Iran is a signatory to the international treaties that prohibits production and keeping of weapons of mass destruction. These treaties are; the chemical weapons convection, the biological weapons convention and the nuclear Non-Profiliferation Treaty (NPT). Despite its ratification of these treaties, Iran is currently believed to be possessing weapons of mass destruction. After the Iraq-Iran war in early 1980s, Ayatollah Khomeini resolved to pursue nuclear research after he lost about 100,000 soldiers and civilians due to chemical weapons attacks by the Iraqis.
Controversy has surrounded the Iranian nuclear weapons program for decades now. While the country maintains that its uranium enrichment program is solely meant for peaceful purposes and the current international atomic energy agency director general, Yukiya Amano claiming that there are no evidence in IAEA reports that Iran has plans to develop weapons of mass destruction, the United States through its congressional research paper believes that Iran had long finished developing nuclear weapons in 2003. The world is equally divided over the Iranian nuclear weapon program.
Only a few European countries are siding with the United States and countries like Russia do not believe in the allegations that Iran has or has plans to develop nuclear weapons. Most countries from the East like China, Turkey, Syria, Afghanistan, the Arab League as well as Gulf Cooperation Council, have expressed their full support for Iran to pursue what they call a peaceful nuclear energy. But what are the implications of a nuclear energy in the hands of Iranians? The Iranian nuclear program has earned many foes and allies in almost equal measure.
One of the greatest critics of the Iranian nuclear energy is the United States. The strain relationship between the countries dates back to three centuries when the Islamic revolution in Iran swept the US strong ally Shah out of power. When Ayatollah Khomeini came to power after the revolution, he driven the country’s foreign policy away from the United States and the two countries have ever since been polar opposites in virtually every foreign policies. Diplomatic relations between the two nations was broken in early 1980 and the Swiss government took over representation of American interest the following year.
While in the United States, the Pakistani government assumed representation of Iranian affairs. However, the Iranian government has its own representative to the UN in New York City. In 1981, following the Algiers declaration, the US-Iran Claims Tribunal (situated at The Hague, Netherlands) was formed to resolved issues between the nationals of the two countries. However, this engagement has always remain and dealt with legal matters only . The Iranian nuclear program has only worked over the years to strain the diplomatic relations further.
American government by executive orders made by its president and also by the congressional legislation bars any form of trade with Iran. These sanctions were imposed because of Iran’s continued pursuance of its nuclear program and its noncompliance with the IAEA demands. Iran is further accused of sponsoring terrorists and terror activities as well as of having poor human rights record. However, the American government has always maintained that these sanctions only target the Iranian government engagement with the US and not the citizens of Iran.
The US therefore permits certain trades that would help the nationals of Iran. Such engagement as relief donations by the American nationals and NGOs, export of medical and agricultural products from US to Iran and import of foodstuff from Iran are permitted. The American government has at times lifted the trade sanctions especially in times of humanitarian crises like was the case in 2003 during the Ban earthquake. Obstacles to diplomatic relations between the countries however, still remain unresolved.
The United States is mainly concerned with the Iranian authorities’ lack of compliance with the IAEA and accused their counterparts of pursuing a risky ambition that would threaten peace in the world. The US fears over the Iran’s nuclear is connected with their allegations that Iran has been sponsoring terror activities. Iran has always objected to the peace deal favoring the Israel and has been accused of undermining the Middle East peace process through its continued arming of militia and terror groups like Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Hamas.
The risks a nuclear Iran would subject the world to through its continued association with militia and terror groups is one of the reason sanctions are being imposed not only by the US government but also by the European union and the United Nations security council. The Iran nuclear program would not be a threat to Israel but also the world at large. Analysis of the frosty relations between Iran and Israel would shed more light on how the world would be threatened by Iran as a nuclear power.
Iran is the second largest country with a Jewish population in the Middle East after Israel and some notable figures in Israel are known to have originated from Iran. The two countries had had good relations when Iran was ruled by the Shah, but after the Islamic revolution of Iran, Israel and the Iran’s ruling clergy have had hostile ties with Iran refusing to recognize Israel. However, even during the hostile relationship, Israel helped United States sell arms to Iran as part of the infamous Iran-Contra scandal. In recent times, the United States has been very much vocal against the Iranian nuclear program.
Israel on the other hand has always been ready to disarm the Iranians of their missiles and other weapons considered destructive. They have even considered tactically deploying their nuclear weapons to clear off the Iranian nuclear facilities. Although Israel has never officially confirmed the number of its nuclear weapons, it is whispered in the international security circles that the country has about 200-400 weapons of mass destruction and is the only country possessing a nuclear weapons in the Middle East. And it is not lost to many that Israel had bombed the Iraqi facility believed to have been part of its nuclear programs.
The perennial conflict between Israel and Palestinians has not help matters either. The Palestinians continued migration to south Lebanon led the formation of militant groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Palestine Islamic Jihad among others. Although these groups have been considered terrorists groupings by many countries, Iran disagrees. It has not only offered these groups material support in terms of weapons but regard the groups as organizations fighting for a justified cause and publicly offer them moral support.
