Friday, April 3, 2015

Iran and the Negotiations

Why does Iran want a nuclear weapon? We are focused on shutting down their development of atomic technology because we feel threatened by Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, hatred of Israel, and antipathy for the United States that was born of our sponsorship of the Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.

I’m not in favor of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. I am sure they will not stop, framework for an eventual agreement or not, trying to construct nuclear weapons until they have them. But I am thinking about the issue in a new way.

We think they want to develop the technology to bomb Israel to eradicate its existence and to threaten us with terrorist attacks within our borders. But that’s a self-centered view.

Maybe it’s not about us.

In the West, we don’t appreciate the deep fissure that lies between the Sunni and Shi’ite branches of Islam. The feud between Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity doesn’t come close. The days of Protestant heretics being burned at the stake are five centuries past. Religious wars among Christians flared and died out long ago. Christians of differing sects might think others are going to hell, but the time is long past when we thought we had a role in sending them there.

Maybe Iran sees the Sunni/Al Quaida/Islamic State threat, has seen it coming for far longer than we have, and feels the need to protect itself. That could be a defensive reason for their wanting—to put it crassly—a bomb.

Ever since the U.S. detonated two bombs over Japan in 1945, everyone has understood the devastation of such weapons. There is no need to use them, but peoples have felt a need to have them, so no one dares to attack them.

Seriously, a nuclear weapon is an ace in the hole.

Pakistan has a bomb. But they are not in the confluence of the Middle East. They are a split part of the Indian subcontinent that the British mistakenly thought would bring peace to South Asia when they cut their crown jewel colony loose. Pakistan developed a bomb because India did so first. That is not relevant to this issue.

Iran may want a nuclear weapon as a deterrent to Sunni terrorism (and that does not in any way imply that all Sunnis are terrorists), but having a bomb would also enhance their prestige as the leader of the Shi’ite branch in the Middle East.

Are you catching on that the whole issue may rest within a regional struggle for influence and power that only marginally involves the West and Israel?

Look at the proxy war in Yemen between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Damn, it reminds one of the proxy wars that took place between the Soviet Union and the United States in places like Korea, Vietnam, and Angola.

Iran plays the long game as does most of the world. Sadly, we do not. 20 years is nothing to them if the sanctions lift, their economy recovers, and domestic pressures for change ease. They can wait.

We might be able to slow it down, but we will not stop any government determined to develop nuclear weaponry. This is indeed the brave new world we inhabit. Let’s not lose our perspective while we deal with these emerging threats.