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A preview of our exclusive essay by the former chief UN weapons inspector.
Now what? The war drums are beating – but is this all just bluff and bluster by the west?
Some think its belated show of strength is just sabre-rattling in a US presidential year. This is unlikely. What’s much more likely is that the west is putting on a show of strength to show Iran that the west ‘really, really means it’ in order to get Iran to ‘come to its senses’.
To which there are three points to make. First, this is all far, far too late. Tough sanctions that would really hurt Iran were being urged years ago, when some of us started warning that Iran’s nuclear programme simply had to be stopped before the situation became dangerously out of control – and were derided as ‘neo-con war-mongers’ for our efforts.
Nothing was done; the UK and EU vaguely wrung their hands and shook the occasional fist; while for his part, Obama advertised US weakness by extending his hand in friendship to the Iranian regime which at the time was busy blowing up American and coalition soldiers in Iraq. Obama’s catastrophic strategy gave the Iranian regime the one thing it needed above all else – time to bring its infernal nuclear programme to fruition. And now we read – surprise, surprise – that the regime has built at Fordow a secret nuclear plant inside a mountain where it is presumed to be impervious to bombing raids.
Second, even these tougher sanctions are likely to be ineffective as they will be circumnavigated by Russia, China and others. And in any event, what exactly is the outcome the west hopes that sanctions will bring about? That Iran shuts down its centrifuges, locks the doors on its nuclear plants and promises it won’t open them ever again and that the IAEA inspectors can set up monitoring stations at Fordow, Natanz and all the other secret nuclear locations which it will now make available for international inspection? Does anyone seriously believe that’s a realistic proposition? And if not that, then what, precisely?
But third, the deeper problem is the west’s assumption that the Iranian regime is capable of ‘coming to its senses’ – its assumption that these are rational actors who ultimately will act in their own interest. Few in the west understand that, on the contrary, the Iranian regime is impervious to reason. Educated, intelligent and cunning they may be – but they are religious fanatics driven by an entirely different set of considerations. That’s what makes this situation so terrifying.
As I have written over and over again, from the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei downwards the Iranian regime is dominated by people (adherents of a sect called the ‘Twelvers’) who believe that the Shia messiah, the Mahdi, will return to earth either as result of or to bring about the apocalyptic end of days. It is that apocalypse that they are intent upon facilitating. That is why the argument that ‘they wouldn’t dare launch a nuclear attack because they know half of Iran would be obliterated as a result’ is so fatuous. They would be happy if that were to occur.
Reza Kahlili (a pseudonym) is reportedly a former CIA spy within the Revolutionary Guards. As he has written:
‘Khamenei has been heard to say that the coming of the last Islamic Messiah, the Shiites’ 12th Imam Mahdi, is near and that specific actions need to be taken to protect the Islamic regime for upcoming events. Mahdi, according to Shiite belief, will reappear at the time of Armageddon... Many in the Guards and Basij have been told that the 12th Imam is on earth, facilitated the victory of Hezbollah over Israel in the 2006 war and soon will announce publicly his presence after the needed environment is created.
'... Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, an influential cleric and a radical Twelver, previously had stated that Khamenei ascends to the sky every year to take direction from Imam Mahdi, and sources close to the cleric have disclosed that Khamenei has been ordered by Imam Mahdi to continue with the nuclear program despite worldwide objection as it will facilitate his coming.’
Last December, Kahlili warned that the previous May Khamenei had ordered the Revolutionary Guards to speed up the nuclear-bomb program and arm Iran’s missiles with nuclear warheads. Now, he wrote, Khamenei had ordered the guards to prepare for war:
‘Though the Islamic regime never should have been allowed to continue with its suppression of its people, its terrorist activities worldwide and its continuation of its missile and nuclear programs despite U.N. sanctions, one cannot imagine a world with nuclear arms in the hands of the jihadists in Iran.
‘With officials from both Israel and the U.S. calling a nuclear-armed Iran a red line, leaving the possibility of a military option on the table, we must realize that the only possible solution to this dilemma is a regime change in Iran, which a majority of Iranians support. The price we pay today to save world peace and security will be minuscule to what the world will pay in the not-so-distant future.’
