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Informed Comment | Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion

David Sanger of the New York Times gets the scoop- that US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates sent the White House a memo last January observing that the US has no real developed policy for dealing with Iran should Tehran achieve `nuclear latency' (where a country has the ability to construct a nuclear weapon but stops short of doing so, in order to avoid international sanctions and disapproval.

Ironically, the take-away from this article is that Gates concurs with those analysts (such as Juan Cole) that Iran does not intend actually to build a bomb, but wants the technical know-how to do so as a way of deterring foreign invasions and attacks.

Gates also worries about how we would know it if Iran suddenly decided to move from latency to actually constructing a warhead. Actually, I think that is not so hard to know. They can't make a weapon at Natanz or Fardo as long as they are being inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency. So one sign would be (as with North Korea) that they kick out the inspectors and decline further international scrutiny. If they tried to develop a weapons program elsewhere, it would need a lot of water and electricity and materiel, which should show up on satellite or other surveillance instruments. Moreover, the US program to entice defectors from among Iran's nuclear scientists appears to be having some success, and these insiders should be able to clarify things.

Anyway, short of a land invasion and forcible regime change, I doubt there is anything practical the US can do about Iran's nuclear enrichment program. Economic sanctions will not stop it, and even a bombing raid would only set it back. As long as Tehran does not in fact go for broke in trying to get a bomb, moreover, it is mysterious to me why Washington is consumed with this issue.

Meanwhile, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, gave a speech on Saturday in which he lambasted the United States for having been the only nation to deploy a nuclear weapon, and that against hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, something he said Islamic law would have forbidden. [The full text in USG translation is below- scroll down). He also challenged the US credentials to serve as a policeman against proliferation, given US complicity in or complaisance toward the Israeli development of a nuclear arsenal.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Sun Apr 18th, 2010 at 01:14:36 PM EST
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