Friday, January 06, 2012

Iran is not a threat to peace

Stephen Harper disagrees with me of course because I read it on the front page of the Ottawa Citizen this morning.  He goes so far as to state that Iran wants to acquire and USE nuclear weapons.

Such asinine statements coming from the leader of our country just left me shaking my head.

Of course his statements are partly the result of Iran's building of nuclear reactors and the assumption that they are being built to manufacture nuclear weapons.  Any assertion that they are building them to satisfy their need for electricity is ignored because, the argument goes, once they build them to produce power it would not take much to convert them to produce weapons.

The thing with that argument is the same is true of all countries that use nuclear power.  Once you have a working reactor it is really a small step to move it from producing electricity to producing weapons.  Canada, Germany, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the Scandavian states, just to name a few, are just six months away from the capability of producing nuclear weapons.  All it would take is the decision to do so and the conversion of their reactors would be completed in about half-a-year.  That is why is is not illegal under international law to build nuclear reactors to the point where they can produce electricity.  If it were there would be no legal nuclear reactors anywhere.  A country only gets into legal trouble if it converts those reactors to produce weapons. 

Of course, people will say that this is Iran so they cannot be trusted to play by the rules.  Fair point although I would point out that they are no more guilty of breaking international rules as many other states that are considered more "respectable".  However, from a practical point of view why would Iran want to build nuclear weapons?  To use them?  Of course not.  One of their greatest enemies is Israel and that country already has hundreds of warheads and the means of delivering them.  Iran has none of either so why would they begin building them and spark an arms race where they would be beginning such a race so far behind that they would lose it before it really began?  If they ever actually tried to use them they would face a massive counterattack from Israel and probably the US.  I know that many judge Iran by the statements of its president, who is somewhat of a loon, but we all know that the real power in that country lies with clerics behind the scenes and they have proven to be very pragmatic folks over the years.  They will not risk their Islamic Revolution by being so stupid as to attack Israel with nuclear weapons.  Iran's government stated last month that they have no interest in making nuclear weapons.  I happen to believe them because to do so openly provides them with no advantage and a great deal of disadvantage and they would not be able to do it in secret.

Stephen Harper also made his statements as part of the ongoing campaign by hawks in the west, who want to attack Iran, trying to bring public opinion on to their side.

Hopefully they will be completely unsuccessful.  If the goal of any attacks on Iran is to stop their nuclear development program they would likely fail.  Iran is a modern country with a sophisticated arms industry feeding a sophisticated armed forces.  They have a very capable air defence system that would play merry hell with western airforces and their armed forces are large and they are geared towards one goal and one goal only; to shut down the Strait of Hormuz.  Given unlimited time and resources the West would prevail of course but the cost would not be cheap.  The current western tactic of dropping bombs on their enemies from a safe altitude would not open the Strait if Iran closed it.  The west would have to put both planes and ships into the danger zones and they would lose some of them.  Western public opinion probably would not react too badly to the occasional news of lost airplanes but I do not believe the same could be said to daily reports of aircraft losses and the loss of one or more ships during a war with Iran.

Then there is the economic impact.  In general, the economies in the west are teetering on the edge of another recession.  Taking actions that would probably cause the cost of oil to double or even triple would not help matters.  That would probably cause public opinion towards a third war in that region of the world, in a decade, to sour rather quickly.

Iran is no angel in the international community but they are not the devil either and they are not lead by a bunch of suicidal individuals bent on taking their enemies to Hell with them in a rain of fire.  They bear watching as they develop their nuclear power capability but the overblown rhetoric that we saw today from Mr. Harper and from others in the West during the past few months is not useful at best and dangerous at worst.  It could very well provide the hawks in the various western capitals the cover they require to begin a war with Iran that would result in the unnecessary loss of life of many Western military personnel as well as causing great economic upheaval that would result in the unnecessary loss of livelihoods of a great many citizens in the West.

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