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On the Iranian Nuclear Program

MYTH: Iran has no Ambition to Become a Nuclear Power

FACT: American and Israeli intelligence assessments suggest that the Islamic regime in Iran will have a nuclear weapon within a few years (estimates have changed but are typically 3 - 5 years) or possibly sooner if its current program is not slowed or stopped. Evidence of Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons was revealed in 2002 with the discovery of two previously unknown nuclear facilities in Arak and Natanz. This was followed by the admission by Pakistan's top nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, that he provided nuclear weapons expertise and equipment to Iran.More...

Secretary of State Colin Powell said United States intelligence indicated Iran is trying to fit missiles to carry nuclear weapons. "There is no doubt in my mind - and it's fairly straightforward from what we've been saying for years - that they have been interested in a nuclear weapon that has utility, meaning that it is something they would be able to deliver, not just something that sits there," Powell said.[1]

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defended his country's right to produce nuclear fuel in a fiery speech to the UN General Assembly and later raised worldwide concern about nuclear proliferation when he said, "Iran is ready to transfer nuclear know-how to the Islamic countries due to their need." [2]

In fact, nuclear proliferation is one of the most serious dangers posed by Iran's program. In addition to what Iran might do, there is also the likelihood that its neighbors will feel the need to build their own weapons in the hope of creating a nuclear deterrent.

The international concensus opposing Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is reflected in the actions taken by the UN. On July 31, 2006, the Security Council approved Resolution 1696, giving Iran until August 31 to verifiably suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing-related activities and implement full transparency measures requested by the IAEA. Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, responded to the resolution by insisting that Iran would expand uranium enrichment activities.[3]

On December 23, 2006, the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1737 "blocking the import or export of sensitive nuclear materiel and equipment and freezing the financial assets of persons or entities supporting its proliferation sensitive nuclear activities or the development of nuclear-weapon delivery systems." The resolution required Iran to suspend "all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development; and work on all heavy-water related projects, including the construction of a research reactor moderated by heavy water." The Council also decided that "all States should prevent the supply, sale or transfer, for the use by or benefit of Iran, of related equipment and technology, if the State determined that such items would contribute to enrichment-related, reprocessing or heavy-water related activities, or to the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems." Iran again ignored the resolution.

On February 22, 2007, the IAEA found Iran in violation of a Security Council ultimatum to freeze uranium enrichment and other demands meant to dispel fears that it intends to build nuclear weapons. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki responded that Iran would never suspend uranium enrichment.[4]

In January 2010, President Obama's top advisers said they did not believe the governmewnt's earlier National Intelligence Estimate's conclusion that Iranian scientists ended all work on designing a nuclear warhead in late 2003. The following month, President Obama announced new unilateral sanctions by the United States. A day later, Iran announced it had begun enriching uranium to a higher level of purity, 20 percent, which is a step closer to producing weapons-grade uranium.[5]

The May 2010 IAEA report said Iran had produced a stockpile of nuclear fuel that, with further enrichment, would be sufficient to build two nuclear weapons.[6]

A lot of attention has focused on President Ahmadinejad because of his belligerent rhetoric, explicit threats against Israel and Holocaust denial. If he were to disappear tomorrow, however, the threat from Iran would remain because the desire to build nuclear weapons predated his regime and is considered a matter of national pride, even by Iranians who are considered pro-West.

The issue has also been falsely cast as one driven by Israeli fears, but, despite all the noise Iran makes about the "Zionist entity," and its patron, Iran's principal strategic interest is regional domination, and the countries that are most concerned are its immediate Arab neighbors. Iran wants to dominate the oil industry, to influence policy in the Middle East, and to become a major player in global politics. This would likely be the case whoever ran the country.

Given the unlikelihood of a counterrevolution in Iran, more active measures are required to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Everyone desires a political solution, but it is clear Iran has used diplomacy as a means to delay drastic measures by the international community while accelerating its work on uranium enrichment.

Economic sanctions are also being flouted by the Iranians and undermined by companies in Western countries that find ways to circumvent them, and by the governments of Russia and China, which have signed multibillion dollar business deals that undercut the impact of the sanctions. A military option exists, but it also poses serious risks to regional stability, future relations with Iran and the nation(s) that carries out the mission. It is in the interest of the international community, therefore, to do everything possible to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear capability before it is too late.

MYTH: Iran's Nuclear Program is Necessary to Generate Electrical Power

FACT: Iran has consistently claimed that it is not building a nuclear weapon and is only interested in peaceful uses of nuclear energy. No one suggests that Iran does not have the right to power station run by nuclear fuel. In fact, the Russians have built one for Iran at Bushehr. The evidence, however, is overwhelming that Iran's program is not designed to meet its energy needs.More...

Many people ask why a country with one of the world's largest reserves of oil and natural gas would need nuclear power. This was the first clue that Iran might be interested in a bomb. A second clue was the Iranian refusal to accept various proposals that would allow them to have a nuclear power plant without having the capability to develop weapons. "A decade ago, the Russians offered to take their fissile material and process for them enough uranium to run a power plant, to run a number of power plants, and to do it in a way that couldn't be taken to weapons grade," said former President Bill Clinton. "There are so many ways they can have a nuclear program that won't produce a nuclear weapon." [7]

The strongest clue that Iran is more interested in bombs than domestic energy generation was the discovery that Iran was installing centrifuges to enrich uranium to levels of purity beyond those needed for a power plant. The Iranians now openly admit they are enriching uranium and could reach the level of purity needed for a weapon within a year according to American and Israeli officials.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also dismissed the claim that Iran needs to enrich uranium for medical isotopes: "A country that builds underground nuclear facilities, develops intercontinental ballistic missiles, manufactures thousands of centrifuges, and that absorbs crippling sanctions, is doing all that in order to advance…medical research. So you see, when that Iranian ICBM is flying through the air to a location near you, you've got nothing to worry about. It's only carrying medical isotopes."

MYTH: Iran Rejects Western technology

FACT: Iranian leaders often rail against the decadence of the West and the mullahs running the regime seek to keep Western influences out of the country. When it comes to nuclear technology, however, they have a very different attitude.More...

Since the collapse of the Persian Empire and the ascendency of the West, some Muslims have felt a degree of shame because of their inability to match the technological advancements of the "infidels." Increasingly, however, Muslims feel confident that they will ultimately defeat Israel and the West because they believe that progress is now on their side. They acknowledge that they fell behind much of the rest of the world in the last century, but oil wealth has allowed them to slowly begin to make technological progress and a nuclear weapon would be the ultimate equalizer.

Possessing a nuclear weapon is also a matter of justice and pride. Iranians see no reason why they are not just as entitled to a bomb as Israel, the United States or any other country. The bomb also allows Iran to join an exclusive club of nations and shows the world its level of technological achievement. A nuclear weapon is also a symbol of military strength that would give Iran the power to potentially intimidate or even destroy its enemies.

One reason the mullahs are likely to continue to resist pressure to give up their nuclear quest is that they want to prove that Allah is on the side of the believers.

Finally, Iranians want to reverse 300 years of Western ascendancy, return the splendor to their 6,000-year-old civilization, and become the leaders of the Islamic world. Obtaining nuclear weapons is a key element of this strategy.

MYTH: Israel is raising false analogies to the Holocaust to exaggerate the Iranian threat

FACT: People around the world may find it uncomfortable to hear Israelis talk about the Holocaust, but the magnitude of that event in Jewish history cannot be exaggerated. The analogies to that time period may seem overwrought, but Israelis want to make clear that the Jewish people are not powerless or stateless today, as they were in the 1930s and World War II. Jews can now defend themselves and their homeland and have vowed to do so from the state’s inception.More...

The comparison is also merited when you look at the threats emanating from Tehran. The only country Iran’s leaders are threatening with destruction is the Jewish state. Jews, not just Israelis, have also been targeted and killed around the world by Iranian agents and their proxies.

Jews also hear echoes of the 1930s when they hear the reactions of the international community. The Nazis began to openly attack and imprison Jews as early as 1938. The world did nothing, however, even when the press published the accounts of Kristallnacht in which…. And when Hitler first spoke of exterminating the Jewish people a few months later, his threats were dismissed as rhetoric. So, too, are the threats of Ahmadinejad and the mullahs.

Historian Benny Morris observed:

To judge from Ahmadinejad's continuous reference to Palestine and the need to destroy Israel, and his denial of the first Holocaust, he is a man obsessed. He shares this with the mullahs: All were brought up on the teachings of Khomeini, a prolific anti-Semite who often fulminated against "the Little Satan." To judge from Ahmadinejad's organization of the Holocaust cartoon competition and the Holocaust denial conference, the Iranian president's hatreds are deep (and, of course, shameless). He is willing to gamble the future of Iran or even of the whole Muslim Middle East in exchange for Israel's destruction."[8]

Morris also explains how, like Hitler, the Iranians and other detractors of Israel, have spent years conditioning Muslims to believe that the “Zionists/Jews are the embodiment of evil” and “Israel must be destroyed.” The message to the West has been slightly more subtle, suggesting that “Israeli is a racist state” and “Israel, in this age of multiculturalism is an anachronism and superfluous.”

