The International Atomic Energy Agency is, at the time of writing, about to release a new report on Iran’s nuclear programme; it apparently makes for worrying reading. The Washington Post revealed on 5 November that an anonymous diplomat had explained content from draft versions to them. The report will, allegedly, “elaborate on secret intelligence collected since 2004 showing Iranian scientists… [working on] designing and building nuclear warheads.” This work included field-testing the high-precision explosives vital to triggering nuclear chain-reactions, and even computer modelling of warhead designs. A twelve-page UN annex will accompany the report, with satellite imagery of tools critical to nuclear weapons development.
This comes after a 2 September IAEA report underlined by Iranian secrecy and obtuseness. The IAEA summarised that, without trustworthy assurances about “undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran…, [it was unable] to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.” This should be unsurprising to all but the most myopic politicians. The official end in 2003 of Iran’s nuclear weapons programme was dubious at best and as time progressed, so the reasons for doubt increased. This latest news simply strengthens suspicions while confirming that the Stuxnet virus – perhaps the most successful case of cyber-warfare yet – failed to cripple Iran’s plans.
The brutal Syrian dictatorship, a client state serving Iran’s interests…
There are doubtless some who will ask, ‘so what? Some might even actively champion Iran while decrying, a la Guevara, the bugbear of ‘western imperialism.’ The situation is nevertheless critical and demands urgent action.
Iran is self-evidently a key logistical, political and moral power base of Islamic terrorism. Any intelligent observer can tell as much. Palestinian terrorists, for example, have long been recipients of Iranian military support: one Israeli raid even discovered Iranian anti-ship missiles, allowing terrorists to strike shipping across much of the Eastern Mediterranean. British Special Forces in 2008 discovered evidence that the Taliban were receiving Iranian support to help them build ever-deadlier IEDs. Tehran’s despots are also Machiavellian enough to appreciate the oblique approach. The brutal Syrian dictatorship, a client state serving Iran’s interests, hosted an external headquarters of Hamas – confounding Israeli efforts to protect innocent citizens by keeping their potential murderers out of reach.
The massive danger inherent in an already-unstable region…
Perhaps, however, this is too trifling to warrant the arrogance of telling a bloodstained dictatorship what it cannot do. Consider, then, the Iranian missile batteries ready to ravage oil shipping in the Strait of Hornuz. A 2010 Pentagon report on Iranian defence policy highlighted confirmed intelligence that, on Tehran’s order, these batteries would target local oil traffic – thus crippling global supply. Naturally, a cynic might contend that such threats of economic blackmail are akin to UN sanctions. Ignoring the discrepancy between the ephemeral UN sanctions and the chaos Iran could cause, this merely highlights Iran’s potentially catastrophic ability to destabilise the region.
To quote US Marine General James Mattis, speaking to the Senate Armed Forces Committee in March, Iran’s ambitions “could spark a nuclear arms race in the region.” As the WikiLeaks scandal brought to public attention, many of Iran’s neighbours are fearful of its growing power. Should Iran accomplish its nuclear ambitions, then, not only is there the likelihood of illicit material reaching terrorist stockpiles, but that other states will try to catch up. The massive danger inherent in an already-unstable region embarking on such a project hardly needs elaboration.
…it demands measures more stringent than the toothless sanctions that have defined their policies in years past.
The Iranian government has repeatedly demonstrated utter contempt for the ideals of individual rights, rationality and liberty. It instead exhorts a cocktail of anti-Semitism, mysticism and despotism. Its money pays the bills of terrorists or else helps kill our own brave soldiers. Meanwhile, it holds a knife to the jugular vein of energy-dependent civilisation and treats its own people like chattel. That any such state has even the slimmest chance of attaining the world’s most devastating weapon should be met with shock and outrage. This issue is nothing less than a ticking time-bomb, and one that demands more courage of our leaders than they have shown to date. Moreover, it demands measures more stringent than the toothless sanctions that have defined their policies in years past. The longer that this problem is left to fester, like an untreated wound, the worse it will get.