President Barack Obama has frequently stated that with regard to Iran’s nuclear program, all options are on the table, including bombing of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Yet, Obama has been dropping options off the table until the military attack option has become about the only one standing.
The most intriguing question being raised now is whether or not Obama was mouse-trapped by the Israeli government by its “Can’t Wait” campaign on the need to bomb Iran now or soon to prevent irreversible progress on Iran developing a nuclear bomb. And did Obama strike an agreement with Israel that if the Israelis didn’t attack Iran before the U.S. November elections, the U.S. would do the job for them if Iran crossed a red line, probably short of a confirmed development of a nuclear bomb?
The option to have other countries enrich Iranian low-grade uranium was dropped even before U.S.-Israeli consultations of the past few months. The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany, once endorsed outsourcing enrichment; however, when Turkey and Brazil were on the verge of such a deal with Iran, the United States led the opposition to it.
During the course of the Cold War, the U.S. followed a policy of live-and-let-live with the Soviet Union and other nuclear powers, including China. Obama has burned that bridge. So if the talks now underway with the Iranian government fail and sanctions don’t induce Iranian capitulation, the bombing option is the only one left. There is general agreement that bombing Iran would retard its nuclear program by only a year or two.
Jonathan Schell has said that “Disarmament wars threaten or occur when force becomes the chosen instrument for preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” Schell sees a “remarkable” similarity between Obama’s policy on Iran and George W. Bush’s policy on Iraq a decade ago:
“As Bush did, Obama suspects a country of developing nuclear weapons. As Bush did, he deems that unacceptable. As Bush did, he rules out the live-and-let-live solution of containment. As Bush did, he identifies military force as the ultimate solution. Most important, as Bush did, he sees the particular crisis in question (Iraq for Bush, Iran for Obama) as a skirmish in the larger global cause of stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.”*
There are two bills before Congress — S. Res. 380 and H. Res. 568 — which would require a military strike upon Iran acquiring a “nuclear weapons capability.” A total of 26 national organizations have banded together to sign a letter to the House and Senate chairpersons of committees considering the bills. The organizations oppose the bills and also want the “no contact policy” with Iran abandoned.
In their letter, the 26 organizations cite likely consequences of a military strike on Iran: make a nuclear-armed Iran more likely; impose tremendous burdens on a fragile world economy; spike oil prices; cut jobs at home; and have a devastating effect on human rights and the pro-democracy movement in Iran.
Jonathan Schell’s solution is to permit Iran’s enrichment of nuclear fuel to nuclear power-grade in return for Iran’s full disclosure of its nuclear programs and their history, along with acceptance of strict inspection and controls to prevent the country from enriching uranium to nuclear weapons-grade. Or to go Schell one better, the U.S. could follow the live-and-let-live policy of the Cold War.
The best solution of all for nuclear weapons proliferation is a nuclear weapons-free world.
* Jonathan Schell, “Thinking the Unthinkable,” The Nation, April 23, 2012.