Currently being knocked off the Euro front pages by the Greek economic fiasco, is a possible game changer of enormous proportions. Will Israel attack Iran's nuclear plants with more than just computer software?
Up until now it's been a poker game that Iran has been playing very well, refusing to be bluffed down in the face of Israeli threats and American intimidation.
But now, as the International Atomic Energy Agency is about to release a report claiming Iran has long been trying to develop atomic weapons, the case for a preemptive strike, such as Israel once carried out against Iraq, will be stronger.
But for argument's sake let's say Israel doesn't attack Iran.... which it probably wouldn't do without American backing up front.
Iran then will most certainly develop a nuclear weapon. In fact, it could be argued the military and economic threats against it offer Iran justification to have such weapons.
Here's what I think will happen. Iran, like Israel, will deny having the bomb. Why make it official? Better to keep the world guessing. Just the thought of an Iranian bomb will create in the Middle East what the US had for more than 40 years with Russia... Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), a sort of fantasy nuclear standoff between powers who may or may not have nuclear weapons.
Yet, this is very dangerous game to play, and one that a nation such as Iran, run by devout theocrats, feels it can afford. Wealthy democracies will think long and hard before taking military action that may mean counter attacks against them. But dictatorships with less to lose who feel they can raise the status of their homeland may not have such reservations.
The big goal of Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been to replace Saudi Arabia as the Middle East's main player, which will be quite a task since Iran is a non Arabic Shiite Muslim nation, while most of the Arab world is Sunni Muslim. But, having the bomb maybe a big persuader.
However, there could be a spanner in the Iranian gears, and its called Turkey, a powerful country far more developed and with a stronger economy than anyone in the region except Israel.
Until recently Turkey has been looking westward towards the European Union. But, now it has rediscovered its Islamic glory and past Ottoman Empire. Even though the Turks have remained cordial to Iran, the Iranian imperial ambitions will not be welcomed in Ankara.
I repeat, Iran will not admit to having nuclear weapons. But, the threat will still be there as will the nuclear standoff. And barring fanatical action, that's with what we may have to live. And its also a reason Turkey has allowed US missile batteries on it soil.
Possibly the best way to deal with Iran's denials will be to simply ignore it by accepting their claims. I mean there's no point in playing the bluff game if no one believes you. This might force Iran to own up to their bomb. But, using it would be another thing, one that could be a gateway to armageddon. Such stakes may be too high for the major powers to play.
The main lesson the world learned from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident was that even a relatively small radioactive discharge could cause a disaster over a wide area. And this lesson has been taken in by the Arab world, which fears Iran's atomic ambition.
It knows if Iran, or anyone else for that matter, attacked Israel with nuclear weapons, bordering states such as Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and especially the Palestinians could be destroyed as well. Shock waves and atomic radiation know no borders.
You might say, the Arab-Israeli conflict could be settled in one blow, with the suffering survivors envying the dead.
We can only hope Iran realises this, too. And we can also hope if and when they get the bomb, their maniacal leadership doesn't adopt the standard terrorist logic of accepting collateral damage for their idea of the greater good.Suggest a correction