William J. Broad of the New York Times provides a compilation of quotes from experts on Iran’s nuclear program in his report about the growing list of reasons against militarily attacking the country. In short, bombing Iran will spur a bomb-making spree and “unite what is now a fractious state…and build an atmosphere of mobilizing rage.”
“People always assume the bad guys want nukes,” says Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear nonproliferation specialist at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. “But I think there’s usually a hesitation about the balance of risk. My sense is that the threat of military action makes bad guys feel like they need the bomb.”
Pakistan’s foreign minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, seemed to have embodied that kind of determination when he said famously in 1965, “If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own.”
Mark Fitzpatrick, a senior nonproliferation official at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a prominent arms analysis group in London, said in an e-mail interview that it was “almost certain” that a military strike on Iran would result in “a Manhattan-style rush to produce nuclear weapons as fast as possible.”
These analysts maintain that the history of nuclear proliferation shows that attempting to thwart a nuclear program through an attack can have consequences opposite of those intended. Mr. Lewis of the Monterey Institute and other experts often cite Iraq. Israel’s attack on the Iraqi Osirak reactor in 1981, they argue, hardened the resolve of Saddam Hussein and gave his nuclear ambitions new life.