Moreover, a nuclear-armed Iran would represent a major threat to regional and global security. It could deter the United States and others from responding to Iranian aggression or to Tehran's support for terrorism in the Middle East and beyond. And given the messianic streak of Tehran's current leaders, do we really want to run the risk of them passing nuclear materials or even a weapon on to al Qaeda?I don't know any other way to put this except to say this: Wanting to deter the US is not an immoral or irrational act. Indeed, it is explicitly rational and moral for a national leader to protect the sovereignty of their country. Hell, if Paul Martin wanted to get the bomb, he'd have good reason to.
Secondly, American pundits really shouldn't be throwing stones at the glass house that is "messianic leadership". I'm just sayin'.
Thirdly, Iran will never give nuclear material to Al Qaede. This will never happen. At all. Ever. Why? Because Al Qaeda has vowed to destroy Shia Islam. Indeed, one of the earliest humanitarian abuses of the Taliban regime was a Rwanda-style genocide campaign against Afghan Shia. Any bomb Tehran gives to the radical Sunnis of Al Qaeda is likely to stay in Tehran. One of the least-reported aspects of Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech was that until he used those words, Iran had been cooperating with the US to an extent in helping destroy the Taliban. This included holding escaped Al Qaeda leaders in Iran for the Americans, and even guaranteeing US flyover rights for any rescue missions. The Iranians really, really wanted the Taliban destroyed. However, once Bush called Iran a member of the AoE, many of Al Qaeda's top leaders were released, and we've never found them again. Some are presumably back in Afghanistan, where they're contributing to the death of NATO soldiers.
(For a bit more on how cooperative Iran was being pre-"Axis of Evil", you should read Risen's "State of War.")
That said, Daalder makes an excellent point here:
Iran could, of course, retaliate by pulling its oil off the world market, which would cause a price spike. But if Americans and Europeans are unwilling to run the risk of a temporary rise in oil prices as part of what it takes to prevent an Iranian bomb, then they had better be prepared to live with the consequences as well.If we aren't willing to endure economic hardship to defeat our enemies, then why the hell are we even bothering? If we aren't willing to endure a price of gasoline that the Europeans are already paying to deter an Iranian bomb, than we should really just shut the hell up.