Marching to Persia

Simon Jenkins speaks clearly through the din of bloodthirsty jibber-jabber now overwhelming the debate about Iran. From the Guardian: The West has Picked A Fight With Iran That it Cannot Win. Kevin Sites also has several insightful reports on Iran this week at The Hot Zone; well worth checking out. Meanwhile, here are some excerpts from Jenkins:

Nothing I have read or heard in recent weeks suggests that fighting Iran over its nuclear enrichment programme makes any sense at all. The very talk of it - macho phrases about "all options open" - suggests an international community so crazed with video game enforcement as to have lost the power of coherent thought.

Iran is a serious country, not another two-bit post-imperial rogue waiting to be slapped about the head by a white man. It is the fourth largest oil producer in the world. Its population is heading towards 80 million by 2010. Its capital, Tehran, is a mighty metropolis half as big again as London. Its culture is ancient and its political life is, to put it mildly, fluid.

All the following statements about Iran are true. There are powerful Iranians who want to build a nuclear bomb. There are powerful ones who do not. There are people in Iran who would like Israel to disappear. There are people who would not. There are people who would like Islamist rule. There are people who would not. There are people who long for some idiot western politician to declare war on them. There are people appalled at the prospect. The only question for western strategists is which of these people they want to help....

I would sleep happier if there were no Iranian bomb but a swamp of hypocrisy separates me from overly protesting it. Iran is a proud country that sits between nuclear Pakistan and India to its east, a nuclear Russia to its north and a nuclear Israel to its west. Adjacent Afghanistan and Iraq are occupied at will by a nuclear America, which backed Saddam Hussein in his 1980 invasion of Iran. How can we say such a country has "no right" to nuclear defence?...

By all accounts Ahmadinejad is not secure. He is subject to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His foe, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, retains some power. Tehran is not a Saddamist dictatorship or a Taliban autocracy. It is a shambolic oligarchy with bureaucrats and technocrats jostling for power with clerics. Despite a quarter century of effort, the latter have not created a truly fundamentalist islamic state. Iran is a classic candidate for the politics of subtle engagement.

This means strengthening every argument in the hands of those Iranians who do not want nuclear weapons or Israel eliminated, who crave a secular state and good relations with the west. No such argument embraces name-calling, sabre-rattling, sanctions or bombs.

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