Should Iranian Nukes Be America's Highest National Security Priority?

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Mitt Romney says he'd treat them that way if elected president.



Speaking in Jerusalem on Sunday, Mitt Romney said the following: "Today the regime in Iran is five years closer to developing nuclear weapons capability. Preventing that outcome must be our highest national security priority." I hope Iran never gets a nuclear weapon. But is preventing it really our highest priority? Is it more important than preventing Al Qaeda from buying or stealing a nuke? More important than preventing a bio-weapons attack? More important than disrupting another 9/11-style attack on multiple American cities? More important than avoiding an unnecessary military exchange with China or Russia? I think those should be higher priorities.

It's difficult to know if Mitt Romney actually regards Iranian nukes as his highest priority, or if he just thinks it's the subject on which he can most usefully draw a contrast with President Obama (though it's unclear what the differences in their actual positions are, especially since both men are prone to changing them).

Various Iran experts have warned against a military attack against the nation's nuclear program. For example:

RAND, which has come to terms with the certainty of a nuclear-armed Iran and the inability of preventing it from enriching uranium, as most of its citizens support such a program, believes that Netanyahu and Barak's approach "rests on a faulty assumption that a future, post-attack Middle East would indeed be free of a nuclear-armed Iran. In fact, a post-attack Middle East may result in the worst of both worlds: a nuclear-armed Iran more determined than ever to challenge the Jewish state, and with far fewer regional and international impediments to doing so."

The document further stated that "U.S. intelligence officials should support the assessments of former and current Israeli officials who have argued against a military option.

If Mitt Romney is elected it will be interesting to see if his rhetoric on Israel stays the same, or if it is another instance of him professing deep passion for a cause, only to later change his position.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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