According to estimates by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, it is possible to make a weapon with even 20% enriched U-235; only thing is that the weapon would be bigger in size and heavier in mass. Robert Zubrin of the Center for Security Policy wrote in the Washington Times on the relationship between size and mass of the weapon with the enrichment level of the U-235 isotopes.
According to him, 100% enriched Uranium bomb would be 8.457 cm in radius and 47.53 Kg in mass, whereas 8% enriched Uranium bomb would be 46.00 cm in radius and 7739.43 Kg in mass. With the same calculations it is inferred that 20% enriched bomb would be 21.105 cm in radius and 746.30 Kg in mass. The big question is whether Iran can design such a heavy and big bomb and if it is the case can it deliver it effectively should it decide so?
The West particularly, the US has put toughest sanctions and as a result of this Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has asked Iranian officials for a “resistance economy” not much dependent on oil exports. There is a lot of pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on the US President Mr. Obama to allow Israel to attack Iran and if possible support the operation. According to Mr. Netanyahu containment of Iran is not possible due to fundamentalist nature of the regime. According to Mr. Barak the window of opportunity to attack Iran would close very soon.
This is true that the deterrence between Iran and Israel in view of the nuclear potency of Israel can not work as it did between erstwhile Soviet Union and the US. Soviet Union was largely White country and the Soviet Politburo members were selfish atheists and practical men. Moreover, the economic superiority of the US and the fact that Warsaw Pact members were no match to the West added to the strength of the US. In Iran it is mullahs who control the nation. The size of Israel adds to its woes; even a single nuclear bomb can destroy Israel heavily.
But then it is the election year in the US and both the candidates have taken almost known stand when it comes to Israel. The election between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama would be very close. Mr. Obama has made it clear that the US under his administration would not tolerate Iranian bomb and he has also said that he knows how to stop Iran from making a bomb. But it appears that his dual policies of containment and dialogue have not succeeded. Mr. Romney on the other hand has promised full support to Israel once he becomes the President. He has expressed anguish at the fact that Mr. Obama still wanted to talk to Iran. If Mr. Romney wins the Presidential election, he would pursue a more hawkish policy though he would listen to his top-most generals and could avoid an all out war against Iran if it is proven that it is not pursuing an active weapon program.
But what if the US attacks Iran to stop it from becoming the new nuclear weapon state? Will the US accomplish its objectives? Many in the US do not feel so. The fact is that the Pentagon’s strike would shake the Iranian regime and could damage its ability to counterstrike to great extent. Iran may not recover from that attack in any time that could be considered in defense matters though it would depend on the strategy of the Pentagon. But if the strikes are not those heavy, Iran may have some residual retaliation capacity.
The fact is that simple attack won’t destroy Iran’s capability to develop weapon fully though it may delay the nuclear program by an almost a decade. But Iran’s resolve may get hardened and the US may be labeled as anti-Muslim by majority of Islamic nations and others too. As a result, the West may develop some fissure and the Russia and China might as well increase their say in the Middle East and beyond. The distinction between Americans and non-Americans could increase and this could lead to all-out psychological warfare among the people with the world more divided and bitter.
The fact is that a simple attack on Iran would not result in regime change after regime collapse and its capitulation. In order to fully roll back Iran’s nuclear program the Pentagon would require boots on ground and may require huge resources; human, financial and warfare machines. But almost the whole non-Western world, including the Sunni world, may oppose it. Moreover, even Mr. Romney may not think about putting Americans boots on Iranian soil.
The better thing for the Pentagon would be to prove to the Iranians that they can not destroy Israel even by whim if they want to remain intact. For that the four star generals need to convey to their Iranian counterparts that Israel would always have the second strike capability and therefore, in retaliation it could destroy Iran. In case the generals of the Iran are not convinced because of their religious beliefs then the Pentagon should tell that it would retaliate should Iran attack Israel and Israel is ‘unable’ to attack back and then it would attack Iran in a manner that would result in its dismemberment. The Pentagon should also warm the Middle Eastern states against planning a heavily asymmetric joint aggression against Israel. The Pentagon should give the same threat to Pyongyang to deter it from attacking Seoul. It can also use the same method to prevent nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan.
But the more important question is why Iran’s nuclear program should not be tolerated by the West at all? The first reason is that it would lead to hyper-proliferation and hyper-aggression in the whole world, particularly in Asia and Europe. Because of Iranian weapon program, the Sunni states could fear their annihilation as Iranian gunmen have once attacked Mecca in the seventies which resulted in thousands of deaths of French and Saudi military men and also of Iranian militiamen. The Pakistani nuclear weapons along with the North Korean ones would become more important. They could also lead to nuclear weapons falling into wrong hands. If non-Western Asian countries proliferate then Japan and the South Korea may also think about proliferating or minimally they will be looking for full defense umbrella. This could induce hyper-proliferation worldwide.
Moreover Iranian weapon would increase the Shitte-Sunni divide in the world and would increase the polarization in politics and society. The regional conflicts in the region would gain prominence with sub-nationalities asserting their identities. The Islam would become more amorphous endangering the stability of nation-states of the region. This could lead to increased price of the crude oil leading to higher inflation, uncertainties in the global markets and such affecting every aspect of lives.
The best thing would be to wait for the silent revolution in Iran because of the change in consciousness, consumption and ids. Such revolutions come by acceptance of modernity and that of many products. The changes in a well off society are far more meaningful than those in a poor society. For that the West should wait for some kind of consumerist revolutions in Iran. It is easier to brutalize an ordinary middle class person than slapping a well off person. The Iranian regime should assure the world that it is not pursuing weapon program but for that it needs to reduce the enrichment levels and also sign an agreement for accounting and exporting the spent fuel. It should reaffirm its full allegiance to the NPT regime.
Israel on its part should promise no first use against non-nuclear Middle Eastern states and should agree on freezing. The Iranians and Israelis should also accept two international treaties to prevent nuclear proliferation: Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT). There is no way the world should accept the Iranian nuclear capabilities. The US would not tolerate it anyway and that would be its bottomline no matter what it takes to deter Iran from making bombs.
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