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Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Brzezinski on Iran

Zbigniew Brzezinski and William Odom have a major article in the Washington Post today calling for a more sensible policy on Iran. Two quotes:
Current U.S. policy toward the regime in Tehran will almost certainly result in an Iran with nuclear weapons. The seemingly clever combination of the use of "sticks" and "carrots," including the frequent official hints of an American military option "remaining on the table," simply intensifies Iran's desire to have its own nuclear arsenal. Alas, such a heavy-handed "sticks" and "carrots" policy may work with donkeys but not with serious countries. The United States would have a better chance of success if the White House abandoned its threats of military action and its calls for regime change.
The widely propagated notion of a suicidal Iran detonating its very first nuclear weapon against Israel is more the product of paranoia or demagogy than of serious strategic calculus. It cannot be the basis for U.S. policy, and it should not be for Israel's, either.
Naturally, I responded with a letter to the editor. You can read it here first, and, quite probably, last:
While I applaud Zbigniew Brzezinski and William Odom's call ["A Sensible Path on Iran," 5/27/08] for a more sensible policy on Iran, they continue to propagate myths about Iran, most notably in their reference to "the fantasy rhetoric of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regarding the use of nuclear weapons."

In a speech given on April 11, 2006, Ahmadinejad declared that Iran had "joined the nuclear club," referring to their initial success at enriching uranium. Here's what he said at the time: "We have declared many times, and we declare again, that our nuclear technology is in the service of peaceful goals. We declare that mass destruction weapons are sought by those who still think in the mode of 50 years ago. Those who think that political equations and cultural and economic equations can be solved to their benefit by relying on arsenals of mass destruction weapons." Nothing he has said since that date has ever contradicted that initial statement; the idea that he has delivered "fantasy rhetoric" about the use of nuclear weapons is itself pure fantasy.

That fact alone casts rather strong doubt on Brzezinski and Odom's opening statement that "current U.S. policy toward the regime in Tehran will almost certainly result in an Iran with nuclear weapons," but as it happens there is even stronger evidence. Considering the religious character of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and considering that it is a widely-held belief amongst American politicians and pundits that the most powerful person in Iran is not Ahmadinejad but Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, it is surely relevant that on August 10, 2005, Khamenei issued a fatwa declaring "that the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that the Islamic Republic of Iran shall never acquire these weapons." Curiously, Brzezinski and Odom, along with every other American politician and pundit, fail to mention that rather salient fact.

Iran, like every other signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, has a perfect right to develop nuclear power including the enrichment of uranium. As Brzezinski and Odom note, it is the United States, with its failure to significantly reduce its nuclear arsenal, which is in violation of the NPT, not Iran.

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