If & when Iran needs more electricity, the fastest & cheapest 
way is to build standard steam-electric (including tandem-cycle) 
power stations.  It is obvious that Iran's production of fissile 
materials is for nuclear bombs.  The claim that their nuclear 
programme is for electricity is a blatant lie.  And yet some fans of 
the fanatical regime pretend that these are not facts, and even 
mention Iran's gestures toward wind-power as a "refutation".



Foreign Policy Research Institute
Over 50 Years of Ideas in Service to Our Nation

Distributed Exclusively via Fax & Email

by Efraim Inbar

April 4, 2008

Efraim Inbar  is professor  of political science at Bar-Ilan
University and director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for
Strategic Studies (Israel).  His most recent book is Israel's
National Security:  Issues  and  Challenges  since  the  Yom
Kippur War (Routledge, January 2008).   This enote is based on
his Members Seminar talk at FPRI on February 13, 2008.


                       by Efraim Inbar

My thinking  on Iran  is more or less mainstream thinking in
Israel, what  many Israelis  within the  defense and foreign
policy establishments  feel, even  if they  say it in a more
diplomatic way.

Today's Iran is multi-layered.  It is an imperial power, just
as Persia  was once an imperial power toward the Middle East
and other  parts of  the world.  It is also a regional power,
one of the largest states in the Middle East demographically
(66 million  people), along  with Turkey, Egypt, and Israel.
Iran has  long had  aspirations to lead the region, not just
under the current regime.

The current  regime represents  another,  Islamic  layer  in
Iran's identity  as a  state.  This layer has been very clear
since the  Islamic Revolution  in 1979;  Iran  propagates  a
particular,  very  radical  version  of  Islam,  and  has  a
jihadist agenda to spread this version of Islam everywhere --
not only  to Palestine  but  also  to  Andalusia  (Spain  of
today), once  the domain  of  the  Islamic  empire.  To  put
today's Iran in strategic terms, I would use Yehezkel Dror's
category of  crazy states,  which means that it a state that
has far-reaching  goals,  much  beyond  its  border,  it  is
revisionist, it  has a  great commitment  to  achieve  those
goals, it  is even willing to pay a heavy price domestically
in  order   to  achieve  its  goals,  and  it  has  a  quite
unconventional style,  which one  sees, for  example, in how
Ahmadinejad speaks  about Israel.   This is  quite unusual in
today's international discourse.

Why does  Iran want  nuclear weapons? First, as an insurance
policy for  the regime,  which fully  understands that it is
more difficult  to destabilize  a country armed with nuclear
weapons. Outsiders  do not know what kind of people will get
their  hands   on  the   weapons  in  case  of  an  external
intervention designed  to  destabilize  the  regime--witness
what  is   happening  nowadays   in   Pakistan.   The   U.S.
administration accepted  Musharraf the  dictator; we did not
want anyone  to  mess  with  nuclear  weapons.  Moreover,  a
nuclear weapon  is in  Iran's view a weapon able to deter an
American invasion.  As a  member of the "Axis of Evil," they
observe that  the U.S.  preferred to  attack Iraq, which did
not have  nuclear weapons at that time, rather than go after
North Korea, which had a much more advanced program.

Tehran also  views the  nuclear weapon  as a  way to achieve
regional hegemony  in a way similar to how the French looked
upon it.  It signifies  a certain status in the region. They
believe that their past entitles them to have a nuclear bomb
and to  put them  in the  same rank  as the large, important
powers of the world.

Finally, Iran's  nuclear program  is also designed to try to
block Western  influence in the region.  Iranians have a very
ambivalent attitude  toward the  West.  On the one hand, they
see it  as a  dying, decadent  civilization, but at the same
time they  are very  much afraid of the corrupting influence
of Western culture and morals.

The Iranians'  nuclear strategy  is simple: it's to talk and
build.  They  are ready  to talk.  The bazaars of Tehran offer
good guidance  in how  to bargain  with the  West,  and  the
gullible West has been ready to talk to Iranians already for
15 years,  and we  all know  the  result  of  the  talk  and
diplomacy.  It's  basically a North Korean model; North Korea
adopted the  same strategy  and was  successful.  Tehran  is
ready to  talk to the Europeans, the International Agency on
Atomic Energy,  but its  goal is  to gain  time.  It wants to
bring about  a fait  accompli and  present the world with an
Iranian bomb.

An Iranian  nuclear bomb  would be very dangerous. A nuclear
Iran will  be a  clear threat to anyone in the radius of its
range--they now  have a missile with a range exceeding 2000-
2500 km,  within which  is the  whole Middle  East,  Eastern
Europe, India,  Pakistan, even  part of  China. It is a real
threat to a very large area.

At the systemic level, Iran challenges American dominance in
world affairs.  Seeing America  as the  enemy,  Iran  allies
itself with  people like  Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. It is in
the company  of North Korea. An Iranian nuclear bomb will be
a poke  in America's  eye. It  will be very dangerous to the
NPT  regime,   which  to  its  credit  has  to  some  extent
stabilized many  regions of the world and been successful at
preventing nuclear  proliferation.  An  Iranian nuclear bomb,
like  the   North  Korean  nuclear  explosion,  will  be  an
additional blow to this type of arms control diplomacy.

