WikiLeaks’ Release Doesn’t Serve Anyone

Many tens of thousands of classified American diplomatic cables were released by WikiLeaks this weekend, an international forum for whistleblowers. The releases have been condemned by the Obama Administration and are humiliating because of the blunt assessments of foreign governments and leaders they contain. But even if WikiLeaks claims otherwise, they contribute nothing to the public’s understanding of international relations and certainly won’t encourage authorities to be more transparent.

Among the most embarrassing and potentially most harmful of cables released by WikiLeaks are reports of Middle Eastern governments from Israel to Saudi Arabia pushing the United States to undertake military action against Iran before it builds a nuclear weapon.

Any observer who has been paying attention could have known that nearly all countries in the region are dreading the prospect of a nuclear Iran. It is why other states along the Persian Gulf have been buying American arms and modernizing their own weapons arsenals and it is why countries as Jordan and Turkey have been trying to act as middlemen in negotiations. Their role, and that of Saudi Arabia as well, may be harmed by the release of their confidential communications with the United States. Why would Iran sit down with them if it knows that behind closed doors, its neighbors are simultaneously recommending airstrikes?

The “Cablegate” files, as the release has been dubbed by WikiLeaks itself, further include reports on European national leaders, including German chancellor Angela Merkel, who is criticized for her lack of creativity; French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who is said to be prone to authoritarian behavior when under siege; and Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who, like his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is suspected of maintaining ties with organized crime. Anyone who has ever read a European newspaper could have told you that but it is embarrassing for the United States for such assessments of their allies to be in the public domain now. Berlusconi, for one, is said to have had a “good laugh” over reading the reports though.

The most — or only — serious allegation that has surfaced from the leaked reports so far involves American ambassadors and personnel at the United Nations who were told to spy on the organization by the State Department.

Five media — The New York Times, the Guardian in the United Kingdom, the French Le Monde, the German Der Spiegel and Spanish newspaper El País — were granted access to the documents before they were published at WikiLeaks Sunday. All have released only a selection and the Times said to have verified certain information with the White House before putting the cables online.

Even if the leaked documents cover a period of more than forty years (only a portion of the cables stems from the period after 9/11 and relates to current international relations), the impact, even according to some of the aforementioned newspapers, is supposed to be gargantuan. “The impression is of the world’s superpower roaming helpless in a world in which nobody behaves as bidden,” according to the Guardian‘s Simon Jenkins. Der Spiegel lambasted that the leak constitutes “a political meltdown for American foreign policy,” one that leaves “the trust America’s partners have in the country […] badly shaken.”

That may be overstated but it is not without an element of truth. The White House’s chief spokesman agreed that the releases could compromise discussions with foreign leaders in the future. “When the substance of private conversations is printed on the front pages of newspapers across the world, it can deeply impact not only American foreign policy interests but those of our allies and friends around the world,” said Robert Gibbs today.

WikiLeaks obviously begs to differ and defends its actions in the name of transparency. The website’s real and self-proclaimed goal however is to constrain if not outright undermine American power and influence. In doing so, it doesn’t shrink — as it has demonstrated with the release of classified military files in the past — from putting people’s lives at risk. Publishing information indiscriminately is not how journalism should work.

Newspapers including The New York Times have fortunately chosen to exclude sensitive details when the White House asked them to. According to Le Monde, the different publications worked together to edit out the names of people to whom the releases could be dangerous. WikiLeaks makes no such distinctions.

While the latest collection of leaked documents does not appear to include anything too dramatic, it does affect American foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East. WikiLeaks may not care and retort that the United States should not interfere in other parts of the world to begin with but as long as there are American troops stationed in the region; as long as Israel is an ally and other countries worry about Iran’s brinkmanship, such arguments should be confined to sensible political discussion and not be pressured with the illegitimate release of confidential information.

The Upcoming Iran Meeting of December 5

It seems like Iran and the United Nations Security Council have been jostling about Tehran’s nuclear program forever. It’s the same old equation: the UN try to adopt a deal that Iran would accept, but then the deal falls apart after a few days of consideration. Such was the case last year when Iran and the Security Council both accepted an agreement whereby 2,600 pounds of low enriched uranium would be sent to France and Russia for further processing. Originally, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad agreed on the contours of the deal. But when the Iranian president came back home, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the conservative clerics forced him to renege on the proposal.