Morris concludes that the world’s reaction to an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel will resemble the inaction taken to stop the Holocaust:

…the international community will do nothing. It will all be over, for Israel, in a few minutes - not like in the 1940s, when the world had five long years in which to wring its hands and do nothing. After the Shihabs fall, the world will send rescue ships and medical aid for the lightly charred. It will not nuke Iran. For what purpose and at what cost? An American nuclear response would lastingly alienate the whole Muslim world, deepening and universalizing the ongoing clash of civilizations. And, of course, it would not bring Israel back.

The Holocaust taught the Jewish people they cannot rely on anyone else to protect them and that megalomaniacs who threaten them with extinction must be taken seriously and stopped before they can carry out their plans.

MYTH: Iran Should be Allowed Nuclear Weapons Because Israel Has Them

FACT: Iran and some of its supporters have made the argument that there is no justification for Israel and other nuclear powers to have bombs while denying Iran the right to have one as well.More...

First, the Iranians can't have it both ways. They can't say that they are not building a bomb but should be allowed to have one. If they weren't interested in nuclear weapons, the argument would be irrelevant.

Second, other nuclear nations do not behave the same way the Iranians do. They do not threaten the destruction of a fellow member state of the UN, as they have threatened Israel, and they do not support global terrorism. As former President Bill Clinton observed, "Israel is not supporting Hezbollah. Israel doesn't send terrorists to cross Syria to train in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon....no one thinks that Israel is about to drop a bomb on Tehran. So the difference is this is a government with a record of supporting terror."[9]

Clinton's point about terrorism is a crucial one. He noted that the more nuclear states, the more likely that fissile material will be lost or transferred to third parties. "So the prospect of spreading, in a way, dirty nuclear bombs with smaller payloads that could wreak havoc and do untold damage, goes up exponentially every time some new country gets this capacity."

Another important distinction is that Israel is presumed to have first developed nuclear weapons in the 1960s, but none of its neighbors have been sufficiently concerned that Israel might use them to feel the need to build their own. Furthermore, Iran's drive for the bomb is not a response to a threat from Israel; their program began out of the fear that Saddam Hussein's Iraq might build one.

If Iran obtains a weapon, however, it would also set off a nuclear arms race in the region as many of the Arab states will feel the need to have a bomb in the hope it will deter the Iranians. The Saudis, for example, have explicitly said that if Iran gets the bomb, they will get one too.[10]

MYTH: Iran Wants to Control its Nuclear Stockpile; It Would Never Give A Bomb to Terrorists

FACT: This is another one of those propositions where the world is asked to place its faith in the goodwill of the Iranians. The truth is the Iranians are global sponsors of terror and the question is really whether it is worth the risk of giving them the means to supply terrorists with material that would give them the capability to launch attacks that would be exponentially worse than 9/11.More...

At the United Nations in 2005, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinijad said that "Iran is ready to transfer nuclear know-how to the Islamic countries due to their need."[11] Iran has also been sending weapons to Hezbollah, which has targeted Americans, as well as Hamas, which has resumed firing rockets into southern Israel. Imagine if either of these groups were given any radioactive materials.

Former President Bill Clinton noted, "the more of these weapons you have hanging around, the more fissile material you've got, the more they're vulnerable to being stolen or sold or just simply transferred to terrorists." He added, "even if the [Iranian] government didn't directly sanction it, it wouldn't be that much trouble to get a Girl Scout cookie's worth of fissile material, which, if put in the same fertilizer bomb Timothy McVeigh used in Oklahoma City, is enough to take out 20 to 25 percent of Washington, D.C. Just that little bit."[12]

MYTH: Israel has Nothing to Fear from a Nuclear Iran

FACT: Jews have learned from painful history that when someone threatens to kill them, they should take it seriously. Therefore, no one should be surprised at the alarm expressed by Israel after hearing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proclaim, "This origin of corruption [Israel] will soon be wiped off the Earth's face!" and Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i, Iran's Supreme Leader, declaring, "Israel is a cancerous tumor. So what do you do with a cancerous tumor? What can be done to treat a tumor other than removing it?"More...

Some argue Iran would never launch a nuclear attack against Israel because no Muslim leader would risk an Israeli counterstrike that might destroy them. This theory doesn't hold up, however, if the Iranian leaders believe there will be destruction anyway at the end of time. What matters, Middle East expert Bernard Lewis observed, is that infidels go to hell and believers go to heaven. Lewis quotes a passage from Ayatollah Khomeini, cited in an 11th grade Iranian schoolbook, "I am decisively announcing to the whole world that if the world-devourers [the infidel powers] wish to stand against our religion, we will stand against the whole world and will not cease until the annihilation of all of them. Either we all become free, or we will go to the greater freedom, which is martyrdom. Either we shake one another's hands in joy at the victory of Islam in the world, or all of us will turn to eternal life and martyrdom. In both cases, victory and success are ours."[13]

Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, believes the most important task of the Iranian Revolution was to prepare the way for the return of the Twelfth Imam, who disappeared in 874, thus bringing an end to Muhammad's lineage. Shiites believe this imam, the Mahdi or "divinely guided one," will return in an apocalyptic battle in which the forces of righteousness will defeat the forces of evil and bring about a new era in which Shi'a Islam ultimately becomes the dominant religion throughout the world. The Shiites have been waiting patiently for the Twelfth Imam for more than a thousand years, but Ahmadinejad may believe he can now hasten the return through a nuclear war. It is this apocalyptic world view, Lewis notes, that distinguishes Iran from other governments with nuclear weapons.

There are those who think that Iran would never use such weapons against Israel because innocent Muslims would be killed as well; however, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, Ahmadinejad's predecessor, explicitly said he wasn't concerned about fallout from an attack on Israel. "If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in its possession," he said, "the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world." As one Iranian commentator noted, Rafsanjani apparently wasn't concerned that the destruction of the Jewish State would also result in the mass murder of Palestinians as well.[14]

Iran will not have to use nuclear weapons to influence events in the region. By possessing a nuclear capability, the Iranians can deter Israel or any other nation from attacking Iran or its allies. When Hezbollah attacked Israel in 2006, for example, a nuclear Iran could have threatened retaliation against Tel Aviv if Israeli forces bombed Beirut. The mere threat of using nuclear weapons would be sufficient to drive Israelis into shelters and could cripple the economy. Will immigrants want to come to a country that lives in the shadow of annihilation? Will companies want to do business under those conditions? Will Israelis be willing to live under a nuclear cloud?

If you were the prime minister of Israel, would you take seriously threats to destroy Israel by someone who might soon have the capability to carry them out? Could you afford to take the risk of allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons? How long would you wait for sanctions or other international measures to work before acting unilaterally to defend your country?

MYTH: Iran's Nuclear Program Threatens Only Israel

FACT: Israel is not alone in its concern about Iran's nuclear weapons program. In fact, the nations most worried about Iran are its immediate neighbors who have no doubts about the hegemonic ambitions of the radical Islamists in Tehran. Iran's Arab neighbors have accused it of threatening the sovereignty and independence of the Kingdom of Bahrain and territories of the United Arab Emirates, "issuing provocative statements against Arab states," and interfering in the affairs of the Palestinians, Iraq and Morocco.[15]More...

In statements challenging Bahrain's sovereignty, Iranian officials renewed claims that the kingdom was actually a part of the Persian Empire. The effect of Iran's saber rattling, journalist Giles Whittell wrote, "is especially chilling in Bahrain as the only Sunni-led country with a Shia majority that is not at war or on the brink of war."[16] Arab League Deputy Secretary-General Ahmad Bin Hali angrily denounced Iran's claims to Bahrain while former Bahraini army chief of staff Sheik Maj.-Gen. Khalifa ibn Ahmad al-Khalifa said Iran stirs trouble in many Gulf nations. "[Iran] is like an octopus - it is rummaging around in Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Gaza and Bahrain," al-Khalifa proclaimed.[17]

The Crown Prince of Bahrain was the first Gulf leader to explicitly accuse Iran of lying about its weapons program. "While they don't have the bomb yet, they are developing it, or the capability for it," Salman bin Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa said.[18]

Iran also reasserted its authority over three islands of the United Arab Emirates that it forcibly seized in the early 1970s and continues to occupy. While joint sovereignty was maintained between Iran and the UAE over the Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunbs islands until 1994, Iran significantly increased its military capabilities on Abu Musa, stationed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps soldiers there, and expelled foreign workers in attempts to assert full control of the island. The United Nations General Assembly, the Arab League, and the Arab Parliamentary Union have all affirmed their support for the UAE and have made clear that Iran illegally occupies the islands.[19]

The Iranian threat is felt in Arab states beyond the Gulf as well. Morocco severed diplomatic relations with Iran in response to the inflammatory statements concerning Bahrain and hostile activity by Iranians inside Morocco. Morocco's foreign ministry accused the Iranian diplomatic mission in Rabat of interfering in the internal affairs of the kingdom and attempting to spread Shi'a Islam in the nation where 99 percent of the population are Sunni Muslims.[20]

Since 2006, at least 13 Arab countries have either announced new plans to explore atomic energy or revived pre-existing nuclear programs (including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Turkey, and Syria) in response to Iran's nuclear program.[21] Many Middle Eastern countries sought to strengthen their nuclear cooperation with other nations, such as the United States, Russia and France. Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE signed nuclear cooperation accords with the United States, and Russia and Egypt have laid the groundwork for Russia to join a tender for Egypt's first civilian nuclear power station. Kuwait, Bahrain, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, and Jordan announced plans to build nuclear plants as well. Even Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Arab world announced plans to purchase a nuclear reactor.

