Gwynne Dyer: Reports of Iran's nuclear ambitions sound like a repeat of Iraq eight years ago

“We will not build two (nuclear) bombs in the face of (America’s) 20,000,” said Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in response to an International Atomic Energy Agency report this week that accuses Iran of doing just that. He called Yukiya Amano, the head of the IAEA, a U.S. puppet, saying: “This person does not publish a report about America and its allies' nuclear arsenals.”

Well, that’s true, actually. Amano will never publish a report about America’s nuclear weapons (only 5,133 of them now, actually). He hasn’t said anything about Israel’s, Britain’s, and France’s weapons of mass destruction either. And his report is largely based on information fed to him by Western intelligence agencies.

But apart from that, Amano is as impartial and free from U.S. influence as you would expect a career Japanese diplomat to be. Only cynical people will see any resemblance to Colin Powell’s performance at the United Nations in 2003, when the U.S. defense secretary held up a test tube and assured us all that Iraq really was working on germ warfare.

Iraq was allegedly working on nuclear weapons, too: former president George Bush’s famous “smoking gun,” which also subsequently went missing. And on the basis of this “intelligence” about Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction,” the United States and its more gullible allies invaded the country. Hundreds of thousands died, no weapons were found, and nothing was learned. Here we go again.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. The same intelligence agencies are producing the same sort of reports about Iran that we heard eight years ago about Iraq’s nuclear ambitions, and interpreting the information in the same highly prejudiced way.

Many people in the West realise that they are being hustled into yet another attack on a Middle Eastern country, but they don’t really worry about it too much. After all, it will only be air strikes, and we all know that an air-only war is practically casualty-free for the side with air superiority. Look at Libya, for example.

But how many citizens of the United States or Britain know that Iran has ten times as many people as Libya? Maybe one in 10, maybe one in 20. How many know that Iran is a partially democratic, technologically proficient state with no history of attacking its neighbours, not a tinpot dictatorship run by a vicious loon? About the same number. How many realise that the war would not end with a few days of air strikes? Practically none.

The interesting exception to all this is Israel, where people do know those things, and where there is a vigorous debate about whether attacking Iran is a good idea. A lot think it is not, and that also goes for both of Israel’s intelligence agencies, Mossad and Shin Bet. Meir Dagan, the recently retired head of Mossad, said last January that an attack on Iran was “the stupidest idea” he had ever heard.

So Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defence minister Ehud Barak, who do both want to attack Iran (or rather, have the United States do it for them), have gone public. If the Western powers don’t act at once, they warn, then Iran will get nuclear weapons and Armageddon will be just around the corner.

There are two things wrong with this proposition. One is the evidence. If you believe it all, it shows that Iran wants the knowledge and equipment that would let it build a nuclear weapon very quickly if necessary: an Israeli nuclear threat, a military coup in nuclear-armed Pakistan that brings young Shia-hating officers to power, whatever.

The evidence does not show that Iran is actually building a nuclear weapon now, or has any present intention of doing so. And having the knowledge and equipment that would let you do so fast in an emergency is entirely legal under IAEA rules.

The other problem with the accusations against Iran is the logic behind them. Building a nuclear weapon now would be extremely costly for Iran in terms of economic sanctions, global diplomatic isolation and the like if it became known. But it would be completely pointless from a deterrence point of view if it remained secret.

Deterrence is the only logical reason that Iran would ever want nuclear weapons, since it would be suicidal for it to attack anybody with them. As Mahmoud Ahmadnejadi pointed out (above), it would have at the most a few nuclear warheads. The United States has thousands of them, Israel has hundreds of them, and even Pakistan has dozens.

If Iran’s leaders were completely logical in their thinking, they wouldn’t waste a minute thinking about nuclear deterrence. They’d just rely on the fact that their military can completely shut the Gulf to oil traffic and bring the global economy to its knees if anybody attacks them. However, they are still a lot more rational than their Western counterparts— or at least than their Western counterparts can afford to seem in public.

