Iran's Nuclear Fallout

By Lewis, Patricia | The World Today, June/July 2013 | Go to article overview
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Iran's Nuclear Fallout

Lewis, Patricia, The World Today

Patricia Lewis looks at two books offering different perspectives on Tehran and the bomb

Geoffrey Robertson Mullahs Without Mercy: Human Rights and Nuclear Weapons (Biteback, £20)

Peter Oborne and David Morrison A Dangerous Delusion: Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran (Elliott and Thompson, £8.99)

A Dangerous Delusion is a small, short book that enters what Peter Oborne and David Morrison call 'a plea for sanity' over the Iranian nuclear issue.

The authors catalogue several of the proposals put forward in various negotiations and meetings with Iran and the EU3+3 group (Britain, France, Germany plus the US, China and Russia) over the past decade to demonstrate how Iran has tried to play fair but been shunned at almost every attempt. Indeed, this is nothing new. Trita Parsi's excellent book^4 Single Roll of the Dice: Obama's Diplomacy with Iran, published last year by Yale, examines such failures in detail.

A Dangerous Delusion outlines what the authors call 'myths, falsehoods and misrepresentations' about Iran's nuclear programme.

Ayatollah Khamenei's 2005 fatwa against the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons is examined, as is President Ahmadinejad's statement, mistranslated as a call to 'wipe Israel off the map' when it should have been rendered as 'the occupation should vanish from the page of time'. The authors stress that they are not arguing that Iran is a perfect democracy, or that Iran's human rights abuses should be ignored. They also accept that Iran has breached its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and so distrust of Iran's statements and actions is a reasonable response.

They point out, however, that others have done the same or similar and not had such harsh punishment. Indeed, India has been rewarded for developing nuclear weapons.

One of the most interesting quotes is from John Kerry in 2009 in the Financial Times in which he is reported as decrying the 'bombastic diplomacy' and 'wasted energy' of an inflexible US administration under President George W. Bush. Iran has a 'right to peaceful nuclear power and to enrichment for that purpose', Kerry is quoted as saying.

The authors' plea is to rescind any talk of subjecting Iran to military threat, stop 'stigmatizing and punishing' Iran and get back to negotiations with the aim of striking a deal over Iran's right to enrich uranium.

The book fails to make the case in two respects: the first is the impact of concerns regarding human rights abuses in Iran; and the second is the scientific and technical discussion on which so much depends, barely addressed in the book.

Few, however, can be better qualified to address human rights as applied to a wide variety of countries and situations than Geoffrey Robertson, QC. In his book exploring the neglected aspects ofhuman rights in nuclear weapons policies, the lawyer has put human rights issues firmly back at the centre of the nuclear weapons debate and challenged the field ofhuman rights law to put the nuclear issue on its agenda, and to do so urgently.

The only problem with the book is that, while making his case and setting the scene - and none may doubt Robertson's knowledge ofhuman rights law - he has had to distill Iran's rich and complex history into a few dozen pages and thus had to leave out several important events.

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