Iran-US Latest: How Safe Is South Africa From The Threat Of Nuclear War?

How can we be three days into a new year and already be over it? We’ve had mass shootings in Johannesburg on Wednesday, more fires ripping through Australia on Thursday, and the threat of war between Iran and the US escalated dramatically on Friday. Truly, this sounds like a nightmare version of a Craig David song.

Iran-US conflict escalates

The way things are going, there won’t be much “chilling on Sunday” either. The US air strike on Baghdad has killed Iranian General Qasem Saleiman on Friday morning. The powerful political figure was highly influential in the Middle East, and the threat of “severe revenge” has already been issued.

US nuclear power vastly outnumbers that of Iran. But the Islamic nation has strong backing from China and Russia, who have missiles by the bucket-load. With people raising their concerns about the potential of World War 3 (the chances of this conflict turning nuclear are slim, but not off the table, by the way), we thought it was time to reassure our fellow South Africans.

Why South Africa is ‘safe’ from nuclear war

We probably don’t say this often enough, but boy, we are lucky to live in South Africa. There are several factors which mean our beloved country is one of the safest places in the world when it comes to surviving nuclear warfare. Our location, diplomacy and geo-politics have given us some breathing space.

  • South Africa is more than 8 000km away from the nearest country with a prepared nuclear arsenal (India). That’s one of the furthest possible distances away from such weapons, rivalled only by South America, Antarctica and the islands of Micronesia and the Pacific Ocean. That puts us in a very well-buffered “safety zone”.
  • Iran, which is 7 500km away, is understood to have a nuclear weapons programme. Recently, evidence has suggested they are ignoring UN directives in the pursuit of creating their own warheads – but their alleged Category 1 weapons may only be able to travel as far as 300km.
  • South Africa maintains decent relationships with both the US and Iran. Although there have been a couple of awkward moments with the former recently, Mzansi is seen as an ally to both parties. A carefully worded diplomatic statement from the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) should ensure that we avoid getting caught up in any conflict.
  • The northern hemisphere has the monopoly on weapons of mass destruction. All of the major nuclear superpowers are located there. If we hold our tongues and mind our business, we should be fine.

Other nuclear threats

Even if Kim Jong-Un invites himself to World War 3, South Africa should still remain untouched. His nuclear arsenal stands at somewhere between 30 to 60 individual weapons (according to US forces), but with North Korea shutting themselves off from the outside world, it’s difficult to understand what the exact figure is.

Siegfried Hecker of Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC visited NK’s Yongbyon nuclear facility in 2010, and believes they have produced enough highly enriched uranium to make six nuclear bombs a year. But with a maximum range of 9 000km, they wouldn’t make-up the 13 000km needed to reach Mzansi.

So saddle up, guys. If this truly is how the world will end, we’ve got ourselves a front-row seat.


Written by How South Africa

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