Iran is not afraid of the United States because it has a better, more devastating weapon than the atomic bomb against the United States. It is obvious that Iran could be of no danger to the United states if it possessed atomic weapon because it has no delivery system and has no intention of invading its neighbors. It only fears Israel as the U.S. proxy. It may need atomic weapons for security reasons while it is surrounded by nations possessing such weapon. Thus, Iran is correct with its claim that its atomic energy establishments are for peaceful purpose. It may mean that if Iran possessed such weapon, it would not be for offensive purpose but for stopping intimidation by other countries such as Israel.
With this strategy in mind, Iran should not be insisted on stopping its atomic energy research. After all, India, Pakistan and Israel were not pressured not to engage in such activities. If Iran is unjustly pressured by the United States and Europe, there may come a point that it may have no choice but to counteract. Iran is in a position of wrecking the American and European economies just in a matter of days. If Iran is pushed against the wall or its installations are bombed, it may be obliged to bomb and deactivate the Saudi Arabia's famous oil refinery, the largest in the region, capable of refining some 10 percent of the world's oil. Iran can do this by launching a few of its long range missiles accurately directed to their targets.
Regardless of any counteraction against Iran by its enemies, the damage will be done. Iran may also threaten that any counteraction may oblige it to invade other oil installations in the region except those of Iraq. Ayatollah Khamenei has clearly declared that in the case of American intervention, no American interest in the region will be spared.
If the Saudi refinery is bombed, It is estimated that restoring this refinery to its present level of production will require at least six months and this destruction alone will cause, also as estimated, the price of oil to rise to $6.00 in the U.S. and $10.00 in Europe. In the United States, the production cost and price of nearly all commodities will skyrocket, Many small and medium size businesses will go bankrupt; a significant part of the work force would become unemployed and the life will become hectic even for the middle class Americans. The government, with continuing disastrous recession and already operating with some over one trillion dollars deficit and with substantially reduced revenues, will not be able to respond to desperate conditions of the population or the protection of its global policies.
There would be a mistake to think that Iran will not dare to attack Saudi refineries or other oil installations in the region. We invaded Iraq with much less cause. We were not pushed against the wall; in fact, there was no danger coming to us from Iraq. Iran will have a far more justifiable cause to destroy the economic resources of the enemy in retaliation, of which the Saudi refinery is a very important one.. Looking realistically, the Iranian action while creating an economic havoc in the United States and Europe, will substantially benefit Iran's economy by increased oil price to $100 or more per barrel. It will not be wise to destroy the Iranian oil installations in retaliation since it will cause more havoc globally by taking 3 million barrels a day of Iranian oil off the market. Iran may also easily close the Strait of Hormuz through which most of the Persian Gulf oil is exported.
With all these easily possible actions, and Iran's historically sustained peaceful intention, a wise decision for the West may seem to let Iran alone in its atomic energy endeavors in accordance with the nonproliferation treaty which allows member countries to do research and discoveries in the atomic energy field. It must be noticed that for nearly 200 years, Iran has never attacked its neighbors but have been continually subject to attacks or political suppression by the outsiders particularly British, Russian, Turkish and American governments and very recently, by Iraq under Saddam Hussein with American support.
Understanding the Iranian mentality regarding the issue of atomic bomb is somehow complex but comprehensible. Prohibition of discovery and production of nuclear weapons cannot be nationally or internationally justified or even possible. We are dealing with a technology that is over 60 years old and relevant materials, technology and needed skills all are widely spread. United States and Russia alone own several thousands of nuclear warheads. The rest amounting to several hundreds are owned by three European countries, China, North Korea, Israel, India and Pakistan. Iran is caught in between. Under this situation, it is hard to visualize what kind of nuclear future would be more stable and peaceful until all these nations become seriously committed to destroy their stockpiles while determined to get closer to zero. No such policy is in site at this point. Until then other nations sensing their security in danger, may justifiably try to join the nuclear family. Iran has felt for years this urgency. To a great majority of Iranians this is a matter of survival, mainly against Israel. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) allows the member nations to proceed in research and development of the nuclear energy for peaceful use. 2010 is the five-yearly NPT review conference; it offers a chance to impose more restriction in dealing with atomic energy. Hoever, even some non-nuclear members in better standing than the likes of Iran have been resisting. The view is that the official nuclear powers take steps to uphold their side of the NPT bargain which prescribes that they must work toward abolishing their nuclear weapons in exchange for keeping others from seeking them.
Dr. Reza Rezazadeh
Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin System