Saturday, January 14, 2006
"Defiance". posted by Richard SeymourIt transpires that "defiance of the international community" is a crime meriting sanctions and the threat of air strikes. Iran, for shame, is supposed to be seeking nuclear weapons. Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesperson has said, without any apparent trace of irony, "We believe the combination of fanatical ideology together with nuclear weaponry is a combination that no thinking person can feel comfortable with". And Israel, for its part, may well be considering a military attack. Albeit, however, there may be a modest amount of embarrassment over this.
Where to even begin? Setting aside the obvious questions of justice and equity - if Israel may have nukes, why not Iran, you might ask - I have straightforward and obvious proposition: there is no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons programme. There have certainly been a number of intelligence claims, but I think we all know what to do with those before flushing. If not, then consult this. Even if, hypothetically speaking, there were such a programme, the IISS concludes that "if Iran threw caution to the wind, and sought a nuclear weapon capability as quickly as possible without regard for international reaction, it might be able to produce enough HEU for a single nuclear weapon by the end of this decade", assuming no problems of supply or technical difficulties. Undertaking more plausible options would take considerably longer. They'll also have to get round Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's fatwa against the stockpiling, production and use of such weapons.
At any rate, there seems to be a curious ideological movement going on here: destructive military technology circulates about the world, horribly enough, as part of the normal state of affairs in the international system. The British government has just announced that it will spend £25bn on an updated Trident programme. The United States possesses, of course, very extensive nuclear weapons programmes. Yet, as soon as an official enemy (without, you will note, a history of external aggression) is even accused of aiming at climbing the nuclear ladder, all is suddenly murky and mysterious. Consider this report on anonymous intelligence claims (I assume they come from MI6): "It concludes that Syria and Pakistan have also been buying technology and chemicals needed to develop rocket programmes and to enrich uranium. It outlines the role played by Russia in the escalating Middle East arms build-up, and examines the part that dozens of Chinese front companies have played in North Korea's nuclear weapons programme." Note that it does not outline the quite extensive US role in the escalating Middle East arms build-up. It continues: "The assessment declares that Iran has developed an extensive web of front companies, official bodies, academic institutes and middlemen dedicated to obtaining - in western Europe and in the former Soviet Union - the expertise, training, and equipment for nuclear programmes, missile development, and biological and chemical weapons arsenals."
You really would have to have a soft spot for faecal matter to swallow this stuff. Coprophobes can merely amuse themselves with the thought that the crazy clerics in Iran have set up an extensive conspiracy in the heart of Europe for the sole purpose of pursuing nuclear megadeath. But another obvious proposition does suggest itself: there is no such thing as "the international community". We are invited to conceive of a Federation-style panel of pacific nations to which one counterpoints the pathological anomaly of the "rogue state". The concept of the "international community" contracts and expands upon demand. This week, Russia is part of the international community, next week it stands in defiance, shortly thereafter it is re-enlisted to this strange affiliation so that it can support this or that venture. Put it another way: "the international community" is an endlessly deployable euphemism that handily avoids addressing imperialism and the temporary, shifting alliances that are formed within it.
Meanwhile! The United States kills 18 people in a terrorist attack on Pakistan, claiming initially to have killed Ayman al-Zawahiri in the raid. It is now clear that he was not there. That is not the reason why this was a crime, of course. In that case, the only crime would be poor intelligence. And it is not just that the US was insufficiently solicitous with the Pakistani authorities before launching the strike. State sovereignty is important, especially when the alternative is unrestrained imperialist rule, but the weak client-state in Pakistan has long been a surrogate of US power in the region. It is that the US assumed the right to drop a bomb in a civilian area on the assumption that someone they want is there, regardless of how many are murdered in the process. And further, they must stand upon this right because they calculate that if he is not there, such an attack would certainly terrify anyone thinking of supporting or 'harbouring' the enemy. Were Iran to launch such an attack on a neighbouring state, one would hear 'bloody murder' hallooed from every cathode tube. Instead, the news tonight restrains itself to the thought that the US will have to admit to itself that Zawahiri is still on the wanted list: the story, then, is about the US government and the putative psychological drama it undergoes in facing up to a mistake, not about those it has murdered and not about when it will be brought before the UN and faced with sanctions.