The current negotiations with Iran have been fraught with an intentional and unintentional ignorance of the consequential effects of a nuclear deal. That ignorance has laid the groundwork for conflict on issues that can be solved with political solutions. Ignorance has also laid the groundwork for fear, and that fear has breed a blindness and suffering through constant anger and conflict that is rather cyclical in nature. This ignorance is perpetuated in the form of three myths: First, the assertion that an Iranian nuclear deal would empower Iran in the future and would enable Iranian nuclear proliferation; Second, the belief that the Iranians want nuclear weapons and that Iran is an irrational actor; Third, the idea that historical precedent does not support this kind of diplomacy. Finally, I will refute the points made in Usama Bhatti’s article.
The premise that Iran would be in a belligerent position of strength following this deal fails to take into account the short-term restrictions of the deal and the long-term follow-up measures that will accompany a better relationship with the country. In the short term, Iran will have to phase out all enriched uranium over 5% capacity, limit its supply of centrifuges to just over six thousand in total, take restrictions in nuclear transfers, and undergo surveillance, inspections, and investigations under a maximum 24 day compliance schedule for over 15 years, depending on which nuclear functions that are examined. This includes the time frame for uranium ore inspection and the different time frame for the inspections of centrifuge devices and rotors. The deal also keeps US sanctions on General Qasem Soleimani and many other Iranian military men that have claimed American lives. All in all, Iran will not be allowed to engage in any activities, which include research and development, that would put Iran any bit closer to getting a nuclear weapon.
That being said, critics of the deal say that it puts too much trust in Iran to comply with the provisions and that President Obama compromised too much on the interests of Russia, China, and Iran, in the form of sanctions relief. The problem with the former and the latter is that while Iran has fueled proxy wars in the Middle East and is a part of the current instability in Iraq, the United States should trust Iran on this one issue because if Iran were to go nuclear after the provisions of the deal expire, then Iran would be putting itself in a position of weakness once again. That position of weakness would come from an agitation of Europe, China, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, while also putting Pakistan in an awkward position. The reason is because Pakistan has a two-way trade relationship with Saudi Arabia and relies on the US for cooperation on counter terrorism, while Iran has yet to start trading in large quantities with Pakistan. The result from an agitation of Saudi Arabia and Israel would mean war, isolation, and or an arms race in the Middle East.
A similar agitation on a nuclear-armed Iran would come from China and Europe. This would be very dangerous for Iran from an economic standpoint because Iran relies on the Europeans, but more so the Chinese, for oil and business interests. Some may say that China has been enabling Iran’s nuclear program and that China can offer Iran sanctuary from international law with its imports of Iranian oil and its emerging institutions like the AIIB. However, China’s position is that Iran should only use its nuclear program for peaceful purposes. That is why China has continued to push for diplomatic solutions because the Chinese would not benefit from having an unstable middle east as their economic activities in the region have been increasing, especially with Pakistan. The other reason why the Chinese have been pushing for the deal is because the west and Israel pose a military threat to China’s economic interests in Iran. If the US and or Israel were to go to war with Iran, China would be put in a tense situation as diplomatic and economic ties have become stronger with Iran and China has a vested interest in its relationship with the United States regardless of whether China’s own institutions have become stronger.
In other words, Iran would never militarily go nuclear because there is no strategic advantage to it. Ayatollah Ali Khomeini’s rhetoric has focused on the strategic vision of modernization and the strengthening of national interests. That particular rhetoric has been followed by a continual denial that Iran will not pursue a nuclear weapon because it would violate religious edicts. Some critics would say that Khomeini’s inflammatory comments toward Israel and the United States are a cause for concern and that freeing Iran of sanctions would put Iran on a course to harm the United States and its allies. While on the surface this may seem true with its support for terrorism, the opposite is actually the case looking into the long-term. There is a large contrast between the rhetoric that is anti foreign and the negotiations that actually take place. Many authoritarian systems including China, North Korea, Russia, and most terrorist organizations rely on anti foreign rhetoric to serve as a source of legitimacy.
