Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Juan Cole: Let's believe everything Iran says about its nuclear program

Juan sounds a little desperate here. My favorite proof that Iran is not working on a nuclear weapon is that "[i]n the medieval Muslim law of war, killing innocent non-combatants is forbidden." Tell that to Hizbullah:
Nuclear issues are so complicated that the public is easily misled and frightened by nuclear demagoguery. That is why the new International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran’s nuclear program will be hyped endlessly.

Iran is a theocracy in which the Supreme Leader has said that nuclear weapons are forbidden in Islamic law. In the medieval Muslim law of war, killing innocent non-combatants is forbidden. The same people who jump up and down about Iran being “medieval” in this regard suddenly dismiss Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s injunctions against nuclear warheads as irrelevant when the latter subject comes up. But if he gave such a fatwa and at the same time undermined it, he would risk a fatal blow to his authority and legitimacy.

The way you tell if a country like Iran is actively working on a nuclear bomb is that it diverts uranium to weapons purposes. Iran has not done that, as the IAEA repeatedly affirms. Almost certainly, if Iran were seriously working on a bomb, it would kick international inspectors out altogether . . .

It is likely that Iran wants “nuclear latency,” or the “Japan option.” That would involve knowing how to construct a bomb in short order if the country was ever directly menaced with an invasion and regime change a la Iraq. From Bush’s announcement of the coming war in September 2002 at the UNGA until there were American boots on the ground in Iraq was about seven months. If Iraq had had “latency” or a “break-out” capability, it could just have made a bomb and blown it up, and there would have been no US invasion. Iran wants to be in that position. It is not the same as constructing an actual bomb. Everything we know about Iran’s nuclear enrichment program points to it mainly being for civilian purposes. [...]
I mean, how can you doubt Supreme Leader pronouncements?

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