IRAN tested its longest-range missiles yesterday, in an act that seems to be a deliberate provocation of the international community.
Already Iran is under intense pressure to reveal its nuclear intentions and capabilities.
Just last Friday President Barack Obama delivered a stark warning to Iran after it was found to be developing a secret nuclear site.
In a joint statement with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, President Obama said the plant represented a “direct challenge” to international non-proliferation.
There is already the prospect that Iran will face further sanctions this week when the E3+3 states – Britain, the US, France, Germany, Russia and China – meet in Istanbul on Thursday. Even before yesterday’s testing Israel had called on the West to stand firm against Iran. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged “crippling sanctions” be imposed on the state.
Mr Netanyahu’s urgency and firmness is very understandable when you recall that Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that Israel should be “wiped out from the map”.
Yesterday Iranian state television said Revolutionary Guards successfully tested upgraded versions of medium-range missiles. Both can carry warheads and reach up to 1,200 miles, putting Israel, US military bases in the Middle East and parts of Europe within striking distance.
However, a nuclear threat is not immediate as American estimates suggest that Iran is one to five years away from having that capability. US intelligence also believes that Iranian leaders have not yet made the decision to build a weapon.
President Obama has already acknowledged that “Iran has a right to peaceful nuclear power that meets the need of its people. However, he warned that “the size and configuration of this facility is inconsistent with a peaceful programme”. President Obama’s position is as sensible as Iran’s is bewildering.
So, the situation is simple enough. The West suspects something unacceptable is afoot and is considering how it will react, it is considering if stiffer sanctions will resolve the issue. It may well decide that they will not and that other interventions are required.
But whatever action is to be taken will be taken on a collegiate basis and it will be designed to protect the vast majority of people – Iranians too – from the threat posed by Iran developing a nuclear capability.
The greatest prospect of this situation being resolved peacefully lies in the unity and single-mindedness of the international community working together to neutralise a potential and unacceptable danger.
History is littered with defeated and destroyed countries who, because of their isolation and weakness, could not defend themselves or their interests. However, there are far fewer examples of effective international alliances paying that price. Hopefully this affair will be resolved peacefully. If it is it will be because of the great pressure a unified international community brings to bear, not because Iran suddenly decides to abandon its nuclear programme.
Maybe those who advocate a No vote on Friday because of imagined threats to our “neutrality” or the “growth of militarism” or even “conscription into a European army” might consider what might happen if the international community did not speak with one voice against this threat.
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