Monday, May 25, 2009

I do not think your Iran means what you think it means

(ok, yes, I know, I've used that gag before, but, um, luckily, I have very few regular readers, so who'm I hurting?)

Nice article in Newsweek by Fareed Zakaria here briefly highlighting the political structure of Iran (in brief: complicated) and why it might indeed not be developing nuclear weapons. (I've discussed this topic here, here, and here.) As I've said before and am saying again, and Zakaria backs me up on this, think the Mullahs and Ahmedinejad are crazy all you want, but they're not MAD; that is, they're not immune to the salient guiding ideas of nuclear weapons, Mutually Assured Destruction. Zakaria elaborates on the plans and aspirations of some within the Iranian regime, as well as the declarations of the present-day Iranian regime's founding father and other, um, luminaries that nuclear weapons are un-Islamic:
The country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa in 2004 describing the use of nuclear weapons as immoral. In a subsequent sermon, he declared that "developing, producing or stockpiling nuclear weapons is forbidden under Islam." Last year Khamenei reiterated all these points after meeting with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei. Now, of course, they could all be lying. But it seems odd for a regime that derives its legitimacy from its fidelity to Islam to declare constantly that these weapons are un-Islamic if it intends to develop them. It would be far shrewder to stop reminding people of Khomeini's statements and stop issuing new fatwas against nukes.

Happily, most of the rhetoric seeming to be on a path to war with Iran has ceased, though the conclusion that they are developing nuclear weapons seems to continue unabated (and disbelief of the last time our own intelligence said they weren't developing weapons anymore and were less determined to do so than before is so high that it doesn't warrant a mention, seemingly).

(Hmm, immediate postscript: naturally, the debate on Iran's nuclear weapons development is more complicated than it appears, though I still tend to agree with Zakaria. But from Foreign Policy:
"This is another reflection of the grossly mistaken reaction to the intelligence estimate on this subject in late 2007, a reaction that stemmed in large part from some infelicitous and misleading formulations in the estimate itself," says former senior CIA official Paul Pillar. "The only thing reportedly halted in 2003 was weapons design work. More important is what [the LAT] mentions in the latter half of his piece, the continuation of uranium enrichment -- which, as the Bush administration correctly pointed out, is the long pole in the tent that will determine when Iran would have the capability to build a nuclear weapon.
Of course, developing nuclear power is well within Iran's international rights, it scares everyone to think that they could get close to a weapon. Suffice it to say, I'm scared of ANYONE having nuclear weapons, as everyone should be:
Surely no sane person wants Iran (or any nation) to develop nuclear weapons. A reasonable resolution of the present crisis would permit Iran to develop nuclear energy, in accord with its rights under the Non- Proliferation Treaty, but not nuclear weapons. Is that outcome feasible? It would be, given one condition: that the U.S. and Iran were functioning democratic societies in which public opinion had a significant impact on public policy.

As it happens, this solution has overwhelming support among Iranians and Americans, who generally are in agreement on nuclear issues. The Iranian-American consensus includes the complete elimination of nuclear weapons everywhere (82% of Americans); if that cannot yet be achieved because of elite opposition, then at least a "nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East that would include both Islamic countries and Israel" (71% of Americans). Seventy-five percent of Americans prefer building better relations with Iran to threats of force. In brief, if public opinion were to have a significant influence on state policy in the U.S. and Iran, resolution of the crisis might be at hand, along with much more far-reaching solutions to the global nuclear conundrum.
--(from a piece by Noam Chomsky, re-posted in part in the J Continuum here).

And as I said in "Iran: Can't get fooled again?":
been used by... us, the US. We had our reasons (whose conclusions I question, but that's a different story). But nonetheless, in the issue of the insanity of destroying millions of people, only we have enaged in that. In the insanity of mutually assured destruction, well -- no one has ever engaged on that with nukes, and need we say that WE had the same posture on that as the USSR? Dr. Strangelove notwithstanding, we've not proved we're necessarily saner than self-concerned despots with nukes who refuse to use them so as to save their own hides. SO -- I'm just sayin', while it's too early to assume Ahmadinejad doesn't mean us harm and indeed is not the "Jew-hating, Holocaust-denying Islamo-fascist who has threatened to 'wipe Israel off the map'" he's been said to be, it's also way too early to determine he IS, barring the "truthiness" we feel of an Iranian head of state being antagonistic, messianic, anti-semitic, and dangerous. Just because we looked Iran up in our gut and found it under "danger" doesn't mean that we're on our path to not being fooled again...

So... can we get fooled again?


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