In the case of Iran, this anti foreign source of legitimacy has its direct origins in US policy because the US alienated Iran by supporting the oppressive Shah of Iran and serving as a cautious partner with the British over the allocation of Iranian oil rights. The Eisenhower administration also funded and supported the overthrow of Prime Minister Mossadegh, despite the fact that supporting liberal democratic forces to counteract the minister’s increasing abuse of powers would have been a better option. The US then under the Kennedy and Nixon administration venally increased Iran’s dependence on US corporations and funneled money to support Iran’s brutal dictatorship. What followed was the creation of the Islamic Republic, led by Ruhollah Khomeini, whose leadership came to power because it was a regime that had its practicality in ensuring the Iranian people that westerners would no longer corrupt Iran and hurt their people. However, instead of realizing that an approach of open-minded integrity would be a way of reconciling with Iran we chose to isolate and further alienate Iran.
This further alienation came from the actions under President George W Bush and Ronald Reagan. The Bush Administration created a committee to ensure regime change in Iran, they supported the anti-Iranian Jundullah and Iranian MEK terrorists, who were responsible for the taking of Iranian lives inside and outside the country, as well as the supplying of weapons to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War under Ronald Reagan. From this it can be correctly posited that Iran supports Bashar Al-Assad and many other terrorist groups because enemies surround the country, which include Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf States, Israel, and US troops that are close to Iran’s border, and Iran believed for the longest time that it needed to enable these forces just to continue its very survival. But this deal is a departure from that mentality because the radical hardliners, including the Quds Force who are responsible for Iran’s nastiest covert operations, came out against the deal precisely because a deal could mean the beginning of reconciliation with the west. This is why prominent Iranians, who have been victimized by their own government and have expressed their position by their own free will, have come out in support of the deal because it could open up new opportunities for the regime to moderate and integrate itself into the community of nations, which would involve decreasing its support for terrorism and radicalism in favor of diplomatic and military cooperation.
Contrast that scenario to the status quo. The result of our choosing to bully Iran for years was the creation of a nuclear program that is compromised of 19,000 centrifuges, stockpile uranium at over 5%, more heavy water and light reactors as well as the creation of isolated R&D projects. Even with this nuclear program, Israeli and American intelligence have never been able to pinpoint any attempt by Iran to use its nuclear infrastructure that would produce a nuclear weapon. The only time that they found any intelligence was a document supplied by the Iranian MEK, with its origin believed to be in Israel, while key IAEA leaders questioned the reliability of the intelligence and its scientific accuracy as it was used in 2008 and 2012 for its reports on Iranian nuclear activity from 2001 to 2003. Therefore, most of the evidence that points to an Iran bent on proliferation is questionable at best and this has been shown through years of journalism on this hot button issue.
Though transparency is an issue in Iran, but less so than with Israel because they have yet to comply fully with the NPT, the deal allows inspections of military facilities, which was at first verbally opposed by the supreme leader. In addition to this, the negotiations also carry a provision that will increase cooperation with Iran on R&D, which means that western officials will be working more closely with Iran and allow the IAEA to better verify compliance with nuclear infrastructure and research requirements. Plus it is also true that the Iranian nuclear program has focused its current research and technological development on robust enrichment and not rapid breakout capacity, which means that the program is by design meant to be used for peaceful purposes. Finally, the biggest flaw in the idea of Iranian existential nuclear threats is that Khomeini and most of the theocratic religious leaders, who hold considerable power in Iranian decision-making, are old men. Can we then even begin to posit that these people got that way by actually believing in suicide bombing? The answer to that question is no.
However, although Iran may have some merit on this situation, like China, Iran knows that it cannot be intransigent forever due to the fact that a failure to adapt to changing circumstances would mean destruction of the regime itself in the long-term. Basically what both regimes have been practicing, in order to balance practicality and anti foreignism, is a foreign policy of managed contradictions. Ali Khomeini and the late Mao Zedong always shouted anti western rhetoric. In spite of this, both regimes had different behaviors behind closed doors because the leadership knew that to gradually reach rapprochement would require a strategy of cooperation on actions to incrementally erase the tension that would be expressed in the form of rhetoric. In the case of China, the United States was able to form a positive sum relationship and China decreased its support for paramilitary groups, like the Viet Cong, as our economic interdependence increased. So historical precedent supports this kind of diplomacy because antiquated political legitimacy can be replaced over the long-term with a new kind of legitimacy that will be created by allowing Iran to become a power that will have to take on more responsibilities, which will make the country more apt to be compromising and civil on the geopolitical side of the equation. This would include cooperation on Sunni and Shia radicalism and an opportunity to increase economic integration, which is an empirical factor in decreasing the risk of nuclear proliferation, territorial aggression, and the rise of democratic forces in a country.
