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Iran and the bomb: containment is an option

Benjamin Netanyahu is not much given to obfuscation. His speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday night made it quite clear to Tehran – and anyone else listening in – that he will do whatever it takes to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

Despite the carefully inserted disclaimers, numerous passages can only be read as overtly threatening a military strike. The Israeli prime minister would presumably prefer US sanction beforehand, but will act on its own account if it is not forthcoming.

With many politicians, the temptation here would be to dismiss the speech as rhetoric, designed for both international and domestic consumption. Unfortunately, Netanyahu’s words do not appear to constitute simple exercise in bombast.

All the indications are that Obama – in what must come as a disappointment for those who regard the White House as a mere Zionist plaything – takes the situation seriously enough to warn Israel against going down this road. He is right to do so.

Nobody should regard the prospect of Ayatollahs with A-bombs with equanimity, of course. The fewer nuclear states there are in the Middle East, or anywhere for that matter, the more easily the world’s population sleeps. But there is little point in simply wishing that it won’t happen.

The question is how best to respond to the reality that Iran is working either towards the possession of nuclear warheads to sit on the missiles it already possesses, or at least the ability to put them together in short order.

Central to this debate is Netanyahu’s contention that containment is not an option. It very clearly is. Israel, remember, has 200 nukes of its own. The reality is that an Iranian first strike would see the bulk of them land on Persian soil, in somewhat short order.

If anything, one predictable outcome of an Israeli attack now would be to seal the determination of the Iranian ruling class to go ahead with a full-scale nuclear weapons programme.

Precipitate Israeli aggression will also come as a crushing setback to all those forces working for a progressive and democratic settlement in the region.

Making yourself look like the bad guy on the block in a stand-off with Tehran is no mean feat. But Netanyahu is somehow pulling it off with ease.


  1. Laban Tall says:

    I don’t think containment IS an option. The container hasn’t been made which can stop one of those things if it goes off – the pressure and temperature are just too great.

  2. Chris says:

    Not a fan of nukes, of course, but who could they possibly attack? No one, clearly.

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