Iran / North Korea

The other day, I was having a conversation with a friend whom honestly thinks that Iran poses a real nuclear threat to the world. By extension, he also believes North Korea does too.

Regarding Iran, my friend is concerned by the “fact” that Iran has tested medium range rockets that are presumably capable to carry nuclear war heads. Moreover, he also worries that Iran may give a dirty bomb to any of the militias they finance to smuggle into another country for the purpose of detonating the device.

Of course I have no proof one way or the other. Like my friend, I am but an observer of world events.

Here’s my take.

Iran does not have nuclear technology yet. This is fact. What is also established fact is that various “expert” estimates put the possibility that they could acquire nuclear capability anywhere between four years and infinity.

Is that possible? Of course it is possible. Is it probable that Iran may acquire the bomb in four or five years? Personally I have to be skeptical. The reason I am skeptical is that here is a country that, like Iraq, is technologically, politically and socially several decades behind the level required in order to carry out the type of R&D necessary to harness the power of the atom let alone putting those standards, procedures and hardware in place to exploit it successfully…. and then pit it agains the hardware, the technology and the know-how of the Israel (i.e. the USA).

At this point, my friend argued that even if I am right, Iran could always buy a device and hand it to Hezbolla or Amal or any of the sundry militias Iran is alleged to finance.

Once again; is that possible? Certainly! Is it probable? I have my doubts.

If Iran could buy a nuclear device, so can anyone else that has ill intent. James Bond movies rake in fortunes portraying wealthy villains hell bent on black mailing world governments by threatening some sort of catastrophic event and, of course, nuclear devices always feature prominently in their arsenal.

The ugly truth is that for all the bluster, Iran is a broken country. They are broken economically as they are broken politically and socially. For Pete’s sake, despite sitting on some of the largest oil reserves in the world, they aren’t even capable of refining enough gasoline or diesel to keep their vehicles running or the lights on without importing refined products. And these are the people that should be working on harnessing the atom? Please!

This argument did not convince my friend whom insisted that Iran has made explicit threats to wipe Israel off the map and, more importantly, that their religion is conducive to martyrdom as a direct path to heaven.

Has Iran threatened to “wipe Israel off the map”? That depends on whom you ask. Credible sources point out that the alleged threat was the result of poor translation skills. Here is a sober summary of what people have to say about that incident from Wiki:

“Wiped off the map” or “Vanish from the pages of time” translation

Many news sources repeated the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) statement that Ahmadinejad had demanded that “Israel must be wiped off the map”,[5][6] an English idiom[7] or to “obliterate totally”,[8] or “destroy completely”.[9]
Ahmadinejad’s phrase was ” بايد از صفحه روزگار محو شود ” according to the text published on the President’s Office’s website, and was a quote of Ayatollah Khomeini.[10]
According to Juan Cole, a University of Michigan Professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History, Ahmadinejad’s statement should be translated as:
which means to “cause a place to stop existing”,

The Imam said that this regime occupying Jerusalem (een rezhim-e eshghalgar-e qods) must [vanish from] the page of time (bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad).[11]

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translates the phrase similarly, as “be eliminated from the pages of history.”[12]
According to Cole, “Ahmadinejad did not say he was going to ‘wipe Israel off the map’ because no such idiom exists in Persian”. Instead, “He did say he hoped its regime, i.e., a Jewish-Zionist state occupying Jerusalem, would collapse.”[13]
On June 2, 2006 The Guardian columnist and foreign correspondent Jonathan Steele published an article based on this line of reasoning.[14]
Sources within the Iranian government have also denied that Ahmadinejad issued any sort of threat.[15][16][17] On 20 February 2006, Iran’s foreign minister denied that Tehran wanted to see Israel “wiped off the map,” saying Ahmadinejad had been misunderstood. “Nobody can remove a country from the map. This is a misunderstanding in Europe of what our president mentioned,” Manouchehr Mottaki told a news conference, speaking in English, after addressing the European Parliament. “How is it possible to remove a country from the map? He is talking about the regime. We do not recognize legally this regime,” he said.[18][19][20]
Shiraz Dossa, a professor of Political Science at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada who presented a paper at the International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust conference in Iran, believes the text is a mistranslation.[21]

