At first glance, it would seem a straightforward thing to stop a relatively weak but volatile Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb. It would also seem to be something a concerned world community would be actively working to do.
After all, the Sunni Arab states surrounding Iran don’t want a Shiite nuclear power on their borders.
Europe, which isn’t all that far from Tehran and lacks a missile-defense shield, certainly doesn’t want to be in range of Iran’s missiles.
Israel can’t tolerate an Iranian theocracy both promising to wipe it off the map and then brazenly obtaining the means to do so.
The Russians and the Chinese, both already concerned about India, Pakistan and North Korea, don’t need another rival Asian nuclear power on their borders.
And the United States, already worried about Iranian threats to Israel and involved in daily military battles in Iraq with pro-Iranian agents and terrorists armed with Iranian-imported weapons, doesn’t want a nuclear Iran expanding its Persian Gulf influence.
But in truth, most players don’t care enough to stop Iran from getting the bomb, or apparently don’t think it’s worth the effort and cost. Some may even see some advantages to a nuclear Iran.
The Arab Gulf monarchies, for example, know that their enormous dollar reserves would likely buy them some reprieve from a nuclear Iran, or at least bring in the U.S. Navy to offer them deterrence from attack.
Meanwhile, the current tension and ongoing fear of disruption in the Persian Gulf sends billions in windfall oil profits the Gulf states’ way.
Leaders of Arab states also have to fear their own populations’ reactions to any action taken against Islamic Iran. Despite his religious Shiite background, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is far more popular among Sunni populations in the Gulf than George Bush — and even perhaps more popular than the autocratic Arab thugs and dictators who run most of the Middle East.
The European Union, like the Arab states, believes as a last resort that its economic clout and deft diplomats can always work out some sort of arrangement with Tehran’s clerics, who, after all, need customers to buy their high-priced oil.
So most in Europe bristle at French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s warnings about an impending war to stop an Iranian bomb. Instead, they feel it’s an American problem to organize global containment of Iran.
Israel also has reason to fear a war with Iran. If Israel were to attack Tehran, it could find itself in three instantaneous wars — and be hit with thousands of missiles from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Iran. That shower would make last year’s Hezbollah barrage seem like child’s play.