What really threatens to bring the west to its knees is its own cultural hubris. Refracting everything in the world through the prism of its unshakeable faith in universal reason, it is incapable of recognising or understanding religious fanaticism – and insists instead upon treating the fanatic as a rational actor. Ironically, it is this belief in reason which has led the west to behave so irrationally in refusing to acknowledge the evidence of the mortal threat to itself posed by Iran -- and that there is no alternative to force if it is to be stopped. And now, alas, we’re about to discover the consequences.
In his recent book, Mohamed ElBaradei, says that during his years as head of the IAEA, Washington was never really serious about resolving the Iranian nuclear issue, and he thought their real aim was to isolate and bring about regime change.
He also reveals the amount of pressure that is exerted on the head of the IAEA by the major powers.
Read: 'The Age of Deception' by Mohamed ElBaradei (2011)
@ Julia, well said my dear, keep it up. The fools; sir michael, jankass, capt price etc have said nothing, just "lets listen to hans blix and follow like sheep, nothing to worry about, Blix will save us. the don't look at the big picture and other evidence.
Not understanding the dynamics of a regime like Iran is suicidal.Treating them and projecting our value system onto them is not dealing with reality.
Shouldn't we discuss Israel's 300 nuclear warheads?
No, we should be worried about Iran getting nuclear weapons. Why wouldn't we?
i might be missing something here but why would iran unleash a nuclear bomb on anybody? just one reason would be enough, knowing full well the extent of the retribution they would get in return. i think if you want to talk about true psycopaths being in control of nuclear arms, you need to look a bit closer to home
All postings here show your ignorance and illetracy!
the issue here is Islam vs the west...isreal is now finishing and with it america will be snoobbed!
Youll all see.....i recomend a book;Voice of human justice By Jordache -a lebanese christian- perhaps this will enlighten your rusted minds! Americans are now in a denial and the empire is falling.....it is a matter of time...History is full of surprises...
@Arminius: So if Israel does decide to launch a strike on Iran on its own, will that satisfy you? Or are you so worried about the Jews defending themselves in any event? Judging from the propaganda in your post, I think I know the answer to my question in any case...
@Freeman Israel needs the bomb as a deterrent to stop other Middle East states that haven't got the bomb from attacking it.
Of course ideally there'd be no nuclear weapons but I'd rather they were in the hands of Israel than Iran. As beligerent as Israel's current leaders are I believe they're less dangerous than those of Iran.
Let's hope things cool down before war has a chance to break out.
"No" because you reckon it's irrelevant, or "No" because you'd rather not because of the rank hypocrisy & double standards it implies?
I don't know for certain whether Iran does intend to build nuclear weapons - perhaps these recent developments are for nuclear power as they claim. And I can also appreciate the apparent hypocrisy of the situation; Israel has 'em. why can't Iran?
But would you seriously feel comfortable with the idea of Iran posessing nuclear weapons? Do you really look upon the Iranian regime in such a favourable light that you'd be OK with this?
Billy, the Iranian hate Israel, just look at the attempts last week agaisnt Israeli's. They have made countless threats to delete Israel from the map. And is Julia outlines above, they think that a nuclear exchange with Israel could evoke the Messiah and thus dont care if millions are killed would be martyrs as they bring forward the apocalypse.
@ Sobhani, I agree with you that the issue is between Islam and the free West, but don't share your view that we are finished. A big part of this issue is made compounded by people and politicians on the political left who are too scared to speak the truth about Islam.
Surely every country should have Nukes?, after all we were always told that having the bomb kept world peace?. Mind you, no country in the Middle East should be allowed to have Nukes, because it could destabilise the whole region?, that`s why i 'OH SHIT!!', i forgot Israel have them!!!, case dismissed!, i mean, we don`t want to look as if we`re preaching Double Standards and Hypocrisy, do we?. At least the west has the moral high ground regarding UN resolutions with its consistant stance against countries who don`t adhere to them that`s why i 'OH SHIT'!!!, i forgot again!, Israel have repeatedly broken and ignored UN resolutions against it!, with the full support of the USA and their veto?. Oh Dear, i think we in the west are looking a tad Silly and Hypocritical?, and Ambassador Susan Rice`s Rant against the Russians and Chinese (whilst being right), looks slightly hollow and pathetic, considering their support for Murderous regimes like Israel, and most of the Latin American Dictatorships of the past!!, and of course, we mustn`t forget the USA supported and propped up, those two true Democrats, The Shah of Iran, and that other chap, Sadman Insane!!!.
