29 April 2007

A Glimmer Of Hope From Iran?

If this report has any substance to it (being that it's from the Guardian, it's never easy to tell), we'd better hope that President Bush is kept so busy by those pesky Congressional Democrats that he doesn't have time to say or do anything too rash with respect to Iran. Of course you could argue that the menacing noises emanating from Washington are what's prompted a groundswell of rational thinking aimed at peacefully toppling the religious fanatics currently steering Iran head-on toward a catastrophic collision with the West, but it's equally true that a military attack or even overly aggressive threats thereof will usually cause a people to coalesce behind their present leadership, no matter how incompetent or unpopular they are.

The grim reality is that unless Iran changes course of its own volition, war of some sort is probably inevitable. Maybe not immediately, but sooner or later, and because Iran is a more highly developed country than most US enemies of late, the collateral damage would be hideous even if nuclear weapons aren't involved. If on the other hand Iran can make a peaceful transition into modernity - and gradually outgrow its various vendettas, particularly against Israel - it could play a vital role in stabilizing the Middle East and heading off a potentially incendiary conflict between Islam and the West (the conflict at present is more between Islamism and the West, but in the ensuing polarization, all or much of Islam is likely to be dragged in).

People who've been to Iran recently say there is much sentiment for change, and little love, at least among younger and more progressive Iranians, for the Ahmadinejad government. With any luck, perhaps the USA and Iran can change governments at the same time and we can make a new start. Now if we can only find a functional candidate here in the USA...


Anonymous said...

The people steering the US and Iran into confrontation are those neocons in the US (generally beholden to Israeli interests), who seek to trick, pressure, or otherwise fraudulently induce the US to attack Iran, just as they did with Iraq.

It is certainly not Iran which is seeking a military confrontation with the US. Iran, under any regime, has not commenced a war against any country in the last 200 years, and they're certainly not about to start a war against the world's foremost military and economic power. They will, however, defend their sovereign rights to nuclear technology (and indeed, all technological know-how), and they will defend their homeland if attacked.

But is that not the stance of every nation?

Larry Livermore said...

How did I guess you would have something to say about this?

I don't think your, "Wah! They started it!" stance is helpful. Sorting out who first did what to whom in the Middle East is a hopeless and thankless task, and to blame it all on "Israel" or "the neocons" is as disingenuous and dishonest as it would be to fix all blame on "the Muslims" or "the Iranians" or "the axis of evil."

Likewise when you say Iran is "not seeking a military confrontation." No, of course not; they're merely seeking to engage in conduct which will further the current regime's aims without incurring any unpleasant consequences. By the same token, you could say that a bank robber is not seeking to be sent to prison, but if he persists in robbing banks, that is a very likely outcome.

You could just as easily (and just as disingenuously) say that the United States is "not seeking military confrontation." If only other countries would simply allow the US to do whatever it wanted, then there'd be no military confrontation. Unfortunately nations, like people, often pursue their own ambitions without regard for how they might come into conflict with others. This is where diplomacy ideally comes in, but diplomacy is rarely helped along by the insistence on fixing blame on one side or the other.

I can see why Iran would like to join the nuclear club (by the same token, I might like to carry a loaded gun when I have to walk through certain neighborhoods, but there are certain circumstances mitigating against it, not least that I might go to prison if I do), but it has a real problem in that it is presently governed by an individual and a faction which many other countries (not just the US) have good reason to distrust.

Here in the US, where the right to bear arms is practically sacrosanct, restrictions are still placed on certain individuals' ability to own guns if either past behavior or threatened future behavior indicates that person would constitute a greater threat to society if armed. Whether Iran has initiated a war in the past 200 years is not the issue here; during most of those 200 years it was operating under a rather different government. You could just as well argue that since the USA didn't initiate any wars during the presidency of Gerald Ford, there is no reason to believe it would do so under George Bush.

The word "sovereign" is a high-sounding legal term, often used in an attempt to justify the unjustifiable. It simply means "the exclusive right to exercise supreme political (e.g. legislative, judicial, and/or executive) authority over a geographic region, group of people, or oneself." A tribal chieftain who has successfully killed off all challengers in the immediate vicinity of his village is a sovereign ruler. By your reasoning, that should give him the "right" to nuclear technology. If and when Iran acquires a more stable government, one which is not making noises about wiping other "sovereign" nations off the map, much of the current opposition to its nuclear program will dwindle if not disappear.

Anonymous said...

