[Written for my Politics of Developing Nations class. The class is only five weeks long which meant I had a rather short time to research and then formulate my speculations. Thanks for reading and enjoy.]
On August 6, 1945, a new age of warfare was ushered into existence. The first of two atomic bombs was used by the United States against Japan over Hiroshima. Three days later, another, bigger bomb nicknamed "Fat boy" was dropped on Nagasaki. Altogether, the death toll of those two weapons sat at roughly 214, 000 people, give or take a few thousand lives. Inevitably, the creation of these devices led to even greater technological advances in the field of atomic weaponry. What was born from this technology was the advent of Nuclear proliferation. From that birth was a weapon approximately 1000 times more lethal than the atomic bomb.
With this consideration in mind, it is no wonder that the world has issues with the potential of Iran, or any further nation for that matter, acquiring nuclear weaponry. With North Korea already a threat in east Asia, it has been determined that allowing Iran nuclear capacities is not in the best interest of global affairs. Certainly western powers have gone out of their way to make a case against Iran, but the issue is does that case add up? Is there a real threat from a nuclear powered Iran?
As we shall see, there is no clear cut answer to the swirling speculations being debated in the halls of the United Nations. In fact, in my research, Iíve found no viable, let alone credible, indications of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. Though circumstantial evidence could lead one to believe the accusations, and surely there could be sound reasonings for those accusations, it is far more likely that what weíre witnessing is a diplomatic showdown. Iran seems determined to become the most respected power in the middle east, whether through misleading bluster or engaging in proxy wars via Hezbollah militants and Iraqi dissidents. Thus it could be an attempt to regain the former glory of Iranian culture from millennia past.
Itís difficult to surmise if there even is a crisis. However, we can come to understand this problem through a basic evaluation of three key issues: state sovereignty in the new global order, the nuclear proponent, and the collision of politics and the general populace. If we take these considerations and combine them with the Iranian "crisis", as it were, we begin to get a clearer picture of a rather reclusive country. Especially given how zealously sheíll defend her sovereignty.
In this new global order, state sovereignty becomes less a focal point. Iran no doubt feels this complexity as much, if not more than, most other developing nations. World economics is currently dominated by American interests sparking jealousy out of many countries and certainly sparking more than a bit of anger out of the middle-east.
As it is, most mid-east nations are still trying to forge a national identity. With conflicts like Iraq and the Lebanese / Israeli fighting, it becomes even more difficult for that identity to mature. Even more trying is the fact that the middle-east is not only searching for national identities, but also contending with the advent of globalism. More and more mid-east nations find themselves being left behind the western world. It doesnít help matters when they see that many Asian countries are already capitalizing on the success of the west.
Seeing the confusion of the middle-east and the western nationsí inability to cope with it, Iran has decided to place itself right in the midst of the conflicts. There are several reasons for why the Iranian government would seek to do this.
One, it infuriates the attempts of western nations to economically become a power in the middle-east. Iran wants to be the primary power and a western influence over governmental control would hinder their placement. It was probably a godsend for Iran when the American government made the decision to invade Iraq, which was one of the biggest obstacles to Iranian power in the region. Now Iranís biggest contenders are Israel and Saudi Arabia. Both of which are allied with western powers.
Itís obvious Iran isnít opposed to doing things the "American way." Just take a look at many of the imported technologies and lifestyles that Iran has permitted into her borders. Every so often, though, they stage crackdowns to make it look like theyíre opposed to anything western. However, if such opposition truly exists, why hasnít Iran simply outlawed anything of western origin? In truth, Iran wants control over those influences so their rule will be unquestioned, while still benefitting from global capitalism.
A second reason for Iran to engage in the numerous conflicts in the middle-east is to place herself into a position to establish an Iranian identity, a Persian world, throughout the mid-east. Iran plays the various warring factions against each other so that they wonít realize the support Iran is garnering from more and more people across the region. What this accomplishes is the establishment of a sovereign middle-east under Iranian control. Of course, such an attempt is not without opposition.
