Jeff Goldberg writes:
I care mainly about which Iranians have the bomb, rather than whether Iran has the bomb. Maybe this is naive -- and maybe I'm caught up, as a suspected neocon fellow traveler, in the excitement of watching Middle Easterners attempting to free themselves from such an obviously tyrannical regime -- but I have to think that the people flooding the streets in protest are not the sort of people who would want to see their country enter a nuclear confrontation with Israel.
I agree that the nature of the regime matters. But I think it matters far less than the outcome of Iran's nuclear program, regardless of who is in charge. An Iranian bomb is a scary prospect for several reasons not directly related to Israel. One is the regional nuclear arms race it would precipitate, with Sunni rivals of Iran, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, likely to start up their own programs in response, something that creates a whole new set of enormous proliferation and detonation risks.
Then there's the question of how secure a full-fledged Iranian nuclear weapons program would be. Even if a 'moderate' regime in Tehran weren't interested in nuking Tel Aviv, and simply enjoyed the bomb's prestige and deterrent factors, who's to say that Iran's production and storage facilities would be secure enough to prevent material from falling into the hands of rogue Islamist zealots with different ideas? (Pakistan is enough to worry about on that front for now, I'd say.)
I'm sure that Goldberg fully appreciates these points. But amid the understandable enthusiasm for the green protests, it's worth reiterating that Mousavi is apparently as committed to the bomb as is Admadinejad, and that it's a pretty bad outcome either way.
Which may also be how how Obama sees this question.