The Saudis have been quite explicit about the impact an Iranian bomb will have on their security. "If Iran develops a nuclear weapon," an official close to Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal said in June 2011, "that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit."[22] In January 2012, Saudi King Abdullah signed an agreement with China for cooperation in the development and use of atomic energy for civilian purposes.[23]

Turkish President Abdullah Gül also declared, implicitly refering to Iran, that "Turkey will not accept a neighboring country possessing weapons not possessed by Turkey herself."[24]

European leaders also see Iran as a threat to their interests. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said, for example, "Iran is trying to acquire a nuclear bomb. I say to the French, it's unacceptable."

Similarly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stated, "I'm emphatically in favor of solving the problem through negotiations, but we also need to be ready to impose further sanctions if Iran does not give ground."[25]

"Iran is trying to get a nuclear weapon," British Prime Minister David Cameron said. "It's in the interests of everyone here and everyone in the world that we don't get a nuclear arms race."[26]

The international concern that has prompted a series of UN resolutions and ongoing condemnation of Iranian behavior has nothing to do with Israel. Most of the world understands that a nuclear Iran poses a direct threat to countries inside and outside the Middle East, raises the specter of nuclear terrorism, increases the prospects for regional instability, and promotes proliferation. Israel's detractors, such as professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, portray Israel and the "Israeli lobby" as campaigning for military action against Iran.[27] In fact, Israel and its supporters have been outspoken in their desire to see tough measures implemented to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program to avoid war. It is the Arab states that have aggressively lobbied the U.S. government to launch a military attack against Iran. The King of Saudi Arabia, for example, said the United States should put an end to its nuclear programs and "cut off the head of the snake."[28]

MYTH: Iran is the only Muslim nation in the Middle East seeking to develop nuclear technology

FACT: Those who argue that the world can live with a nuclear Iran ignore the likelihood that a nuclear arms race is likely to ensue in the Middle East, which will exponentially increase the danger to the region and beyond. The cost of stopping Iran's drive for a bomb, therefore, must be balanced with the benefit of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

At least 12 Middle Eastern nations have either announced plans to explore atomic energy or signed nuclear cooperation agreements since the exposure of the Iranian program. Like Iran, they say they are interested in only "peaceful uses" of nuclear technology.More...

The Saudis have been quite explicit about the impact an Iranian bomb will have on their security. "If Iran develops a nuclear weapon," an official close to Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal said in June 2011, "that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit."[29] In January 2012, Saudi King Abdullah signed an agreement with China for cooperation in the development and use of atomic energy for civilian purposes.[30]

In January 2011, Egypt's prime minister reaffirmed his country's plan to construct its first nuclear power plant in the coast city of El-Dabaa.[31] In 2009, the United Arab Emirates accepted a $20 billion bid from a South Korean consortium to build four nuclear power reactors by 2020.[32]

Jordan has cooperation agreements related to building nuclear power infrastructure with South Korea, Japan, Spain, Italy, Romania, Turkey and Argentina. Kuwait has agreements with the U.S., Russia, and Japan. In 2010, Qatar raised the possibility of a regional project for nuclear generation. Algeria has one of the most advanced nuclear science programs in the Arab world and is considering the role that nuclear power could play in its domestic energy generation. Two years ago, Oman signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia.[33]

The international community does not have a good record in preventing rogue nations from developing nuclear weapons, despite arms inspections, sanctions and other measures aimed at reassuring the public. Iraq was believed to be developing a bomb when Israel destroyed its nuclear reactor in 1981.[34] Similarly, Syria managed to build a secret nuclear facility under the nose of the international watchdogs and was stopped only by an Israeli military operation.

President Barack Obama illustrated the danger of a nuclear Iran vis-à-vis the nuclear arms race it would spur: "It will not be tolerable to a number of states in that region for Iran to have a nuclear weapon and them not to have a nuclear weapon. Iran is known to sponsor terrorist organizations, so the threat of proliferation becomes that much more severe," Obama said. "The dangers of an Iran getting nuclear weapons that then leads to a free-for-all in the Middle East is something that I think would be very dangerous for the world."[35]

The task of eliminating the Iranian nuclear threat and the proliferation that will follow should not be the responsibility of Israel. It is true that Israel is the one state that Iran has threatened to wipe off the map, but the Arab states are also on the front line and petrified of a nuclear Iran. This is why the Saudis explicitly called for a military attack on Iran.[36] A nuclear arms filled Middle East, however, will ultimately pose a threat to global peace and stability. International action is needed to ensure that Iran does not get the bomb and set in motion the nuclearization of the Middle East.

MYTH: Iran's nuclear drive will not accelerate the conventional arms race in the Mideast

FACT: In addition to the very real danger of a nuclear arms race being set off by Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon, the Iranian threat has already accelerated the conventional arms race in the region.

In 2010, President Obama proposed the largest arms sale in U.S. history, $60 billion worth of weapons and services for Saudi Arabia. From 2008-2011, excluding that deal, the Saudis purchased $52.1 billion worth of weapons from the U.S. alone and billions more from Europe. During that same period the United Arab Emirates signed arms deals with the U.S. worth $17.2 billion. Oman bought $1.4 billion worth of fighter planes.More...

Israel has also received additional arms; nevertheless, these large sales to countries still at war with Israel have raised questions as to whether Israel’s qualitative edge is being eroded. Furthermore, it is doubtful that the Gulf States, with their tiny populations could put up any real defense against Iran. The Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates) has formed a unified military command structure in reaction to the Iranian threat, but it is still likely these countries would be quickly overrun, as happened in 1991, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, and they would require the United States to send tens of thousands of troops to protect them. [37] [38] [39] [40]

MYTH: A Nuclear Iran Would Pose No Threat to World Oil Supplies

FACT: One argument often used against military action against Iran is that it would lead to a spike in oil prices that would have a devastating impact on the world economy. We address this notion elsewhere, but, like most analyses, this one does not consider the potential impact on oil prices of a nuclear Iran.More...

Iran has long been an advocate of higher oil prices within OPEC, but other countries, in particular Saudi Arabia, have been able to prevent the Iranians from convincing the majority to reduce oil supplies to raise prices. A nuclear Iran, however, would have the potential to intimidate the Gulf oil producers and coerce them to restrict oil supplies to drive up oil prices.

A nuclear Iran would also have the capability to use its military to take over oil fields from one or more of its neighbors. Such an action by a non-nuclear Iran would likely trigger an American military response as occurred when Iraq threatened Saudi Arabia. A U.S. president would have to think twice before launching a war with a nuclear Iran.

Iran could also influence oil prices by closing the Strait of Hormuz, the passage used to transit the Persian Gulf to the sea by tankers carrying approximately 20 percent of the world's oil. General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted that Iran has the capability to block the Straits "for a period of time," which would undoubtedly drive up the price of oil, at least temporarily. Dempsey quickly added, however, that the U.S. has the ability to respond. [41]

Dempsey was speaking of countering the threat of Iran today – without nuclear weapons. As in the scenario above, if Iran had a nuclear capability, would the president still be prepared to act? Given our reliance on oil, a president may have no choice, but the risks of a military confrontation will be greater.

MYTH: Israel is exaggerating the Iranian threat to avoid peace talks with the Palestinians

FACT: Israel has been sounding the alarm about the danger Iran poses to the Middle East and countries beyond for decades, but this has not stopped Israeli leaders from seeking an end to the conflict with the Palestinians. In the time since Iran’s covert nuclear program was discovered, Israel has, for example, signed the Middle East Road Map, withdrawn from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, and held multiple rounds of talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas offering to evacuate most of the West Bank and other concessions that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.More...

