Diplomacy with Iran necessary for de-escalation
As of yesterday, six world powers have accepted to restart diplomatic talks with Iran about its nuclear program. Also, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be allowed to inspect the Parchin military facility where IAEA chief Yukiya Amano is concerned high explosives testing has been undergone.
These developments, however, have been overshadowed by Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visits to Canada and the United States, during which both Harper and Obama reaffirmed support for Israel’s right to self-defense and their shared intolerance of nuclear weapon proliferation in the Middle East.
The issue is escalation. The Iranian nuclear program has been in development for decades and actually saw substantial US support during its initial stages in the 60s and 70s. Iran signed and ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968 and had plans for nuclear power stations to be built across the country for peaceful use.
During the time this took place U.S. influence in Iran was at its peak. The democratically-elected, nationalist Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, in a coup that was orchestrated by UK and U.S. intelligence agencies, was overthrown and replaced with an authoritarian, pro-Western regime.
The new Shah Mohammad Reza saw Iranian oil production and exports rise to its highest point simultaneously as tensions within the state began to build. Not even the CIA-trained secret police SAVAK could suppress the opposition and since the Iranian revolution in 1979 the nation has devolved into an oppressive theocracy.
It is very important, however, to take note that Iranian society has not lost its interest in democracy. The stereotype of Iran being driven by a deeply religious, irrational society has been the resonant political message beneath the recent intensification of Western efforts to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.
If Iran was to join countries like France, Pakistan, North Korea and Russia in having nuclear weapons we are told that it would be exceptionally problematic because they would actually use them, or at least that is the assumption.
It is not evidently clear that a country would be more likely to use nuclear weapons just because of the state of its economy, or foreign relations, or the amount of terrorist activity, etc. Since the Cold War, North Korea has had tension with South Korea, Pakistan has been destabilized by intrastate terrorism and Russia (like many other arms-producing countries, e.g. U.S.) has indirectly sold weapons to regimes in proxy wars all across the planet. Instability is everywhere and cannot be used as a reason in and of itself to stir up fear over impending nuclear catastrophe.
Regardless, I do not disagree that a nuclear-armed Iran would have a negative effect on international security. I only dispute the underlying presumption that Iran should be singled-out as an exceptional “danger-zone” and instill such harsh reactionary policy proposals from the West.
Aggressiveness and escalation of tensions will only increase the support for nuclear armament in Iran and perpetuate the belief that Iranian society is being deliberately targeted by the U.S.
In a conference after his meeting with Netanyahu yesterday Obama explained how Iranians have been feeling the pressure from recent economic sanctions from the West. Although Netanyahu wants Obama’s explicit backing for an attack on Iran the U.S. has declared it will try to take advantage of a window of opportunity for peaceful negotiation and that aggressive war is the last resort (albeit, it is not off the table by any means).
The fact of the matter is that national security experts are certain an attack of Iran would snowball into a greater conflict. If Netanyahu decides to act unilaterally against Iran, as he has publicly announced Israel is now prepared to do, the bombing of nuclear sites would not even guarantee the complete prevention of eventual armament. The Iranian nuclear program would most likely recover from the damage in one or two years and the Iranian people would have all doubt removed from their mind that a nuclear weapon is in their interest.
We must remember that Iran still insists its nuclear program is peaceful and the IAEA has yet to report otherwise. The sanctions that have been imposed so far have driven the country to begin trading oil and gold directly to China and India for food, out of fear that U.S. dollar pressure will soon contribute to a shortage for its population of 77 million. Tensions like this will never disappear until the international community finally uproots this tendency to overcompensate for regional instability and learns that nobody likes war, not even Iran.