By Gwynne Dyer
A glance at the history of nuclear weapons manufacture shows that all 11 countries that wished to build bombs did so within three to 10 years,” wrote Yossi Melman, intelligence and strategic affairs correspondent for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, on Sunday. So why, he asked, has Iran failed to do it in over 30 years of trying?
Maybe, Melman suggests, it’s because Iran doesn’t really want to build nuclear weapons. Maybe it just wants to be a ‘threshold’ nuclear power, always able to finish the job quickly if it really needs to.
If Iran’s enemies both nearby (Sunni Muslim countries and Israel) and far away (the United States) know that it can get nukes quickly in a crisis, that’s almost as good a deterrent as having them in hand. But it does not incur the boycotts, sanctions, and risks of ‘preemptive’ nuclear strikes that come with actually having the things.
This is not exactly a new thought, but it’s the first time I have seen it in the Israeli media. It’s also the first time I’ve seen the obvious question put so plainly: how could any country possibly spin the job out that long?
Iran is a country of 80 million people with adequate scientific and technological skills. At any point in the past 50 years it could certainly have built nuclear weapons in less than 10 years if it had gone all out. It didn’t. Why not?
Iran’s original nuclear weapons programme was started by the Shah in the 1970s with the blessing of the United States, which was hoping to make him the pro-American policeman of the Middle East.
Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolutionaries shut that programme down when they seized power in 1979. They reckoned they didn’t need it. The only country in the Middle East that does have nuclear weapons is Israel, and the Iranian assessment has always been that it won’t be reckless with them.
Not only are Israel’s nuclear weapons relatively unthreatening, but Israel has an implicit American nuclear guarantee. There is no point in getting a few Iranian nuclear weapons to deter Israel’s hundreds and America’s thousands of the things. Indeed, when it comes to potential Iranian nukes, it’s never about Israel.
What really does get the Iranians going is nuclear threats from OTHER countries. The first time was after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Iran (with US support) in 1980. Iraq really did have a nuclear weapons programme, Iraqi ballistic missiles were already falling on Iranian cities, and so at some point during that eight-year war Iran restarted the Shah’s nuclear weapons project.
Saddam’s invasion of Iran failed, however, and his subsequent invasion of Kuwait and defeat in the 1990-91 Gulf war ended with the dismantling of Iraq’s nuclear facilities under UN supervision. So Iran’s nuclear weapons programme went back into hibernation. How can we be sure? Melman’s ‘10-year rule’: if Iran had kept going, surely it would have nukes by now.
The next panic was in 1998, when India and Pakistan each tested half a dozen nuclear weapons. India is no threat to Iran, but Pakistan potentially is. It is a powerful Sunni Muslim state (220 million people) right next-door to Iran, the world’s only major Shia country.
Sunni extremists have never gained power in Pakistan, but there is a big jihadi influence that even extends into the army. Iran panicked again, and in 1999 it secretly restarted its nuclear weapons programme.
That only ran until 2002, however, when an anti-regime Iranian revolutionary group, Mujahedin-e-Khalk, spilled the beans in public. Sanctions were imposed on Iran, and work on nuclear weapons once again ceased.
So the ‘mystery’ is solved. The Iranian nuclear weapons programme has not been active for a total of 10 years, let alone 10 continuous years. And Iran was willing to sign the internationally guaranteed ten-year deal to stop all potentially nuclear weapons-related work in 2015, because it is already close enough in terms of being a ‘threshold’ state.
There is the same constant tug-of-war between the rational actors and the ultra-hawks in Tehran as there is in Washington, Moscow and Beijing, but most of the time the grown-ups are in charge. If they lose the argument to the extremists in next year’s Iranian election, it will be because Donald Trump pulled out of that deal and reimposed sanctions in Iran.
Why did he do that when even his own intelligence services were saying the Iranians were keeping their promises under that deal? Because the deal was part of Barack Obama’s legacy, all of which Trump is determined to destroy, and for no better reason.
Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu does have a rational reason for wanting to destroy the deal, however. His intelligence services also told him that Iran was fulfilling its commitments under the deal, but he needs the Iranian nuclear ‘threat’ in order to win Israeli elections.
Does the phrase ‘rogue states’ spring to mind?
India and China opting to make positive impact in Ukraine
In what could be considered the most thought provoking development to date in the global politics growing out of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, China and India have called on Russia and Ukraine to go for a negotiated solution to the crisis. Of particular importance is Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s pronouncement to the effect that the parties need to ‘keep the crisis from spilling over and affecting developing countries.’
