Thursday, January 12, 2006

Hans Blix interview in Svenska Dagbladet

Melchior presents for your edification and delectation a translation of an article in the Svenska Dagbladet excerpting an interview with Hans Blix, conducted by the Swedish news agency TT. There was one word ("partsinlaga", pl. "partsinlagor") I wasn't sure how to translate. Lexin translates it as a legal term "party writing", adding to the Swedish meaning also the English gloss "figuratively 'pleading one's own case'". I chose to render it "self-justification", which may be too idiomatic, but I'm not sure there is a good but more literal English equivalent. I found the word used in a way compatible with that translation in this book review.

Blix is trying to sound reasonable and even-handed, but the things he fails to mention (or at least the things that aren't included in this brief write-up) suggest to me that he is far too blasé about the threat Iran poses. The Iranian president's repeated calls for the obliteration of Israel are not even noted, much less the "asymmetrical" situation in which Israel must defend itself.

Han Blix Critical of the Iran Debate

Too many self-justifications, threats, and bad arguments dominate the debate about Iran's nuclear program, says Hans Blix, the former head of the international nuclear energy organization IAEA.

To get control of the problem he wants to see a broad solution for the whole region.

"It would be desirable if Iran didn't continue with its program to enrich uranium. It [the program] will have the effect of raising the political temperature in the Middle East", said Blix to TT.

At the same time, Blix lacks a free and critical examination of the question and believes that the debate consists chiefly of self-justifications.

"It is correct as the Iranians say that they have the right to enrich uranium according to the non-proliferation agreement. But one isn't compelled to make use of all the rights one has in the world. Sweden has ten nuclear reactors and we don't enrich uranium, but rather we import it instead, because it is cheaper. It surely ought to be cheaper for Iran as well," says Blix.

"On the other side, those on the West's side say that Iran has oil, there is no reason to have nuclear power, therefore it must be for weapon purposes. But Mexico also has oil, and the USA, and Russia. That is a bad argument. It is true that Iraq for a long time flouted its commitment to the IAEA to report its program for the enrichment of uranium. But was the only conceivable reason that they were trying to make weapons? Could they perhaps been afraid of sabotage from abroad?"

The threats that have been advanced against the Iranians, for example to bring the matter before the UN Security Council, will mostly have the effect of strengthening the hardline regime in Tehran. And even if the matter were to be brought before the security council, he doubts that sanctions will be an option, because the IAEA has not yet been able to establish that Iran has transgressed against the non-proliferation agreement.

Instead, Blix raises the possibility that the USA's UN ambassador John Bolton is perhaps driven by other concerns:

"Could one fear that Mr. Bolton, who is no great friend and admirer of the UN, wants to demonstrate that the Security Council is impotent, and that in that case someone else, someone stronger, ought to do something about the matter?"

Hans Blix nonetheless believes that not even Washington desires any real "blossoming" of the conflict with Iran as long as the war in Iraq continues. [Blix] himself would like to see a broader solution for the whole region--including Israel, which is believed to have up to 200 nuclear weapons.

"It is completely legal for Israel to produce plutonium because they aren't members of the non-proliferation agreement. There should be some advantage in all states in the Middle East to agree neither to produce plutonium nor to enrich uranium," said Blix to TT.