June 29, 2004

Nuclear Iran?

Kam Zarrabi writing for Payvand has an insightful article about Iran's Nuclear Shell Game, some excerpts:

...Iranís plans to develop its nuclear technology, actually encouraged by American technical advisors, began under the Pahlavi regime nearly forty years ago. After the Islamic revolution in 1978-79, the construction of the first reactor for electrical generation in southern Iran was resumed with Russian technical support. Since then, several other sites have been designated for nuclear power generation; currently in progress are the facilities at Natanz and Araak. ...

As with most events, the Iranians didn't wake up one morning and all decide to build nuclear facilities. They were encouraged to do so by the U.S. during the reign of the Shah, which means that it's no news to anyone that they're developing reactor technology. As the article goes on to relate, they have their own supply of educated people and natural uranium deposits.

The charges against them, as the author says, are of playing games to disguise a nuclear weapons program and being a potential threat to regional security. He notes that Iran is often listed as a top security concern by both the U.S. and Israel.

...Iran, on the other hand, has its own security woes. Iranís chief concern is, in fact, Israel; not just for what the Israeli military might dare do as Israel has repeatedly threatened to do, but for Israeli interestsí well established influence over American policy in the Middle East. American forces now form a complete circle of fire around Iran, from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf, to Iraq and even more recently Azerbaijan. At the same time, Israelís German-made diesel submarines, armed with guided missiles and, more than likely, tipped with nuclear warheads, patrol the waters of the southern Persian Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean. As has been recently brought to the open, Israeli agents have long been active in the Iraqi Kurdistan, training insurgents that could have no other logical function but to infiltrate Iran for sabotage and information gathering (Seymour Hersh article in June, 04, New Yorker magazine). ...

Zarrabi points out that Iran is unlikely to believe that the disaster in Iraq will protect them, and more likely to think that it puts off the inevitable. To discourage military action, he says they'll exercise their diplomatic options, but have every reason to expect that our diplomacy will mean outward peace dressing up covert war. But they can see that North Korea, who is suspected of having nuclear capability gets real diplomacy, while the disarmed and helpless Iraq got the boot heel.

There's also the obvious point, that people inside the country aren't thrilled with government by mullah. But he elaborates on why this is unlikely to work in favor of outside actors:

...Nearly a quarter century ago, soon after the success of the Islamic Revolution, while Iranís defenses were at total disarray with no formal military and scattered militia, the nation held together against the surprise attack by Saddam Husseinís well organized and fully equipped armed forces. It mattered little what tribe or population was for or against the regime, or whether they were Shiía or Sunni Moslems, Jews, Zoroastrians or Christians, they fought the invading armies with whatever they had for eight full years, and the nation lost about one million citizens.

An invasion of Iran with expectations of encountering welcoming committees in cities and villages is absolutely out of the question. ...

There follows a discussion of Iran's rights and agreements under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which include the development of nuclear technology for peaceful means. Zarrabi notes that they've even agreed to stepped up inspections. However, I'm told that they will only agree to them if they're allowed to purchase on the open market items they now have to buy on the black market at an astronomical markup. On why they'd bother besides the development of weapons:

...As to why should Iran be interested in nuclear power when it has all that oil and natural gas reserves, the question is too stupid to deserve any answer. Russia, the United States and Great Britain all possess adequate fossil fuel reserves and have numerous nuclear power plants as well. Nuclear power is simply more efficient, cheaper, cleaner, and is the energy source of the future. Any nation capable of developing such technologies should not and cannot be denied the right to adopt the most modern means of energy production available. ...

The end discusses more of the situation in the region, and elaborates on some already mentioned reasons why Iran might think it had tremendous need for self defense. And then he makes the point I wish I could hear from just one of our talking heads. If they're doing all this because they think they'll be attacked, wouldn't it be the smart thing to convince them that they don't have to worry about being subjected to a pre-emptive first strike?

Maybe the attitude of constructive support advocated by an editorial in the UK Observer might be just the ticket. As a starting step, maybe doing something serious about opium production in Afghanistan would help:

Iran's police blamed Britain and the United States for bumper poppy crops in Afghanistan that are enflaming social problems in the Islamic Republic where more than 2 million people are drug addicts.

...Abuee said the fundamentalist Taliban were long blamed for producing the lion's share of world narcotics, but said the interim Afghan government and U.S. and British forces had done little to address the problem.

..."Only 10 percent of poppy farms have been destroyed and of what remains, 4,100 tonnes of opium will be produced this season," Abuee added.

...Some 3,300 Iranian servicemen have died in battles with traffickers since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

...Last year Iran said it seized 3 1/2 tonnes of heroin, 72 tonnes of hashish and 111 tonnes of opium. But Ali Hashemi, head of the presidential anti-narcotics staff said this was only about 10 percent of the opium flooding across the border. Hashemi said fighting drugs should be an important focus for international co-operation. ...

Think the Iranian government would be in a better mood for negotiation if they thought they were going to get help stopping the opium smuggling? It's a possibility.

Posted by natasha at June 29, 2004 09:25 AM | International | Technorati links |