Looking over the precipice

Shirin Ebadi, a human rights advocate, was awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize and Muhammad Sahimi is a professor of chemical engineering at USC. Writing in the LA Times, they articulate the Western challenge, and responsibility, for Iran’s nuclear program:

“The U.S. will not solve the nuclear problem by threatening military strikes or by dragging Iran before the U.N. Security Council. Although a vast majority of Iranians despise the country’s hard-liners and wish for their downfall, they also support its nuclear program because it has become a source of pride for an old nation with a glorious history.

“A military attack would only inflame nationalist sentiments. Iran is not Iraq. Given Iranians’ fierce nationalism and the Shiites’ tradition of martyrdom, any military move would provoke a response that would engulf the entire region, resulting in countless deaths and a ruined economy not only for the region but for the world.

” Iran is at least six to 10 years away from a nuclear bomb, by most estimates. The crisis is not even a crisis. There is ample time for political reform before Iran ever develops the bomb. Meanwhile, the West should permit Iran a limited uranium enrichment program (as allowed under the non-proliferation treaty) under strict safeguards by the International Atomic Energy Agency – but only when Tehran undertakes meaningful reforms, including freeing political prisoners and holding free and fair elections.

“Lastly, the U.S. and Iran should enter direct negotiations. It is simply absurd for the U.S. and the most important nation in the Middle East not to communicate directly. The Bush administration should not be seduced by exile groups with no support in Iran. Developing democracy is an internal affair.

“Democracy, in the end, will provide the ultimate safeguard against nuclear disaster, because a truly democratic Iran, backed by a majority of Iranians, would feel secure enough not to pursue dangerous military adventures.”

Such words are likely to fall on deaf ears in some circles, but common sense must prevail.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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