Don’t underestimate Iran’s ability to retaliate against military strike

John Bolton, former US ambassador to the UN, argued in a recent Wall Street Journal article that the West needs to take military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Sanctions on Iran have been ineffective. Only military force can prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power and once that happens, the balance of power in the Middle East will be “dramatically and irreparably” altered. Deterrence is very unlikely to be effective because Iran’s leadership devalues life on earth and focuses on life in the hereafter. Once Iran obtains nuclear weapons, other regional states will perceive a need to match that capability, sparking a regional nuclear arms race and creating a highly unstable regional environment.

Although I disagree with Bolton’s assessment that deterrence wouldn’t work against a nuclear Iran, I certainly don’t have proof that it would work. Of greater concern, at least to me, would be the regional instability that likely would ensue if several regional states, in addition to Iran, decided they needed their own nuclear deterrent. So there is a real and significant downside to allowing Iran to obtain a nuclear capability. And I agree with Bolton that negotiations and sanctions are very unlikely to keep Iran from going nuclear.

However, the crucial issue that Bolton fails to address is how Iranian leaders might respond to an attack against their nuclear assets. Attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities would not be easy. They are… >>>

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