of course, is most immediately threatened and is least ambiguous
in its analysis. A nuclear Iran, either out of calculation that
it could win a nuclear exchange with Israel, or out of a fanatical
derangement, clearly poses an existential threat to Israel. No
Israeli leader could risk exposing his country to such a threat,
if he could avoid it.
States, to a substantial extent, shares the Israeli concern. But
beyond that, the U.S. as the dominant world power would have primary
responsibility for managing a more aggressive, harder-to-deter
Iran that might feel safer in using terrorism to strike the U.S.
and the West, armed with a nuclear deterrent. Also, a nuclear
Iranian regime would feel safer from a combined U.S. and domestic
regime change effort.
On its face,
Europe would seem to be less concerned with Israel's fate and
more concerned about a general disturbance to the world equilibrium
(such as it is), as well as the possibly "reckless"
response of Israel or the U.S. to the danger.
French President Jacque Chirac last week added a fascinating and
unexpected element to the crisis by his barely veiled, unambiguous
threat -- while visiting France's Ile Longue nuclear naval base
in Normandy -- that France might use her nuclear weapons against
a country that either launched a terrorist attack against France,
or cut off her "strategic supplies" (i.e. oil). The
French press, from left to right, immediately stated that Chirac's
target was Iran.
his left-wing domestic political opponents suggested he was fantacizing
about France's quickly fading imperial glory, merely trying to
regain his footing after his poor performance during the Muslim
fire-bombing riots in Paris last fall, or trying to justify the
large budget of France's "useless" nuclear force de
judge (I believe quite plausibly) that Chirac is now alive to
the threat of radical Islam in France, and he is prepared to threaten
to go nuclear to try to stop its encouragement from outside. Mr.
Allan Topol, the noted international lawyer and author, will make
that case in an exclusive article in Washington Times'
op/ed page Jan. 26.
are other serious, if more recondite, theories arising to explain
Iran's possible motives. Strategic Forecasting Inc. (Stratfor),
the highly regarded Texas-based strategic analysis group, has
recently presented a completely different theory.
view, Iran's move is all about Iran's place in the Islamic firmament
-- and particularly her seeking pride of place over Al Qaeda as
the leader of radical Islam.
to Stratfor, in the quarter century since the Iranian revolution
launched radical Islam on the world, Iran has sullied its reputation
for principled Islamic radicalism by its conventional geopolitical
compromises with the West, including with the United State --
and even with Israel during the 1980s. Moreover, in the last 15
years, the Shia Iranians have seen the Sunni Wahhabi movement
of Al Qaeda outflank Teheran for revolutionary primacy.
this theory, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad very methodically
went out to deny the Holocaust in order to reassert Iran's anti-Zionist
credentials. The nuclear gambit, so it is reasoned, would have
three goals: to be seen to end Iran's sometimes unprincipled accommodation
with the West, to become Israel's greatest threat (and gain unambiguous
power over regional Sunni states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt)
and to be seen to take unmatched risks for radical Islam.
theory, if they get the bomb unobstructed, good. If the United
States or Israel uses military force against them, they regain
their valued credentials as true martyr and fighter for Islam.
yet another theory emerging to try to explain Iran's motives for
presumably starting to develop a nuclear capacity: traditional
Persian imperialism driven by a quest for more oil and regional
a historic adversary of Persia/Iran, is expressing increasing
concern over Iranian pretensions. If Iran moves much further down
the nuclear path, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt might all feel
the need to join the nuclear club, with all the potential for
catastrophic miscalculations inherent in such a condition.
should the Iranian regime fail for any reason, then Turkey fears
the emergence of an independent Kurdistan formed out of Iraqi,
Iranian and Turkish Kurds.
At the same
time, Iran still asserts its rights to much of Caspian Sea oil,
based on pre-World War II treaties with Russia.
As the sometimes
flamboyant but much read analyst in the Asian Times (who
goes by the nom de plume of Spengler) wrote recently, despite
Iran's current oil glut, in 20 years Iran will be almost out of
oil, just as her now young population will be ageing. From Eastern
Saudi Arabia (with its Shiite population) to the United Arab Emirates,
to Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, these oil-rich Caspian and Gulf
regions may become powerfully attractive to a nuclear Iran.
is only in the earliest stage of seriously trying to understand
the significance of Iran's recklessly bold nuclear moves of the
last few weeks. Each country and region's analysis may begin to
gel in the coming months.
It may well
turn out that for vastly different -- even contradictory reasons
-- Iran may be causing to come into being a large and varied international
alliance with a powerful set of motives for militarily denying
Iran the nuclear capacity for which she seems to be so quickly