Friday, January 29, 2010

Iran's Nuclear Program, as seen in mid January

This is part of an interview that I gave more than two weeks ago. Since the interview, Iran has rejected key components of the enriched fuel storage plan devised by the IAEA.

The point that I made emphatically was that the U.S. would occupy a more credible position if it emphasized a strong commitment to a nuclear free Middle East in its diplomacy. President Obama did raise the issue in his Cairo speech, and on a few other occasions, but these references have the quality of boiler-plate. In much of the commentary on the Iranian nuclear program, there is no mention whatsoever of Israel's substantial nuclear arsenal. Israel, of course, does not adhere to the NPT and declares pro forma that it will not be the first state to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East, whereas, if the estimates of the CIA (not to mention the Vanunu revelations in October 1986) are to be trusted, it already has. To presume that Israel's arsenal is not one of the factors that drive the Iranian program is willful ignorance. It would be naive to presume that Israel would easily agree to surrender its nuclear warheads. Nonetheless, silence about Israel's cache of weapons gives it more freedom of movement on the issue than U.S. interests dictate.

Were it possible to thwart Iran's drive for nuclear weapons without creating a host of other problems, that would obviously be beneficial to the U.S. and the states of the Middle East. My concern, as expressed in the interview, is that that is not very likely to be possible.

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