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According to recent research, an Islamic state such as Iran must not be allowed to achieve nuclear capabilities. In such a scenario the Middle East would turn into a hotbed for nuclear threats, and the entire world might suffer for it.
By Ami Dor On
Two important research organizations operating in the US since the cold war era deal with, among other issues, predicting the future of a world threatened by the atomic mushroom: The RAND Corporation and the Hudson Institute. The most important researcher behind both think tanks was the nuclear scientist-philosopher Herman Kahn. Kahn began his career as a system analyst and a military strategist under the Rand Corporation, his unit was charged with exploring the possible implications of a global nuclear war. At first RAND was a small subsection in the US Army, but after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, American leaders realized the immense potential of nuclear power, and RAND was turned into a policy institute with unlimited funds, charged with forming and managing the American defense policy. The RAND mission was strange to begin with: “Thinking about the unthinkable.”
In 1961 Kahn left RAND and established the Hudson Institute, its mission is “to challenge conventional thinking and to help manage strategic transitions to the future through studies in defense, international relations, economics, culture, science, technology and law.” The institute researches and hosts scientific conventions on almost any facet of human existence. Over the last few years, while Iran continued to develop its nuclear program, the institute began looking into the nuclear relationship between Iran and Israel and its implications for the Middle East and the entire world.
One of the latest research papers published on the matter posits a nuclear Iran as a fact. It asks how the world will look when Iran turns into a nuclear superpower, and what strategic challenges will the world face. This new situation might be the beginning of a process, at the end of which all Middle Eastern states will develop or purchase nuclear weapons, turning the region into a poly-nuclear Middle East.
The research conclusions seem simple, but their implications are disturbing. According to the research a poly-nuclear Middle East means that if Iran gets nuclear weapons, other Middle Eastern countries will also try to get nuclear weapons of their own. As more countries get hold of the deadly weapons the chances of a regional conflagration continue to grow.
The research paper summarizes the spread of nuclear weapons around the world. In 1961 there were six countries with nuclear capabilities, four in the west and two in the east. At present there are eight countries with nuclear weapons: The United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, Pakistan and India. North Korea also conducted a nuclear test, and according to global intelligence sources Israel also has nuclear weapons. South Africa is an unusual member of this nuclear club. It had nuclear weapons in the past, but destroyed them and stopped all nuclear development since then. Unlike South Africa, however, most countries put more and more effort into achieving nuclear capabilities. According to the research 21 countries today are potentially capable of developing nuclear weapons, among them Iran and Syria. The more players there are on the nuclear field, the more dangerous the situation becomes. Simple mistakes, a wrong assessment of the political situation or misjudging nuclear deterrence capabilities may lead to a dangerous “atomic plague”, badly unbalancing the entire region.
Another conclusion by the researchers is that there’s no reason to assume the Middle East will be more resistant to a failure of nuclear deterrence than any other region. A poly-nuclear Middle East will be more unstable and much more dangerous than the Middle East of today, with a high potential for nuclear holocausts. More countries with nuclear weapons lead to less control in these countries, because of the probable formations of coalitions of allies against potential enemies, such as Israel. Another possibility is the formation of coalitions along sectarian lines, such as Sunnis against Shiites or secular Muslims against fanatics, like the situation in Egypt.
The so called “Arab Spring”, according to the Hudson Institute research paper, turned the Middle East into an unstable region, and led to revolutions, bloody battles, riots and government instability. The researchers claim that an Islamic country such as Iran must never be allowed to achieve nuclear capabilities. If the Middle East does become such a poly-nuclear region, it could rapidly turn into a nightmare for the entire world.
Even an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities by the US or Israel, or perhaps by both, meant to “protect Israel” or to “prevent a nuclear strike by Iran,” might prove only a temporary military success and ignite a possibly catastrophic regional war.
The research concludes that no one can predict what kind of new Middle East will the world see after an atom bomb. It will probably be extremely dangerous. There are many ways to assess and deal with the situation today, but it’s much more important to plan for tomorrow, and to avoid the apocalyptic scenario of a poly-nuclear Middle East.