Katherine Butler: Dangerous power game the West should refuse to play

The best way to disarm Tehran's hardliners would be the equivalent of the Arab Spring

Share
Related Topics

It's called getting your retaliation in first. A flurry of speculation about a possible pre-emptive military attack against Iran began appearing in the Israeli media about ten days ago. Then came reports suggesting the US was making plans for military action and that Britain might allow Tomahawk cruise missiles to be used. Then Israel tested a new long-range missile.

So before the IAEA's new report on Iran has even appeared, the alarmist narrative is well established: the UN watchdog's report will be a "game-changer". Israel's patience is exasperated and it is ready to act alone.

Israel's motives in nurturing a fresh drumbeat of war are understandable. For years there have been Israeli voices arguing that surgical strikes on Iran's enrichment plants would work.

But the argument is flawed. Suppose Iran is hellbent on actually getting the bomb, rather than just making everyone believe it has it. And then suppose the IAEA report has conclusive evidence that Tehran has moved to the point of acquiring weapons and the means to deliver them. Even if the threat was this imminent, the rest of the world would still be insane to let itself sleepwalk into another war just because the hawks in Israel have framed the debate to exclude other options.

Yet, according to a report yesterday in the New York Times, not known for adopting a lenient tone on Iran, the IAEA report is based on at best murky intelligence and, although it will point ominously to a new testing capsule for an "implosion device", will not be conclusive. Which should cast us back to another "game-changing" report: Colin Powell's 2003 presentation to the UN on Saddam's biological weapons.

The best way for Iran's nuclear ambitions to be disarmed, and for Israel's regional security to be enhanced, would be if the hardliners in Tehran were dislodged from power in an Iranian equivalent of the Arab Spring. Yet Western governments continue to turn a blind eye to the sale of technology to Iran that allows it to cripple the opposition. Many of those who have been tortured and jailed since the 2009 elections were hunted down thanks to mobile phone spyware sold by firms like Nokia-Siemens.

Military action would not be quick or surgical; an attack would risk spreading conflict throughout the Middle East, and it would end up strengthening an Islamic regime whose survival is partly built upon the premise of an external threat. If Israel's talk is propaganda, designed to ratchet up pressure for more coherent and effective sanctions in the face of Russian and Chinese opposition, then there is some sense in it. But it is a dangerous game, and one that other Western governments should refuse to play.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

My shameful failure to live up to the spirit of Christmas

Howard Jacobson
A pill for obesity is a step closer, with two separate studies showing that it may be possible to influence the body’s tendency to build up damaging fat deposits beneath the skin  

Being fat is the last social taboo. It is the actual elephant in the room

Rosie Millard
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all