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2-3 July 2006, Naples, Italy - Keynote presentation by Gerd NONNEMAN

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Excerpt proceedings NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Mediterranean Special Group, meeting in Naples, 2-3 July 2006.

Keynote presentation by Gerd NONNEMAN - Professor of International Relations and Middle East Politics, Lancaster University, UK

It is a real pleasure to be here for this occasion for several reasons. One reason is because it is in Napoli - not only for the obvious pleasures and delights that the city has to offer, but for the more substantive reasons that the Mayor has just mentioned. The second reason is because of the particular discussion partners - clearly, by virtue of your membership in this group, you have a very particular interest and expertise in the very same things that I have a very particular interest in, so I look forward to a very interesting discussion.

I was asked to talk fairly generally about security issues in the wider Middle East to provide a few thoughts on some key issues. Clearly, we cannot cover the whole gamut of problems and dynamics so I am going to have to be selective.

Here we have the outline of what I propose to talk about [points to powerpoint]. The first point is my view that a lot of the problematic of wider Middle Eastern security is composed of three kinds of security problems.

The first of these are internal to the states of the Middle East, and these internal problems are of three kinds themselves. There is a physical lack of security in some cases, with terrorism and other kinds of problems. Secondly, there is an insecure political legitimacy, and that affects the first. Thirdly, there is economic insecurity and lack of performance on economic development generally. That in turn feeds into the second, the political legitimacy, and the first. So these three internal problems are interconnected.

The second type of security problems are the regional effects throughout the wider Middle East of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iraqi quagmire and the Afghanistan crisis. These particular problem issues affect politics and regional relations and domestic dynamics throughout the region. In that sense, this category of problems is linked to the first category I mentioned earlier.

These regional effects also affect the third kind of problem, and that is threats to the West: Europe, the US - the wider West. We are talking about perceived threats to Europe because Europe is the backyard of this region, in direct geographical contiguity. The second threat is to the US - and I do not need to enlarge on that. The third threat is to global security, so there is the question of global economic security.

Now, where do these threats originate? Who are the "threatening actors"? You might think these threats come from particular states. This is open for discussion, of course, but I would suggest that, with Saddam gone, there is in fact relatively little to worry about such state-based threats. You might then interject - and I would go along with you - that there are two states that are perhaps a clear source of threat to others within and outside the region. One is Israel and the other is Iran, but we will discuss that further.

But the second, and perhaps the most important source of threats are those emerging from the populations of the region at large, in particular from their perceptions about the West. The latest survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project is very grim reading. I will give you one small quote from it: 'Muslim opinions about the West and its people have worsened over the past year, and by overwhelming margins Muslims blame Westerners for the strained relationship.' I think this is a real threat for three reasons: first, it empties the so-called 'soft power' toolbox; second, it makes suspect or ineffective even the best-intentioned initiatives coming from the US or Europe (including NATO) on democratisation and human rights, for instance; and third, it obviously heightens the terrorist threat, it expands the potential recruitment pool. Given this, we have a problem of perception, which brings me to the second part of this introduction.

The problem of mutual perception is critical, and there has already been some reference to it by the previous speakers. It is not only important in its own right, it also affects the rest of the security problematic. Problems here derive both from how the West is perceived and misperceived in the wider Middle East and how the wider Middle East is perceived and misperceived in Western capitals and in Israel. This misperception leads to misconceived policies. Through this feedback effect, it also further feeds into how the West is perceived in the wider Middle East and it risks leading to self-fulfilling prophecies - that is the subtitle of my talk. I mean that if we are not careful, a lot of the fears we are talking about are going to be turned into reality - even if they are not at the moment - by misconceived policies.

Since this is a NATO event and since Western actions and perceptions feed into all the things I have just talked about, let us talk policies: how to affect this problematic, how to address this problem. 

Public diplomacy is something that has often been mentioned, particularly in the United States. Public diplomacy is useful but it is not a panacea. However, it is important to avoid bad public diplomacy (and a good example of bad public diplomacy was George Bush's visit to Baghdad recently - uninvited).

The second way of addressing the problem might be dialogue - dialogue at multiple levels, from government and non-governmental levels including, for instance, this kind of event itself. This is important as it opens channels of communication that might otherwise not exist, but it is not a substitute for substantive policies, or policy on substance. However, one of the most important benefits is that it is very useful as a learning process - it offers a learning process about each other and also about the dynamics of various problems we are supposed to address. Still, it looks like we are left with substantive policies as the key to address the problems we are potentially faced with.

I will look at the rest of what I will say in two parts. First, a set of principles that I suggest should underlie any such policies when we are thinking about issues of insecurity, radicalism, and so on. Second, five cases in particular, although I may skip one or two.

I suggest seven principles of policy.

Principle number one: in assessing the danger posed by militant movements, it is crucial to distinguish between the small hardcore of radical ideologues on the one hand, and the support base on the other. These two things are very different, subject to different dynamics and amenable to different policies.

