Thursday, October 05, 2006

Let 'em Have Nukes But...

Seasoned US journalist Ted Koppel explains in an editorial how Washington should handle Iran's controversial nuclear ambitions.
A few days ago, I inadvertently violated U.S. economic sanctions against Iran. I was paying my hotel bill in Tehran, didn't have enough cash and asked if I could use a credit card. "I'll need to keep your card for at least half an hour," said the clerk. Since he'd also "needed to keep" my passport for the first couple of days I was in Iran, I thought nothing more of it. Half an hour later, I had my hotel bill and my credit card and left for the airport. A couple of days later my assistant asked me if I had purchased any clothing in Dubai. "No," I said. "Why?" Someone, it appeared, had used my corporate credit card to do just that. When I heard the amount involved - precisely the total of my hotel bill - I understood. Some Dubai business debited my credit card there (where such a transaction is legal) for the amount of my hotel bill, simultaneously crediting the company that owns the hotel in Tehran with that sum for the purchase of goods or services in Dubai. Similar, much larger loopholes enable the European subsidiaries of American companies to sell sanction-banned American goods inside Iran in limited but still significant quantities. (...) Many of Iran's young adults - especially the well- educated, English-speaking ones who cross the path of a visiting American journalist - are frustrated by the puritanical nature of Islamic law. (...) On the highway from Tehran to the Mehrabad airport, I witnessed a mind-bending object lesson in the limits of youthful rebellion: two young women on in- line skates, clutching the door handles of a car being driven by a young man at speeds approaching 60 miles an hour. Both women brazenly violated every traffic law known to man, but with their head scarves in place, the loose ends firmly clenched between their teeth. There are certain lines you don't cross. (...) If Iran is bound and determined to have nuclear weapons, let it. The elimination of American opposition on this issue would open the way to genuine normalization between our two nations. It might even convince the Iranians that their country can flourish without nuclear weapons. But this should also be made clear to Tehran: If a dirty bomb explodes in Milwaukee, or some other nuclear device detonates in Baltimore or Wichita, if Israel or Egypt or Saudi Arabia should fall victim to a nuclear "accident," Iran should understand that the U.S. government will not search around for the perpetrator. The return address will be predetermined, and it will be somewhere in Iran.
I'm not so sure about that, but it does make some sense, in a round about way.