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Media Microscope: Improverished Debate on Enrichment

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Jamie Hyams

Improverished Debate on Enrichment

It is interesting how many commentators think it is more dangerous to prevent Iran - which supports terror on a massive scale, has regional hegemonic ambitions and has avowed its intentions to destroy one of its neighbours - from enriching uranium than it is to let it acquire nuclear weapons. Many also continue to argue that diplomacy is the only way to solve the problem, and that threats of force are counter-productive. Somehow, the fact that the Europeans, with US backing, have been negotiating with Iran for years, and have achieved absolutely nothing, doesn’t seem to dent their confidence.

For example, the Guardian’s Martin Woollacott, in the July 13 Sunday Age, wrote, “If you wanted to draft a scenario for the end of the relatively orderly and prosperous world we live in, you might well begin it with an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities… Ali Shirazi, a naval aide to the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was not far wrong last week when he said that America’s ‘vital interests in the world would be set on fire’. Not only America’s. Saying that a prospect like this should be ‘on the table’, as Bush and Cheney do, is like saying that a bucket of cyanide should be on the table.”

He concluded by admitting that, “there should be no illusions that the Iranians will entertain a deal that cuts them off from the possibility of nuclear weapons.” However, he continued, “If they were ever to agree to that, it would only be after a long and reassuring period, free from the threats that have helped create the present crisis.” It should be obvious that the threats are one means to help resolve the crisis, which has been caused largely by Iran’s intransigence. Without threats, Iran will simply continue enriching with impunity while pretending to negotiate.

In the July 7 Age, former diplomat Paul Barratt also argued for a change of Western tactics. He began, “As we become accustomed to higher petrol prices resulting from Israeli threats to attack Iran, it is timely to ask whether the West’s current approach to Iran really serves our interests.” While there was a slight jump in petrol prices following strong comments by Israeli Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, to imply that Israel is more than marginally responsible for current petrol prices is at best sloppy writing and at worst, intentionally inflammatory.

Barratt’s solution is to give Iran “security rewards” for Iranian acceptance of “full-scope safeguards”. Of course, Iran would only accept “security rewards” (which it has already been repeatedly offered) as an alternative to nuclear weapons if it wanted the weapons purely for self-defence. This is clearly not the case.

On the same page AIJAC Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein explained why a nuclear-armed Iran would be unacceptable, and that while diplomacy could still persuade Iran to abandon its enrichment program, this required enhanced sanctions backed with the threat of force as a last resort.

No matter what the Iranian leadership says about its intentions towards Israel, some writers continue to insist that Iran would never actually launch a nuclear attack. Former Australian Ambassador Richard Broinowski, in an opinion piece that appeared in the Herald Sun and Adelaide’s Advertiser on June 24 and the June 19 Canberra Times, wrote about the steps various countries are taking to strengthen and adapt their nuclear arsenals.

He continued, “In this context, it is a red herring to be pointing the finger of nuclear irresponsibility solely at Iran, as Bush and the Europeans have just done. Iran is no more likely to use nuclear weapons aggressively, if and when it eventually acquires them, than any of the other nuclear powers (except possibly the United States). To do so would mean nuclear annihilation, and notwithstanding President Ahmadinejad’s ranting against the Zionist state, the Iranians are not fools.”

This misses the important points that, for at least some of the Iranian leadership, some things are more important than the regime’s - or even the country’s - survival and that nuclear weapons, even if not used, would allow Iran to dominate its region and spread its “revolution” through terrorism and intimidation with impunity.

Appearing on the July 10 edition of “AM” on ABC Radio, former US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross gave a far more sober and responsible assessment. He explained, “Iran is a nuclear power state today, we shouldn’t kid ourselves. They have accumulated more than 150 kilograms of low-enriched uranium. That’s the produce of the enrichment process with the centrifuges they are using right now. So, whatever we have been doing internationally, it has not been working. And I think it’s time the Iranians understood that the price they’re going to pay if they continue… down this path is not one that they’re going to want to pay.”

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