Second principle: do not assume that the nature of such groups and movements, even of the core, is monolithic. In other words, do not 'essentialise', as social scientists would say, do not stereotype.

Third principle: do not assume that the nature of these actors and these groups is unchangeable.

Fourth principle: take widespread popular grievances seriously. This concerns domestic grievances expressed by populations towards their own governments, but it also concerns foreign policy grievances of the populations of the wider Middle East. Do not necessarily take them as absolutely true and correct, but take them seriously because very often, those foreign policy grievances are the one thing uniting governments and people.

In fact, the first four principles could be summed up as saying do not create self-fulfilling prophecies through knee-jerk reactions and a focus on 'security' in the narrow sense, in the absence of a nuanced understanding of the real dynamics of apparent threats and radical movements, and a recognition of the uncertainty of much intelligence - where intelligence is available at all.

Fifth principle: be realistic about the nature of the regimes in the wider Middle East. With the exception of Lebanon, they are autocracies - some are of a liberalising or a reforming type, others remain straightforward autocracies, regardless of the rhetoric.

Sixth principle: be both realistic and consistent in support for good governance.

Seventh principle (and I think this is critical): commit sufficient resources early enough and in a coherent manner where they are needed. In other words, words can be worse than nothing if they are not backed up by sufficient resources early and coherently applied. I am afraid that too often, Western, and certainly also Israeli, policy has failed on most of these counts.

If these are the principles I am suggesting as underlying policy to address the problems we are and may be faced with, then obviously, you might expect me to talk about questions of democratisation next, about a whole range of radical movements.  I will not do that; I will stick to the case-studies that are on the PowerPoint presentation. Neither will I address North Africa as a case, nor will I talk about the GCC. I am very happy to talk about those with you in discussion time.

The first case is a very generic one - the "War on Terror". The first thing to say about that is that is a silly name, and I am not the only one who says that. What is "Terror" anyway?

Secondly, the one thing we can say about terrorism is that it is a technique, it is not an ideology or a movement or a programme.

Thirdly, there is a huge variety among the movements using terrorist techniques and tactics. War, as it is usually conceived, simply does not work as a tool to tackle this problem - as indeed we have seen in the last few years. Instead, we need to look at the individual groups and cases that we are interested in and take them as individual groups and cases. We also need to distinguish between the core and the supportive environment, and we need to try to drain the pool in which they can swim.

The evidence of opinion surveys and specific-issue polls over the years and across the wider Middle East shows very clearly that views of the West and of all of the issues that feed radicalism fluctuate very significantly depending on the context, so it is key to influence that context. If the "War on Terror" or other policies make the context worse, the symptoms get worse too.

Currently, the fluctuation is decidedly in a negative direction overall.  Even if that trend has been bucked in particular countries that have faced terror tactics at first hand, such as Jordan, the trend is generally very negative.  Examples of issues where policy has helped to make things worse are: the Iraq war, or at least the way in which it was pursued; the continued festering of the Palestine conflict; and some aspects of the Afghanistan adventure, including the way in which the anti-Bin Laden campaign there has caused other parts of the context to be neglected or made worse.

Let us first turn to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  This is a direct security threat in its own right.  First of all, it is a direct security threat for the Palestinians - it is an existential threat for them, both as a people and as individuals (just look at the sheer numbers of dead and injured as well as 60 years of refugee status and occupation).  Secondly, it is a direct security threat for Israel, and thirdly, it is a direct security threat for Israel's neighbours.

However, it is also a security threat in its effects on the wider Middle East and on relations between the Middle East and the West. Some people will often counter such statements by saying that not everything in the Middle East is determined by the Palestinian-Israeli question - take away the Palestinian-Israeli question and you will still have conflict in the Middle East. Well of course that is true, it does not determine everything but it hugely affects and complicates things as it poisons the dynamics of regional politics and relations with the West.

It is about the security of Israel but it is also about the existence of the Palestinians.  The 60 years of their existence under the enforced double status as refugees and an occupied people defines the very dynamics of Palestinian politics and policy, both at the official level and at the grassroots level. Whatever one's views about the best way forward, this is a direct result of the creation, the expansion and the settlement policy of Israel. That is a basic fact that sometimes seems to recede from immediate view but that needs to be acknowledged in any attempt to understand the conflict's drivers. (I always remember the case of the US senator, a fairly senior figure, who, on a fact-finding mission to Israel and the Territories, asked the question, "Where did those Palestinians come from in the first place?" It is a pity that the Americans do not take part in this kind of exercise regularly.) This implies in no way that the legitimacy of Israel existence should be questioned today; it does imply a need to recognise how Palestinians affected by the events of the past 60 years may perceive their own fate and therefore the sorts of grievances that may need addressing, whether symbolically or in other ways: for the Palestinian side 1947-49 was their great 'catastrophe' with tangible effects to this day.

