they they are stupid! Iran is NOT stupid. Nor is it unmindful of history.
Iran saw what happened to Iraq. Bagdad didn’t have a chance to move its materials from one site to multiple ones. Israeli Air Force jets took out the reactor and nuclear program. Then the US exerted greater influence in the region.
Syria was building a nuclear program. The IAF blew up that site, too! Syria didn’t spread their program.
Iran has their program scattered across the desert nation, and surrounded by some of the best anti-aircraft defense systems around (Russia, China) – rivaled only, perhaps, by the hybrid of Israeli and US air defense systems protecting Israel.
The IAF, and Israel will pay a heavy price if they attack, and might pay one if they don’t. Speak about a no win situation! Point to Iran!
Well then, I guess it is a bit late to ask does Iran have a nuclear program or should we allow other nations to join the nuclear club. We all know that answer.
So the only questions that matter –
·         Do we stop Iran and nuclear wannabees?
·         Can we stop sovereign nations? Under what justification, given more countries have or want nukes? Do we fight under international law? The laws of unintended consequences? Are we willing to accept the blowback that will surely ensue?
·         Who does the stopping?
Are we seriously basing our safety on sanctions? So far they have failed.
We are well past the illusion of Iran as merely wanting a program. They have it, it is advanced, they have the means to build, launch and deliver a thermonuclear warhead. To suggest otherwise is dishonest, politically motivated rhetoric and completely foolhardy.
The 3rd rail – important questions
Who should have nuclear capability – energy and weapons? Should the super powers decide what nations have nuclear power and what type? Industrial detectors that contain cesium and other radioactive materials that can be utilized for dirty bombs? University reactors for research? Medical? Again the contents, such as cobalt can be used for dirty bombs. Utility reactors for electricity? Or should small countries, especially ones that are politically unstable be limited to self contained ones of the Hyperion concept? Or no radioactive materials at all? That’s a tough sell since some of the worlds radioactive materials are in unstable regions. Should nuclear weapons be a right of sovereignty just like any other weapon – a means of protection against ones enemies? Certainly that is Tehran’s argument, when they aren’t denying owning such weapons. While there have been UN resolutions, decrees, agreements and historic practice, it is time to again come out in a loud voice with a unified answer on these questions because the ability to challenge those who violate the decision is hinged upon it. Oh and that leads to the next question….
What moral, geoglobal, political authority do the super powers have – i.e. what recourse – military, financial - when someone violates the decision who gets to own nuclear weapons, nuclear power? Sanctions? Embargos? Surgical airstrikes? Invasion?
In terms of Iran, it would seem Israel and the IAF has spent more time addressing these issues than the West or the rest of the world.
Unfortunately Israel is tiny, hated, has about the political heft of a feather duster on the UN stage, and losing friends as fast as you can type Arab Winter or the Obama Administration.
Just because Israel is asking the questions, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be!
Not just ask this about Iran. But after Iran, will it be every Shiite Arab country or any country that has a beef with the West? Or any country that can afford to buy a reactor or functional nuclear weapon? Even a radiation based weapon that won’t cause a thermonuclear reaction but would never the less cause death, illness, environmental contamination and a fairly large degree of angst, social unrest and political instability?
Nuclear threats are about fear, power, political instability, global influence, money, respect, and a seat at the grownups table.
“In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst”
Ayn Rand
The genius of Ahmadinejad –Before 1979 few but the most ardent history buff or political scientist could locate Iran/Persia on a map, let alone recognize folks there speak Farsi and French not Arabic! Persia pre 1979 was a nation under the Shah that enjoyed western amenities, social order (except for his enemies), a good standard of living, some democratic freedoms. Iran after 1979 was considered a representation of radical Islam at its worst. Not that most folks could distinguish Shia from Sunni, let alone talk about the 5 pillars of Islam. Never the less, after the Ayatollah emerged, the theocracy of Sharia law took effect. Americans were kidnapped, our ineffectual President Carter completing the defeat by demonstrating the US was a paper tiger, thus emboldening the radicals in the region that there are opportunities to strike at the US. Finally we get our hostages back when it became clear a new sheriff was in town (President Reagan) and in the American mind that was it for Iran – a black hole to be avoided, even ignored in the Middle East.
The US forgot the wise counsel of the ages….Keep your friends close and your enemies closer! Alas while we were ignoring a lot of things in the world, Russia wasn’t. And wherever the US wasn’t investing time, talent or treasure, Moscow was! And if you look at a map, you will see Russia aligned with, friends of or at least talking to or conducting commerce with the countries within the “crazy are us” cartel (Venezuela, North Korea, Iran, Syria, a fair amount of Africa, Cuba, increasingly in South America). Whether greed, ineptness, or a combination of the two, the US has overlooked until the 11th hour, the power of energy in the world order. And the people/nations who control it. Ironic since we have been held captive by Saudi Arabia and OPEC for ~ 30 years. Europe has fared no better since they are wedded to Russia and Gazprom.
As an aside, this is not a theoretical threat to the well being of the West, it is existential, it is real, it is something we had better remedy PDQ or our adversaries will be in such a favorable position as to extort either through subtle persuasion - ‘diplomacy’ or outright demands a significant number of concessions. Doubt me – take a look at Georgia, Europe, the US – all because of oil and gas.
At any rate, while we napped, Iran under the leadership of Ahmadinejad was expanding its influence. Gas, geography and pipelines made Iran a very attractive partner for Russia and the former Soviet republics/satellite nations in the region.
Ahmadinejad recognized that for a nation to be taken seriously it had to have a few things – influential friends, money, a powerful military with all the newest toys, the ability to worry neighbors, satellites or proxies that are an extension of your policies, and nuclear weapons.
