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Iran’s nuclear ambıtıons an offense, not defense

Posted by alanmirs on November 27, 2011

27 November 2011, Sunday / MAHIR ZEYNALOV, SUNDAY’S ZAMAN

It is not surprising for some to see that Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weapons capabilities at the expense of crippling sanctions because of its security concerns that are increasing by the day as Western nations sharpen their tone on Iran.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak acknowledged last week on a PBS show that he would “probably” want a nuclear bomb, if he were Iranian. A prominent international relations professor, John Mearsheimer, told his students at a University of Chicago lecture earlier this year that he would advise Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to weaponize Iran’s nuclear program if he was his national security adviser. Being the most effective deterrent in today’s world, it should not be surprising to see Iran, surrounded by hostile Arab neighbors and Israel, striving to go nuclear.

Moreover, Turkish President Abdullah Gül told The Guardian during a visit to Britain that “it is important to put oneself in their [Iranians’] shoes and see how they perceive threats,” when asked about Iran’s nuclear aspirations.

Iran vociferously claims that the brouhaha around what it says is a “peaceful nuclear program” is always something of a manufactured crisis, but this should offer little consolation for Israel and its chief patron, the US. Pundits have a hard time finding ways to nudge Iran in the right direction, but the question is whether Iran will ever abandon its nuclear program in the face of the threats it faces in the region and beyond.

The Saudis asked Washington to cut the “head of the snake,” referring to Iran, WikiLeaks cables revealed. Israelis are often saber-rattling, trying to give a wake-up call to the international community that Iran’s menace looms large every passing day. In the latest twist of the saga, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed in a recent report that Iran, in defiance of international efforts to curb its nuclear program, is developing capabilities that could easily translate into a nuclear weapon. This has definitely increased the number of military threats Iran is already facing. The exuberant endorsement Western nations gave for the IAEA report has put Iranian officials on the defensive.

But who is to blame for Iran’s never-ceasing nuclear ambitions? Experts claim that Iran’s nuclear activities are not a response to threats from the region, but that it is Iran’s suspected nuclear buildup that has ramped up the arms race in the Middle East.

Patrick Clawson disagrees that Iran’s nuclear ambitions have anything to do with the threats it faces and instead believes that any nation acquiring nuclear capability will prompt their neighbors to build more arms against them.

“Indeed, since Iran’s nuclear ambitions became known, the Gulf nations and Israel have ordered more than $150 billion in advanced weapons aimed at Iran, and Turkey has agreed to NATO’s planned missile defense deployment,” Clawson said, who is director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “That suggests Iran’s national security has been hurt by the nuclear program — which has not yet produced a bomb.”

Iran might be acting in a manner largely detrimental to its strategic interests in the Middle East and inimical to Western powers, but in reality, there has never been an open and honest national debate about the costs and benefits of Iran’s nuclear program, claims Karim Sadjadpour from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He asserts that the regime has long framed the argument and says that “arrogant imperialist powers want to deprive Iran of this wonderfully advanced nuclear technology that would turn it into a superpower.”

If Iran’s nuclear ambitions can be explained by what many say is its ideologically corrupt regime’s sole surviving card, a democratic regime in Tehran would be more cooperative with the West with its suspected nuclear program.

“I strongly believe that a democratic regime in Iran would have no interest in pursuing a bomb,” Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, said.

US President Barack Obama reached out to Iranians in the early months of his presidency, pledging that a more cooperative Iran will find its place among members of the international community, otherwise risk more isolation. He publicly congratulated Iranians for the Nowruz holiday in March 2009, yet sharpened his rhetoric within a few months. His diplomats marshaled international support to impose the harshest rounds of United Nations sanctions on Iran, and European states leveled criticism against the regime in Tehran for its brutal crackdown on protesters following the June 2009 presidential elections many believe were widely fraudulent. A tiny and short-lived window of opportunity presented itself where the West offered to cooperate if Iran shifted its position on its nuclear program, but this failed.

As experts seek ways to stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb these days, it would be a wiser strategy to find out why Iran wants a nuclear bomb.

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