Waltzing with Iran

Today, as we are faced with the terrifying possibility of a nuclear Iran, we are also faced with the impending realization that the U.S has suddenly adopted a bizarre case of delusion as we wake to more news of failed negotiations.

”We believe there needs to be some additional realism,” a senior U.S. official said last week, “Time is not unlimited here.” – oh really?

Kenneth Waltz, in his article “More may be better” has argued that the sheer cost of a nuclear war is enough to deter states from entering into one and that surely is enough to prevent war altogether. He holds that new states acquiring nuclear capability reduce the chances of war, providing they uphold certain requirements:

First, at least part of a state’s nuclear forces must appear to be able to survive an attack and be capable of a second strike; second, survival of forces must not require early firing in response to what may be false alarms; and [third] command and control must be reliably maintained; weapons must not be susceptible to accidental or unauthorized use

Even if Waltz could be theoretically correct, his system of checks and balances to ensure a perfect deterrence strategy through nuclear proliferation is so flawed, abstract and unrealistic that it is simply unobtainable and too hazardous to even pursue.

The implications of nuclear Iran are too high and dangerous. It would be highly precarious to assume that a nuclear Iran would be responsible or reliable  while they continue to literally laugh at questions from the Americans and threaten the very existence of Israel.

When discussing the topic of man’s most catastrophic weapon today, probabilities simply are not good enough.  Neither, it seems, is a states ability to guarantee that there would be no accidental fire or mistakes.

The Cuban missile crisis led the weapons to be on high alert for months after the event. While the weapons were not being used and remained on high alert increasing the incentive to use the weapons before they go bad. This coupled with the American policy, held since that “we cannot afford through any idea of avoiding an aggressive attitude to permit the first blow to be struck against us”, renders useless the requirements to not fire early due to mistakes, false alarms or even appearances that one is under attack.

Waltz’s last requirement is, perhaps, the most abstract and theoretical of them all. He assumes that today’s states have complete control over their forces and the possibility of failures in command and/or unauthorized use are slim to none.

Control has always been delegated; President Eisenhower faced the problem of not enough time between decisions and giving orders to the troops. Authorization simply had to be given early without a time consuming presidential decision. President Hussein, too, admitted that in event of an attack and the cabinet being in a meeting at the time, authorization had been given in advance. The commanders in Cuba knew they had the Soviets permission to use the weapons if needed too. The situation was such that the most dangerous weapons in the world were now in the hands of two and three star generals and not the major executive.

This applies today, even more so, when the warning and reaction times have decreased from several hours to just a few minutes to make that fateful decision.

Decisions today are ignoring these problems that unauthorized use is easy when learning that Iran is able to share the weapons with terrorist groups due to their light and small sizes, or, worse, have them stolen.

A nuclear Iran could share its weapons with Hezbollah. The world would then be faced with a greater nightmare, as they are not even a state to be held accountable for, or able to dissuade in using them.

According to Dr Stephen Rosen, former Director of Political-Military Affairs at the National Security Council, “The deployment and functional requirements of a nuclear Iran would be immensely unstable and a breakdown of control over the weapons would be inevitable.”

The optimism of the pro- proliferation parties goes as far as to assume that Iran are domestically stable and may behave rationally before embarking on nuclear ambitions.

We must not overlook the fact that tyrannical state could pursue nuclear weapons due to irrationality or a different concept of what constitutes acceptable damage than ours. Those who do will inevitably peril at their own naivety.

Will there ever be an end to states threatening the existence out of each other through appearances, perceptions and potential capabilities?

If that means that the world has to remain as it is, without adding more nuclear weapons, then so be it. The policy makers of today will have to come up with other ways to discourage the annihilation of others.

As Clinton announced this week ”No deal is better than a bad deal”. This is invariably true however we cannot afford a no- deal either. The negotiators are going to need to step up far stronger than the poor and weak display they have shown to date.

The Iranian President has the P5+1 exactly where he wants them. He has noted that the West should “pursue the path of logic, dialogue and negotiations because they do not have any other choice vis-a-vis the great and resistant nation of Iran who do not bow to (their) pressure and sanctions“.

Rouhani considers the nuclear negotiations as a means of silencing opposition: “We consider these [talks] as a step towards disarming our opponents,” he said last Sunday.

Frustratingly, he may not be as wrong as we would like him to be.

As Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, Director of Political-Military Affairs at the Defense Ministry, warned on Monday at a conference held at the IDC, Herzliya, ”the moment Iran goes nuclear and triggers an Arab nuclear arms race, the region will become hell”.


About the Author
Born in NY, raised in London and moved to Israel in 2006/7, Daniel has recently completed his undergraduate degree in Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at the IDC, Herzliya, specializing in Counter Terrorism and Conflict Resolution. Daniel served in the IDF in Golani 51 during Operation Cast Lead, has worked for the Jewish Agency, IDFWO and is currently an Intern Research Analyst at the International Institute for Counter Terrorism. Daniel is also a fellow of the Leaders for Israel, Public Diplomacy and Leadership Fellowship. Twitter: dmendelsohn99