The recent IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program will bolster the voices of those calling for a stronger response toward that country. But that wouldn’t be the right answer.
The International Atomic Energy Agency does seem to point out that there’s something clandestine afoot in Iran. But it doesn’t provide definitive proof that a bomb is being built.
“It is not conclusive, and even the report keeps using 'alleged,’ ” Professor Muhammad Sahimi, a critic of the Iranian regime, told NPR . “Even the agency appears not to be 100 percent sure whether these reports are actually completely correct.”
Let us be cynical and assume that Iran is indeed on its way to building a nuclear bomb. Does that mean it is necessarily going to launch a nuclear strike? Many people think so, based on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s erratic views—particularly his millenarian belief in the coming of the Mahdi (messiah)—and his threats toward Israel.
Now, Ahmadinejad is a bit nutty, and his pronouncements about Israel and the Holocaust are repulsive.
But Ronald Reagan also had millenarian notions. In 1971, he proclaimed to a dinner companion, “For the first time ever, everything is in place for the battle of Armageddon and the second coming of Christ." In 1980, he told evangelist Jim Bakker on his television program, “We may be the generation that sees Armageddon.” We all got through having such a man’s finger on the nuclear button.
Besides, military strikes on Iran would not have the desired effect.
“The IAEA report and annex released today provides additional details regarding Iranian nuclear warhead development efforts, but it is certainly not an invitation for the United States and Israel to attack Iran,” Iranian dissident Professor Ramin Jahanbegloo of the University of Toronto tells me. “Attacking Iran would not destroy Iran’s nuclear capacity and its military installations. It will kill many innocent Iranians, who for the most part, are against Iran’s political ambitions in the Middle East.”
Jahanbegloo, who was imprisoned by the regime for four months in 2006, also emphasizes that any military action would severely weaken the pro-democracy struggle in Iran, of particular relevance because the Green Movement has shown signs of revival this year. “It will reunite Iranians (inside and outside Iran), and it will weaken the Iranian civil society and the nonviolent struggle of Iranian dissidents,” Jahanbegloo says.
This sort of deep analysis is possibly too much to expect from GOP presidential candidates, however, and they have been outdoing each other in their eagerness to show their support of a possible Israeli assault on Iran. Rick Perry has said he would endorse any Israeli response “up to and including military action,” while Rick Santorum proclaimed he would “stand shoulder to shoulder” in any such instance. Jon Huntsman, supposedly one of the more reasonable candidates, actually has said that he would contemplate American military measures against Iran.
Fortunately, the Obama Administration’s response, so far, has been free of such bluster. With Israel, it is a different story, with even Israeli President Shimon Peres warning recently that his country could possibly attack Iran. And, reportedly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are trying to obtain cabinet approval for such a move.
But Iran deems its endeavors a legitimate response to arsenals stockpiled by its rivals. Israel has perhaps 200 nuclear bombs. The United States has thousands. A better way forward is suggested by analyst Praveen Swami in The Hindu, a leading Indian newspaper.
“If the terms of Iran's dysfunctional relationship with the West aren't fundamentally rewritten, a crisis will periodically erupt and inexorably push it to resume its pursuit of nuclear weapons,” he writes. “The diplomatic challenge, therefore, is securing a grand bargain with Tehran: a deal which would address Iran's legitimate security concerns in return for its renouncing its pursuit of weapons.”
As arduous as this path may be, it is far preferable to the military option.
If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of the Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "Bill Keller's Ridiculous Put Down of Occupy Wall Street."
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