No, that headline isn’t literally true. But I wanted to reverse reality to give you a sense of what this might feel like to Iranians who see their own best and brightest gunned down in broad daylight by the intelligence services of nations like Israel.
Think for a minute if Stalin had sent his NKVD henchmen to assassinate Edward Teller or J. Robert Oppenheimer. It would’ve precipitated at worst a war and at best a major confrontation between us. Why do you think Russia didn’t do this and the U.S. didn’t kill Russian scientists? Because both of us already had nuclear weapons and knew that neither would swallow such a grave violation of sovereignty and international law. There was a sort of grim deterrence on both sides, which tacitly acknowledged limits to such rogue behavior.
Iran, of course, does not have a nuclear weapon. As such, Israel and the U.S. may toy with it practically at will, without fear of reprisal. This is precisely why Iran may want a bomb so badly. That is, contrary to the claims of Barak and Bibi that Iran wants a bomb to impose hegemony on the Middle East, they want a bomb so they cannot be knocked around in the way they currently are by the Mossad and CIA, who’ve not just assassinated leading scientists, but sabotaged Iran’s nuclear facilities with Stuxnet and Duqu.
I make no claim that either Iran or its nuclear scientists are Boy Scouts. But they are serving their country in the same way that Israeli and U.S. nuclear researchers are serving theirs. Until those two nations tell us they don’t mind their own scientists being gunned down outside their labs, then Iran’s scientists don’t deserve to die no matter what field they’re working on.
Given the current bitter hatred between Iran and the west, I predict that Iran will eventually get the bomb if it wants it. That holds even if Israel attacks Iran. I predict neither Israel nor the world will disintegrate. I predict the world will become a slightly more dangerous place. But the amount of danger an Iranian bomb will add to the world will dwarf the danger Israel’s 400 weapons pose, and the U.S. and Russians’ thousands of warheads.
There might have been a way through negotiation and diplomacy to persuade Iran to forego its nuclear arms program (if it has one). But that option appears to have faded and any opportunity of doing so in the past would seem to be long-gone. The west, to paraphrase Abba Eban, has lost yet another opportunity to lose an opportunity. Of course, a Middle East nuclear free zone might persuade them. But you’d have to persuade Israel to give up all of those warheads it produced at Dimona over all these years. A tall order.