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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Iran and nuclear power

Does Iran really want to build a Nuclear bomb? As with many of the thornier questions of international politics, it depends who you ask.

Iran, not surprisingly, say they don't, that they only wish to enrich uranium for purposes of constructing electric power plants, something not forbidden to them by international treaties.

The US intelligence agencies think that Iran is 10 years away from building the bomb. The Israelis think they are 3 years away. Far be it from me to criticise the track record of the US intelligence community when it comes to sniffing out illegal weaponry. And the less said about Mossad the better.

The IAEA has found no evidence that Iran is in fact manufacturing weapons-grade fissile material, and the EU3 (Britatin, France and Germany) have stepped into mediate between the Iranians and the Americans. It hasn't been going particularly well.

The crux of the issue is that Iran is determined that they will continue to pursue the peaceful use of nuclear power, and that the EU3 and the Americans are just too suspicious to let them do this.

A terrible strategic risk is being taken here. It is entirely reasonable to expect countries to abide by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which Iran is a signatory to, but it is also counterproductive to deny a country a method of producing energy. Not only that, but it is hypocritical of both the US and Israel to criticise countres over nuclear weapons in light of the augmentation of both of their arsenals, declared and undeclared. It is double standards like this that lead to crises.

And what are they really going to do? Any sanctions that may be mooted at the security council would be vetoed by Russia and or China. And why on earth would you attack a country that supplies a large amount of oil to the world market, in a time when the oil market is incredibly tight (although I suppoese that didn't halt an attack on Iraq).

There seems so little honour and logic in this slowly evolving crisis that it suggests that there really is more going on thatn we may be led to believe. Perhaps Iran really does have nuclear weapons? Maybe the US is trying to wag the dog over some other issue?

What if, and this seems most plausible, the whole charade is a game of brinksmanship that is being stoked by gnawing fear about the impending peak in oil. If one more domino falls in the middle east, well pardner, I'ma goin' for ma gun!

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