As the tension builds up to a UN showdown after Iran broke the seals to its nuclear research facilities on 10 January, political analyst Timothy Garton Ash calls for great caution in the west’s handling of the next steps.
In the analysis piece “Let’s make sure we do better with Iran than we did with Iraq” Ash predicts thats “the seemingly half-crazed new Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad” will not be overly impressed by UN sanctions and criticism, so a tempting next step for hawks in the USA and Israel might be to simply bomb selected Iranian nuclear facilities.
Ash makes the point that this would inevitably lead the Iranian population to rally round its president, and the west would do itself a great disservice because the “Iranian society is potentially our greatest ally – indeed, probably the most pro-western society in the Middle East outside Israel.” Ash warns that the “large reservoir of anti-regime and mildly pro-western feeling in Iran…could be drained overnight if we bombed.”
The international community, Ash argues, will have a hard time to make a real difference if the UN security council manages to agree on economic sanctions against Teheran: “The mullahs are floating high on an ocean of oil revenue: an estimated $36bn last year. This money can be used to buy off material discontent at home.”
He calls for a sharing of a information between the powers in the west to “reach a common analysis. And before we take any step in the diplomatic dance, we need to ask ourselves two questions: how will this affect the Iranian regime, and how will it affect Iranian society?”