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The situation with Iran.

Nowadays, Iran is once again front page news. By having Russian experts load fuel into their first nuclear power plant, the Iranian government is once again thumbing its nose at the West. Iranian officials including President Ahmadi-nejad and the Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi have been launching barrages of threats against Israel and Western states in anticipation of either strong reaction or worse air strikes. The recent statement by John R. Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the UN, in which he tells the Israelis that the time to bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities is now, otherwise they will risk the dangers of a major humanitarian catastrophe due to nuclear radiation, made the Iranians more jittery than ever. Because of these and other developments in this volatile region, I decided to try my hand at the subject, particularly concerning what might happen if the nuclear facilities in Iran are bombed by the U.S. or Israel and possibly involving other Western states such as France and England. However, I cannot promise you the veracity of Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski, the former U.S. National Security Advisor who is said to have predicted the impending demise of the Soviet Union. Nor would I pretend to possess Nostadamus' capacity to predict the fate of our nemesis by intentionally calling the country Persia instead of Iran so as to cause people to conjure up images of adorable, cuddly cats and expensive hand-woven rugs instead of a menacing place armed to the teeth with missiles and other military hardware with names culled directly from the Muslim's holy Quran such as "shihab" or comet, "sijjil" meaning red hot clay-stones and "zilzal" a reference to earthquakes which can also allude to an impending day of judgment.

Having been forthright concerning the extent of my intellectual reach, I would like to invite you to keep reading and be the judge of what I have to say after all. We all know that the West and particularly the U.S., France, and Germany have enough warheads to wipe out many Iranian facilities suspected of being incubators for enriching uranium. On the other hand, nobody knows for sure whether the Iranians are actually trying to produce weapon grade uranium, and if so, how far are they from doing so and eventually mounting nuclear war heads atop of the short and long range rockets that they already have. Even though the idea of surgical nuclear strikes is already on the table as far the Pentagon is concerned, let us for the sake of sounding reasonable assume that the two sides trusted each other enough to slug it out using conventional weapons which means throw every heavy weapon that can cause maximum damage including the famed bunker busters by team USA, at each other in the hope of avoiding a nuclear holocaust or worse the long awaited and anticipated Armageddon. By the way, Iran as a Shi'a nation has its own version of an Armageddon except in their scenario they are the good guys who are doomed to suffer but eventually come up on top.

Now let us look at the two scenarios just to see the pros and cons of either conventional or nuclear confrontations. In the event that either the U.S. or Israel or both launch preemptive air strikes on Iran and successfully destroy all or most of the nuclear facilities I would think that a hostile act of that nature would naturally irritate the Iranians and put a damper on the United Nations' efforts to reach a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Even Ban Ki-moon's job description in this case will slightly change from presiding over the negotiations between the two rivals to shuttling between the combatants in the hope of breaking up the fight before it spirals out of control. However, based on my modest knowledge of human nature I would think that if the Iranians are able to hunker down and withstand the initial massive air strikes, they will start thinking about revenge for the slight that was dealt their country and their macho image among foe and friend. Having given their word not to use nuclear weapons whether they actually have them or they are simply bluffing, they will, never the less start lobbing their missiles with conventional war heads or worse at every perceived enemy in the vicinity including but not limited to Israel, the coalition forces in Iraq, the Gulf States hosting American and European military and naval forces, and airbases such as Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and others. The Iranian propaganda machine has been telling everybody that would listen about having long and short range missiles trained on targets in their crosshairs including military and civilian installations, naval vessels and oil tankers crisscrossing the Persian Gulf not to mention oil wells and oil facilities.

The above scenario would sound like child play when compared to the second scenario in which the U.S., Israel, and possibly Iran end up using nuclear weapons so as not to prolong an unwanted and an unpopular war at home and abroad. If so, the Middle East, which is talked about as being the cradle of civilization and the birth place of world religions could become the stage upon which a world calamity of immeasurable devastation and suffering would take place. A nuclear exchange in that part of the world especially if it is not contained immediately would force other nations including those with nuclear capabilities to take sides and a so called limited war becomes truly "the war that ends all wars" thus taking the title away from World War I. I am sure I am not alone in hoping that the stalemate in the negotiations between the West and Iran over its nuclear program will be overcome and that both sides will resort to reason and their common humanity thereby avoiding the devastation of either scenario.

Professor Fathi El-Shihibi teaches Islam in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Northeastern University. This article was first published in The Harvard Crimson and was reprinted with permission.
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Title Annotation:Commentary
Author:Shihibi, Fathi El-
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Article Type:Reprint
Date:Sep 17, 2010
Words:1010
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