Friday, April 17, 2015

Iran: Paranoia, Uncomfortable Facts and Elusive Peace

In their 2007 book, the The Sphinx of Tehran, Yossi Melman and Meir Javedanfar built a narrative around the theory, supported by Israeli intelligence given to Melman, that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a dangerous fanatic whose ideas were framed around a belief in the “Mahdi” and his imminent return.  The Mahdi is the twelfth Imam, the reason we hear the Iranian variant of Shia Islam referred to as “Twelver.”  This theory postulates that Ahmadinejad believed that increased enrichment of uranium could deliver the bomb to the Iranian arsenal by 2007, when Iran would presumably start a war against Israel.  This is an isolated view and the most extreme interpretation of what has been going on inside of Iran; a view not shared by anyone outside of Israel.

As much as Melman’s book offered a great plot for a Ludlum-like thriller, it was severely criticized in the Middle East Policy Council journal that published a review of the book by Gareth Porter.  Porter criticizes the authors for relying too heavily on verbatim Israeli intelligence viewpoints, without critically analyzing them.  He also finds Melman ascribing too much authority to the Iranian president and for equating political campaign rhetoric with actual policy.  Time has proven this view correct as Ahmadinejad has passed from the scene and both rhetoric and actions have changed.

Other odd facts uncomfortably linger:

The Iranian nuclear program was started under the Shah, with support from the United States.

The Ayatollah, Ruholla Khomeini, considered nuclear weapons to be Haram – forbidden under Islamic jurisprudence - and formally proscribed them.

A preexisting, clandestine nuclear program was then shut down.

Iran has publicly and repeatedly renounced weapons of mass destruction and is a signatory to the Nuclear Non Proliferation treaty, The Biological Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Iran does not possess nuclear weapons.

Israel is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty or the Chemical Weapons Convention and has never allowed the IAEA to inspect its nuclear facilities at Dimona, in the Negev desert.

Mordecai Vanunu publicly revealed the secret Israel nuclear weapons program in 1986, and the world has known of it since then.
Vanunu's Photograph of Israel Nuclear Equipment

What a framework for peaceful settlement of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program offers is the opening of a possible détente between the US and Iran, but more importantly the possibility of a détente between Iran and Saudi Arabia.  This would require a great deal of commitment from the US, Russia, Turkey and European allies.  Assuming that the narrow minds of religious extremists will continue to perpetuate a doom-driven status quo and that negotiations are therefore useless, demonstrates a lack of imagination and an adherence to the siege mentality of perpetual war. 

Pursuing dialogue and more dialogue, patiently, persistently and rationally, is the only path to peace.

War has become the easy and financially profitable answer to disputes around the world and history has proven that it sits very comfortably within the capitalist system, often serving as a growth engine during recessionary cycles and slumps.  Its social costs are incalculable.

Peace costs much less, but is more difficult to bring about.

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