The frantic and conflicting rhetoric being thrown around these days makes it difficult to tell if we are on the brink of an arms race in the middle east, a handshake at the negotiating table, World War III, or simply another US election cycle.
If we want to see a peaceful outcome to all of this and avoid the slow slide into yet another illegal and costly war, we need to impress upon Congress the need for peaceful alternatives NOW and signal that we are paying close attention to the gathering clouds.
The first step is getting informed. So, we put together a short blog series to help clear up some of the murkiness that’s out there and point you in the direction of helpful information.
Part 1 – Is Iran close to having have a nuclear weapon?
Despite the fear-mongering by the media, the IAEA’s November 2011 report offers no new evidence contradicting a 2007 National Intelligence Agency finding citing high confidence on the part of American spy agencies that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003. Yes you read that right. Halted. A decade ago.
According to Reuters,
The Obama administration, relying on a top-priority intelligence collection program and after countless hours of debate, has concluded that Iranian leaders have not decided whether to actively construct a nuclear weapon, current and former officials said.
So what is all this talk about an Iranian bomb? Iran has been enriching uranium as part of its nuclear energy program, a right granted to it under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The fear is that Iran could put in place the capacity to quickly move to developing a nuclear weapon should it decide to do so.
Fortunately, as a signatory to the NPT, Iran is subject to regular inspections by the IAEA. If Iran were to ramp up its program to the point of developing a weapon, it would be nearly impossible to do so without ejecting the inspectors, thus raising alarm bells in the international community.
This explains why hawks in Congress are pushing to move the “redline” for military action from having a nuclear weapon to having a weapons capability, and why doing so is especially counterproductive and troubling. Capability is a vague term, and the sponsors of the legislation have not provided a definition. Moving the redline to ‘capability’ effectively means that the United States should have bombed Iran yesterday, in the words of Trita Parsi, according to some definitions of nuclear weapons capable.
Military officials agree that while bombing Iranian enrichment facilities would at the very most set any supposed nuclear weapons program back 2-3 years, it would most certainly provide cause for Iran to immediately work to develop a nuclear weapon. Having been attacked, Iran would likely withdraw from the NPT and kick out IAEA inspectors, leaving the international community with no way of knowing how far along such a program may be. In short, the military activity that Congressional hawks are pushing for would result in a more robust, determined and clandestine Iranian nuclear program then ever.
Anyone living in a post-Iraq war era should understand the importance of getting one’s facts straight before rushing into another war. Let’s also not forget the ease with which inconclusive data can be molded to fit political and short-term strategic gains.
I’ll leave you with this timeline from the Christian Science Monitor, which reminds us of the fact that officials have been estimating that an Iranian nuclear bomb is just around the corner since 1979.
Up next: What happens if there is a military strike on Iran (by Israel or the US)?