How to stop nuclear breakout in 5 easy steps

One of the most touching moments in the Obama presidency came last week when the president said, “there is no daylight when it comes for our support for Israel’s security.” And “I have always insisted that I will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and I will.”

But then Israeli TV Channel One retorted by quoting President Clinton after the first round of talks with North Korea, “This is a good deal for the United States. North Korea will freeze and then dismantle its nuclear program.” And “South Korea and our other allies will be better protected. The entire world will be safer as we slow the spread of nuclear weapons.”

{mosads}Since then, North Korea has exploded three nuclear devices. Worse, North Korea has begun to export its nuclear technology – not only to Iran, but to countries like Myanmar and Syria.

Despite the Clinton deal and – later – the Six Party Talks, North Korea weaponized. Iran will too. Not just because Iran’s past behavior is the best predictor of its future behavior, but because of a concept political scientists call the security dilemma, best illustrated by Dr. Seuss in The Butter Battle Book.

And even if Iran were to completely comply with Western demands (a big if), Obama told NPR that 13, 14, 15 years from now, “the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero.” Iran can then export nuclear technology and distribute miniaturized nuclear devices (like the one North Korea detonated in 2013) around the world.

And that’s not all the bad news. Because in the meantime, as the security dilemma predicts, the UAE, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and others are all racing toward the bomb. In fact, over 45 countries are looking to pursue nuclear technology.

So, Iran is not Israel’s problem. It’s everyone’s problem. Nobody survives the Morning After.

All this doom and gloom, you might say, and no plan? Oh, I have a plan. A good plan. The best possible plan. A plan that can stop Iran, and anybody else, from nuclear breakout.

Let’s start by remembering that there is a strategy that has already proven effective in stopping countries from attaining nuclear capabilities. That strategy was implemented in 1981 when someone bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactors and in 2011 when someone bombed the Syrian nuclear facility.

And before anyone gets all huffy-and-puffy about war-mongering, let’s also recall the words of one of the greatest political thinkers of all times, the Chinese general Sun Tzu who in The Art of War wrote, “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.” Or as any decent chess player knows, “The threat is stronger than the execution.”

Okay? So, now let’s put two and two together to get an easy-to-follow five step plan.

Step one: Put the “military option” on the table.

Yes, Obama said he will not take the “military option” off the table, but that’s because he never put it there in the first place. One little bunker buster test does not constitute “on the table.” Deploying ships, troops, air force, and weapons; conducting secret talks with pro-Western friends in the neighborhood; leaking “military option” memos – now that’s putting the military option on the table.

The option is currently off the table, and Iran knows it. As the president noted in his NPR interview: “it is true that Iran would not be entering into any deal, I assume, if in fact their economy was not under significant pressure. But that doesn’t mean that if we just apply more pressure, then somehow we get a better deal, which is the logic that’s been put forth by Prime Minister Netanyahu.”

Obviously, Obama is only thinking of economic pressure. Prime Minister Netanyahu isn’t. You see, PM Netanyahu probably knows someone who knows someone who carried out the strikes in Iraq and Syria, so he is quite familiar with the “military option” and its diplomatic effectiveness.

Step Two: Politely invite Iran back to the table.

Step Three: Demand that Iran abandon its domestic enrichment program entirely.

Yes, yes. Be polite about it. Make sure Congress passes the Corker-Menendez Bill and then say something like “Congress has my hands tied.” Or, “If I pass the buck on this breakout issue, the Republicans might take the White House in 2016.”

Step Four: Offer rich rewards, so that Iran can save face.

Step Five: If Iran refuses, strike.

Don’t start a war. Just strike as quickly and as effectively as is possible. If we aren’t fully committed to taking this step, we have no threat. Lives will be lost, but if we wait, millions – maybe billions – of lives will be lost.

You see, the Iranian “deal” is not just a political issue. It’s a survival-of-the-human-race issue.

Friedman is an American-Israeli writer and editor in the fields of political science, history, and information technology.


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