Iran is accelerating the pursuit of nuclear weapons. What the Biden Administration and Congress do next will fundamentally affect global security. The next few months may be the most important in 40 years. Here is why.
Iran has long wanted to create five small, implosion-type nuclear weapons. A leading sponsor of terror, this radical Islamic state – hostile to the West and competing ideologies, religions, otedot branches of Islam – is an inherent danger. See, e.g., Iran’s Nuclear Timetable: The Weapon Potential.
Nuclear weapons compound that danger, even if delivery systems are primitive and number of devices limited. Iran would instantly broadcast their breakout, intimidating and threatening others with nuclear weapons.
Worse, a nuclear Iran would change the established norms – centered on limited nuclear powers. Breakout, even premised on deterrence, would be the opening salvo in a global race for nuclear capabilities. Sunni nations, and others consciously holding back, would open, pressing ahead.
Reality: The much-touted Obama nuclear containment deal – never properly ratified as a treaty, silenced by Trump – was nothing more than a foil. The unenforceable treaty was systematically undercut by Iran, amounting to a shameless, pre-agreed “get out of jail free” card entitling Iran to nukes.
Not having that precatory, unenforceable non-treaty in place – hard truth –had no appreciable effect on Iran’s ambitions. Iran was as they are, unfettered, undeterred, and unrepentant – wholly determined to be a nuclear power.
Why are the coming months so important? Four reasons.
First, Iran is nearing “break out” in their technology development. If Iran decides this is a breakout moment, they could enrich uranium to weapons-grade within months, possibly in weeks. They have been nearing this goal for years.
Congress has just been briefed on this sobering reality. Democrats and Republicans are reacting differently. Republicans have pressed– in a hard-hitting letter to Biden – that Iran be stopped, no new “deal” reached, period. They note that Congress and the next administration – would kill it dead.
Democrats have taken a predictable tack, blaming the pending Iranian breakout on Trump’s withdrawal from the non-treaty, hand wringing, hoping for the best, asking Iran to please sign a new deal. Hope is not a strategy.
The second reason the next few months are vital? Iran will make the breakout decision – or decide to postpone it. Right, Biden’s course is to lock on to that reality – confront it, not hope for another, fictional reality.
Biden should stop peacenik negotiations in Vienna, reverse the recent lifting of Trump’s sanctions on Iran’s civilian nuclear program, talk turkey. Say: The US and allies will use all tools to blunt the breakout – diplomatic, economic, cyber, and kinetic. Make the Iranians guess.
Biden should send a top-fight diplomat to Teheran – to make clear this is not business as usual, not a tolerable event, their critical infrastructure could fall.
Biden should prepare – with clarity – to isolate Iran economically, then make clear what is muddled: We have concrete actions ready also for Russia, China, and North Korea. This kind of global leadership would give Iran pause.
Third reason coming months are going to be critical: The US is about to be tested as not since WWII, or tough moments in the Cold War. A confluence of hostile probes, warm spots that could go hot simultaneously, is afoot.
Not to see, this is pretty hard. Most Americans see it – without special briefings, without special training. China, Russia, North Korea, drug traffickers, communist and socialist internal destabilizers, border busters – and Iran – are all pressing us. They could press simultaneously, cross-cover, and distract.
The fourth and final reason these could be tough months – starting with Iran? As indicated at the top, Iran is the potential first domino. All could tip to instability. Or something else could happen, regardless of whether Biden’s team steps up before breakout.
If a united, effective, global response follows potential Iranian nuclear breakout; if a combination of diplomatic, economic, cyber, and kinetic reactions is prepared – and then stops Iran in their tracks – this could be the sort of inflection point which changes everything, for the positive.
If the world can prepare for a breakout, try to deter it with intent, but then – if it happens – turn it around with unified action, the future becomes brighter overnight. No other nation will seek that avenue; Iran might even back off.
Main point: When a destabilizing global reality forms on the horizon, as in June 1914 (WW I), November 1917 (Bolshevik Revolution), October 1938 (Nazi Germany invaded the Sudetenland) – do not look away. We have a chance to get this right – so, let’s try.
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