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Friday, October 02, 2009

Iranian missiles and a PR triumph, Ahmadinejad uses these tests to look powerful to his own population by Mark Steel

Mark Steel

If Gordon Brown could think imaginatively, he'd learn from the government in Iranthat there's a simple way of ensuring he's never ignored by President Obama again. Just a couple of nuclear tests without US permission, over the Norfolk Broads or Lake Windermere, and there'd be international conferences and United Nations resolutions, and Brown could step off a plane surrounded by bodyguards and say "Hey Obama, I see you take notice of me now."

The Iranian President's profile has risen massively as a result of the nuclear tests, to the extent that Lindsay Lohan and Lady Gaga are probably screaming at their publicists, "Why haven't you organised ME a photo shoot with my own personal ballistic long-range Shahab-3 nuclear rocket? Look at the New York Times, it's just Ahmadinejad Ahmadinejad Ahmadinejad." The reason for the current alarm, according to every report, is the missile "can reach Israel". But given that Israel's only a couple of countries away from Iran, you'd expect that, wouldn't you? There can't be much of a market for nuclear weapons that obliterate everything in the vicinity but won't travel.

But the politics surrounding nuclear weapons is highly confusing. During the Cold War we were told the world was being kept safe by such weaponry, as the threat of global annihilation prevented either side from going to war. So when the United Nations leaders meet the Iranian president they should say, "How many have you got? ONE! That won't keep us safe, America's got 9,400 by itself, we'd better sort you out a couple of van-loads to even things up."

The other complication is the rule regarding who's allowed to have them. The thinking appears to be that Ahmadinejad can't be because this is a man who fiddled his election, prays for holy guidance and tells lies about the existence of weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear weapons can only be owned by countries that could never be ruled by such a madman.

Also, the Iranian President has said he'd like to destroy Israel. Whereas the Israelis are much better at playing the game. Instead of saying they'd like to destroy a country, they just went ahead and tried to do it. That way everyone knows where they stand, there's no bad feeling and America will let you keep your 80 nuclear warheads. The other difference is that, unlike Iran with its defiant "tests", Israel saw no need to show off about its nuclear capacity. They kept it entirely secret. When a citizen leaked news of the weapons programme the government jailed him for 17 years. Because they didn't feel the need to gloat, which is a much more endearing way to build your arsenal of nuclear warheads.

Ahmadinejad uses these tests to appear powerful to his own population, and defiant against world leaders who insist they're the only ones who should be trusted with these missiles. The more hypocritical the Western indignation, the more his strategy works. Gordon Brown must beg Obama to threaten Britain with sanctions for building nuclear weapons, so Brown can bang his fist and scream he's going to carry on spending £76bn on Trident whatever ANY infidel says, and jointly light the fuse on a cruise missile with Peter Mandelson and the election's as good as won.

First published in The Independent on 30th September 2009

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