Dagens Nyheter op-ed, Aug 12th 2008
How to stop Iran
WHATEVER THE regime in Teheran might officially declare, its ambitions seem pretty obvious; Iran wants to become a nuclear power, the tenth in the world after North Korea, and appears to be well on its way to acquire the technology and the resources to achieve its goals, thereby breaching its international obligations and commitments.
Less obvious is what the world can or should to about it. Israel is repeatedly said to be preparing a military attack on Iran, the US is still said to have an open mind about it, the international community is proposing various non-military means to make Iran change its course. These other means, in addition to further sanctions, include more or less generous offers of technology and resources for the development of Iran’s nuclear energy program. These offers mostly play to the galleries, since what is offered is something else than what Iran apparently wants and is willing to pay a high political and economic prize to get.
It is quite possible that the Israelis actually intend to proceed from words to deeds, and even quite possible that the US will allow them to do so, but most experts seem to agree (even the Israelis) that this at best can delay Iran’s nuclear ambitions. They also seem to agree that a military attack might strengthen the regime in Iran instead of weakening it, even triggering a regional war and a global oil crisis.
THE TROUBLESOME truth may thus be that neither Israel nor USA, nor any other nation for that matter, at this moment can force Iran to rethink, at least not without a great risk of having things going from bad to worse.
Israel has nonetheless argued that there is nothing worse than Iran getting nuclear weapons, since they fear that Iran might want to use them for the annihilation of Israel. But since Israel has the capability to annihilate Teheran and other parts of Iran in a second nuclear strike, this rather strengthens the argument that Israel’s long-term security cannot based on nuclear arms and that neither Israel nor Iran nor any other state in the region will be more secure by having them.
Which also strengthens the argument that the problem with Iran becoming a nuclear power must be seen as part of the problem with nuclear powers in general. For the same reasons that Israel justifiably may ask itself what Iran is to do with its nuclear weapons, the Iranians may ask themselves why Israel, or neighboring Pakistan, or rapidly growing India are so keen on holding on to theirs. And at least considering itself having the same moral right as them to defy the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, NPT, a treaty which these three nations unlike Iran have not ratified but for which they have been more rewarded than punished by the international community.
THEY COULD also ask themselves what France is to do with its nuclear weapons, or Great Britain, or, why not, USA, Russia or China, and thereby reach the not wholly unreasonable position that if Iran shall refrain from having nuclear weapons, the states that are already having them must take steps to show that they are willing to denuclearize.
This is in fact one of the pillars of the NPT-treaty from 1970; in exchange for having states without nuclear weapons committing themselves never to get them, states with nuclear weapons are committing themselves to ultimately get rid of them (article VI). The commitment of the nuclear states is admittedly vague but absolutely crucial, since it testifies to the basic assumption of the treaty that nuclear weapons are of no military value to anybody.
It is therefore no small breach of treaty that the nuclear powers in practice have ignored their part of the deal. They have not only kept clinging to their nuclear arms, but from time to time endeavored to make them militarily more usable. Only a few years ago the Bush administration suggested that a new type of mini-nukes, bunker busters, be developed for preventive strikes such as the bombing of underground Iranian facilities suspected of producing nuclear weapons.
Having the world’s mightiest nuclear power nurturing such plans not only constitutes a breach of the spirit and letter of the non-proliferation-treaty, but also takes the moral sting out of the argument that no other states than those already having nuclear weapons shall be allowed to have any.
THIS IS of course not a defense of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but perhaps a reason to radically rethink the strategy of nuclear non-proliferation; not only focusing on how to, at any cost, prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons, but also on how to make the existing nuclear powers show the world that nuclear weapons are not for them either.
How to have Iran willingly and in its own interest give up on nuclear weapons? is the question.
Having the nuclear powers start making good on their commitment to give up on them as well, is perhaps the answer.