Iran, North Korea, China, Russia, Afghanistan and Iraq, Iraq, Iraq. These are the things that occupy the mind of whoever it is that might be driving US foreign policy. (It certainly isn’t Dubya.)
These countries all sit on a line of importance somewhere between Serious and Dire. While the United States has intentionally mired itself in Iraq, crackpot regimes like those in North Korea and Iran have become ever more emboldened. What they know is that the United States – even though they are the only Superpower – cannot possibly have enough conventional military power to contain them all. And they’re right about that. China has also sensed an opening and they’re making a real drive to the net for Superpower status themselves.
If Iran was to be attacked – by either the USA or Israel – the backlash against Israel would be horrific. We know that Iran has chemical and biological weapons and that they have had these for some time now. Nuclear isn’t far down the track, but they aren’t there yet. The anger against the United States for the invasion of Iraq grows daily, and something like this would just tip it over the edge.
The only thing that could stop massive retaliatory strikes – basically, everything Iran could shoot…they would – would be the threat of imminent doom for them all should they do it. And, right now, that would mean the threat of nuclear obliteration.
And they already know that the USA has convinced itself it can never use nuclear weapons. Put aside all the hubbub about nuclear bunker-busters and all that stuff…they all knew from the get go that even if they had them they could never use them. The guilt of Hiroshima/Nagasaki is just too great for a culture that still uses the yardstick of WWII to measure itself.
But I believe that Israel is so convinced of the Iranian nuclear threat that they are going to take it upon themselves to bomb every nuclear site they can reach in Iran. At the same time, it will be made clear to Iran that if they retaliate, they will be the first to witness the Israeli bomb. Heck, they might even toss one on Natanz in the initial strike just to make their point, and to deny the area to the Iranians. It would be a very powerful nuclear “test”.
The thing that scares me the most about all of this is Russia. And North Korea a little. Russia has been selling arms and technology to Iran for years and years now. Ever since the fall of the Shah, through the Iran/Iraq war (when Iraq was supported by the USA) and forward, and they have a pretty good relationship. Read some UN Security Council transcripts sometime and see who’s standing up for Iran…you guessed it. So there will never be a strong resolution against Iran. Just not going to happen. And North Korea does have bombs, and does sell technology to Iran. Who’s to say that for 50 million they wouldn’t sell them a nuke or two? I’m sure if Iran wanted a couple bombs in a hurry they would up their offer to a few times that. Then North Korea could buy their own fuel oil, and to hell with the IAEA.
Regardless, I would think that Iran is already on a crash nuke program. They have nothing to lose by pressing ahead as quickly as they can, and everything to gain.
China is upping their military spending by 17% in the next year. Afghanistan continues to be a drain and Iraq is just going to either last forever or end in crushing defeat. North Korea is going nowhere. The United States is finding itself in an arms race against not one foe but several, and they will not be able to sustain it over the long term. The Soviet Union collapsed by spending itself into oblivion in an arms race with the West. Huge projects – such as the Energiya rocket – eventually buried the USSR.
I believe that projects such as the Missile Defense Shield and further advancement into space-based weapons systems will do the same thing to the United States unless they get smart, and quick. The notion of “strategic parity” (see: Mine Shaft Gap, Dr. Strangelove.) is long-standing, and the USA cannot allow China to get ahead in the current political climate.
Oh, we’re all screwed.