Analysis & Opinions - The Wall Street Journal

Maybe Iran Isn't the Domino So Many Think It to Be

| May 12, 2010

Letter to the Editor


Philipp C. Bleek wrote this letter to the editor in response to John Bolton's May 3, 2010, op-ed, "Get Ready for a Nuclear Iran," which appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

In "Get Ready for a Nuclear Iran" (op-ed, May 3), John Bolton repeats the conventional wisdom that Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, or at least a weapons option, will prompt Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and perhaps others to "surely seek, and very swiftly, their own nuclear weapons." These concerns are widely shared across the political spectrum, but they have little basis in either historical experience or analysis of the specific countries alleged to be on the cusp of launching their own nuclear weapons programs.

Similar arguments were made when Israel and Mao's China—both in highly antagonistic relationships with multiple other states—obtained nuclear weapons, but few if any nuclear dominoes toppled then. One could imagine Saudi Arabia desiring nuclear weapons if intense rival Iran obtained them, and the Saudis have the required financial resources, if not the nuclear infrastructure at present. But U.S. security guarantees will be a politically and economically far less costly alternative. Egypt and Turkey both have less overtly antagonistic relationships with Iran, and pursuing nuclear weapons would entail huge political costs. Both countries would risk undermining crucial relationships with Washington.

Mr. Bolton, alongside others including President Barack Obama, may be exaggerating the likelihood of a nuclear cascade to try to motivate action to prevent it, a worthwhile goal. But the fears of nuclear cascades should not blind us to the fact that we have significant levers to prevent proliferation, nor should they goad us to take precipitous actions, such as bombing Iran, that are likely to backfire.

Philipp C. Bleek

Cambridge, Mass

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Bleek, Philipp C..“Maybe Iran Isn't the Domino So Many Think It to Be.” The Wall Street Journal, May 12, 2010.