January 22, 2005


The scariest prospect of all: Iran with the bomb (Edward Luttwak, 23/01/2005, Sunday Telegraph)

President Bush, during his inauguration speech last week, promised that he would "spread freedom to the darkest corners of the world". There were some among his world-wide audience to whom that sounded like a threat: we will
invade your country unless you change your government to one which we think
supports freedom.

The Iranians probably head the list of those feeling threatened. Relations between the United States and Iran, never exactly warm, have been freezing since 2002 when the Iranians were caught concealing from the International Atomic Energy Authority large parts of their programme to build a nuclear bomb. Vice President Richard Cheney followed up the President's address by insisting that Iran was "at the top of the world's trouble spots". He added that "everybody would be best suited if we could deal with [the problem of Iran] diplomatically". But he left the strong impression that if diplomacy failed, military action would follow.

There are certainly good reasons for believing that the Bush administration is considering the possibility of air strikes. Iran is ruled by fiercely reactionary clerics under the "supreme guide" Ayatollah Khameini. Between them, they have reduced the elected civilian government of President Khatami to almost total impotence. Khameini is pushing Iran down a more radically fundamentalist path than even Ayatollah Khomeini, the architect of the Islamic revolution in Iran, ever contemplated. Ayatollah Khomeini tolerated civilian government. He was not so restrictive in deciding who could stand for election in Iran's parliament. He never persecuted the hundreds of thousands of Iran's Muslims who practise a different variety of Shi'ism to that aproved by the ruling orthodoxy. Khameini, however, has declared all those people heretics, and started bullying them mercilessly. Abroad, the clique around Khameini funds suicide bombers in Israel and Iraq.

None of this would matter, however, if Ayatollah Khameini wasn't also determined to acquire a nuclear arsenal. Some members of the government have even boasted how they would use them: to destroy Israel. "Islam could survive the retaliation," they insist, "but Israel would be gone forever." The thought of ayatollahs with nuclear bombs should terrify everyone - especially in Europe, because the Iranians could soon put those bombs on the top of rockets that could reach European capitals.

Iran is worth doing provided that the lesson of Iraq has been learned: the Shi'a are already democrats; have immediate elections and leave.

Straw snubs US hawks on Iran (David Cracknell and Tony Allen-Mills, 1/23/05, Sunday Times of London)

JACK STRAW has drawn up a dossier putting the case against a military attack on Iran amid fears that President George W Bush’s administration may seek Britain’s backing for a new conflict.

Straw and his officials fear that hawks in Washington will talk the American president into a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, just as they persuaded him to go to war in Iraq.

The foreign secretary has produced a 200-page dossier that rules out military action and makes the case for a “negotiated solution” to curbing the ayatollahs’ nuclear ambitions amid increasingly bellicose noises from Washington.

He will press home the point at a meeting with Condoleezza Rice, the incoming secretary of state, at a meeting in Washington tomorrow.

The document says a peaceful solution led by Britain, France and Germany is “in the best interests of Iran and the international community”. It refers to “safeguarding Iran’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology”.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 22, 2005 10:53 PM

The real secret is to find a way to overthrow the mullahs without military intervention. Then we don't have to worry about leaving.

Posted by: jd watson at January 23, 2005 5:01 AM

"the Shi'a are already democrats; have immediate elections and leave"

Are the mullahs not supported by the people? What evidence do you have that the Iranian people do not have the government and policies they want?

If they proceed to re-install the same government as before, then nothing has been gained. The argument would have to be that we will not allow a democracy to threaten the US or its allies. Seems that proviso is important or there is no point in invading.

Posted by: h-man at January 23, 2005 6:41 AM

No, the mullahs aren't supported by the people. That's why they can't risk elections.

Posted by: oj at January 23, 2005 9:18 AM

OJ is correct here. The mullahs restrict who can run in the elections and use a force of unemployed working class young men, not unlike Mao's Red Guard, to enforce their will. It is obvious that our alleged European allies will not cooperate with us on Iran, making our job that much more difficult.

Posted by: Bart at January 23, 2005 9:59 AM

Frankly, I am convinced Iran will get the bomb in due time. The US cannot stop them in the end alone (or with just Israel), and the rest of the developed world consists of cowards.

And many of them will live under the gun far more than us. That should be interesting.

Posted by: Andrew X at January 23, 2005 10:09 AM

My Iranian brother-in-law recently returned from a month long visit to Tehran, and the mullahs are definitely not supported by the people. On the otherhand he and his Iranian friends with whom I have had many political discussions all feel there are no leaders to fill the potential vaccum should we remove the mullahs. They totally oppose any American intervention, because they fear the ensuing chaos. They are all anti-Bush after having lived comfortable lives in the US for the last 20 to 25 years. Conversely, his father, now in his mid 70's, and also in the US, is a big Bush fan. Perhaps the elder Iranians have a better understanding of how far Iran has fallen than do the young who do not have many memories of life before the mullahs.

Posted by: Pat H at January 23, 2005 11:37 AM