Recently, the British media have joined in with the howls for military strikes against Iran. The worthy musings of the comment writers are usually produced without any ‘reading’ of the evidence which might pollute the judgement of our scribes. But the Western media are failing the West; the push towards war is produced from intellectual laziness and fecklessness. The path to nuclear hysteria is an easy one; but the actual evidence of Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons is slim. If war is to be mounted on this evidential basis, the Non-Proliferation Treaty should rapidly be rebranded the No-Proof Treaty (and more on unseating Western hypocrisy later).
First, let’s look at the facts as they present themselves. Iran has declared recently that it has enriched uranium to 3.5%. This may be nearly sufficient for civilian nuclear fuel, but it’s a long way off the mark for military nuclear weapons. The “Little Man” and “Fat Boy” bombs used in Japan during WWII were enriched to 22%. Iran does not have the correct chemical equipment for nuclear weapon enrichment (the P-2 centrifuge); instead it has used the inadequate P-1 predecessor, with 180 machines haphazardly lined up to produce its pathetic 3.5% yield.
‘Oil and religion make a heady mix, both in Iran and Texas.’
So, why the international furore? The case rests partly on the detection by Mohamed El Baradei, and his cohort of nuclear sheriffs, of some High Energy Uranium particles at one of Iran’s nuclear sites. Iran’s reason: we bought the equipment from Pakistan, a nuclear power, and the high energy particles have contaminated the machine. In the Report of El Baradei, he writes that the samples taken from other machines bought from the same Pakistani network, “tend on balance to support Iran’s statement”. Don’t take it from me, take it from the sheriff.
Oil and religion make a heady mix, both in Iran and Texas. The latter state has produced Bush, the world’s most famous cowboy, now six-shooting his way towards a Chapter VII UN Resolution which would allow “all measures necessary” against Iran. The U.S. media is fanfaring the case for war based on Washington’s “belief” that Iran “plans” to produce nuclear weapons. In turn, this “belief” can only be based on the outlandish statements of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It looks like a medieval case for war: escalating suspicion, fear, inflammatory brimstone, religious invective, and a total dearth of common sense. The United States’ case on nuclear weapons is slim on a good day with a following nuclear wind.
A moment’s pause for reflection, free from oily religious fervour, would allow us to see that basing a war on the outlandish statements of Ahmadinejad is a risky enterprise. Subjected to the true light of common sense, his statements speak to, and reflect, a massive lack of national dignity. For years, Iran has been cut out of world trade by informal United States sanctions (Iran has also been excluded from the WTO). In fact, Iran has nothing to fear from more formal sanctions. Ahmadinejad has ruthlessly exploited Iran’s lack of dignity, and has pushed political buttons to wrestle power from the mullahs. How else do you explain the remarkable coincidence of anti-Israel and anti-West rhetoric being so successfully received? It plays melodious violin to an exquisite pain felt by a lack of dignity. Exactly the same technique used by one A-dolf Hitler.
(There is one crucial difference: worlds politics is now hobbled by oil. Russia built a nuclear power plant for Iran netting $800 million, and has a co-operation agreement on civilian research. China has an oil pipeline running directly out of Iran to feed its increasingly petrol-guzzling mega-population.)
Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric is nothing but a bargaining tactic: designed to secure his domestic political position, and to claw back power internationally for an excluded oil-rich nation (becoming a “pariah” state is a political tactic). It’s not original either. North Korea turfed out the nuclear inspectors, and are now vying for a light water civilian nuclear reactor in return for shelving the nuke. Yet the United States has done little against North Korea, whilst it has postured increasingly against Iran, a Muslim country.
‘The Non-Proliferation Treaty is a document dripping with hypocrisy, a medieval rack on which The West can contort those who disagree with its hegemony.’
But the West’s hypocrisy doesn’t end there. The Non-Proliferation Treaty originated when the entire globe was frozen into a Cold War of symmetrical opposites, and was inspired by the apocalyptic fear of an arms race and consequent destruction. Obviously now the world has fragmented, but the signs of a new divide (Christian conservative vs. Muslim conservative) are emerging. The Treaty allowed 5 states to maintain a nuclear arsenal (US, UK, Russia, France, China), whilst all other states were confined to being non-nuclear states in perpetuity, with the right to developing civilian power.
As is so often forgotten, Iran has a right to civilian nuclear power under the Treaty (Angela Merkel of Germany is the only Western leader to make this point). The United States is obligated to disarm under the Treaty, it has repeatedly promised a “13-step” plan and has done nothing. Bush now talks of developing “mini-nukes” (a clear breach), and using nuclear weapons to attack Iran’s facility, a step condemned by nuclear scientists as ineffective and creating wanton destruction. The U.S. is prohibited from giving nuclear weapons to other states, but it has repeatedly supplied its NATO allies with nuclear weapons in case of war. To add a further does of ignominy, three states live outside the regime of the Treaty and have nuclear weapons: Israel, Pakistan, India.
The Non-Proliferation Treaty is a document dripping with hypocrisy, a medieval rack on which The West can contort those who disagree with its hegemony. The metaphor of carrot and stick with Iran is particularly apposite: Iran the obdurate donkey, the West the rider with an imaginary carrot insisting on obedience. It is a crying shame that Western media develop collective blindspots and herd themselves behind dominant powers at times of crisis. Even if their leader happens to mix religion with oil and fervour.