Anthony Cordesman, the acclaimed military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has a new book out on Iranian weapons of mass destruction. Needless to say, this is not a happy picture, and a lot of the book's conclusions are what you'd expect. The prospect of Iran having nukes would likely set off a nuclear race in surrounding countries. The prospect of Iran putting nukes in the hands of terrorists is a possibility, although we've heard this one before a la Saddam in 2003. I'm not sure why any country would struggle so mightily to get nukes and then give them away to terrorist allies. Yes, I guess you could set off nukes without it being traced back to you, but that seems like a pretty unreliable gamble. Interestingly, Cordesman notes that throughout all of this nuclear buildup, Iran's conventional forces are actually pretty crummy, although its missile technology is more than enough to intimidate neighbors. And its capacity for so-called asymmetrical warfare by causing havoc through Hezbollah or Hamas or in Iraq remains pretty high. None of this addresses the question of whether the president is doing the right thing by negotiating with Iran more directly, but it is a timely reminder from a sober voice that an Iran with nukes is not a pretty picture.
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