Monday, May 02, 2005

Iran's Monty Python Strategy

Has Barry Rubin discovered the inspiration for the Iranians nuclear negotiation strategy? He reminds us:
In one of Monty Python's best routines, a man goes into a pet store to buy a parrot. The bird is obviously dead, but the store owner insists there is nothing wrong with it. No matter how the customer proves otherwise, the store owner has an answer to deny the easily demonstrable truth. READ MORE

The Middle East is full of parallels to this skit, dead-parrot situations in which denying the obvious wins the day through sheer persistence and readiness to lie ...

Another Middle East pattern also fits Iran's behavior here: demanding concessions and hinting that they will elicit a compromise solution. But when the democratic counterpart – the West or Israel – gives up on most or all points, the other side – an Arab dictatorship, radical movement, or Iran – then ridicules the concession, fails to implement its own promises and insists on getting more.

Iran's nuclear program combines these two features.

First, the arguments "proving" Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons. (But it is doubtful that one of the world's main oil-producing countries believes it needs nuclear energy when this mode of power generation has been a costly, dangerous failure. Nor has Iran spent so much to develop long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons to distant targets in order to build an overnight mail delivery service to compete with Federal Express.)

The first fallback argument is that Iran needs nuclear weapons because it is surrounded by enemies – neglecting the fact that Iran would have few enemies (the worst, Saddam Hussein, is now an imprisoned ex-dictator) if it was not the world's main supporter of terrorism, subverter of Arab-Israeli peace, and official sponsor of anti-Americanism while sabotaging Iraqi stability and threatening daily to wipe Israel off the map.

The second fallback argument is that Iran has as much right to have nuclear weapons as other states – neglecting the regime's actual nature, ideology and aggressive ambitions. If Iran had a democratic, moderate regime it would probably not be seeking nuclear weapons; and if it was, few would object. ...