Belmont Club

And now Iran

Former Secretary of Defense William Perry predicts that a nuclear Iran will challenge the incoming Obama administration. The most difficult things about such a challenge would be that: 1) “Israel will not sit by idle while Iran takes the final steps toward becoming a nuclear power”; 2) Perry isn’t sure diplomacy will work any more — “less confident about stopping Iran’s ambitions”.

“It seems clear that Israel will not sit by idle while Iran takes the final steps toward becoming a nuclear power,” Perry told a conference on foreign policy challenges facing the incoming Obama administration. The former Clinton administration defense secretary held out hope that more vigorous U.S. and international diplomacy could reverse North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. But he was less confident about stopping Iran’s ambitions.

“President Obama will almost certainly face a serious crisis with Iran,” Perry said. “Indeed, I believe the crisis point will be reached in his first year in office. So on the nuclear front, President Obama will face a daunting set of problems, none of which can be solved unilaterally.”

Iran denies that its nuclear program is intended to build weapons. The Bush administration, while dismissing Iran’s claims of pursuing only peaceful uses of nuclear power, declined to negotiate directly with Iran.

Obama has said he favors “tough and direct diplomacy with Iran without preconditions,” and that his administration, working with allies, will seek a comprehensive settlement with Iran to end its nuclear ambitions.

Perry clearly fears that the Sunni Arabs would react to a nuclear Iran by building nukes of their own. He said, “if North Korea and Iran cannot be contained, we face the real danger of a cascade of proliferation” of nuclear armed-states, he said. “Indeed, I believe that today we are clearly at the tipping point of nuclear proliferation. And if the world does tip, it will be irreversible and dangerous beyond the imagination of most people.”

Whether BHO can handle the world any better than he did in Chicago remains to be seen. But even if the new President were superbly competent the world may now be in an unmanageable condition. Too many powerful trends are on the loose with too little energy to oppose them to recreate any status quo ante. The question now is whether enough energy and leadership remains to ride the storms out to a relatively stable outcome.