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the blog

Monday Oct 22, 2007

The Right Iran Question

DIck Cheney said on Sunday:

The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences. The United States joins other nations in sending a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

In other words, he would rather guarantee a regional war than have Iran possess a single nuclear weapon that is not likely to be used in a war.

Of course, this is how the question will likely be framed for the next two years: would you "allow" Iran to have a nuclear weapon (or have the "knowledge" to build a nuclear weapon), or would you go to war first?

What we shouldn't allow is having the Iran issue framed this way.

Lest we soon forget, the Bush Administration just "allowed" North Korea to have a nuclear weapon.

And there was no nuclear holocaust.

It is by no means a good thing that North Korea has nukes, which could have been prevented with aggressive diplomacy.

The risk of proliferation, potentially to terrorist groups, was raised. Our ability to influence North Korea and promote democratic reform was diminished.

But the fact remains that the nukes were not used. Having nukes is not the same as using nukes.

Governments generally want a nuke for political reasons, protect themselves from regime change and maximize their regional leverage. But they know if they actually use a nuke against us or an ally of ours, they'll be incinerated by us the next day.

Further, when we finally did engage North Korea diplomatically this year, it began to pay off.

Having a nuke, let alone the knowledge to produce a nuke, does not automatically lead to nuclear war.

Of course, make that argument, and the neocons will quickly claim that North Korea is already breaking the deal and trying to help Syria get nukes -- just thwarted by an Israeli air strike -- as suggested by a recent New York Times article.

But as the Center for American Progress observes:

One cannot help but notice a lack of on-record quotes ...

...There are further questions that have been missing from the general mainstream media coverage of the Syrian bombing. For instance, why is there such an extraordinary level of secrecy about this? The names and locations of Iranian and North Korean facilities are public knowledge, so why the veil of secrecy surrounding an alleged Syrian program? Why hasn’t the administration been able to provide any satellite photos or agency reports? If there were well-founded suspicions that such a facility existed, why wasn’t the International Atomic Energy Agency contacted first to conduct inspections?

Arms Control Wonk adds that a subsequent ABC report doesn't match key technical aspects in the NYT piece, and notes:

The hard evidence seems a little, well, soft to me. AP’s George Jahn, by the way, reports that the IAEA is now looking at commercial imagery, but hasn’t seen anything that screams nuclear reactor[.]

Raw Story reported (also, for what it's worth, largely based on anonymous sources) last week:

According to current and former intelligence sources, the US intelligence community has seen no evidence of a nuclear facility being hit.

US intelligence “found no radiation signatures after the bombing, so there was no uranium or plutonium present,? said one official, wishing to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the subject.

“We don't have any independent intelligence that it was a nuclear facility -- only the assertions by the Israelis and some ambiguous satellite photography from them that shows a building, which the Syrians admitted was a military facility.?

And Steve Clemons said right after the NYT piece was published:

David Sanger's and Mark Mazzetti's piece on Syrian nuclear plant activities does disturb. Mostly because I don't buy it. . .at least not yet. My intel sources don't concur that this was a nuclear plant -- but rather that it was a machine tool operation to modernize Syrian scud missiles with air burst capacity warheads. Such warheads could 'eventually' be outfitted with some nasty kinds of things -- including chemical, bio, and nuke warheads.

I hate to be at odds with Sanger and Mazzetti as I admire them both a great deal -- but they need to make sure that they are not being "Judith Miller'd". I leave open the door that my sources could be wrong, but bombing a nuke site as opposed to a machine operation to raise the level of potential terror that Syria could rain on Israel (far more cheaply) are vastly different in scale.

Even if the troubling scenario that North Korea was proliferating to Syria, the point would still remain that having nukes has yet to equal using nukes.

Whereas publicly trying to hold Iran to a standard the Bush administration had not even held North Korea to (as Fareed Zakaria notes, "If I had to choose whom to describe as a madman, North Korea's Kim Jong Il or Ahmadinejad, I do not think there is really any contest."), only sends the signal to Iran that we're gunning for them no matter what the facts are.

That's not the way to prevent Iran from going nuclear. That's the way to put them on the fast track, so they can prevent regime change.

The question to ask is not: will we "allow" Iran to go nuclear.

The right question to ask: what approach is most likely to prevent Iran from going nuclear and prevent broader regional war?

Posted by Bill Scher on Oct 22, 2007 email post email Spotlight / / You are in Iran/ North Korea
Posts Near Oct 22, 2007
Oct 20, 2007The LiberalOasis Radio Show

Oct 24, 2007Speaking of Sheep