·         Influential friends – Russia, Venezuela, China
·         Money – sanctions notwithstanding, petro dollars, friends with benefits    (see above)
·         Powerful military – advanced aircraft, missiles, missile defense, large standing army including the vaunted Iranian Republican Revolutionary Guard
·         Proxies – Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, training camps in Venezuela, Africa
·         Nuclear capability – ALL the ingredients for nuclear weapons…science, money, expertise, materials, including centrifuges and Uranium, breeder reactor and plutonium (plus an off the truck gift from N. Korea) and the means to deliver any nuclear weapon, from warhead to suitcase nuke (think the film Sum of All Fears by Clancy)
Think back for a moment….when did North Korea reemerge in national dialogue? When Pyongyang announced a nuclear weapons program and built their first nukes. When did Israel get taken seriously by folks not directly in their neighborhood? Thank you Dimona and nuclear weapons. India and Pakistan sent a shockwave of epic proportion when they became nuclear powers.
“The chilling reality is that nuclear materials and technologies are more accessible now than at any other time in history.”
Former Director – US Central Intelligence Agency, John Deutch
As Dickens to his readers – Jacob Marley was dead. Without accepting this fact, nothing good can come of this story. Well if you will allow me the same literary theatrics in borrowing Dickens’ technique…..Iran is nuclear – without accepting this fact, nothing good can ensue, including the urgency for strategies to contain a nation with aspirations far greater than being the agent provocateur in the Middle East. Make no mistake about it Iran has global appetites – for worldwide respect or fear, recognition as a dominant international player, vaunted adversary, beloved ally. From its participation/observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to upcoming leadership in the Non Aligned Nations (NAM) to 800 lb gorilla (guerilla) in the Middle East, puppet master to Hamas and Hezbollah, and of course ally of Russia – on some level Ahmadinejad has illusions of Xerxes and a greater Persia, 21st century style. And he has deftly guided his nation towards this vision very well through savvy use of the media as an accomplished speaker, to employing brutal and ruthless tactics. We are gravely mistaken when we underestimate him, his allies or the resolve of his nation. Ahmadinejad knows us – the West – better than we know ourselves; what we will readily grasp and buy into, what we fear, and how far we can be cajoled, conned, or distracted. He is crazy as a fox. We would do well not to underestimate him, his eloquence and resolve. He exploits the politics of jealousy and understands how to tap that emotion to build support for his actions against the West. And he has had global leaders and UN representatives, such as now former director of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, as apologists, protectors and purveyors of political cover through plausible deniability.
The Nuclear Club
To date based upon best estimates the following are members of this elite and growing club:
Glow in the Dark – Lodge 101 includes the US, Russia, France, China, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, India, Israel, North Korea, and likely next to receive the secret handshake – Iran.
So do we concede yet another dangerous regime joining the nuclear club, regroup and raise the mantra “never again?” Have we learned anything from this saga? Do we yet see the inadequate preventive and control measures we rest our security upon in trying to limit the nuclear club? Will there be other nuclear wannabees? (YES). Do we have a short list? We should! Think Syria for starters but some folks in Africa might want to revisit their options and opportunities, too. The chief of IAEA warned that Syria was “obstructing efforts to clarify US intelligence indications that it almost built a covert nuclear reactor geared to yielding plutonium for atom bombs before it was destroyed in 2007.” Turkey is unlikely to remain on the sidelines either. Already reinvigorating their relationship with Russia is a good first step.
Now what to do about it? Alas there are few magic antidotes for this brand of global danger. Complex issues often rely upon complex, even painful solutions. Russia may be able to exert some delaying influence or a suggestion to lay low for a while. But Russia has its own agenda.
Perhaps two of the biggest questions the West has to answer –
First, is Iran trustworthy? Not a trick question. All options emanate from the answer. Everyone, especially in the preparedness arena, with the exception of the village idiot, 1600 P and of course Capitol Hill, knows the answer…ABSOLUTELY NOT! Ahmadinejad isn’t the only ‘leader’ there; we also know the Iranian clerics as well as Ahmadinejad each have influence in the country. They too want nuclear security. The elephant in the room that underlies future strategies….will Iran use nukes offensively or allow diversion of materials to terror cells?
Remember….Threat = Capability x Intent. The x factor is ‘intent.’
Assuming we all agree Iran isn’t dealing straight from the deck, the next question - is it possible to force Iran into trustworthiness? That implies moving Tehran away from its defined self interests. Easier said than done!
“Judge a man by his questions, rather than his answers”
Francois Voltaire
So to end where we began….Iran is nuclear. Now what? How we answer this question not only defines the nuclear landscape today, but makes it a lot easier to prevent ‘the Iran effect’ in the future. At some point the wrong folks will get their hands on nuclear weapons. Is that today?
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Dr. Robin McFee FACPM, FAACT, is a physician and medical toxicologist. A nationally recognized expert in WMD preparedness, she is a consultant to government agencies, corporations and the media. Dr. McFee is the former director and cofounder of the Center for Bioterrorism Preparedness (CB PREP) and was bioweapons - WMD adviser to the Regional Domestic Security Task Force Region 7 after 911, as well as advisor on avian and swine flu preparedness to numerous agencies and organizations. Dr. McFee is vice chairman elect of the Global Terrorism, Political Instability and International Crime Council of ASIS International, and member of the US Counterterrorism Advisory Team. She has delivered over 400 invited lectures since 9-11, authored more than 100 articles on terrorism, health care and preparedness, and coauthored two books: Toxico-Terrorism by McGraw Hill and The Handbook of Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Agents, published by Informa/CRC Press.

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