Elaborating on this policy position, Wang Yi was quoted saying: ‘China supports all efforts conducive to a peaceful resolution of the Ukraine crisis. The fundamental solution is to address the legitimate security concerns of all parties and build a balanced, effective and sustainable security architecture.’
As pointed out by some commentators, this stance by China is indeed a far cry from the unconditional support extended to Russia by China in all matters of vital importance to the former. In other words, it is a comedown of sorts from the ‘all weather friendship’ that was seen as binding the countries.
As explicit as the Chinese Foreign Minister on this question was India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. He said: ‘As the Ukraine conflict continues to rage, we are often asked whose side we are on. Our answer, each time, is straight and honest – India is on the side of peace and will remain firmly there. We are on the side that calls for dialogue and diplomacy as the only way out.’
Hard ground realities and economic pressures that are extending well beyond the Eastern European theatre could be considered as compelling China and India to adopt this policy stance on the Ukraine crisis. It is plain to see, for instance, that the Russian invasion is meeting stubborn Ukrainian military resistance which is rendering the invasion a highly costly exercise for Moscow.
Despite the initiation of some desperate measures by the Putin regime, such as the partial mobilization of Russia’s citizenry for the war effort and the holding of ‘referendums’ in territory seized from Ukraine in an effort to legitimize Russia’s hold on it, the invasion could be considered as having all but stalled. On the other hand, the Ukrainian resistance seems to be having ample resolve and morale. Bolstered by recently supplied sophisticated Western weaponry, it has more than taken the fight back to the Russian invaders.
Evidently, then, Russia’s war effort is not going according to plan. However, the human costs, in particular, for both main sides to the conflict are prohibitive. Ukraine civilians are being subjected to a bloodletting that civilized sections the world over are recoiling from in horror. They could be said to be at the receiving end of state-inspired barbarism.
On the other hand, the majority of Russian civilians ought to be seeing themselves as nothing less than cannon fodder in Russian strongman Putin’s efforts to resurrect the defunct Soviet empire, now that they are being forcibly conscripted into an apparently futile war effort.
All this and more, ‘on the ground’, is clearly evident to both the friends and foes of Russia. They are likely to be of the view that the senseless war ought to be brought to a close.
On the other hand, to a greater or lesser degree, all countries are currently experiencing the adverse economic effects of the war. As is known, the Ukraine invasion is a principal cause for the worldwide rise in food and energy prices. If stagflation is fast spreading in the world and the more vulnerable sections among citizenries are sinking further into poverty and disempowerment it is, to a considerable extent, due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its ill effects.
China and India, two of the foremost economic powers of the South, ought to be fully alert to these realities. Among other things, they know for certain that there could be no economic growth for them and the world amid mounting material hardships and the steady impoverishment of people.
To re-state a fundamental axiom in classical economics, there could be no demand for goods and services if people lack the power to purchase, which comes from money in hand. And without the exercising of demand the production of goods and services comes to a grinding halt. That is, economies crumble. This is happening in the South right now.
The inference is inescapable from the foregoing that the invasion of Ukraine must end and that needs to be achieved by political means since a continuation of armed hostilities would only beget more war and its ill-consequences. Accordingly, China and India would prefer to have a negotiated solution to the Ukraine crisis.
A peek at recent growth trends in India and China would disclose the extent to which these economies have been dependent on the growing prosperity of their upper and middle classes to nourish their material fortunes. A report published in this newspaper on September 21, 2022 said, among other things, that by 2026, India’s dollar millionaires are expected to double. During the 2021- 2026 period China’s dollar millionaires are expected to grow by 97 per cent. It is these classes that have been keeping their economies ticking in recent decades by virtue of their growing purchasing power. Their purchasing power has steadily translated into a strong indigenous manufacturing base, among other things.
It does not follow from the foregoing that economic equity is a very strong point of India and China. That would necessitate a steady trickling down of wealth to the economically lower classes but we would certainly be having growth and that has been happening markedly in India and China.
Likewise, the prosperity of their neighbours as well as that of the rest of the world contributes positively towards the growth stories of India and China. While India and China have been interacting positively in the economic field over the decades on the basis of their increasing economic power and thereby gaining mutually, it will be to their advantage to ensure that their neighbours too advance towards economic wellbeing.
This accounts for the ready extension by India and China of economic assistance to Sri Lanka in its current woes. Indeed, India and China would extend their largesse to other countries in the region in their hour of need as well because the growth successes of these economic giants are predicated upon the prosperity of their neighbours, among other factors. In the absence of a degree of economic prosperity, these smaller neighbours could not expect to interact effectively in the economic sphere with India and China and gain significantly by it.
