Iran: missiles and nuclear sites

The news that Iran had another previously secret nuclear site came out last week. This site at Qum is apparently completely peaceful despite western concerns. Due to its completely peaceful nature there is presumably no need to be remotely concerned that Iran has test fired missiles with a possible 1,200 mile range (Iran seems quite into missiles).

The rest of the world has reacted pretty negatively to the news of the nuclear plant and there is the possibility thought by no means certainty that sanctions might be approved by China and Russia; the effect of the missile test is currently unclear. The Israeli reaction will of course also be critical. Previously the Israelis’ appeared to be preparing for possible military action against Iran. In 1981 they destroyed the Iraqi Osirak reactor possibly setting back Iraqi research on a nuclear weapon (though that has been denied by others) and intriguingly may have had some Iranian assistance. In addition last year Israel destroyed a possible Syrian nuclear site.

What will happen this time is of course highly unclear as although the Americans would no doubt be delighted to have Iran’s nuclear ambition thwarted (and the Israelis always present a useful and highly efficient proxy for such attacks) there are problems. If Washington is managing to bring together a consensus against Iran, an Israeli strike might well shatter that at least publically (the Russians and Chinese might be more sanguine privately). In addition an Israeli strike might actually help enhance Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s popularity at home at a time when his position has been weakened somewhat by the recent hotly disputed presidential elections.

A nuclear armed Iran would clearly pose a major threat to Israel which as everyone knows has nuclear weapons despite its sphinx like answers to such questions. The Arab world would also be likely to be concerned by Iranian nuclear weapons yet could not really support an attack on Iran least of all by Israel. The solution here is neither clear nor simple.