It is ridiculous and highly demeaning that you are comparing a civilization and a nation on par with China, Italy, and India, which has existed as a polity for the past 27 centuries, and which has existed far longer than than the United States and Britain to 1) bank robbers, 2) an ordinary citizen subject to the laws of the United States, and 3) a "tribal chieftain who has successfully killed off all challengers."

Back here, outside of your racist alternate universe, Iran is a country, just like Great Britain is a country, and just like Israel is a country. Iran, like Great Britain, and like Israel, has the right to all the technological know-how it can get. Iran, like Great Britain, and like Israel, has the right to all means of self-defense it feels necessary to defend itself. These truths, to borrow a phrase, are self-evident.

It is not for you, or for George Bush, who obviously do not have Iran's interests in mind, to decide for Iran and Iranians what they can and can't study, know, or create. It is pure audaciousness and vanity to presume that you have any right to deprive another country of the right to information and know-how, and the right to self-defense.

By the way, I'm beginning to see why your views on such subjects are so misguided. You are basing your views on factually incorrect premises. For example, Iran's President (who, by the way, has no power to control the miltiary or foreign policy), never said to "wipe Israel off the map." He never said it. It is the rumor of the century. It is a propaganda story planted by the Western media and repeated ad nauseum until presumed to be factual by those who don't know any better.

Please read this:


Anonymous said...

Or perhaps this link may be more appropriate in the circumstances.


Larry Livermore said...

How long Iran has been a successful civilization is not the issue; what matters is who is in charge at the present time. You could make the exact same point about China, which has a history just as long and rich as that of Iran, possibly even more so. That didn't make Mao Tse-tung any less of a gangster or any less dangerous.

Now that the worst elements of communist extremism no longer hold sway in China and the country is acting more like a normal citizen of the world, it is being treated accordingly. My hope is that the same will come to be true for Iran.

But I don't think this will happen as long as Ahmadinejad holds power (for balance's sake, I think it's safe to say that Ahmadinejad feel similarly about the USA as long as Bush holds power). And regardless of what specific words Ahmadinejad has used, I don't think it's a "propaganda story" that he's a mortal enemy of Israel. As long as that's the case, other countries have every right to try and stop him getting his hands on nuclear weapons.

And if you love Iran as much as you appear to, I think it behooves you to consider that, right or wrong, the country is likely to get wiped off the face of the map itself if it ever looks like using nuclear or even major conventional force against Israel. Which of course would be an immense tragedy, because Iran has the potential to make huge contributions to the world's culture and economy if and when it throws out the present fanatics and sets its people free.

Anonymous said...

On the one hand, Iran must be careful so as to not give the US or other power a pretext on which to attack it.

On the other hand, however, Iran must do so without allowing a wholesale plunder of its national rights and core, strategic, long-term interests.

The nuclear issue, unfortunately for all parties concerned, implicates Iran's national rights and core interests. Imagine if a foreign country demanded that Britain could not study, research, or create any technology which might have military applications, while its rivals were allowed to pursue all such things unhindered. You study and create nuclear know-how, you go to jail or get bombed. Would Britain accept it? Of course not. It would mean Britain itself would eventually cease to exist as a nation because, in time, all of its rivals would be advancing technologically and military everyday, while Britain was forced at gunpoint to linger behind indefinitely.

I understand the arguments to the effect that "this isn't about Iran. It is about Iran's regime." Those arguments are not credible. Far worse regimes than that of Iran have had, and continue to have, massive nuclear arsenals. The Soviet Union, Mao's PR China, Stalinist North Korea, even Islamist Pakistan, have bona fide nuclear arsenals. Iran, on the other hand, has a government which is not nearly as bad, and is not even asserting a right to build weapons. It's asserting the right to build power plants, and the West is rejecting even that.

Moreover, those of us who follow Iran on a regular and long-term basis, know modern Iranian history extremely well, and study its relationship with the West, know that this is not simply a matter of not trusting the regime and wanting to impede its progress. It is the latest chapter of a long-term policy by Britain (and, by extention, America, which has inherited Britain's role as chief foreign hegemon of the Middle East since WWII) wanting to impede Iran, under any regime, from obtaining military, technological, and economic self-sufficiency and advancement. In fact, the policy is to deprive and/or hinder any government of any persuassion within reach of the oil-rich Persian Gulf (and to a lesser extent, within reach of Israel) from obtaining strategic technologies, military or otherwise, which may one day jeaopardize the West's ability to extort and plunder oil (and profits from tangential industries, such as refining and distribution of oil) from the region's governments, and use their control of this resource as leverage with which to blackmail the rest of the world's powers (Russia, India, China, Japan, Germany, etc.) who are dependent on it.