You heard about that recent exchange between French president Nicolas Sarkozy and U.S. president Barack Obama that went out on an open microphone? Sarko said “I can’t stand (Netanyahu) any more. He’s a liar.” And Obama replied: “You're sick of him? I have to deal with him every day.” What about? One gets you 10 that it’s about bombing Iran.

Comments (38) Add New Comment
reality check
Jeez, now this dimwit is supporting Iran? Credibility down the drain. Iran has "no history of attacking it's neighbors" - yeah right. Why would Iran build a nuclear weapon - um, to destroy Israel. That is a stated goal of the Iranian "partially democratic" (read partially NOT democratic) regime. Besides, everyone knows it doesn't matter what the President of Iran thinks - he doesn't rule his country, the whacked out ayatollah is the real power. AhMADinejad is just the face to detract from what is really going on. You know, kinda like W and Cheney. Of course Israel attacking Iran is a bad idea. It doesn't mean that the leaders of Iran are stable. Iran is a great country in Dyer's eyes - look at how it treats it own citizens. And of course this useful idiot couldn't pass up an opportunity to attack America. His prejudices and unbalanced thinking invalidate his argument.
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Pat Crowe
The last time I read Gwyn's perception of Iran regarding Israel I have not considered his opinions relevant since. This article reinforces my stand.
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Stephen
@reality check

'Iran has "no history of attacking it's neighbors" - yeah right.'

OK, so when exactly did Iran ever initiate an attack on its neighbours? Perhaps you could enlighten us.
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Taxpayers R Us
I'd hate to make an ad hominem attack, but Dyer is so anti-Israel that whatever ultra-lefty god exists Herself could tell him that they had nuclear weapons and he'd still deny it.

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Paul C
Iran's neighbours are Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Aremenia, Turkey and Iraq. Thirty years ago Iraq attacked Iran. That's the last military action Iran has been involved in, minus the USS Vincennes violating Iranian waters and shooting down an Iranian airliner. They do semi-secretly support Hezbollah, but hey, the CIA and Mossad play those games too.

Is it a good thing for regional stability for Iran to have such an aggressive nuclear program? Not at all. But then, it isn't good for Israel to have actual nuclear missiles either. Nor is it good for the US to be prosecuting wars on two of Iran's borders. However the world has survived these things, and it will survive a nuclear Iran just as it has survived a nuclear Pakistan and a nuclear North Korea, and a nuclear South Africa, and an (infinitely more dangerous) nuclear Soviet Union. This is Dyer's point, no more, no less.

To be fair, the world will survive an American attack on Iran as well, but I for one have seen enough wars of stupidity to last a lifetime, and really, does the economy need another five trillion dollar hit right now?
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Jan Burton
@reality check

"Why would Iran build a nuclear weapon - um, to destroy Israel."

-------------

Umm, no. Iran wants nukes for the same reason why all other nuclear powers wanted them: deterrence!

Can you blame them? Iraq and Libya gave up their WMD and North Korea did not. Which regime is still with us?
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scissorpaws
Reading the news these days, realizing just what a pack of dolts is running this world - financially, environmentally, militarily - there's a case to be made for anarchy.
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DsHK
If Iran had a nuke and decided to 'destroy' Israel, then Iran itself would be mostly glass before their nuke even hit the Jewish nation. As soon as that Iranian nuke launches there would be a massive response from the 'good guys' from the various subs in the immediate vicinity. It would be complete suicide for Iran. They'd be gone before their alleged lust to destroy Israel could be realized.

All you fools who believe the "madman" hype are the same fools who once believed that the Russians wanted us all dead and could nuke us 'any moment' during the Cold war. I used to believe the Russkies would nuke us and go all Red Dawn on N. America. Forgive me, I was a kid back then.

Luckily I grew up and my intellect evolved to realize that the good guys are just as corrupt and twisted as the bad guys. I realize that these so called "enemies" are actually just what our leaders want - an excuse to possibly move in and take whatever they want, as they've been doing since I was a kid.