Nuclear weapons will give Iran tremendous influence over the
energy sector  of  the  world  economy.  Not  only  is  Iran
situated along  the Gulf,  but it  also is located along the
Caspian Sea.  We can  speak about  an energy  ellipse  which
encompasses  the  Caspian  Basin  and  the  Gulf  area  that
includes some  70-80 percent  of the  world's oil  reserves.
Nuclear weapons  will give  them great  influence  over  the
countries in  that region  and a  much greater  voice in the
area of  energy. As  long as the world consumes oil and gas,
as it will have to for some time to come, I don't think it's
a good idea to give the Iranians even a larger voice in that

A nuclear Iran will also embolden all radicals, Islamists as
well as  others, and  allow them  to feel  that they  have a
nuclear umbrella,  a strong  country they can rely upon that
plays an important role in world affairs.

At  the   regional  level,   nuclear  weapons  will  greatly
strengthen the  regime.  Few  attempts  have  been  made  to
destabilize this  regime, and  after  Iran  becomes  nuclear
there will be even less. We will see regional hegemony, many
countries around  Iran will bandwagon--they'll get closer to
Iran rather  than ally  against it.  We see already a cozier
relationship between  Egypt and Iran, the Gulf states trying
to get  closer to  Iran, because they're afraid that if they
ally against Iran, they will pay a heavy price. The alliance
of Sunnis  against Shiites  exists more  on paper.  We don't
really see  much action  in the  Middle East  of the  Sunnis
allying against the Shiite threat coming from Iran.

Indeed, nuclear  weapons will  help Iran  export its Islamic
revolution, particularly to the Shiites in the Gulf--Bahrain
and Iraq.  Of course,  Iran already  has great  influence in
southern Iraq,  and it  will gain influence in Saudi Arabia,
where most of the oil is in the northeastern province, which
is populated by Shiites.

A nuclear  Iran will  strengthen all  its  regional  radical
allies, Hezbollah  in Lebanon,  Hamas and  Islamic Jihad  in
Palestine, who  will feel  much more  secure with  a  strong

Another important  repercussion of  a nuclear  Iran concerns
Turkey, which  is now  undergoing an identity crisis. We see
in recent  years that a more Islamic party is gaining power,
and there  is a  real struggle  over  the  country's  future
identity over  to what  extent the Islamic dimension will be
part of  modern Turkey.  In the past we've seen the Iranians
attempt to  help  terrorist  organizations  against  Turkey,
because Turkey  is anathema  to Iran.  Secular Turkey  is an
alternative  model   for  the  Muslim  world.  While  Tehran
espouses "Islam is the solution," the Turks have a different
view on how the Muslim world should modernize.  Of course the
ayatollahs think  their model  should be emulated, and after
the nuclearization  of Iran  we may  see greater attempts on
part  of  Iran  to  destabilize  Turkey,  which  is  a  very
important country.  If Turkey  fell under  Islamic rule,  it
would be  very bad  news to  the West.  Turkey is  playing a
difficult game nowadays with this type of government, but it
is definitely in danger should Iran become nuclear.

Another area where the West will lose is Central Asia. Since
gaining independence  after the end of the cold war, most of
the  new   republics  adopted   some  kind   of  pro-Western
orientation, which  was strengthened after 9/11 and the U.S.
invasion of  Afghanistan. A  nuclear Iran will put an end to
this orientation.  The countries in Central Asia will either
bandwagon, becoming closer to Iran, or alternatively, try to
find some  nuclear umbrella  in powers which are much closer
to the  region--Russia and  China. A nuclear Iran could well
bring about  the elimination of Western influence in Central
Asia. The West will lose the Great Game.

A nuclear  Iran would  also  affect  the  subcontinent.  The
Iranians are very close to India, which is just 300 km away.
It will  have a  domino effect  on  the  precarious  Indian-
Pakistani nuclear  balance. Pakistan,  which  borders  Iran,
will have  to adjust  its nuclear posture to a nuclear Iran.
Whatever it  does will  influence India.  This is  the basic
security  dilemma   we  teach   in  International  Relations
courses. So  we may  see a  negative influence on the India-
Pakistan nuclear  balance, which  could reverberate  even to
China, and  we shouldn't forget that India and Pakistan were
close to a nuclear exchange during the Kargil war.

A  nuclear   Iran  may  not  hesitate  to  transfer  nuclear
technology to other bad guys in the region. It's not likely,
but we  may even  see the  transfer of  nuclear  weapons  to
terrorists or  radical states.  The danger  of nuclear bombs
falling in the hands of extremists if chaos comes to Iran is
obviously something we have to think about.

