[Marxism] Nonprolif. Pact terms back Iran in fight with US, EU, Israel

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun May 15 06:50:57 MDT 2005


A BIGGER THREAT THAN THE BOMB
By Martin Woollacott

** The world can live with Iranian nuclear weapons.  But can the US? **

Guardian (UK)
May 13, 2005

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1482877,00.html

How much would it matter if Iran had the bomb?  Merely to pose this
question, 
within the Bush administration, would almost be treason.  European
countries, 
for their part, consider it indiscreet to raise it -- better to say that
a 
nuclear-armed Iran should be avoided if at all possible.  Yet the
question of 
how dangerous a development it would be is crucial.

Dangerous enough to justify a war, which is what the United States, and 
sometimes Israel, seem to think?  Dangerous enough for major sanctions,
in 
addition to the American ones already in place, which both those
countries 
certainly would argue?  Or merely regrettable and worrying, but not
worth 
making worse by either economic or military action, which is probably
the 
underlying position of the three European nations trying to mediate
between 
the United States and Iran over the Iranian nuclear program?

These differences, usually hidden by the efforts of the U.S. and the EU
to 
"stay on the same page" on Iran, are likely to be wrenched into the open
in 
the next few weeks if the Iranians resume fuel-enrichment activities, as
they 
have said they will.  First at the International Atomic Energy
Authority, and 
then, if the issue goes there, at the U.N. security council, the
Americans and 
the Europeans will be trying not only to overcome the indifference or 
hostility of many non-western states but to reconcile their own deeply 
divergent views.

The Iranians may, of course, retreat or sidestep -- they have done that
before 
-- and they might well respond to a proposal for another saving round of

negotiations.  There is certainly a possibility that this crisis is
being 
pumped up because of the Iranian presidential elections, perhaps by
supporters 
of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president who is running for
office 
again next month.  They might want relations with western countries to
be in a 
temporarily vexed state so as to take advantage of Rafsanjani's
reputation as 
a fixer and a pragmatist, someone whom Iranians should vote for because
he 
will be able to extricate the country from confrontation.

Even if that is true, manufactured crises can easily get out of hand.
But, 
whatever happens this time, it is obvious that Europe and America could
come 
to a parting of the ways over Iran, which would be worse and more
complete 
than the quarrel over Iraq.  If a confrontation with Iran played out to
the 
end, an isolated America would have no European allies for either
serious 
sanctions or military action.

That is, first, because the inescapable fact is that Iran would not be
in 
breach of its treaty obligations, at least not immediately.  And,
second, 
because the Europeans do not see Iranian nuclear weapons capacity as a 
catastrophe in the way that the Bush administration does.  Shaped as it
is by 
men who want to reverse the defeats of their youth, among which the
Iranian 
revolution and the consequent seizure of American diplomatic hostages
stands 
high, Bush's men want to see the Tehran regime gone from the world
stage, not 
emboldened by the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

The Americans have made it clear at the review conference on the 
non-proliferation treaty going on in New York that they believe the
treaty 
should be revised to reduce the entitlement to enrichment technology.
But 
they act as if their mere wish that it should be ought to have the force
of 
law, and have alienated the countries conferring in New York, making it
even 
less likely that the security council would back serious action against
Iran.

At least there were legal arguments back and forth over Iraq.  But, were
there 
to be war over Iran's nuclear activities, it would be war without law,
and 
America and Israel, were she foolish enough to join the US or act as its
proxy 
in an attack, would be alone in it.  War may be seen as too big a word
for the 
aerial attacks on nuclear installations that America and Israel might
conduct.  But the civilian casualties from such strikes might well be
high, and worse 
if there were radioactive releases. In any case, there is no doubt that
Iran 
would retaliate, in Iraq, in Lebanon, and elsewhere.

If we should ever get to that point it is arguable that the real
disaster 
would be that America had truly and finally gone beyond the
international pale 
rather than that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons.  For, if it is not
doing 
so now, it certainly would be in the wake of attacks, or in response to
the 
threat of them.

What would an Iranian nuclear weapon, or the achievement of the capacity
to 
produce one in short order, actually mean?  The Iranian regime is on the

defensive at home, where it has lost the trust, and even the interest,
of a 
large proportion of the people, and in its region, where it fears
Israel, and 
has no friends other than Syria.  A long view in Tehran might suggest
that 
events in Iraq may work out ultimately in Iran's favor, and then there
are new 
economic relationships with China and India that could have useful
political 
consequences in the future.

But the overwhelming reality for the Tehran regime is the enmity of
America 
and Israel under their present governments, and this is an America
which, 
thanks to Iraq, is now on Iran's doorstep.  That, in these
circumstances, an 
insecure Iranian government might seek to develop a nuclear weapons
option, a 
"bomb in the basement," would not be surprising.  But that once it
possessed 
such a capacity it would use it aggressively is hard to credit.  Against

Israel, whose response would be devastating?  Against which other
neighbor?  
Against the U.S., except in the event of an American invasion, and then
only 
on the invading forces?  The conclusion must be that an Iranian weapon
might 
constrain Israel and the U.S. a little in their dealings with Iran, but
it 
would not threaten them or anybody else.

It would still, of course, be a bad thing.  Proliferation by its nature 
increases the chances of the use of nuclear weapons, multiplying the bad

possibilities of their use by states or by terrorists.  But, if it were
to 
attack Iran, the United States would face a world united in its
opposition to 
what the leading power was doing.  Israel's chances of peace, if it took
part, 
would be terribly damaged.  Iran's possible evolution into a freer
society, 
evident in the social, demographic and cultural developments that are
already 
leaving the mullahs trailing behind, would be disrupted.  In any sane
ordering 
of calamity, an Iranian bomb or "near-bomb" must surely rank well below
the 
disaster of a major conflict between the United States and Iran.

m.woollacott at guardian.co.u





More information about the Marxism mailing list