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October 01, 2009

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Here's the scenario:

A US president says Iran must either fully accept some UN resolution or face severe consequences. Simultaneously hundreds of thousands of US troops are moved to Iraq or Armenia.

Iran's leadership says that a buildup of troops satisfies the NPT's requirement for a threat to Iranian interests sufficient to justify leaving the treaty.

In the time it will take to have the tanks, troops and support positioned, Iran may well have a nuclear weapon. If so, either the troops as they mass or if they invade may suffer thousands, maybe tens of thousands of losses in one event.

Yes, the US could retaliate. But can the US president sell to the US people tens of thousands of dead US soldiers for whatever the US is invading over? If an invasion is almost free, that's one thing. But if there will be a huge amount of US losses that changes the calculation of whether or not an invasion would be worth it.

Also, the US needs, in this scenario Iraqi or Armenian cooperation. The leaders of these countries, if Iran leaves the NPT, have a new calculation that an Iranian weapon could destroy bases used by US troops on their territory. If hosting US troops is free, that's one thing. But if their territory could be rendered useless that changes the calculation in another way. Now there's pressure on them to deny the US even the means to use their territory to attack.

Maybe the US would retaliate, but that doesn't help them just as it doesn't help the families of US troops who were being massed to invade Iran for some reason.

The ability to create a weapon does change the calculations.

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