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

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sun May 15 07:42:36 MDT 2005

By Martin Woollacott

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

Guardian (UK) May 13, 2005


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

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

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

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

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