Illegal Attacks on Iranians Won’t End the Impasse

It is fanciful to think that launching such an attack would cause the Iranian negotiators to “soften” their positions.

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Giorgio Cafiero notes near the end of a new article on Israel and Iran that Iranian nuclear weapons are not a foregone conclusion if the Vienna talks fail and the agreement collapses:

Iran’s nuclear activities seem designed to be mainly about boosting the country’s standing and leveraging the fears that other powers have of the Iranian nuclear program. To continue achieving such goals, the Iranians do not necessarily ever need to acquire nuclear weapons and Iran could remain a nuclear threshold country if the JCPOA is not restored.

This is an important point, and one that needs to be emphasized as the prospects for a successful negotiation are dwindling. The nuclear issue is frequently framed as “letting” Iran get nuclear weapons or waging preventive war to stop that from happening, but there are other alternatives. It is not a given that the Iranian government will choose to build nuclear weapons even if the JCPOA collapses. They have not had anything resembling a nuclear weapons program for the last 18 years, and they have not made the political decision to develop these weapons despite being sanctioned heavily for most of the last 15.

The JCPOA was considered necessary to demonstrate that Iran intends its nuclear program to be peaceful, and to prove that Iran accepted substantial restrictions on their program that were not otherwise required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Many of those restrictions expired over time because Iran was never going to accept them in perpetuity. If Iran remained on the threshold but took no action to cross it, that is something that everyone should be able to live with. Preventive war wouldn’t prevent anything, since it would almost certainly provoke Iran to change its position and seek a deterrent.

If the nuclear deal isn’t going to be salvaged, that does not have to mean war or proliferation, but it will give Iran hawks an opening to start a war that will likely end with more proliferation. Salvaging the nuclear deal was still the best way forward, but there is clearly no political will in Washington or in European capitals to do what is necessary to save it. Having completely failed in upholding their obligations, the U.S. and its European allies will pretend that Iran is to blame for the fruits of their failure.

Read the rest of the article at Eunomia

Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

6 thoughts on “Illegal Attacks on Iranians Won’t End the Impasse”

    1. Perhaps Israel should end its illegal attacks on Iranian sites and stop assassinating Iranian scientists. Perhaps Us and Israel should stop using Iranian dissidents to foment trouble in Iran.

    2. In what way is that illegal while attacking people in their own land is OK (the US version of democracy and freedom)?

  1. “We have no belief in the atomic bomb and we do not pursue it. Our religious principles forbid the acquisition and use of such weapons of mass murder. We consider them symbols of destruction.”
    ~ Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran. Unfortunately I cannot find the speech this is from anymore, but it has stuck with me.

    The only evidence ever offered of an Iranian nuclear weapons program turned out to be a laptop traced back to Mossad. It is more likely than not that Iran never hada weapons program. Khomeini himself suspended the whole nuclear program for a time after the Revolution. There have been dissenting Ayatollahs and military leaders to be sure, but they have never really guided policy. Though to be honest, if I were Iran, I WOULD be building nukes as a deterrent in this insane geopolitical situation. That’s what makes this whole issue a circus. The concern over Iran getting nukes is baseless, merely cover for the various motivations of the signatory states against Iran. The only reason this was allowed to become a global issue is because Russia and China never vetoed any UNSC sanctions because they are not interested in having yet another Asian rival in nuclear technology (civilian or military). That is what is critical to understand. Absurd assertions that this was a flimsy deal are obliterated by the fact that Russia and China supported it and along with all the Western signatories and whole American intelligence community, were incredulous that Trump would pull out of such a stringent deal. It would be hilarious if people were not suffering and dying.

  2. The MIC is on a mission.

    Jan 26, 2021 U.S. General manipulates media to push for war with Iran

    The Grayzone which explores the role CENTCOM Chief General Kenneth McKenzie played in escalating tensions with Iran in the final days of the Trump Administration. Porter also discusses the role General McKenzie will have in the Biden Administration as well as the new president’s Iran strategy.

  3. Iran has achieved a couple of things. Among them is its revolution which is unique in that it was a revolution for religion as opposed to the Chinese and Russian Communist revolutions. It is about to embark as a major member of China’s Belt and Roadway and its nuclear technology will raise it to the level of an elite group of nations capable of trade on that level.

    I believe that Pakistan helped it achieve nuclear weapons technology by purchasing from Dr. Khan. If that is the case Iran will complete its goal of becoming a nuclear armed nation. At that stage nations would take it seriously enough not to engage in destructive policies towards it

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