I have been meaning to write this post for a while but with the announcement that Germany and the five other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plan to report Iran to the Security Council over its nuclear program I think it is even more fitting now. I agree that the current situation concerning Iran’s nuclear program is a serious one, but any response to this looming crisis other then a diplomatic response will ultimately result in failure and death.
There are a number of options available to the Unite States and the international community as a whole to deal with the Iranian nuclear crisis. They include economic sanctions, direct military action, or continued diplomatic negotiations.
Let me address each option directly. First and for most sanctions will accomplish nothing, aside from making those who impose the sanctions feel good about themselves. All one needs to do to back up this assumption is to look at the success of recent economic sanctions such as the 14 years of sanctions imposed on Burma, 40 years of sanctions imposed on Cuba, or the failed oil for food program that was part of economic sanctions imposed on Iraq. With the exception of South African economic sanctions have done nothing to cause political change in the desired countries. And to add to the ineffective nature of economic sanctions is that our current administration is either incapable or unwilling to actually enforce these sanctions in respect to U.S. firms.
Further more, as pointed out in a New York Times editorial posted on the Global Policy Forum website, sanctions do nothing to weaken corrupt dictators and governments. Instead they serve to provide these corrupt leaders with a scapegoat for their citizens living conditions and only serve to empower them even more while causing greater death, disease, pain and suffering for the country’s citizens.
Utilizing a military option is the option which holds the greatest potential for failure, both concerning Iran and the region as a whole. With the announcement that Iran and Syria have allied, meaning that if one is attacked the other will also respond, utilizing military means to settle this crisis seems to be a poor decision. Add to this that The Times of London reported in early December that Israel is preparing its military for possible strikes on secret uranium enrichment sites in Iran by the end of March. If Israel were to strike Iran’s uranium enrichment sites, even without U.S. approval, it would force the U.S. military into a conflict that would stretch from Syria to Pakistan. This is because it actually doesn’t really matter whether the U.S. or Israel performs the air strike, because Iran would retaliate, which also means Syria would retaliate. The problem is that Iran really can't retaliate against Israel, but it could easily retaliate against the United States, so if Israel carries out air strikes, it will be the United States that will suffer for it.
These retaliatory strikes from Iran against the United States will come predominantly in Afghanistan and Iraq. In both countries there are a great number of assets that will cause a lot of trouble for United States. And the last thing, the U.S. military wants in Iraq is a Shia revolt while they're dealing with a Sunni revolt, accompanied by increased hostilities between Syria and Israel. This would basically escalate hostilities in the region to a boiling point. Add to this the fact the U.S. military is already stretched extremely thin and you see a very bad scenario starting to form.
This is why I see no solution to the problem other then continued diplomatic talks and negotiations. But before I go into this I think it is very important to first look at why Iran feels they need a nuclear weapons program (even though they claim that isn’t their goal).
Iran’s main rational is directly related to Iran's experience during the Iraqi war, when the Iraqis were using weapons of mass destruction and the international community didn't lift a finger. In fact, countries like the United States helped Iraq use these weapons on Iran. The United States sold Iraq the materials for these weapons, then looked the other way and denied the fact that Iraq had been using them. From this experience, the Iranian decision makers have come to the conclusion that they need to be self-reliant. And if they're ever in a situation like that again, they would have a nuclear weapon in their arsenal as a deterrent.
One must also look at our current administrations brash and cowboy like foreign policy of preemption as another reason for the increased nuclear escalation in Iran. Take for example the presidents use of the term “axis of evil”. When decision makers in Iran are considering whether or not to pursue a nuclear weapons program they need only look at the difference between how the United States deals with countries who have nuclear capabilities compared to those who do not. The message is rather clear, North Korea has nuclear capabilities and the U.S. is not threatening it with possible military action, instead they are encouraging North Korea to engage in multilateral talks. Then look at how the policy of preemption was used on Iraq who does not possess nuclear capabilities and one’s conclusion as to why Iran wants nuclear weapons is rather simple.
Also stemming from the use of the term “axis of evil” the main casualty in Iran has been the democratic movement. By referring to Iran as part of the “axis of evil” the president has basically undercut the reformers in Iran, because the reformers were inevitably associated with good relations with United States under the Clinton and Carter administration. This was the main reason why a right wing radical government was elected in Iran in their most recent elections.
I think that everyone agrees that a Middle East free of nuclear weapons is a positive goal. In order to achieve this goal current negotiations’ concerning Iran’s nuclear programs are not enough. Instead the negotiating process must be one that engages the entire Middle East, with the most important country being Israel. In order for there to be any hope of a Middle East free of nuclear weapons their must be an honest and earnest attempt at nuclear nonproliferation in the region. The most obvious place to start would be with the country that currently has nuclear weapons, meaning Israel. I feel that it is very hypocritical of western nations to stress the importance of Iran not having nuclear weapons, while turning a blind eye to the nuclear capabilities of Israel. There can be no chance of sustainable long-term peace in the region so long as Israel is in possession of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, there is no real need for Israel to have nuclear capabilities when considering that Israel is allied with the military might of both the United States and members of the European Union.
Until a serious attempt at real nuclear nonproliferation in the Middle East is made there can be no solution to the nuclear crisis of Iran, and failure to properly address these issues will ultimately result in the death and destruction of thousands upon thousands of people.