During the last four years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been very vocal about the need to address the Iranian threat, but he has also repeatedly offered to negotiate with Abbas to reach a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is Abbas who has persistently refused to negotiate with Israel despite the prodding of the United States and other countries.

The threat to Israel from Iran is real; it is not exaggerated. Still, Israelis understand the necessity of reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians and continue to plead with them to enter talks to resolve their disagreements.

MYTH: The election of moderate Hassan Rouhani eliminates the Iranian nuclear threat

FACT: The Iranian regime has apparently succeeded in bamboozling the Western media by portraying newly elected Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, as a moderate who could end the Islamic Republic's showdown with the international community over its nuclear program. The Guardian, CNN, Reuters and Yahoo News all headlined stories about "Rouhani the Moderate" while the Washington Post went even further with the headline, "Rouhani seen as best hope for ending nuclear standoff with West."[41a] More...

The election of Rouhani, however, changes nothing in Iran's strategic vision for its nuclear program and may even be a tactical victory for the Ayatollahs. As Iran's chief nuclear negotiator in the early 2000's, Rouhani never agreed to any real compromise with the West and later admitted that the temporary suspension of certain elements of the program in 2003 was a ploy to enable Iran to build up its nuclear infrastructure. In 2004, he spoke of using a "calculated strategy" in negotiations with the EU3 – France, UK, and Germany – to buy time and then finding "the most suitable time to do away with the suspension." [41b] In his first press conference as president-elect, he firmly announced that "the era of suspension is gone." [41c]

Moderation is a relative term. Compared to the genocidal anti-Semite he will succeed, Rouhani may seem reasonable, but he has always been a staunch supporter of the Islamic Revolution and Ayatollah Khomeini. He subsequently became a close political ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and served as his personal assistant to the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC). Rouhani also served as national security advisor to past presidents Khatami and Rafsanjani who oversaw the advancement of Iran's nuclear program. [41d]

Rouhani's comparative restraint, however, is irrelevant to the nuclear question since Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard control Iran's nuclear policy. [41e] Rouhani has no mandate to modify Iran's position toward its right to enrich uranium and has given no indication that he has any desire to do so anyways. Following his electoral victory, Rouhani pledged to continue to safeguard Iran's "inalienable rights" to nuclear power. [41f]

Rouhani's election has given comfort to Iran's apologists who now argue he should be given an opportunity to play his hand in negotiations. Some even argue that sanctions should be lifted and harsher measures delayed. That, however, would be an irreversible mistake that would give Iran more time to continue to advance toward the breakout point where it cannot be prevented from building a nuclear bomb. Already, Iran is closing in on this red line – in mid-June, IAEA Chief Yukiya Amano reported that Iran has made a "steady increase in capacity and production" of its nuclear program despite punitive measures taken by the West. [41g]

If Rouhani is willing and able to shift Iran’s policy to comply with UN resolutions, then he should act accordingly; otherwise, he is just Ahmadinejad in a more palatable package.

On the International Effort to Stop Iran

MYTH: It is dangerous to draw "red lines" to pressure Iran to give up its nuclear capability

FACT: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly called on the United States to draw some red lines to make clear to the Iranians that if they advance beyond a certain point in their quest to become a nuclear power it will trigger a U.S. military response. Netanyahu argues that this is the only way to show the Iranians the international community is truly serious about stopping their march toward building a weapon.More...

The Iranians already have reason to doubt the United States is serious about using force to stop their nuclear force. They look at a variety of American actions that suggest to them weakness, including the unwillingness to stand by its ally Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and pending withdrawal from Afghanistan, the inability to pressure Israel or the Palestinians to accept the administration's peace initiatives, the unwillingness to send troops to Libya and the failure to take action against the slaughter of civilians in Syria.

Given this recent history, it is not certain that Iran will take an American threat seriously. As military analyst Anthony Cordesman observed, "war can come from the same conditions that helped trigger World War II—years of negotiations and threats, where the threats failed to be taken seriously until war become all too real." [42]

Still, it appears from Iran's behavior the last decade that without a clear warning of what will trigger a military response, the Iranians will continue their steady march toward the development of nuclear weapons.

Some officials and commentators have argued that the U.S. cannot or should not set red lines. Some argue this would somehow tie the president's hands. The truth is the United States often draws red lines and has already done so with Iran with respect to threats to oil shipments from the Persian Gulf. The Obama Administration has made very clear this will not be tolerated and the Iranians backed off on their threats.

"There are times when the best way to prevent war is to clearly communicate that it is possible," Cordesman noted. Echoing Cordesman in his speech to the UN General Assembly September 27, 2012, Netanyahu reminded the delegates of how the U.S. has set red lines in the past to prevent war:

Red lines don't lead to war; red lines prevent war. Look at NATO's charter: it made clear that an attack on one member country would be considered an attack on all. NATO's red line helped keep the peace in Europe for nearly half a century. President Kennedy set a red line during the Cuban Missile Crisis. That red line also prevented war and helped preserve the peace for decades. In fact, it's the failure to place red lines that has often invited aggression.

Netanyahu argued that the red line should be drawn before "Iran gets to a point where it's a few months away or a few weeks away from amassing enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon." Taking this position, he says, will decrease the chance of war, by pressuring them to agree to a formula that would allow Iran to produce nuclear energy without having the capability to build a weapon.

MYTH: Time is not on Iran's side vis-a-vis acquiring a nuclear bomb

FACT: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report on November 8, 2011, with new evidence of Iran's commitment to building a nuclear weapon and the progress it has made toward achieving its goal.

The IAEA expresses "more concern about the possible existence of undeclared nuclear facilities and material in Iran" and "was informed that Iran has undertaken work to manufacture small capsules suitable for use as containers of a component containing nuclear material. Iran may also have experimented with such components in order to assess their performance in generating neurons. Such components, if placed in the centre of a nuclear core of an implosion type nuclear device and compressed, could produce a burst of neutrons suitable for initiating a fission chain reaction," the report states. [43]More...

Unwilling to take military action, the international community has tried both carrots and sticks to halt the Iranian drive toward the nuclear threshold. Years of fruitless negotiations and offers of incentives were viewed by the Iranians as signs of Western weakness and were exploited to accelerate their program. As multiple IAEA reports have illustrated, sanctions have had no more impact as several nations have failed to enforce them rigorously, and other countries, especially China, have openly flouted them. Efforts to impose tougher sanctions have proved futile as China and Russia block their adoption at the UN Security Council.

U.S. policy has also been a failure. The Obama Administration first tried negotiating with the Iranians and was made to look as foolish as the Europeans who had previously failed to talk Iran out of building a bomb. The Administration has continued to apply half-measures and refused to impose any significant sanctions that would seriously inflict pain on the Iranian leadership or the general public. The fear of hurting the people has ensured they do not suffer enough to risk a revolution against the regime.

The only publicly disclosed efforts to stop the Iranians that have reportedly slowed them down have been quasi-military operations involving the assassination of nuclear scientists and the use of cyber warfare to infect the nuclear program's computer systems with a virus. The IAEA report makes clear, however, that even these covert operations have not discouraged Iran from pursuing a weapon and making progress toward their goal.

Some apologists for Iran have suggested that the regime poses no danger to U.S. interests. This is nonsense. Iran funds international terror, works to undermine Arab-Israeli peace, threatens oil supplies, promotes instability, targets our troops in the region and hatched a terror plot in Washington, D.C. The pre-nuclear Iran is already spurring proliferation as Arab rivals start to explore a nuclear deterrent.

The nations in the Middle East have no doubt about the danger posed by the Iranians and, with the exception of their allies in Syria and proxies in Lebanon, are united in calling for measures to stop Iran's nuclear program. Saudi Arabia has made no secret of its desire, for example, to see the United States use military force against Iran.[44]

Iran is continuing on what appears to be an inexorable march to join the nuclear club. Continuing policies that have failed for a decade will not halt that advance.

MYTH: We Will Know When Iran has a Bomb and Can Take Action at that Time

FACT: If there is one thing we have learned over the years it is the need for a healthy dose of skepticism about what intelligence agencies know and when they know it. We have myriad examples from the failure to predict the fall of the Soviet Union to the misinformation about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to the inability to anticipate the current Arab turmoil. In the case of Iran, the failure of the intelligence community to detect Iran's secret nuclear program, and continued doubts about whether all of Iran's activities are known, should give pause to anyone who wants to trust the future of the Middle East to the analysts in Langley or anywhere else.More...

The question for the international community is whether it can afford to risk the possibility of Iran achieving a nuclear capability without being detected.

Moreover, what will be the implications if the information is wrong or too late? Once Iran has even one nuclear bomb, will any country risk military action against it?

MYTH: Iran has Become Isolated Because of International Sanctions

FACT: One of the purposes of imposing international sanctions on Iran was to try to isolate the regime in the belief that this would pressure Iran's leaders to agree to give up their nuclear weapons program. While a consensus has been achieved among most nations that Iran should not be allowed to have a nuclear capability, Iran has not been isolated at all.More...

