26 Sep 2009

Iran Sanctions

I wonder if Gordon Brown has finished stalking Barack Obama yet after he cornered him in the UN kitchens for a face-to-face. For an awkward moment there as they greeted, so keen was Brown to be seen as Obama's best buddy, I thought he might attempt to slobber him with a full on kiss.
Anyway it turns out Iran may have another nuclear facility. The world leaders, prominent among them World Statesman of the Year (I'm still trying to work that one out!) Gordon Brown, are once more full of bluster, feigning exaggerated astonishment and strong, serious sounding words condemning Iran. Condemnation is cheap and easy.
Stronger sanctions will be imposed, we hear, as if they are an effective tool. They are not and hardly ever have been. I've said it before on a number of countries, but sanctions don't work. They make for great headlines and do wonders for swelling the egos of politicians who want to sound tough and be seen to be doing something.
But they can never be comprehensively enforced. Sanctions do more to punish ordinary poor people than they do to their leaders.

Alas, words alone only take you so far. In our soundbite driven, attention seeking media world it is easy to forget that actions are more important than words. there is regularly a gaping chasm between the two. Stoking up fear suits politicians and the media. It is a brilliantly effective way to get support for things, making them easy to view in simplistic black and white terms and grab people's attention.
Ever since I visited Iran (I drove right past the Nuclear facility in Natanz) I've maintained the opinion that really there is nothing anyone can effectively do to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Of course we all agree how dreadful and dangerous this would be for the region and the world. But the reality is that governments will probably have to get used to Iran with a nuclear weapon.
Afterall, it all looks a bit hypocritical when we lecture other countires in patronising tones telling them they cannot have something which we already have. Indeed Israel has nuclear weapons - something most news organisations rarely feel bold enough to talk about - and they have concealed their regime in secret. So, from an Iranian point of view, if it's good enough for Israel, then why not Iran too?
It also looks a bit rich, from an Iranian perspective, for a country like America, where the right to bare arms is practically enshrined in the constitution and whose military merrily imposes itself on people in other countries, to be telling other people around the world that they don't need arms and shouldn't have them.
So why might Iran want a nuclear weapon?
Well, for a start, most of its neighbours (many of them unstable and unpredictable) have nuclear weapons. Iran was a country with a serious and mighty empire. Today it is surrounded by dangerous countries and powers. American troops are entrenched in countries on either side. It is only natural for te Iranian rulers to feel insecure. They regard America as a threat. Until these security concerns are meaningfully addressed or settled the tension remains.

To the uninitiated outside observer - and there are many - the neat and simple solution to stop Iran going nuclear is to let Israel start bombing. It sounds seductive doesn't? A few precision air strikes. No need to invade. I bet the Israeli prime minister is already rubbing his hands with glee. I bet ordinary people living in Iran's cities (who we hear very little of) are not rubbing their hands with glee. Especially bearing in mind Israel's recent track record in Gaza.
I can guarantee you the one thing likely to make Ahmadinejad and his nasty regime stronger is if it comes under attack, especially by Israel, and the bombs start to fall. That neaderthal, one-dimensional approach - even just the warm suggestion of it occurring - plays straight into his hands.
Worse than that will be an escalation across the Middle East and elsewhere. Sooner or later, we will have to eal with the reality, unpleasant and undesirable as it might be, of Iran being a nuclear power. Would anyone seriously argue that Iran is anywhere like as unstable as next door Pakistan, which has had nuclear weapons for years?
And so a vicious cycle is likely to continue. The government represses the people and the world feels better about isolating the government but it isolates the people as well. It is unfortuante that so many people in important positions only see countries through their governments rather than the people inside them.
Instead of bombing bridges why don't our leaders try building some instead?

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