Western countries are pushing for more economic sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, and there is speculation that either the United States or Israel might attack unless the program is stopped.

Iran claims that its nuclear program is aimed at producing energy, not weapons, and nothing that it is known to have done so far contradicts that claim. But the technology it is developing could be used for either purpose.

So adversaries of Iran do have a reason to worry. But these countries need to look at themselves in the mirror.

Many of the countries most critical of Iran have nuclear weapons themselves, or, like Canada, are protected by countries that have them.

They therefore try to portray Iran as particularly evil and threatening – a dictatorship of mad mullahs out to destroy the world – and use this as justification for the special treatment.

Iran is obviously not a perfect democracy. Even before the recent disputed election, it was clear that unelected religious authorities wielded huge power, deciding who was allowed to run for office and making many critical decisions.

There is persecution of religious minorities, particularly Jews and Baha'is.

But it is also clear that the system has much popular support. It is possible that the June election was rigged, but many people, especially in rural areas, did support Ahmadinejad. And all candidates in the election, as well as much of the population, support the right of Iran to have a nuclear program.

Just how scary is the Islamic Republic of Iran?

The only war in which it has been directly involved was the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88, which began with an attack from Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Reportedly, Iran provides assistance to Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iraqi groups opposing the U.S. backed government.

But again, Western countries need to look at themselves. Any such military support is dwarfed by U.S. support for Israel. And Israel uses that support to do some extremely cruel things.

Possibly exhibit A in the West's vilification program is a speech made by Ahmadinejad in which he is reported to have called for Israel to be wiped off the map. But that speech sounds much less scary if you read the whole thing.

Ahmadinejad speaks about regimes of the past that have disappeared, including the Shah of Iran, the Soviet Union, and Saddam Hussein, as examples of what he hopes will happen in Palestine.

In a translation from the Middle East Media Research Institute, he then states that Imam [Khomeini] said: 'This regime that is occupying Qods [Jerusalem] must be eliminated from the pages of history.'

You could take that many different ways, but it does not sound like a threat to kill all Israelis.

I do not know if Iran plans to develop nuclear weapons. But suppose it does. What would it likely do with those weapons? Remember that any nuclear arsenal it could possibly develop in the foreseeable future will be a tiny fraction of that possessed by the U.S., and by Israel.

Most likely, Iran would use nuclear weapons the way other countries with them have used them since WWII – keep them in reserve as a deterrent to attackers.

I do not want to minimize the dangers of that, but there are other nuclear-armed countries which scare me more. Pakistan, for example, is very unstable, and weapons there could fall into very hostile hands.

I want very much to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. But efforts based on the premise that countries like Iran are too evil to have any, while countries like the U.S. and Israel can have as many as they like are bound to fail.

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Mr. Friesen,

I just wanted to drop you a note to say how much I enjoyed your recent
article in the online Guelph-Mercury. There is so much high pressure,
special interest propaganda in the media now about the alleged threats of a
nuclear Iran that it a rare joy to read something objective on the matter.

No doubt, the special interest groups will do their best to spin your common
sense comments, but you raised many excellent points that cannot be ignored
by rational, thinking people.

Thank you,

Richard Keefe
Virginia, USA