(Oops! "Ugly reality" already seems to have contradicted the naive premise of this Newsweek editor. See update below.)
I'm not sure what's scarier: the fact that Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria wants us to believe that Iran seeks nuclear power only for peaceful purposes or that President Obama might be seriously buying into this guy's delusions by reading his book, The Post-American World. Zakaria wants us to put away our fears of a nuclear Iran by making the case in his Newsweek article that that nation has no interest in weaponizing nukes:
Everything you know about Iran is wrong, or at least more complicated than you think. Take the bomb. The regime wants to be a nuclear power but could well be happy with a peaceful civilian program (which could make the challenge it poses more complex). What's the evidence? Well, over the last five years, senior Iranian officials at every level have repeatedly asserted that they do not intend to build nuclear weapons. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has quoted the regime's founding father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who asserted that such weapons were "un-Islamic." The country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa in 2004 describing the use of nuclear weapons as immoral. In a subsequent sermon, he declared that "developing, producing or stockpiling nuclear weapons is forbidden under Islam." Last year Khamenei reiterated all these points after meeting with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei. Now, of course, they could all be lying. But it seems odd for a regime that derives its legitimacy from its fidelity to Islam to declare constantly that these weapons are un-Islamic if it intends to develop them. It would be far shrewder to stop reminding people of Khomeini's statements and stop issuing new fatwas against nukes.
Gee. Don't you feel so much more comfortable now? Iran probably won't be building nuclear weapons. Why? Because they said they wouldn't. And they would never lie, now would they? However, Zakaria then seems to contradict himself by saying the Iranian regime would be content to just have the ability to threaten to weaponize to nukes within a short time:
Following a civilian nuclear strategy has big benefits. The country would remain within international law, simply asserting its rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a position that has much support across the world. That would make comprehensive sanctions against Iran impossible. And if Tehran's aim is to expand its regional influence, it doesn't need a bomb to do so. Simply having a clear "breakout" capacity—the ability to weaponize within a few months—would allow it to operate with much greater latitude and impunity in the Middle East and Central Asia.
Zakaria then assures us that the Iranian regime would never attempt to bring about an apocalyptic war. Why? Because they are greedy and corrupt:
Earlier this year, during the Gaza war, Israel warned Hizbullah not to launch rockets against it, and there is much evidence that Iran played a role in reining in their proxies. Iran's ruling elite is obsessed with gathering wealth and maintaining power. The argument made by those—including many Israelis for coercive sanctions against Iran is that many in the regime have been squirreling away money into bank accounts in Dubai and Switzerland for their children and grandchildren. These are not actions associated with people who believe that the world is going to end soon.
And what about the threats of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to "wipe Israel off the map?" Zakaria conveniently overlooks this and places the map wiping threat blame on Israel:
One of Netanyahu's advisers said of Iran, "Think Amalek." The Bible says that the Amalekites were dedicated enemies of the Jewish people. In 1 Samuel 15, God says, "Go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass." Now, were the president of Iran and his advisers to have cited a religious text that gave divine sanction for the annihilation of an entire race, they would be called, well, messianic.
The President of Iran doesn't have to cite a religious text. He just has to cite himself. But, hey, even if Ahmadinejad is the nutjob that he appears to be, he doesn't really have the power to act out on his apocalyptic fantasies...or so Zakaria strains to convince us:
...Even the so-called Supreme Leader has a constituency, the Assembly of Experts, who selected him and whom he has to keep happy. Ahmadinejad is widely seen as the "mad mullah" who runs the country, but he is not the unquestioned chief executive and is actually a thorn in the side of the clerical establishment. He is a layman with no family connections to major ayatollahs—which makes him a rare figure in the ruling class. He was not initially the favored candidate of the Supreme Leader in the 2005 election. Even now the mullahs clearly dislike him, and he, in turn, does things deliberately designed to undermine their authority.
Zakaria concludes with his "solution" for the current crises. Allow Iran to enrich uranium...but only under international supervision. He does admit that they could (gasp) cheat but it would be worth the risk:
The Iranians insist they must be able to enrich uranium on their own soil. One proposal is for this to take place in Iran but only under the control of an international consortium. It's not a perfect solution because the Iranians could—if they were very creative and dedicated—cheat. But neither is it perfect from the Iranian point of view because it would effectively mean a permanent inspections regime in their country. But both sides might get enough of what they consider crucial for it to work. Why not try this before launching the next Mideast war?
And remember, Obama is actually taking Zakaria seriously judging by his taste in books. Could this be one reason why Obama couldn't even look Israeli President Netanyahu in the face while speaking during their joint press briefing last week?
UPDATE: Zakaria's premise that the Iranians are interested in going nuclear (despite vast oil reserves) for peaceful purposes only have already been contradicted by a report in the U.K. Telegraph. Here are the first couple of paragraphs but I recommend you read the entire story which are completely at odds with Zakaria's warm and fuzzy fairy tale about the Iranian government's "peaceful" nuke intentions:
Robert Morgenthau, the New York district attorney who is heading a long-term investigation into the Islamic regime's complex web of illicit overseas financial operations, told US senators there was little time left to halt Tehran's atomic weapons programme.
His warning is all the more sobering as Iran last week successfully test-fired a sophisticated medium-range missile that could strike Israel, central Europe and Western forces in the Middle East and Afghanistan with warheads.
And congrats to Newsweek editor Jon Meacham on his announced goal of cutting his magazine's circulation in half. With laughably erroneous stories like this one by Fareed Zakaria, he should not only meet that goal but vastly exceed it.