Certainly Saudi Arabia is not going to sit idly by while Iran casts its shadow over their interests. It is easy to see that Saudi Arabia isnít going to support Iran, especially with Saudi support of American and Israeli operations. Even the recent strikes of Israel against Islamic fundamentalists in Lebanon demonstrates this fact. It wasnít Israel the Saudis spoke out against but rather the Lebanese group Hezbollah who, it is claimed, is supported by Iran.
It is difficult to come to any solid conclusions in regards to Iran and its plans towards the middle-east given the secrecy inherent with the nation. Coming to the thoughts that I am speculating on is derived from a variety of sources easily accessible on the web. The most readily available articles on Iran, though, have everything to do with nuclear acquisition.
Notably, the largest adversary to Iran is the United States itself. And the U.S. has made a huge fuss over what it assumes Iran is attempting to do; acquire nuclear weapons. This may or may not be a truth as no solid evidence has thus been presented either by the U.S. or the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that says conclusively that they do or do not, but it is a fairly irrelevant detail at the current time.
Even if Iran did acquire a nuclear weapon, who would she be willing to use it against? The most immediate answer forthcoming would be Israel, especially since the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has publicly declared that Israel should be wiped off the map.
The problem with seeing this line of logic through is that Ahmadinejad is directly subordinate to the Iranian Council and their Supreme Leader who, rumor has it, is only answerable to God. With this being the case, Ahmadinejad would have to have the approval of the Supreme Leader before waging nuclear was against any nation. This would be highly unlikely given that the Supreme Leader and the Council have stated that nuclear weaponry would only undermine state security (1). Therefore it would be unacceptable to use as a viable weapon.
Unless Ahmadinejad is willing to go against the Councilís wishes and seize power from them, Iran wouldnít likely produce nuclear weapons.
Of course, this is all speculation based on articles written on Iran and by Iranian scholars. Iran seems more intent on producing nuclear energy, as is claimed, and making the world think that theyíre interested in acquiring nuclear weaponry, perhaps delaying western intervention in the region while they consolidate their power (6). This is apparent through the years that Iran has been challenging the west on these technological issues. Even the election of Ahmadinejad was a thumb-on-nose expression towards western politicians. One can gather this by the fact that any candidates to the Iranian presidency must be approved by the Iranian council and the Supreme Leader. Given Ahmadinejadís fiery personality and controversial personal policies, he must have seemed like the perfect candidate to the Council.
It has been noted that the Supreme Leader is particularly fond of Ahmadinejad (7). This nugget of knowledge should be more than indicative of the nature of the Iranian government. Ahmadinejad most likely wonít make a move without the Supreme Leaderís permission. It isnít likely that the Supreme Leader will change his line of thinking regarding nuclear weapons, either. However, that doesnít mean Ahmadinejad isnít a threat. He just doesnít pose a nuclear threat at this time.
The threat of Ahmadinejad comes with his politics and speaking capabilities. Many extreme fundamentalists are apt to believe the things he says leading to greater influence by the Iranian government, who pulls all the strings (5).
Iran itself may not pose a significant nuclear threat, however, if she is successful in converting most of the middle-east into a Persian state-a tremendous balancing act of rival sects to say the least-then those who follow Iran and Ahmadinejadís cynical rhetoric may become a force to be reckoned with. The Supreme Leader and Iranian Council seem to be oblivious to the potential ramifications inherent in a fundamentalist state where hatred and intolerance on a global scale has been preached. A lasting peace wonít be possible in this environment, and whatever global economic goals the Council has will be all for naught.
Doubtful this chaos will spread beyond mid-eastern borders, however it would require a sustained western involvement to reestablish even a fragile semblance of economic stability in the region lasting maybe several decades. Therefore, it is certainly within western interests to bring some sort of stability with the middle-east if a true global economy is to be established. The issue is, of course, how to go about doing this. One thing is certain, prolonged violence will only increase fundamental terrorism and widespread aversion to western influence. The most beneficial actions, consequently, would be those outlined by the EU (4).
The most critical factor in this "crisis" with Iran lies in the human element and how it interacts in the political systems at play.
