On October 17, President George W. Bush issued a stark warning to the entire world, that if Iran obtained nuclear arms, it could lead to “World War III.” A few days later, Vice- President Richard Cheney reiterated the message, sending a more specific warning to Iran: “We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”
Why did President Bush use “World War III?” A U.S. attack on Iran need not involve other nations; Iran has no allies with the obligation, the power, and the inclination to come to their aid. Invoking a World War was a way to send an indirect threat to Russia and China to prevent them from helping Iran achieve nuclear weapons, now or in the future, even as eight other nations have done. Is Bush threatening to set the whole world on fire or did he make another speaking error?
The Russians were scheduled to ship nuclear fuel rods to the Iranian nuclear reactor in Bushehr in November. The contract is legal under the Non-Proliferation Treaty as long as the degree of enrichment is three to five percent. Weapons grade nuclear material must be enriched to a much higher level. The Iranians claim that the reactor will be used only to produce electric power and deny high enrichment.
However, if the reactor becomes operational in November, it would be impossible for the U.S. to bomb the installation. The fallout from the bombing would turn the city and surrounding area into another Chernobyl. In addition, the bombing would release radioactive material over a wide area, as happened in Chernobyl, contaminating the land and causing loss of life throughout neighboring countries in the Middle East, including Israel, perhaps into parts of Europe.
The U.S. wants to preserve its option to bomb Iran from the U.S. fleet in the Persian Gulf, U.S. bases in Europe and the Indian Ocean. The U.S. is trying to prevent Russia from making the shipment. Russia has already delayed once. In the meantime, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is in Eastern Europe suggesting that the U.S. defer installing missile defense hardware in Poland and Czech Republic, a program that deeply offends Russia. This could be the basis for a deal: no fuel rods for no missile defense system in Poland.
If U.S. intelligence reveals that the shipment of nuclear fuel rods is on the way, the U.S. will bomb Iran before arrival to prevent the Chernobyl effect.
Talk of World War III sounds extreme and even wild: the use of “madness” is a method to obtain concessions by threatening an irrational act. President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger liked to use it, frightening opponents into thinking that Nixon was irrational enough to do the unthinkable, thereby obtaining concessions to appease the seeming craziness, a very dangerous way to manage a nation and the world.
These people are playing with millions of human lives.