Ahmadinejad was quoting the Ayatollah Khomeini in the specific speech under discussion: what he said was that “the occupation regime over Jerusalem should vanish from the page of time.” No state action is envisaged in this lament; it denotes a spiritual wish, whereas the erroneous translation—”wipe Israel off the map”—suggests a military threat. There is a huge chasm between the correct and the incorrect translations. The notion that Iran can “wipe out” U.S.-backed, nuclear-armed Israel is ludicrous.[22][23][24]

In a June 11, 2006 analysis of the translation controversy, New York Times deputy foreign editor and Israeli resident Ethan Bronner argued that Ahmadinejad had called for Israel to be wiped off the map. After noting the objections of critics such as Cole and Steele, Bronner stated:

But translators in Tehran who work for the president’s office and the foreign ministry disagree with them. All official translations of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s statement, including a description of it on his website, refer to wiping Israel away. Sohrab Mahdavi, one of Iran’s most prominent translators, and Siamak Namazi, managing director of a Tehran consulting firm, who is bilingual, both say “wipe off” or “wipe away” is more accurate than “vanish” because the Persian verb is active and transitive.

Bronner continued: “ is hard to argue that, from Israel’s point of view, Mr. Ahmadinejad poses no threat. Still, it is true that he has never specifically threatened war against Israel. So did Iran’s president call for Israel to be ‘wiped off the map’? It certainly seems so. Did that amount to a call for war? That remains an open question.”[13] This elicited a further response from Jonathan Steele, who took issue with the use of the word “map” instead of the phrase “wipe out” and criticized this Wikipedia entry (as it was on June 14, 2006) for misrepresenting Ethan Bronner.[25]

[edit] Clarifying comments by Ahmadinejad

President Ahmadinejad has been asked to explain his comments at subsequent press conferences. At a later news conference on January 14, 2006, Ahmadinejad stated his speech had been exaggerated and misinterpreted.[26] “There is no new policy, they created a lot of hue and cry over that. It is clear what we say: Let the Palestinians participate in free elections and they will say what they want.”
Speaking at a D-8 summit meeting in July 2008, when asked to comment on whether he has called for the destruction of Israel he denied that his country would ever instigate military action, there being “no need for any measures by the Iranian people”. Instead he claimed that “the Zionist regime” in Israel would eventually collapse on its own. “I assure you… there won’t be any war in the future,” both the BBC and AP quoted him as saying.[27][28]

And asked if he objected to the government of Israel or Jewish people, he said that “creating an objection against the Zionists doesn’t mean that there are objections against the Jewish”. He added that Jews lived in Iran and were represented in the country’s parliament.[27]

In a September 2008 interview with Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman on the radio and television program Democracy Now!, Ahmadinejad was asked: “If the Palestinian leaders agree to a two-state solution, could Iran live with an Israeli state?” and replied

If they [the Palestinians] want to keep the Zionists, they can stay … Whatever the people decide, we will respect it. I mean, it’s very much in correspondence with our proposal to allow Palestinian people to decide through free referendums.[29]

Interviewer Juan Gonzalez called the reply “a tiny opening”.[29] Another observer however dubbed it an “astonishing” admission “that Iran might agree to the existence of the state of Israel,” and a “softening” of Ahmadinejad’s “long-standing, point-blank anti-Israeli stance”. Australian-born British human rights activist Peter Tatchell also asked whether the statement reflected opportunism on Ahmadinejad’s part, or an openness by Iran “to options more moderate than his reported remarks about wiping the Israeli state off the map.”[30]

As far as the charge that Iranians have a predilection for self immolation as a quick path to heaven, all I can do is ask how is that different from the stance of the Born Again Christians for example, who think that the End of Days is imminent and the soldiers of Christ will lay waste to the world causing the valley of Megiddo to overflow with the blood of the non-believers?

