The Best Way to Stop Iran from Obtaining Nuclear Weapons Is to Destroy Its Nuclear Infrastructure

July 22 2020

In the past several weeks, a series of mysterious explosions have erupted in the Islamic Republic. At least some of them caused damage to military sites related to the Iranian nuclear program. It appears possible that these were covert attacks by Tehran’s adversaries to slow its progress toward obtaining a bomb. Considering Israel’s previous, similar efforts to stop its enemies from obtaining such arms—most notably the daring raid on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981—Benny Avni writes:

“Israel’s attack on Osirak was a major mistake,” the former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Hans Blix, told me a while back. Blix, a Swede, had then just ended his stint as top United Nations arms inspector in Iraq. While Israel’s storied Operation Opera destroyed Saddam Hussein’s atomic plant in 1981, he said, it then motivated the Iraqi strongman to renew vigorously efforts to obtain a bomb, a headache for the non-proliferation community.

There is, though, a counter argument, one that is highly relevant right now. [Namely, that Iraq never acquired a nuclear weapon]. The pursuit of a bomb by the Assad clan at Syria ended similarly, never to be rebuilt, after Israel, in 2007, bombed its nascent nuclear facility in Deir ez-Zor.

The recent explosion [at the Iranian city of] Natanz reportedly delayed the advanced centrifuge project by at least two years. The project . . . would have given Iran the ability to produce up to four bombs a year. [But] Iran might rely on the older generation of centrifuges while it tries to reinstate faster enrichment capabilities. Yet as the past attacks on Iraqi and Syrian facilities show, and contrary to Blix’s objection to non-proliferation by military means, destroyed facilities are hard to rebuild.

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Read more at New York Sun

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Nuclear proliferation

Reengaging the Syrian Government Has Brought Jordan an Influx of Narcotics, but Little Stability

As Syria’s civil war drags on, and it seems increasingly unlikely that Bashar al-Assad will be overthrown, Arab states that had anathematized his regime for its brutal treatment of its own people have gradually begun to rebuild economic and diplomatic relations. There are also those who believe the West should do the same. The case of Jordan, argues Charles Lister, shows the folly of such a course of action:

Despite having been a longtime and pivotally important backer of Syria’s armed anti-Assad opposition since 2012, Jordan flipped in 2017 and 2018, eventually stepping forward to greenlight a brutal, Russian-coordinated Syrian-regime campaign against southern Syria in the summer of 2018. Amman’s reasoning for turning against Syria’s opposition was its desire for stability along its border, to create conditions amenable to refugee returns, and to rid southern Syria of Islamic State cells as well as an extensive Iranian and Hizballah presence.

As hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians were swiftly besieged and indiscriminately bombed from the ground and air, Jordan forced its yearslong Free Syrian Army partners to surrender, according to interviews I conducted with commanders at the time. In exchange, they were promised by Jordan a Russian-guaranteed reconciliation process.

Beyond the negligible benefit of resuming trade, Russia’s promise of “reconciliation” has resolutely failed. Syria’s southern province of Daraa is now arguably the most unstable region in the country, riddled with daily insurgent attacks, inter-factional strife, targeted assassinations, and more. Within that chaos, which Russia has consistently failed to resolve, not only does Iran remain in place alongside Hizballah and a network of local proxy militias but Iran and its proxies have expanded their reach and influence, commanding some 150 military facilities across southern Syria. Islamic State, too, continues to conduct sporadic attacks in the area.

Although limited drug smuggling has always existed across the Syria-Jordan border, the scale of the Syrian drug trade has exploded in the last two years. The most acute spike occurred (and has since continued) immediately after the Jordanian king Abdullah II’s decision to speak with Assad on the phone in October 2021. Since then, dozens of people have been killed in border clashes associated with the Syrian drug trade, and although Jordan had previously been a transit point toward the prime market in the Persian Gulf, it has since become a key market itself, with Captagon use in the country now described as an “epidemic,” particularly among young people and amid a 30-percent unemployment rate.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Drugs, Jordan, Middle East, Syrian civil war