Don't Panic! October 02 2003

Your war questions answered

Is Iran developing nuclear weapons?

Getting information about Iran is difficult. You see, Iranians communicate with one another about their nuclear program using an elaborate exclusionary code that most Americans don't understand. That code is called "Farsi." Lucky for us (me the writer and you the reader), I happen to know a man who can translate that "Farsi" stuff into English — my father.

Lucky times two — he's also an expert on Iran. So what if he hasn't been to Iran in 30 years, is an American citizen, and has no inside connections whatsoever to the Iranian government? Anyone can be an expert — all you need is to have someone introduce you as one. Right before Gulf War I, NBC actually had actor Omar Sharif on as a Middle East expert. His expert qualifications? He was born in Egypt and starred in the film Lawrence of Arabia. He probably had a newspaper subscription, too. Even odder, last year CNN Headline News had me on — I swear to Allah this is true — to comment on the safety of traveling in the Middle East. Never mind that Greenwich, England, is as far east as I've ever been.

Back to my expert dad. I called him the other day and asked, "Dad, do you think that Iran is developing nuclear weapons?" His answer, "Absolutely." He thinks that they're going to follow the path of other countries who've developed nukes. Deny, deny and deny again that you're developing them until you have them — at which point you make sure everyone knows that you have them so they don't mess with you. That's how North Korea, Pakistan and India did it. We then went off topic and he started making disparaging remarks about the Muslim fundamentalist freaks in Nigeria who want to stone a woman to death for adultery. You go, Dad!

Dad is not alone in his expert conclusions. Earlier this year, the IAEA (not a Swedish furniture store, but rather the International Atomic Energy Agency) discovered that not only did Iran secretly acquire uranium from China, but that it also produced some of the "highly enriched" uranium necessary for nuclear weapons. Iran's acquisition and enrichment of uranium, as well as its failure to report either, are violations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (which Iran has signed).

Confronted by the IAEA about their rule-breaking, Iran started tapping its feet, whistling and looking up into the sky. They've obstructed further inspections, all the while insisting that their nuclear program is nothing but a peaceful attempt to produce electricity.

If that was true, they wouldn't have lied about buying uranium from China, they wouldn't have been enriching uranium (it's not necessary for electricity production), and they wouldn't be obstructing inspectors. Oh, and one other thing — Iran is sitting on a great big pile of oil and natural gas. They need nuclear power plants like a priest needs condoms.

The IAEA has given Iran until Oct. 31 to prove that it has no nuclear weapons program. If Iran doesn't comply, the IAEA is going to tattle on them to the U.N. Security Council, which might then impose sanctions on Iran. The Iranian government is complaining that the IAEA is being so pushy about inspections they're considering pulling out of the Nonproliferation Treaty. Besides, they're having people over for a big Halloween party, so they're much too busy getting ready for it to worry about stupid inspections.

Iran also likes to point out the IAEA and the nuclear hypocrisy of the U.S. Israel has hundreds of nukes, but nobody's getting on them about it because they're a Western ally. Ditto Pakistan.

Well, Iran, perhaps people wouldn't be so concerned about the potential of you going nuclear if you'd stop having military parades like the one you had last week. You remember, the one featuring new ballistic missiles painted with reassuring slogans like "Israel must be wiped off the map" and "We will crush America under our feet."

My dad didn't translate that for me. I read it in the paper.


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