No matter how much one tries to focus on the non-security bits of international relations, anyone who reads the news and is concerned about the world will get exposed to it pretty regularly. Yesterday, for instance, nine American warships carrying 17,000 military personnel were sent into the Persian Gulf. Some speculate that this was intended as a corollary to an announcement from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about Iran’s ongoing nuclear program. The strike group included two Nimitz carrier battle groups and 2,100 marines in landing ships. The ongoing war games will apparently “culminate in an amphibious landing exercise in Kuwait, just a few miles from Iran.”
According to the IAEA, Iran has about 1,300 centrifuges online at Natanz, with another 600 likely to become available over the summer. Having 3,000 operational centrifuges would produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb per year.
The question of how to deal with challenges to the existing non-proliferation regime is an acute one. More and more states will gain the technical capacity to make bombs in the next few decades. Many will be in dangerous parts of the world, with hostile neighbours who can be plausibly expected to be building bombs of their own. Furthermore, the inability of the current regime to prevent the North Korean test raises the question of how much influence the international community really has, especially when some states are willing to become pariahs.