Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Iran nuclear crisis puts Delhi and Mumbai at risk

From Fortune:

A session at the World Economic Forum’s annual Delhi conference on global risks was jolted out of a discussion on demography and health this morning when Robert Blackwill, a former U.S. Ambassador to India, warned that the country’s economic growth could be derailed by a looming crisis over Iran’s nuclear weaponry. Delhi and Mumbai could become targets for a nuclear attack, he said.

“I’m not forecasting a war but we are going down that river by about four knots,” declared Blackwill, who became deputy national security adviser to Condoleezza Rice after he gave up his ambassador’s post in India in 2003. He now works as a consultant and is president of Barbour Griffiths and Rogers in Washington.

Speaking before news emerged in Washington that intelligence agencies now suggest Iran may have halted its nuclear weapons as early as 2003, he said that a U.S. attack would lead to “a long war……alienate the Islamic world…… and increase terrorism globally.” On the other hand, if Iran acquired nuclear weapons, it would “change the world.” Other Sunni states would acquire weapons and India would be “a prime target,” with the “risk of nuclear attacks on Delhi and Mumbai.” India has of course been building up its own nuclear capability for 30 years, because it feels vulnerable in the long-term to a nuclear attack from China, and maybe in the shorter term from Pakistan. But Blackwill’s warning significantly widened the risk into the unknown.

“Within the next year or two, this president (of the United States) or the next president might face a decision to attack Iran’s military and nuclear facilities, with disastrous results, or acquiesce in Iran becoming a nuclear state,” he told the conference.

Later he said to me that there would be a “binary choice for the president to pull the trigger or acquiesce” in Iran’s nuclear arms capability, unless sanctions become “much stronger.”

That apocalyptic analysis from a former diplomat, who is well known in India for speaking his mind, usually in support of the country and its future, silenced most commentators at the conference. But Shamsher Mehta, director general of the Confederation of Indian Industry, said he would look differently at what was often regarded as a “clash of civilizations.” Hinting that the United States and other western powers should handle Iran differently, he said that “India represents an opportunity for a confluence of civilizations.”...MORE