There has been no willingness to reflect a recognition of these points I have just made in the imposition of, or even some serious pressure towards, a viable solution of this conflict. The only real exception was Clinton's effort in 2000. The progress this effort could have enabled was in part held up by Arafat and his ill-judged negotiation tactics, but more crucially, it was ended altogether by Barak and Sharon - Sharon's visit to the Temple Mound, Barak's suspension of the Peace Process, Barak's ending of the Taba negotiations in January 2001, which were recognised as having produced something that was closer to a resolution that they had ever come, and then, of course, Sharon's stated rejection of the acquis of those previous efforts.

Another crucial point is that a viable Palestinian state, including Arab East Jerusalem, is currently not on offer in Israel's envisaged unilateral endgame.

What about Hamas, and Israel's current policy and the West's current policy towards Hamas? This is a classic case of the principles I suggested before not being applied. Demonising and ostracising Hamas as a terrorist monolith, which is effectively what has been happening, is based on bad intelligence or, worse, intentional misrepresentation, and it is massively counterproductive. Hamas, like any of these sorts of groups, is and always has been a coalition of different views with different intentions and different tactical positions. It is a coalition that is constantly changing - it always has and always will. In addition, if you go beyond the core and look at the support base, that too has varied depending on the circumstances.

I think the current Israeli incursion and all that is coming with it can be explained as having two aims: to prove Olmert's and Peretz's military security credentials, because they are civilians; and to destroy the Palestinian authority and the possibility of the Road Map, whatever the rhetoric, thus enabling the unilateral imposition of Israel's solution.

There has been a mood abroad in Israel and in some Western capitals that this is merely another phase, time will sort things out, it can be dealt with, other crises have been dealt with in the past. I think that position is critically flawed.  The current policies - and not just Israeli policies but the policies or the lack of action by the outside world - are a recipe for another 60 years of conflict, just as the outcome of the failures of the past 13 or 14 years of the co-called Peace Process was the Hamas victory.  The difference this time around is that in 1993 and for some time after that, moderate Palestinian voices in favour of the uncertain Peace Process could still argue that there was some credible hope of such a process leading to something worthwhile. After 13 or 14 years of that process, the vast extension of the settlements, the determined push to carve a greater Jerusalem out of any future Palestinian entity altogether, and the envisaged cantonisation of the Occupied Territories, all this means that moderates will no longer be able to deploy such arguments effectively - unless credible international action reverses the trend and demonstrates that there will be something left worth negotiating over after all.

The key role will obviously have to remain that of the US. But Europe not only has its own traditional role to play of providing what you might call 'sticking plaster' and guarding the acquis, but it must and can help influence US policy. That such influence is not totally a kind of chimera and can actually occasionally score some successes has been shown by the recent shift in US policy on Iran, where Germany in particular has had some impact.

That brings me neatly to the next case: Iran. Because of the context of Ahmadinejad's election as president, it is more important than ever to analyse the drivers of Iranian foreign policy - to go below the surface, to avoid knee-jerk reactions, and to avoid basing our policy responses simply on blithe assertions and dubious intelligence.

Regarding the drivers of Iran's foreign and security policy, I suggest six points. The first point is that Iran has a very long history of both major achievement and external attack and intervention. This has led to two outcomes: a very strong sense of pride and the belief to a right in the regional role, and very deep suspicions and fear of external attack and intervention.

The second driver is that this goes hand in hand with multiple actual threats all around it, including nuclear powers, including Sunni Jihadist activity and so on.

The third driver is the direct experience of the Iran-Iraq war, which again was an example of an immediate experience of invasion and huge losses.

The fourth is the threat from Israel.

The fifth is the threat from the United States. Whatever one thinks about US intentions, that is certainly how it is perceived in Iran.

The sixth is that war and international sanctions have led to a serious falling behind of the country's conventional weapons capability. This is occasionally overlooked. Iran has seriously fallen behind in its conventional equipment, hence of course it has turned to surface-to-surface missiles and, potentially, the consideration of nuclear weapons.

Those are six of the main drivers. Yet there is an additional one, and that is the divisions within the Iranian policy elite.

Who controls foreign policy in Iran? When we address the question of Iran's intentions, who are we talking about in Iran? All the attention on Ahmadinejad and his pronouncements are really neither here nor there - Ahmadinejad does not control foreign policy in Iran.  There was a moment when he began to exert serious influence because of the political positioning of his allies and because he influenced the climate and the discourse in Iran, but that has now receded again.  In any case, he is not quite the irrational madman that he has been painted.

Essentially, the foreign and security policy in Iran is run by the National Security Council, which includes lots of different elements but is now headed by Larijani - a failed presidential candidate.  He was the one that Ayatollah Khamenei wanted to win the election, so he is with the pragmatic conservative wing, you might say.

The composition and what has been happening in the National Security Council indicates that there is a coalition, but in this coalition the pragmatic Conservatives have the upper hand. That perhaps also is indicated by the creation any day now of a Foreign Policy Council.

There is the question of the Revolutionary Guards, who do have a significant hold, not just militarily, but over part of the economy. They are represented in the National Security Council and are thought to have a finger in the pie on the nuclear file.

On the nuclear question specifically, it has been said that Iran is 10 years away from producing a nuclear weapon. My first reaction to that is: so is every other country that has an advanced civilian nuclear technology, so what is different about Iran.

