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October 17, 2005

Israel, Iran, and the US: Nuclear War, Here We Come


by Jorge Hirsch

The stage is set for a chain of events that could lead to nuclear war over chemical weapons in the immediate future. If these events unfold, the trigger will be Israel, the target Iran, the nuclear aggressor the U.S. These are the reasons:

  • The U.S. State Department determined in August 2005 that "Iran is in violation of its CWC [Chemical Weapons Convention] obligations because Iran is acting to retain and modernize key elements of its CW infrastructure to include an offensive CW R&D capability and dispersed mobilization facilities."
  • According to the CIA, "Iran likely has already stockpiled blister, blood, choking, and probably nerve agents – and the bombs and artillery shells to deliver them – which it previously had manufactured."
  • According to (then undersecretary for arms control and international security, now U.S. ambassador to the UN) John Bolton's testimony to the House of Representatives (June 24, 2004), "We believe Iran has a covert program to develop and stockpile chemical weapons," and on Iran's ballistic missiles, "Iran continues its extensive efforts to develop the means to deliver weapons of mass destruction," and "The 1,300-km range Shahab-3 missile is a direct threat to Israel, Turkey, U.S. forces in the region, and U.S. friends and allies."
  • In the IAEA resolution of Sept. 24 [.pdf], Iran was found to be in "noncompliance" with its NPT safeguards agreements.
  • Members of the Israeli parliament from across the political spectrum are urging the United States to stop Iran's nuclear programs, or Israel will "act unilaterally." Statements of grave concern about Iran's nuclear program have been made by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, and Mossad chief Meir Dagan (Iran poses an "existential threat" to Israel). Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter accuses Iran of plotting relentlessly to attack Israeli targets.
  • According to the head of the Russian Atomic Energy Organization, Alexander Rumyantsev, Russia will ship the first cargo of nuclear fuel for Iran's Bushehr's reactor at the end of 2005 or early 2006.
  • Israel bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor (which was under IAEA supervision) in 1981 just before nuclear fuel was loaded into it (to prevent nuclear fallout).
  • President Bush has said that "all options are on the table" if diplomacy fails to halt Iran's nuclear program.
  • The U.S. House of Representatives on May 6, 2004, by a vote of 376-3, called on the United States to use all appropriate means to deter, dissuade, and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
  • In the recently released draft document "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations" [.pdf], the Pentagon states that it will respond to the threat of WMD (which includes chemical and biological weapons) with nuclear weapons.

Conclusion: according to Israel, the U.S. administration, and 99.2 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives, Iran will not be allowed to have access to any nuclear technology. No diplomatic options to achieve that goal will remain when Russia and China veto Security Council sanctions, or if the IAEA refuses on Nov. 24 to refer Iran to the Security Council. Military action will occur before Russia ships uranium fuel to Iran, and will inevitably lead to the use of nuclear weapons by the U.S. against Iran.

How will it all get started? No matter how much Bush and Cheney want it, the U.S. Senate is unlikely to authorize the bombing of Iranian installations out of the blue. Unless there is some major disturbance in Iraq that can be blamed on Iran, Israel is likely to pull the trigger. It knows how to and has every motivation to do so.

Once Israel drops the first bomb on an Iranian nuclear facility, as it did with Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981, there is no return. Bushehr is likely to be the first target; other installations will follow.

Iran will respond – how can it not? At a minimum, it will shoot missiles at Israel. It may or may not shoot at U.S. forces in Iraq initially, but given the U.S.-Israel "special relationship," there is no way the U.S. will stay out of the conflict. Many of Iran's targeted facilities are underground, and U.S. bombs will be needed to destroy them all.

Once the U.S. enters the conflict, 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq will be at risk of Iranian missiles with chemical warheads, or of being overrun by Iran's conventional forces streaming into Iraq. According to the Pentagon planning [.pdf], nuclear weapons will be used:

  • "To demonstrate U.S. intent and capability to use nuclear weapons to deter adversary use of WMD."
  • "Against an adversary using or intending to use WMD against U.S., multinational, or alliance forces or civilian populations…"
  • "[O]n adversary installations including WMD, deep, hardened bunkers containing chemical or biological weapons or the C2 infrastructure required for the adversary to execute a WMD attack against the United States or its friends and allies"
  • "[T]o counter potentially overwhelming adversary conventional forces…"
  • "For rapid and favorable war termination on U.S. terms…"
  • "To ensure success of U.S. and multinational operations…"

That makes six independent reasons for nuking Iran.

The first nuclear bomb used in an act of war after "Little Boy" and "Fat Man" should be code-named "Demo" – for "demonstration" that we can do it, don't mess with us, for "democracy" on the rise in the Middle East, and for the "Democrats" in Congress who will go along with the program. As with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we will be told it saved lives, ours and theirs. You know the script.

The upshot: a nuclear superpower will have nuked a non-nuclear state that is an NPT signatory and is cooperating with the IAEA, at the instigation of a state that is not an NPT signatory, that reportedly has over 100 nuclear bombs of its own, and that initiated hostilities with an unprovoked act of military aggression.

Given these prospects, the U.S. government should be doing its utmost to restrain Israel, yet it is doing exactly the opposite. It should be trying to achieve a diplomatic solution, but it refuses to even talk to Iran. The ongoing diplomatic effort by the EU is simply designed to provide cover for the planned military action, just as in the case of Iraq. How many times must Bush play the same game before the EU finally learns it is being used?

And how many times will it take for the U.S. citizenry to learn? The U.S. public and its representatives in Congress, preoccupied with the deception and subsequent disaster of the Iraq invasion, are blind to the enormously bigger deception and disaster unfolding just before their eyes. Do the majority of American citizens, from whom the authority of the administration is derived, really want to be drawn by Israel into a nuclear conflict? Is this really in the United States' best interest?

The sane world needs to tell the U.S. and Israeli governments to back off. And the United States needs to tell Israel, in no uncertain terms, that it will not allow (American-supplied) Israeli bombers carrying (American supplied) bunker-busting bombs over Iraqi airspace, and that it will not aid, abet, or condone such an attack. By not demanding this of the Bush administration, the U.S. Congress is complicit in what is about to happen and is betraying the trust of the people it represents.

There is a rational way to avoid this disaster.

  • Let Iran pursue a civilian nuclear program. Over 30 countries have civilian nuclear programs, while only nine have nuclear weapons. Let the Nobel-prize winning IAEA and Mohamed ElBaradei do their job!
  • The U.S. can guarantee Israel's safety by assuring Israel that any threat to its existence from a non-nuclear nation will be met with the full force of U.S. conventional forces, and any threat from a nuclear nation will be met with U.S. nuclear forces.
  • If Iran were to withdraw from the NPT and not allow international supervision of its programs, it would still take several years for it to acquire a nuclear weapon. There would still be plenty of time to act.

Otherwise? Welcome to the new world order, where the U.S. can nuke any non-nuclear country at will. Refrain from having a nuclear deterrent at your own risk. All nations that can will become nuclear, others on their way will be nuked, and all-out nuclear war will become an absolute certainty. Bye-bye, world.

 

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Jorge Hirsch is a professor of physics at the University of California San Diego.

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