Most people, even in the U.S., have trouble following politics and the complexities inherent in the processes. Surely it must be arduous for those of the lower class in the middle-east to follow the changing political bodies of those who would be their leaders. Even amidst politicians, keeping track of political maneuverings becomes an exercise in patience, whereas most have little to none.
Without doubt, most Iranians would rather live life freely and with open voice than be repressed by the current regime. However, the chaos in Iraq is likely to simply give more power to the Iranian government making their goals of expansion-speculative expansion that is-far more tangible than in years past (3). Even given this consideration, though, Iran would have to depend on swaying public fervor into their favor. With so many ethnic groups vying for their own national territory and boundaries, it would take a massive concerted effort to sway popular thought to a completely Iranian viewpoint. This may be where Hezbollah, Syria, and Hamas come into play.
The middle-east has seen war tearing at its throat for most of its existence. The only difference between now and even a century ago has everything to do with the changing advances of weaponry. Those weapons had been wielded by major governmental powers around the world engaging themselves in one global conflict after another. This left the populace in the mid-east nations at the mercy of opportunists, such as the extremist fundamentalists organizations prevalent throughout the region. What makes these groups so potent and so popular is a general weariness of war all around. The people seek stability and will often believe what theoretical sermons are being delivered in whatever place of state they reside in.
Iran doesnít strike me as the nuclear threat that our government would have us believe. Unfortunately, the regime that does exist is very much anti-American if for nothing more than the fact it is jealous of the profitable existence America has forged for herself. It seems logical to draw the conclusion that Iran is attempting to take advantage of a chaotic situation, the falling apart of what margin of stable growth the mid-east had seen, and recreate that chaos into a Persian empire. Whether this is the total scope of matters remains to be seen, though it is certain they wonít achieve this agenda without a serious fight by many opponents; hardline Sunnis, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Iranian peoples themselves-since most would rather be part of the global reality (2).
It also isnít likely that Iran, were she to acquire a nuclear weapon, would seriously be willing to use it. Iran has too many allies, or at the very least "interests", in the region to risk a nuclear fallout over a minor dispute. Ahmadinejad, whereas a polarizing figure, would have to following the orders of the Supreme Leader, which nullifies his inflammatory words. Therefore through evaluating the issues of globalism, nuclear proliferation, and the human factor, we come to see that what is really at hand is diplomatic bluster from Iran towards the rest of the world. The Iranian government wants to be taken seriously and, rather than commit to direct communications with foreign powers, they are willing to lie, cheat, and steal to gain that acceptance. The most formidable aspect of this most definitely has to do with how the general populace of the middle-east is going to respond. Many are living in dire conditions with war and conflict being commonplace. Would the vast majority be willing to accept the rhetoric of a madman and a theocratic regime? Truly, only time will tell.
All references retrieved through International Crisis Group webpage on the Iran: Nuclear Impasse Link
1) Zarif, Dr. H.E. "An Unnecessary Crisis" from the Press Affairs section located at www.un.int/iran originally published in the New York Times 18 Nov 2005
2) Sadjapour, Karim "Iranís paradoxical yearning for America" The Daily Star from article on International Crisis Group www.crisisgroup.org 4 December 2004
3) Sadjapour, Karim "Iraq chaos has only emboldened Iran" International Herald Tribune from article on International Crisis Group www.crisisgroup.org 13 October 2004
4) Middle East Report "Dealing With Iranís Nuclear Program" Middle East Report No 18 from article on International Crisis Group www.crisisgroup.org 27 October 2003
5) Middle East Report "Iran in Iraq: How much influence?" Middle East Report No 38 from article on International Crisis Group www.crisisgroup.org 21 March 2005
6) Middle East Briefing "Iran: Where next on the nuclear standoff?" Middle East Briefing No 15 from article on International Crisis Group www.crisisgroup.org 24 November 2004
7) Sadjapour, Karim "Iranís Political / Nuclear Ambitions and U. S. Policy options" from article on International Crisis Group www.crisisgroup.org 18 May 2006