Certainly, nuclear weapons ambitions in Iran cannot be excluded altogether, but I would put to you four things. 

There is no "smoking gun", contrary to what has been suggested, and Iran is not in substantial breach of the NPT (Nuclear Proliferation Treaty).

The problem is a basic lack of trust and the suspension of confidence-building measures by Iran. That is really the problem because people do not know and hence do not trust what Iran is up to.

There is a debate within Iran about this whole issue - within Iran more widely, but specifically within the policy elite - that to date has not been resolved. There is a range of views stretching all the way from very significant people saying nuclear weapons are completely beyond the pale, to some in the Revolutionary Guard saying that in certain circumstances they should use them.

It is worth noting the opposition in principle to the use of weapons of mass destruction by top figures, all the way down from Khomeini, when he was still alive. Remember that during the Iran-Iraq war, Khomeini put his veto against the use even of chemical weapons because they were intrinsically unacceptable. My view, for what it is worth, is that those elements in the Revolutionary Guards or elsewhere that would favour the actualisation of the nuclear weapons option - i.e. move to deployable nuclear weapons capability envisaging possible use - do not have sufficient autonomy or room for manoeuvre to push this policy through. There is no coherent coalition available to make this kind of policy preference dominant.

So what are the options in the case of Iran? I think isolation, threats alone, and military intervention will not work and in fact will make things worse. They will produce a consolidation around the more radical end of the spectrum within Iran.  If anything, they will speed up the search for nuclear weapons, and they will have a terrible effect on the immediately surrounding region. In any case, rollback, as it is called, will also be extremely expensive and difficult. This has been the conclusion that some people in the American intelligence community and defence establishments have arrived at as well.

Military strikes cannot do the trick at all. They would disrupt and slow down for a while any nuclear weapons acquisition effort that might be going on, but they would spur such efforts in the longer run. In any case, there are not the necessary coalitions that would be needed for a policy like this - the GCC would not come aboard and neither would the UK.

Even if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, which I think is not particularly likely, then deterrence and containment would probably be a cheaper option than rollback, and Iran would be almost certainly a pragmatic nuclear power. That is view most of the policy elite have of themselves.

On the other hand, a combination of carrots with face-saving avenues for climb-down on Iran's part, together with credible coherent pressure, can work in bringing transparent Iranian compliance. It looks as though Dr Condoleezza Rice has grasped this, partly influenced, I gather, by European discussion (to the fury of the Richard Pearls of this world).

What are Iran's demands of the US in particular? Two things: recognition of what it sees as its legitimate national security interests, and secondly recognition of its rightful place in world and regional politics as a major regional power.

So there is no ineluctable threat on Iran and the nuclear file; nuclear ambitions can be managed; Iran is on a natural trajectory towards relations with the West and the US. Nevertheless, this can all be scuppered by policies that make our fears a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Next case study: Iraq. I will sum this up by saying that I myself was not opposed in principle to the military option to remove Saddam Hussein. However, the way in which it happened and was followed up was almost designed to produce the mess that we are in now. I have summed it up in other contexts as criminal negligence on the part of people like Rumsfeld et al. They were warned. Everybody did in fact predict what they said was unpredictable.

However, Iraq is not a lost cause now. The new team around Nouri Al-Maliki have an even chance of turning the corner. Of course, an even chance also means that there is also a chance of failure. In that context, immediate withdrawal of troops, I would suggest, is simply not feasible - it is exactly the wrong thing to do. One of the problems was that from the start there was not enough personnel and not enough of the right kind of personnel on the ground, and European states must carry part of the blame for this. Some of the reluctance of the Europeans to get involved is understandable because of the way in which the Americans were monopolising decision making and doing it in a completely cack-handed way. In fact, it caused huge irritation also among their UK partners (and we are all waiting with bated breath for the publication of Jeremy Greenstock's book). Even so, I think it is unacceptable for Europeans and for Arab states to limit themselves to sniping from the sidelines instead of pulling together in giving the current Iraqi government every chance of making a success. That, I would suggest, would be a dereliction of duty just as bad as the failures of the occupation and the invasion - but again, the window of opportunity is not all that great.

All I was going to say on Afghanistan is that we are faced with a similar problem. Certainly there was better intelligence on Afghanistan, and certainly there was a better coalition to start with, but insufficient commitment soon after, especially from the rest of the international community in terms of personnel, money and political will, caused the problems we are now facing. The window of opportunity in Afghanistan was much bigger than in Iraq - in Iraq it was about a year - but it was also wasted in Afghanistan. The failure to extend security, reconstruction and development beyond Kabul is now coming back to haunt Kabul itself.

In that context, it is in one way heartening to see the commitment of 6,000 additional NATO troops to Afghanistan. The problem had been recognised but 6,000 troops are not nearly enough. It seems we still have not learned our lesson - or if we have, we are not showing a willingness to act on it.

