Douglas Davis argues in The Spectator (14 Jan) that
Two thirds of Spectator readers find
I wish to outline elements of a case against this interpretation, on the grounds that in a game where the stakes are so high, every aspect of a proposed strategy should be severely tested.
This may well be true. He also writes:
Israel itself is a veteran of the nuclear club, but its weapons are labeled ‘deterrence-only’ and would not be rolled out unless
The first clause here is correct.
But the second and third clauses bring me to a first caveat for
Davis and others see this comparison as wrong:
...while existing nuclear powers acquired their devastating capability for defence and deterrence, Iran might intend using its nuclear weapons to project its power in the cause of its geopolitical objective — Islamic dominance and, ultimately, a global Islamic state.
The difference, says
Iran’s political compass is fixed on a symbiosis of ideology and religion, which imbues its decisions with a mystical, transcendental supernaturalism, beyond the experience and understanding of conventional Western political thought and practice.
I disagree with this analysis for the following reasons. The Iranian revolution has lost its ideological steam. The rulers have become [even more] corrupt and sclerotic, fighting a rearguard action to hold on to the good things they have (e.g. personal control of and profit from large swathes of the entire national economy) in the face of enormous changes in Iranian society. They see themselves as surrounded by both internal and external enemies (this is not entirely unreasonable: the US, their sworn enemy has air bases in virtually all the surrounding countries, and large numbers of ground troops in the countries on their eastern and western borders). Cracking down on conspicous domestic dissidents such as Shirin Ebadi (see here) is a sign of weakness, not strength.
Further, even if
For this reason, belligerent language toward Israel is likely to be for domestic purposes - pumping up the Iranian equivalent of rednecks , creating a climate in which it's easier to crack down on domestic opponents.
The Iranian regime wants to survive and it has a return address. For these reasons it is capable of being deterred. It remains a state actor. Confusing it with non-state actors in the "war on terror" is a mistake.
(Non-state actors may well acquire nuclear weapons, and this is a worry, but Shia Iran is not going to be enthusiastic about putting nuclear weapons in the hands of Sunni-Wahabist groups like Al-Qaida, which, as a shepherd in nothern Pakistan put it to me, "want Shia finish".)
It looks likely that the arguments I have made here will be discounted, even if made more forcefully and effectively by others.
The Iranians have learned the lesson of Osirak. Their nuclear facilities are widely dispersed in scores of sites throughout the country — above ground, underground and, most problematically, in civilian population centres. It would be hideously difficult to destroy them all. But nothing less will do.
There it is. Civilian population centres must be attacked. Nothing less will do. And feasibility?
For a military strike to be successful, all