That is the long-executed policy and objective of Britain and the US with regard to Iran, and the Persian Gulf at large. Iran's right's be damned. Iran's strategic future be damned. Democracy be damned. Justice and fairness be damned. Peace be damned.

Larry Livermore said...

::Far worse regimes than that of Iran have had, and continue to have, massive nuclear arsenals. The Soviet Union, Mao's PR China, Stalinist North Korea, even Islamist Pakistan, have bona fide nuclear arsenals.::

This is true, yet had other nations had the ability or presence of mind to prevent those states getting their hands on nuclear weapons, would you argue against such action? How about Hitler, who, as you'll know, had his own crash program to acquire nuclear technology? After all, Germany was a sovereign state and a perfectly respectable nation with a long and noble tradition.

::Iran, on the other hand, has a government which is not nearly as bad, and is not even asserting a right to build weapons. It's asserting the right to build power plants, and the West is rejecting even that.::

You can choose to believe that Iran is not interested in acquiring nuclear weapons, but given the statements here and elsewhere (yes, folks, Mr. Anonymous is not so anonymous as he thinks), it would appear that your sympathies lie with Iran and against the United States. In any event, I think it's safe to say that you are not an unbiased observer, and that your protestations, along with those of of the Iranian leaders, need to be taken with several grains of salt.

Anonymous said...

Iran is not Hitler or Nazi Germany, nor is it anything remotely comparable to it. That analogy is ludicrous.

With regard to whether Iran is interested in acquiring nuclear weapons, please don't mischaracterize my statements. I never said Iran was uninterested in acquiring nuclear weapons. For the record, I believe Iran is not only interested in acquiring nuclear weapons, but may have in fact already done so. But that's just a hunch. There's no concrete evidence to that effect.

My statement, which you miscited (or misunderstood) was that the present controvery with regard to Iran's nuclear program involves the US and its allies asserting that Iran does not have the right to even one nuclear power plant. So nuclear weapons aside, the present position of the United States government is that Iran cannot have a single nuclear power plant on its soil, indefinitely. Pursuant to the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty), Iran not only has the right to as many nuclear power plants as it wants, but the US (also a signatory to the treaty) is obligated to assist Iran in developing them. So while it is conceivable that Iran has probably breached the NPT in some ways, the US has as well. Moreover, as you may or may not know, the NPT is a voluntary treaty and, pursuant to its own terms, any government may legally exit the treaty with 90 days notice.

By the way, on this matter, I do not believe the strategic, long-term objectives of the United States of America and the interests of Iran are in conflict which one another. It is, in my view, in the interests of the United States to avoid war for reasons that are not strategically vital to our country. And it is, in my view, in Iran's interest to develop advanced technologies for fuel and for its national defense. Whether or not Iran's flawed government, like Pakistan's flawed government or like China's flawed government, or like Israel's flawed government has a couple of nuclear bombs for its own protection, or uses nuclear energy for legitimate peaceful purposes, is certainly not sufficient enough cause to plunge the United States into World War III. Any person who argues otherwise is the one who is betraying the interests of the United States.

As for your contention that my sympathies lie "against the United States," that is outrage and a slap in the face. Besides, the contention suffers from the well-known defect inherent in all ad hominem arguments: They attack the messenger but leave the message untouched.

Larry Livermore said...

I don't think it's an ad hominem argument to point out that your sympathy for Iran might color your viewpoint, especially if, as you argue, Iran is a perfectly respectable country. That being the case, how could pointing out your support for this "perfectly respectable country" be construed as a personal attack? That would be like accusing me of an ad hominem attack on George Bush for pointing out that he is a Republican.

And while using Hitler's Germany might be heavy-handed, and therefore not the best analogy, you leaped to attack that one and ignored the several other comparisons I made, including Mao Tse-tung's China, and also the perfectly valid point that although it is unfortunate that certain (or any, you might argue) countries have obtained nuclear weapons, that is not an argument in favor of letting any or all other countries do so.

Unless I am seriously misinformed, several proposals have been mooted that would allow Iran to develop peaceful nuclear technology while having the uses of that technology monitored by outside parties. Russia, certainly no lackey of the Bush administration, has tabled one such proposal. Yes, some hardcore patriots or chauvinists might see this as a slight to Iran's national ego, but the answer to that is simple: get rid of the fanatics, elect a normal government, and the problem would go away.

Anonymous said...