Jean-Michel BOUCHERON - Président du Groupe special Méditerranée
Je vais constituer la liste des collègues souhaitant prendre la parole en rappelant qu'une session particulière consacrée au Proche-Orient aura lieu cet après-midi et que nous consacrerons une session particulière à l'Irak. Il convient donc de conserver des interventions pour ces deux occasions.

Il est parfois possible de s'interroger sur le rôle du Groupe Spécial Méditerranée dans ce dialogue du grand Moyen-Orient. A mon sens, si un mot devait être prononcé afin de résumer notre fonction, il exprimerait qu'elle consiste à essayer de promouvoir le respect de l'autre, notamment à s'assurer que les seigneurs de la guerre afghans et les Talibans respectent leur propre peuple, qu'en Irak Sunnites et Shiites respectent leur existence mutuelle, qu'au Proche-Orient les Palestiniens respectent Israël, son droit à l'existence dans la paix et que les Israéliens respectent aussi le peuple palestinien et ses représentants. A mon sens, le mot-clé dans chacune des zones est celui de l'apprentissage du respect tout en reconnaissant les difficultés constituées par le passé de conflit et des positions extrêmement dures pouvant exister dans chacune des trois zones citées en exemple. Notre travail, en tant que Groupe Spécial Méditerranée, est de communiquer ce message concernant la nécessité de respecter les autres quels qu'ils soient et quel que soit le passé malgré toutes les difficultés que cela représente.

Cinq orateurs sont inscrits, je regrouperai les questions par groupe de trois. M. Miranda Calha, du Portugal en premier lieu: la parole est à vous cher collègue. Après M. Akgül de Turquie et Mme Kalantzakou de la Grèce.

Julio MIRANDA CALHA - Membre de la Délégation portugaise
Thank you Mr President Lellouche and President Boucheron. Mr Nonneman's presentation was very interesting. It was very important because he noticed the most important in that area: there is no great Middle East, there is a lot of Middle Easts, and we must face these problems one by one. We must stress that the possibilities and capacities of politics and dialogue are the main issues we must develop.

It was a good presentation about all these issues and I would like to make an observation about one part of this exposition, and it was about the latest events in the area of Palestine and Israel. The speaker told us that this is one of the problems that poison everything. I agree with him.  At the same time we must have an idea of the evolution in that area.

I would like him to comment about the latest problems inside Palestine - the problem of the links between Hamas and Fatah, the problem of recognition of Israel, and the necessity or not of a referendum in that area on the recognition of the borders that were linked to the Road Map.

Secondly, I would like to profit this opportunity - I do not know whether I have another opportunity to do that - to thank our colleagues in the Italian delegation that is going to leave our meetings and reunions. When I arrived in 2002-2003, I had the opportunity to have a lot of good contacts with everybody, but I underlined the contacts with the Italian delegation, and so I would like to salute our colleague to wish them good luck in their future lives and activities. I would like to underline that to our colleagues Palombo, our General Palombo, to Guido Brignone, to Lamberto Dini, to Furio Gubetti and to Marino because they were good fellows and a good delegation and they built good relations between all of us, and this is very important. Last but not least is our friend Forcieri. I would like to congratulate him because he is going to be member of the Italian government. I wish you good luck in your function and I am sure that there, in your function, you'll have always the heart in our meetings of Nato. Thank you and good luck to all of you.

Aziz AKGÛL - Membre de la Délégation turque
Thank you very much, Mr President. I would also like to thank the Professor for his very comprehensive presentation.

Is there any relationship between terrorist activities and poverty, and what are your suggestions to reduce the relationship between terrorist activities and poverty?

Furthermore, what is your opinion on the application of a citizens' income policy in Iraq, at least for people to have a certain level of income?  Thank you.

Sofia KALANTZAKOU - Députée, présidente de la Délégation grecque
Underlying the presentation, it became very clear that one of the biggest problems is not only misunderstanding but the lack of serious in-depth intelligence. If so much money is being spent on intelligence and security, I would like you to give us an indication as to why there is such bad mismanagement and why we do not really have the product we need in order to correctly asses the situation. Thank you.

I will answer the last question first: why has the intelligence appeared to be so bad.  Partly, it has been bad and partly, the intelligence that was available was not used properly. 

First of all it is a difficult area to get reliable intelligence on. Things are opaque. Given the nature of these regimes and given, in the case of Iran, the very fractured political situation, it is very hard to get reliable intelligence. Intelligence is almost always a question of interpreting. It is very rare to get a complete comprehensive set of hard data and even then you still have to interpret those data.

The problem has often been with the interpretation, the putting together and connecting the dots and assuming there are certain dots in certain places if one wants a line to be found. This is what is happening with the intelligence on Iraq and it is again partly what was threatening to happen with the intelligence in the US on Iran. The policy on Iran was very much driven partly by the same ideologues that were behind the Iraq adventure and partly by Iranian exiles of a particular type. A lot of intelligence is derived from that.