The nuclear talks between the United States and Iran have been stalled ever since, with both sides refusing to budge on their positions. For the United States, it’s Iran’s refusal to uphold international demands that have been the sour point. For the Iranians, it’s the perception that the West is simply trying to deprive their right to produce nuclear energy under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. And for Turkey, Brazil and everyone else in between, it’s a combination of the two.

So when news breaks that Iranian and European negotiators have finally agreed on resuming the broken down talks later in December, questions automatically surface as to whether this round will be any different from the last.

The Washington Post reported a few weeks ago that both sides have in fact settled on December 5 for talks to begin. But so far, the topics of the discussions, let alone where the talks will be held, are still up for debate. Tehran wants to negotiate in Turkey, the same country that brokered a fuel swap deal earlier this year. The Security Council, on the other hand, is fearful that talking in Turkey will only bring a powerful pro-Iranian voice into the process; something that the United States surely want to avoid.

From this early date, it’s difficult to believe how the December 5 negotiations can work. While economic sanctions from the EU, United Nations and United States have inflicted harm on the Iranians for the past few months, it appears that these punishments have only hardened Teheran’s position on their nuclear enrichment rights. And in Washington DC, patience with diplomacy is running thin. With Republicans set to assume dominance in the lower chamber of Congress, the Obama Administration will be pressured to act tougher — and for most Republican legislators, tougher means using or threatening to use force.

Diplomacy is complicated and at times infuriating, especially when the country you are trying to negotiate with carries a bulk of Western distrust on their shoulders. But without diplomacy, there are only three options available for resolving the Iranian nuclear issue: more sanctions, military force, or Cold War style nuclear containment. All three are controversial, and all three may only exacerbate the situation. Compromising face to face is something that every reasonable person can support.

How Turkey Could Ruin the Missile Shield

After years of hampering progress in American-Russian relations, ahead of the NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal this week the United States agreed to compromise and assure the Russians that the ballistic missile defense shield planned for Central Europe really wasn’t aimed at them. The Obama Administration agreed to construct a simpler version of the shield but now Turkey, which is supposed to host its early warning radar systems, could spoil everything.

While ratification of the latest nuclear arms reduction treaty signed by Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev in Prague this spring remains in doubt, the warming up of the Arctic is prompting the Russians to boost their military presence in the region where vast resources of oil and natural gas await exploitation. Russian bomber planes are regularly intercepted over European airspace while last September, the Royal Navy reported that a Russian submarine had been caught stalking one of its own subs.

Frustrated with the procrastinated New START negotiations and still hoping to “reset” relations with Russia earlier this year, the Obama Administration offered to move parts of the European missile shield which Moscow believed threatened to undermine its nuclear posture. Russia was invited to participate in the project instead and President Medvedev is attending the Lisbon summit to discuss the future of security cooperation in Europe.

But Turkey, now a regional power, is reluctant to offend Iran at which the missile shield is so obviously aimed. The country, along with Brazil, negotiated a nuclear fuel exchange agreement with Tehran in May — one that was promptly rejected by the Western allies who considered the newfound Iranian willingness to compromise little more than a stalling tactic.

Turkey is less skeptical of Iran however while recent American criticism of its more eastward policy hasn’t helped to foster a healthy climate for cooperation. President Obama, in fact, accused the Turks of not having acted as an “ally” when they voted against United Nations sanctions on Iran two months ago. His administration threatened to withhold the sale of drone attack craft to Turkey at the time.

The Turks have submitted a number of conditions to be met if they are to host the missile defense radars: the system should cover all of Turkish territory; debris of intercepted missiles should not come down on Turkish soil and all references to Iran must be eliminated. The United States could probably have agreed to these terms before Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan added another — that Turkey should have command of the system. That’s unacceptable to the Americans.

There are alternatives to Turkey for the radar system but sidelining it now would come as another major blow in American relations with this essential NATO ally. President Obama should not interpret Erdoğan’s demands as Turkish stubbornness. Rather, the country is waking up to its potential and discovering its new place in the Middle East. The president has to recognize that the alliance has changed by granting the Turks some measure of control over the system. Turkey can’t be taken for granted anymore. What is more, if his administration is to make any progress with regard to Iran, Obama needs the Turks to act as middleman.

