Saturday, October 27, 2007

Some of those arguments about Iran

I don't do foreign policy much I have to admit, but having forced myself to sit through Question Time the other night and listen not just to the pro-Saddam, pro-Stalin, pro-Castro George Galloway, but also some wet Oxford professor making the weakest arguments ever about Iran I thought I would do a bit now.

1: "Iran only wants nuclear civil energy" - So let's get this straight, the country with the second largest conventional crude oil reserves in the world (133 gigabarrels) just wants nuclear energy does it? Pull the other one.

2: "Iran is not making a bomb and doesn't have the material to do so" - OK, let's assume that it is just civil nuclear energy. That would mean a reactor enriching energy from Uranium-238 (not weapons grade like U-235) which produces as a by-product Plutonium-239 (very much weapons grade). They may not have the nuclear material for a warhead at the moment, nuclear "civil" energy will give them it though.

3: "IAEA has found no evidence of bomb making facilties" - Well first of all, just because you cannot find something it doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. However, far more important is the fact that nuclear energy will provide the means to produce weapons grade nuclear material. Iran already has conventional mid-range missiles which, in an ever so Soviet way, they have paraded in the streets, it is just a matter of developing the means to change the payload.

4: "Is it a surprise Iran might want nuclear weapons when it looks at what America did to Iraq. She has a right to defend herself" - Well apparently she hasn't got nuclear weapons and doesn't want them according the previous argument rolled out. I guess this is a hedging argument just in case the earlier ones proves to be wrong. But let's think about this for a second, how will having a mid-range nuclear weapon defend Iran against America? They'd need ICBMs which they don't have. No, this is not about defending themselves against America, this about threatening US allies, like the only democracy in the region, Israel. When Iran talks about it's right to defend itself from America she is actually referring to an intent to use Israel as a proxy attack on the US. The Iranian President has after all made his feeling about Israel's mere existence quite clear.

5: "Tough sanctions on Iran merely play into the hand of hardliners" - And the other option is to do what? Just sit back and allow the "civil" energy enrichment of U-238 and hope that they're just responsible with P-239 they produce as a result. If the argument concedes the existence of "hardliners" then it must equally concede that letting the very same people produce weaponised material as a by-product of a "civil programme" (that they evidently do not need), would be universally stupid and definitely not in the interests of the region that they have expressed great desire to dominate. We tried the "do nothing" diplomatic and platitude promises route once before in North Korea. Did it work?

6: "Why should the US et al be allowed nuclear weapons but not Iran?" - This argument is based quite bizarrely upon the assumption that proliferation is better than non-proliferation. Now besides the argument being self-evidently nuts, what is more nuts is that it comes from people that in principle are opposed to nuclear weapons. It is horribly self-contradictory and is reminiscent of the Douglas Hurd line about creating a "level killing field". Nuclear weapons are not good, but the fact remains that some nations by virtue of history, and others by virtue of us looking in another direction during the late 20th Century have them. The reason they have them is because of power politics which have existed consistently and continue to exist. Put simply it is not in anyone's interest for there to be more nuclear nations wherever possible. Disarmament of already existing stockpiles is wishful thinking, but stopping the stockpiles increasing is something that can and should be achieved wherever the possibility arises.

7: "This is just more Western Imperialism by the American Empire" - Yes, because the West have installed a Raj and has colonised Iraq, disenfranchised it's local population and rules with an iron fist. That's not to say that America is not an "Empire" it most certainly is. It's biggest problem is that it is in self-denial about that reality. This whole argument is based upon the silly hegemon theses though that assume that the hegemonic power is always a bad thing and we just need to get rid of it for the world to be a better place. Let's not be under any illusion here, if America wasn't the single global power there would be someone else, the options are Russia (Mafia style Oligarch Capitalism) or China (Communist control of the media and population). The idealistic world where we all have a group hug might sound nice, but as ever with the arguments of the Left it negates human nature and totally misunderstands the reality of power politics.

