Blown out of proportion?


Following the recent International Atomic Energy Agency’s report on Iran’s nuclear programme there is once again a wearily familiar spotlight on the Middle East and nuclear development, writes Mike Palmer.

Iran has for years harboured ambitions to obtain nuclear weapon status and is now, according to the IAEA report, closer than ever to that ambition. Whether they are capable of actual nuclear proliferation, however, is uncertain and probably unlikely. Despite this, the country is now facing under intense pressure from the US and Israel to stop any development of nuclear weapons.

Though the IAEA report gives clear evidence of possible nuclear development, it seems only reactionary to now view Iran as a tangible threat. They are obviously not yet in possession of any sort of nuclear weapons, and it may still be a long time before they are in their possession, especially considering the possibility of economic sanctions.

What’s more, there is also no evidence to suggest that Iran would use nuclear weapons to initiate an attack on another country. Obtaining nuclear weapon status for Iran is a way of signalling their intentions as a powerful country. Israel, however, sees Iranian nuclear development as an existential threat to their state and they have threatened military response to any development of such weapons.

It is delusional for Iran to imagine that obtaining nuclear weapon status would enhance their standing as a country considering the internal strife. The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, would do far better to focus his attention on Iran’s own economic troubles rather than diverting the country’s resources to a program that will have no happy ending. If they are to go on to develop nuclear weapons there would be an inexorable tension with Israel that could only lead to a showdown. If they are to be unsuccessful with the development then huge amounts of national resources would have gone to waste, along with a decline in foreign relations.

The main focus point of this situation is the relationship between Israel and Iran, but it is the United States that will inevitably be the deciding player. As key allies to Israel, they will and always have supported Israeli decisions within the Middle East. This is unlikely to change any time soon. Such is the huge influence pro-Israeli lobbyist groups exert on national opinion that any criticism of Israeli policy leads to harsh rebuttals and Barack Obama would be loath to denounce Israel so close to the coming presidential elections. If Israel was to attack Iran, which is probably the worst case scenario, the US would be involved one way or the other.

US military involvement in Middle Eastern affairs has been constantly unfortunate and unsuccessful for the past twenty years. It is utter fantasy to think that intervention by the US in Iran would lead to anything but negative consequences. This is a country that not less than ten years ago presented a report to the U.N. Security Council giving evidence that Iran’s neighbours, Iraq, were developing nuclear weapons and therefore represented an immediate threat. They went to war with Iraq over this fanciful claim, a war that remains unresolved after nearly a decade of fighting.

This new attention afforded to Iran does bare a sharp resemblance to that which was given to Iraq in 2003. The United States should reflect on their intervention in Iraq and similarly that of Afghanistan. Neither has been a success and both wars have only contributed to further a disenchantment of the West and America from the Muslim populations. Intervention in Iran, as unlikely as it may be, would only further enhance the anti-American sentiment that is felt so keenly by the Islamic community. What is needed with Iran is restraint shown on all sides.