These groups especially the Hezbollah regard the Iran spiritual leader as their ultimate authority and the groups themselves have confirmed that all political decisions concerning their affairs are referred and made in Iran. For example, the Iran spiritual leader himself is said to have favored the Hezbollah’s participation in the Lebanese politics. In light of these revelations, it would be appropriate to say that Iran is sponsoring suicide bombers at least indirect to fight the Israelis. The Iranians and the leaders have always denounced Israel and more often pronounce death of Israel in different forms.
The Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is on record claiming that Israel ought to be wiped off from the face of the earth and even questioned why the holocaust did not perform it once and for all. We may argued that the Iranian president does not wield so much power and that the spiritual leader who at some point sought ceasefire and normalized relations with the Israelis, is the real source of power. But the ruling clergy is up to no good if his agitations to have Hezbollah become a full political outfit which was objected to by the United States is anything to go by.
Looking back at the recent events in Lebanon where Israel suffered a humiliating defeat in the hands of Hezbollah, the influence of Iran and its militant group, Hezbollah in the Middle East was just given a shot in the arm. We may argue that Iran never started its nuclear weapons program with Israel in mind. But going by the unrelenting anti-Israel rhetoric by its leaders, it would be quite in order to say that Iran’s number one enemy right now is Israel and given opportunity would go ahead and wipe out the entire nation. Only nuclear weapons would put it at par with Israel and make it achieve the mass destruction they would love to see.
Again, sorting out Israel as its number one enemy, Iran is simply creating more enemies. With the United States leading the pack of countries associating and supporting Israel, Iranians would declare war with any nation oppose to their policies against Israel. Diplomacy and Alternatives President Bush’s efforts to halt the Iranians’ uranium enrichment program had been focused on building a strong international coalition that would impose tough sanctions against Iran intended to punish and isolate until it abandons its plans to develop nuclear weapons program.
The country on the other hand, maintains its nuclear program is intended for peaceful uses. When president Obama came into power, the first thing he announced regarding his foreign policy was to negotiate with Iran and talk it out of its nuclear weapons program. So far nothing tangible is coming from the Iranian side. The major problem in this whole process is that Iranian leaders are simply not willing to talk and even as Washington tries to pursue diplomacy, Tehran is determined on carrying on with its program. The Obama administration should not just explore this option without understanding their Iranian counterparts.
From the developments so far, it seems Tehran is not about to make a compromise on its program. But where does this leave Obama with his pledge for a more engagement with Tehran? Besides diplomacy, are there other options left for Washington? The present world security situation is quite disturbing. The world and more specifically the United States national security is currently threatened either directly or indirectly by the developments in Iran and this should inform president Obama to realize that shunning any further contact with Iran is a luxury American cannot afford.
But then the issue is complicated with the popularly-driven opposition that may be demoralized if American approaches the matter with high-handedness. A continued engagement with Tehran therefore would call for clear understanding of the nature of Iran politics and policies. My first and last option has always been engagement and engagement. The America should keep this door of dialogue wide open. However, it would be careless of us if we are only concerned with the nuclear issue.
Apart from addressing the other security concerns such as Afghanistan and Iraq which Iran is threatening, the Obama administration should embark on holding the regime accountable for human rights violations. Iran has always had a problem adhering to international standards of justice. Although the word is quite commonly used by the Iranian leaders it lacks any respect at all among the Iranian officials. I have a strong belief that raising the human rights issue would make the Tehran regime think twice about using brutality and repression against its people.
Failure to address the human rights issue, Americans would be creating an impression among the people of Iran that it is a cynical superpower out to cut deals at their own expense. All said, we must understand that dialogue was never an end in itself but a means to halt Iran’s nuclear plans and to check its regional policies. We should hope that dialogue bare fruits and we must believe in our secretary of states Hillary Clinton and her undersecretary Bill Burns as skilful diplomats. However, my greatest concern is that the Tehran regime is not willing to reach a compromise with Washington.
In essence, the problem in Iran is in their present leaders rather than the country’s nuclear ambitions. This does not means that we overthrow the current regime through the pro-active democracy utterances of the president Bush and his administration. We should believe in the Iranian as being capable of shaping their destiny. And therefore, Americans should refrain from using policies that would jeopardize the current momentum of opposition movements in the country. This would call for a skillful and careful “engagement” that would broaden the dialogue beyond just nukes and treading away from military confrontation.
I believe Ahmadinejad and the spiritual leader would most welcome a US military strike; it may offer them a lifeline to crush popular dissent and right internal political rifts. Finally, obama may be thinking of tougher sanctions going by the statement made by his secretary of states Hillary Clinton in late May. The problem with trade sanctions is that they have been there for almost 30 years now but nothing much has changed and I have a belief that Iran is used to it now. If they refused the carrot and stick of President Bush, what tells us now that Iran would play ball? Our option must be a change in approach in our engagement.
Conclusion For over two decades of dialogue, diplomacy and sanctions have achieved a little impact in the Iran’s nuclear plans. They have delayed such a program, made its operations and nuclear programs more covert and have continuously highlighted the risks Iran is posing to itself and the world. Such policies however, have never stopped Iran from acquiring long-range missiles, the technology as well as production facilities for making nuclear weapons. The United States therefore needs to change tact in its dealing with the Tehran regime and in containing its nuclear weapons ambitions.