Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Who Are They Deterring?

I've read some articles that assume Iran will get nuclear weapons and figure that we'll have to live with it. These authors note that Iranian desire for nuclear weapons pre-dates the Islamic Republic and that Iran has reason to want nukes to deter foreign aggression.

Setting aside the easy assumption by these authors that Iran is lying when officials deny they want nukes and that their nuclear programs are for energy and economic reasons only, I want to know just who they are deterring?

America, the so-called Great Satan? Since Iranian nuclear desires go back to the Shah's day, this can't be the nationalistic reason for wanting nuclear weapons. We were friends back then and focused on the Soviet Union. Indeed, our Rapid Deployment Force was conceived of as a means of deterring and defeating if necessary a Soviet invasion of Iran. More on the US later.

Well what about the Soviet Union? True, back in the day they were a threat. But that little implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991 sent that threat to the dustbin of history. The Russian army is a shadow of its former Soviet glories and Russia is rather a distance from Iran now, their border having receded a good distance.

Their hereditary and recent enemy Iraq? Well, we seem to have taken care of that nuclear or chemical threat. And given Iran's much larger size and historical strength, Iran would be far better off rejoining the international community so they can buy better conventional arms. And since Iraq will not be a conventional threat to Iran for a good decade or more (assuming we don't discourage Iraq from fighting Iran), Iran's nuclear path to security from Iraq makes no sense at all.

What about Turkey? No Turkish nukes and their common border is not an invasion route.

Pakistan? Don't they have an "Islamic" bomb? Why would they be a threat?

Afghanistan? Get real. Even with Americans there, this is no threat.

The former Soviet republics to the north? Hahahahaha. Not a threat.

Well what about Israel? Iran and Israel used to be friendly before the Islamic revolution. And Israel isn't in any position to invade Iran nor has Israel used its nuclear advantage to nuke Iran while Iran is helpless. And there is the inconvenient fact that some Iranians spout off about nuking Israel and taking a counter-strike for the Islamic team. That surely isn't a motivation based on deterrence.

I suppose there is Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf States. Please. They are pygmies militarily. Maybe if Riyadh went nuclear one could argue that Shia Iran fears Sunni Saudi Arabia but we aren't there (thank goodness).

So back to America. If we were not a threat to Iran when we were allies and Iran was pursuing nukes and if we never invaded or nuked Iran in the period of mullah hostility while we've maintained a nuclear arsenal sufficient to level Iran without really straining ourselves, why would Iran think we are about to invade and need to be deterred? Could it be that Iranian behavior has changed for the worst and that their crazy rhetoric and support for the vilest of terrorists is prodding us to take action?

So, if Iran was not a threat to us, we would not be hostile to Iran, and Iran could go back to the time when they did not need to deter a friendly America. With this causal relationship established between Iranian hostility to America and support for terrorism, and America's declaration of Iran as a member of the Axis of Evil, what makes more sense, figuring out how we can alter our behavior or how to alter their behavior? Since we certainly have tried to reach agreement with the mullahs ever since President Carter, how likely is it that we can change sufficiently to make Iran think they don't need nukes?

If we can help along a regime change based on real opposition to the mullahs, a new Iran will not see a threat from America and they may well be convinced that they do not need a costly nuclear weapons or energy program. And even if a democratic rational Iran wants nuclear programs, without the hostility of the mullahs to propel them it won't be a terrifying development.

Regime change in Tehran: 2005.