So, today, I’m as torn and confused as the next person. But what I do know is that Western leaders have been less then honest and, in fact, continue to brazenly lie and blatantly act in contravention to any laws legislative or moral they may be, and, in the US, in contravention to the once sacrosanct constitution. My concern is that we collectively should worry about what is going on in our own houses before we go and stick our noses into other peoples’ business. My concern is that in accounting terms, the West is bankrupt. My concern is that, in fact, it is now established fact that Western leaders have pillaged and looted our nations for many years and today they have abandoned even the pretense of guaranteeing fiduciary duty to  society.

And that, in a nutshell, is what I truly believe is the underlying problem. The West is bankrupt. And that in and of itself is cause for war.

Most of you will roll your eyes saying that the West has been bankrupt for many decades and yet we are still here. However, our spendthrift ways over the decades have been possible due to an inflationary cycle that had room to expand. My contention is that today we can no longer goose inflation and God knows we are trying.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is today the gravest threat to the West. Inflation is pretty much dead. And that most certainly is cause for war.

If you’ve read some of my essays, you will understand that the existence and survival of the political process and government is predicated on inflation. In the absence of inflation the political process and government wither and die or, at the very least, are greatly reduced.

However, inflation is a dynamic that is exponential in nature and has a mathematical limit. Exponential means that you always need greater degrees of inflation in order to obtain the same result. That can only be done by constantly bringing in new players into the system. The other characteristic of inflation is that it brings forward and compresses in time demand and production.

In the late 1960s, few people will remember that the USA were exactly in the same tight spot as the entire world finds itself in today. That is because in the 60s the USA were pushing the limits of what could be achieved via inflation in terms of economic expansion. The USA were given a new lease on life when they were able to convince the then industrialized nations to go on a US Dollar monetary standard. At that point, inflation could be expanded to the markets of the new players. Then in the late 80s, we started working on globalization to ensure that progressively we could bring in more and more players in on the inflationary gig. Thus inflation expanded accordingly.

If you’ll remember, I told you that inflation is exponential. You will notice that it took the USA from 1913 (creation of the Fed and the modern Dollar) till the late 60s to push the limits of inflation (there is of course the matter of the great depression – similar dynamic brought on by similar circumstances and resolved by WWII as, I am now certain, we will resolve our present problem too). That was a period of just over 50 years. At that point industrialized nations decided to go on a US Dollar based monetary system. That served to expand inflation for about another 20 years. In the meantime, we started working on globalization so as to bring to bear all remaining countries and billions of people on the inflationary dynamic; think of Russia, India and China for example. But despite the size of the new markets that went unto the Dollar standard, it only took another 20 years for the limits of inflation to have been reached again. This time line is testament to the exponential nature of the inflationary dynamic.

The reason that inflation has an arithmetical limit is because once economic activity no longer generates sufficient revenues to service debt, the system goes into reverse. Coincidentally, the point at which the inflationary dynamic begins to unravel is also the point at which industrial capacity is greatest thereby reinforcing the eventual unraveling.

Today, we have to pay the piper. There are no more markets of any relevance that we can bring in on the US Dollar standard. Conversely, 90 years of pervasive and aggressive inflation pumping have brought us prodigious amounts of industrial capacity in everything except maybe agriculture and oil production.

And that, is what is afflicting the West today. That in essence is the reason for what for the time being looks like a looming world war.

I stated before and I will reiterate here that by the end of 2009 the Western world will have to contend with an average of 30% real unemployment in the active population (official numbers will hover at around 15 to 20% of course). That is a whole lot of people who are going to be hungry, angry and likely homeless and who will have much time on their hands to think. And that would be the active population only. Then you”ll have all the teenagers and pensioners to worry about too. That is a considerable number of people that suddenly find that contrary to what they were promised by our “leaders” they have little wealth, little protection and a whole lot of time on their hands.

