The Corner

How Will Nuclear Weapons Change Iran?

The Drudge Report is blaring an AFP report stating that Israel only has eight days to strike Iran before the Bushehr nuclear plant becomes functional. While Ambassador Bolton, quoted in the piece, is certainly right that it would be extremely destructive to bomb a plant with loaded fuel (the Osirak strike in 1981 was timed to avoid that), the problem with the Bushehr reactor was never the Bushehr reactor itself, but rather suspicion (which, in retrospect, was justified) that the Iranian government would use Bushehr as a cover to important equipment to be used in a covert program. The problem is not Bushehr, but rather Natanz, Fordo, and the once-covert enrichment infrastructure.

That said, much of the discussion about an Islamic Republic of Iran with nuclear weapons revolves necessarily about how that will change the regional balance and complicate U.S. security concerns. As important, however, is how nuclear-weapons possession will change Iran itself. What happens, for example, when the Supreme Leader dies? How will those who control the nuclear weapons influence succession? I took a crack at these questions here.

Short answer: People who want reform in Iran, be it in the guise of the Green Movement or, beyond that, led by those who no longer accept the Islamic Republic’s clerical system, better hope that this regime doesn’t get nukes.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Civil-Military Relations, and a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly.


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