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Options Limited in Preventing Middle East Nuke Arms Race

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An attack by Israel against Iran is not a certainty, by a long shot, which such an action would be. Yet, doing nothing might have serious regional effects, too.

Saudi Arabia is just as worried about a nuclear-armed Iran as Israel, with some high-ranking Saudi officials saying it will seek nuclear weapons if Iran has them. One of the WikiLeaks revelations was a desire by Saudis for Israel to bomb Iran: The enemy of my enemy is my friend scenario.

It was one thing with Israel having such weapons and another a nation such as Iran. The Saudis know Israel, joined to the hip with the US, would not nuke its Arab neighbours. Israel is not a fanatical dictatorship, has no imperial outlook, is not trying to impress its faith on Arabs and such an attack would be disastrous for everyone.

But, Iran is another story. Most things in the Middle East are connected or controlled by tribal and religious affiliations. And most Arabs are Sunni Muslims, while Iran is a Shiite nation. Iraq is the only Arab nation with a majority Shiite population. The hatred between both of these groups, the endless suicide bombings, are examples of the hatred that exists between Shiite and Sunnis in nations such as Syria and Lebanon.

The big goal of Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollahs has been to replace Saudi Arabia as the centre of Islam...pushing Shiitism to the front of the Muslim world.

To this end little Israel is the big roadblock in his way. There is literally no reason for the hatred Iran has for Israel. Under the Shah's regime relations were warm and Iran once had a thriving Jewish community.

However, when Iran went fundamentalist in the late 1970s, the country quickly adopted an anti Israel stance. Today that stance, bolstered by the Palestinian issue, helps secure Iran to the Arab world's traditional anti Israel posture.

Iran also knows it can never rise to a preeminent position in the region as long as Israel and the USA hover over the same territory.

For its part, Saudi Arabia may feel very vulnerable to religious and economic blackmail if Iran gets the bomb. Where Iran my be hesitant to Attack Israel, fearing it would also take out Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. Saudi Arabia is a vast desert nation; one they feel could be hit without destroying nearby countries.

Yet all this is only speculation, the stuff that fuels a nuclear arms race. Remember the main purpose of America's MAD (mutual assured destruction) nuclear policy, was to convince enemies not to use nuclear weapons because no one would win such a war.

Iran claims an attack upon it would engulf the entire Middle East. Given what's currently happening in the region, this is a wild overstatement. Some Arab nations, such as Saudi Arabia, would be pleased. Others undergoing internal turmoil, will be preoccupied with their own problems to jump to the defense of non Arabic Shiite Iran.

These may be plus factors for Israel in launching an attack. On the negative side is the counter attack by Iran and its proxies in Lebanon and Gaza. Does Israel want another war that would probably drag NATO in, based on a possibility, not a certainty, of Iran developing nuclear weapons? It may be the only realistic option.

Even if the broad range of economic sanctions crippling Iran work, how can anyone prove to a suspicious Arab world, that Iran doesn't have some bombs hidden away?

Remember, Iran's main goal is increasing its stature within the Islamic world. Unless Israel or the US destroys its nuclear installations, this is now assured. Iran doesn't even have to develop a bomb. Just the belief among nations that it has one will be enough to create fear and tension...and also a possible nuclear arms race in the region.

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