So when it comes to preaching Morality and Rightousness to others, whilst turning a convenient blind eye to a few!, how, and why, can we be taken seriously?, we have to look at it from their point of view!, the Perception is, Double Standards and Hypocrisy!, that`s a fact.
Parkour Pete is right. Israel needs the bomb as a deterrent to stop other Middle East states that haven't got the bomb from attacking it. That's right isn't it Parkour Pete?
"Blix says he does not believe that the Iranian regime is trying to build or acquire nuclear weapons:It is possible - but is denied by Iran and not evident to me - that there is a determination to make a nuclear weapon."
Oh do me a favour, "he doesn't believe", "they deny it", "its not evident to me", what a load of supposition and very weak presentation.
The fact the making of a bomb is denied by the Regime doesn't mean anything. This is the same regime that just this week has denied in the strongest terms having anything to do with the latest Bomb attacks on Israeli diplomats. Then the find out 3 Iranians have been arrested and 1 was caught at the scene, his grenade bounced off a tree and blew his leg off...LOL, Carry on Jihad. Of course they are going to lie, they know the consequences until they have it developed, sigh.
Well done to the NS helping to sow doubts and presenting yet another article that negates the real threat from Iran. I do hope when the Iranians parade there bomb through Tehran that those who have tried to deflect from this will hand themselves over to the authorities to be locked up for criminal stupidity and promoting this apocalyptic Islamic Regime. .
Israel has every right to defend itself against the islamofascist threat posed by Iran. If Iran states quite openly that it it intends to annihilate it, the Jews have every right to use whatever means they have at their disposal including it's nuclear arsenal to avert such a clear threat to it's existence.
JJ - I have no interest in any nation displaying naked aggression for that is what an attack on Iran would be. "Jews" (just a reminder that not all Jews are Israelis and not all Israelis are Jews) would no more be defending themselves than the Germans were defending themselves by launching Operation Barbarossa. My "worry" is that the violent extremists who govern Israel at the moment drag Britain and the US into another war which will cost money that we don't have and lives which are precious. Israel is unlikely to launch an attack on Iran on its own for military, political and logistical reasons. The propaganda you fail to see is that of the Zionist extremists.
@ C Baker:
If Iran being "held down" by their religion and government, why did the Iranian people choose the current government in an election?
And please don't assume in your a-typical American ignorance that Iran is an economic third-world twilight zone.
Should have left Iraq alone so that Iraq and Iran kept each other under control.
All for the sake of Blair's Thatcher Falklands moment.
You can't let the Iranians get the bomb because they are a maniac regime that stones women to death and hangs Gays from cranes and believe that if armaggedon happens the '12th hidden imam' will descend from heaven and create paradise on earth. Ahmadeloonynejad has said so. Allow them to get nuclear weapons and ahmadeloonynejad will become the worlds greatest suicide bomber.
If the only way to prevent this happening is for iran's nuclear sites to be bombed - bring it on.
@ Sir Michael, its simplistic analysis like yours that will give Iran the room to produce a bomb.
Yes Iran and Iraq both have 4 letters in there name and are in the middle east. The similarities stop there, they are different countries with different personalities and different political set-ups. Iraq never had nuclear reactors and proper nuclear capabilities, Iran does.
Because of the perceived mistake in Iraq (which many don't see it as mistake) it shouldn't stop us from looking at the hard evidence against Iran and act against it.
Iran is a real threat and I do hope you will apologise to all the people in the region for your continued support of the Iranian regime.
You and Jankass are the sort of people who are too stupid to look at things on there merits. You equate one (Iraq with Iran) thing with another to suit your indecisiveness and "benefit of the doubt" stance. You have a fear and paranoia that past events will be repeated and thus you are paralysed to think clearly and act. Its called fear and you have it, your the soldier who lets his colleagues die after he's lost his bottle and keeps repeating the same mantra instead of reassessing the new danger.
There is so much contradictory analysis about Iran and there Nuclear capabilities that trying to insinuate that concerned people are war mongers is a false narrative.
It fails to look at the disastrous implications and nuclear proliferation in the Middle east if Iran does acquire nukes. It is the most unstable area on the planet and this could lead to a nuclear holocaust in the region that would make the 2nd world war look like a minor event.
Being a pacifist is a noble but stupid position to take when the threat of so much could be curtailed with decisive action.
