Iran’s New Friends Make It More Dangerous Than Ever

Sept. 14 2023

After its founding in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran aspired to independence from foreign influence—adhering to its rulers’ firm belief that America is the Great Satan while avoiding entering the Soviet bloc. Yet, write Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh, the ayatollahs soon found such a policy difficult to maintain, and eventually sought support from Russia and China. Those two countries have, in the past ten years, put aside their initial reluctance about such an alliance. Gerecht and Takeyh examine the consequences:

U.S. and European leaders long comforted themselves with the notion that whatever their differences with China and Russia, neither country wanted Iran to have the bomb. But that may no longer be true. Unlike the United States, Russia has lived for decades with nuclear-armed states on its periphery. Vladimir Putin might be perfectly comfortable with another country in the mix. In fact, it is not hard to envision Russia sharing nuclear technologies and expertise with Iran. Iran’s crossing of the nuclear threshold would make a mockery of numerous pledges, made by both Democrats and Republicans, that Washington will never allow it to get the bomb. Putin would therefore gain from helping his Persian ally humiliate the United States and degrade Washington’s position in the Middle East.

Xi Jinping could prove equally welcoming to an atomic Iran. China’s president also cares little about international conventions, so he may not be perturbed by more nuclear proliferation. He did not object to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, after all, and he has not respected India’s territorial sovereignty in the Himalayas or the Pacific Island states’ historical claims in the South China Sea. Xi might also reasonably conclude that an Iranian bomb would expedite the United States’ exit from the Middle East. Indeed, with the American political class united in bemoaning “forever wars,” the specter of a nuclear Iran could offer a good reason to further lessen its footprint in the region. For Beijing, always aiming at Taiwan, the global consequences of a nuclear Iran are mostly beneficial.

Once Iran assembles the bomb, of course, its relations with its great-power allies are likely to change. No longer a junior partner, it may become bolder. A nuclear Iran might return to striking Gulf oil infrastructure, for example. It might share new and better missile technology with its allied militias, which could decide to act more independently and more aggressively. These hypotheticals, of course, have not yet encouraged China and Russia to reconsider their approach to the mullahs.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: China, Iran, Russia


Israel’s Covert War on Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Impressive. But Is It Successful?

Sept. 26 2023

The Mossad’s heist of a vast Iranian nuclear archive in 2018 provided abundant evidence that Tehran was not adhering to its commitments; it also provided an enormous amount of actionable intelligence. Two years later, Israel responded to international inspectors’ condemnation of the Islamic Republic’s violations by using this intelligence to launch a spectacular campaign of sabotage—a campaign that is the subject of Target Tehran, by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar. David Adesnik writes:

The question that remains open at the conclusion of Target Tehran is whether the Mossad’s tactical wizardry adds up to strategic success in the shadow war with Iran. The authors give a very respectful hearing to skeptics—such as the former Mossad director Tamir Pardo—who believe the country should have embraced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Bob and Evyatar reject that position, arguing that covert action has proven itself the best way to slow down the nuclear program. They acknowledge, however, that the clerical regime remains fully determined to reach the nuclear threshold. “The Mossad’s secret war, in other words, is not over. Indeed, it may never end,” they write.

Which brings us back to Joe Biden. The clerical regime was headed over a financial cliff when Biden took office, thanks to the reimposition of sanctions after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal. The billions flowing into Iran on Biden’s watch have made it that much easier for the regime to rebuild whatever Mossad destroys in addition to weathering nationwide protests on behalf of women, life, and freedom. Until Washington and Jerusalem get on the same page—and stay there—Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will remain an affordable luxury for a dictatorship at war with its citizens.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, Mossad, U.S. Foreign policy