Nuclear’ Iran is getting to be a bigger botherfor the US and the rest of the world thanmany had assumed in the earlier stages. It isfallacious to argue that Tehran will become a stablepartner in global peace by having a nuclear arsenal.Iran will either get ‘the’ bomb or get bombed. Whatthis means regionally is anyone’s guess since thereare too many variables surrounding these twopossibilities.
One thing that is invariable though, isAmerica’s dogged adherence to icons and dogmaswhich ensures that only the extremes are possible.As the situation stands, no one, not even theRussians and the Chinese, doubt in private that Iranis accelerating its efforts to build a bomb. In public,though, there are two narratives – the first is of thecrazy suicidal mullahcracy so rabidly obsessed withkilling Jews that another holocaust is on the horizon.The other, less printed, argument is that a nuclearIran would actually bring a greater level of stabilityto what is a highly volatile region. Both of course arehyperbolic, but they dominate print and broadcastopinions in one variant or the other.
The former needs no serious refutation. The latteris true to a certain extent in that it alleviates Iran’sacute conventional inferiority vis-à-vis its neighbors,but this is only half the story. As the experience ofPakistan and North Korea has shown, nuclearweapons provide revisionist states with a shield for awhole new paradigm of provocations like Mumbai26/11 or the sinking of the South Korean warship,The Cheonan. Nuclear weapons, therefore, provide acertain strategic stability in that it prevents all-outwar, but then introduce great levels of subconventionalinstability either by covert actions or bynon/sub/quasi state actors.
The problem here is, the proponents of the theorythat a nuclear Iran will bring stability have veryfrequently lost credibility either because theymisdirect their fire, obfuscate the nuance or engagein hyperbole – all aimed at exculpating the UnitedStates. Take for example Kenneth Waltz arguing thatIran is attempting to balance the 40-year-old Israeliarsenal. This ignores the fact that the prime ‘sabrerattler’and major nuclear power in the Middle Eastis, in fact, the United States that has already regimechangedtwo of Iran’s neighbors – Afghanistan andIraq, has Iran completely encircled and has skewedthe conventional balance by reckless arms sales toIran’s arch rivals.
To blame Israel for the situation isas incredulous as Iranian President MahmoudAhmadinejad holding the Elders of Zion responsiblefor Iran’s travails.The prime mover of a nuclear Iran was in fact theUnited States spearheaded by arch neo-cons DonaldRumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz in the 70s -ostensibly to buttress Iran’s position vis-à-vis theUSSR. Though suitably couched in terms of energy,the deal would have ensured that Tehran receivedboth enriched uranium and plutonium – all butproviding for the existence of a latent arsenal. Iran’s’policies’ in those days, of course, were directed in thepursuit of US policy.
William Blum, for example, inhis book, Killing Hope: US Military and CIAInterventions since World War II, lists howAfghanistan was deliberately destabilized by Iran todrag the Soviets in. Today Iran’s ‘mischief’ is directed- largely by default – against the Unites States’interests.It is of course quite natural for any country toadopt double standards; no country on earth has adouble standard-free foreign policy. But what isworrying about the United States is how theinformation and the intelligence loops form a closedcircuit that filters out any divergent opinion – wherethe Government actually starts believing its ownspin, and sadly the academia tends to buttress this.Take for example Saddam Hussein’s use of nerveagents in Halabja in the 80s.
Till the invasion ofKuwait, most US experts were keen to emphasize that”doubts existed” over who had resorted to usingmustard gas and in some form or another and it wasimplied that Iran had done it. Similarly, in spite ofoverwhelming evidence that Georgia had disruptedthe status quo in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, mostUS ‘experts’ on television went out of their way toeither claim that the evidence wasn’t clear.This pattern of self-delusion continues to buttressUnited States rigidity on Iran and revolve around fivemain points.
First, the United States actually seems tothink the sanctions on Iran are smart and shouldhumanitarian concerns arise, they will be suitablymodified.
Second, that sanctions are still an effectivetool that will achieve results.
Third, no geopoliticalconcessions need to be made to Iran – or as Americansclaim “the world has moved on from spheres ofinfluence driven politics”.
Fourth, the only ‘carrots’Iran needs to be offered are economic – likemembership of the World Trade Organization at somedistant point in the future.
And fifth, Mr.Ahmadinejad’s statement on wiping Israel off the mapis proof of Iran’s diabolical designs.
As far as one can remember, images of horriblydeformed Iraqi children did nothing to change the UShard line on the causative sanctions for 13 long yearsafter which the Washington, DC solution was toinvade. That sanctions can be effective has beendiscounted time after time. Anybody who bothersstudying Myanmar and Libya knows that the former’scompliance had more to do with a series of complexissues and the latter’s compliance with Gaddafi’ssuccession plans. The notion that somehow Iran willsit pretty and accept the fall of its allies like SyrianPresident Bashar al-Assad, the crushing of the Shiasand its conventional inferiority is laughable at best.As for the world moving on from spheres of influenceone would like to see how the United States reacts to aChinese announcement of setting up a nuclearmissile base in Venezuela or Cuba.
The naïveté in believing that a country that hasendured severe sanctions and embargos for the betterpart of the last 30 years will be tempted by WTOaccession boggles the mind. Finally, it is curious thatthe United States does not accept at face value theabsence of homosexuality in Iran given that PresidentAhmadinejad claims just this, but his pronouncementson wiping out Israel are of course gospel truth.Between rigid dogma and iconoclastic hyperbole, theonly thing that gets reinforced is the United States’sense of infallibility and the consequences foreverybody else – paying the price for America’s failures.