Iran can do as they please. It's what we in the West have always done - without the consideration of others. Look in the frickin mirror FFS
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Pat Crowe
Gwyn, I just can't buy into hard line Islamists playing nice with fissionable weapons. Iran may not have attacked it's enemies up front in modern times but the evidence of covert, logistical support for right wing extremism is clear. The argument that America plays poorly on the international stage vs. Irans right to nuclear self preservation is apples to oranges.
Appeasement will fail in this case. Again.
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RF
I agree that when a country has many enemies and is constantly spewing propaganda and hate and threats of violence, they should probably be thoroughly attacked just to be on the safe side.

Clearly the United States needs to be stopped.
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Bill Phillips
I don't think Gwynne Dyer is generically anti-Israel, but rather anti-Likud. And since Dyer's views coincide with those of Meir Dagan, who has a better-than-average grasp of what's going on, maybe attacking Iran really is a stupid idea.
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Coast Guarder
Only one of the "Nuclear Powers" has ever used it's arsenal to attack its enemy. Yup the good ole US of A, and they used it twice. Now I won't get into a debate of whether or not that was a justified use of an atomic weapon, but remember that fact. We sit very comfortably under the deterrent shield provided by the US military, and so it's really hard for us to be all that frightened of our neighbours to the south. But to the rest of the world, they are still the one and only nation with the balls to push the button. So I am a bit skeptical when the sole nation that has not one but two nuclear smack downs to their credit is the one trying to scare us all with new Islamic bogeymen...these ones glow in the dark from all of their illicit nuclear bomb building they do in their hidden lairs. And while the Iranian government may spout off opinions counter to those popular in the West, they are a relatively stable nation with more democratic institutions than many other nations in the area. As an earlier commenter stated, they have not been the aggressor in any of the conflicts they've been engaged in during my lifetime and then some.

Honestly, I really don't see the harm in a nation putting together what is essentially the geopolitical equivalent of a roadside safety kit. We cobble together a bag with some flares, maybe some dried food, a few tools and possibly an old cell phone or radio. We hope we never have to pull it out but in the eventuality that we do we are glad it's there. With Iran they want to do the same sort of thing; cobble together the essential components of a thermonuclear weapon...but just have em ready to be assembled. ...blindfolded preferably...sort of like during basic training in the army (only with a rifle as opposed to the enriched uranium and detonator combo). And hopefully the day never comes, but if it ever does and suppose Turkmenistan keeps borrowing the hedge clippers but never fucking returns them, no matter how many times you ask...then I think everyone would understand assembling and lobbing it over the fence. And if Turkmenistan (worrying about such an event happening) begins to bring the hedge clippers back, sharpened and oiled to boot, then maybe just maybe the world is a better more civilized place thanks to an pile of parts and bits of radioactive material...just waiting there, hoping to be assembled.
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Geezer Longshanks
The mainstream media particularly Associated Press are nothing but corporate owned pro-Israel propagandists. They have been demonizing Iran constantly for years Now they are ratchetting up the lies and truth twisting to a hysterical pitch. It really is ridiculous and disgusting how we're lied too.
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daryl wakeham
So Great Britain and the USA overthrow a democratically elected Iranian government in 1953: code named the TPAJAX Project and put in the Shah. The sin of this government? They nationalized their oil in 1951. That's right, the Iranians actually took their oil from the Anglo-Persian Oil company - a company that we now know as BP.

The US trains the dreaded secret police, the Savak, who terrorize their own people to keep a despot in power. Sound familiar? Same game as Vietnam, the Philippines, Iraq, too many countries in South and Central America to list.

Then Reagan's delivery boy Rumsfeld gives lots of weapons to Iraq to attack Iran in the 80's. It's a win-win for the US as they get rid of second hand weapons and then get to use the money to supply Ollie North's Contras in Nicaragua and punish the Iranians for nationalizing their oil.

