Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The consequences of a nuclear armed Iran

Iran's continuing defiance of the International Atomic Energy Authority, the US and the EU over its nuclear power program, their President's claims that the Holocaust did not happen and his suggestion that Israel should be wiped off the map are all naturally making people nervous that some sort of military clash with Iran is brewing.

The fear behind this conflict, on the part of the West at least, is the fear that Iran may be trying to develop nuclear weapons for themselves. One must hope that this conflict can be resolved peacefully, but Iran's actions seem to suggest a willingness to test the will of the international community to prevent them acquiring these weapons, if not to actually acquire them. Of course they deny trying to do so, but their lack of cooperation with the IAEA over the matter and their secrecy naturally lead to suspicion. They would not be the first state to develop nuclear weapons clandestinely, e.g. consider India, Pakistan and Israel. So the possibility they are trying to develop nuclear weapons must be taken seriously.

Why is there so much concern over Iran obtaining nukes, when we already have a nuclear armed US, Britain, France, Russia, China, Israel, Pakistan and India? It seems to me there are a number of reasons (in no particular order):

  • The more countries who have nuclear weapons, the more likely they'll end up being used, with devastating consequences. Containment combined with the deterrence of Mutually Assured Destruction(MAD) may have worked in the cold war (even then we nearly ended up in a global nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis) between two large evenly matched power blocks, but we may not be able to rely on MAD working if nuclear weapons proliferate amongst religious fundamentalists in an unstable area of the world.
  • The Iranian regime is a sworn enemy of the US, Israel and indeed the West generally and is ruled by a president who seems to see himself as some sort of messianic/prophetic figure.
  • The Iranian regime is a Islamist fundamentalist theocracy, sitting on a large chunk of the oil that fuels the world's economy, and sitting in one of the more unstable regions of planet.
  • A nuclear armed Iran would thus be far more powerful, and would likely try to use that influence to spread Islamist fundamentalism around the world (note they are known to support Islamist terrorist groups), whilst undermining the West.
  • Iran's neighbours would naturally be nervous and would either ally themselves or seek to acquire their own nuclear weapons or both.
Allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and I'd thus expect a nuclear exchange in the region within a decade, if not less, alongside a serious boost to a totalitarian religious ideology. It must not happen. Hopefully this scenario can be averted peacefully and there is still some way to go before the diplomatic road runs out. However, it seems Israel will attempt other options if she deems it necessary. It would be far better if the international community united to stop Iran on this and far more likely to end peacefully too.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Is Scotland's First Minister considering more nuclear power?

The prospect of the world's oil supplies running out is clearly having an impact on our politicians, as they begin to question the moratorium in building new nuclear power stations.

Tony Blair has dropped hints about this over the last year or so and today, the Sunday Herald reports that Jack McConnell, the First Minister of the Scottish Executive, is considering allowing more nuclear power stations to be built in Scotland:

First Minister Jack McConnell is paving the way for a Scottish Labour U-turn which would remove its opposition to new nuclear power stations being built in Scotland. McConnell has launched an internal party consultation on whether Scotland can afford to turn its back on the controversial energy source.

His colleagues are being asked to decide whether a commitment to another generation of nuclear reactors should become official party policy.

The move follows widespread speculation that Prime Minister Tony Blair will back new nuclear power stations as a solution to energy shortages and as a way of helping the government to fulfil its pledge to reduce carbon emissions.

But the energy issue is sensitive for McConnell, who along with his coalition partners at Holyrood, the Liberal Democrats, has ruled out any new nuclear power stations while the problem of radioactive waste remains unresolved.

The consultation is part of Labour’s “policy forum” process that will lay the foundations for the party’s 2007 Holyrood election manifesto.
According to today's paper edition of the Sunday Herald, between 1990 and 2002, nuclear power accounted for 35% of Scotland's electricity, gas accounted for 20%, renewables 11% and coal 33% (there appears to be 1% unaccounted for).

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Does Michael Howard really believe Iran's president is democratically elected?

This story on the BBC caused me to do a double take when I first saw it:

Quizzed on Iran in the Commons, Mr Blair said the world's security lay in spreading "freedom and democracy".

But Mr Howard later said he was talking "gibberish" given that Iran's president had been "democratically elected".

The West fears Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons after it broke seals on a research facility.

'Tough issue'

"To go on and on about democracy, has he forgotten that the president of Iran, the cause of all this trouble, was actually democratically elected?," Mr Howard told BBC Two's Daily Politics. (emphasis added)

What planet is the Tory party's former leader on?

In Iran, the Supreme Leader's authority overrides all other authorities. It is the same country that has a Guardian Council to vet candidates, whether for presidential or parliamentary elections, which barred 2,530 out of 8,157 candidates in recent parliamentary elections. In the Presidential elections, 1000 candidates entered, but only 8 were allowed to run. The Guardian Council can veto laws that are un Islamic and anti Constitutional. It is appointed by the Supreme Leader (6 members) and the head of the judiciary (6 members). The head of the judiciary is also appointed by the Supreme Leader. And Howard thinks this makes Ahmadinejad a democratically elected leader?!

A belated Happy New Year, plus the focus of this blog

I wish a belated Happy New Year to the readers of this blog!

Also, I'm sorry for the long gap in posting here. I took a bit of a break from things over Xmas and whilst I managed a few posts at the Magna Carta Plus (MCP) blog, I didn't manage anything here. During this period though, I've been thinking a bit about the focus of this blog, given that my civil liberties articles will mainly go to MCP.

Essentially the focus on this blog will shift to issues such as the end of oil and its consequences (anyone wishing to understand the middle east should look into this issue), developments in international politics and the fortunes of the British political parties in what seems to be a year of transition as David Cameron gets going as Tory leader, the Liberal Democrats hold a contest to elect a new leader, and Labour prepare for life after Tony Blair (given his promise to stand down before the next election). I also intend to cast an eye on Scottish politics, after all Scotland is my home country and I do live there, plus there's an election next year to Scotland's parliament.

Given that oil is running down just as demand surges from countries such as China and India, that the British government seems intent on further trashing the rule of law, that Iran and the international community are in conflict over the former's suspected moves to acquire nuclear weapons and that Sharon's stroke has probably thrown a spanner in the works in the Israeli/Arab conflict, we may have interesting times ahead of us...