In his June 22nd column, “Threat of ‘iron and blood’ won’t resolve Iranian’s nuclear deal,” Abdulahi Ahmednasir provides an interesting study of one of the most intractable international problems today, how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program. Whereas, Mr. Ahmednasir’s study of the situation is laudable, and his advice against using force to solve the problem, there are a number of problems with his presentation. One regards the legal basis for the West’s focus on Iran’s nuclear program. The other is the author’s focus on the West-Iran dyad, while missing the wider regional opposition to Iran having nuclear weapons, the proverbial trees versus the forest conundrum.
As a signatory to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran has the right to pursue a peaceful nuclear power/research program. However, the NPT prohibits Tehran from pursuing a nuclear weapons program, and requires it to make regular declarations to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as well as, bowing to regular IAEA inspections.
The current crisis was brought by Iran’s failure to fully live up to its treaty obligations and its concealment of a secret uranium enrichment program. In fact, on a number of occasions the UN Security Council has seen it fit to sanction Iran for its intransigence. Moreover, the lack of clarity about Iran’s nuclear intentions, has lead to a high level of suspicion, and in light of its treaty obligations, Iran has given the West the necessary legal basis to curtail its nuclear program.
The author – by focusing only on the West and Israel – also fails to appreciate the fears of other regional parties, and the extent to which a nuclear Iran would destabilize the already fragile region. These states – Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Egypt – are greatly worried about having a Persian, Shiite nuclear hegemon on their doorsteps. For political, religious, as well as, strategic reasons, these nations are opposed to a nuclear Iran. A nuclear Iran would in all likelihood engulf the Middle East in a destructive arms race, one that could only end in disaster.
By failing to take the regional powers’ views into consideration, as well as, Iran’s failure to live up to its treaty obligations, the author reduces what is a complex regional interplay, into a simple David v. Goliath dyad; and who would root against an underdog?
There are no simple answers to this problem, but at the least, Iran must show a willingness to live up to its treaty obligations, and the West (the U.S.A and Israel in particular), show some restraint and pay more than lip-service to Iran’s right to have a peaceful nuclear power program.