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

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Emily Thornberry  

Left-leaning patriots unite! Let's get straight about Ukip

Katy Guest
Gary Catona has worked with a number of high profile singers including Stevie Wonder, pictured  

High pitch: In search of the next Whitney

Simmy Richman
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin