Some interesting facts about US policies towards Iran

With the proposed deal between the P5+1 nations and Iran dominating the news, Jon Schwarz digs up six interesting facts about US-Iran history. Some of them were already familiar to me but all of them are interesting and worth reading.

One that was new to me was this:

3. We had extensive plans to use nuclear weapons in Iran

In 1980 the U.S. military was terrified the Soviet Union would take advantage of the Iranian Revolution to invade Iran and seize the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. So the Pentagon came up with a plan: if the Soviets began massing their troops, we would use small nuclear weapons to destroy the mountain passes in northern Iran the Soviets needed to move their troops into the country.

So we wouldn’t be using nukes on Iran, just in Iran. As Pentagon historian David Crist put it, “No one reflected on how the Iranians might view such a scenario.” But they probably would have been fine with it, just as we’d be fine with Iran nuking Minnesota to prevent Canada from gaining control of the Gulf of Mexico. “No problem,” we’d say. “Nuestra casa es su casa.”

It is good to keep that in mind when we hear the endless repetition of the statement that Iran cannot be trusted to have nuclear weapons because they might use them irresponsibly. But of course, this is just another example of projection, in that the US government posits attitudes and intentions on other nations to deflect attention from the fact that these are actually its own intentions.

The usual response by apologists of the US government is to suggest that of course the Pentagon makes plans to cover all contingencies and this should not be taken as evidence of intent to carry out such plans. That is nonsense. They do not waste time on fanciful scenarios that have no chance of being carried out. When any plans are made, it is with the idea that they could be used in some contingency. Furthermore, consider the uproar that would ensue if it were revealed that Iran had similar contingency plans to use nuclear weapons. That would have been taken as evidence that it was their main option, not a last resort.

Another item from Schwarz clarifies this point.

6. We worry about Iranian nukes because they would deter our own military strikes

Our rhetoric on Iran seems nonsensical: do U.S. leaders actually believe Iran would engage in a first nuclear strike on Israel or the U.S., given that that would lead to a quick and devastating retaliation from those well-armed nuclear powers?

Even conservative U.S. foreign policy experts know that’s incredibly unlikely. They’re not worried that we can’t deter a nuclear-armed Iran — they’re worried that a nuclear-armed Iran could deter us. As Thomas Donnelly, a top Iran analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, put it in 2004, “the prospect of a nuclear Iran is a nightmare … because of the constraining effect it threatens to impose upon U.S. strategy for the greater Middle East… The surest deterrent to American action is a functioning nuclear arsenal.”

This perspective — that we must prevent other countries from being able to deter us from waging war — is a bedrock belief of the U.S. establishment, and in fact was touted as a major reason to invade Iraq.

These facts it will not change the media narrative in the US that Iran is an untrustworthy, out-of-control, aggressor nation that left unchecked will wreak havoc in the region. But which nation is better described by those words?

And of course this will also not solve the age-old mystery that continues to baffles our greatest political and media minds, and that is: Why do they hate us when we are such a peace-loving nation?


  1. Crimson Clupeidae says

    All of this posturing strikes me as so hypocritical on this. We have more nukes than probably every other country combined (depending on how you count the former Soviet union), and we’re also the biggest bully on the planet.

  2. Brian E says

    Any non-aligned or enemy state of the U.S. is mad to not acquire nukes. Once you’ve got them, the U.S. will be circumspect and not launch pre-emptive strikes/wars/won’t someone think of the children attacks?

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    Intercept has now updated the story to include 7 lesser-known frictions between the US and Iran.

    Interestingly, the url for the story implies it contains ten.

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