Thursday, February 01, 2007

Chirac speaks le truth about a nuclear Iran?

French President Jacque Chirac is catching intense heat for his on-the-record remarks to a French newspaper regarding the prospect of a nuclear Iran. Here's a summary from the New York Times:

“I would say that what is dangerous about this situation is not the fact of having a nuclear bomb,” he said. “Having one or perhaps a second bomb a little later, well, that’s not very dangerous.

“But what is very dangerous is proliferation. This means that if Iran continues in the direction it has taken and totally masters nuclear-generated electricity, the danger does not lie in the bomb it will have, and which will be of no use to it.”

Mr. Chirac said it would be an act of self-destruction for Iran to use a nuclear weapon against another country.

“Where will it drop it, this bomb? On Israel?” Mr. Chirac asked. “It would not have gone 200 meters into the atmosphere before Tehran would be razed.”

It was unclear whether Mr. Chirac’s initial remarks reflected what he truly believes. If so, it suggests a growing divide with American policy, which places the highest priority on stopping Iran from gaining the capacity to produce nuclear weapons.

Chirac may be guilty here of what some people call a "Kinsley gaffe," when a politician is flagellated for accidentally saying the truth in public. Because Chirac is largely correct. While no one relishes the prospect of a nuclear Iran, the reality is that Israel's nuclear arsenal ensures that Iran will be deterred from actually using said missile. The situation is the same with India and Pakistan -- no one's pleased they've joined the nuclear club, but the world is not in full crisis mode because of it.

Instead, as Chirac rightly notes, the real danger is proliferation. Should Iran acquire the capacity to make nuclear weapons, there is a very real danger such a weapon could fall into the hands of a group that cannot be deterred.


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