middle-east-political-mapIran and its nuclear ambitions are again on center stage this week.

In the belief that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, the United States has been applying harsh economic sanctions on Iran in an attempt to force it to stop that development.

Iran insists that its nuclear program is designed for peaceful purposes only, that it has no intention of producing an atom bomb, and that the sanctions violate international law.

International inspectors were unable to find definite proof that Iran intends to build nuclear weapons, but they reported that they had not been allowed to inspect all possible nuclear sites.

As the U.S. Secretary of State and the Iranian Foreign Minister and ministers and ambassadors from other interested countries try to solve this deadlock at the United Nations,  the nuclear geography of the Middle East becomes relevant.

Look at the map above. To the east of Iran, that bit of green on the right edge of the map is Pakistan. Pakistan has nuclear weapons.  To the north of Iran that big red area is Russia, with hundreds or thousands of nuclear missiles left over from the Cold War.  To the west, near the left edge of the map, is Israel, which has its own nuclear weapons. And to the south, in the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, United States Navy aircraft carriers are on patrol, with nuclear armaments.  And less than a thousand miles further to the east, off the map, are India and China, each with nuclear weapons of its own.

I don’t think that anyone outside of Teheran knows for sure whether the leaders of Iran intend to join the “nuclear club.” But if they are building a Bomb,  the map can tell us why.