Two events last week underline the reason for continuing concern
about Iran's nuclear intentions.
One was the Iranian claim that it had successfully test-fired a
missile not detectable by radar, which can use multiple warheads to
hit several targets simultaneously. The Fajr-3 (which means
"victory" in Farsi) is claimed by Iranian sources to have a range
capable of reaching Israel and therefore American bases in the
The second event, disclosed at a US congressional hearing, was
that in a test by government investigators, they were able to
smuggle into the country enough radioactive material to make two
"dirty" bombs. In the test last December, the investigators managed
to sneak small amounts of such material across US border crossing
points in Washington State and Texas. Radiation alarms went off, but
security inspectors were fooled by phony documents and allowed the
material through. If the investigators could do it, terrorists might
be able to.
The Iranian position is that it will pursue a nuclear energy
program for peaceful purposes, but that it is not making nuclear
weapons. Western nations do not believe that, especially as Iran has
a long record of duplicity about its nuclear intentions.
The possibility that Iran, under an erratic regime, could build
and possess a nuclear bomb is itself cause for concern. However, the
possibility that such a weapon could fall into the hands of
terrorists who have been supported by Iran is of much greater
If rogue nations like Iran and North Korea should even think of
using such a weapon themselves against the United States, its
military forces, or allies such as Israel, they would have to
confront the certainty of devastating US retaliation. The
retaliation would likely be as awesome if it were clear that they
had given the bomb to terrorists.
We know that terrorists like Al Qaeda have expressed interest in
acquiring a nuclear bomb. To do so, their options are to steal it,
to buy it, or to build it, perhaps with the know-how and cooperation
of a nation like Iran, friendly to their ambitions.
In a new study of the threat of catastrophic nuclear terrorism
and steps to prevent it, Charles Ferguson says that some 27,000
nuclear weapons presently exist in the arsenals of eight nations -
Britain, China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, and the US.
All but about 1,000 of these are in Russia and the US. …