”Rumours of War” Kolumni Helsinki Timesissä 8.10.2007

Newsitems on preparations, speculations and threats about a new war in the Middle East have increased during the past weeks. This time they are not about renewed fighting between Israel and the Palestianians. There is even some optimism – even if unwarranted or at least premature to my mind – in the air concerning this conflict. The warmongering is about enlargening the war in Iraq to Iran.

Iran has for some time faced sanctions based on suspicion about its nuclear program. The international community has been relatively united in demanding that Iran must respect the Non-Proliferation Treaty and open all its doors to inspection by the IAEA, so that the fears about Iran seeking nuclear arms can be laid to rest. There cannot be many in the world who would wish to see a nuclear armed Iran. Tightening sanctions is therefore justified, unless Iran gives credible and verifiably guarantees about the peaceful nature of its nuclear program. But by no stretch of the imagination – or international law – can a legitimate case be made for military action against Iran.

At the same time we need to have the courage to say, that the sight of existing nuclear powers threatening Iran – including France whose president Sarkozy has been making totally unacceptable statements about bombing Iran – is morally unsustainable. It is precisely the reluctance of the old nuclear powers to give up their strategies based on the use of nuclear arms and to reduce their nuclear arsenals which has seriously weakened the NPT-regime and prompted many countries to hanker after nuclear weapons of their own.

The news from Washington is, that the Bush administration is still contemplating military action against Iran. But the principal argument for this is no longer the Iranian nuclear program – intelligence has not in this case either been able to confirm the military nature of the program and there are indications that Iran is much futher from achieving nuclear capability than previous estimates have said – but Iran’s involvement in what is increasingly openly referred to as the civil war in Iraq.

That Iran has supported its religious allies in Iraq and stirred mayhem is not to be doubted. After the Americans started their disasterous and illegitimate war against Iraq, the country has become everything that it had been falsely accused of being before the war: a terrorist center and source of inspiration for terrorism, a playing field for Iranian agents and and an immediate threat to stability in the whole broader Middle East. If military action were really taken against Iran the consequences are bound to be even worse than that of the Iraqi war, not only for its immediate victims but for everyone in the Middle East and finally for everyone’s security in the world as a whole, Finland included.

Finland’s new government is said to enjoy good relations and be on excellent speaking terms with the US. It would therefore be interesting to know, if these have been also used to convey our serious concerns about the consequences of yet another war started in breach of international law and without a UN mandate and its effect on transatlantic relations.