No-one is going to rise to the defence of Iranian president Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, who outraged world opinion last week with his call for
Israel to be “wiped off the map.” Combined with the continuing
controversy over Iran’s nuclear program, they have added a sense of
urgency to confrontation with the Iranian theocracy.

It has to be said, however, that the Iranians seem to have a better
understanding of nuclear strategy than some of their opponents. In
response to western protests, supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei was
quoted yesterday saying “These ignorant people do not realize that nuclear weapons are no good for toppling regimes or governments.”

He’s right. Suppose Iran did acquire a nuclear weapon – what on earth
is it supposed to do with it? Any use of it against Israel, or for that
matter against anyone else, would simply invite massive retaliation by
the United States, which has enough nukes to turn Iran into a parking
lot at a few hours’ notice.

Deterrence works. Perhaps some people think Iran’s rulers are possessed
by such religious fanaticism that they would risk worldly destruction
for promised rewards in the afterlife, but there is no evidence for
this: their behaviour suggests that they are crafty, self-interested

We already have an Islamic dictator with weapons of mass destruction –
General Musharraf of Pakistan. And while the West’s cozying up to him
is morally questionable, Pakistan poses no strategic threat. America’s
retaliatory capacity is enough to make sure of that.

Iran’s mullahs may still be trying to build a nuclear weapon, whether
for deterrence of their own or just for national pride. But it is
equally possible that their nuclear program is, as they claim, just for
generating electricity. Certainly nuclear proliferation is a problem
wherever it occurs, but we should not allow alarmism about Iran to get
out of hand. Remember where that got us to in Iraq.