Saturday, September 26, 2009

What Juan Cole says 

Whenever Iran or the Middle East are in the news, I go to Juan Cole to see what he is saying about it. In his piece about Iran's Qom Enrichment Facility he provides a useful summary of the problem:
Julian Borger and Patrick Wintour of the Guardian report that Iran was forced to acknowledge the site because Western intelligence had picked it up in satellite photographs and then gathered information on it by other means. Ahmadinejad is correct in saying that by the letter of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has not done anything illegal, insofar as the site has not gone operational and Iran is giving 6 months notice. However, the Iranian government had additionally pledged to the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2006 that it would alert the UN to any new new nuclear facility immediately. So Iran may not have broken the law but it has broken its word.
For Iran to break its word on this matter is, moreover, as serious as for it to break the law. (This self-destructive and overly cocky way of proceeding in Tehran was the subject of my column for Salon this week, asking if Ahmadinejad is intent on turning his country into an international pariah.) Iran's enemies, who want it put under severe economic sanctions of the sort that turned Iraq into a fourth-world country, and ideally would like to see the regime in Tehran overthrown-- if necessary by military means-- will point to the secret development of a new enrichment site as a sign of Tehran's essential deviousness.
. . .the law and the facts of the matter are less important than the determination of Europe and the US that Iran not develop even the Japan option. And this Qom facility and the delay in notification are powerful political arrows in the sanctions quiver.
And here's his conclusion:
I am personally opposed to further sanctions on Iran unless they are very carefully targeted so as not to harm ordinary people. Regimes running oil states are not very vulnerable to sanctions. Moreover, sanctions against Iran are deeply unfair if Israel, India and Pakistan are held harmless for ignoring the NPT altogether and for developing their bombs. In fact, the way the UNSC is proceeding against Iran is such as to destroy the NPT, because any country in its right mind would prefer to withdraw from it and just do as it pleases, a la Israel, than to submit to it and have that submission be a pretext for sanctions, even where the signatory country had done nothing contrary to the letter of the law.
Finally, I leave readers with a caveat. There may be less to the Qom plant than meets the eye. Beware the Hype.

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