Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in New York on Monday to crash the opening of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Review conference. In a typically long-winded speech, the fiery Iranian president sought to divert world attention from Iran’s nuclear weapons program to the unacknowledged nuclear arsenal of Israel.
“While the Zionist regime has stockpiled hundreds of nuclear warheads, instigated a number of full-fledged wars, and continues to militarily threaten and terrorize countries of the region, it enjoys the full support of the United States and of its allies to develop its nuclear weapon program,” the Iranian president exclaimed. “However, the same governments impose heaviest pressures and psychological warfare upon the member countries on the false pretext of probable diversions of their peaceful activities without giving any substantiated evidence.”
What Mr. Ahmadinejad was trying to convey with his clunky rhetoric was that there is a double standard in the world with regards to nuclear weapons. While Israel maintains a stockpile of nuclear weapons, Iran is being pressured to stop its peaceful nuclear program.
Take away the unbelievable claim that Iran is only seeking a peaceful nuclear weapons program and one would have to admit that Mr. Ahmadinejad has a point. There is a nuclear weapons double standard and it is one that the United States should be willing to defend.
It is easy to try to deflect Mr. Ahmadinejad’s position by claiming a legal loophole. Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and therefore is subject to its rules. Israel, on the other hand, is not a signatory. But this is hardly a satisfying answer. What if Iran was not a signatory to the NPT? Would we no longer care so much about Iran’s nuclear program?
Yes, there is a double standard when it comes to nuclear weapons. While the United States should clearly work to prevent nuclear proliferation, it would hardly be a security crisis if Canada announced tomorrow that it had developed a nuclear arsenal. For the many jokes Americans have about our neighbor to the North, we can at least trust them to act rationally.
While Israel has not declared itself to be a nuclear power, it is no doubt one. This is perhaps the worst-kept secret in the Middle East. Despite this reality, none of Israel’s neighbors lose a single night of sleep over Israel’s nuclear program, even though Israel and its neighbors are hardly bosom buddies. This is because despite their enmity for the Jewish state, Arab leaders know that the Israel’s government, no matter who is in control of it, is fundamentally rational.
What’s more is that Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons actually helps stabilize the Middle East. Their nuclear arsenal acts as a disincentive for their Arab enemies to form a military coalition to once again try to wipe Israel off the map in another Arab-Israeli war.
But while Israel’s neighbors have not rushed to develop their own nuclear arsenal to counter Israel’s nuclear arsenal, Iran’s nuclear weapons program threatens to change that. The Iranian regime’s acquisition of nuclear weapons so threatens the Arab world that many new nuclear weapons programs could soon sprout up to counter Iran. Needless to say, a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is not something to be desired.
So let’s state it clearly: Americans do not object to Iran’s nuclear program just because it violates its obligations under the NPT. Americans are deeply concerned about a nuclear Iran because they are concerned about who runs Iran. It is a religiously motivated regime that has threatened to wipe other countries off the map and it is a regime with leaders who are potentially apocalyptic.
Our government won’t say this because we are obsessed with justifying our actions by invoking the rules of the "international community.” But there is no such thing as an "international community” with values shared by all nations. This is a fairy tale. The governments of Iran and the United States, North Korea and Great Britain simply do not share common values.
Some governments are decent and rational, and some are indecent and rational. Obviously, if we are forced to choose, it is far better for the former to possess nuclear weapons than the latter. But worst of all would be for a regime that is indecent and irrational to possess a nuclear arsenal.
In Iran, we might just get that dangerous combination. That is why their nuclear weapons program is such a concern, and that is why it must be stopped.
We cannot allow ourselves to be sidetracked by Mr. Ahmadinejad’s sophistry.