Chinese Companies Defy United Nations Sanctions

The Washington Post reports that the Obama Administration has gathered evidence of Chinese companies helping Iran develop its nuclear program and missile technology. One American official associated with the investigation said the companies may be acting without knowledge of the Chinese government.

United Nations sanctions restrict international companies from investing in Iran’s nuclear and weapons programs. If the allegations are true, Chinese businesses are in violation of these sanctions but it is unclear how they might be punished.

American officials provided a “significant list” of Chinese companies and banks still doing business in Iran during a visit to Beijing last month. Washington faces a serious challenge in persuading China to wind down investments in the Iranian energy sector. Along with India, it would seem that China is trying to work around the sanctions to continue to do business in Iran.

To make matters worse, a special United Nations investigative panel presented a report on Darfur to the Security Council that shines light on a potentially illegal weapons trade between Beijing and Khartoum. The current round of sanctions prohibits the Sudanese government from importing weapons for its military campaign in the Darfur region. Recently, however, investigators discovered Chinese bullet casings at the sites of numerous attacks against international peacekeepers.

Beijing vehemently denied allegations that its weapons are being used in Darfur and has insisted that the report be rewritten.

Under the current sanctions regime, Sudan is permitted to import weapons as long as they are not employed in the Darfur campaign. As expected, the government in Khartoum has repeatedly skirted the rules.

Investigators told the Security Council that Sudanese forces have used more than a dozen type of Chinese ammunition against rebels in Darfur. Unidentified assailants also used Chinese bullets during several recent attacks on peacekeepers. These munitions have fueled a bloody conflict in which over 300,000 people have been killed and almost three million driven from their homes.

Iran’s Internal Power Struggle

Although the international sanctions imposed upon Iran this summer have hardly been as “crippling” as intended, internal concern about the country not heading in the right direction is mounting. In Tehran, the very clerical class that brought Iran’s thirty year-old revolutionary order to power worries about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s saber rattling and his apparent unwillingness to compromise in the face of worldwide opposition. Even President Barack Obama said in August that his administration had picked up “rumblings that there is disquiet about the impact” of the latest round of sanctions in Iran.

Iran is gradually deteriorating into a military dictatorship. Having successfully suppressed the widespread opposition that ensued from last year’s disputed presidential election, Ahmadinejad and his allies in the Revolutionary Guard are now set to oust the conservative elements from the regime which have accused him of pursuing an “extremist” agenda. As the president distances himself from the theocratic roots of Iran’s Islamic Republic, the mullahs who once gave it legitimacy are increasingly sidelined.

Clerics and parliamentarians from the older generation, who were part of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, fear that Ahmadinejad is squandering religious principles in favor of a messianic cult that rejects the intermediary role of the clergy. Ahmadinejad has referred to the divide among conservatives, warning that “the regime has only one party” while his supporters refer to the opposition in parliament as a “conspiracy” — the same rhetoric as was deployed during last year’s protests.

The latest attack was launched via the website Mashanews which is run by Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff and advisor, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. “Iran needs to remove the mullahs from power once for all,” the site proclaimed, “and return to a great civilization without the Arab style clerics who have tainted and destroyed the country for the past 31 years.”

The president’s office now claims to favor a separation of Church and State, or one between dīn and dowla. The executive, according to Ahmadinejad, “is the most important branch of government,” a statement that would seem to challenge the position of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Guardian Council which he elects. The president’s his allies are also stressing Iran’s unique Persian and Shiite character compared to the Arab Sunnism of its neighbors, attempting to frame Ahmadinejad as something of a benign, secular leader.

Neither faction is likely to attract the sympathy of last year’s protesters however whose calls for democracy and human rights may have gone underground but can impossibly be rooted out. Rather a power struggle among conservatives could only strengthen them in their resolve.

How to Contain Iran

Although the sanctions imposed upon Iran by both the United Nations and great powers including the European Union, Russia and the United States, appear to have some success — despite President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comical references to them — they haven’t so far tempered the country’s nuclear ambitions. The options available to the West are now limited.