Is war the answer though. Maximillan and Julia Harris seem to think it is. But I'll bet my house that neither of them have experienced war! If they had they wouldn't be writting this dangerous jingoistic clap trap.
Those with a live for war, have obviously never experienced it!
" I know your really in love with me"
lol. not if you were the last bigoted slapper on the globe dear.
"4) I result to insults when I am being insulted.."
i love to see what happens to your linguistic skills when you get furiously frustrated.
and then you posted twice last night. very long posts 'n all. and the grammar! spotless for the 1st time in living memory. for a moment i thought your 7 year old had typed it, but then it turns out all you did was copy and paste a Daily Mail article.
trying to pass off someone else's work as your own. how low can you go? but like i said; i know you and your kind - ignorant bigots every last one of you
You Sir, are barking mad. It seems you actually take everything you read in the murdoch rags as fact. Broaden your horizons. Try the Beano
"The fools; sir michael, jankass, capt price etc..."
let's get this out of the way shall we sven? same as you don't like me i think you're a total twat who is utterly ignorant of the facts. there. now on to what you say;
"... have said nothing, just "lets listen to hans blix and follow like sheep, nothing to worry about, Blix will save us. the don't look at the big picture and other evidence."
nonsense. what i have said is that Blix is an expert on these matters and therefor needs to be listened to. same as US Defense Secretary Panetta who only 1 month ago stated that Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon. both these men have based their opinions on the Nov 2011 IAEA report.
so why should anyone listen to you and Julia when you appear to know nothing about what's going on? or have you bothered to read that report? if not why not?
"Not understanding the dynamics of a regime like Iran is suicidal."
go on then sven, by all means show off your knowledge of this regime. or, shut the fuck up. i have a hunch you'll do the latter.
"Treating them and projecting our value system onto them is not dealing with reality."
which i most certainly do not, that would be profoundly daft. we are a secular democracy, they are a theocratic totalitarian regime. but what is of interest is why you assume there are no common human qualities we share with Iranians. you appear to view Iranians as sub-human who will only understand extreme violence. why are you like this?
"All postings here show your ignorance and illetracy!"
"You and Jankass are the sort of people who are too stupid to look at things on there merits."
on the contrary Smeg, you are the moron who denies the evidence as presented by Panetta, Blix, the IAEA.
so be a good boy, read the report or shut the fuck up.
here we have an accredited man with a proven past case (iraq and its wmd's) and still he is not a man to be trusted according to many on here.
iran is surrounded by american bases on all sides so they are hardly going to rock the boat. and the false flags of the last week are laughable. unfortunately for them though, we have an oil thirsty nation called america and a blood thirsty nation called israel who will stop at nothing to get their way along with their uk lapdog.
very very sad indeed, and for all the warmongers why not send your kids over to sort it out. oh thats right, because it is always someone elses who have to do that
"Iran is a real threat and I do hope you will apologise to all the people in the region for your continued support of the Iranian regime."
Don't call other people stupid and then come out with crap like this. The idea that because we don't want to obliterate a country with explosives we think it is a utopian paradise is neanderthal in its conception.
This is the argument Bush used "if you are not with us you are against us!". I don't like the Tories trying to reform the NHS, but I don't go around screaming "you must want people to die of cancer!". Are you really that stupid that you don't get this? Or was that just a cheap bit of straw man ad hominem?
In any case, there isn't a single expert to back up the case for war, and everyone who knows about the situation has said it's a bad idea.
"Being a pacifist is a noble but stupid position to take when the threat of so much could be curtailed with decisive action."
Jankaas will probably keep saying this until his keyboard wears out, but this will be the last time you hear it from me.
This isn't a "no war" argument.
This is a "lets go to war only if and when the people who are qualified to know such things state that it is necessary" argument.
When I talk about Jews I tak about the Jews in Israel, the survivors and the descendants of the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, which Arminius you chose to invoke when you decided to mention Barbarossa. I wonder, with the moniker 'Arminius' what your agenda is.
Nevertheless, the fact that you choose to call the Israeli government 'violent extremists' reminds me of the Wehrmacht which called te Partisans 'terrorists' in the War.
And Arminius, why aren't you calling the mad mullahs in Iran 'violent' or 'bloodthirsty'? They execute left right and centre in Iran and abroad, dontcha know?
Don't worry Arminius,if other countries choose to aid Israel in doing a favour for the world, they will be doing it out of their own considerations.
Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.