Suppose the Iranians Did This?

All this talk about bombing Iran scares me; so telly, suppose the Iranians manage to enrich enough uranium, to build 20-30 small atomic bombs. They also manage to perfect their guidance system (on their SHAHAB III missiles). Now, they announce (proudly) to the world: We are in the club! What exactly do they do? Some scenariosn:
-attack Israel: but this would (more than likely) kill a LOT of Muslims-and what if the Dome of the Rock got destroyed?
-threaten Saudia Arabia? Again, fellow muslims endangered.
-announce that Europe is NOT safe from nuclear attack
Something tells me that the Iranians are not so foolish-in the event of Israel being threatened, who would blink first?
Seems to me the whole thing is intended to build up Iran in they eyes of the Mullahs. Of what real significance (having nuclear bombs) might be, I don’t see it as altering the balance of power-Israel can still do pretty much as it wants.

They wouldn’t attack Israel; they would be annihilated.

I doubt if they would attack Saudi Arabia–but not b/c the Saudis are fellow Muslims (the Saudis are predominately Sunni, whereas the Persians are Shi’a, and Saudi Arabia actually has taken steps to minimize Iranian influence in the region.) Saudi Arabia is holy to all Muslims, because Mecca and Medina are there.

They wouldn’t threaten Europe b/c they know they would get flattened by nuclear powers like France and the UK if they nuked anything in Europe.

But it would certainly be harder to push the Iranians around. As has been pointed out before, the US is much more circumspect in its dealings with North Korea than with other enemy nations, and probably b/c North Korea is run by a nutbag with nukes. It’s just too risky to play hardball with a nation like that. Iran is thinking they could do worse to follow NK’s lead.

It does raise the question of why these states want nukes. Because, as Sophistry and Illusion has correctly pointed out, there aren’t many contexts where they would actually use these weapons, I wouldn’t think.

But yes, it would force the US to treat them with more care (respect, if you like, though I’m not sure that’s the right word).

I don’t understand why they would say or do any of those things. They would all invite attacks or counterattacks, and in every case except Saudi Arabia, the attacks would come from more powerful militaries.

Well, if you take them at their word, you can’t discount them deciding to launch on Israel. They’ve explicitly said that suffering a retaliatory strike from Israel might be ‘acceptable’ - the idea being that Israel is small and concentrated, and therefore can be almost completely obliterated, while Iran is big and spread out, and can’t be. We shouldn’t make the mistake of assuming they think like us - to an apocalyptic religious fanatic, what’s an acceptable loss? Don’t forget, Islamic fanatics are willing to kill their own people by the thousands and destroy their own holy relics to further their ‘religious war’. Look at the slaughter in Iraq at the hands of al-Qaida, the bombing of the Golden Mosque, and the intentional effort to start a civil war that would result in millions of dead.

In Iran’s case, it’s already showing its willingness to play extremely dangerous games by shipping weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas, and by supporting the insurgency in Iraq against American threats to bomb them.

Do you really want to trust that these people will behave calmly and rationally if they attain nuclear weapons? Do you want to stake your life on that? Or the world economy and the lives of millions of people in the Middle East?

But even if they did behave ‘rationally’ putting nuclear weapons in their hands is extremely dangerous. For one thing, it increases the chance of proliferation dramatically. Would Iran hesitate to arm Hezbollah with a nuke? Or Hamas? Will a nuclear Iran drive countries like Saudi Arabia into the nuclear club?

The very least you can expect is for Iran to start throwing its muscle around - dictating orders to other oil producing countries, making vague threats to the world community unless its demands are adhered to. That puts us into the uncomfortable position of playing nuclear brinksmanship games with a regime that has a proven track-record of aggressive behaviour, and which claims to be willing to destroy itself if it will further the aims of its religion. Scary stuff.

What do we do if a nuclear Iran says, “Withdraw your soldiers from Afghanistan in 72 hours, or we will take certain measures to stop you” - and then puts its nuclear force on alert? They haven’t specifically threatened nuclear attack, because that’s not how the game is played. But all the same, the threat is there. Do you capitulate? Or roll the dice?

I can easily imagine 100,000 Iranian soldiers rolling across the border into Iraq, ‘protected’ by the threat of nuclear retaliation if anyone intervenes.

The scariest thing is that they may make all these calculations under the belief that the worst-case scenario - that their bluff is called and they are attacked first - is not so bad, because dying in a holy war is just a ticket to heaven. When your downside is limited, you can take far more chances than your opponents are willing to take. That gives you a lot of power.

