Monday, January 23, 2006

Restoring some facts about Iran and the nuclear issue

I have been wanting to post about this for a long time, and I intend to devote a few posts to explaining my point of view.

I think the public debate about Iran and its nuclear ambitions is taking place on a very skewed set of facts and perceptions in most of the western world, and I feel that this does not help anybody: not the Iranians, and not "us" [the western world, or in particular, the US and the EU3 group - France, Germany and the U.K.], because it causes antagonizing and virtual realities instead of a healthy dialogue.

This debate is indeed very much a dialogue de sourds right now ("dialogue of the deaf", a situation in which neither party understands or even acknowledges the point of view of the other, all the while appearing and pretending to engage in dialogue).
And while the serious printed press has generally documented the details of the issue in a somewhat thorough manner, and on occasions provided for a public forum where the parties could directly state their opinions, it appears to me that the general public has a very poor knowledge and understanding of the facts.
And this might be so in part because of the style of reporting of the sensationalist televised media, or the just-as-sensationalist newspaper headlines. If you get your information by "skimming" the headlines in your favourite newspaper or news aggregator, chances are you know very little about what this is really about.

I will no doubt take the "out-of mainstream" line here, and I expect to receive much heated criticism and hate mail, but I feel that somebody needs to play devil's advocate sometimes, or needs to amplify the discourse of the minority (here Iran) against the all-too-powerful majority (the US and Europe).

The fact is, the general understanding with so many people here (in the West) is that Iran wants to develop nuclear weapons and that the EU3 has been in negotations with them to try to get them to stop their nuclear weapons program.
Well none of this is accurate. Here is an accurate summary of the dossier:
  • Iran is contending that they have a right, under international law and as defined by the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of which they are a signatory, to develop a civil nuclear program and engage in civil nuclear research, including uranium enrichment to low levels, all for - do i need insist? - civilian and peaceful purposes.
  • The EU3 (and the US) are concerned about the possibilities of diversion of this nuclear technology (in particular the uranium enrichment) from civilian use into a military program and the subsequent development of nuclear weapons.
And the fact is, Iran does have this right to civilian nuclear technology. (And we would probably go a long way by first acknowledging that they indeed do, which has been one of their requests from very early on.)
Now we might have concerns, and some of them legitimate, why not? Relationships, between countries as between individuals, do require a crucial element of trust, and this trust is very much lacking in the relationship of Iran with the West.
And so we should work with the Iranians to find ways to ease these concerns. But denying them a legal right to develop civilian nuclear technology on the grounds of concern or worry does not seem like an argument that would give you victory in a court.

more on this later... your opinions are welcome.

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