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What to do with Iran? While some say Iran’s nuclear program has stalled out because of a computer worm that is wreaking havoc on the centrifuges critical to enriching uranium to weapons grade levels, others say the only conclusion that can be drawn is that Iran continues to make progress in its quest for the bomb.
The Nov. 22, 2010 issue of The Weekly Standard had some quotes from South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, speaking at a security conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a few weeks ago.
As reported by Tod Lindberg, when asked “about the effect of the GOP midterm victory on the Obama administration’s foreign policy, the hawkish Graham said, ‘Republican ascendency is probably good news for those that want to see it through in Afghanistan and have a good relationship with Iraq.’ Then he added: ‘I think it’s good news for the president if he wants to be bold on Iran….I can tell you this. If he decides to be tough on Iran beyond sanctions, I think you’re going to see a lot of Republican support for the idea that we cannot let Iran develop a nuclear weapon.’
“Tough beyond sanctions. What are the Americans thinking? A journalist from the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitsung, who described himself facetiously as a ‘European wimp,’ asked exactly that.
“ ‘Nobody would like to see the sanctions work anymore than I would because I’m still in the military (Graham is a colonel in the Air Force reserves who has served active duty during Senate breaks in Iraq and Afghanistan) and I get to meet these young men and women on a regular basis, and I know what it’s been like for the last nine years. So the last thing America needs is another military conflict. But the last thing the world needs is a nuclear-armed Iran. And if you use military force, if sanctions are not going to work and a year from now it’s pretty clear they’re not going to work, what do our friends in Israel do? So I would like the president to make it abundantly clear that all options are on the table. And we all know what that means.’
“ ‘And if that day ever came, my advice to the president, in open session here, if you take military action against Iran as the last effort to stop their nuclear ambitions, you do open up Pandora’s box. But if you let them acquire nuclear weapons, you’ll empty Pandora’s box. So my view of military force would be not to just neutralize their nuclear program, which are probably dispersed and hardened, but to sink their navy, destroy their air force, and deliver a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guard. In other words, neuter that regime. Destroy their ability to fight back and hope that people…inside Iran would have a chance to take back their government and be good neighbors to the world in the future. So that’s what I mean by being tough, sir, that everything is on the table and that we need to start talking more openly about that because time is not on our side.’”
A member of Turkey’s foreign relations committee then asked Graham “if the allies have to resort to the last option,” whether they had thought through the regional implications.
“ ‘If I thought containment would work, I wouldn’t be saying the things I’m saying. So you’ve got two evils to choose from, I guess. And the evil that comes from the nuclear-armed Iran will affect the world as we know it far greater than whatever conflict would arise if you had to use military force. So at the end of the day, when you go to Iran, please convince them, if you can, that our country – the world at large – does not want this conflict, but that the regime has no credibility in my eyes. I think they’re duplicitous. I think they’re murdering their own people. I think they do not represent the hopeful nature of mankind. And if they acquire a nuclear weapon, they do so at their own peril because now’s the time to stand up before it’s too late.”
Writing in Defense News, Efraim Inbar, a professor of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University, talked of the energy angle.
“A nuclear Iran would strengthen its hegemony in the strategic energy sector by its mere location along the oil-rich Arabian Gulf and the Caspian Basin. These adjacent regions form the ‘energy ellipse,’ which holds more than 70 percent of the world’s proven oil and more than 40 percent of natural gas reserves.
“Improving revolutionary Iran’s ability to intimidate the governments controlling parts of this huge energy reservoir would further strengthen Iran’s position in the region and world affairs.
“A nuclear Iran will result in the loss of the Central Asian states to the West. These new states adopted a pro-Western foreign policy orientation. Following the emergence of a nuclear Iran, they will either gravitate toward Iran or try to secure a nuclear umbrella with Russia or China, countries much closer to the region, and end their alignment with the West.
“An Iranian nuclear arsenal will also unhinge the precarious nuclear balance on the Indian subcontinent. Pakistan, Iran’s neighbor, will have to adjust its nuclear posture. Such an adjustment will inevitably require changes in the Indian nuclear posture, possibly creating an even more sensitive nuclear balance….
“A nuclear-armed Iran would have a chain effect, generating further nuclear proliferation in the region. Middle Eastern leaders are unlikely to be persuaded by the U.S. that it can provide an umbrella against Iranian nuclear blackmail or actual nuclear attack. Therefore, states such as Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia would adopt similar nuclear postures, which would further undermine the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“The small distances in the Mideast, the lack of adequate early warning systems, the rudimentary stage of nuclear arsenals, the presence of elites newly initiated to the intricacies of nuclear strategy, regional strategies that allow brinkmanship and use of force, and the low sensitivity to cost create a strategic nightmare. A containment strategy based on deterring the ayatollahs is extremely problematic.
“The discussions on post-nuclear Iran scenarios underestimate the strategic repercussions of an Iranian nuclear arsenal. At this late stage, only military action can prevent the descent of the greater Mideast into a very brutish region.”