The possibility of military action against Iran has been raised and is, naturally, contemplated by the Pentagon. But bombing Iran would do more harm than good. An airstrike, no matter how carefully orchestrated, is unlikely to take out all of Iran’s nuclear facilities at once, which are scattered over an area more than twice the size of Texas, thus dragging the United States into a prolonged conflict, possibly a ground war that will only strengthen Iran’s resolve to develop a nuclear weapon while undermining internal forces of reform.

Sanctions and isolation are putting Iran under pressure and may manage to contain it. Airstrikes on the other hand, “would propel 56 year-old Iranian demons into overdrive,” as Roger Cohen put it, “and lock in an America-hating Islamic Republic for the next half-century.”

Unless America intends to risk that, it may have to accept a nuclear Iran. The question then becomes how to diminish the threat it poses. Former Secretary of State James Baker harkened back to the Cold War, pointing out in February that the threat of nuclear retaliation “was effective for forty years against the Soviet Union. And I’m not at all sure it wouldn’t be effective against these ayatollahs.”

Iran’s leaders may appear “flaky,” said Baker, but they are not insane. “We’ve got all this unused strategic nuclear capability,” he added, and what the administration should do, is call Tehran and say: “It takes thirty seconds to reaim those missiles at you.”

Speaking with The Wall Street Journal, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski was not so hawkish. He proposes a series of actions to contain Iran: offer a robust American defense umbrella to protect friends in the region; provide rhetorical support to Iran’s opposition while accepting America’s limited ability to help it; eschew thought of a preemptive strike against the country’s nuclear facilities; and keep talking to Tehran.

Baker actually suggested that the United States extend its nuclear umbrella over moderate Arab regions in the region as well. Iran has few allies. Other Middle Eastern states, around the Gulf and especially Turkey, aren’t at all looking forward to having another nuclear power in their midst.

Brzezinski warns that containing Iran will be a long game. In spite of recent protests, change won’t come easily to the Islamic Republic. Nonetheless, facilitating, “carefully and cautiously, the political evolution in Iran toward a more acceptable regional role,” preferably in the vein of secular Turkey, should be one of America’s foremost objectives with regard to the country.

Writing for The Daily Star, Ramzy Mardini offers similar advice. He warns that “uncertainty about Washington’s commitment will dramatically increase the incentive for regional states to seek self assurance, and hence, indigenous nuclear deterrents of their own.” Countries as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey rank high on the list here.

In a broader context, “the United States should be prepared to play a pacifying role in the region,” according to Mardini, which means “restricting Iran, but simultaneously working to minimize dangerous escalations involving local allies, particularly when it involves Israel.” That’s why the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks which the Obama Administration revived earlier this month are vital.

While most Middle Eastern regimes may not care as much about the plight of the Palestinian people as they profess to do, their populations share a greater resentment of Israel. Indeed, King Abdullah II of Jordan warned last month that if the renewed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians should fail once again, the Middle East may have to anticipate another armed conflict. But Israel and its Arab neighbors understand that the real threat — and likeliest instigator of a regional war — is Iran.

The enormous American arms sale to Saudi Arabia that was recently approved by the Obama Administration met with no resistance from Israel for instance. Meanwhile the Gulf Cooperation Council that includes Saudi Arabia and its small emirate neighbors is increasingly aimed at Iran, with American defenses. The United States should intensify this commitment, to signal to Tehran that it’s serious about it and in order to prepare for the unthinkable.

Iran Struggles With Nuclear Plant Delays

Iran’s first nuclear power plant in Bushehr will not be up and running until next year, according to reports from the Iranian atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi. Iran began loading Russian-made fuel rods into the plant in August, expecting to connect it to the national power grid by October.

Salehi said on Wednesday that, “the fuel will be loaded to the core of the reactor completely by early November and … two to three months after that, electricity will be added to the networks.”

The announcement follows a long history of delays with the Bushehr plant. Reza Aghazadeh, Salehi’s predecessor, promised to turn on the switch back in 2008. This year, Iranian officials have blamed intense heat for more recent delays. Meanwhile, American and Israeli officials continue to condemn the facility as instrumental to Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

Speculation has been swirling over the past few days about a different reason for the delays. Last weekend, Iranian officials confirmed that the computer virus known as Stuxnet had infected industrial infrastructure systems throughout the country. One official declared that as many as 30,000 individual computers had been affected.

