Iran: the deal does this, but what will others do?
[ by Charles Cameron — requesting suggestions re “second order nuclear effects” from Israel & the Saudis ]
I’ve been watching one aspect of developing current events closely — Islamic apocalyptic jihad, for short — and claim no special expertise in many other realms, but on the contrary, consider myself too inexpert even to hazard much in the way of commentary. Knowing what I know about what I know, and having seen how often the media and punditry get it wrong, I am deeply suspicious of anything I might tend to think on the basis of media readings in other areas.
So: I am ignorant about the Iranian nuclear deal.
I tend to read Cheryl Rofer for insight into the tecnhical nuclear issues, and Tim Furnish on Iranian Mahdism as it might or might not intersect with the desire for nukes. But that’s about the limit for me.
So: here’s what nags away at me, in the words of a commenter at ChicagoBoyz:
the end result might not be nuclear weapons [for Iran] .. It might be a nuclear preemptive strike by Israel and Saudi Arabia
I’m ignorant. Does the deal, or any other diplomatic venture, address the issue of consequences other than those the deal itself provides for Iran and for her co-signers? What will the Israelis, what will the Saudis in fact do?
With Putin already rattling implicitly nuclear sabres, do we now have a second potential nuclear front, a threat coming not “from” Iran but “at” it?
Please set me straight, from left, from right, from military and intelligence perspectives, any which way you can.
Second order effects are always important and often overlooked. When they’re nuclear, that could be highly problematic, not to say volcanic.
July 14th, 2015 at 9:46 pm
Israel has nukes. Saudi Arabia does not. Israel has pledged not to be the first in the region to “introduce” nuclear weapons, whatever that may mean for a state that already had them when it pledged that.
I suspect that conversations between Israeli and American officials have made perfectly clear that Israel’s using a nuke puts it on its own. Sampson pulling down the pillars.
The Saudis frequently complain that they will have to buy themselves a nuclear program, but that’s more an attempt to get the US’s attention than anything else. Jeffrey Lewis had a nice article on this in Foreign Policy a month or two ago.
There’s been heavy diplomacy between the US and the Saudis, and I think the US is currently supplying KSA with weapons that KSA is using against the Houthis in Yemen. The Saudis have to consider that the US is much less dependent on their oil and that it’s a pretty good friend to have.
Part of the purpose of the agreement on the American side seems to be to rebalance the powers in the Middle East. Yes, we did that by different means in 2003. And yes, Israel and KSA are losing some power in this turn of events.
It’s hard to say what Netanyahu is likely to do. He has cried wolf so many times that nobody can believe anything he says.
The order of things in the Middle East has been broken for some time now. The old strongman dictators are going. Israel is damaging itself with the occupation. Oil is less important.
With an agreement with Iran to keep its nuclear ambitions within bounds, one worry is removed from the table. More contact with the outside world can be a moderating influence.
Sorry I can’t be more definitive, but I think the future in that area is even more unclear than futures tend to be. I lean toward the agreement with Iran being more stabilizing than not, but I am an optimist. We’ll see.
July 14th, 2015 at 9:56 pm
There have been quite a few articles on this question. Here’s one.
July 14th, 2015 at 10:01 pm
And likely more to come.
July 15th, 2015 at 12:32 am
Sorry, Fareed: Saudi Arabia Can Build a Bomb Any Damn Time It Wants To?
As usual, a calming voice, Cheryl! Thanks..
July 15th, 2015 at 2:58 am
Hi Cheryl and Charles
I have not read the agreement and in arms control the devil is always in the details. I don’t think the Iranians are particularly trustworthy, but neither were the Soviets. Iran has reportedly gotten an awful lot out of the deal in terms of economic concessions so it will be interesting to see how intrusive the IAEA monitoring will be in practice ( the IAEA can’t stop a state from getting the bomb, they just make it more expensive and harder to do it secretly).
If dirt poor, backward Pakistan under Ali Bhutto and Zia or impoverished North Korea can build a nuke, it is pretty safe to say KSA with vastly greater resources will manage if they have the political will to do it. The Saudis won’t have it instantly and I think Pakistan selling them a nuke is a fantasy. Countries won’t take that risk when push comes to shove. It’s why Khrushchev would not just hand off a nuclear bomb to Mao or Castro. But what countries will do and Pakistan has done previously is sell nuke expertise and components piecemeal and share the knowledge of how to get a nuke weapon program up and running. I’ll guess the Saudis could get a nuke in about a decade if it was their top priority
July 18th, 2015 at 4:15 pm
Top panel: Col. Pat Lang
Lower panel: PM Netanyahu