Of all our international hypocrisies (and they are legion) it has to be among the worst. And the stupidest.
A bunch of nuclear states denouncing a non-nuclear state for allegedly wanting to be a nuclear state. Getting into a nuclear state about it, if you will.
Iran, we are told, is evil. It has drunk the Kool-Aid of crazy and sucked at the devilish teat of terror. Naturally, being evil, it wants a nuclear weapon (what the hell kind of psychotic nation would seek that sort of destructive power, right?) and is, in fact, trying to build one. If this is the case, so the rhetoric goes, we should bomb what little bejesus there may be in that Godforsaken country before it has a nuke.
This is stupid.
1. Nuclear weapons are Haram
As you may have picked up, Iran is not the most profoundly democratic country on earth. This is, of course, is largely our fault but when thinking about nukes it is actually kind of comforting. See, while sixth Iranian President and world doing-himself-no-favours-with-all-that-antisemitic-bullshit champion, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, may seem all-powerful in Iran, he really isn’t. So, when people look at him and go: “come on, look at those eyes. That dude is hungry for H-bombs,” they may be right. But it really isn’t up to him. In fact, the only reason he’s in charge at all is because someone else is letting him be. That someone is Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader. The clue is in the title, really.
David Cameron could probably get away with saying that he is a pretty big deal in Britain, but even he has technically to answer to the Queen. It’s a bit like that in Iran, only with a little old lady with terrible children replaced with a scary guy with a beard who believes he is probably the best person in the world to interpret the will of Almighty God. And the vast majority of Iranians, particularly the most hardcore and most scary-looking to Western eyes, agree.
So when the Ayatollah says, as he has done many times in the past, that nuclear weapons are ‘Haram’, it carries somewhat more weight than the Queen’s speech on Christmas day, the Pope telling Catholics not to have sex outside of marriage or anything David Cameron has ever said. Ever. The Supreme Leader calling something Haram is something of a discussion-ender.
Yeah, you say, but he probably has never been that specific. He’s probably left a loophole. This is what he said recently to Iranians: “we are not seeking nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic of Iran considers possession of nuclear weapons a sin … and believes that holding such weapons is useless, harmful and dangerous.”
2. Look at who else has them
Here’s the thing: nuclear weapons are bad. They do bad things. That, some would say, is their raison d’être, as France (300 nuclear warheads) might put it. There really are more than enough “A-Bombs, H-Bombs, even very small ones” (that quote is from a song by David Bowie, a singer from the UK, a country with 225 warheads) and every new nuclear weapon should be a cause for sadness in every person of conscience, particularly those of us calling ourselves ‘pro-life’. But if we’re going to get all angry/upset/ weirdly horny about one nation maybe having a nuke, shouldn’t we worry about, I don’t know, the USA (8,500 warheads)?
I know what you’re going to say. Iran is evil. And so fighty. But here’s the thing: over the last ten years, which country has been involved in more wars? And just who is evil is kind of a matter of opinion, really. The hundreds of thousands who have lost family to the chaos in Iraq since our invasion would probably put us above Iran, and they freaking hate Iran.
But even if we go with the narrative that Iran is unstable and doesn’t play well with others, we should probably talk about Israel (200 warheads). They are not exactly best buddies with neighbouring Lebanon (who they invade from time to time) and have a habit of assassinating foreigners they don’t like, not just Palestinians but also Iranians.
And there’s the crux. In a post-Cold-War era, Iran has just replaced the Soviet Union as the Voldemort of international affairs. It’s not, of course. Even if Iran is evil (and I really am not sure that being antidemocratic internally and unrepentantly unwilling to bow to the US internationally qualifies), it has nowhere near the resources and reach that the Soviet Union did. Which makes it closer to Bellatrix. Or that dude who looks like a rat.
The fact is that China (240 warheads), Russia (11,000 warheads), India (100 warheads), Pakistan (110 warheads) have nuclear weapons. Not nations known historically or recently for their cool-headed peaceful co-existence with their neighbours. Hell, Apartheid South Africa had a programme which the West pretended not to know about. So what is the problem with Iran having one? Is it really that they are disrespectful to us, and we don’t tolerate that?
3. If anyone should feel threatened, it’s Iran
Iran once had a democratically elected head of state who didn’t think he knew the mind of God, but did think Iran’s oil should benefit Iranians. We deposed him. We installed a puppet monarch who ignored his people’s cries for freedom. And then he was overthrown by another Ayatollah, in an uprising that was as popular and profound as any we have seen in the Arab Spring. Iran, somehow, feels that what the West wants for it may not be in Iran’s best interests. Go figure.
Western politicians now repeat a mantra that involves the words ‘no option off the table’, meaning : yes we will bomb them if they step too far out of line, because they are the kind of country it is totally okay to do that to. Because so many of our citizens would think it was fine. Because in the minds of our voters, Iranians are distorted propaganda cartoons with bombs strapped to their fundamentalist frames and hatred for freedom in their eyes. To many in the West, Iran is a state that is asking for it.
What it is is a state that has not treated its population worse than scores of others who have never been threatened. Iran refuses to acknowledge Caesar and is thus an enemy of Pax Americana. It is far from perfect, not a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, but then neither is another of our allies. What Iran is, is threatened. They are as likely as any other state in that position to do terrible things.
Here’s a map of US military bases near Iran:
Remember the Cuban Missile Crisis? The world was nearly plunged into nuclear war because the Soviet Union planned to move nuclear missiles into strike range near the USA. Were Iran to establish military bases near America in numbers and scale comparable to American presence in the region, what would be the response?
We automatically assume that such a scenario is ridiculous because Iran has no right to do that, whereas the USA has the world’s best interests at heart. Yes. And it is the Iranians who have drunk the crazy Kool-Aid.
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