Does the only country that ever used a nuclear bomb in war, have any right to preach non proliferation to the world? Isn't that a bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger saying only he and maybe a few buddies like Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham should be allowed to build big muscles.
Does a country that's merrily assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists inside Iran for the past few years have a moral right to complain if its own diplomats are targeted in retaliation? Both sets of people were civilians, both have been shadow attacks, unacknowledged by the governments themselves.
On the other hand, does a country that's publicly, vehemently and repeatedly proclaimed that a neighbour state has no reason to exist, that it should be "wiped off the face of the world" - be allowed to come within even shouting distance of a weapon of mass destruction?
If diplomacy were about straight answers, if nationalism was about decency, if countries could think of themselves as many children of the same human family - the suspense we're all in would never exist. The US would shut up, Israel would back off and Iran would go see a shrink. Sadly, this isn't an ideal world.
In the practical, real world, the only rule that seems to work every time, is that might is right. Never mind all the hallowed homilies to law, justice. Equality and fraternity. Which is probably why NATO managed to vanquish both Iraq and Libya but has never dared to even tickle nuclear powered North Korea, which gives it the finger with unfailing regularity. Survival of the fittest. Darwin was right after all.
In such a world, would you blame Iran for wanting a bomb? Forget all its proclamations about nuke power for cancer treatment and electricity generation. Both are very valid reasons - but it's in the nature of man to always grasp for more. Sooner or later, if there is no war - there will be a bomb.
But why shouldn't they have one? The Middle East isn't one big happy family of Muslims. It's one big bickering cauldron. Iran ran a thirty year long war with Iraq, can't see eye to eye with Saudi Arabia and is menaced by Jewish Israel which quite frankly has been behaving like a large brat who's been allowed to wear metal knuckles to school.
It can't see eye to eye with the rulers of Jordan, Bahrain, Egypt, all of who are very friendly with the US. And it's always meddled in the internal affairs of Lebanon and Palestine. It's got its own little persecution complex going - home to a third of the world's Shia Muslims, it believes it will be trampled down by its Sunni majority neighbours if it doesn't become a real tough guy.
Indians, who feel threatened by China and Pakistan would probably sympathize. After all, didn't we develop our own nuclear programme similarly, in the face of international sanctions? A nuclear bomb does make other countries treat us with a wee bit more respect. Not too much. But just a little.
But experts in the west believe the problem might be something different. Just like Pakistan, Iran isn't a fool. It's not going to explode a nuclear bomb the minute it makes one. The world will promptly dispatch it to kingdom come if it dares.
What it wants is insurance. Like Pakistan, it wants to rig terror strikes in neighbouring countries. It needs to keep them off balance, to be able to shape the power balance in them. It can always feign ignorance when asked, can always tie down cases in court. With a nuclear bomb in hand, it knows no one will dare invade it.
And so the intrigue continues. China and Russia usually back Iran. India and many other Asian countries including Japan, see its oil supplies as vital to their own survival. So Iran could survive economically, despite sanctions against it.
Cleverly, Iran's also submitted a letter to the European Union, signaling its willingness to talk about its nuclear ambitions. It did that just as it showcased its indigenously developed nuclear prowess to the world, so it's going to come to the table as a winner, not an underdog who can be talked down to.
But that's a technique North Korea's used many times. It's broken the promises it made with equal readiness. This is after all, a battle for survival - only the one with the best tricks will win.
Would our wars - both military and diplomatic - be any better if we fought them with honour? If we kept our word, if we fought with principles? Someone will die even then. But at least there'll be some rules one could play by.
Incidentally - here's a little surprise. Iran's nuclear programme was started by Americans. They called it the "Atoms for Peace" programme and gifted the Shah of Iran a ready made reactor. They developed cold feet when the Iranians overthrew the monarchy and democratically elected a ruler. Go figure.