There are analysts who suspect that Stuxnet was created to specifically target an industrial facility. Is it possible that the worm was designed to target Iran’s nuclear program? Ralph Langner, a German cybersecurity researcher, told the Christian Science Monitor that “Stuxnet is a 100-percent-directed cyber attack aimed at destroying an industrial process in the physical world.” His research into the virus, which is supported by other experienced cybersecurity analysts, asserts that Stuxnet “is looking for one specific place and time to attack one specific factory or power plant in the entire world.”

Iranian officials deny these assertions and no damage has been reported at the Bushehr facility. But Langner and other cybersecurity experts say that no one knows what Stuxnet’s ultimate aim truly is.

What is clear about the virus is that it is incredibly sophisticated. Analysts agree that it must have required a team of developers supported by a wealthy individual, organization, or perhaps a government. Once Stuxnet identifies its target and certain parameters are met, Lagner believes that “we can expect that something will blow up soon. Something big.”

The United States and Israel have both the software development capabilities and the motive to devise a sabotage effort aimed at Iran, but is this a likely scenario? It is hard to believe that the Obama Administration would employ computer espionage to try to derail Iran’s nuclear program. Similarly, the Israeli government, while certainly worried about an Iranian nuclear bomb, would probably turn to other means to delay or destroy the program. What’s more, they would probably wait until closer to the point of no return before showing their hand.

If and when the Bushehr plant comes online, it is expected to generate 2.5 percent of the country’s total electricity supply. This would be an important victory for President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s government, which has repeatedly rebuffed international efforts to put a stop to the Iranian nuclear program. But Stuxnet may have found its target. We don’t really know if the virus is the main reason for the delay in opening up the plant, or exactly what damage it has already caused, or what it is waiting for.

One question will remain regardless of the outcome in Bushehr: who created the Stuxnet virus in the first place, and for what purpose?

Obama’s Grand Strategy of Sanction Regimes

When President Barack Obama signed into law the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act last June, he envisaged the path of sanctions being integrated into a grand strategy aimed at making hostile countries fall in line. Iran is the first subject of this strategy.

The sanctions regime imposed upon Iran largely targets its petroleum industry; the mainstay of Iran’s economy. The aim is to squeeze the Islamic Republic’s fuel imports and enhance its international isolation.

Obama decided to take a tougher stand on Iran’s nuclear program after the country failed to reciprocate his attempt at détente early in his presidency. As a candidate, Obama promised to hold unconditional talks with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and when riots erupted in Tehran and other Iranian cities in the wake of Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection last year, Washington did not interfere. The administration hardly intended to engineer a regime change in Iran as it did in 1953 when then Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh was overthrown in favor of the shah with the support of the CIA. Read more “Obama’s Grand Strategy of Sanction Regimes”

This Week in the Middle East

The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks which were relaunched in Washington earlier this month have been “constructive” so far, said American secretary of state Hillary Clinton in Jerusalem this weekend where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meet for another round of negotiations.

Speaking with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour, Clinton said that the United States are hoping for Israel to extend its moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank. Israel has largely suspended the building activity of Jewish colonists in Palestinian territory for close to ten months now. The moratorium which, Clinton admitted, “took a lot of political capital for Prime Minister Netanyahu to achieve,” is due to expire later this month.

In Israel, indeed, even within Netanyahu’s own government, there is discord about extending the moratorium. Conservative lawmakers are opposed to it and fret that their right-wing coalition may be destabilized if the prime minister agrees to hold off new settlement construction for another period. The Palestinians, on the other hand, have declared it a precondition to any peace talks, threatening to walk away from the ongoing negotiations if Israel resumes settlement activity.

Some 300,000 Israelis currently live in settlements on the West Bank which is home to approximately 2.5 million Palestinians. Another 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem which the Palestinians claim as their capital.

In spite of the standoff, Secretary Clinton praised both leaders for engaging “so seriously so early on what are the core issues.” She wouldn’t say though whether the United States are prepared to pressure Abbas to stay at the table even if Israel resumes the construction of settlements. “I will certainly urge him to continue in the negotiations,” she elaborated, “just as I’ve urged Prime Minister Netanyahu.”

Last February, Clinton already suggested that Iran was sliding into military dictatorship. The country’s Revolutionary Guard, she noted at the time, was gaining influence “across all areas of Iranian security policy, and certainly nuclear policy is at the core of it.” She repeated this worry on Saturday, adding that it is “a concern of people inside Iran” as well.

