Next month, negotiators from the major powers and Iran will arrive in Baghdad for a second round of negotiations on the nuclear dispute. The Iranian foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, claims that the negotiations called the P5+1 talks will “quickly and easily” resolve the issue.
If these negotiations succeed in getting Iran to end its domestic nuclear enrichment program, with the stated intention of providing peaceful nuclear energy and accepting a foreign external enrichment program, then a military confrontation may be averted. But don’t get your hopes up. Why would diplomacy succeed in getting Iran to end its nuclear program at this point in the game?
The most likely outcome is that the diplomatic solution will be inconclusive and that Iran will seek to buy time until it reaches the nuclear breakthrough stage where no exter-nal military action is capable of eliminating its nuclear capacity. Just look at the situation from Iran’s perspective: why give up your nuclear program now when you are so close to finally achieving your goal? Iran has already endured harsh sanctions for so long, and to give up now would be a sign of weakness.
What’s more, every negotiator wants to negotiate from a position of strength; Iran attains that position when it reaches the breakthrough stage where it can extract greater concessions from its neighbors and Western powers.
The peaceful options, primarily greater economic sanctions, have proven to be ineffec-tive. While sanctions may work against countries that are nominally democratic (i.e. South Africa in the 1980s), they have a track record of failure against authoritarian states such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Sanctions can target ordi-nary Iranians in the hopes that the citizens of the Iran will compel the leadership to change.
But when a nation’s leadership can massacre its citizens wholesale without the risk of West-ern military intervention, then sanctions won’t work. Remember, the last dictator to give up his nuclear program in 2006, Muammar Qaddafi, ended up being sodomized and shot to death in 2011 by rebels after the West intervened. The clear lesson going forward for rogue states is to not give up your nukes. From the Iranian national security perspective, it makes a lot of sense to pursue nuclear weapons. They perceive, with some legitimacy, that there are enemies all around them, i.e. the United States, Israel, Iraq and other Gulf countries. Over the past 60 years, no nuclear power has been toppled by a foreign power.
No country could topple the Tehran regime without risking nuclear war. For this same rea-son and for many others, we cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran.
There are too many risks associated with a nuclear Iran to allow them to continue on this path. Our main worry isn’t necessarily the “Hidden Mullah” doomsday scenario even in spite of the regime’s apocalyptic rhetoric. Indeed, the Iranian leadership has demon-strated that above all else it cares about regime survival. What should be worrying is that Iran is very good at attacking Western interests in ways that fall short of provoking regime change.
With nuclear weapons, Iran would become more brazen. It would be able to get away with everything short of a direct attack on the U.S. mainland. Look at Pakistan and North Korea, two recent nuclear powers. North Korea was able to sink a South Korean destroyer, an act which killed 46 sailors, with impunity. South Korea could only respond with eco-nomic sanctions. When Pakistani terrorists attacked Mumbai in 2008, killing 173 people, India had to exercise restraint and, for a lack of a better phrase, suck it up. Iran is far less isolated than North Korea; it has many proxies in the region and agents throughout the world.
Iran could extend its nuclear umbrella to organizations such as Hezbollah and coun-tries such as Syria. Terrorists and other asymmetric forces would have the protection of nuclear deterrence. A nuclear Iran would be a huge setback for the right to protect norm and humanitarian intervention. The kind of intervention that occurred in Libya would never again be possible. Iran and its allies would be able to kill their citizens under the protection of the Iranian nuclear umbrella. There are also proliferation consequences; it just takes one A.Q. Khan to spread nuclear weapons technology to another half dozen new countries.
We have an ally in Israel that has demonstrated its willingness to take the heat from any preemptive strike on Iran. If this latest round of negotiations fails, then the United States must support Israel by providing it with the armaments and hardware it needs to neutralize the Iranian nuclear program.
The Gulf countries are united against Iran. The Saudis support an attack; King Abdul-lah reportedly urged the American ambassador to “cut off the head of the snake,” referring to Iran. In the Wikileaks cable releases, it was revealed that Qatar also agreed to allow U.S. forces to use its airfields to strike Iran. The UAE ambassador to the United States aptly summed up the situation: “A military attack on Iran by whomever would be a disaster, but Iran with a nuclear weapon would be a bigger disaster.”
Contact Alan He at [email protected]