We should reject the Guardian’s advice on Iran

Western leaders would do well to completely ignore the Guardian's advice. Simply accepting Iranian nuclear weapons is the one option which we should take off the table

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Time for the Guardian to stop playing the clown. The threat is real
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Peter Cannon
On 13 November 2011 12:52

Last week's Guardian editorial on Iran's nuclear programme was disgraceful even by Guardian standards.

Rather than urging - as one might expect - a peaceful solution to solve the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme, the Guardian instead argues that "It really is time to drop the pretence that Iran can be deflected from its nuclear path".

That’s right; the Guardian's solution is not military action, not sanctions, not peaceful pressure, and not diplomacy. It’s outright surrender.

Bizarrely, the Guardian prefaces this recommendation by casting doubt on the evidence for Iran's nuclear weapons programme, implying that the IAEA report is just the latest example of “a flurry of leaks about Iran's nuclear programme, always tending to suggest, without being able to absolutely prove, that Tehran is working to acquire nuclear weapons capacity".

What the Guardian fails to recognise is that this report from the IAEA is, or at least should be, a ‘game changer’.

The IAEA, as opposed to only Western powers, finally comes off the fence and effectively rules out peaceful purposes for Iran’s nuclear programme. It says that Iran has carried out "work on the development of an indigenous design of a nuclear weapon including the testing of components," and says of Iranian research that "the application of such studies to anything other than a nuclear explosive is unclear to the agency.”

Faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, it might seem wise not to rule out any options, including military ones. But not for the Guardian: "An attack on Iran would of course be madness... It really is time for the United States to recognise that there is no military solution."

Really? What is the evidence for this claim? If it came to it, military action may only perpetually delay rather than permanently stop the Iranian nuclear programme.  But given the alternative, that may turn out to be the least bad option.

So averse is the Guardian to the prospect of Western military action that it would rather accept an Iranian nuclear bomb and a future forever in its shadow than countenance such a policy.

The Guardian blithely argues that we should "be focusing not on the lost cause of what can be done to impede Iran's nuclear efforts" but on how to "live with" Iranian nuclear weapons.

This advice seems to rest on the assumption that the Iranian regime is rational, stable and predictable, and that it thinks like us. It isn’t and it doesn’t. Those who advocate living with an Iranian nuclear bomb are not just putting their faith in the current regime but in any future leader who may come to power in Iran.

Even if the Islamic Republic does not ‘use’ the weapons by launching them against Israel or anyone else, it will ‘use’ them to influence and threaten – explicitly or implicitly – its neighbours and the wider world, with the threat of nuclear Armageddon in the Middle East.

Iran - a country which already sponsors and directs terrorism, wages a proxy war against Israel (the country its president says should be “wiped off the map”), has been waging a proxy war against the UK and the USA in Iraq and Afghanistan and has repeatedly targeted British military personnel for hostage-taking – would be infinitely emboldened, knowing that it can act with impunity.

The Guardian argues that Iranian nuclear weapons might somehow put other states off going nuclear: “If neighbouring states were to conclude that pursuing the bomb had brought Iran no marked advantage, they might be cautious about emulating Tehran.”  This is just wishful thinking.

Regardless of the ‘marked advantage’ for Iran – and it is hard to see how such a victory in defiance of the rest of the world could do anything other than boost Iran’s standing – other countries in the region are likely to respond by seeking nuclear weapons of their own; not because they want to emulate Tehran, but because they fear it. 

A nuclear Iran is therefore most likely to trigger a nuclear arms race. And those regimes which do want to emulate Iran – such as that of Syria – will be inspired by Iran’s example. If we cannot or will not stop Iran, then how would we be expected to stop any of these other countries?

The Guardian says: "it really is time for both America and Israel to put aside the idea that they can stop history with high explosives, cyber-attacks, sanctions and assassinations."

History? Is that how they regard Iran going nuclear? It rather makes a mockery of their claim to support the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

This is Western defeatism at its worst, coupled with a complete lack of appreciation for the differences between our values and those of the Islamic Republic.

Western leaders would do well to completely ignore the Guardian's advice. Simply accepting Iranian nuclear weapons is the one option which we should take off the table.

Peter Cannon is a Research Associate at the Henry Jackson Society

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