Sometimes, reading about the Middle East, or at least about Israel, Iran, and nuclear weapons, feels like your most basic broken-record phenomenon. As New York Times op-ed columnist Roger Cohen reminded readers recently, there’s nothing new about Israeli predictions that Iranian “madmen” – or rather, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the head of a rather extreme new government, put it recently, “a messianic apocalyptic cult” – would soon have nuclear weapons in their hands. The charges and predictions of the imminent arrival of the Iranian bomb go back well into the 1990s, and yet, despite Iran’s growing nuclear enrichment program, we still don’t know what the true predilections of its leaders are on the basic issue of weaponization. (They might, for instance, be planning to opt for the Japan “solution,” not weaponizing, but simply being capable of doing so relatively quickly.)
The other part of that broken-record phenomenon concerns Israel’s nuclear arsenal, which I wrote about at TomDispatch back in 2003, since which time remarkably little has changed. One of the genuinely strange aspects of just about anything you can read here in the U.S. on nuclear weapons and the Middle East is this: all fear and much print (and TV time) is focused on whether the Iranians may someday, in the near or far future, get a nuclear weapon; that is, we’re focused on a weapon that doesn’t yet exist and, for all we know, may never exist.