Perhaps the most dramatic example of the failure to isolate Iran occurred when Iran hosted a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in August 2012. Despite U.S. efforts to discourage attendance, representatives of 120 nations showed up in Tehran, including several heads of state. The U.N. secretary-general also attended.

The sanctions are especially meant to isolate Iran economically, but this, too, has largely failed as large numbers of countries have continued to trade with the Islamic Republic. The Obama Administration has also exempted a number of allies from fully complying with the terms of U.S. sanctions. [45]

MYTH: Stopping Iran's Nuclear Program Requires an Invasion.

FACT: One way to scare Americans and discourage them from supporting military action against Iran is to suggest that the mission cannot be accomplished without sending in ground troops. This raises the specter of large numbers of casualties and becoming enmeshed in a long, costly war as happened in Vietnam and Afghanistan.More...

No one seriously raising the possibility of a military operation, however, has suggested a ground invasion. Most scenarios envision a mixture of air attacks, covert operations and other measures that would not require American boots on the ground. The argument that troops would be needed, even after a successful operation, to prevent Iran from quickly reconstituting its program, ignores other measures that could be used such as inspections, ongoing sanctions and the type of international scrutiny that was missing during the years Iran began its program.

MYTH: Israel and its Supporters are Goading the U.S. into War Against Iran

FACT: Israel has been sounding the alarm for years about the dangers of Iran pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. Unfortunately, Iran's program had already advanced to a significant degree before it attracted the world's attention. Now, however, an international consensus has emerged, reflected by multiple UN resolutions, that Iran's drive for a bomb must be stopped.More...

It has been Israel's hope from the beginning that a violent confrontation could be avoided with Iran. Israeli leaders spoke out precisely because they hoped the United States and other countries would take measures that would lead Iran to give up its dream of a nuclear weapon. Though justifiably skeptical, Israel and its supporters did not oppose negotiations to allow the Obama Administration to say that it did not leave any stone unturned in its effort to halt the Iranian program. Similarly, Israel and its friends have been outspoken in their calls for crippling sanctions in the hope that these will avert a military conflict.

Israelis and the pro-Israel community in the United States are well aware of the potential consequences of an attack on Iran and have never called for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. To the contrary, they have advocated doing everything possible to avoid the necessity of an attack. Most recently, Israel has encouraged the United States to establish "red lines" that would give the Iranians ample warning of which actions would trigger a military response. Again, the call for red lines is not to promote war but to avoid it.

President Obama has repeatedly said that "all options are on the table," making clear that if the United States ultimately decides on a military option, it will be his decision. And that decision will be based on America's interests.

It is also likely to be supported by the public. Again, contrary to suggestions that Israel is dragging the U.S. into a war, Americans also believe that military force may be needed to stop Iran. When asked in a September 2012 Wall Street Journal/NBC poll: "If Iran continues with its nuclear research and is close to developing a nuclear weapon, do you believe that the United States should or should not initiate military action to destroy Iran's ability to make nuclear weapons?" a majority of 58 percent said the United States should initiate military action to stop Iran's nuclear program, with 33 percent opposed. [46] This was the most support and least opposition to an attack since 2006.

MYTH: An Israeli Attack on Iran Would Endanger U.S. Interests in the Middle East

FACT: Israel is doing everything possible to avoid the necessity of launching a self-defense operation to stop Iran’s nuclear program; nevertheless, it is conceivable that military action may be required if sanctions and negotiations continue to fail. Some, like former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have warned that an attack on Iran will “haunt us for generations” in the Middle East.[46a] The truth is that U.S. interests are already threatened in the region, and will become more tenuous if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon.More...

This is not the first time that U.S. officials have feared dire consequences as a result of Israeli strikes against Arab threats. However, in the two prior examples of Israel attacking Arab nuclear sites – Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007 – the threats were eliminated without any harm to American interests. In fact, in the former case, Israel ensured the United States would not face the possibility of an Iraqi nuclear response during the 1991 Gulf War.

Some analysts have warned that Iran will attack U.S. targets if Israel acts against Iran. This would be counterproductive since no one expects an Israeli military strike to be as effective as an American one. If Iran were to retaliate against the United States for any Israeli operation it would only provoke American forces to respond to protect our interests and exponentially increase the punishment inflicted on Iran.

Some analysts have warned that Iran will attack U.S. targets if Israel acts against Iran. This would be counterproductive since no one expects an Israeli military strike to be as effective as an American one. If Iran were to retaliate against the United States for any Israeli operation it would only provoke American forces to respond to protect our interests and exponentially increase the punishment inflicted on Iran.

This is not to say that American interests in the Middle East are not in danger, but the threats are unrelated to any action against Iran. Radical Islamists already threaten U.S. interests in the region and will continue to do so regardless of how the Iranian nuclear issue is resolved because they are determined to drive America out of the Middle East and to restore the Muslim empire.

MYTH: Iran has Never Threatened to Annihilate Israel

FACT: A number of Iranian officials have repeatedly made threats toward Israel, starting with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s address to the "World without Zionism" conference held in Tehran on October 26, 2005:

Our dear Imam [Khomeini] ordered that this Jerusalem-occupying regime [Israel] must be erased from the page of time. This was a very wise statement.

More...

"The New York Times translated the statement as Israel 'must be wiped off the map,' a nonliteral translation that nevertheless conveyed the meaning of the original – the destruction of Israel,' according to Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum and Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall. [47] Apologists for Iran tried to suggest that Ahmadinejad was misquoted or mistranslated, but this was how his speech was translated by official Iranian sources.

Controversy aside, this was not the only threat made against Israel. Here are a few other examples:

- “You should know that this regime is on its way to dissolution. Do not attach yourself to this regime. This regime is on its way to extinction – do not tie your fate to these people….The Zionist regime can cease to exist [or can be made to cease to exist].” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran. [48]

- "The Zionists have no power, and the Zionist regime is on a downward slide toward collapse, and no ruse will save it….Jerusalem will be liberated, the Zionists will cease to exist, and world justice will prevail….Jerusalem Day [should] also be an arena for fighting the devil, and should be a day for the cleansing of human society from the Zionists.” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran. [49]

- “Iran’s position, which was first expressed by the Imam [Khomeini] and stated several times by those responsible, is that the cancerous tumor called Israel must be uprooted from the region.” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. [50]

- “The nations of the region will soon finish off the usurper Zionists in the Palestinian land.... A new Middle East will definitely be formed. With the grace of God and help of the nations, in the new Middle East there will be no trace of the Americans and Zionists.” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran. [51]

These are just a mere selection of many similar threats Iran has made against Israel. Based on Jewish history, such threats cannot be dismissed as mere rhetoric, especially if Iran obtains the means to carry them out. This is why Israelis, from across the political spectrum, have made clear that Israel cannot permit Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.

MYTH: If Iran attacks Israel, the United States will retaliate against Iran

FACT: If the United States does not preemptively attack Iran to stop its nuclear program, would it have any reason to do so after it has a bomb and has used one or more against Israel? More...

It’s a difficult hypothetical to answer. If the United States never attacked Iran to prevent it from getting nuclear weapons, it will be a result of a cost-benefit calculation. All the reasons given elsewhere for not attacking preemptively would still apply after Iran attacked Israel, including fears of nuclear retaliation, terrorism, outraging the Muslim world and oil price spikes that would damage the world economy. Besides, once the bombs landed in Israel, there may be little left to save except the handful of survivors who will need medical attention and rescue.

Furthermore, the United States has a long history of vowing support for Israel but doing little, nothing or undermining Israel during wartime. In 1948 and 1967, for example, the United States embargoed arms to Israel. In 1956, President Eisenhower threatened Israel with a variety of sanctions including cutting financial aid to pressure the Israelis to withdraw from territory captured from Egypt. During the Lebanon wars, the United States was initially supportive but ultimately pressured Israel into ceasefires. The rare exceptions where the United States came to Israel aid were during the 1973 War when President Nixon ordered an airlift of supplies (but also later pressured Israel into a ceasefire) and in 1992, when President Bush sent Patriot missile batteries to Israel with the aim of defending against Iraqi Scud missiles. In the latter case, Bush acted primarily to keep Israel from defending itself and the Patriots proved ineffective.

Despite the de facto alliance between the two countries, no NATO-like agreement requires the United States to come to Israel’s defense. As catastrophic as a nuclear attack may be, the United States may still see no reason to risk its other interests in the Middle East (i.e., beside supporting Israel) to prevent a second Holocaust.

What is the alternative? The U.S. could launch a massive retaliatory strike on Iran, but this would not bring back Israel and would entail all the risks noted earlier.

