The debate over the proposed agreement with Iran limiting that country's ability to develop a nuclear weapon has passed the silly point and has reached the status of absurdity. Some critics actually state that it permits Iran to create such a weapon. The opposite is, of course, true.
But let's check on the larger question of who already has nuclear weapons and who is a credible threat to the USA.
According to a new report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), nine nations — the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea have such weapons.
North Korea is the most dangerous, with a totally unstable leader and a record of hostility toward the U.S. It makes no sense for North Korea to attack us, but sense is not a characteristic of that nation's leadership.
Next comes Pakistan. The Taliban and other nasty groups are present there, and the danger of a theft of a nuke by the bad guys from the wobbly Pakistani military is a matter of real concern.
In Russia, President Putin wants to re-establish the old Soviet empire. That is his dream. He is not foolish enough to start a nuclear war with us deliberately, but Russia's incursions against its neighbors could accidentally start the cold war going again and it turning into a hot war.
Israel is our ally, but with friends such as those we don't need much in the way of enemies. Prime Minister Netanyahu is playing the game of "let you and him fight" with respect to the USA and Iran. Sitting on his own hoard of nuclear weapons, he wants Israel to be the only Middle Eastern state with such capabilities. He is campaigning furiously against the deal with Iran. He needs Iran as a boogie man that he can use in the next election.
China is not a threat. We owe them too much money.
Iran is also not a threat. They may be antagonistic, but they aren't suicidal.
Many Iranians hate us with good reason: In 1953, at the instigation of the British, we joined the Brits in arranging the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq and the installation the Shah as Iran's national leader. The Shah was our lap dog and made sweetheart deals with the big British and American oil companies. The people of Iran under religious leadership overturned him and imprisoned our embassy staff. We have been at odds ever since.
But Iran may yet be a valuable ally in the war against ISIS. Consider this: Today we are friends with the Germans, the Japanese and the Vietnamese, all of whom we fought during my lifetime. ISIS are of the Sunni branch of the Muslim religion and Iran is a Shia nation. The hatred between Sunni and Shia goes back centuries. Already small Iran-sponsored combat groups are helping in the war against ISIS. We just look the other way.
However if the deal with Iran falls through then our allies may well give up on the sanctions. Iran will be free to pursue its nuclear weapon dreams. And with a potential for a war hawk as our president in 2016, Netanyahu may yet have his wish for a war between us and Iran. I prefer to frustrate that wish. We have much more dangerous opponents to deal with.
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John Culleton writes from Eldersburg. His column appears every second Tuesday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.