Are you afraid of Iran yet? Shrill warnings of war or imminent apocalypse over Iran’s nuclear program have never been so strident, or so ominous.
A window is closing fast, the narrative goes, to prevent a fanatical and suicidal religious regime from acquiring the ultimate tools of Armageddon: nuclear weapons. Within months, some politicians claim, either Israel, the United States, or both may have no choice but to attack Iran to remove this “existential threat” to the Jewish state.
The world is facing another Hitler, declares Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and this moment of decision is akin to the eve of World War II. Iran is a threat to Israel and “a real danger to humanity as a whole,” warns Israeli President Shimon Peres.
The tone on the US presidential campaign trail is no less dire. GOP hopeful Rick Santorum recently told a crowd that if Iran gets nuclear weapons, “let me assure you, you will not be safe, even here in Missouri.” One of his opponents, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, claims an Iranian strike on the US is “a real danger” that would make the 9/11 attacks look small. “Now imagine an attack where you add two zeros, and it’s 300,000 dead,” he said in early February. “This is not science fiction.”
Yet it is also far from likely – even if Iran were to build a nuclear arsenal. In fact, say analysts and nonproliferation experts who have studied the effect of the bomb on countries, coexisting with a nuclear-armed Iran – or at least a nuclear-capable Iran – may well be possible, even inevitable, whether a military strike delays that outcome or not.