And wasn't it just last week that America admitted to sending in many covert missions into Iran from Pakistan and Afghanistan and even Iraq over the past ten years? Um, isn't that tantamount to an act of war?

Sorry, Israel is not the only country which can claim hostile neighbours as an excuse to arm itself to the nuclear teeth and use pre-emptive strikes to protect itself.

I'd want to protect my people from those countries whose souls have been sold to the petro-chemical sociopaths too. Too bad that Canadians surrendered their sovereignty when they elected a former oil executive to 24 Sussex Drive.

I am with Dwyer and Phillips.
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OMG
What exactly is a 'partially democratic' state? Would that be a system defined by the Council of Guardians approving who can run in a rigged election or the militias on motor cycles gunning people down. Dyer has spent the last twenty plus years cheer-leading the theocrats and probably actually believes his own musings by now. If Gwen and his followers were a little bit older they would tell us the nazis were awesome and would never hurt anyone, let alone work on a nuke. I suppose if their North Korean knock-off reactor (thank you China) pulls a Chernobyl he will still blame the Americans and the Israelis.
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sherban
The radioactivity that Mr.Amano detected is not from Iran is from Fukushima.Really US and Israel and "the free world"have many problems at home,improve their democracy,get out from crisis etc.
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medUSA
Foreign Policy in the middle-east is not an ad hoc affair. The saber rattling against Iran today is just one more step in a larger scheme to reorder the region; a scheme hatched in the twisted minds of both neo-liberals and neo-conservatives in the US and their counterparts in Israel. It has nothing to do with any real threat to either nation, and everything to do with Israel's dominance in the neighborhood and US control of the regions resources, not to mention the profits generated to US "defense" corporations and big oil; the usual suspects Eisenhower warned us about.
Washington, in his farewell address warned us also, of undue influence of foreign powers, and of entangling alliances, policies that safely guided the Republic for generations. We ignore the sagacious advice from these two President's at our peril.
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ReadMore
@reality check:

The US is a "partially democratic" (read partially NOT democratic) regime.

Just who won the 2000 Presidential election?
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Joseph Barrett
Dyer, as usual, has it right. Iran has been kicked about by western imperialists for well over one hundred years, never less egregiously so than when British and US intelligence toppled democratically elected Mossadegh in 1953, initiating an appalling series of blow back consequences for Iran and for the world. As usual, a large part of this has to do with Iranian oil deposits which are substantial. The 1953 coup was sparked by British anger that Iran was likely to kick out the British and US oil companies, which is what happened anyway when Mossadegh's successor and CIA puppet, the Shah, was in turn toppled by Khomenei (actually preferred by the West to the alternative possibility of a socialist revolution). Iran knows the oil will eventually run out; it also realizes that its lack of refinery power makes it very dependent on other countries for refined oil. Although I think nuclear power for energy purposes is a mistake that the world needs to redress, quickly, I can see why the Iranian govt. would consider this a prudent option. Of course, when put alongside the vast nuclear assets of Israel, the western countries, Russia, China, India and Pakistan, western obsession with Iranian nuclear capability is a sick and pathetic joke that should never have been given the time of day by a sycophantic mainstream media. Yes, and Dyer is also right to say that Iran is a functioning, if seriously flawed democracy - about as flawed as the US system of democracy: the first is overseen by a religious hierarchy; the second is overseen by a corporatist plutocracy.
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Colm O' Toole
You can just tell that alot of the commenters here wetting their pants over Iran are the same fools that cheered on the Iraq war.

Israel is not going to attack Iran they are just crying wolf again for more military aid. It's a numbers game. Israel has a jewish population 5.5 Million, Iran has a population of 75 Million.

Israel is a landmass the size of Rhode Island (at its slim point Israels border is only 9 miles wide). Iran is the size of Texas, Arizona and California combined.

Israel would have to be as crazy as most of us Europeans think it is to even dream of attacking Iran and if it did Iran could utterly destroy Israel with one hand tied behind its back. It's all a numbers game the the numbers don't look good for Israel.
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