MYTH: Israel Does Not Have the Military Capability to Stop Iran's Nuclear Program

FACT: Many analysts argue that Israel lacks the military capability to stop the Iranian nuclear program for more than a few years and assert that the cost of any attack will exceed the benefit. This is the conventional wisdom, but it is just that, conventional, and Israel has repeatedly proved that it has the daring and creativity to disprove the skeptics.More...

Consider Israel's history. American officials have been consistently wrong about Israel's capabilities. They did not expect Israel to survive the Arab invasion of 1948. In the early 1950s, the Arabs were seen as strategic allies, but, by the end of the decade, Israel was acknowledged as the only pro-Western power in the region. In 1967, no one anticipated that Israel would surprise their neighbors and destroy their air forces on the ground. In 1976, Israel shocked the world when it rescued 102 hostages in Entebbe. In 1981, Israel flew through Arab air space and destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor. In 2007, an Israeli raid destroyed a suspected Syrian nuclear facility.

Now Israel's capabilities are again being doubted. Only a handful of Israelis are privy to plans that could be far more audacious and innovative than critics imagine. As Eitan Ben-Eliyahu, who flew a fighter escort on the raid on Iraq told the Jerusalem Report, "you can introduce dozens of improvisations and creative ideas and get much more out of the basic conditions than would seem possible at face value." [52]

MYTH: Intelligence about Iran's nuclear program may be as faulty as it was on Iraq

FACT: After what happened in Iraq, people may be skeptical about intelligence claims regarding Iran; however, the cases are completely different. It is not only intelligence agencies from multiple countries that believe Iran has accumulated the know-how and most of the components for a nuclear bomb, it is also the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has been monitoring Iran's activities.More...

The IAEA, for example, reported in 2010 that Iran had raised the level of uranium enrichment up to 20 percent, far beyond the 4 percent needed to run nuclear power reactors that Iran claims is the purpose of their program. The agency also reported that Iran had set up additional centrifuges to increase the level of enrichment to weapons grade. [53]

In August 2012, the IAEA said Iran had more than doubled the number of uranium enrichment centrifuges at its underground facility at Fordow. The IAEA report also noted that "extensive activities" at the Parchin complex, which has yet to be inspected, prove that Iran is leading a determined effort to cleanup that site from any evidence of illicit nuclear-weapons-linked testing. [54]

IAEA officials have also said that Iran has advanced its work on calculating the destructive power of an atomic warhead through a series of computer models. This information, gathered by the U.S., Israel, and at least two other Western nations, reinforced IAEA concerns that Iran was working toward a nuclear weapons capability.

When former President Bill Clinton was asked whether America could risk another flawed military action if it turned out Iran is telling the truth about its intentions, Clinton said the situations were completely different. In the case of Iraq, he said, "I personally never saw any intelligence that was at all persuasive on the nuclear issue." Iran, he noted doesn't even pretend that "they don't have centrifuges, that they can't enrich uranium." Clinton added, "they have the capacity to go well beyond what is necessary to generate the kind of material necessary to turn on the lights, to generate electricity. So I think it's a very, very different thing." [55]

If Iran is not building a nuclear weapon, then how can it's behavior be explained? "If you don't want a nuclear weapon, then why won't you comply with the international community's inspection regime," Clinton observed. "If you don't want a nuclear weapon, you have been given nine ways from Sunday to prove that." [56]

In fact, Iran routinely boasts when it increases the number of centrifuges it is running and enriches uranium to a higher level of purity. The day after the Obama Administration announced new sanctions on Iran in February 2010, for example, the Iranians themselves publicized that they had started to enrich uranium at the 20 percent level. [57]

Multiple UN resolutions have been adopted, and international sanctions have been imposed on Iran, because most of the world believes Iran is developing a nuclear weapon and should be prevented from doing so.

MYTH: The United States is committed to ensuring a complete halt of Iran's nuclear program

FACT: In a surprising and significant move, the Obama administration has reportedly agreed to allow Iran to continue enriching uranium to the 5 percent purity mark in return for Iranian commitments to accept unrestricted inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), stricter oversight by the international community, and nuclear safeguards long demanded by the United Nations. This concession is a retreat from the president's previous declaration that "the United States must lead the world in working to stop Iran's uranium enrichment program." [58]More...

Such a bargaining position would be problematic for a number of reasons. First, it violates Obama's commitment to halt Iran's enrichment program. It also undermines his pledge that he would not accept "a policy of containment" with regard to the Iranian nuclear program. [59] Second, it ignores the strong bipartisan sentiment in Congress calling for tougher legislation to force Iran to cease all enrichment programs. [60]

The United States has agreed that Iran has a right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, but this does not require any enrichment of uranium by the Iranians. Russia has already supplied Iran with a nuclear power facility that can meet its immediate needs, which are minimal given Iran's vast oil reserves.

Negotiators appear desperate to reach some agreement with Iran in the hope of staving off a military attack to destroy Iran's nuclear program. By agreeing to allow Iran to continue enriching uranium to the 5 percent purity concentration - agreed by scientists as the upper-end for civilian nuclear needs - the United States would be running the risk of giving the Iranians time to assemble the know-how and the infrastructure to develop a nuclear weapon at a later date. Obama would also be letting Iran evade the harshest of economic sanctions set to hit the country during the summer of 2012 before seeing if they will force Iran to give up its program entirely.

Uranium is considered weapons-grade at 90 percent purity, though anything enriched above the 20 percent level signifies a move toward weaponization, and the jump from 20 to 90 percent is deemed relatively easy.[61] At present, the majority of Iran's uranium, about 5 tons, is enriched at the 5 percent level, but it has produced approximately 200 pounds at the 20 percent mark, demonstrating its ability to enrich to a higher level.[62] IAEA Secretary General Yukiya Amano affirmed that "what we know suggests [Iranian] development of nuclear weapons."[63]

To date, the Iranians have shown a willingness to string out negotiations while continuing their nuclear program. Talks end without an agreement while the Iranians move closer to building the bomb. As early as July 2006, the UN Security Council called on Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment and implement transparency measures for its nuclear facilities; Iran refused. [64] In 2008, the P5-plus-1 (the U.S., Russia, China, France, U.K. and Germany) offered Iran technical and commercial incentives to freeze high-level enrichment; Iran not only rebuffed the offer, but vowed to cease cooperating with inspectors.[65] Now, after years of complacency by the West, why should anyone expect the Iranians to give up their nuclear ambitions or to adhere to any agreement they might sign? After all, Iran signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty more than 40 years ago but still secretly disregarded the treaty's terms and proceeded with nuclear weapons development.

Members of Congress, as well as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have said that U.S. interests are threatened by a nuclear-armed Iran. According to one source, the bipartisan opposition to the reported Obama compromise is so strong that any deal allowing continued Iranian enrichment "would be dead on arrival" in Congress.[66]

The Iranians should be allowed to use uranium for peaceful energy generation but they do not need to do their own enrichment - fuel stocks can easily be purchased from a half dozen different countries or through the international Uranium Enrichment Consortium (URENCO).[67]

While a compromise with Iran may reduce the chance of a military strike on Iran in the short-run, it could easily result in a more dangerous situation in the long-run. The Iranians may use the time they are given to continue to make technological advances toward weapons development, as well as to better prepare their defenses.

The understandable desire to forestall the need to take military action should not be an excuse for appeasement. The United States must not back down from its insistence that the Iranian nuclear program be permanently shut down. If an agreement is reached to end the program, it must be scrupulously monitored. Negotiators should remember Ronald Reagan's adage with regard to negotiations with the Soviet Union - trust but verify.

MYTH: A Successful Military Strike Would Only Slow - Not Stop - Iran's Drive for Nuclear Power

FACT: Assuming Israel, the United States or both can launch an effective military strike against Iran's nuclear sites, what about the argument that it will only set Iran back a few years but not completely destroy its nuclear program?More...

Maybe the strike will succeed in destroying more of the program than the naysayers believe. But let's say that it doesn't. This does not mean that Iran will be able to rebuild their program quickly, if at all. Sure, they will still have the knowledge, but it took them about 20 years to get to where they are today. They will also face much greater international scrutiny. The world kept its head in the sand for years, and the International Atomic Energy Agency acted like the three blind mice. That will not happen in the future. Furthermore, sanctions can remain in place, inspections could become more rigorous and other measures taken to ensure the nuclear program is not rebuilt. In the worst case, another military operation might be necessary, but it is not inevitable, as some suggest, that Iran will get the bomb.

MYTH: A Military Strike Will Result in Iran Speeding Up its Efforts to Build a Bomb

FACT: This is one of more bizarre arguments used against military action. The Iranians are presently working as fast as they can to build a bomb so if there is no action they will have one. If, on the other hand, a strike knocks out their nuclear sites, it will at a minimum slow them down from achieving a nuclear capability. More...

