Today’s Australian carries an op-ed piece on Iran by William Kristol, one of America’s leading neo-conservatives, reprinted from his Weekly Standard (without acknowledgement – a bad habit).

You’d think anyone so closely identified with the Bush administration’s
Middle East policy might have learnt to keep quiet by now, but not so.
Indeed, it seems Kristol has learnt nothing at all from the Iraq
experience. Certainly his rhetorical strategy is the same: keep
repeating a controversial claim in the tone of absolute certainty, and
people will eventually come to accept it. Just as Saddam Hussein had
weapons of mass destruction, Iran’s “regime is openly pursuing its
ambition to become a nuclear power.”

Well, maybe it is. But we don’t know that. Iran maintains, as it has
all along, that its nuclear program is to produce electricity, not
weapons. There’s a strong suspicion that it’s lying, but so far there’s
no hard evidence to back that up.

So here’s an alternative strategy to Kristol’s “shoot first and ask
questions afterwards” approach. Why not take Iran at its word, accept that it
has the right to develop nuclear power, and insist in return that it
submit to strict international supervision to prevent any of the
technology being diverted into weapons development? Then, if the
Iranians refuse, the case for sanctions, backed ultimately by the
threat of force, will be that much stronger.

Of course it would be better for Iran to give up its nuclear research
voluntarily, but there seems little chance of that. And giving
diplomacy another try seems a lot better than going to war to stop a
nuclear power program. Not even Greenpeace would go that far.

Peter Fray

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