Monday, December 3, 2007

No More Iranian Nukes Four Years Ago

President Ahmadinejad of Iran (BBC)
Today the US revealed that Iran has stopped pursuing nuclear weapons. The problem? The report is four years late.

The report states that Iran had ceased to pursue nuclear weapons technology back in 2003. This is quite troubling, as US intelligence reports dated after 2003 strongly claimed that Iran was actively, if not aggressively, pursuing a nuclear weapons program and that this was a direct threat to America.

Take a report dated August 23, 2006. It states: "Iran has conducted a clandestine uranium enrichment program for nearly two decades in violation of its International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreement, and despite its claims to the contrary, Iran is seeking nuclear weapons." This, of course, is highly embarrassing in one of two ways. Either the United States has been lying to us for the past four years or our intelligence gathering is so weak that it takes four years to find out that something has occurred. I do not know which one is worse.

Stephen Hadley (USIP)
Of course, the 2006 report could just be what the government fed to us, the electorate, to keep us in fear of Iran (do not forget that midterm elections were coming in November and campaigning was well under way). Take this quote from the report: "This report provides an unclassified assessment of the Iran question to help the American public understand the seriousness of the Iranian threat and to discuss ways U.S. intelligence collection and analysis against Iran must be improved." It is wholly possible that there was plenty of classified information regarding the actuality of Iran's nuclear weapons program (or, as it turns out, lack thereof).

But there is another quote in the report that supports the second of my aforementioned theories: "There is a great deal about Iran that we do not know...A special concern is major gaps in our knowledge of Iranian nuclear, biological, and chemical programs." If, as this report states, we know so little about Iranian nuclear weapons procurement, how can we (in the same report, mind you) claim that Iran was, without a doubt and over the country's insistence that it was not, developing nuclear weapons?

But, do not forget, just because Iran is four years out of trying to get nuclear weapons does not mean that they are not a major threat to America, according to Stephen Hadley (U.S. National Security adviser). This, despite the NIE's report (the most recent one) stating: "Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously." Diplomacy: it might actually be worth a try.

So, it appears that the inevitablity of Iranian nuclear holocaust may not be so inevitable, but the war drum continues to beat in the White House. Even if Iran had developed a nuclear weapon, the US would still outnumber them by 5,736 active nuclear warheads (hell, we can't even keep track of them and store them properly.) While I hate citing Wikipedia, the opening sentence of its article on nuclear weapons and the United States is telling: "The United States was the first country in the world to develop nuclear weapons, and is the only country to have used them in war against another nation."

I guess I am having trouble grasping the fact that we, as a country, can have as many nuclear weapons as we want but other countries that we deem unfit to possess them are not allowed to develop any type of nuclear capability (even for power, which Iran has claimed its uranium enrichment program is for and, with the advent of this report, now appears true.) Where do we, as a country, derive this power? Is it impossible to lead by example?

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