Even though money has been spent, there has been a shift away from humint, human intelligence, particularly in the US. That, together with the problems faced by academic subjects elsewhere, including in the UK, which has a long tradition of training people in the various languages needed for those sorts of areas, all of that has basically resulted in the skills not being available. It is all very well to have this very bright analyst with years of experience, but if that analyst or the people whose information he uses cannot speak the local language, it is limiting. Money is now being poured into training for these sorts of things, both in the US and the UK and elsewhere, but it is early days and it takes time.

On the question of Hamas, relations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the recognition of Israel, Hamas has always had a number of different people and different strands of thought within it even among the core, certainly among the outliers, and even more strikingly among the supporting groups, who sometimes stop voting Hamas altogether and only revert to voting for Hamas when the political situation worsens. It has never been absolutely clear that "Hamas" would always refuse to recognise Israel or would always refuse to at least work with the reality of Israel - just like other movements elsewhere in the world and Europe, say the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and so on, have worked with the reality of the government or the regimes of the countries they were trying to remove from their particular territory.

More recently, signals have been given by elements within Hamas that they are willing to be pragmatic in that direction. We have now seen the result of that. The news has been pushed aside by the reinvasion of Gaza but the news was historic. Hamas and Fatah have essentially agreed on this in the so-called Prisoners Document, where Hamas prisoners and Fatah prisoners and others have agreed that in effect a two-state solution was going to have to be the aim - the idea of liberating the whole of Palestine was no longer realistic. This is the new position of Hamas.

Of course, there have been elements within Hamas, particularly those based in Syria, who do not agree with this. In a way, what has happened since Hamas came to power is that some of the inherent different strands of thought have suddenly come out into the open. Israeli politicians often retort that Hamas is one thing and it has always been a very disciplined organisation. It was disciplined because it had to be for a time; it now is proving to be no longer so disciplined and there will always be different strands of thought.

The Turkish representative asked about the relationship between terrorism and poverty. Poverty can be one of the elements that feed the swamp in which people can be recruited to groups that use terrorist tactics. However, poverty on its own is not a sufficient explanation. It is usually a combination of factors that all feed in together. Very often it is to do with a sense of identity that is being lost or being uprooted geographically or culturally combined with grievances over how your own society is being run, combined with grievances over foreign policy issues, and combined perhaps with poverty.

I think that assuring that all Iraqi citizens have a minimum level of income would be critical. One of the ways in which it could be done is to allocate shares in the oil wealth. This scheme has been proposed by various Iraqis and is something worth pursuing.

Je souhaite revenir sur les propos tenus concernant l'Iran et la situation nucléaire iranienne. Je tiens en premier lieu, cher Professeur, à marquer mon accord fondamental avec l'idée selon laquelle l'Iran est obsédé par ses invasions précédentes et par le traitement lui ayant été réservé de la part de l'Angleterre et des Etats-Unis. Anglo-Iranian, Mosaddeq, le Shah, tout cela constitue le passé de l'Iran et explique nombre des réactions iraniennes aujourd'hui. En second lieu, toutes les actions allant vers un isolement de l'Iran contribueront effectivement à renforcer le régime et probablement à accélérer le programme nucléaire militaire. Tout cela est juste. Simplement, je ne suis pas d'accord sur trois de vos affirmations, dans la mesure où elles ne correspondent pas à la réalité, de mon point de vue. La première…"there is no smoking gun, there is no substantial breach of the NPT."  There is. There is definitely. And if there is not, please prove it. The information all governments have, including my own, is that there is a smoking gun. There is a large enrichment programme in violation of NPT safeguards and there is a potential breach. It's a reality. However, if you have information to the contrary, please give it.

You said that there is no coherent coalition to produce nuclear weapons. But there is. There is a coalition, between the National Guard, Ahmadinejad. Where is the coalition that does not want nuclear weapons? Who are they, and how important are they?

You said something even more interesting at the end. You said that Iran "will be a pragmatic nuclear weapon state."  Maybe, but I have no guarantee of that.  What I do have is a guarantee from many countries that it will be a major source of destabilisation in the Middle East - not just in Israel but in many Arab countries.  The drive to acquire nuclear weapons will be irresistible. 

There are senior Turkish politicians here.  Ask them what will happen if Iran has nuclear weapons.  How long would Turkey be without nuclear weapons?  Ask the same question in Saudi Arabia or in the Emirates.  You will see.

Of course there is a war scenario with Israel, but the escalation to nuclear weapons in the region will be irresistible, not to speak of a substantial military threat to Western European cities, including French and Italian cities, as they are also building medium-range missiles.

Those three statements that you made are rather strange compared to the situation. It does not mean we should bomb them tomorrow, it does not mean we should isolate them stupidly, but we do have a very serious situation. It seems to me that between the interventionists and the bombers and those who say that Iran will be a stable nuclear power, there is maybe, as Molière would have said, a juste milieu.

Yaakov LEVY - Secrétaire d'Israeli Mediterranean Associate Delegation
I would like to preface my key point, which is pertinent to a parliamentary forum, with a brief observation that an academic presentation should also strive for a degree of objectivity, for example in assigning blame only to one side regarding the wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973, to the status of refugees who were kept in camps, and to the absence of the inclusion of any reference to the radical statements of the Iranian President calling for the destruction of the Member State of Israel.

