Putin and Iran

More

Vladimir Putin's warnings against military action against Iran deserve to be taken very seriously. Since we're not contemplating actually conquering Iran and trying to occupy its territory, people need to understand that the post-strike diplomatic environment is going to be much more important to the future of the Iranian nuclear program than is any damage that bombing Iran with our on-the-table options might or might not do. If Russia decides to just send some scientists with schematics and materiel over to Iran and show them how to build a nuclear bomb, then -- bam -- nuclear bomb.

Conversely, at the moment not only is Iran under some diplomatic pressure to stop short of weaponizing, many countries around the world are taking direct measures to prevent the Iranians from just easily going and buying the stuff they need. Insofar as an unprovoked American military attack convinces other countries that the real dangerous lunatics live in DC rather than Teheran, countries around the world could cut back on their vigilance and make it much easier for an Iranian nuclear program to succeed.

The point is that when people talking about the Iranians being such-and-such time period away, or some bombing effort taking them back x number of years, they're talking as if progress toward a nuclear weapon proceeds at a constant pace. In practice, one of the factors that determines how quickly you can proceed is the international context. Right now, things are pretty tricky for Iranian nuclear scientists. Military action that doesn't reflect a firm, UN-backed consensus grounded in some reasonable interpretation of international law (military action that does reflect such a consensus seems very, very unlikely but in principle it could happen) could dramatically alter that.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Remote Warehouse Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where the Wild Things Go

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Adults Need Playtime Too

When was the last time you played your favorite childhood game?

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In