Preventing War: Iran

The mainstream media emphasize only sanctions or war as the way to deal with Iran, while the best available option receives almost no coverage. As explained below, sanctions will not work and could be a prelude to a disastrous and counterproductive war. So far, Western offers of negotiation, narrowly focused on the nuclear issue, have excluded any acknowledgement of Iran’s insistence on its NPT right to enrich Uranium. As far as Iran is concerned, this is a dead end, and it is no surprise that “negotiations” to date have failed. On the other hand, if we allowed Iran to enrich Uranium for peaceful purposes but only along with intrusive and vigorous inspections, we could have a deal that effectively eliminates the possibility of a clandestine nuclear weapon. Arms control experts say this would provide far more security for Israel and the US than we have now. The US could also offer incentives such as lifting of sanctions and security guarantees. This arrangement is best set in the context of an overall rapprochement between the US and Iran, including areas of mutually beneficial cooperation (e.g. Afghanistan, Iraq, and drug smuggling). This “grand bargain” would reinforce the nuclear agreements.

   Peace Action activists need to get this message into the media and to their national legislators, before it is too late.  We must not allow “sanctions or war” thinking to prevail, because war could be the result.  For those interested, further background reading is listed at the end.  


1. What is Iran up to? No one knows for sure whether or not Iran is developing nuclear weapons, because uranium enrichment can be for energy or other nonmilitary purposes or for a nuclear weapon.  Numerous press reports and political statements mislead us by converting statements of real concern or lack of knowledge by intelligence agencies into assertions of a weapons program. Example: Fox News featured a report entitled “CIA: Iran moving closer to nuclear weapon” when the actual report (covering through Dec. 2009) says “Iran continues to develop a range of capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so”.  The process of uranium enrichment is one of the more confusing terms being used in various IAEA reports and subsequently news sources. Uranium for peaceful use is usually less than 5% enriched (except 20% for medical isotopes). Uranium for weapons purposes needs to exceed 70%, enrichment, usually falling in the range of 80-90%. As noted below, the cure for uncertainty about Iran’s nuclear program is not hostile action, but rather intrusive inspections to insure against real nuclear weapon development. US intelligence now confirms that if the Iranian government decided to pursue a weapons program, it would likely take them 3-5 years to produce a workable bomb. There is ample time for serious diplomacy to work.    

Americans should have learned to avoid jumping to the wrong conclusions from the phony hype of Iraqi WMD that became accepted wisdom. As far as existential threats to Israel, many eminent Israeli leaders (e.g. Defense Minister Barak, former Mossad leader Halevy, and former Prime Minister Livni) openly dispute the assertion that Iran would be suicidal enough to launch a nuclear attack on Israel. Ahmadinejad himself said on CNN that he would accept any arrangement (with Israel) that Palestinians approved by vote, implying a reluctant acceptance of Israel under appropriate circumstances.

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