Iran, terrorists and nukes
Published May 27, 2004
"If Iran goes nuclear, you worry that Hezbollah goes nuclear." So said Paul Leventhal, president of the Nuclear Control Institute in a New York Times article and an interview yesterday with The Washington Times. Mr. Leventhal points to an often-overlooked danger that Iranian possession of nuclear weapons would pose: that the regime could pass along nuclear weapons to Hezbollah or other terrorist organizations that it supports.
It is not beyond the realm of possibility that Hezbollah could try to smuggle a crude nuclear device into the hold of a ship or a truck and deliver it to a highly populated Israeli city. According to Mr. Leventhal, if such a fissile device functioned poorly, it would result in an explosion with the power of 1,000 tons of TNT, resulting in radiation contamination and a catastrophic number of casualties. If such a device functioned properly, it could result in an explosion with the power of 15,000 tons to 20,000 tons of TNT -- roughly equivalent to the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945.
This is, to be sure, very much a worst-case scenario. But, given the nature of the Iranian government -- a regime striving to obtain nuclear weapons that has supported terrorism from its inception a quarter-century ago -- it would be folly to simply dismiss the possibility that it might decide to transfer nuclear weapons to one of its terrorist allies. (After all, how many people on Sept. 10, 2001, would have seriously entertained a conversation about hijacked planes destroying the Twin Towers?)
When you have a nation that actively supports terrorism and seeks nuclear weapons, "you cannot rule out the possibility" that it could collaborate with terrorists "to carry out nuclear violence," Mr. Leventhal says of Iran.
Despite Iran's protests to the contrary, all signs suggest that Iran's nuclear program is anything but peaceful. Last month, Iranian exile Alizera Jafarzadeh (who in August 2002 disclosed that Iran had a covert uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and a heavy water plant at Arak) told Reuters that Iranian Revolutionary Guards are overseeing 400 nuclear experts to prevent further leaks of sensitive information about the country's nuclear facilities.
The International Atomic Energy Agency will meet next month in Vienna to discuss the Iranian nuclear program. All indications are that the United States will reluctantly agree to postpone action against Iran -- effectively leaving the issue to the European Union for now. Given the Europeans' dismal track record to date, this hardly seems promising.