Those making this argument suggest that the world will suddenly feel more sympathetic toward Iran and end its isolation, that Iran will stop cooperating with the IAEA and will feel a greater need to have a bomb in the future to protect itself from future attacks.

Let's take these points in turn. First, will the world really believe that Iran is the victim after years of defying the UN, resisting sanctions and refusing to make a deal through negotiations? Iran will undoubtedly have its supporters, but most of the international community will understand that Iran brought an attack upon itself by its actions. Whoever attacks Iran may not be applauded, depending on the ultimate consequences of the operation, but it is hard to imagine Iran suddenly gaining support to help it resume its nuclear program.

Second, it is true that Iran may no longer feel any compulsion to cooperate with international inspections and could dismantle some of the monitoring devices, but no one should forget that Iran pursued its program under the nose of the IAEA for years and since its discovery has been uncooperative. If anything, an attack is likely to lead to greater pressure for IAEA oversight to ensure Iran does not try to rebuild.

Finally, Iran may use self-defense to justify the need for a bomb, but everyone knows that no one in the West was threatening Iran before it began its nuclear program and, defanged, no country should have a motive for attacking Iran in the future. Iran's program actually began in response to what turned out to be the false assumption that Saddam Hussein was building a bomb in Iraq. Once the U.S. overthrew Saddam and it became clear he did not reconstitute his nuclear program, Iran's pretense of needing a weapon for self-defense disappeared.

Iraq's history also undermines those making the argument that Iran will quickly build a bomb if it's attack. After Israel destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981, Saddam never succeeded in getting a bomb. Similarly, Syria did not rebuild its nuclear facility after it was destroyed by Israel. Assuming an attack destroys key facilities, possibly kills nuclear scientists, and leads to increased international scrutiny, Iran's chances for restarting its program will be reduced.

Two other counter examples of countries building bombs without being attacked are North Korea and Pakistan. Those countries were not bombed and they built weapons and have not given them up.[68] Is the world safer since they joined the nuclear club?

Those Iranians who feel Iran needs a bomb, or is justified in having what others have, will continue to believe that whether the country is attacked or not. Military action followed by vigilance can prevent them from turning those feelings into reality.

MYTH: Iran Does Not Believe It Can Win A Nuclear War

FACT: One of the reasons that deterrence worked during the Cold War is that neither the United States nor the Soviet Union believed it could win a nuclear war, or at least not achieve a victory without suffering unacceptably horrific losses. Some argue that Iran knows Israel would use its own nuclear weapons to retaliate if it were ever hit by Iranian nuclear missiles and therefore would never risk a first strike.More...

The problem with this analysis is that some Iranians do believe they can win a nuclear war. Hashemi Rafsanjani, the President of Iran from 1989 until 1997, was just as adamant about destroying Israel as his successor. He said that "Israel is much smaller than Iran in land mass, and therefore far more vulnerable to nuclear attack." Since Iran has 70 million people and Israel has only seven million, Rafsanjani believed Iran could survive an exchange of nuclear bombs while Israel would be annihilated.[69]

In a 2001 speech, Rafsanjani said: "If one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists' strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything … [and] only harm the Islamic world."[70]

He does have a point since just three bombs, one for Haifa, one for Tel Aviv and one for Jerusalem would wipe out most of Israel's population and industry. Iran could have a potentially devastating impact on Israel even if it did not start a nuclear war. How many Israelis would want to live in a country under constant nuclear threat? How many people would want to immigrate? Would tourists still visit Israel? Would foreign companies want to set up businesses in a country under a nuclear cloud? Israel's freedom to act against other threats from its neighbors and terrorists would also be constrained by the risk of provoking a nuclear response from Iran. This is why Israel is so adamant about preventing Iran from having the capability to carry out the threats issued by Rafsanjani and other Iranian officials.

The danger is becoming increasingly acute as Iran inexorably progresses toward the completion of the nuclear fuel cycle and the capability to build a weapon. So far, neither pressure from international sanctions nor official United Nations inspections have convinced Iran to give up its nuclear program.[71]

Israel has the right to defend itself, but the Iranian threat extends beyond Israel to the Arab countries of the Gulf, U.S. military bases and European capitals. The threat of Iran giving terrorists nuclear materials poses a global threat.

A nuclear Iran that is not afraid of the consequences of nuclear war cannot be deterred or contained. This is why an international consensus exists that Iran must not be allowed to develop the capability to build a nuclear bomb.

MYTH: If Iran has a bomb, it can be deterred the way the U.S. deterred the Soviet Union

FACT: In the debate about Iran, it is sometimes suggested that Iran is irrational and that is why it should not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. Others then argue that calling Iranians irrational reflects a Western bias. The truth is that Iranians are rational, but they may be acting according to a different rationale than people in the West.More...

The Islamic regime's logic is rooted in a potentially lethal cocktail of history, religion and politics. It is the religious aspect, in particular, that differentiates Iran from the Soviet Union and other nuclear powers. The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, believes the most important task of the Iranian Revolution was to prepare the way for the return of the Twelfth Imam, who disappeared in 874, bringing an end to Muhammad's lineage. This imam, the Mahdi or "divinely guided one," Shiites believe, will return in an apocalyptic battle in which the forces of righteousness will defeat the forces of evil and bring about a new era in which Islam ultimately becomes the dominant religion throughout the world. While Shiites have been waiting patiently for the Twelfth Imam for more than a thousand years, Ahmadinejad may believe he can hasten the Mahdi's return through a nuclear war. It is this apocalyptic world view, Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis notes, that distinguishes Iran from other governments with nuclear weapons.[72]

Lewis quotes a passage from Ayatollah Khomeini cited in an 11th grade Iranian schoolbook, "I am decisively announcing to the whole world that if the world-devourers [the infidel powers] wish to stand against our religion, we will stand against the whole world and will not cease until the annihilation of all of them. Either we all become free, or we will go to the greater freedom, which is martyrdom. Either we shake one another's hands in joy at the victory of Islam in the world, or all of us will turn to eternal life and martyrdom. In both cases, victory and success are ours."[73]

Would leaders who did not hesitate to use children as cannon fodder in the war with Iraq, or who send suicide bombers to kill the innocent, be reticent about using nuclear weapons? How can the idea of Mutual Assured Destruction that prevented a superpower clash apply to people who believe the end of the world will lead to "eternal life and martyrdom?"

Some might argue they don't mean what they say and when the time came, the Iranians would "love their children too" and back down from the nuclear brink, but would you be willing to take that chance with your children?

MYTH: A Military Strike Will Rally Iranians Around the Regime Just When it is About to Fall

FACT: Since just after the fall of the Shah in 1979, there have been predictions that the Iranian people would revolt against the oppressive rule of the mullahs. We've heard about how "pro-Western" many Iranians are and how the youth of Iran is rebellious, yet the regime has remained unthreatened for more than two decades. On the few occasions when protests have occurred, they were ruthlessly put down by the regime. The fact remains that it is very difficult to overthrow repressive governments that have police, military, and judicial power at their disposal.More...

When countries are attacked, the public does indeed often rally around the flag. However, this is less likely a scenario to occur in Iran unless the general public also comes under attack. Any military operation would most likely go to great lengths to carefully target Iran's nuclear facilities, leadership and military while avoiding the civilian population as much as possible. The Iranian public is not likely to rally around the mullahs, who they despise and who brought the calamities of ostracism, sanctions and war upon them. An attack could sufficiently weaken the regime to allow the people to revolt and to oust their repressors.

The overthrow of the current regime is no guarantee that Iran would cease its nuclear program. In fact, opposition politicians have also supported the goal of building a nuclear capability. Even secular leaders, if they were to emerge, may hope to continue the program for purely nationalistic reasons; that is, they believe Iran is a great nation that can become a superpower with a nuclear weapon and there is no reason why other nations should have them and not Iran.

Secular leaders, however, would not be guided by the apocalyptic theology of the current regime, and sanctions or negotiations may discourage them from pursuing this goal.

MYTH: The Consequences of a Military Strike on Iran Would be Catastrophic

FACT: In any war game scenario, analysts must take into account a worst case. Virtually everyone who has written about the possibility of a military operation has done just that. Studies suggest that Iran could launch a military attack at Israel, target Americans or block the Persian Gulf. Iranian allies in Gaza and Lebanon might launch thousands of missiles into Israel. Terrorists may seek revenge on Jews and Americans around the world. These are all possibilities that must be weighed before acting.More...

Other outcomes are also possible, however, and war gamers also look at best case scenarios. For example, Israel attacked both Iraqi and Syrian facilities and neither country counterattacked Israel. The Iranians know that if they strike back, Israel can respond in devastating fashion.

