Thursday, October 18, 2007

The President Who Cried Wolf

In hindsight, going to war in Iraq was a grave mistake. Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. There's nothing new or groundbreaking about that statement.

Now the world is abuzz with talk of Iran developing nuclear weapons. A lot of people feel like this is deja vu all over again, and in a way they are right. President Bush and most of the presidential candidates seem to be on a war footing with Iran, but people don't believe the WMD argument anymore. Bush used it up in 2003 and it turned out to be false. Why believe in the Iranian nuclear threat this time around?

I believe Iran is developing nuclear weapons. I admit I believed the same thing about Iraq four years ago, but this time around I'm more convinced. For one thing, Ahmedinijad has made several statements about Iran's nuclear program, though he claims it is for peaceful purposes. Why does this oil rich country need nuclear power? Have the ayatollahs suddenly become environmentalists? Second of all, a lot more countries are warning of Iranian nukes than there were countries that supported an invasion of Iraq. Changes of leadership are not the only cause of this major difference. Both France and Germany have said they are truly concerned.

President Vladimir Putin is trying to play against the United States and Europe in this matter. He's shortsighted here. Though he acknowledged Iranian nukes would be a threat to Russia, he doesn't think they are being manufactured. He thinks it is in Russia's best interest to side with Iran on this issue, but that is extremely dangerous for his country, exactly because Iranian nukes are also threats to Russian national security.

Having said all this, I still oppose a war against Iran at this point. A war is the second worst option on the table, only being better than letting Iran get nukes. A war would be disastrous for everybody. Even with a large international coalition, such a war would be devastating to many countries and wouldn't assure the destruction of Iran's nuclear program. The United States military is stretched thin and Israel would be bombarded by missiles from the east and north, courtesy of Iran and their Lebanese subsidiary, Hezbollah.

The best option is harsh sanctions until Iran allows sufficient inspections. This is the only option that would avoid disaster, but countries like Russia and Venezuela are making the success of such a move doubtful.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Previous comment here, with corrected link:

    Harsh sanctions would most certainly be a disaster, let's remember the results of the brutal sanctions regime in Iraq.

    You ask why Iran would need nuclear energy. Oil is not a renewable resource and many countries believe nuclear energy is an investment in their long term energy future. Countries such as France currently source over 60% of their energy from nuclear sources. I'm not debating the merits or otherwise of the nuclear energy argument, but to deny Iran's right to nuclear energy is to subscribe to flagrant hypocrisy and double standards.

    And what if it wanted a nuclear weapon? General Abizaid most recently admitted that the world could live with Iran's nukes, just as lives with the USA's, Israel's, Russia's, India's, Pakistan's, China's, the UK's ... The recent experience of North Korea shows that having acquired nukes, diplomacy is magically made to work ... In contrast, Iraq had no nuclear deterrent against the disgusting invasion and occupation of its country, coming after a first invasion and then a decade-long sanctions regime. Israel struck its early nuclear development in 1982. How can anyone blame Iran for wanting to join the nuclear club if this is the thing that will act as a deterrent and prevent an attack of imperial hubris?

    Second, while Iran is indeed sitting on large reserves of oil, it does not have developed infrastructure to extract, refine and distribute the oil.

    Third, the hypocrisy of many "leaders" in the west can be seen in the fact that American and German companies were actually on board as joint developers with Iran's nascent nuclear plans in the 1970s, with the CIA propped up Shah of Iran. See here for more.

  3. The sanctions can be avoided if Iran opens up its nuclear facilities to full inspections. It isn't punishment for the sake of punishment.

    Some think a nuclear Iran won't be a threat. Some do. I don't think it's wise to wait and see who is right.

    Helping the Shah build his nuclear program was a grave mistake, but it doesn't make the leaders hypocrits. They didn't see the Shah as a threat. They do see the current regime as a menace now. Besides, as the cliche goes, two wrongs (building the Shah's nuclear facilities in the 70's and allowing Iran to have nukes now) don't make a right.

  4. Well I agree with you as I happen not to be too keen on nukes, but as I understand it, Iran has in fact opened up to inspections by the IAEA. Its the Bush administration that won't accept or is downplaying the largely green-light IAEA report.

    A nuclear threat is subjective. When will Israel open up its nuclear sites to inspection? When will India join the NPT?

  5. There were IAEA reports that complained about limited access.

    The threat is subjective, but not irrational. International relations and politics are always subjective to some degree.

    When will Israel, India and Pakistan join the NPT and let inspectors in? Who knows. Iran already has, so it should be totally open to inspections.

  6. “When Ayatollah Khomeini came to power and the Islamic Revolution, before the Iran-Iraq War, and I actually was present as he said this in Tehran. He said nuclear weapons are gifts of the devil and we will close them down. And all nuclear instillations, and they weren’t nuclear weapon instillations, they were just nuclear instillations for power generation, were closed down under his orders. At the height of the Iran-Iraq War in 1986, when Saddam was supported by Britain and the United States, and was using gas, a weapons of mass destruction, against the Iranians, the Iranian High Command came to the conclusion that he was using these weapons, and they reluctantly reopened the nuclear establishment in Iran as a direct result of our friend Saddam using gas and chemicals. Which in some cases were supplied by companies on the East Coast of the United States. That’s what put the Iranians in the nuclear game.”

    ~Robert Fisk


    I think Ahmadinejad is a crackpot ... But the goal of both governments both before and after the revolution was to decrease our need for oil.

    This is not about Ahmadinjead because under Khatami, we were going the same route ...


    When will Israel, India and Pakistan join the NPT and let inspectors in? Who knows.

    So since we don't know what's going on in these countries, and Iran is limiting the inspections ...

    Do we all just nuke each other? Or at least threaten to? If the world had spent half the time/resources it has on Iran's nuclear program trying to discuss the disarmament issue ... We'd have made some real progress ...

  7. According to Robert Fisk, it isn't dependence on oil that made Iran restart its nuclear program. Iraq had unconventional weapons, so Iran wanted some too.

    Nobody is going to nuke Iran. Hopefully, even a conventional military strike can be avoided.