However, my key point relevant to this forum is that there has been in the Middle East a gradual movement from conflict to containment and to resolution. We all know about the peace negotiations and treaties with Egypt, with Jordan, the Oslo Accords, and in the past year or two there has been recognition in Israel that you have to take the initiative and move unilaterally if it is impossible to do it by agreement. The evidence is the major and rather courageous step taken in disengagement from Gaza and dismantling of Israeli settlements there and in the north of Samaria.

However, the key point pertinent to this forum is that - and you referred to it in passing regarding regimes in the area - in a democracy you have to have the political support. The political support for the Oslo Accords was the margin of one in the Israeli Knesset of 120. The political support for this engagement was marginal. Today, in a further move in the Knesset for the second stage of realignment, 55 members out of 120 supported - that is to say, no majority.

The reason Mr Barak did not continue the Taba negotiations was that he lost his parliamentary majority, first in Camp David in 2000, and then in January 2001 in Taba. He did not have the political support, and that has to be taken into account in a democracy. I think you missed that point.

You also missed the point of the complexity added to the situation by the election of a Hamas-dominated parliament and the fact that the Palestinian authority today has two heads - and that is a real complication for them and for us. 

Three conditions have been set by the Quartet that have not yet been met, namely the end of terrorism, recognition of Israel, and recognition of the earlier agreement and understanding. In your statement you refer only to so-called aquis, which at the time was ad referendum at Camp David, and not the absence of these three elements.

Therefore, I think the presentation should have taken note especially of the key elements and of the need for political and parliamentary support in open and democratic regimes. Thank you.

Mohammed HALAIQAH - Chef de la délégation de Jordanie
I was surprised there was no reference to the world legal system - the United Nations and the Security Council - in the presentation. I thought the presentation was very objective and interesting and it obviously could not cover all issues in such a short time, but are you suggesting that we put the international legal system in the freezer? There was no reference there.

Occupation is the key word for the situation in Palestine and Israel is disobeying all international decisions and United Nations and Security Council resolutions. This key word seems to be covered up and hidden all the time.

In the case of the occupation of Iraq, the destruction was legalised by acknowledging that the coalition forces are the legal occupying power. Where is the international legal system in the set of policies you have drawn up? How do you suggest we use this tool - or do we just put it in the freezer? Thank you.

I will start by answering the last two interventions. Of course, I never meant to minimise the international legal apparatus at all, but Israel still does not recognise that the Geneva Conventions apply in this case. That is one problem but there are a lot of other problems, of course. Hamas has never recognised lots of UN instruments relating to the current conflict. The situation is complicated since the election of Hamas, but that by itself was an inevitable consequence of the failures of everything that went before.

On the question about apportioning blame, I was not trying to play any kind of moral game here. Absolute objectivity is impossible but in order to do anything remotely balanced on this one has to write a book, rather than give a ten-minute section in a presentation. However, the basic fact remains that there are two populations, one piece of land, and one population established a state and the other population was largely evicted. That is a basic fact, regardless of the circumstances. The discussion over where particular bits of the blame lie and particular historical developments does not get us away from this. The idea of the return of the refugees from 1947-1949 has never even been considered, apart from cosmetically in the early days.

The basic fact is that one side is a state, it has all the paraphernalia of state power, including the armed capacity, including the international legal instruments a state can use and a non-state cannot, and so on. That is compounded by the internal weakness of the Palestinians - institutional weaknesses and consequent political weaknesses. Those weaknesses are not surprising given the circumstances that they have lived under. Both the political and the infrastructural destruction of the PA have been going on for a number of years, and that is in part what produced the victory of Hamas. An attempt to simply repeat the same strategy will just cause further chaos and radicalisation.

I did mention Ahmadinejad's remarks although I did not quote them. They were utterly objectionable - we all know that and we are all familiar with it, which is why I did not think we needed to go into it. What I did suggest is that what Ahmadinejad was doing, in the fairly normal Iranian political discourse and demonstrations like that one, was to quote Imam Khomeini. One of the things that Khomeini had said years ago was that the Zionist regime, as he called it, should ideally not exist on the map. You can have all sorts of interpretations of what that means, but that is neither here nor there and it is not a particularly savoury statement. The point is that Ahmadinejad was quoting Khomeini in a domestic political game. Ahmadinejad has been trying to unite the new conservative elite that is emerging - not the old Ayatollahs but the elite that is emerging from the Revolutionary Guards and by a siege experience over the past few decades. They were united like Hamas was united, but since Ahmadinejad has become President competition has suddenly appeared. He is trying to rally the troops around again by using statements like this. In any case, as I tried to stress, Ahmadinejad does not control Iranian foreign policy, and this is a crucial fact one has to keep in mind.

