Iran: the facts

From wikimedia

A terror-sponsoring state with massive ambitions in the Middle East, convicted by the World Court of criminal aggression, is violating the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). We need to pray for peace in the region. But before we close our eyes in intercession, a question: Did you think I meant Iran?

I didn’t. I meant the USA. But it was not America last week that was making news by announcing the firing up of their controversial new nuclear reactor this week. Iran’s act, despite the way the media tends to portray it, is not a violation of the NPT. Quite the opposite, in fact. The NPT is a treaty that makes provision for nations without nuclear weapons to receive help and have total freedom in developing nuclear power for peaceful means. Which is what Iran (a signatory to the NPT) is doing. The NPT also requires that signatories with nuclear weapons work to reduce their nuclear arsenal. The USA (another signatory) has not done this, opting, like Britain, to replace nukes. It has also supported allies like India, Israel and Pakistan (none of them signatories) in their development of hundreds of nuclear warheads.

Iran has been called part of the ‘axis of evil’ by the US for many reasons. For one, its leadership is internally oppressive. Which, it seems, is okay for US allies, Saudi Arabia, who are the second most oppressive regime towards Christians in the world, according to Open Doors (one spot above Iran on the list, in fact), but not Iran. Iran sponsors terrorism. This is clearly true. But, then, so has the USA, as shown in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mozambique, Angola and a number of other states in which militias comparable to Hamas and Hezbollah committed atrocities and waged civil war with American funding (the International Court of Justice famously ruled against the US regarding Nicaragua).

Of course, none of this means that Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is a nice guy who doesn’t say alarming things. And it doesn’t mean Iran doesn’t want a nuclear weapon, right? Well there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that Ahmadinejad is a hard-liner (though few papers remember he was in a small minority of student leaders in 1979 who voted against taking American hostages during the Iranian revolution). The fact that America has invaded Iraq on his eastern border and Afghanistan on the west does not make him less so. But the good news (on nukes anyway) is that he is not in charge. He reports to Iran’s Supreme Leader, a cleric called Ayatollah Khamenei, who has final say over everything that happens in Iran, including foreign policy. And the Ayatollah has issued a fatwa against the manufacture, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons, calling them ‘sacrilegious’. Which means quite a lot in Iran.

iran-us-bases

Countries hosting US bases near Iran

The fact is that Iran was branded part of the ‘axis’ after it had offered to submit to full nuclear weapons inspections, recognise (and normalise relations with) Israel and withdraw support from Hamas and Hezbollah. In exchange, what has become known in diplomatic circles as Iran’s ‘grand bargain‘ only required the US to remove it from the axis, guarantee not to attack Iran, to lift sanctions and to allow European investment to return to Iran. The offer was rejected.

That’s a lot of facts for an opinion column, I know. But sometimes facts speak louder than comment.

Here’s a clip from an excellent film called Iran (is not the problem) — which was very helpful in compiling this column:

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