Thursday, December 29, 2005

Holocaust Denial and Iran

In the last month, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, has said a lot of nasty things about Israel. For example, he thought it was a good idea to wipe the country off the map. Since sentiments like these have been around since the wars of 1948, so it's not too much of a shock to me. But then he took the unusual tactic of Holocaust denialism. You expect it from the losers in Stormfront, but it is depressing to get it from a government leader. The comments made it easier to label him an Islamofascist (he's Islamic! He's a Fascist! Ergo, he's a Islamofascist!), but I always thought that label a bit wanky.

It's an open question as to whether Ahmadinejad believes his statements. It takes some intelligence and some cunning to lead a country, so I presume he doesn't. But a better question is to ask why  he said those bad, bad things. Fortunately, Jeremy Bray of Catallaxy has made a post entitled Iran, Israel and Middle-Eastern Diplomacy, which delves into the possible reasons for these outbursts. I could say it's a fine debut at Catallaxy, but it's actually his second post there. It's also a good antidote to all the hysterical huffin'-and-puffin' about invadin' by Atlas Shrugs (as I posted about two days ago.) I heartily recommend Bray's post, even if I don't quite agree with the implied conclusion: Iran risks losing its reactors to an Israeli bombing run:

The thing is: what does he do next? The Israelis are now sharpening their bayonets, the Americans are miffed that he’s come in and knocked over their dominoes, and the rest of the world is wondering if letting Iran have enriched uranium is such a good idea. Think quickly, Mahmoud – Israel’s Air Marshals have drawn a big red circle around March 2006!

Why do I disagree? Firstly, Iran knows damn well when Israel tried pre-emptive bombing before: the June 7th, 1981 strike on the Iraqi reactor of Osiraq. The Iranian military know about this; they even tried to destroy that reactor themselves in 1980. They don't want it happening to them. I would be very surprised if they haven't thought long and hard about countermeasures, such as dispersing the facilities. According to Wikipedia, Iran has about 15 or so "nuclear"-related places spread around the country. (Yes, I know Wikiknowledge can sometimes be dubious, but each site has a cite.) Secrecy is another countermeasure (but one that annoys people): three of them are "suspected, but not confirmed". Then Iran has a few topological advantages over Iraq: it's got a lot of mountainous terrain, and it's three times as large in area.  Israel could try to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities. I doubt we'll be getting Osiraq Part II.

(Personally, I prefer an unsuccessful bombing run to an unsuccessful U.S.-led invasion, but would rather have neither.)   

There's one other thing I want to mention. There is an alleged religious fatwa forbidding the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons. It's coming from none other than Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the leader of Iran. "Alleged", I said. According to a later release by the Federation of American Scientists, "there does there does not seem to be any published text of such a fatwa, leaving its political significance and even its precise meaning in doubt". Damn. That's the sort of fatwa we could live with.