Accordingly, it will be in the national interest of India and China to call on Russia and Ukraine to go for a negotiated settlement. If the conflict is thus ended it will not only benefit India and China but the rest of the world as well, considering that the conflict is exerting widespread economic ill-effects.
‘Use heart for every heart’
World Heart Day 2022
By Dr.Mohan Jayatilake
Former President of Sri Lanka Heart Association
The theme of World Heart Day 2022 is “USE HEART FOR EVERY HEART”. The World Heart Federation has created this day to raise awareness about Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD).
Every year, on September 29th, people all over the world celebrate Heart Day as a way to draw attention to cardiovascular illnesses, their management as well as the worldwide toll they take on society. World Heart Day was created in the year 2000 to inform people around the globe that Heart diseases and Stroke are the world’s leading cause of death, claiming 17.9 million lives every year. According to WHO statistics, 82% of deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries are due to lack of resources.
Together with members of the World Heart Federation, we need to spread the news that at least 80% of premature deaths, from heart disease and stroke, could be avoided if the main risk factors, heavy smoking, unhealthy diet, reduced physical activity, and alcoholism, are controlled.
Increased high blood pressure, increased blood sugar levels, being obese, or overweight, are all side effects of living a bad lifestyle that may harm your heart.
The world was battling the Covid-19 pandemic for the last two years. Unfortunately, patients, with CVD, are more vulnerable and have become high risk groups. Heart patients are susceptible to get a more severe form of Covid-19 infection which could make matters worse.
National activities such as public talks, cardiovascular screening, walks, runs, concerts or sporting events are organised worldwide by members and partners of World Heart Federation.
Global leaders have recognised the urgency to give priority to prevention and control of heart diseases with other non-communicable diseases (NCD) which include cancer, diabetics and chronic lung diseases.
This year also, according to the theme, we ask people to take charge of their home’s heart health by taking steps to reduce the burden of the following risks:
Stop smoking to improve your own and your children’s heart health.
Cigarette smokers are 2-4 times more prone to get heart disease and strokes, than non-smokers. Stopping smoking dramatically reduces the risk of heart disease, strokes and deaths.
A Few steps for successful cessation
Find your reason – strong motivation will help.
Line up support in advance – medical assistance
Lean on your loved ones
Find new ways to relax/unwind – stress can make a person fall back to smoking. Music, meditation, yoga or any other activity will help to alleviate stress.
Try and try again
– you only need to try again and again to achieve your target, even though you are unsuccessful in your first attempt.
Avoid alcohol and other triggers.
Physical exercise always helps to alleviate stress and avoid triggers of smoking.
Healthy diet at home
Unhealthy diet is at the root of many health issues, especially obesity, diabetics and CVD. Rapid urbanisation, changing lifestyles and easy accessibility of fast foods have made our dietary patterns unhealthy. Following are some healthy food patterns:
Limit saturated and trans fats
Plenty of fruits and vegetables
At least five portions of fruits and vegetables per day should be a norm of your dietary habits. You should opt for low fat milk and dairy products.
Animal products, mainly beef, pork, poultry with skin, mutton, lard, butter, cheese carry a lot of saturated fat. Trans fats are contained in baked, processed and fried food items, certain margarines and spreads. In order to cut down saturated and trans fats, consume lean meats, poultry without skin, low fat dairy products, fish and nuts. Vegetable oils should be in moderation.
It is recommended that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or at least 75 minutes of high intensity physical activity per week.
Families should limit the amount of time spent in front of TV to less than two hours per day.
Exercise should be a regular part of your life. Due to the Covid pandemic, public exercise facilities are closed and most of the time movement of people is restricted. Therefore, home-based exercises were adopted to make exercises an enjoyable task.
The world is now facing visible epidemic of obesity. It not only adversely affects your cardiovascular health, but also can affect your mental well-being.
The ways to lose weight effectively,
Do not skip meals – it will make you hungrier and go for more snacks.
Plenty of fruits and vegetables
– exercise burns off excess calories.
Use a smaller plate – eating smaller portions definitely reduces weight.
Do not ban foods
– you can enjoy an occasional treat otherwise you crave them more.
Cut down on alcohol
– it can make you gain weight.
Psychological health and well-being can affect your cardiovascular health. Regular exercise, practising relaxation, being with your family and friends sometimes, adequate sleep, various hobbies, and maintaining positive attitudes towards life.