One concern is that Hamas and Hezbollah would rain missiles down on Israel in response to any attack on Iran; however, that seems less likely than it did months ago. First, Hamas ties with Iran have become frayed, in part due to the civil war in Syria, where Hamas has abandoned Iran's ally Hafez Assad. Second, the alliance between the Sunnis of Hamas and Shiites of Iran was always tenuous. In the case of Hizballah, the war in Syria is having a major impact on the group's control over Lebanon, which seems to be slipping and could evaporate if it can no longer smuggle Iranian weapons through Syria. If either group did decide to attack, Israel would overwhelm Lebanon and Gaza, and Hamas is not likely to want to risk giving the Israelis a chance to finish the job they started with Operation Pillar of Defense and the Lebanese do not want Hezbollah to drag them into a devastating war.

When Americans warn of a catastrophe it is not out of concern for Israel but U.S. interests. They argue that U.S. soldiers could become targets of Iranian-backed terrorists and that they may interfere with our oil supplies. An Iranian attack on American targets or interference with oil supplies, however, would provoke an overwhelming U.S. response and might bring other Western powers into the fight.

Critics would argue then that Israel dragged the U.S. into war, but the truth is America is already at war with Iran. Iranian agents have been involved in fighting against U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and arming insurgents in both countries. Iran's assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador took place on U.S. soil. Iran's proxy terrorists, Hizballah, have killed more Americans than any other terrorist group other than al-Qaeda on 9/11.

Some Muslims may be outraged by an Israeli attack and blame the U.S., but they do this anyway. The radicals are already engaged in attacks against the United States. This would not be altered by a war with Iran. Furthermore, many Muslims around the Middle East will be grateful (at least privately) that the Iranian nuclear threat to their countries has been removed.

MYTH: Attacking Iran Will Create More Instability in the Region

FACT: More instability?! Have the proponents of this idea been following the news for the last two years?

Even in the best of times, the Middle East is an unstable region because of ongoing disputes between various Arab states. Now, an increased level of chaos has spread across the region as a result of upheavals in North Africa, Yemen and the Persian Gulf, continuing unrest in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a bloody civil war in Syria.More...

Among the possible worst case scenarios, it is conceivable that a military strike on Iran would cause a backlash among peoples in the region angered by an attack on a Muslim nation; it may unite the Iranian people in defense of their country; or, current rulers of conservative regimes may come under attack for complicity in the attack.

The consequences of a strike could, however, have positive consequences for the region. The Israeli military strikes on nuclear facilities in Iraq (1981) and Syria (2007), for example, did not provoke greater instability in the Middle East despite lacking any international consensus. Both attacks eliminated potentially destabilizing nuclear weapons programs and discouraged a nuclear arms race in the region. Arab leaders now are petrified of a nuclear Iran and will, at least tacitly, support measures that would eliminate Iran’s nuclear threat. [74]

While the negative scenario envisions the Iranian population rallying around its leaders in the event of a military strike, it is also possible that, when liberated from the intimidation of the mullahs, the Iranian people will launch a “Persian Spring” demanding freedom and democracy from their government. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is obviously nervous about this possibility, noting in April 2012 that he believes Libya’s abandonment of its nuclear program in 2003 eventually hastened the overthrow of Qaddafi. [75]

In the short-term, an attack on Iran might have a deleterious impact on oil prices as speculators react to the possibility of reduced supplies; however, in the long-term, an attack could actually help stabilize the oil market as it would hamper Iran’s ability to threaten global oil supplies and weaken its position within OPEC, where it has advocated stricter quotas to drive up prices.

A successful strike on Iran could also help free two countries that have been under its thumb for three decades. Without the support of the radical Shiite leaders in Iran, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will lose his principal patron in the region and Syria will no longer serve as a forward Iranian base for harboring terrorists and interfering in the affairs of Lebanon. The fall of Iran’s leadership would also put an end to its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, effectively thwarting the organization’s ability to terrorize Israel and control Lebanese affairs.

Furthermore, destroying the Iranian nuclear program would eliminate the threat of Iranian sponsored nuclear terrorism and proliferation, and would signal to the rest of the region that nuclear weapons programs will not be tolerated. This outcome is especially important in light of nuclear agreements signed by more than a dozen Arab countries in response to Iran’s continued nuclear developments.

It is easy for opponents of military action to construct nightmare scenarios that will scare the public and sway world leaders away from confrontation with Iran. However, military planners and statesmen must analyze the current situation objectively and weigh the risk of a negative outcome, as well as the danger posed by inaction, against the potential benefits of a proactive strike against Iran.

MYTH: An Attack on Iran Will Drive Up Oil Prices; Damage the U.S. and World Economy

FACT: Instability in the Middle East, especially in the Persian Gulf region, often causes speculators to drive up the price of oil out of fear that oil supplies will be disrupted. This is one of the great fears of any attack on Iran. The concern is exacerbated by threats Iran has made to interfere with shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf through which approximately 20 percent of the world's oil flows.More...

As in all scenarios regarding an attack, this represents one of the worst-case scenarios and not the only one. In fact, the United States and other countries can take measures in advance to minimize the potential for either a disruption in oil supplies or a rapid escalation in prices.

First, it is not certain that prices will rise significantly. Despite the war in Libya, a major oil producer and member of OPEC, turmoil in Bahrain, another OPEC member and the general instability throughout the region created by the Arab turmoil, oil prices have not risen significantly. In December 2012, the price of a barrel of oil was $92, well below the all-time of $147 in 2008.

Oil prices have risen from the $70-$80/barrel target price Saudi Arabia set in ??? but the Saudi target is still below $100/barrel. The Saudis have been the principal reason the prices have not spiked, because they have pumped record amounts of oil and acted to restrain their OPEC partners from lowering production quotas to raise prices. The Saudis have not done this out of the goodness of their hearts; they have exacted a quid pro quo from the Obama Administration – the sale of record amounts of weapons to the Saudis that they don't need and can't use – and silence regarding the lack of freedom and democracy in the Kingdom at a time when the president is calling for other Arab countries to become free and democratic.

MYTH: If Iran is Attacked, Persian Gulf Oil Shipments will be Endangered.

FACT: Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened to interfere with shipping or close the Straits of Hormuz in the event that Israel or the United States attacks their nuclear facilities. The Straits of Hormuz, a 34-mile wide passage at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, is one of the world's most important littoral passages as about a third of the world’s oil shipments flow through its waters.More...

Examples of the Iranian threats include:

- Brigadier General Ali Fazli warned that if anyone threatens "Iran from the Persian Gulf and from the areas around the Islamic Iran, they should realize and believe that the Persian Gulf will not be safe for anyone if it is not safe for us (Iran)."[76]

- "Closing the Strait of Hormuz is very easy for Iranian naval forces," Admiral Habibollah Sayari told Iranian TV.[77]

- "We caution again that if the world wants safety of shipping and trade through the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, it should take action to pressure the US to withdraw its military forces (from the region)," Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces for Basij and Defense Culture Brigadier General Massoud Jazzayeri said.[78]

These threats are not new and they appear to have multiple purposes: 1) to intimidate the Gulf States to discourage them from cooperating with the United States in general and, specifically, in an attack on Iran; 2) to frighten the international community by threatening to disrupt their oil supplies and drive up the price of oil, which, in turn, will damage the world economy; and 3) to try to deter the United States from attacking Iran and to compel President Obama to withdraw naval forces from the Gulf.

The Iranians have given their neighbors and the West good reason to worry. In addition to the verbal threats, they have conducted a number of military exercises in the Gulf to send the message that they are ready and able to carry out their threats. Furthermore, Iran’s navy “is the best organized, best trained, and best equipped service of the country's conventional military establishment. More than a nuclear weapons program, which would likely function as a passive deterrent, Iran's navy is an active component of Iran's activist foreign policy.[79] Various war scenarios have included Iran mining the Gulf, causing a massive oil spill, firing missiles at ships and using assymetric tactics such as high-speed gunboats and suicide bombers.[80] Daniel Byman, director of the security studies program at Georgetown University, said Iran's threats were credible and it was capable of damaging or disabling U.S. vessels.[81]

While the Obama Administration has been resistant to draw a red line with regard to Iran's nuclear program, the president has drawn a bright red one in the Persian Gulf, putting Tehran on notice that it will take whatever steps necessary to keep the passage open. "The free flow of goods and services through the Strait of Hormuz is vital to regional and global prosperity," said Lieutenant Rebecca Rebarich, a U.S. Navy spokeswoman in Bahrain, site of the 5th Fleet headquarters. "Any disruption will not be tolerated."[82] Another spokeswoman for the U.S. Fifth Fleet, Cmdr. Amy Derrick-Frost, said the U.S. Navy is "ready for every contingency."[81]

Iranian threats to the Persian Gulf should not be exaggerated, according to Byman. "If the [U.S.] Navy is prepared and goes in right, the Iranian navy would be on the bottom of the gulf pretty quickly."[81]

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