Monday, December 24, 2007

Nuclear War in the Middle East: Messy, Lethal, and Brief

Iran's official position has been "Death to Israel!" and "Death to the great Satan America!" since the ayatollahs took over, back in 1979. The country's "peaceful" nuclear program may provide the Islamic Republic with nuclear weapons in the near future: possibly near the end of this decade.

If Iran decides to use nuclear weapons, the odds are that the Supreme Leader and company would start with Israel. A "respected Washington think tank," the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), made an educated guess about what would happen. It's an "estimate," since Israel isn't saying anything about the megaton nuclear bombs they're rumored to have, and Iran's policy, when it's not organizing "Death to Israel!" rallies, is that nuclear program is peaceful. (There's a fairly detailed, if somewhat dated, discussion of Iran's program at Global Security's website.

Lots of people would die.

However, about three weeks after that particular jihad started, Israel would have serious rebuilding to do in Tel Aviv and Haifa, among other places, and over 80% of the people it had before the destruction started.

Iran would have to stage its "Death to the Great Satan America!" rallies somewhere other than Tehran and Tabriz, and I suspect that Natanz and other parts of what used to be Persia would require extensive international aid before survivors could move back. Iran might have 75% of the people it started out with. The CSIS thinks that, for practical purposes, there wouldn't be an Iran any more.

I'm not so sure. People as a whole are resilient. I think the deciding factor is whether surviving Iranians would want to get back to the old hate-the-Jews-and-Yankees Islam, or try something else.

Even best-case estimates don't look good in the CSIS study, as reported:
 Low Estimate High Estimate 
Israeli deaths:200,000(4%)800,000(13%)
Iranian deaths:16,000,000(25%)20,000,000(30%)

Prospects don't look too good for Syria or Egypt, either, if the leaders of those countries decide to try a do-over of the Arab world's 1967 effort to push the Jews into the sea.

I sincerely hope that a war like this never happens.

The appalling death toll would suggest that Iran's leadership wouldn't start a war that would kill so many of their subjects. On the other hand, the ayatollahs might think that they're doing Iranian Muslims a favor: from what I understand of Islam's lunatic fringe, dying in a Jewicidal jihad would earn them a place in the Las-Vegas-style afterlife we've heard about - the 72 virgins and all that.

All things considered, I'd say it would be a good idea to reduce the odds that Iran gets nuclear weapons.

There's more at " 'Israel could survive nuclear war' " (Jerusalem Post), and "Report: Iran Would Suffer Up to 20 Million Casualties in Nuclear War With Israel" (

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.