As America advances its program to develop and deploy a new generation of nuclear weapons, with discriminate nuclear options, miniaturization and hyper-sonic delivery systems, Russia and China are enjoining what could become an unimaginable expansion of the Cold War arms race with dire consequences. But what is getting less attention is that the new generation of nuclear arms, if deployed, are intended to afford “discriminate options” in their use—to destroy a city, a province or a country “presumably” as advertised without a wider fallout—and thus are intended to be more “usable” as opposed to being more of a deterrent as is the case with traditional nuclear arms.
A new generation of “more usable” nuclear weapons and America’s aggressive posture place the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in jeopardy. These developments can only encourage a host of countries to withdraw from the NPT and to advance their own nuclear weapons program openly or covertly, ratcheting up the likelihood of a global catastrophe.
When countries became signatories to the NPT they were promised two principal benefits: support for the development of their own peaceful nuclear program and the reduction and elimination of nuclear arms by the nuclear powers. But look what they got! Iran could not get support for a peaceful nuclear program because it was suspected of a covert arms program, while India, a non-signatory to the NPT, received indirect support for its nuclear arms program under the George W. Bush administration; and now the nuclear powers are expanding, not reducing and eliminating, their own nuclear arms in most ominous directions that is also sure to re-open nuclear testing. This could conceivably be tolerable if the world was at peace, and if the superpowers did not threaten others, position soldiers in far away lands, invade other countries and generally do as they wished all under the guise of the war on terror or some such pretense.
In the face of these developments, Iran could be a prime candidate to withdraw from the NPT. Today Iran is faced with a hostile United States, a country that is 7,000 miles from the Persian Gulf but with bases and a navy that encircle Iran, that supports (with political backing, intelligence and advisors) Iran’s adversary, Saudi Arabia, and that is closely allied with a nuclear-armed Israel. Most disturbing, the Trump administration is actively engaged in undermining the Nuclear Agreement that Iran signed with the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. The Iranian government would, to say the least, be cavalier if it did not accelerate its research into all phases of a defensive nuclear deterrent program before its options become much more limited with the new class of nuclear weapons and the increased threat of a nuclear attack.
A new nuclear arms race coupled with U.S. threats could expand the nuclear club from the U.S., Russia, China, France, the U.K., Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea to include Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and possibly even South Korea, Japan, Brazil and Australia. Once started, this chain of events will be irreversible and could be catastrophic for humanity.
It is time for the Trump administration to shed its policy of threats and to stop boasting of its most “beautiful” arsenal of nuclear arms. Such tactics may have worked for businessman Donald Trump but they will not cower Iran into submission. Iran has a 6,000-year history. Most recently, it is a country that has produced the co-inventor of the laser, the first female recipient of the Fields Prize in Mathematics and thousands of academics, medical doctors, inventors and corporate leaders working in the U.S. While many find the clerical regime in Tehran objectionable, it is only a blip in Iran’s history and it would be a mistake to alienate all Iranians. But it is a regime whose principal source of legitimacy is its defense of the country during the war with Iraq and Iranians well remember that war and expect the regime to be ready in the event of another attack.
It is time for the U.S. to put threats aside, place itself inside the heads of its presumed adversaries to understand their perspective and give diplomacy a real and sustained try. The U.S., China and Russia should get down to serious business and stop this new nuclear race in its tracks; along with other counties that have nuclear arms, begin a credible program of nuclear disarmament; and pledge and declare that they would never use nuclear arms on a non-nuclear country and would come to its defense if it were ever under a nuclear attack.