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Chirac Signals Peace Possible with a Nuclear Iran PDF Print E-mail
Peace News
Saturday, 03 February 2007 10:15
Chirac Signals Peace Possible with a Nuclear Iran

AG
- Patrick Seale - The United States and Israel have both stated that they would not tolerate an Iranian bomb. Israeli officials and analysts have hinted repeatedly that, if the United States did not destroy Iran?s nuclear facilities, Israel would have to do so itself. In contrast to these threats and warnings, Chirac seemed to be saying that the world might, after all, have to learn to live with an Iranian bomb. Just as he had opposed the war on Iraq -- and proved right -- so he was now saying that deterring Iran was far better than attacking it.

www.agenceglobal.com

An off-the-record comment by Jacques Chirac made sense (briefly, before it was retracted by the French presidency). If Iran were to join the nuclear club it wouldn't be a danger-in-itself, but only  in terms of proliferation. The difficulty with facing this important issue of a possible nuclear Iran is that the American struggle for Middle East hegemony dominates the entire discussion.

Chirac Frees the Cat from the Bag,
Momentarily

Patrick Seale

Agence Global
February 3, 2007

Copyright ? 2007 Patrick Seale
[Republished at PEJ News with AG permission] 


France?s President Jacques Chirac caused a mini-diplomatic crisis last week by pooh-poohing the danger posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. Even if Iran were to acquire a nuclear bomb, he said, it could never use it without facing instant and devastating retaliation.

The immediate implications of Chirac?s remarks were first, that it might now be impossible to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons; but secondly, that any attempted use by Iran of such weapons could be deterred by other powers.

The importance of Chirac?s remarks is that they run counter to the official Western position, which France has itself endorsed by voting at the Security Council for sanctions against Iran if it refuses to suspend its nuclear enrichment activities.

The United States and Israel have both stated that they would not tolerate an Iranian bomb. Israeli officials and analysts have hinted repeatedly that, if the United States did not destroy Iran?s nuclear facilities, Israel would have to do so itself.

In contrast to these threats and warnings, Chirac seemed to be saying that the world might, after all, have to learn to live with an Iranian bomb.

Just as he had opposed the war on Iraq -- and proved right -- so he was now saying that deterring Iran was far better than attacking it.

In this Chirac was reflecting a widely held fear in Europe that, egged on by its Israeli ally, the United States was heading for an armed confrontation with Iran with potentially catastrophic consequences for the Middle East and the world.

Chirac?s controversial remarks were made in an off-the-record conversation on 29 January, with journalists from the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune and the French weekly Nouvel Observateur. Off-the-record remarks are not meant to be reported. They are supposed to remain confidential. Furious at this breach of journalistic convention, the Elys?e Palace issued a retraction of the President?s remarks.

An official communiqu? from the Presidency on 1 February, declared that "France and the international community cannot accept the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran and asks Iran to respect its undertakings under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, while affirming its right to civilian nuclear energy." The communiqu? added that Iran?s nuclear programme was "opaque and therefore dangerous"; that it could lead to proliferation and an arms race; that the question of nuclear weapons threatened the stability of the Middle East; and, that France favoured a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. But in spite of this official retraction, the damage was done. The cat was out of the bag.

It is worth looking at what President Chirac actually said in his off-the-record remarks. This is how they were reported in the press.

"I would say that it would not in fact be dangerous [for Iran] to have a bomb -- and perhaps a second one a little while later? Well, that is not very dangerous.

"If [Iran] continues on its way and totally masters technology for nuclear-generated electricity, the danger will not lie in the bomb that it will have, and for which it will have no use. Where would it drop this bomb? On Israel? The bomb would not go more than 200 metres into the atmosphere before Tehran was razed to the ground.

"The danger lies in proliferation, and in the temptation for other countries in the region, which have large financial resources, to say, 'Well, we, too, are going to do it, or we will help others do it.' Why might Saudi Arabia not do it? Or why might it not also help Egypt do it? That?s the danger."

In a veiled criticism of the United States, Chirac added that if the Iranian authorities were seeking "to master nuclear technology for military uses," their motive might be to protect themselves against "unpleasant surprises that might be intended, at one time or another, to destabilise the regime of the mullahs."

Some observers believe that, in spite of his later retraction, Chirac actually wanted his initial remarks to be leaked so as to mobilise opinion against an American attack on Iran.

His position might be summed up as follows:

? Iran is a major power with legitimate interests that need to be recognised and addressed;

? In seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, Iran is not planning to attack others but to protect itself from attack;

? Iran can contribute to peace and stability in the Middle East;

? France believes that the way to resolve crises and ensure a better future for the region is to engage in dialogue not confrontation with Tehran.

On all these points, Chirac is once again opposed to the United States, as he was in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Chirac did not, however, address the issue of how the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran might change the balance of power in the region. America?s regional hegemony would undoubtedly be challenged in the strategically important Gulf region. The freedom of action of both the United States and Israel would be circumscribed. Iran would have gained a certain degree of immunity from attack.

Probably above all else, these are the consequences that Washington is most anxious to avoid.


Patrick Seale
is a leading British writer on the Middle East, and the author of The Struggle for Syria; also, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East; and Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire.

Copyright ? 2007 Patrick Seale

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Released: 04 February 2007
Word Count: 851

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Advisory Release: 04 February 2007
Word Count: 851
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Agence Global is the exclusive syndication agency for The Nation, The American Prospect, Le Monde diplomatique, as well as expert commentary by Richard Bulliet, Mark Hertsgaard, Rami G. Khouri, Tom Porteous, Patrick Seale and Immanuel Wallerstein

Last Updated on Saturday, 03 February 2007 10:15
 

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