8: "Well it's all about oil again!" - I'm being disingenuous here because I am yet to hear this argument to be honest, but I don't doubt that as the hypocritical anti-war Left continues to shout louder it is only a matter of time before it appears again. If it were true - and it isn't - but if it were true that this was all the US just wanting to grab oil I would put it like this. What is the least worst option in terms of oil ownership? A nation that hold free elections in two year cycles with a free media and scrutiny, or a theocratic nation that holds questionable elections, subjugates women and actively seeks to remove the existence of it's neighbours and talks about militarily dominating her sphere of influence? Like I say though, the "oil grab" argument simply isn't true, but it is an easy argument to accept if one wishes to be intellectually lazy.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Israel has nuclear weapons. Might this not be the reason Iran wants them, if it does? It is hypocritical of the US to try to stop Iran getting nuclear weapons if it doesn't do all it can to make Israel give them up.

dizzy said...

I note that you're not calling on America to make North Korea give up her nuclear weapons. Let's see shall we Stalinist totalitarian regime that starves its people, versus a liberal democracy that doesn't. Who's the bad guy? Why the Israelis of course it's all their fault on their tiny strip of land Far more important to take a stand against them than the totalitarians!

As I said though... "Put simply it is not in anyone's interest for there to be more nuclear nations wherever possible. Disarmament of already existing stockpiles is wishful thinking, but stopping the stockpiles increasing is something that can and should be achieved wherever the possibility arises."

Next!

Barnacle Bill said...

It's a tough one this Dizzy.
Maybe Iran does want it for civilian use, you speak of their reserves, but I think Peak Oil has quietly slipped past us.
On the other hand I do not want to see another nation becoming a nuclear power.
But I do feel that the way American is going about it is not right.
I would rather my recently born grandson grows up in world where there is not permanent war in the Middle East.

dizzy said...

"OK, let's assume that it is just civil nuclear energy. That would mean a reactor enriching energy from Uranium-238 (not weapons grade like U-235) which produces as a by-product Plutonium-239 (very much weapons grade). They may not have the nuclear material for a warhead at the moment, nuclear "civil" energy will give them it though."

john fisher said...

You're mostly right, Dizzy, but you miss one crucial point: the Iranians' massive technical incompetence. No matter how much effort they put into it they're as likely to produce an effective nuclear weapon as Hackney Borough Council is. Even if you handed them all the ingredients with a sprig of holly on the top. Still less deliver it to a target.

Given the immense cost the Iranians ought positively to be encouraged to pursue nuclear weapons (and their laughable "ballistic missiles") - that way they won't be able to spend their money on really dangerous things, like guns and tanks.

Benedict White said...

Dizzy, "like the only democracy in the region, Israel"

The Lebanon has been democraticaly electing its parliament since 1943, 5 years before the foundation of teh state of Israel, so can we stop with this "Israel is the only democracy" rubbish. Turkey is as well BTW.

Mr Eugenides said...

I agree with 99% of what you say, Dizzy, as ever.

But just on the first point, I believe that one of the attractions of a civil nuclear energy programme would be that it would allow Iran to export more of its oil and bring in some much-needed cash.

I don't believe for a moment that the Iranians' motives are that pure, and I suspect we're heading for a confrontation sooner or later, but it's worth pointing out; there are good reasons for a civil nuclear power programme even when you're sitting on huge oil reserves.

Barnacle Bill said...

Just to throw a bit of a curved ball into this discussion.
How about if we actually offered to build them a couple nuclear power stations?
We could insist that in return we get to control the disposal of the military grade stuff.
Also we could use it as a test bed for what type of new nuclear power stations we are going to have in this country.
Better we let Iran put up with all the cost overruns etc ... than the English taxpayers!

flashgordonnz said...

It's a shame we can't just sell them the ready-to-go fuel they want, so they don't need to do their own refining/enriching. Who's selling them the raw material at the moment?

But isn't Iran having ANY radioactive material a bit of a worry? I suspect the chances of Isreal supplying material to small groups to make a dirty bomb is quite slight. I'm, er, "less certain" about the likelyhood of Iran doing same.

cramerj said...

After Iran what next?
Venezuala?
On your grounds it might be a good idea to invade England
And you might even find WMD there.