It’s time to have a grown up discussion about Iran and its nuclear program. I wish to lay out here the case for a kinetic action against the Iranian regime, but only if certain criteria are met. First, though, it is necessary to demonstrate what kind of threat Iran having a nuclear weapons poses. Contrary to popular political mythology, Iran does not pose an existential threat to either the United States or Israel. It does, however, pose a strategic and regional threat to America’s interests abroad.
How does a nuclear capable Iran pose a threat? It poses a threat from a counterterrorism perspective and a geostrategic perspective. It is well established that Iran is a state-sponsor of terrorism, specifically Hamas and Hezbollah. This has included hundreds of millions of dollars to fight Israel in the Palestinian areas and weapons like the Zelzal missiles. The second threat posed has more to do with state relations. First, if Iran, a Persian and Shi’ite nation, acquired nuclear weapons, their Sunni and Arab neighbors, especially Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, will wish to acquire nuclear weapons as well. This would create a dangerous arms race in the Levant that will threaten regional stability to the breaking point. Also, if Iran gained a nuclear weapon, then it would abrogate the ability of the United States ever to intervene in the country, even if it is in America’s national interest to do so. The threat of a nuclear weapon would deter the US from using conventional forces and denuding the country of an ability to fulfill its security obligations.
It is clear to see that Iran wants to acquire nuclear weapons capability, which does not take esoteric acumen to see. Furthermore, they are getting increasing closer to that ability. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an organization known for its cautious language, finally acknowledged last November that Iran is trying to gain weapons capability. This was the twelfth report during the Obama administration; it took several years for them to acknowledge this fact, which demonstrates its higher reliability. The IAEA reached its conclusion because of the obstinacy of the Ahmadinejad regime and their refusal to comply with international treaties.
Another important part is that because the West failed to reach an agreement about enriching Iran’s uranium for medical purposes, the country has decided to do this on its own. Here is a quick science lesson on nuclear weapons:
To build a bomb, one needs to enrich uranium to 92%. This means that the Uranium needs to be 92% U235 which can happen through the use of centrifuges, like the Iranians are doing. Uranium found in the ground is less than 1% U235. The important part though is that if Iran is enriching their uranium to 20%, the amount necessary for medical reactors to treat cancer, the process is 90% done to reach bomb making levels. Iran is clearly going after a nuclear weapon, and soon they will have the capability.
America should respond with a multi-layered response. First, America should visibly prepare for kinetic action in two ways. The US needs to give Israel several hundred bunker buster missiles to give Israel the capability to attack the targets in Iran it needs to find. In addition, America needs to also put the proper equipment in the region to show the country is willing and able to defend our interests in the region.
After visibly preparing to attack Iran, America should then open low-level diplomatic relations without pre-conditions. This should merely open the channels of dialogue with the Iranian regime to demonstrate we are open to a peaceful solution. If the negotiations move past the initial phase, then America can, and should, start demanding pre-conditions for further negotiations, including Iran giving up its nuclear material. If the negotiations break down, and to be honest, they most likely will, then America needs to use military force. When the United States and/or Israel attack Iran, it cannot respond with a limited military strike that only goes after nuclear facilities. This will do little to hold the regime back. Instead, America needs to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, launching pads, arms caches, and its air force. An attack of this magnitude will destroy Iran’s nuclear capability and severely mitigate its ability to retaliate for the attack.
America needs to take action sooner rather than later on the Iranian issue. The Iranians may not pose a definitive, existential threat today, but if they gain nuclear weapons they will pose a geo-strategic threat for America’s interests abroad. It’s time to act.