Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Economist 'The US Should Embarass Iran Out Of Nukes'!

The British publication the Economist has an editorial out that bears reading, if for no other reason than to see how skewed and bizarre the issue has become. In 'Has Iran Won?' they ask:

WHO would have thought that a friendless theocracy with a Holocaust-denying president, which hangs teenagers in public and stones women to death, could run diplomatic circles around America and its European allies? But Iran is doing just that. And it is doing so largely because of an extraordinary own goal by America's spies, the team behind the duff intelligence that brought you the Iraq war.

Actually, cousins, it was a bunch of State Department functionaries well known for already having a particular view on Iran rather than 'America's spies'that came up withthe New Intelligence Estimate on Iran, and they were hand picked by the Bush Administration for the job.And as for 'duff intelligence', the last time I checked the Brits thoroughly concurred with that intel an d still do, if you go by the Butler Commission.

The piece continues:

It doesn't take a fevered brain to assume that if Iran's ayatollahs get their hands on the bomb, the world could be in for some nasty surprises. Iran's claim that its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful is widely disbelieved. That is why Russia and China joined America, Britain, France and Germany at the UN Security Council to try to stop Iran enriching uranium. Until two months ago they seemed ready to support a third and tougher sanctions resolution against Iran. But then America's spies spoke out, and since then five painstaking years of diplomacy have abruptly unravelled (see article).

The intelligence debacle over Iraq has made spies anxious about how their findings are used. That may be why they and the White House felt it right to admit, in a National Intelligence Estimate in December, that they now think Iran halted clandestine work on nuclear warheads five years ago. As it happens, this belief is not yet shared by Israel or some of America's European allies, who see the same data. But no matter: the headline was enough to pull the rug from under the diplomacy. In Berlin last month, the Russians and Chinese made it clear that if there is a third resolution, it will be a mild slap on the wrist, not another turn of the economic screw.

At the same time, Iran is finding an ally in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Its director-general, Mohamed ElBaradei, is a Nobel peace-prize winner who is crusading to confound those he calls “the crazies” in Washington by helping Iran to set its nuclear house in order, receive a clean bill of health and so avert the possibility of another disastrous war.

Honest spies, a peace-loving nuclear watchdog. What can be wrong with that? Nothing: unless the honesty of the spies is deliberately misconstrued and the watchdog fails to do its actual job of sniffing out the details of Iran's nuclear activities.

Amazing, two faulty assertions in one short space with no justification whatever.First, that the state department flunkies who prepared the NIE were 'honest' and not ideologically motivated, which totally ignores their previous track record on the matter. And second that Inspector Clouseau Mohammed El Baradi who has always covered for Iran and has consistently been unable or unwilling to find his behind with both hands when in came to Iran's nukes thoughout his unfortunate tenure is any kind of 'watchdog'.Far from attempting to prevent a war, the Egyptian-born El Baradi has been enabling Iran's clandestine nukes program from the very beginning.

And that's a very good reason why Iran wants its violations of the non-proliferation agreement it signed dealt with by El Baradi and his flunkies at the IAEA rather than the UN Security Council.

The Economist then outlines the danger of an Iranian bomb, and proceeds to come up with exactly the sort of appeasement minded program I would expect out of the UK these days, and one that certain elements of the US State Department would apparently concur with - appease Iran by undermining Israel, and place the Saudis and Egypt under US if any agreement we made with Iran would mean anything more to them than a scrap of paper and an admission of weakness:

One obvious danger is that a nuclear-armed Iran, or one suspected of being able to weaponise at will, could set off a chain reaction that turns Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, even Turkey rapidly nuclear too. America and the Soviet Union, with mostly only their own cold war to worry about, had plenty of brushes with catastrophe. Multiplying Middle Eastern nuclear rivalries would drive up exponentially the risk that someone could miscalculate—with dreadful consequences.

For some this threat alone justifies hitting Iran's nuclear sites before it can build the bomb they fear it is after. But if Iran is bent on having a bomb, deterrence is better. Mr Bush has already said that America will keep Israel from harm. By extending its security umbrella to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, America might stifle further rivalry before the region goes critical.

This, I believe, could historically be known as Chamberlain's Folly - undermining a loyal ally with a significant military quotient while offering both Israel and other states in the region security quarantees.

Of course, those cure-all quarantees have a couple of teensy flies in the ointment - in the case of Israel, such guarantees would be worthless after they were wedged into indefensible borders with missile armed genocidal enemies on each side. And Iran could always claim plausible denial for a suitcase nuke or chemical warhead that just 'happened' to be launched by proxies like Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad into Israel. Or exploded in New York, or London, for that matter.

In the case of the Saudis and Egypt, whomever wrote this for the Economist simply hasn't been paying attention.Egypt and the Saudis have already engineered their own arrangements with Iran, and the US to all intents and purposes already has the Saudis, the UAE, Jordan and Egypt under its protective wing...for whatever little that's worth.

But never mind! The Economist has an answer if that doesn't work out...embarrass the mullahs out of their nukes!

Much better, however, to avoid a nuclear Iran altogether. Mr Bush says diplomacy can still do this. It is hard to see how. But he does have one card up his sleeve: the offer of a grand bargain to address the gamut of differences between America and Iran, from the future of Iraq to the Middle East peace process. So far Iran's leaders have brushed aside America's offer of talks “anytime, anywhere” and about “anything” by pointing to the condition attached: that Iran first suspend its uranium enrichment. Strangely enough, the best way to put pressure on Iran's rulers now is for America to drop that rider.

There would need to be a time limit or Iran could simply enrich on regardless, with what looked like the world's blessing. Similarly Russia and China would need to agree to much tougher sanctions to help concentrate minds. Iran's leaders may still say no. But the ayatollahs would have to explain to ordinary Iranians why they should pay such a high price in prosperity forgone for making a fetish out of not talking, and out of technologies that aren't even needed to keep the lights on. If Iran's leaders cannot be persuaded any other way, perhaps they can be embarrassed out of their bomb plans.

What's scary about a piece like this in a respected publication like the Economist is not just the muddled thinking, but the absolute failure to learn from history.

That, and the fact that they're by no means alone in the fallacy.

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