Iran and the Bomb: Three Endings
August 14, 2003
In the years since the end of the Cold War, the United States has put a strategic focus on containing countries that are capable of challenging its superpower status. But the events of Sept. 11, 2001, convinced the Americans that antiterrorism and antiproliferation are their highest priority. Considering the general political atmosphere in the United States, it was just a matter of time before it started investigating Irans nuclear plan.
After a swift victory in Iraq, the Americans came to believe that it was a good time to solve the issue of Irans nuclear program. So they went ahead and began pressuring Iran to sign an additional protocol to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. In a way, the controversy over Irans nuclear program is just the inevitable result of Americas strategic readjustment. But one cant help but wonder what the results will be in this round of the U.S. battle with Iran.
Iran suspects that the United States is politicizing the nuclear issue and is really trying to kill Irans legitimate nuclear plan and activities in the name of nonproliferation. So Iran insists that the international community should guarantee Iran the right to obtain advanced nuclear technology and develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. In a press conference hosted by the British Foreign Minister Jack Straw during his recent visit to Iran, the Iranian foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi, told the press, When we make any concessions on our side, we have the right to request the other side to make a positive response accordingly.
Having drawn lessons from the Clinton administrations handling of the North Korean nuclear issue, the Bush administration believes it is necessary to seek a thorough solution to the issue by uprooting Irans nuclear programs and eliminating any possibility of their re-emerging. The United States has explicitly refused to bargain with Iran about its right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The general U.S. strategy is to eliminate any possibility that Iran might develop nuclear weapons through a program of checks and inspections; to create barriers and obstacles against Irans peaceful development of nuclear energy; to pressure certain countries to terminate their nuclear partnerships with Iran; and to eventually suffocate and kill Irans nuclear program in the cradle.
Taking the current situation into consideration, the current controversy over Irans nuclear program has three possible outcomes:
Scenario one: Iran will fight to the end.
One possible scenario is that Iran would fight to its last breath, refusing to accept any flash inspections from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Since the  Islamic Revolution, U.S.-Iranian relations have ebbed and flowed but have always been marked by confrontation and conflict. Irans nuclear program actually has a lot to do with the current state of the relationship between the United States and Iran. If Iran wants to change its strategically passive position in its relationship with the United States, it must possess some decisive leverage and develop a strategic counterbalance against the United States.
In the past two years, the U.S. antiterrorism campaign has succeeded in Afghanistan and Iraq. The United States is tightening its net around Iran. This galvanized Irans determination to pursue nuclear weapons even more vigorously. If Iran does sign the additional protocol, its nuclear program will die in the cradle or be put off indefinitely. Iran will lose the opportunity to turn the situation around in its confrontation with the United States.
Recently, Irans religious elites and high-level officials have started discussions about Irans future. The conservative extremists claim that Iran should develop nuclear weapons at any expense and in spite of U.S. pressure. They propose that Iran should completely isolate itself from the international community and revert to its not West, not East position of the early revolutionary era. As the conservatives are currently in charge of setting the countrys foreign policy, it is possible that Iran might make some drastic moves under intense pressure.
If that is the case, the United States, once again, will probably dish out a resolution to fix Iran at Septembers International Atomic Energy Agency conference. At the moment, the United States is in the process of negotiating with 10 allied countries to block Iranian ships and planes carrying nuclear materials in the open sea and air. If necessary, the United States is likely to use the military option and launch surgical strikes against Irans sensitive nuclear facilities.
Not long ago, an poll conducted by a U.S. news outlet showed that 56 percent of the U.S. public supports the governments tough approach to Irans nuclear program. As the election is approaching, it is likely the Bush administration will use the issue of Irans nuclear program to garner more public support.
Scenario Two: Iran and the United States will reach a secret deal
This scenario is possible because Iran is holding the card that Americans badly need. Iran is a big kid on the Western Asian block with great geopolitical significance and a unique religious situation. Iran has a major influence on the peace and stability of the region.
In the Middle East, Iran has close links with Lebanons Hezbollah and Palestines Hamas. Anxious to push forward its road map peace plan, the United States is frustrated with Hamas constant provocations but has yet to come up with a good solution.
In Iraq, after years of maneuvering, Iran has built a large body of political supporters among the Shiites and has a sizable military presence in the country. Without Irans full cooperation, the Americans wont be able to get the support of the Shiites in the South.
Besides, Iran has arrested many Al-Qaeda fighters, many of them senior members of the organization. America has been drooling to get hold of them, in the hope that they might help in the quest to find Osama bin Laden and destroy the intelligence and operations systems of Al-Qaeda.
Although Iran and the United States have been in a constant state of confrontation for decades, communication between the two has always been flowing on some level. The way Iran and the United States communicated with each other during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq suggests that the possibility of the two reaching a secret deal on Irans nuclear program has always existed.
Scenario Three: Iran will make unilateral concessions.
At the moment, Irans biggest challenge is the unified voice of the international community, which is now insisting that Iran sign an additional protocol to the NPT providing for tougher inspections before discussing any further cooperation on nuclear energy. The European Union has made the additional protocol a prerequisite for its signing a new E.U.-Iran trade and cooperation agreement. Russia, which has worked with Iran on nuclear development, is also concerned by the possibility of Iran developing a nuclear-weapons program. Iran might find itself forced to make concessions when it realizes that there is little hope of dividing the international community.
The Iranians will not find it impossible to make such compromises. Islamic law contains provisions that allow certain practices to be sacrificed in times of emergency or urgent necessity. Such acts of compromise have been seen in Iran before. When Ayatollah Khomeini signed the 1988 cease-fire that ended the Iran-Iraq War, he famously remarked that even if the cease-fire was a glass of poisonous wine, he would still drink it. http://www.worldpress.org/Asia/1421.cfm