The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Now that’s just great…

April 25, 2006

One of the (many) flaws in the Bush administration’s rationale for invading Iraq stemmed from Hussein’s history as a vector of proliferation.

There wasn’t any.

In the worst-case scenario, in which Hussein somehow acquired nuclear weapons, we would have little reason to be concerned that he might transfer weapons or weapons technology to anyone else–nasty regimes, terrorists, or whomever.

That didn’t mean it would be hugs and puppies if Hussein developed nuclear weapons; one of the legitimate fears of the pro-invasion crowd was that possession of nukes would embolden Hussein to revive his dreams of hegemonic domination in the Middle East. Even though, in practice, US nuclear weapons would have been more than an adequate deterrent (“you lob a tactical nuke at our ground forces, we turn Iraq into glass”), the American public might have been far less willing to support US power projection into the region if Hussein started waving the bomb around.

The same definitely cannot be said about North Korea, which has a history of selling weapons and technology to the highest bidder. Some analysts believed at the time that Iran constituted a greater proliferation risk than Iraq. The Iranians aren’t doing anything to dispel those fears:

TEHRAN, April 25—Iran’s supreme leader said today in a meeting with the Sudanese president that Iran was ready to share its nuclear technology with other countries.

“Iran’s nuclear capability is one example of various scientific capabilities in the country. The Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to transfer the experience, knowledge and technology of its scientists,” said the supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, IRNA news agency reported.

Mr. Khamenei’s comments to the leader of Sudan, one of the most unstable countries in Africa, came a few days ahead of the Friday deadline by the United Nations Security Council for Iran to suspend its sensitive uranium enrichment activities.

At a conference on its nuclear program in Tehran today, senior officials rejected the demand and vowed that Iran will continue its enrichment activities.

The Iranians are talking about nuclear energy, of course, but one has to wonder if this kind of statement isn’t intended to (1) escalate the stakes of current negotiations and/or (2) contribute to the Iranian’s attempt to cast their program in “clash of civilization” terms. Regardless, Tehran continue to bluster:

ran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said that if the Security Council imposed sanctions, Iran will suspend its cooperation with the United Nations nuclear agency, and any military strike aimed at destroying its enrichment facilities will lead Iran to hide its program.

“If you decide to use sanction against us, our relation with the agency will be suspended,” Mr. Larijani said. “Military action against Iran will not lead to the closure of the program,” he added. “If you take harsh measures, we will hide this program. Then you cannot solve the nuclear issue.”

“You may inflict a loss on us but you will lose also,” he warned.

Mr. Larijani said that Iran is willing to cooperate if its case is returned to the International Atomic Energy Agency. “But do not expect us to act otherwise if you drag the case to the Security Council,” he added.

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a senior cleric and chairman of the powerful Expediency Council, denounced the role of the nuclear agency at the conference and said the I.A.E.A. has failed to support Iran’s program.

“I am not saying that the agency has had bad intentions,” he said. “But it has not fulfilled its duty to support countries to enjoy their right to have nuclear technology,” he added.

The head of Iran’s atomic organization, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, left Tehran for the I.A.E.A.’s headquarters in Vienna today, ISNA news agency reported.

As members of the Duck team have discussed before, US options look pretty limited. I can’t say that I’m pleased that Iran appears to have falsified the “bandwagoning” rationale for the US intervention in Iraq–that the US use of force would somehow convince other rogue states to fall into line lest they suffer the same fate–but I’m even less pleased that it has clearly weakened our hand in the face of a much more significant threat to, among other things, the nonproliferation regime.

Filed as:

website | + posts

Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.