These are some of the reasons why you should be terrified of Iran getting its hands on nuclear weapons.

Kill “their own people,” whatever that means for a fanatic, yes. But Iran’s government already has power, and thus has something to lose that suicide bombers don’t. I don’t disagree with your basic point - proliferation is what got things to this point, via A.Q. Khan of Pakistan - but I don’t think the powerful people in Iran will risk what they have to foment a revolution they probably know isn’t coming.

The US is circumspect with North Korea out of our strong common interests with our allies south of the 38th Parallel. While they have a vast conscript army and some degree of native military production capability (at great expense against basic necessities to their population) the United States could kick them all over the map without fear of significant military reprisal.

Nuclear weapons are virtually useless in any conventional sense as weapons. A nation that used them–even on a tactical scale–would be excommunicated from the international community. For Iran, it would mean a loss of military support from and economic exchange with the Peoples Republic of China, and being even more isolated from the Arab community. This isn’t to say that the scenerio that some total lunatic in power might opt to use them is hopelessly far fetched–Fidel Castro recommended the use of tactical nukes on an invading force had the US decided to attack Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, knowing full well that Cuba would have been completely destroyed by LeMay’s bombers–but no person in a rational state of mind in the post-Cold War environment would opt to use nuclear weapons unless confronted by a comparable attack.

The flip side of that is that if someone attacks you with nukes, and you can respond before being destroyed, your only option is to attack back without regard for proportionality; anything you hold back on in reserve may be destroyed in an attack, so you should use everything you can while you can. There is no stable equilibrium, or indeed, even a quasi-stable fluctuating equilibrium, between no response and full response, and you can expect any use of nuclear weapons, even on the “tactical” regime will scale up to a full exchange.

Iran is developing nuclear weapons (if they are) in order to be viewed as a legitimate superpower, the Persian Empire renewed, and having the capability to manufacture your own nuclear weapon is the ante to play that game, one that Britain and France have struggled to develop for not much more reason than to maintain the status of an Empire sans colonial holdings. Unless they intend a suicidal jihad against Israel–not out of the question, perhaps–they have no more practical “use” for them than any other nation.

It really wouldn’t be all that much harder to “push them around”; if you haven’t noticed, even after kicking out the Shah and then taking hostages in the American Embassy, we’ve been rather reluctant to engage in the application of military force against Iran, aside from sanctions and the occasional bit of saber-rattling. Iran having nukes would make the lack of action more deafening, but the practical effect would be nil. We’d still be unable to push them around, and they’d be unwilling to actually exercise the option with the knowledge that we’d pave Iran over with B61s should they lob nuclear weapons at any United States asset or ally.


Pretty much what they are doing now. They just don’t need to worry as much about America threatening to mass murder them.

Ironically, I think that acquiring nukes would doom the conservatives in the long run. Without America frothing at the mouth on the borders, reformists would have a better chance to gain power. The lack of an external threat will make it much harder to distract people from things like mismanagement of the economy.

Never, ever happen. Like everyone else, they’ll hold onto their nukes with both hands. They won’t give them to some third party. Did the Soviet Union or America hand out nukes to the terrorists aka “freedom fighters/revolutionaries” they supported ? Iran isn’t any crazier or more ruthless than them.

Yeah, right. And we’d slaughter them, and that’s all. On the other hand, they wouldn’t have to worry as much about 100,000 American soldiers rolling into Iran, hell bent on mass murdering Iranians for their own good.

That nonsense is for the useful idiots who strap bombs to themselves, not the people in charge. They didn’t get old and grey by yearning for martyrdom.

Iran has a plethora of serious engineering difficulties to overcome if they want to get a bomb. I wish I still had this detailed PDF I found last year which listed the problems. I remember it estimated that IF Iran has been working on a secret nuclear weapons program and IF they got over the problems then they could maybe make their first crude device in 2010, and it’d be so large it probably wouldn’t fit on a missile.

Or you can just listen to Scott Ritter (warning: video link). As always, I also recommend his book, Target Iran.

In 1994, some Clinton administration officials stated that Iran was 5-10 years away from having nuclear weapons. As of today, the CIA states that Iran is 5-10 years away from having nuclear weapons. Or, as Ritter likes to say, any industrial nation is 10 years away from nuclear weapons.