The most important repercussion of a nuclear Iran is that it
would heighten  threat perception  in the  Middle  East.  In
contrast to  other parts  of the  world, in the Middle East,
threat perceptions are very high. It's not only the Israelis
who are  concerned about  security, Jordanians are afraid of
the Syrians  and Iraqis, the Syrians are afraid of the Turks
and Israelis,  and the  Saudis are  afraid of  everybody.  A
nuclear Iran will only heighten those threat perceptions and
bring about  nuclear proliferation  in this  region. We  see
already the  first steps  of many  countries trying  to gain
some nuclear  technology. Turkey  has renewed  its  civilian
nuclear program,  which uses  the same technology as nuclear
weapons. Egypt is doing the same. We cannot be sure that the
Pakistanis will  not supply  weapons to the Saudis, who have
subsidized part of their nuclear program.

Nuclear proliferation  in the  Middle East  is a  nightmare,
because a  nuclear Middle  East cannot be stable. It is very
dangerous to believe that the type of nuclear stability that
existed between  the Soviet  Union and  United States can be
easily emulated  in the  Middle East. Americans like Kenneth
Waltz produce  theories that  the more  weapons, the better,
that spreading  nuclear weapons  is bringing about stability
because leaders  are afraid of conflicts escalating. I doubt
this. If  the countries  in the  Middle  East  have  nuclear
weapons, there's a greater chance than ever before they will
use them.

Of course,  there is  no extended  deterrence. I don't think
the Arabs  believe that  an  American  nuclear  umbrella  is
effective, for  the same  reason the  French didn't  believe
that  a   U.S.  umbrella   would  be  effective-namely  that
Americans would  not risk Washington to save Paris.  The same
type of rationale would be adopted by the Middle East elite,
who have  seen Ottomans  coming and  going, French, British,
and I  think they  also see  Americans coming  and going and
don't know  exactly how  the Americans  would play  out  the
Iraqi scenario.  But many  people in the Middle East believe
the Americans  have already  decided on an exit strategy and
are just  groping for how to do it. So I don't think that an
American promise to the Arab countries to defend them in the
case of  a nuclear attack will be trusted. And also there is
no defense  against nuclear  weapons at this stage. Israel's
Arrow system,  which is  attuned to intercept such ballistic
missiles, can  intercept only 80-90 percent, but if it comes
to missiles  armed with  nuclear warheads, 90 percent is not
good enough.

Therefore, there  is a  regional consensus that Iran must be
stopped. There is wide agreement across the Middle East that
a nuclear  Iran is  very bad  news. So  what  can  be  done?
Diplomacy has  just about run its course. Actually, everyone
in the  world is  on a different page. The world has already
decided to  go for  sanctions. So  far  the  sanctions  were
rather vegetarian,  and diplomacy without sharper teeth will
be ineffective.

Furthermore, I don't think economic sanctions alone would be
effective, because Iranians are willing to pay a heavy price
to get  the bomb.  The record  is not  encouraging. Cuba  is
still under  sanctions, Saddam  Hussein was  under sanctions
and he  did not  care whether the children in the streets of
Baghdad or  Basra had  enough medicine, he just blamed it on
the Americans.  The same  is true  in Iran.  If they  had no
refined oil  and gas,  the  ayatollahs  would  reconcile  to
seeing their people ride donkeys rather than in cars.

As to  regime change, don't hold your breath. We are talking
about a police state. It's true that this type of state does
not last  forever, but  the Iranian  police state  has  been
successful so  far at  staying in power even though it's not
very well  liked.  There  don't  seem  too  many  courageous
Iranians fighting  the regime  within Iran. I see opposition
here and  in Los Angeles, but to be in opposition in Iran is
a different story.

That leaves us with two options. One is a credible threat to
act  militarily,   which  I  hoped  could  be  effective  in
supporting the  diplomacy, but  since the NIE report I think
the only  thing we  really have  left is  military action. A
credible threat  means someone  that Iranians are afraid of.
To great  extent President  Bush served  this purpose before
the NIE  because he  was viewed  in the  Middle  East  as  a
cowboy, ready  to draw  his gun.  He has acted militarily in
Afghanistan,  in   Iraq,  why  not  Iran?  An  ultimatum  by
President Bush  could  have  been  useful  in  freezing  the
nuclear program, primarily the uranium enrichment component.
This is no longer true.  Perceptions are important. After the
NIE, the  Iranians are  at ease,  believing that they're off
the hook.  So what is really left is only military action to
try to destroy parts of the program which will slow down the
Iranian attempt  and  to  gain  time.  Gaining  time  is  an
important goal of foreign policy, it's doable by the U.S. if
it wants  to.  The  U.S. is  close in  Iraq  as  well  as  in
Afghanistan, it has tremendous military power.

If the  U.S. doesn't  do this,  and I  preempt the  question
already, the  Israelis will  have to  think seriously  about
whether to  do it  on their  own. Israel  has  done  such  a
military feat  in the  past on  Osirak in  1981.  This  is  a
different  type   of  operation  nowadays,  it's  much  more
complicated, but  it can  be done.  In my  view as  a former
paratrooper there is no such thing as an impregnable target.
We just have to be ready to pay the price.

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