Know your numbers
Visit your doctor or healthcare professional.
Know your blood pressure which is one of the risk factors for CVD. Check regularly and take steps to control it including salt intake, exercises and medication.
Know your cholesterol – high cholesterol is another major risk factor for CVD. It should be checked regularly and controlled with dietary measures and medication.
Know your blood sugar – diabetics, conditions with high blood sugar levels multiply CVD risk. Diet control and medication required to control it.
Know your warning signs
Recognising symptoms of CVD can help you survive because earlier the treatment better the chances of survival.
Chest pain of tightening or burning in nature with pain radiating down the upper limbs or to the neck or back associated with sweating and nausea is the typical presentation of heart attacks. Sometimes heart burn or burning tummy pain could be due to a heart attack rather than gastritis or indigestion.
Sudden weakness of limbs, slurring of speech, mouth deviation or double vision could be due to a stroke. Knowing these symptoms and seeking medical assistance allow you to get treatment early and prevent complications which can be life threatening most of the time.
Take your medicine regularly and correctly
If you are already diagnosed with a heart disease or stroke, taking your medication, without fail, will reduce the chances of getting another attack of stroke or heart disease
Measures during pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic has created havoc, globally. People with CVD fall into very high risk category.
Therefore it is important to,
Continue your medication uninterruptedly
Follow medical advice
Continue exercise and balance diet.
Maintain your social network and
Do not hesitate to take vaccination.
By doing the household steps, mentioned above, you and your family can reduce the burden of heart diseases.
Breastfeeding and lifelong health
Breastfeeding is the best form of nutrition for newborn and infants, according to WHO. Increasing public awareness is important. Infants who are breastfed tend to have lower cholesterol and blood pressure as well as lower rates of overweight and obesity all of which improve cardiac health.
Both undernourished and over nourished, early in life, can increase the risk for developing CVD. Evidence suggests that children who are undernourished while in the uterus and at childbirth bear a higher CVD risk later in life.
Maternal obesity during pregnancy has been associated with obesity in children which also increases the risk of developing CVD in life.
As always, our emphasis will be on improving heart health across all nations in adult male and female, as well as children.
By adopting lifestyle changes, people all over the world can have longer and better lives through the prevention and control of heart disease and strokes.
Doctors…taking a break
When we think of doctors, what comes to mind is medicine, patients, etc., and that’s only natural as doctors are our saviours…when we are ill.
We would hardly associate doctors with entertainment, and that’s where most of us are wrong.
I’ve been to a couple of concerts where these men of medicine have excelled, on stage, as entertainers, and some of them, I would say, are super-duper.
Yes, the Annual Sri Lanka Medical Association Doctors’ Concert is a much-looked-forward to musical extravaganza where the doctors, and their families, are provided the unique opportunity to showcase their talents, in performing arts.
It is usually held on the final day of the Annual Scientific Congress of the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA), and it’s all happening this Saturday, October 1st, at the Lotus Room of the BMICH.
Says Dr. B.J.C.Perera, Senior Consultant Paediatrician:
“It is a common belief that medical doctors are a sombre set of people who are mainly involved in looking after people with illnesses. True enough, they do perform that ever so immensely important task in society, and such a mission is by no means to be taken lightly, in view of its tremendous significance. Healing the sick is certainly a noble task and many of them are renowned performers, as well as experts in their own chosen specialties of the profession.
“However, it may come as a surprise to many that several of these medical men, and women, have other talents – musical, acting, drama, etc. There are very many extremely gifted performers of real class amongst our medical men, and women. In recognition of this, the SLMA has provided an opportunity for these artistic men, and women, to showcase their talents, and flair, in the performing arts, at the glittering SLMA Doctors’ Concert.
“This is a much-anticipated opportunity for members of the medical profession, and their family members, to put their hair down and forget medicine, at least for an evening. The Doctors’ Concert was started many years ago as a rather informal event and it has a most proud tradition of being staged annually, for quite a few decades, in the history of the SLMA.
“A dedicated band, consisting mainly of doctors, first played at the concert, in 2014. This was in the Committee Room 1, currently the Lotus Room, of the BMICH. They performed on a small stage done for them on a side.
“The continuing progress of the event was due to the untiring efforts of that absolute virtuoso in music, a drummer himself, Dr. Christo Fernando. He left no stone unturned to make the event a resounding success, from 2014 onwards.”
This Saturday, October 1st, we will not see doctors, in their usual uniforms (Coats and Scrubs), stethoscopes, or anything connected with medicine, but entertainment, at its best…on stage!
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