Regardless, I don’t want to see Iran aquire nuclear arms. I don’t want India or Pakistan to have nukes either, but it’s too late. I don’t want ANY country to have nukes. That’s why the U.S. should be fully supporting the IAEA and be intimately involved with Iran’s nuclear energy program. In the coming years as more and more countries seek nuclear energy (I don’t hear many screaming about Brazil’s program), maybe it’d be a good idea for the U.S., Western Europe, and Japan to build and maintain nuclear energy infrastructure in other countries for monitoring purposes.

Suffice to say, the United State’s current posture towards Iran is not helping the situation. Even if they do have a secret nuclear weapons program which no one knows about, bombing them with conventional forces probably won’t finish the job and may endanger future IAEA inspections (see: Iraq, UN inspectors, Clinton, 1998, operation Desert Fox). If they really are fanatical nutjobs (which I don’t buy for a second considering their 2003 diplomatic push and the Supreme Leader’s fatwa which said nuclear weapons and Islam are fundamentally incompatible) I would think it’d be better to hold them closer, not push them away.

Or, to be more explicit, NK has a ridiculous amount of artillery pieces and if they wished they could turn Seoul (population ~10 million) into swiss cheese. That’s why NK has always been safe from regime change, at least by an overt military invasion by the U.S.

It’s a two tiered world in diplomacy - there’s the major powers and there’s the other guys. And owning nuclear weapons are pretty much the dividing line between them.

I hate to have to say this but it makes sense for Iran to be building nuclear weapons. If they have thirty or forty nuclear weapons they no longer have to worry about threats from the United States or Russia or Pakistan or Israel or India or whomever. Other countries might huff and puff but they no longer could threaten to blow the house down.

If Saddam had had a nuclear arsenal in 1990, he’d have gotten away with occupying Kuwait. Nobody would have wanted to fight a serious war against a guy with nuclear weapons. And he would be sitting safe in Baghdad today.

Israel knows this. They understood that they needed to have a nuclear arsenal and once they did they knew that there never would again be a serious threat to wipe Israel off the map. Any future conflict would just be nibbling around the edges.

Having a nuclear arsenal is a rational choice for a nation to make. It guarantees that no foreign power will threaten your existence.

I suggest a scenario where Iran blockades the Gulf.
perhaps after a setup like this:
1)Something happens in the world , in say, 2012,that gets the Iranians angry.(Maybe Salman Rusdie publishes a new anti-Islamic book in England. Or a Danish newspaper publishes another cartoon., and a French magazine enlarges it.
2) Iran demands an apology from the British/Danish/French governments, and the expulsion of the people who caused the offense to stand trial in Iran.
3)When Britain/Denmark/France refuse, Iran announces that it will militarily intercept all oil tankers with any connection to those countries… No ships flying the English flag, or carrying oil intended for any ports in England, Denmark, France will be allowed to sail in the Gulf.
4) France sends a civilian oil ship to the Gulf, the Iranians board it and take the crew hostage.
5) England sends a second civilan oil ship but with 50 soldiers on board. Iran stops the ship , shots are fired , and one British soldier dies.
6) America has a newly elected Democratic president whose main pride is that in the year 2012, he finally withdrew the last US soldier from Iraq, after campaigning on an platform of “no more Vietnams, no more Iraqs”

The price of oil goes up, markets go crazy, the public panics over fear of oil shortages.

Iran announces " All we demand is that England/France/Denmark extradite the evil Islamic desecrators to stand trial in Iran. And to show we are serious, we just executed the entire crew of the French oil tanker. Oh, and by the way, we have nukes. Lots of nukes."

Why would Iran do this in 2012? It didn’t do it when the scenario you described actually happened in the past. Nuclear weapons won’t suddenly make Iran into a superpower. And Britain and France have nuclear weapons too.

The only change in the world that would result from Iran getting nuclear weapons is that George Bush would have to stop hinting about how he might invade Iran when he needs a boost in his poll numbers.

This counterfactual is so far afield as to be of little value. If Saddam had nukes AND still fought the Iran-Iraq war AND still suffered as badly AND he refrained from using them during the Iran-Iraq war AND kept them a secret AND had a beef with Kuwait about debt and slant drilling and they refused to pay extortion/compensation AND he invaded Kuwait and then revealed his nuclear glory, then . . .

