The Hudson Institute hosted “When Iran Gets the Bomb: What Will It Do? What Will Others Do? What Will Be the Costs?” which was set in the future with each interlocutor adopting the role of an Iranian government official and collaborating with each other in a workshop designed to discuss nuclear weapons technology in the Middle East.
The discussion was split into two parts, with the first session analyzing the costs and consequences if Iran develops a small nuclear arsenal and the second concerning the possible outcomes of a “poly-nuclear Middle East,” where nuclear technology has spread to more Middle Eastern countries than just Iran. The sessions were moderated by Hillel Fradkin and Lewis Libby.
The first panel consisted of Husain Haqqani, Ali Alfoneh, David Wurmser, and Samantha Ravich. Haqqani argued that the Iranians’ priorities would be to shift power in their favor using the nuclear weapon threat, and to prevent neighboring countries from getting the bomb. Wurmser claimed that the Iranian government will put its stock in divine support, figure that their achievement of the nuclear weapon is a sign from God, and thus act more aggressively towards the West. Ravich believed that the motivation behind the Iranian quest for weapons power is to reclaim their old Persian empire, which consists of modern day Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, India, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, to name a few. The first step she believes Iran will take is to shake off the sanctions in order to build up the economy in order to rid themselves of the Satanic US, which they can now debilitate through their control of oil. Alfoneh argued that since the Revolutionary Guard currently controls the creation and protection of nuclear facilities and attainment of nuclear material, as well as serves as protection from internal and external operations, when the bomb is developed it will serve to give them power. Alfoneh predicts that with the development of the nuclear bomb will come the advent of a military dictatorship which will control international affairs.
The members of the second discussion were Husain Haqqani, Bruno Tertrais, Lee Smith, and Christopher Ford. The general consensus among the panelists was that a poly-nuclear Middle East is very nearly uncontrollable and disastrous. Tertrais argued that there would be nothing left for the US to do, as both containment and military force would no longer be options. Smith believed that a poly-nuclear Middle East would be more dangerous with US involvement in the region, and Ford provided the mathematical argument that the more players there are, the lower the chances of stability are. Husain described the situation as opening a “can of nukes” where deterrence is no longer an option.