Mr Lellouche, I was hoping someone would react the way you did. I do not have perfect sight into the hearts of the Iranian leadership but to start off with, the NPT does not stop countries enriching, and it does not stop the development of civilian use and technology. There is absolutely nothing that says the Iranians cannot do what they are doing. What has happened is that because there has been a lack of trust in what they were up to, and because some of this activity seems a bit large for a normal civilian or research programme, the rest of the international community insisted on having confidence-building measures - transparency, controls, suspension, and so on. The Iranians went along with this for a while and then they stopped. Because those conditions had become part of the bargain and they have now been breached, the IEA (International Energy Agency) has expressed a certain lack of confidence. If it were more than that - of course, it may well be more than that, we do not actually know but there is no hard evidence that there is more - if there were hard evidence, then the Russians and the Chinese could not be holding out as they are. Again, even the fact that Iran was only…

Permettez-moi de vous interrompre. Pardonnez-moi, je le fais extrêmement rarement. Le fait que l'Iran se dote du nombre de centrifugeuses et passe le seuil des 5 % d'enrichissement constitue un programme militaire. Il est impossible de dire qu'il n'y a pas de preuve. Au-delà de 5 % d'enrichissement, cela ne constitue plus des activités civiles.

I have been working on this issue for thirty years. I know what Article 4 of the NPT means. There is absolutely nothing to prevent anybody from enriching and reprocessing - except the fact that it is forbidden, and that is in additional safeguards and protocols worked out by the IEA. The consensus is that no one is enriching or reprocessing except nuclear weapon states. As a matter of fact, Iran, as a signatory of the NPT and of the additional protocol, actually took the commitment not to develop this right.

What happened is that in the process of controlling a nuclear installation in Iran, the IEA actually discovered traces of suspect activities, including plutonium imported, we later learned, from Pakistan. This is how it was discovered that Iran has a clandestine nuclear programme. No one is really discussing that.

Of course their legal defence is that they have the right to enrich. The only problem is that there is absolutely no economic rationale for a uranium enrichment programme of that scale in Iran without an electro-nuclear programme, and they have no electro-nuclear programme. They have two nuclear power plants that have been in the process of being built for the last 30 years. They are not in operation. There is no need for uranium fuel. The Russians have offered uranium fuel in coordination with the Europeans - the whole thing is a smokescreen. They have a large number of centrifuges and they say they are producing highly enriched uranium and they say it is alright.

Legally, you can interpret the Treaty the way you want. However, the way we have built the additional protocol into the NPT, if you let a non-nuclear weapon state get the fuel cycle, then you have a nuclear weapon state and you withdraw, exactly as North Korea did. So there is no question about them having the intention and the capability to go nuclear. There is no question about that and there is no point in discussing it.

The question is how do we fix it? Can we fix it, and how do we fix it? This is where it seems to me the issue lies, and not in discussing whether they are engaged in clandestine nuclear activities - they are.

They are engaged in clandestine nuclear activities in the sense that they have gone against the agreed safeguards. There is very definitely an unsolved debate within Iran about whether this should mean actualisation of the nuclear weapons option. That is what I was referring to when I spoke about the range of opinion in Iran.

There are those who say it is not acceptable even in principle, and they include senior Ayatollahs, many people in the Iranian Foreign Ministry and some parliamentarians.

There are others who say it is not acceptable to use under any circumstance but because of the circumstances they find themselves in security-wise, it may well be worth acquiring them so they can be used as a deterrent.

There are others who do not even go that far but who say they need to show the world that they have the technical capability, both in terms of shoring up their own prestige - and that is effectively what Saddam Hussein was doing at the time - and to show people that if it comes to the crunch, they will be able to make that jump.

That is the range of opinions in Iran and it has not been resolved. Of course there is a chance that they will acquire nuclear weapons, and given this current development they will be in a position to acquire nuclear weapons should there be consensus on that at that time in Iran.

So the question then is how do we approach this? I have suggested that it is worth keeping in mind that there are divided opinions and that you can push everybody together around a consensus that they should produce nuclear weapons. Secondly, while I would vehemently be against Iran acquiring nuclear weapons because of the fears it inevitably creates in the region around it, all I am suggesting - and here I am reflecting a finding from people at the National Defence University in Washington and places like that - is that actually if you look at the role conception of Iranian foreign-policy elite, most of them think of themselves as a pragmatic major regional actor, and even those in support of nuclear weapons would see themselves as using them in that sense, like India and Pakistan. That is not to say it is a desirable development and of course it would set in motion a chain reaction.

Let me also just complete what I was about to say before I was interrupted. Neither the IAEA nor anyone else has conclusively shown that Iran has done anything more than produce about 1 gramme of enriched uranium - enriched to less than 5%, with some 160 working centrifuges. To produce the material for a nuclear weapon they would need thousands of working centrifuges and produce uranium enriched to at least 85%. This is one possible indication that much of this might be 'theatre' rather than a concerted attempt to acquire actual nuclear weapons - even if some in Iran would want to see it go further. And even if it is not, they are proving extraordinarily slow, which provides ample opportunity and time for the international community to employ a variety of means to test their intent: there is not, in other words, any immediate crisis.