As part of his effort to convince to world “not to take any option off the table” with respect to Iran, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak proposed to an audience at Tel Aviv University that if Iran got a nuclear weapon it’s entirely possible they’d come up with some sort of GPS-based detonator, stick it on a ship of some sort, and sail it to some unspecified east-coast US port city as part of an attack.
In addition to proposing this wildly implausible scenario, the minister suggested that the Israeli government would be in favor of a “brief and purposeful dialogue” between the United States and Iran, provided it came with a number of limitations and demands.
Putting aside the logistics of sailing a nuclear weapon into an American port, both this hypothetical and last week’s suggestion that Barack Obama might offer Israel a “nuclear umbrella” rest on the assumption that Iran has, or is even attempting to develop, nuclear weapons, which the most recent US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran said they aren’t attempting, and which IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei says they lack the raw materials to attempt even if they wanted to.
Minister Barak’s imagined future scenario as well as comments by US Ambassador Schulte that it was “plausible” Iran might at some future date try to produce a nuclear weapon bear a striking resemblance to the imagined menace posed by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s supposed nuclear arsenal. In that case, repeated comments by officials that assumed the Iraqi government either had or was close to having a nuclear weapon served, despite no solid evidence, as the justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Whether the repeated public references to Iran’s equally illusory nuclear weapons program will have the same effect remains to be seen.