Is this. I’ve had a lot of respect for Rabbi Weiss’s work with “Open Orthodoxy” but maybe he should stick to his wheelhouse.
His basic point is that by letting Iran gain billions through the lifting of sanctions it will develop suitcase nukes, provide them to terrorists and/or use them on New York. Therefore the deal is bad. He asks us to imagine 9/11 with suitcase nukes.
Let’s put to one side the whole issue that this deal will prevent Iran from developing the technical capability of developing suitcase nukes, something no other country except the USSR and US has done, even though other nuclear powers possess the technical and financial means to do so.
What’s left is a basic ignorance about nuclear weapons that pervades not just the debate over the Iran Deal, but almost all conversations about them in general. The basic idea is that all nuclear weapons are the same. They are not.
The smallest nuclear weapons tested are very small. So small that if they were detonated in the densest parts of New York City, they might only damage one building. At the other end of the spectrum is the largest bomb ever tested, which was 50 megatons, or over 1,000,000 times more powerful than the smallest weapons. That is not a typo. 1 million times.
The Russian “suitcase nuke” was not really the size of suitcase like you’re being asked to picture, but was about 50 pounds. The American versions were human portable, but in huge packs. And their yields were either the same as the Davy Crockett on the low end, or 6 kilotons at the very highest. That’s about 1/3 of the yield that hit Hiroshima.
If they’re going to use a car, they can go bigger, but then we lose the scare factor of the “suitcase nuke.” A typical “suitcase nuke” detonated by a new nuclear power without sophisticated expertise (and, presumably without testing the device, since that would be detectable in numerous ways and breach even the permanent parts of the Iran deal) would struggle to do the damage that crashing planes into the World Trade Center did.
This is not to suggest that this is some kind of small inconvenience that can be brushed off, but that the scale of the damage we are talking about here is not the city-killing yield of ICBM launched thermonuclear devices. In other words, terrorists can inflict this much damage now without nuclear weapons.
Which leads to the problem with nuclear weapons. They are traceable. Isotope analysis would reveal where it came from. And if that analysis revealed Iran as the source, I very much doubt there would be an Iran for very much longer. The United States still has its nuclear deterrent with much more powerful weapons than anyone except China and Russia with much more sophisticated delivery methods than anyone including China and Russia.
If the Iranians wanted to inflict 9/11-like damage on us, why not unleash terrorists with conventional means, do the same amount, and deny plausibility instead of simply stirring up a hornets nest? There’s no response to this that makes any sense and none that in any way is relevant to the “deal.”
If Iran were on the cusp on developing thermonuclear weapons mounted on ICBMs, I would be all for taking them out. But all nuclear weapons are not the same. And if they gave up their program, which is basically what’s happening here, I’d be all for that too.
The reason we don’t want Iran to have even small nuclear weapons has nothing to do with Rabbi Weiss’s idiotic scenario. It has to do with Israel and the Gulf States that are both closer to Iran and so small that even a small attack could cause their collapse. We also do not wish the different strategic dynamics that take place between nuclear states to constrain our actions and our allies actions in the Middle East.
The idea that Iran might deploy a small nuclear weapon on New York is vanishingly unlikely, magnificently stupid, and completely irrelevant to this deal. I think it’s far more likely that ISIS will launch another 9/11 style attack without nuclear weapons or that nuclear weapons are fired in South Asia, East Asia, or in the Middle East simply because the United States retains its powerful nuclear deterrent and the identity of the party who fires a nuclear weapon remains in its traces. There is no false-flagging it.
Maybe in Weiss’s mind the money flowing to Iran will let them develop megaton strength suitcase nukes, but that’s just bad science fiction.
 The “Davy Crockett” has a yield of 20 tons. The “Tsar Bomba” was 50 megatons as tested, but designed to be up to 100 megatons.
 Iran has a population of about 80 million today. A countervalue strike with just 5 of the US’s B-83s would reduce that population by 10% immediately and injure the same number. Lawlessness, starvation, poisoning, untreated illness, fallout, and other after effects would probably increase that total substantially. Just 5 of our weapons would probably cause Iran to collapse. This is a pretty effective deterrent. Now consider if we fired 50 such weapons.
We caused both Afghanistan and Iraq to collapse and suffer hundreds of thousands of casualties after 9/11 and we did it by conventional means. So, even leaving aside the moral right to respond with nuclear weapons we would gain, we have a conventional deterrent as well.