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26 February 2013

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Andy

Agree with some, disagree with others. Here's a few I'd challenge Dr. Bolan on:

#4: Iran was in breach of it's safeguards agreement which is required by the NPT. Article 3 of the NPT says this: "The safeguards required by this Article shall be applied on all source or special fissionable material in all peaceful nuclear activities within the territory of such State, under its jurisdiction, or carried out under its control anywhere." Even Iran admits that it failed to place material under safeguards. Whether that is an actual NPT violation or merely a Safeguards violation depends on who you ask. However, the IAEA decided to not call it an NPT violation for political reasons (a decision I agree with, incidentally).

#5: I think you misstate the US IC's position. To summarize, the IC assumes three necessary pillars for any nuclear weapons program: First, the capability to produce the required fissile material; second, a functional bomb (aka weaponization), and third, a delivery vehicle (almost always ballistic missiles). What the IC assessed is that Iran "suspended" work on weaponization, but continued work on delivery vehicles and fissile material capability. The IC also purposely uses the words "suspended" and "halted" and not "dismantled" or something similar. The IC assessed the Iranians could restart weaponization and that the Iranians are, at a minimum, keeping open the option to do so. Anyway, a bit of inside baseball, but those details are important even though I agree Iran is probably not interested in nuclear weapons right now.

There is one thing I do have to really object to though, especially since it seems to be conventional wisdom:

Of course, constant US and Israeli threats to attack Iran’s existing civilian nuclear facilities are counterproductive and underscore the potential need for just such a deterrent.

The problem with that argument is that Iran doesn't have a nuclear deterrent and any attempt to gain a deterrent (short of a fait accompli) will precipitate an attack. In other words, acting on the "need" for a deterrent will have the opposite effect and guarantee and attack and war.

#7 and #8: Ok, these are myths because some people believe them to be myths? Citing a couple of studies or the opinions of international relations "scholars" is not evidence of anything. The truth is we don't know for certain what would happen, but I'm not sure how you can downplay concerns considering the Israeli and US threats you cited in #5.

Chris

Thanks for the elaboration, that's what makes this blog such an interesting place.

Chris

Cyrus

Absolutely true -- the IAEA does not verify the "absence of undeclared materials" in ANY country -- not Egypt, not Argentina, not Brazil, and not Iran -- unless the Additional Protocol is formally in effect there. Under the basic safeguards, the job of the IAEA is "exclusively" to measure declared nuclear material, to ensure that the declared material matches what the IAEA finds. That's all. But as you write, Iran nonetheless voluntarily implemented the AP (and exceeded it) and nothing was found.

Rd.

Myth 9 -"For more than a quarter of a century Western officials have claimed repeatedly that Iran is close to joining the nuclear club."

Actually, for more than a quarter of century (34 years) Iran has been able to regain her independence and maintain it against foreign interference. And that, is the crux of the whole issue.

Matthew

Rd: well said.

Iran will never be forgiven for ditching its UK/US-approved dictator.

Basilisk

Bravo, Sir,

I found The Twilight War: The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran
By David Crist to be an interesting compendium of bad decisions and missed chances on both sides...besides it had some of the adventures of PL as well.

MRW

Smart.

Carl O.

When Hagel was slammed for describing the Iranian government as "legitimate," I thought to myself, if we accept that premise then we have to conclude that Iran has not had a legitimate government since 1953.

Chris

Andy: Thanks for adding nuance and depth to what was intended as a provocative piece challenging many of the unexamined assumptions surrounding the Iran policy debate. That said, I don’t think you’ve effectively dismissed the essential substance of my arguments.

The bottom-line on myth #4 is that Iran is not in formal violation of the NPT.

The bottom-line IC assessment regarding myth # 5 is that Iran has not yet made a clear decision to weaponize its growing nuclear capabilities.

As you admit, repeated US and Israeli military threats are counterproductive in that they potentially underscore a need for an Iranian deterrent. I would also readily concede that these threats simultaneously positively reinforce diplomatic pressures on Iran to comply with UNSC resolutions regarding enrichment and IAEA access. Strategy is complex; and second and third order effects of all actions need to be considered. My point in this short article was to underscore the negative aspects of these military threats on Iran which seldom get serious consideration in the public (and I suspect) private discourse over appropriate US strategies regarding Iran’s (as of yet) non-existent nuclear weapons.

Finally, a more accurate name for ‘myths’ 7 & 8 might well be “unexamined assumptions”. Nonetheless, many policymakers and analysts appear to treat these two assumptions as accepted mythology without providing any evidence. At least I buttress my case with scholarly insights and historical evidence. Of course, nothing can conclusively prove or disprove the course of future events – that is simply an unrealistic standard. However, your own excellent work in advance of OIF proved the utility of calling out these unexamined assumptions in advance of making major policy decisions involving war.

Regards,

Chris

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