Unemployment is not only a threat to social stability but it also impacts government revenue. Gov revenue is inversely proportional to the growth of unemployment but the impact is exponential. As gov revenue dwindles, the debt burden increases, thus taxes must increase so further irritating the growing masses of unemployed whom, incidentally, will be none too pleased when the shenanigans of the leadership will become evident as they inevitably will (i.e. Skilling, Madoff, Stanford, Dimon, any of the UK or Italian politicians… and, trust me, many more to come ).

At this point, assuming that what you have just read struck a chord, you may rightly wonder why it is that inflation should be vital to the continued expansion of the economy.

The quick answer is that it isn’t. The long answer is that inflation is not in itself an undesirable dynamic. A modicum of inflation is, in fact, desirable. However, as I explain here, once our respective governments long ago made the decision to adopt a fiat monetary system (without asking the people first I might add), then aggressive inflation was by necessity the concomitant, if unwitting, choice. And “unwitting” here is the key word. Most politicians have no idea what inflation is, how it works and what the ramifications are. Most politicians and authorities in general are woefully ignorant of history too come to that. And that is a lethal combination.

The end of the inflationary cycle is characterized by phenomenal industrial capacity, crushing debt (individual or government), declining wages, imploding credit markets, loss of value across asset classes, brazen and blatant corruption, the side stepping of established law (initially at corporate level but progressively in criminal and civil law too) and rising unemployment.

So, does North Korea have the bomb and is it a threat to the world? Maybe. Are Pakistan, Sudan or Afghanistan harboring elements that have ill intent against the West and want to destroy us? Maybe and considering the number of times the West has tried to invade and subjugate them over the past 200 years alone, that would be hardly surprising.

But as the emperor is gradually shown to have no clothes; as society finds out that, in fact, the pension funds they had been setting aside have been spent or lost to speculation; as health care is inexorably curtailed; as education plumbs the depths of blissful ignorance; as an alienated society hell bent on “getting rich or die trying” thrives and expands; as our leaders are caught time and again with their hand in the till; as American Idol takes precedence over the glaring and frighting reality of our social condition, should we really worry about the people of some third world country half way across the world whom, if left to their own devices, would probably break down and starve?

The real issue is that the West, the self proclaimed holders of the moral high ground and defenders of the faith, have lied, cheated and looted public finances with reckless abandon for many decades. All the promises of wealth, health and education that were made over the past forty years today turn out to have been just so much hot air. Pension contributions were never set aside. Health care is a labyrinth of bureaucracy, nepotism, inefficiency and waste. Education puts blissful ignorance through its paces. Our productive capacity has been gutted and our currencies destroyed. Ever expanding segments of society are left to decay in alienation, frustration, poverty and angry ignorance. And all the while, with increasing frequency, our heads of state, our politicians and our business leaders are caught taking advantage of the system they have unilaterally and forcibly foisted upon the masses…. and yet we demand no accountability.

We’d rather believe that the misfortune that befalls us is due to some obscure developing society that lives half way across the world in a country that, by and large, we couldn’t even point at on a map before we take a good critical look at ourselves.

Today, the cookie jar is pretty much empty and whatever crumbs of wealth that may be left in remote folds of the economy are being pried out forcibly, illegally and, eventually, whatever may be left, will be pried violently from your fingers as our leaders will send us to war making you believe that you will be fighting to preserve your way of life. That same way of life that has enabled our leaders to rob you with your sheepish, selfish, expedient, short sighted consent.


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2 Responses to “Iran / North Korea”

  1. Iran… again… « Guido’s temple of the absurd Says:

    […] By guidoamm As I stated in this piece I wrote some days ago, Iran is an importer of refined petroleum products. This information has […]

  2. guidoamm Says:

    Here is a good post I came across on WordPress making a similar point

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