Iran does not have nuclear weapons, nor even an active program to develop them.
So says the United States' recently released National Intelligence Estimate report.
Though some dispute the NIE's conclusions – mainly people hell-bent on starting another war – there's no disputing that nuclear-weapons proliferation, past and present, poses a grave threat to humanity. With the exception of earthquakes, climate change, a Martian invasion or a Giuliani presidency, nuclear weapons are the greatest known threat to humanity's survival.
Nuclear fuel is so powerful that even when it's not in a bomb or in a missile, it's deadly. If you don't believe me, ask the people who used to live near Chernobyl.
With the march to war with Iran now slowed to a mosey, let's pause to take a look at who already has nuclear weapons and why.
The United States is the world's first nuclear-weapons power. The first nuclear reaction took place in Illinois, in a lab constructed by Italian-born physicist Enrico Fermi on a squash court at the University of Chicago. Why squash? I suppose the racquetball courts were occupied.
The first nuclear explosion was carried out in New Mexico in July 1945. Less than one month later, the United States had denoted one bomb each over the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As of press time, they remain the only two instances in which nuclear weapons were used in war.
Horrific? Absolutely. The worst thing that ever happened ever ever? Quite possibly. But use of the weapons seemingly hastened the Japanese surrender, ending World War II. And for 62 years, it has served as an effective reminder of why nuclear weapons should not be used.
The United States had a nuclear monopoly until 1949. That's when, with the help of traitorous American scientists, the Soviet Union built and tested its first nuke. The United States code-named it Joe-1, in honor of then Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. How cute!
The Ruskies and the Americans launched a nuclear-arms race that, by the 1980s, produced a combined stockpile of nearly 65,000 nuclear warheads between them, roughly 64,998 more than was necessary to destroy both nations. After the Cold War ended and communism joined 8-track tapes and orange shag carpet on the ash heap of history, both nations trimmed their nuclear arsenals. The two nations are now only capable of destroying the world a mere several hundred times over.
Along with the two "superpowers," the United Kingdom, France and China are known as members of the so-called nuclear club. They belong to the club because they managed to develop and test nukes before the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty limiting nuclear-weapons development went into effect in 1970.
The United Kingdom tested its first nuke in 1952 off the coast of Australia. Dubbed "Hurricane," the Brit bomb was similar to the American bomb dropped on Nagasaki seven years earlier.
France exploded its Le Nuke in the Algerian desert in 1960. Dubbed "Gerboise Bleue" by the French military, it remains the only nuclear weapon in history to produce a mushroom cloud in a veal reduction sauce.
China exploded its first nuke in 1964. It was based on a Soviet design, only cheaper and made of plastic.
Four other nations – India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea – have nuclear weapons, but are not currently signed on to the NPT.
India and Pakistan have their nukes pointed at one another.
Israel developed its nukes to ensure neighboring Arab armies would never overrun it. The West tolerates Israel's nuclear arsenal, while threatening war over the possibility that Iran might get one, which annoys the non-Israeli Middle East to no end.
North Korea has its nukes because its dictator figured the United States, with whom it never actually signed a treaty to end the Korean War, would treat it a lot nicer if it had one. He was right.
Scariest three words in the English language: "Harvard economics professor."
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