Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Hysterical Case Against Iran's Nuclear Program

Sometimes US and European news sources make their most reasonable case against Iran's nuclear program.

Other times we get the more hysterical version of it. This time from Elizabeth Palmer:

The International Atomic Energy Agency has assumed a difficult dual role: global nuclear policeman -- and honest broker. In his latest report to the IAEA Board of Governors this week, the Nobel Prize-winning Head of the Agency Mohammed el Baradei, gave Iran mixed grades for its nuclear transparency.

A “B plus” for coming clean on how and when its nuclear program secretly began, 20 years ago, when Iran was scavenging for restricted knowledge and equipment in, among other places, Pakistan.

But “C” and “D” marks for not allowing IAEA inspectors to investigate the program thoroughly, especially the parts of it that are under military control.

What just happened? I didn't see any grades in the report. Pdf here. Full text here.

But once Palmer gets rolling ...

The U.S. and its allies, on the other hand, see a paranoid, unstable theocracy with an exploding population and Arab enemies on all sides; a country that might decide it needs nuclear weapons precisely in order to “maintain security in the region,” and will not hesitate to make them if it can -- in spite of Jalili’s professed disdain for them.

"The US and its allies." Why can't Israel be mentioned at all in a report about the opposition to Iran's nuclear program? The reason the Shah's program was encouraged by the US but the current regime's program is a global threat is Israel and only Israel. This refusal to name that regime is more than just an irritant. It reaches the root problem of the presentation of the current conflict between the European and Islamic worlds. That problem is reflected by the D-Squared's acclaimed observation that good policies do not need to be covered in a layer of evasion.

The Israeli, US and European fight against everyone who disagrees about the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state is hopelessly unworkable policy and the impulse to hide it shows that while Palmer and others likely have not admitted it to themselves, they become uncomfortable if the discussion veers too close.

Next Iran is paranoid. There has been a steady stream of threats, direct and implied, to attack Iran. From John Bolton, from Dick Cheney, from George Bush, from every direction in Israel. Iran's response to these threats is that they are bluffs. That is closer to the opposite of paranoia than to paranoia.

And then Iran is surrounded by Arab enemies. Can someone send a map to CBS news? But while most of Iran's neighbors are not Arabs and none of Iran's neighbors are enemies, it is true that many Arab countries have their versions of the Shah in power and these Shahs are far more hostile to Iran than any of the people they rule. Similarly, Iran's Shah was far more hostile to Arabs and far less hostile to Israel than the Iranian people ever were.

And of course, as usual, Palmer can't be made to mention the words "Additional Protocol" when describing Iran's reduction in cooperation with the IAEA starting in February 2006. My current theory is that the word "additional" is too provocative. It is veering too close to the idea that Iran's implementation of them was voluntary and non-legally binding. This refusal to explain that situation does not hurt Iran, it only hurts the less informed among Palmer's readers.

Palmer's essay is slightly worse than average for Western press coverage of the issue of Iran's nuclear program. Today I saw the first mention of the words "Additional Protocol" that I've seen in weeks in a Western press article. The press is capable of being fairer. Reporters generally are not working to be as demonizing as possible, they are just looking through the lenses they are wearing, whether they know they're wearing them or not.

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