The atomic bomb (two of them) ended World War II. Although it cost thousands of lives, many agree that it saved many more. The energy released was awesome and many countries rushed to obtain similar weapons: Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea and now (allegedly) Iran. The two largest atomic powers, Russia and the United States, used their arsenals as a threat to maintain world peace. This was not always successful: witness the Korean and Vietnam wars. But at least there were no atomic weapons used. Now we are becoming concerned about the use of atomic weapons in the cause of jihad, specifically against the West but also between the Sunnis and Shias. This brings us to Iran and who should have atomic weapons in their arsenals and how worldwide security can be maintained.

Why should there be clashes between Sunnis and Shias? They are both of the Islamic culture. As I understand the difference, the Shias believe succession to Muhammad must be through direct descendants. On the other hand, the Sunnis believe that succession should pass through the most worthy believers of Islam. Both sects believe they are descendants of Abraham and worship the same God (Allah). They both believe the lessons from the Koran provide the pathway to a holy life and an after-death reward. To Christians and Jews, also part of the Abrahamic group, this may seem a trivial difference; but to the Shias and Sunnis these differences might seem irreconcilable: at least to the present.

We are told that if Iran obtains “the bomb,” there will be a rush by the Sunni states, most of the other Middle Eastern Muslims, to do the same. There seems to be that much rancor between the Sunnis and the Shias. But the overwhelming fear is on the side of the Israelis. The Iranian Shiites have not reconciled with the presence of a Jewish state in their part of the world, even though most of the Sunni states have accepted them. Also Iran believes that if Israel can possess “the bomb” they should also. (Isn’t human ego wonderful?)

During the stalemate in the Iraq war in 2006, most of the western powers believed that President Bush and the United States were wrong in attacking that country. They did support the attack on Afghanistan because of 9/11, but many never accepted the reason for invading Iraq: that it possessed weapons of mass destruction and would threaten and destabilize the Middle East. As Iran began to rile the Middle East, our NATO allies believed that force was not a valid option, except as a last resort. They urged diplomacy and dialogue. President Bush did not challenge that belief and neither has his successor, President Obama. Iran’s leaders, knowing the demeanor of the West, have been moving along with their development of nuclear energy for “peaceful purposes.” They know the West will not invade them. The West has had enough of armed combat in that area. The one “outlier” is Israel.

The one nation that truly fears a nuclear Iran and has the capacity to act in a way that is preventive is Israel. (Witness what they did in northeastern Syria in 2007 when they blew up a North Korean abetted atomic development facility.) Israel depends on the West and especially the United States for its security. Hezbollah in nearby Lebanon is a sworn enemy of Israel. Iran succors that movement and likely Hamas also; and this support adds to Israel’s concern with Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon. The truly pressing question is whether Israel will act on its own in attacking Iran’s developing nuclear facilities.

There are further questions that need to be answered. Does Israel have the necessary intelligence concerning the locations of Iran’s various nuclear activities? Will the West support Israel? (There is still plenty of Western guilt following the Holocaust in World War II.) Does Israel have the necessary weapons and delivery abilities to effectively scuttle Iran’s nuclear ambitions? Does the West still wish to pursue attempts at negotiations with Iran using the threat of economic sanctions? And the biggie: will China support those sanctions?

One of the big alternatives, however, is: will the populace of Iran, whose majority is under the age of 29 and connected with Western culture through cyberspace, rise up and overthrow the current ruling powers, Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards? Will the West be willing and able to abet such an event and then welcome the new Iran into world society? Atomic energy can have such a great future in providing the world’s increasing needs for energy; but human ego can turn such a prize into a new form of Holocaust.