TEHRAN, Iran (BP)–Despite a warning from a Princeton scholar of Iran possibly initiating catastrophic events Aug. 22, the Muslim nation continued its exchanges with the international community on nuclear weapons production by releasing a 21-page counterproposal.
Bernard Lewis, a professor emeritus of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University, had said in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that a revered Muslim holiday corresponding to Aug. 22 could provide an opportune moment for Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to set in motion the return of the 12th Imam, whom Shiites believe will forever end the struggle between good and evil in the last days. That could come in the form of nuclear weapons aimed at Israel or the United States, he said.
But Aug. 22 came and went with no such display of force. Instead, Iran submitted an expected response to a United Nations Security Council request to stop enriching uranium by the end of August. Western diplomats had expected the response to be “not black or white, but gray,” The New York Times reported, and it was.
Iran offered “serious talks” concerning its nuclear activities but did not address the issue of suspending enrichment by Aug. 31 and did not indicate any intentions to reverse course. The Middle East nation said it was offering a “new formula” for resolving the nuclear standoff but did not provide details of the formula, The Times said.
A Chicago Tribune editorial Aug. 22 agreed with Lewis that the United States has reason to be concerned that nuclear weapons could soon be in the hands of devout religious fanatics.
“[If] Iran acquires the bomb, we’ll all have to wonder about its intentions every single day,” not just Aug. 22, the Tribune wrote.
“Iran has signaled that it will turn down the [U.N.], but the best estimates are that Iran is at least a few years from being capable of building a nuclear weapon,” the Tribune said. “The only thing for sure is that its centrifuges are spinning, creating enriched uranium, a big step on the way to building such a weapon.
“Lewis, though, has raised an important point for the world to consider as it ponders how next to respond to Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” the editorial continued. “In the Cold War, Russia and the U.S. were restrained by what is called mutual assured destruction. You launch nukes, we launch nukes. We all die. Rational people don’t like those odds. That works as a deterrence.”
But mutual assured destruction, as Lewis noted, doesn’t work with Iran because its leaders are devout Muslims who have been raised to believe that dying in a battle with an evil enemy will result in eternal reward for martyrdom.
Now that Iran has offered a response to the Security Council that does not meet the central demand of the coalition, leaders of the United States, Britain, France and Germany have gathered to discuss their response, which may include a first phase of sanctions against Iran.
“They can either take up the very generous offer that the five permanent members and Germany have extended to them, and if they do, there’s a possibility of a different relationship with the United States and others,” John Bolton, the U.S. representative to the United Nations, said in The Times. “But if they don’t, we’ve also made it clear that their unwillingness to give up their pursuit of nuclear weapons will result in our efforts in the Security Council to obtain economic sanctions against them.”
An initial round of sanctions could include blocking gasoline imports. Though Iran sits on some of the largest known oil reserves, the nation imports more than 40 percent of its gasoline because it lacks the refinery capacity to meet its needs, The Times said. But gasoline sanctions could hurt the West by driving up global oil prices.
The West also has few military options toward Iran in the event that diplomacy fails since conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon remain unresolved, The Times reported.
Meanwhile, a religious liberties advocate is urging President Bush to direct the U.S. State Department to condemn Iran’s practice of inhumane executions of women by public stoning and hanging.
“While diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran remain strained, that does not absolve the United States from its responsibility as a world leader to speak out against inhumane practices and human rights abuses taking place in that country,” John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, wrote to Bush Aug. 21.
“If, as a nation, we remain steadfastly opposed to injustice and tyranny wherever it occurs in the world, then we can have no other recourse than to condemn Iran’s practice of stoning women to death, especially on charges of adultery,” Whitehead added.
A Rutherford Institute news release Aug. 23 recounted one such instance of stoning: “… on or about June 29, 2006, an Iranian court sentenced Malak Ghorbany, a 34-year-old mother of two, to death by stoning after finding her guilty of adultery. In contrast, two men who were found guilty of murder in the same court were reportedly only given jail sentences of six years.
“Research into the practice of death by stoning indicates that the female victim is placed in a deep pit and covered with dirt, leaving only her head and shoulders exposed,” the news release continued. “Members of the community are then invited to hurl rocks at her head until she has been beaten to death. The size of the stones used during the execution are required to be a certain size—not so large that they would kill a woman too quickly, nor so small that they would fail to cause serious injury or pain.”
The Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank, posted an assessment of Iran’s “waning human rights” Aug. 9, saying there are “fresh signals of the low tolerance for dissent under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime.”
“Human rights monitors say that in Iran critics are silenced, independent journalists and opposition members are arrested, and minorities are persecuted,” Lionel Beehner wrote for CFR. “Reports persist of torture in detention centers. With attention in the region focused on matters of war and peace — Israel’s battle with Hezbollah, Iran’s nuclear program, sectarian warfare in Iraq — human rights violations appear to face less international scrutiny.”
Iran’s worsening human rights record includes a crackdown on women, homosexuals and ethnic and religious minorities, CFR said, and Islamic law is more strictly imposed under the current regime.