So now that you’ve heard my take on the nuclear deal, I will now address the points made in Usama Bhatti’s article. Usama claimed that Iran has had an unchanging political structure and that the Presidents will only listen to the Ayatollah when making decisions. This is not true at all because the political structure of Iran has changed from Ahmadinejad’s radical rhetoric to Hassan Rouhani’s reformist approach. The supreme leader recently has also called for a referendum of Palestinians to determine whether Israel should be a nation while not claiming at all that Jews would be massacred. While this is a silly request, it does show that Khomeini has no interest in violent means and that has been shown in the change of leadership. The next claim that Usama made was that Khomeini is secretly against the deal because they think that they can deceive the international community. But with all do respect, this makes absolutely no sense. Khomeini agreed to the nuclear deal in public because, as I explained earlier in this article, he wants to bring Iran back into the community of nations. Deceiving the international community would bring them back to isolation and would possibly lead to war.
Usama also cited American intelligence to claim Iran tried to produce nuclear weapons in the early 21st century. However, as I explained earlier, most of the sources that assert Iran tried to get nuclear weapons are faulty and have questionable scientific validities, assumptions, and origins, that can’t make any sound conclusions. He also claimed that Pakistan could be presented as a case study on this issue. However, in his article when he points out that Pakistan created a nuclear program in 1972, just before that time, India invaded Pakistan and that was the very reason Pakistan added a military component to the program because of its threat from India. Another claim that Usama made was that Pakistan signed onto a nuclear agreement with the international community and that Pakistan violated the deal. However, I would like to see a source on this seemingly anachronistic account because Pakistan never signed onto such a deal and is not a member of the NPT. The only time that a deal has been made, despite the fact that Pakistan’s security of its nuclear weapons has improved, was when the US tried to contain China by signing a nuclear agreement with India that gives India flexibility with its nuclear program, while Pakistan received no such consideration. This means that the Iran deal is one of a kind and diplomacy should be favored over hypocrisy and alienation.
Usama also claims that Iran and Pakistan have a strong relationship. This is again untrue because as I mentioned earlier, Pakistan and Iran do not have the kind of trade relationship that they have with Saudi Arabia and the two countries have had border incidents recently. The two countries have also supported conflicting movements in Afghanistan and have enabled sectarian tensions, which means that the increasing Sunni-Shia divide makes nuclear cooperation unlikely. He also argues that the nuclear deal makes war more likely, but this reasoning is very counterintuitive. His entire argument relies on the assumption that Iran would build a bomb, which I already explained would not happen because it would violate religious edicts and be against their national interests. It was also said in the article that Khomeini does not care about sanctions. But how can that be true when President Khatami tried to negotiate a nuclear deal to suspend uranium over 5% for sanctions relief? The answer is that Khomeini had to deal with the sanctions for so long because the west refused to engage with Iran.
Finally, Usama claimed that the provisions of the deal will only last ten years and that we will be aligning ourselves with terrorism. If you actually read the deal, Iran will have comply with NPT inspections, following the deal’s conclusion, which means that we can verify the activities of its nuclear program. Also, many of the provisions last 10, 15, 20, and 25 years, which means that Iran will not be restricted just in the short term. We therefore will not align ourselves with terrorism because the deal is meant to build trust and assurance with Iran and its intentions. This all happening even though Iran has never used its nuclear infrastructure to build a nuclear weapon.
Moderation is the only option in our foreign policy with Iran. When analyzing the political misunderstanding that continues to this day, it is why I personally want to contribute to the creation of a world that benefits all countries and puts integrity and open mindedness at the forefront of decisions. Hypocrisy is what defines our history and that must change. This is why the axis of evil must eventually become the allies of amity if we are to choose virtue over procrustean aggression and end the contradictions in our foreign policy with Iran.
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