The Plank

Chirac Speaks

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Jacques Chirac's comments on Iran, as reported in this morning's New York Times, have sparked some outrage. But a lot of what the French president said sounded pretty reasonable:

Chirac said this week that if Iran had one or two nuclear weapons, it would not pose a big danger, and that if Iran were to launch a nuclear weapon against a country like Israel, it would lead to the immediate destruction of Tehran."I would say that what is dangerous about this situation is not the fact of having a nuclear bomb," he said. "Having one or perhaps a second bomb a little later, well, that's not very dangerous. But what is very dangerous is proliferation. This means that if Iran continues in the direction it has taken and totally masters nuclear-generated electricity, the danger does not lie in the bomb it will have, and which will be of no use to it."Mr. Chirac said it would be an act of self-destruction for Iran to use a nuclear weapon against another country."Where will it drop it, this bomb? On Israel?" Mr. Chirac asked. "It would not have gone 200 meters into the atmosphere before Tehran would be razed."

Maybe some of the language here isn't ideal: "Not very dangerous" is perhaps an understatement. But the rest of his message is sensible. And, moreover, the best reason to think Iran would not in fact use a nuke against Israel, or hand it off to a terrorist group, is that they probably don't want to see their biggest city "razed".

Chirac's (rapidly declining) mental and physical state does seem worrisome, however:

In the first interview, which took place in the late morning, he appeared distracted at times, grasping for names and dates and relying on advisers to fill in the blanks. His hands shook slightly. When he spoke about climate change, he read from prepared talking points printed in large letters and highlighted in yellow and pink.

--Isaac Chotiner

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