The US would feel even more obligated to kick the everliving crap out of him, just with less groundpounder action until Saddam was good and dead. The US simply could not afford to surrender access to and influence within the Persian gulf region. Even if it didn’t alienate our allies in the area, the perception of having surrendered to nuclear blackmail would end the political career of the President who did so and probably deal a body blow to his party for some time.

Nuclear weapons are useful for deterrence and defense (and as such, are logical from Iran’s point of view). But having them makes you a legitimate target for retaliation and while they may make you superficially a heavyweight, you retain the overall physique of the 98 lb weakling.

There’s are reason the nuclear powers have played all of the spheres of influence and proxy war shit. Attacking your enemies ally just has too much potential to escalate.

Whether you’d like to admit to it or not, Iran has repeatedly stated that they have no intentions of making an atomic bomb. Over and over again ad nauseum. Western powers are unable to come up with a shred of proof that Tehran is working on, has plans for, or is currently building atomic weapons; indeed, they don’t even have enough enriched uranium to generate electricity for its populace much less arming one on the some warhead to attack any country, much less any Western country like Israel or the United States. The thought that Iran will develop atomic weapons and use them is so far removed from reality that it reeks of lysergic acid and purple unicorns. Iran hasn’t started a war in over 200 years. Why people keep calling it a “rogue nation” that wants nothing but to conquer the world perplexes me to no end.

But let’s assume that Tehran develops nuclear weapons and points them to Israel. I imagine Iran will be destroyed with out hesitation or mercy which would, in turn, stir up Arab nationalism in the Middle East against the West. I don’t think it’ll happen (the surrender/annihilation of Iranian regime) as quickly as people like to think though. Keep in mind that the world has a habit of underestimating Iranian capabilities. When Hussein, armed with U.S weapons, invaded Iran he brazenly claimed that he’d be in Tehran in a week Not so much. Not only did Tehran repel Iraqi forces but launched a counterstrike that snatched land from Iraq.

  • Honesty

As opposed to the posts basically saying that if Iran gets a nuclear bomb it’ll blow up Israel and declare war on NATO?

You’re taking the background of Little Nemo’s counter-factual aside a little too seriously, but it could be very possible his nukes could come online in the interim between 1988 (the end of the Iran-Iraq war) and the invasion of Kuwait (1990) just for the purpose of the hypothetical. I very much doubt he’d keep them a secret at all. Even if he tried, we’d know about them anyway.

OK, so the U.S. massively bombs Iraq. Then Saddam Hussein gets on the radio and says “Stop, or Israel won’t exist tomorrow.” I mean hey, what does he have to lose? He’s a cornered animal in this situation. I think that might cause more domestic problems for our gung-ho President, “the man who lost Israel.” With the Cold War as a backdrop, I’d think the American people would understand that nuclear weapons in the enemy’s hands reduces your options.

Instead of calling Iran “Axis of Evil” and invading not one, but two of their neighbors, we should have launched a sophisticated carrot-and-stick, good-cop/bad-cop diplomatic initiative.

In the wake of 9/11 we should have told the Iranians, “We’ve been looking the other way while you’ve supported Hezbolla and other terrorist groups, but no more. If you do not cease your support immeidately, there will be serious consequences, but if you get with the program in opposing terrorism and begin acting like a responsible member of the international community, we will consider the eventual restoration of diplomatic relations”.

If you want a proud people to bend to your will, you have to provide a face-saving avenue toward doing so.

Remember, there was a huge pro-American rally/vigil in Teheran after 9/11, abnd a lot of pro-American (but not pro-Bush) sentiment among young people. But although President Khatami was moderate and pro-western, the real entrenched power lay with the Islamic Revolutionary Council. A certain “back door” diplomacy involving triangulating 3rd parties acting as “good cop” might have succeeded in getting them to improve their behavior.

Oh well, there’s always the Rapture.

That makes a ton of sense if you want to make sure they do not acquire nuclear weapons and instead stay on the course of peaceful nuclear energy. If instead you want to enforce a policy of regime change and regional transformation, however, that strategy doesn’t make much sense.

I’m puzzled-Ahmadedinejad keeps spouting his bellicose talk, about driving Israel out…yet, he has little or NO power. I accept that the real men who run iran are NOT crazy-they understand all too well, what might befall them, should they pick a fight with the USA. But why the bellicose speeches from the President? It reminds me of Nasser-one day the Israelis took him at his word-and humiliating defeat came to Egypt. :smack: