Iran Will Get The Bomb
Iran Will Get the Bomb, by Jean-Michel Boucheron
LE MONDE | 21.02.05 | 15h14
Iran aspires to become a pillar of stability and a beacon of regional influence. To realize this aim, Iran proposes to assure its stability and therefore intends to acquire a nuclear deterrent.
Everyone is able to follow Iranian reasoning concerning the nuclear question and understands that it may carry the international community towards a new and dangerous impasse.
The matter is quite uncomplicated on its face: the Non-Proliferation Treaty forbids Iran from acquiring the materials necessary for the construction of an atomic weapon yet there are compelling indications to believe that Iran is secretly building one. The IAEA has encountered significant difficulty in monitoring Iran. President George W. Bush has employed menacing rhetoric towards Iran; the Europeans are attempting to negotiate and, given the ambiguity on the part of Iran, may be forced to bring the matter before the UN Security Council, which may in turn condemn Iran and bestow UN legitimacy on America’s plans for air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities with at best the blind eye and at worst the approval of the international community.
Some of George W. Bush's most influential advisors* dream of manipulating the European Union into military action intended to topple the Iranian régime in favor of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, who themselves have been declared terrorists by the European Union.
If they are carried out, American air strikes will be ineffective in destroying all Iran's hidden sites and in the end will unite the Iranian people behind the most conservative and hard–line elements in that country, who will certainly retaliate through their relationships in the region to render the Iraqi crisis intractable and to reignite tensions in Lebanon and Palestine, thereby destroying the new and already fragile peace process. This worrisome course of events is not at all out of the question today.
So what exactly is the situation? Since Israel has come into the possession of a nuclear deterrent, it is no longer threatened by its neighbors. The peace deal concluded between Israel and Egypt and later between Israel and Jordan was the result of a state of non-war created by the presence of nuclear weapons. In the example of Western Europe during the second half of the 20th century, nuclear arms have become a purely defensive instrument, unusable for aggression. They impose a state of non-war in the area concerned. Their presence has permanently dissuaded Israel’s enemies from terminating its existence in the same way that it dissuaded the ex-Soviet Union from unleashing its tanks across Western Europe. An atomic deterrent has repeatedly demonstrated its role in regional stability.
Of course, this strategic equilibrium hasn’t resolved the Israeli-Palestine conflict nor has it stopped acts of terrorism or the stone-throwing Intifada. It simply imposes a maximum threshold of conflict intensity beyond which no belligerent may go. In this manner, war between India and China has become impossible, as well as a major conflict between Pakistan and India, despite the battles in the mountains of Kashmir. All parties in that part of the world have understood the stabilizing role of the nuclear deterrent.
Iran is using precisely the same reasoning. A thousands year-old civilization with its own religion surrounded by four nuclear powers of which three obtained nuclear weapons in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, aggressed in a major fashion by one of its neighbors and seriously menaced by the desire of Bin Laden to spread the influence of Sunni fundamentalism, Iran aspires to become a pillar of stability and a beacon of regional influence.
For this aim, Iran wishes to permanently guarantee its stability by acquiring a nuclear defensive capability. There is no doubt about it. AIEA inspections don’t provide any tangible proof, but there is evidence that this is the case.
Iran manufactures and disposes of mid-range ballistic missiles but their accuracy is so poor that armed with conventional explosives they are a ridiculous proposition, both militarily and strategically. But these missiles are meant to be dissuasive, and that means they will be eventually be armed with a nuclear payload. There’s the evidence.
To tell the truth, can the Iranians be blamed for pursuing this strategy? If the Americans or the French were the Iranians caught in similar circumstances, they would certainly build the bomb. In actuality, the USA and France did find themselves in similar strategic circumstances.
But should we permit them do it? To rephrase the question, can we dissuade Iran from obtaining a nuclear deterrent? What can we do? Dissuade Iran using diplomatic, economic and military leverage? I don’t believe for a moment that we can successfully dissuade them. Iran wants the bomb and Iran will get the bomb.
Alternatively, we can apply effective pressure on Iran to force it to join the concert of nations. Our ability to apply such pressure is great but perhaps insufficient to persuade the Iranians to entirely abandon the idea of acquiring the bomb. But it is sufficient to oblige Iran to use some sense in developing its foreign policy.
Iran, which wants to join the WTO, cannot afford to become a pariah nor to sacrifice its economic ties to the West. We can impose a condition on Iran for WTO membership —that it recognize the existence of Israel and its right to live in peace with its neighbors. The anti-Jewish slogans shouted at street demonstrations in Teheran are certainly meant to galvanize the crowds rather than to represent concrete policy. But the Iranian authorities must demonstrate that such rhetoric is part of the past.
This is a sine qua non in attaining the status of respected partner to which Iran aspires and which it deserves. Iran has no desires along the lines of annexation or aggression towards its neighbors. Shi’a Islam does not share the global ambition of radical Sunni Islam. The nature of the Iranian regime is not at issue —Iranian democracy doesn’t need lessons from Chinese democracy. The condition to be set for Iran is one of a demonstration of peaceful intentions. The pressures we apply should be concentrated on engagements towards peace in the region. Iran must understand that that it cannot play an international role until it normalizes and improves its relations with Israel. If we concentrate our efforts on this, we can climb down from the spiraling Iranian crisis and avoid setting off a new and tragic conflagration in that part of the world.
Obviously, the crisis has collateral effects and underlines once again the obsolescence of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Of the four nuclear powers in the region, three nations–-India, Pakistan and Israel--acquired their nuclear deterrent in violation of the treaty. It is unwise to maintain a legality divorced form reality and to apply its principles with variable insistence depending on the nationality of the rule breakers.
We must agree on a new definition for proliferation which does not confuse contrasting situations--that of a great power which acquires a nuclear deterrent versus that of trafficking material and technology among dubious alliance partners; and above all that of trafficking fissionable materials needed for nuclear devices that come within the technological grasp of terrorist groups. We must adopt a non-proliferation treaty aiming at those who represent a real menace to world peace today—and above all, tomorrow.
The spiraling of the Iranian crisis has not really begun. The worst is not unavoidable. But Iran and the international community both have significant concessions to make in order at last enter a virtuous circle.
Jean-Michel Boucheron is a French Socialist legislator representing Ille-et-Vilaine and a member of the National Assembly Defense Commission.
*Wolfowitz, Feith and Bolton – along with Rumsfeld and Cheney - whom Seymour Hersh has termed, the crazies.