Why This Obsession With Iran?
Why This Obsession With Iran?
"Iran is not seeking to have the atomic bomb, possession of which is
pointless, dangerous and is a great sin from an intellectual and a
religious point of view."
Thus did supreme leader Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei declare in February that Iran's possession of atomic
weapons would be a mortal sin against Allah.
It is also the
unanimous judgment of the U.S. intelligence community, declared in 2007
and affirmed in 2011, that Iran has abandoned any program to build
Is the Ayatollah lying? Is the entire U.S. intel community wrong?
plants, at Natanz, where uranium is enriched to 5 percent, and at
Fordow, where it is enriched to 20 percent -- both below weapons grade
-- are under constant U.N. monitoring. Iran has offered to surrender its
20 percent uranium and cease enriching to that level, if the West will
provide isotopes for its nuclear medicine and lift some of the more
No deal, says the United States. Iran must give up enrichment entirely and indefinitely.
is the sticking point in the negotiations. Iran contends that as a
signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, she has the right to
enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. On this, the Iranian people stand
behind their government.
Should this deadlock be a cause for war?
Iran did divert low-grade nuclear fuel to some secret plant to enrich
it to weapons grade. The process would take months, if not years. Iran
would then have to build and test an explosive device that the world
would know about in hours. Iran would then have to weaponize the device.
The whole process would take longer than a year, perhaps
several. We would learn about it and have time to exercise a military
option long before it came to pass.
The Israelis, with hundreds
of nuclear weapons, would probably have learned about it before us. And,
fearing Iran more, they would not hesitate to use what they have to
prevent an atom bomb in Tehran.
Comes the retort: President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a certifiable fanatic who has threatened to wipe
Israel off the map. He cannot be allowed to get anywhere near a nuclear
Yet whatever Ahmadinejad said years ago, and that remains
in dispute, he does not control the military, he does not decide on
war, and he leaves the presidency next July and heads back to academia.
Is America afraid of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
Where, then, is the mortal threat to justify the U.S. preparations for war with Iran described in the national press this week?
The Financial Times' Gideon Rachman argues that our obsession with Iran is obscuring a far greater potential threat.
possesses perhaps 100 nuclear bombs and is building more, and
anti-Americanism there is far more rampant than in Iran. He writes:
provided nuclear technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran itself. It
came dangerously close to nuclear conflict with India in 1999. As for
terrorism, Osama bin Laden was actually living on Pakistani soil for
many years, and the tribal areas in Pakistan are still al-Qaida's most
"Pakistan was also the launch pad for the
terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008, in which 164 people were killed.
Although Pakistan's government condemned the attacks, there is strong
evidence that the terrorists had links to Pakistan's intelligence. If
the Mumbai attacks had been launched from Iran, the West would be
shouting about 'state-sponsored terrorism.'"
Seven in 10
Pakistanis regard America as an enemy. And the drone strikes ramped up
by President Obama, which have taken the lives of many innocent
Pakistanis, have increased the animosity.
Yet, U.S. planes and
warships are heading into the Persian Gulf, as 44 U.S. senators have
urged the president to break off talks with Tehran, toughen the
sanctions even further and prepare for war.
Meanwhile, Iran is
testing missiles that can hit Israel and U.S. bases, and its large fleet
of missile boats is exercising in the Gulf.
Otto von Bismarck
said that preventive war was like committing suicide out of fear of
death. Are we Americans headed for yet another unnecessary war?
1959, President Eisenhower invited Nikita Khrushchev, the Butcher of
Budapest, to the United States for 10 days of touring and talks. In
1972, Richard Nixon traveled to Beijing to toast and talk with Chairman
Mao, who was responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of Chinese
and tens of thousands of Americans in Korea. Ronald Reagan sought
constantly for an opportunity to sit down across from the rulers of the
Iran is not remotely in that league, either in
crimes attributed to the regime or any actual or potential threat to the
Have we no statesmen who can sit down, like
Reagan at Reykjavik, and negotiate with Iran's leaders for verifiable
guarantees that she is not moving to nuclear weapons in return for
something approaching normal relations?
If we could sit down with
Stalin and Mao, why are the Ayatollah or Ahmadinejad so far beyond the
pale? Can we just not handle that?
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