As Iran’s nuclear power plant Bushehr gears up to become operational on August 21, speculation that Israel and the US will act to destroy the reactor has reached a fever pitch. On August 17, former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton said Israel will have to act in the next eight days if it wants to neutralise the Bushehr facility. The same day, Israel’s Ambassador to the US Michael Oren admitted that all options to deal with the Iranian ‘threat’ were on the table. This rhetoric is supplemented by remarks made recently by Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, who categorically stated that the US had drawn up plans to strike Iran. To follow through with these plans would be extremely unwise and counter-productive for both the US and Israel. Even if Iran is not actively pursuing nuclear weapons right now, constant threats of attack will surely convince it to develop an atomic programme to counter such threats.
The evidence that Iran has nuclear ambitions is unsubstantiated and often contradicted by the US government’s own reports. In its 2007 report, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said Iran is unlikely to produce enough highly-enriched uranium to develop a nuclear weapon before 2013. The report also stated that Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons programme shows that it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than the US had previously thought. However, there is good reason, at least in the West, of countries to be cautious of Iran's ambitions. The regime’s interactions with other states border on the tactless, if not inflammatory. Furthermore, anyone believes its electoral process to be a democracy should understand that all candidates for parliamentary elections are first vetted by the conservative Guardian Council. And the country has a bad track record in tolerating (or rather, not) political and civil dissent.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2010.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: August 19, 2010
Michael Oren is the Israel's Ambassador to the United States of America and not the envoy to the UN.
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