Not for the first time: Oborne and Morrison wrong on Iran

Military intervention in Iran is the absolute last resort the West should take. But how can any rational observer wish to take the use of force off the table?

Is Iran worth a gamble?
Joseph Power
On 26 April 2013 14:51

Some people can be accused of warmongering against Iran. Others can be accused of completely denying reality.

Peter Oborne and David Morrison had a rather disingenuous article published in The Telegraph the other day, one that ultimately boiled down to an apologist piece for the Iranian regime and its nuclear ambitions.

“Certainly Iran has been guilty of very serious human rights abuses (though certainly no worse than many states, such as Saudi Arabia) which are regarded as western allies.”

“But the central claim that Iran is an aggressive and malevolent power is based – to an astonishing extent – on sheer ignorance.”

The first quote is slightly disheartening, albeit a piece of moral equivalency. The latter quote is unintentionally amusing. The article goes on for some time afterward, and not a single mention of Iranian’s regional destabilization is mentioned. In fact, in the entirety of the piece, one would be hard pressed to find a reason to fear the acquisition of a nuclear arsenal by clerical fascists.

Claims of ‘sheer ignorance’ regarding Iran’s aggression are deliciously funny when one can point to a bare-faced terrorist organization like Hezbollah, who has been terrorizing the people of Lebanon, Israel, and soon, Syria (Hezbollah has reportedly declared war on the Syrian rebels), among others. It is of course no secret that Hezbollah is sponsored to the sum of $200 million annually from Tehran and has received training from the Revolutionary Guards. Oh, and did anybody notice the Iranian-built rockets flying from Gaza in December?

Not Oborne and Morrison it would appear. Instead the pair issue a compulsory dig at Israel:

“By contrast Israel (with perhaps 400 nuclear bombs and the capacity to deliver them anywhere in the Middle East) is the object of more than $3 billion a year of US military aid.”

It seems unnecessary, but one may as well point out that Israel is our ally, and the only established liberal democracy in the Middle East. There is a stark difference between liberal democracies and despotisms run by clerical fascists.

Oborne and Morrison go as far as to deny Iran’s intentions to acquire nuclear weaponry:

“US intelligence thinks it does not. They have been clear on this point ever since they published a National Intelligence Estimate (a formal assessment expressing the consensus view of the 16 US intelligence agencies) on Iran's nuclear activities in November 2007.”

The Telegraph, in all fairness, has published polemics from both sides of this argument. The morning after a preposterous piece written by former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who argued that Iranian nuclear weapons wouldn’t be worth going to war over was published, it followed up with an article on Iran’s ‘Plan B’ facility to acquire nuclear weapons.

Nobody can say with certainty whether Iran is truly on the path to weaponry. But they can use their own judgement when reading Oborne and Morrison’s misrepresentation. The pair argues, for example, that “Iran's enrichment facilities are open to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA), as are its other nuclear facilities.” But compare that assessment with the aforementioned ‘Plan B’ article:

“The Telegraph can disclose details of activity at a heavily-guarded Iranian facility from which international inspectors have been barred for 18 months. The images, taken earlier this month, show that Iran has activated the Arak heavy-water production plant.

Heavy water is needed to operate a nuclear reactor that can produce plutonium, which could then be used to make a bomb.”

I am no blood-thirsty hawk; military intervention in Iran is the absolute last resort the West should take. But how can any rational observer wish to take the use of force off the table?

Let’s begin with the obvious reasons to keep military force as an option: a regime that openly calls for the destruction of a neighbouring state cannot be allowed to gain nuclear weapons. Iran has been attacking Israel for decades via its proxies of Hamas and Hezbollah; Israel will not be satisfied with ‘waiting it out’ and seeing if Iranian rhetoric is all bark no bite. The Jewish people have made that mistake before.

But we must also consider that the consequences of Iranian nuclear capability in the surrounding Gulf States are dire. Saudi Arabia has already stated, in so many words, that ‘if Iran gets them, we get them’. And when Saudi Arabia gets them, Egypt will get them. Iraq, Qatar, you know where this is leading. A Reservoir Dogs-esque scene in the most politically volatile and unstable region on the planet is not worth the safety of complacency.

It’s worth noting that the threat from the United States has already stopped Iran in its tracks before. When the mullahs in 2003 watched the US dissolve Saddam Hussein’s army like a sugar-cube in hot tea, they immediately suspended their nuclear programme in the fear that they were next.

Military action is the absolute last option: Lives should not be put on the line lightly, nor should the spilling of national blood and treasure rest on the same shaky ground as Iraq. That being said, an Iran with nuclear weapons is a damn sight worse than an Iran without them. 

Joseph Power is a freelance writer from Brisbane, Australia. Follow him on Twitter @JosephDPower

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