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War tensions build daily in the Persian Gulf. President Trump's historic and disastrous decision to violate the Obama-era nuclear deal negotiated by Iran, European Union, China, France, Russia, UK, Germany and the U.S. unleashed a can of worms that's all too likely to lead to conflict and even nuclear war.

We have waged economic war on Iran, demanding surrender. While railing against a non-existent Iranian nuclear weapon, we have accepted a nuclear-armed Israel in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. We are helping Saudi Arabia develop nuclear weapons and we threaten Iran with nuclear attack (see below). Iran cannot tolerate this situation and they are not going to give up. Their only option is to push back.

It's easy to understand why Iran, not to mention North Korea, might want nuclear weapons: To deter the threat of U.S. attack as occurred against Iraq, Libya and Syria. It's instructive to contrast Trump's relative restraint regarding North Korea's very real nukes with his violent histrionics against Iran, which lacks such weapons and was abiding by the nuclear deal.

In July 2018, Trump responded to an Iranian statement by tweeting, all in capital letters, "Never, ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before." Last May, Trump threatened the "official end" of Iran in a U.S.-Iran war. In June, he said "I'm not looking for war and if there is, it'll be obliteration like you have never seen before. ... You (Iran) can't have nuclear weapons." During the current buildup against Iran, we have sent four nuclear weapons-capable B-52 bombers to the region.

In a July 25 American Conservative article titled "Did Trump just threaten to attack Iran with nukes?" former intelligence officer and nuclear weapons inspector Scott Ritter notes the following recent pronouncement by Trump about the Afghan war: "I could win that war in a week. I just don't want to kill 10 million people. ... If I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the earth, it would be gone. It would be over in, literally, in 10 days." This boast can only be a reference to nuclear weapons use. As Trump himself implies, nobody is considering this route in Afghanistan. So why did he say it? Ritter suggests, and I heartily agree, that it must be understood as a warning to Iran.

Tactical nuclear weapons are quite plausible, and perhaps defensible from a strict military viewpoint, against Iran. Iran is probably impossible for the U.S. to defeat with any combination of conventional forces. At least half a million ground troops--the number we had in Vietnam at that war's apex--would be needed, and it would be endless. Iran's nuclear facilities would be a major U.S. objective. But the Fordow nuclear fuel enrichment plant, buried deep within a mountain and perhaps 80 meters underground, is probably invulnerable to conventional bombs--even the 5,000-pound "bunker-buster" that the B-2 Stealth bomber can deliver.

Iran's Arak nuclear power plant, which can produce plutonium for nuclear weapons, was closed in accordance with the nuclear deal, but now Iran is re-opening it. Israel has bombed Mideast reactors twice before. There is a high risk Israel will bomb Arak before the reactor turns on and thus becomes radioactive.

Nuclear weapons use against Iran could indeed destroy its weapons sites, even including Fordow, and "win" a war. It would also open the way for other nuclear-armed nations such as Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea to use their nuclear weapons, and for additional nations such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates to develop nuclear weapons.

Indeed, our strongest Mideast ally and Iran's arch-enemy, Saudi Arabia, is edging toward nuclear weapons. According to the July 30 Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, a U.S. Congressional committee report raises questions about whether the White House is willing to place profits above the objective of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, and "exposes how corporate and foreign interests are using their unique access to advocate for the transfer of U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia." The Trump administration has approved seven applications for U.S. companies to sell nuclear power technology and assistance to Saudi Arabia. Lawmakers have expressed concerns that the Saudis could develop nuclear weapons.

America needs an antiwar movement. Trump is vulnerable to public antiwar pressure. You can help. Join me and many others in a peaceful, law-abiding demonstration against war with Iran, every Saturday, 11 to noon, at College Avenue and Dickson Street in front of the Washington County Courthouse in Fayetteville.

Commentary on 08/13/2019

Print Headline: Will we use nukes in Iran?

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