Tuesday, February 07, 2006

True or False?

Israel's Ambassador to the United States Danny Ayalon said on Tuesday morning that Iran is the biggest problem facing the world since World War II.

The above statement, taken from the Jerusalem Post, is striking. We live in an age of hyperbole, where politicians and other prominent figures feel there is an incentive to embellish the impact of whatever issue they face. This is not one of those times.

I agree with Ayalon, but would frame it a little differently. Iran is not yet to WWII proportions, but could easily get that way. This is more of a "1936 Nazi Germany occupies the Rhineland" situation, and it could get better or worse, depending on how the major powers approach it. In 1936 appeasement emboldened Hitler and WWII became inevitable, at least to our 2006 eyes. We have not yet reached that point with Iran and there is not yet an inexorable march to war. Indeed:

Ayalon, in an interview to Reuters, stated that he believed Iran's nuclear program would be blocked by diplomatic, not military means.

It is important to remember Ayalan is a diplomat. The diplomatic solution is what he is paid to provide. His private estimate for a peaceful solution to this issue may be more clouded. I'm not sure that it is possible.

Why is Iran such a grave threat?
  • Nuclear deterrence via Mutual Assured Destruction is not feasible in the case of a state like Iran. A like response to an Iranian nuke would be difficult to sell to the American people. We lack the stomach for that kind of retaliation.
  • The threat of nuclear war has not emerged with such force since the Cold War, and even then we have to go back to the 1960's and the Cuban Missile Crisis to see a comparable time. If Iran develops nukes, their Islamofascist leadership may not be as circumspect as Kennedy and Khrushchev. There certainly is not a "Hotline" between Olmert and Ahmadinejad or Bush and Ahmadinejad that might lead to cooler tempers.
  • The dangers of a nuclear Iran are not universally accepted. Solidarity in the Security Council is one thing, but will it translate to a military commitment by those actors to see Iran disarm, or at the very least tone down the rhetoric.

Unfortunately there are more questions than answers right now.


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