You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘nuclear’ tag.

With the December 6 news that it plans to build twenty new uranium enrichment facilities, Iran has dealt a serious blow to hopes of peacefully resolving its nuclear standoff with the West. After months of courtship by the international community, Iran’s announcement appears to be both a rejection of the West’s advances and a signal of its intent to step up its pursuit of a nuclear program. With the US running out of cards to play, many fear that the two countries are on a collision course to military confrontation.

Much like North Korea, the consequences of an Iranian possession of nuclear bomb are dire. The Obama administration has sought to right the wrong of American Cold War policy, when the US provided its then-ally Iran with nuclear reactors in an attempt to curry favor. Preventing proliferation is a priority for the Obama administration and confirmation that Iran has a nuclear bomb would trigger an arms race in the Middle East, with heavyweights such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia seeking to counter Iranian domination in the region. An Iranian nuclear bomb would also bring Israel and Iran closer to war. Iran’s anti-Semitic leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has publicised his hatred of Israel so often that Israeli leaders deem a nuclear-armed Iran an existential threat. Just last year an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear sites was narrowly averted after George W. Bush refused to give Ehud Olmert the green light. The Obama administration has since tried to convince the Israelis of the virtues of diplomacy with Iran, but the latest setback means that hawks in Israel and the US will be circling Iran with greater intensity.

Read the rest of this entry »

The TEDBlog had a very thought-provoking video posted this week. TED (in case you are unfamiliar with it) is a website devoted to sharing videos by experts and intellectuals with an emphasis on bringing people together to discuss new ideas.  These presentations range from the academic, to the artist, to the astounding, to just plain fun.  I once watched a professor explain how to turn a Wii controller into a laser pointer.  This week there is a video featuring Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, who has used game theory to make three predictions about the future of Iran.  You can find the video here.

The video is a bit long (~17 minutes), but he spends the first ten minutes or so explaining the basics of game theory.  Personally, as someone who has never been very good at math and has never studied game theory, I am inclined to treat his model with some suspicion.  In his explanation, Bueno de Mesquita stresses the importance of people as rational actors pursuing their self-interests.  It sounds simple, but I still wonder how a mathematical model can possibly account for the very real difference between people’s self-interests and what people perceive to be their own self-interests.  I would also add that there are plenty of situations when actors to decide not to pursue their own interests.  Nevertheless, Bueno de Mesquita claims that his mathematical model has been correct 90% of the times when even intelligence experts had predicted incorrectly, so maybe the proof is in the pudding. Some more discusion of Bueno de Mesquita’s video after the break.  Read the rest of this entry »

It is becoming clear that Iran will not escape the growing global economic crisis unscathed. The LA Times reported on Friday that the Iranian government is seriously considering a $300 million bail-out to help companies that are suffering from the recent drops in oil and commodity prices. The Times reports:

According to a report Tuesday in the daily Kargozaaran, the chief of the Tehran Stock Exchange is pressing the government to put up cash to stop the collapse of the stock market, which has dropped to a five-year low since oil prices began plummeting this fall.

Iran is also struggling with rampant inflation. According to a report by Iran’s Central Bank inflation has risen 25% in the last twelve months and the cost of food and drinks rose 35% in September alone. This rise in the cost of living, combined with wide-spread unemployment, is particularly tough on Iran’s young people. A government report recently found that “a young college graduate had to work and save 40 years in order to be able to afford to buy a first home.”

Economic anxiety among Iranian citizens could play a major role in the upcoming Presidential election. Current President Mahmood Ahmadinejahd has been criticized for his handling of the economy, particularly since up until recently he claimed that Iran would not be affected by the global economic downturn. According to Mohammad Atrianfar, a senior adviser to former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Ahmadinejahd has consistently lied about Iran’s problems with exports, inflation, and employment. Anger over economic mismanagement could definitely hurt Ahmadinejahd at the polls.

Meanwhile, American and European officials are hoping that Iran’s economic troubles will force the regime to take the threat of economic sanctions more seriously. The threat of sanctions, however, is severely undermined by Russia’s opposition to sanctions and its position as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. Without Russia’s support, it is almost certain that the Security Council will not be able to approve new sanctions against Iran. An op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times by Oded Eran, Giora Eiland, and Emily Landau offers an interesting solution: a three-way deal between the United States, Russia, and Iran. They propose that the United States should offer to drop its plans for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe and increased scrutiny for Eastern European NATO candidates, in exchange for Russia support of stricter sanctions and its promise to stop providing Iran with conventional weapons. This deal would give the United States increased leverage that it need to negotiate with Iran and convince the regime to suspend its nuclear enrichment program. Iran would therefore be able to save itself from painful sanctions and rejoin the international community in exchange for putting its nuclear dreams on hold.

This is an interesting proposal but it fails to take in to account how wildly popular Iran’s nuclear program is among Iranians, who believe that they have a right to nuclear energy. If Ahmadinejahd, or indeed any politician, were to agree to such a deal, this could severely hurt their chances in the June election. Rather than asking Iran to completely stop its nuclear program , international pressure would be more effective if it held Iran accountable to the standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency which has demanded more transparency to determine Iran’s nuclear motives.

As Iranian officials are wondering how to stabilize their faltering economy and American and European officials are wondering if the time is right for renewed economic pressure, one thing is clear: the ramifications of the economic downturn are being felt around the globe and Iran is no exception.

This post is from AIDemocracy’s Senior Political Analyst Eugene Kogan:

Rising international tensions around Iran’s nuclear plans are greeted with a deafening silence from Capitol Hill.  Except in an op-ed in The Los Angeles Times, Zbig Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, warns that a preventive U.S. attack on Iran “undertaken without a formal congressional declaration of war…would be unconstitutional and merit the impeachment of the president.”  Brzezinski’s is a second high-profile wake-up call to Congress in recent days.  Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote in The Washington Post that “There is no more dangerous thing for a democracy than a foreign policy based on presidential preventive war.”  One hopes that Members of Congress are hearing the tocsins being rung.  Congress’s virtually complete abandonment of oversight in the run-up to the preventive war against Iraq was a serious blow to the system of checks and balances.

Regrettably, the media continues to confuse preemption with prevention.  The former is an action taken against an imminent threat, while the latter is one taken against a yet-unformed threat to preclude it from becoming imminent at some time in the future.  The invasion of Iraq clearly was preventive.  So would be a strike against Iran.

Since the Bush Administration claims that “all options are on the table” to stop the Iranian nuclear program, the American people must demand that Congress tell them what it knows about the threat from Iran.  Americans must know what the Administration is telling their elected representatives because if America strikes Iran, this will be done in the name of all Americans.  (Just like when the U.S. invaded Iraq, it did so in the name of all Americans.)  Then, it will be too late to say “not in our name”.  Now is the time to ask the hard questions—by people of the Administration and of Congress, and by Congress of the Administration.  This is what might be called “double accountability”: if people hold Congress accountable, it is much more likely that Congress will hold the Administration accountable.  Americans must understand that asking hard questions is a critical responsibility that they, as citizens of a democracy, must exercise.  A coming war is as strong a test of democracy as the war itself.


August 2020

Twitter Posts

%d bloggers like this: