Iran will eventually get nuclear weapons. Just like they'll likely eventually get Barbies and urinals, as well. The natural progressions of modernity often make such sinister advances often inevitable, but that doesn't mean they will happen overnight. Nor is it a justification for war.
The Israeli military, half of the U.S. Congress, and the conservative punditocracy in the media would make you believe that Iran is days away from developing a bomb and only a few weeks at that from destroying Israel. Last year Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed, "You don't want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs. When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the world should start worrying, and that's what is happening in Iran." Such a foreboding threat remains very real and scary but also sounds somewhat familiar.
If so, it was because that wasn't the first time Netanyahu had made such claims. Netanyahu had also declared that Iran was 3 to 5 years away from possessing nuclear weapons and that such a threat had to be "uprooted by an international front headed by the U.S." Unlike his earlier premonition above, he wasn't using such a warning to pressure Obama to go to war; rather it was Bill Clinton he was speaking to, way back in 1992.
The Israeli PM continually requests that we take the Iranian regime's threats against Israel seriously, and we have, through the toughest international sanctions on Iran the West has ever imposed. If we are to take such bombastic threats by Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on face value and use them as the basis for embargoes against the Islamic Republic, it seems only fair that we take Netayanu's own remarks seriously as well. Yet if we were to look back through his statements on Iran, we would be troubled to find a history of politically motivated war mongering fabrications spanning more than two decades.
We can only surmise that such exaggerated comments are made to stoke fear in both Israeli and American hearts in hopes of drawing both countries into a war against Iran. What else could explain why the departing head of Israel's Mossad spy agency and presumed foremost authority on Iran's nuclear capabilities would flatly contradict Netayahu's findings saying Iran didn't have the capacity to produce a bomb until 2015 at the earliest.
This is not to say that the threat of Iran should not be dealt with. A vast majority of Americans agree that an Iranian regime with nuclear weapons is a danger to Israel and the West and that Iran's nuclear program should decease. But remember the last time we went to war to stop a Middle Eastern tyrant whose comprehensive stock pile of weapons of mass destruction posed a grave threat to Israel and the West?
Talk of airstrikes and war, particularly at this time when the region is at its most vulnerable state in decades, is reckless. Whether or not Iran has curtailed its nuclear ambitions, as was reported in 2007, or already has the crude capabilities to produce a bomb, as was stated early last year, one thing is for certain: in the history of an unstable region, the Middle East has never been so volatile. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen are all struggling with transitions to power. Bahrain is suffering through political turmoil, Syria is engulfed in an — all but in name — civil war and Iraq's democracy is tenuous at best.
Even Iran's theocratic leadership has been challenged in recent years by undercurrents of unrest. And while the majority of the anger is directed towards authoritarian regimes, anti-American and especially anti-Israeli sentiment remains very powerful. Should Israel and America launch another pre-emptive attack on another Muslim nation, there will be no uncertainty as to the response of the Arab world — Israel and America will feel the wrath of the entire region.
Any strike could lead to a violent backlash against Israel and the West that throws the region into further chaos. Shias in Iraq and Bahrain, the Syrian government, Hezbollah and Hamas might declare war on Israel launching thousands of rockets against its people. Egypt and Turkey may cancel long-standing peace treaties with Israel and retaliate against the United States by terminating military or economic ties. And of course Iran too will violently respond as well.
Iran will eventually get nuclear weapons. We've known that since 1984 when Senator Alan Cranston first took to the House floor claiming that Iran was seven years away from acquiring them. That doesn't mean we should cave to conservative warmongering, especially now. Too much is at stake.