We saw a very flawed election and we’ve seen the elected officials turn [to] the military to enforce their power.

And a lot of Iranians, even those who stayed, even those who were originally sympathetic are starting to say, “This is not what we signed up for.” And I can only hope that there will be some effort inside Iran, by responsible civil and religious leaders to, take hold of the apparatus of the state.

“We have done the best we could to support those inside through trying to open up access to telecommunications,” said Clinton, but there isn’t much the United States can do for the people of Iran other than implement sanctions which specifically target the regime in Tehran.

Amanpour quoted Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who has dismissed the latest sanctions as “pathetic” and “worse than a used handkerchief.” Clinton nevertheless believes that they are “biting” as does President Barack Obama who, last month, told reporters that the sanctions have certainly caused “disquiet” in Iran. “In fact,” said Clinton, “former President [Akbar Hashemi] Rafsanjanisaid said just the other day, ‘These are serious. They need to be taken seriously.’ He was in effect criticizing his government because of comments like that.”

One of Clinton’s predecessors, General Colin Powell, disagreed on NBC’s Meet the Press. He said that “eventually we have to deal with the reality that sanctions may not change the views of the Iranians.” A better solution, according to Powell, is to find a way for Iran to have a civilian nuclear program with the assurance that it won’t weaponize the technology. “People will say that’s naive,” he added, so the West should “put in place a set of sanctions that would be devastating to [the Iranians] if they violate that agreement.” Under those conditions, Powell believes, the United States may be able to live with a nuclear Iran.

President Ahmadinejad, who was also interviewed by Amanpour for This Week, in New York, claimed that Iran has “always been ready to discuss issues as long as they’re within the legal framework and based on principles of justice and respect.” Iran is prepared to talk, he said, under fair conditions. “If somebody thinks that they can, like, order us around or rule us, and call it talks, that wouldn’t work.” He alleged that the United States have pressured the International Atomic Energy Agency into adopting a “political position” on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program. The sanctions, he added, have been “meaningless”, “illegal” and “wrong.”

Asked about the apparent militarization of Iran’s political system, the president suggested that Secretary Clinton “should think a little bit before she makes statements of such nature. I think Ms Clinton is a very respected woman,” he added, “but she should really gather more correct information to base her statements on accurate information.”

Iran’s Nuclear Plant Grand Opening

Iran has finally announced the opening this Saturday of its first nuclear power plant, leaving many Western nations and Israel nervous about possible forays into nuclear weapons.

Iran considers the ability to build and operate a nuclear power plant its right. The project has been underway with much opposition since 1974. Russia has supported the endeavor with money and technology, while at the same time supporting UN sanctions over the years. As of right now Iran is purchasing fuel for the plant from foreign sources, but has plans to begin production of its own fuel. Herein lies the danger for Iran’s foes. The uranium enrichment sites can be used for producing weapons grade uranium as well as enriched uranium for power production.

The question is not whether Iran will gain nuclear capacity, but what role in this other nations play. No advance in civilization, particularly in war, can remain a secret indefinitely. And though Iran has been known for its aggressive behavior in the Middle East and its outspoken opposition to Israel and many Western nations and policies, it is still a sovereign nation. If there is individual freedom is there freedom for nations? Do foreign nations have any authority to oversee Iran at all, as the United Nations are doing right now? If so, from where does this authority originate?

The authority to oversee nuclear plants in certain nations is claimed by the UN and it is backed up by threat of force. The authority only exists so long as the UN can and will use the force it threatens. It is a right of might, not an inherent one. The inherent rights of man would suggest that a foreign nation has the absolute right to govern themselves as they see fit. If what nations choose is aggression, then they must expect to be met with aggression in return. But there is nothing immoral in simply having weapons and armies; it is the way in which they are used that raises moral questions.

The Nuclear Age however poses certain problems never before known. A nuclear missile might be launched from a distance and its destructive power dwarfs all previous human attempts at annihilation. Therefore prevention is much more desirable than retribution. Does the right of self-defense trump the right of self-determination in this case? Perhaps. Especially if the claim of right comes from a nation of unrepentant antagonists. For now, the UN will be inspecting and overseeing the nuclear projects of Iran.