Who’s next?

First we got the bomb, and that was good,
‘Cause we love peace and motherhood.
Then Russia got the bomb, but that’s okay,
‘Cause the balance of power’s maintained that way.
Who’s next? 
– Tom Lehrer

This is the first stanza of the sixties era song about nuclear proliferation by comedian Tom Lehrer.  What prompted this satirically political song was China’s detonation of their first nuclear weapon, their first bomb.  The song goes on to suppose that South Africa will get the bomb, which they did, but subsequently gave it up and later that Israel, will get the bomb, which is generally acknowledged as true.  “The Lord’s our shepherd,” says the psalm, But just in case, we better get a bomb.  Written forty-five years ago, this song captured the idea of the then future Jewish-Muslim nuclear arms race, even if it didn’t quite get the actors right.  Iran, not Egypt turned out to be Israel’s nuclear nemesis.

Since 2001, America has been at war, first in Afghanistan and subsequently in Iraq.  These two countries bookend Iran and as if that was not enough to put the leaders of Iran on edge, President George W. Bush put them on particular notice with his 2002 Axis of Evil speech.  Even so, Iran has continued to pursue its nuclear program.  Years of continually racketed up international sanctions have seemingly made little impression upon this country’s leadership.  The United States can now ill afford a third front on its War on Terror, so the thought of bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities seems too expensive, what with the inevitable consequences.  Staying the sword though, does not leave the U.N. gavel as the only weapon that the U.S., Israel or others can wield against Iran and their desire for nuclear weapons, as recent events seem to indicate:

  • On Monday morning, November 29th, during morning rush hour in the smog shrouded streets of Tehran an Iranian nuclear physicist, his wife and bodyguard were on their way to work.  A motorcycle pulled up beside their car and then its driver stuck a bomb to the outside of the scientist’s door.  Its focused explosion killed the scientist and wounded the wife and driver.
  • Minutes later this scene was replayed in another part of Tehran.  This time, the scientist and his wife escaped harm by diving out of the car.
  • Later that day, Iranian president, Ahmadinejad, first condemned these attacks, “no doubt the hand of the Zionist regime and the Western governments” and then more extraordinarily admitted to something that had only been speculated at before then, Iran’s enemies had been “successful in making problems for a limited number of our centrifuges with software they installed in electronic devices.”

Ahmadinejad was referring to the Stuxnet worm that has supposedly ravaged the Iranian’s centrifuge farm.  But was he speaking truthfully?  The two scientists that were assassin’s targets were also purported to be Green Party opposition members.  Could these hits have been perpetrated by Iranian government loyalists?  Could Ahmadinejad’s Stuxnet admission actually be subterfuge and not an inadvertent omission on a troubled day?  This is the problem with espionage.  There is never ever any real knowing.  There is always doubt.

Yesterday, Ahmadinejad fired his foreign minister and replaced him with his nuclear minister.  Can you imagine Obama firing Hillary Clinton and then replacing her with DOE head Steven Chu?  Our two governments are out of kilter with each other.  This does not bode well for the upcoming talks.  It looks bad replacing your foreign minister on the eve of talks.  Ahmadinejad’s firing was possibly a sign of division between him and Iran’s supreme leader, a matter of a subordinate’s divided loyalties.  Is this replacement a stress fracture or a consolidation of power?  By all these news accounts, there is sound and fury happening regarding the Iranian nuclear problem.  The question remains though, is there any action?  Only time will tell.

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