It is one thing to suggest that one's viewpoint may be "colored" by a particular sympathy. It's quite another thing entirely to accuse one essentially of being a subversive and of have sympathies which lie "against the United States." Sure, everyone has viewpoints which are "colored," to various extents, by particular sympathies. You, yourself, certainly do. You're views are tinged by an acute Anglophilia, and by a post-liberal knee-jerk reaction backlashing against any idea which remotely sounds liberal (i.e., any accusation of wrongdoing against the status quo).

Back to the merits of the discussion, both the comparison to Nazi Germany and the comparison to Maoist China are completely inappropriate. Millions of Chinese died as a direct result Mao's policies. No such thing has occurred in Iran. The facts simply aren't analogous, so the analogy is not valid.

One fair and valid argument you have made, which I did not address, is the point that although certain countries have obtained nuclear weapons, that is not an argument in favor of letting any or all other countries do so.

To that I would reply that, of course it is ideal that no one have nuclear weapons, anywhere. Or, if you want to take a partisan perspective from the standpoint of the US government, it is ideal that no one have nuclear weapons, anywhere, except the United States. But one must distinguish ideals from reality. In reality, the United States could not have prevented the USSR, China, or even Israel, Pakistan, India, or North Korea from going nuclear, without imposing upon itself (and upon the rest of the world) costs in blood and treasure which were inordinately greater than the costs of those countries simply having nuclear armaments.

The same is true in the case of Iran. From the perspective of an objective, neutral person, it is preferable that Iran not have nuclear weapons, and indeed, that no country have nuclear weapons. From the perspective of a partisan American, it is preferable that Iran not have nuclear weapons, and that only the US and its allies have them. But the reality is that the cost of curing the problem of Iran having nuclear weapons is several orders of magnitude worse than simply accepting the reality that Iran has the right to, is going to, protect itself, and that the US can simply employ nuclear deterrance (which has heretofore had a 100% success rate) to keep Iran from every using the weapons offensively against the US or its allies.

With regard to the proposals you referenced, unfortunately, indeed, you are seriously misinformed regarding the contents of those proposals. The devil in all of them has been the details. Not a single one allows Iran to enrich uranium on its own soil. Every single one, of which I am aware, forces Iran to open up every corner of the country, from military bases, to government institution buildings, to universities, indefinitely, to outside "inspectors" and "technicians," among whom invariably will be planted spies. This, needless to say, is an absolutely unacceptable infringement of Iran's sovereignty. No nation would accept it. Would Britain accept such a thing? Would Israel? Would Pakistan?

The proposal tabled by Russia was that Iran could enrich uranium at a plant *on Russian soil.* I don't know about you, but I don't know of a single government on Earth which would trust the Russian government with being its sole access to fuel and strategic technologies, if it had the choice. Russia may be no lackey of the Bush administration, but just as the West has legitimate reasons for distrusting them and would never entrust them as gatekeepers to their national interests, so obviously does Iran have the same concerns.

The reality is that the US wants something for nothing, and that's why none of these proposals fly. Iran already has the undisputed right to full peaceful nuclear technology. The US is offering to give Iran a partial right to peaceful nuclear technology, conditioned by a series of completely acceptable terms, in exchange for nothing. It's like me offering to let to keep half of your house, if you pay me $500,000 and let me sleep there whenever I want. It's nonsensical, and you would never accept it, unless perhaps if you had a gun to your head. Which is why they are effectively putting a gun to Iran's head and threatening them with nuclear war should they not accept these "fantastic" proposals.

;;;;but the answer to that is simple: get rid of the fanatics, elect a normal government, and the problem would go away.;;;;;

I wish this were true, but unfortunately, even this is not so. If modern history is any indication, even if Iranians booted this government, the US would create new pretexts on which to prevent any successor Iranian government from obtaining this strategic technology. Or, in the alternative, should a clean, hard-to-discredit, democratic Iranian government come to power, there is no guarantee that the US would not simply covertly attempt to topple that regime, as they did with Mossadegh in 1953, in order to put into power a dictator who would continue to employ policies which were in the US's and Britain's interests, but not in Iran's. Besides, is Iran supposed to put its national interests on hold until the US finds its government worthy? What if the Arabs obtain nuclear technology first, and attack Iran just like Saddam did in 1980? What if Musharaf in Pakistan is toppled and a Pakistani Taliban, armed with nuclear weapons and hostile to Shi'a Iran, takes power? Iran will be powerless to prevent the destruction of its country. That's just not a risk that any country is going to take by placing its supreme national interests in the hands of a foreign country which does not at all have Iran's interests in mind.