West’s Dilemma Over Iran
Arab News, Tuesday November 2007
A new report on Iran’s nuclear program has the US and its allies in a tizzy. The report issued by the UN’s nuclear watchdog the IAEA indicates Iran has 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz, whirling away like spin driers on steroids.
Never mind that the Iranians are only enriching uranium to industrial levels, as far as certain Western leaders are concerned Iran has crossed a red line. Washington and Tel Aviv are debating ‘now or never’ action: to bomb or not to bomb, that is the question.
The media is hyping up the threat, just as it did prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Newspaper after newspaper has published portions of the IAEA report, adding their own spin on the spinning centrifuges and portraying their own conclusions as though they came from the UN agency itself.
This is how Julian Borger, the Guardian’s Diplomatic Editor phrases it. “Iran has installed 3,000 centrifuges for enriching uranium — enough to begin industrial scale production of nuclear fuel and build a warhead within a year the UN’s nuclear watchdog reported last night.”
The Times showed parallel hysteria with the headline “Iran could build atom bomb within a year, says nuclear watchdog.”
Australia’s paper The Age is equally disingenuous in writing that the report “confirmed that Iran had installed 3,000 enriching centrifuges, opening the way to the production of weapons-grade uranium.”
But hang on a minute. The report itself says no such thing. It doesn’t even mention bombs or warheads. It does say 266 tons of low-grade uranium has been produced since March 2004 “all of which remains under the agency containment and surveillance.”
Moreover, rather than being a shocking expose of Iran’s covert enrichment activities the report merely sets down on paper what the Iranian president proudly admitted to possessing earlier this month.
The fact is Iran hasn’t done anything wrong in regards to its nuclear program. It has openly stated it is enriching uranium for its civilian nuclear energy program under the terms of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.
The IAEA have inspectors and cameras in situ and the report concludes that “the agency has been able to verify the nondiversion of declared nuclear material in Iran.” It also says Iran has provided the agency with access to declared nuclear material and has provided the required nuclear material accountancy reports...”
“Iran has provided sufficient access to individuals and has responded in a timely manner to questions and provided clarifications and amplifications on issues raised in the context of the work,” says the report while noting, however, that “its cooperation has been reactive rather than proactive.”
All in all, this was a positive report, which begs the questions why it was deliberately, some might say dishonestly, spun the other way, and, moreover, why isn’t there similar hysteria related to nuclear weapons programs of countries that haven’t even signed up to the NPT, such as Israel and India? And let’s be honest, North Korea, which tested missiles, made open threats, and displayed its nuclear prowess was treated with kid gloves. The answer is simple. Both Israel and India are US allies while North Korea was out of bounds due to the Chinese umbrella. Furthermore, the Indian bomb was probably viewed as a useful counter-balance to Pakistan’s.
So forget international laws and treaties. Bin any notion of right and wrong. There is only one imperative at play. Those nations anointed by the US are immune from criticism. Independent countries that refuse to bow to American diktats or cuddle Israel are open targets.
The crux of the issue is this. The international community (read the West) does not trust Iran even though it has neither invaded nor threatened another country for centuries. The Bush administration has made it clear it is not prepared to accept a nuclear-capable Iran and George Bush has promised to take a decisive line during the remaining 14 months of his presidency.
At present, though, Bush and the more hawkish elements of his government led by Vice-President Dick Cheney, who would like nothing more than to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, are stymied by China and Russia. They have not only made it clear an attack on Iran would be unacceptable but are also railing against further anti-Iranian UN Security Council sanctions.
There is little likelihood that China and Russia could be urged to leap aboard the bomb Iran bandwagon due to China’s extensive economic and energy interests in Iran and Russia’s increasing stand against America’s expanded regional hegemony. In this case, the US must either cobble together another coalition of the willing in accordance with international law or risk the substantial consequences of going it alone.
Israel, on the other hand, has no such compunction. Over the decades it has shown little respect for international laws, conventions and treaties and regularly snubs its nose at the UN and the International Criminal Court. If Israel were to launch ‘pre-emptive’ strikes on Iran it would cite existentialist concerns and expect to be forgiven just as it was during post 1981 when it destroyed the Iraqi reactor. Any such attack would also give the US an entry into the fray under cover of aiding the ally numerous presidents have sworn to protect.
However, for the people of this region who do not want another war — including 42 percent of Israelis according to a Ha’aretz poll — even though they may be uncomfortable living alongside a nuclear empowered Iran, there is a chink of light.
According to the Daily Telegraph, both the US and Israel are reluctantly taking the bomb Iran option off the table because such an action “isn’t worth the risks” and in any event, might only serve to “set the program back a couple of years.”
The article quotes an adviser to the Pentagon as saying, “The more they looked at the intelligence and the information they had, the more pessimistic they have become about what could be achieved on the operational front by military action.”
It’s also worth noting that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has recently softened the rhetoric, indicating that her boss might need a new mandate from Congress to launch another conflict.
But don’t hold your breath. It’s possible such statements are being made to keep Iran off guard and quiet the loudening voices of the peace camp. The nations of this region can only wait in trepidation until January 2009 when at least one regime change is a sure thing.
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