Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Iran : A ‘Nuclear Test’ Of Western Diplomacy

nuclear iran--For the last half of century, it has been increasingly debated whether ‘it is necessary to acquire nuclear weapons to became a superpower, and if the answer is yes, then is it necessary to achieve disarmament?’ In the end of WWII, according to many observers, the unnecessary nuclear attack on Japan was the first display of nuclear power by the United States. And during the Cold War, the race between the ideologically divided United States and the Soviet Union to make inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) paved the way for a more complicated nuclear race. Since the fall of Soviet Union and the advancement of modern nuclear technology, many countries have emerged as new regional superpowers. One of the most notable examples of this was the tit-for-tat nuclear test between India and Pakistan in 1997. This started a new phase of nuclear arms race in the world. But now the race is in Asia, and nuclear standoffs in Iran and North Korea are part of this new generation arms race.

After the harsh experience in Iraq, it is quite clear that the United States and its allies are not thinking of taking military action against Iran as first priority to end the nuclear standoff. The key fundamental question in the Iran issue is: does Tehran have the right to become a nuclear power to protect its national security? On the other hand, it’s an open secret that Tehran is also lying about its nuclear program. Iran feels that it has the fundamental right to enrich uranium, with the ultimately goal of giving Iran the means to produce nuclear fuel and energy. However, the United States and its allies think that if Iran is allowed to enrich uranium and become a nuclear state, Tehran could become a major threat to international security. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran has been considered a terrorist state by many Western nations, including the United States and the United Kingdom. Moreover, any nuclear weapon made by Iran could be used against Israel.

A simple explanation of the opposite positions of Tehran and Washington in this nuclear debate is that the US cannot accept the possibility of Iran being a regional superpower, and Iran cannot risk being occupied by US forces. Thus, the whole issue of Iran’s nuclear programme and the continuous Western diplomatic initiative to solve the problem is itself facing a ‘Nuclear Test.’ if we make a neutral analysis of Iran issue we can see several scenarios. The way in which the US attacked Iraq and took control of Baghdad has made Tehran uneasy. The firebrand Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei thinks that only nuclear weapons can save Tehran from a potential US military action. Russia and China also support Iran in this because they both have economic relationships with the country and its huge oil reserve. On the other hand, should the US occupy Iran by any future military action then Russia and China would lose geo-political ground in the Middle East and the Arab World.
If the US decided to attack Iran, it would probably call it a pre-emptive action - an exercise of the inherent right of self-defense under the UN Charter. The US will not be able to take the other main legal path by which a state can attack another - authorization of force by the Security Council - as Russia and China, both veto holders, would oppose sanctions against Iran, let alone military action. Nor would the US invoke the growing doctrine of humanitarian intervention, as the conditions needed for that do not apply. Therefore, the US would probably seek to justify an attack under the self-defense principle, but first it would have to outline the nature of the threat. Currently, this would refer to Iran's recently discovered development of enrichment technology, and the fact that it was concealed therefore a forfeiture of trust; its refusal to follow Security Council demands to suspend enrichment; and its president's hostile comments as to Israel's right to exist.
All of these could be seen as a threat to the US, its interests and to regional and world security. At some future date, the US might bring further arguments, depending on how Iran's nuclear program develops. Having defined the threat, the US would then invoke Article 51 of the UN Charter, which allows self-defense: 'Nothing in the present charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security'.

Despite these possibilities, however, it would not be easy to attack Iran and gain ground. To begin with, any attack on Iran would threaten Israel’s security. Secondly, this military action would create political unrest in Iraq, as the war-torn country is now ruled by the Shiites. There is no doubt that the new Iraqi government would support Tehran if any future military action were taken by the US. Thirdly, it would boost Sunni insurgency in Iraq, and there is already an increasing possibility of a Shiia-Sunni civil war. Furthermore, Iran has very good relations with the Leftists governments in Latin America, including Venezuela, which Washington sees as a threat to its security. Finally, the US and its allies are not in a position, regarding military capability, to take any military action against Iran.

Recently, US Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte said that Tehran could have a nuclear bomb ready by 2010 or 2015: 'Iran seems to be determined to develop nuclear weapons. We don't have clear-cut knowledge, but the estimate we have made indicates that by some time between the beginning of the next decade and the middle of the next decade they might have developed a nuclear weapon, which is a cause of great concern'. This concern has made Washington take diplomatic initiative more seriously. The US move to support a diplomatic solution through the Six Nation Initiative, taken by permanent members of UN Security Council Russia, China, Britain and France with Germany, represents a major shift in American policy, but does not in itself pave the way for a solution. The Six Nation package for Iran could include allowances for Tehran to buy spare parts for civilian aircraft made by US manufacturers, and could lift restrictions on the use of US technology in agriculture, provision of light water nuclear reactors, and enriched fuel and support for the Iranian membership of the World Trade Organization. But with this package Iran would have to give up that which it has proclaimed most dear to its interests - the ability to enrich uranium. This has assumed almost mythical importance in Iran as a symbol of its right to a hi-tech future. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice thinks that this move will lead to direct talks with Iran and an agreement on a package to end its enrichment of uranium. And if Iran refuses to accept the package it will improve the US' arguments for military action later, while helping to keep Russia and China on board.

It is possible that Iran will agree to explore the idea of talks, although its initial response has been that talks would be acceptable but that suspension of enrichment is not negotiable. If this attitude continues, there will be no talks. On the other hand, it appears to have reached a plateau in its current enrichment program, having announced that it has enriched uranium to nuclear power levels. The next stage requires a huge amount of work on centrifuge cascades, and it might be that now is not a bad time for it to pause. Moreover, a recent letter sent by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to US President Bush was a wise move, making Washington put more emphasis on diplomatic initiative to solve the problem rather than looking at military action as the first option.

Under NPT’s Article 5, any member state has the right to declare that 'extraordinary events have jeopardised the supreme interests of the State'. Then it can give three months notice to leave the NPT, leavin it free to do whatever it wants. On May 7, Iran's parliament threatened to force the government to withdraw if the standoff was not resolved 'peacefully'. On the other hand, Article-6 commits them to 'pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date, and to nuclear disarmament'. The nuclear powers claim that they have done this by destroying warheads, but critics say they have not really moved towards nuclear disarmament. Critics also argue that the UK and the US have broken the treaty by transferring nuclear technology from one to another. Thus, in this sense Iran has every right to continue its 'peaceful' nuclear program. Furthermore, Israel has a similar nuclear program which the US and it’s Western allies have never opposed.

Recently former US President Bill Clinton's Middle East negotiator, Dennis Ross, who himself called for direct US talks with Iran, said that the sticking point for any future nuclear negotiation regarding Iran would be the US demand for Iran to suspend its programme. He says that Washington must recapture the Iran initiative, and this would force the Iranians to 'figure out what to do'. There are two possible scenarios - one in which President Bush would not want to leave office with one of the powers he named in the 'axis of evil' having developed nuclear weapons capability, and which inherently implies military action; the other, Bush leaving with the knowledge that his domestic position was weak and that attacking Iran would unleash chaos and violence. Bush would leave the Iran problem for his successor, by supporting Iranian dissidents and spurring a people's revolution within the Islamic Republic.

Taufiq Aziz, is Bangladesh Based Journalist & Analyst in Middle Eastern and South Asian Issues,
Source: http://www.geotimes.ge/index.php?m=home&newsid=179
Posted by ali ghanandi-irannuk


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