Nuking Iran?

With recent news of possible major ship deployments in the Persian Gulf and talk a pre- midterm election possible strike against Iran around October 21 (or around the end of Ramadan / beginning of the Eid holidays), it's rather unnerving to see a major conservative commentator (a former Reagan administration official and WSJ editorial board member) say this:

The neoconservative Bush administration will attack Iran with tactical nuclear weapons, because it is the only way the neocons believe they can rescue their goal of US (and Israeli) hegemony in the Middle East.
There is already talk of retaliation by Iranian attacks on US warships and troops across the Persian Gulf and major Iranian interference with Shia communities in Iraq and Bahrain if this happens -- not to mention the possibility of an attack (probably terrorist) on US soil. At least this is what is being talked about in Iran specialist circles.

The recent North Korean nuclear test must have changed the approach to Iran considerably -- clearly if you are against Iran developing nuclear weapons (which most estimates say won't happen for five years to a decade) you would think that the earlier you strike the better. North Korea shows that if I you can develop nuclear weapon, you should and that there's little that can be done about it -- especially if your neighbor/patron is China.

The article has some small factual mistakes and exaggerations -- "Our Egyptian puppet sits atop 100 million [sic] Muslims who do not think that Egypt should be a lackey of US hegemony" -- but gets the general regional situation quite right. I remain skeptical on whether a tactical nuke would be used, even though the Bush administration's military doctrine has emphasized the use of tactical nukes for five years now, but I do find something convincing in the argument that the Bush administration, by its own internal (and electoral) logic, has nothing left to do but escalate. It either stands down or muddles along with a recognized failure in Iraq, or ups the ante. Rien ne va plus.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.