Pakistan lessons worth heeding in Iran

This month’s Atlantic carries an essay by Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder on the crisis in Pakistan. It is a disturbing read. Although there is nothing surprising in the broad sense, one is left with little confidence in Pakistan’s ability to evolve to a modern state while keeping a firm grip on its nuclear arsenal.

Pakistan is important because it is a nuclear nation. It is not important for any other reason, other than they are a Test playing nation and one must always respect that. It is a destructive influence in Afghanistan. Its support for terrorist organisations like the Haqqani network and Lashka-e-Taiba will surely end badly for us all. It has been one of the leading nuclear proliferators.

All of these are issues because of its nuclear arsenal. The money quote in the Goldberg and Ambinder article is from Stephen P. Cohen of the Brookings Institution:

[Chohen] says that if Pakistan were not in possession of nuclear weapons, the problem would not be nearly the same. Pakistan without nuclear weapons, he says, would be the equivalent of “Nigeria without oil”—a much lower foreign-policy priority.

The most disturbing allegation is the article is that the SPD (the group in charge of ‘strategic assets’, i.e., the nuclear arsenal) is so pre-occupied with their fear of American plans that they transport ‘mated’ nuclear weapons through cities in the back of unmarked vans.

The policy implications and options are complex. One hopes that the best and brightest are working on contingency options if the various ‘doomsday’ options eventuate: terrorist taking control of a nuclear device or the overthrow of the government by radical groups.

The real lesson though is that we must address Iran now. It is obvious that they seek nuclear weapons. It is clear that a nuclear Iran will seek hegemony over the Middle East. It is also the stated desire of Iran to destroy Israel.

It has been a bi-partisan objective of American foreign policy to not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, one does not imagine that we are collectively prepared to follow the logic to its conclusion. Europe, which has for many years lead the ‘negotiations’ with Iran, has what it perceives to be a more pressing issue in the Euro. American power has been weakened by 10 years of pointless war in Afghanistan. Israel remains a wild card. Perhaps action is being taken already behind the scenes. One hope so.

A nuclear Iran would ensure instability in the region for generations. We would have allowed another diabolical situation to develop, as we did with Pakistan a generation ago. We have had ample warning, and amble evidence. In short, failure to prevent Iran achieving nuclear weapons would represent one of the most catastrophic foreign policies failures in modern history.



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