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A Simple Solution for Nuclear Non-Proliferation for Iran and Middle East

(Image adapted from Wikicommons. Author: Justinian-of-Byzantium)

Hossein Askari
21st Century Wire

Let’s start by stating the obvious. The world does not need more nuclear powers beyond the far too many it already has—China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom. The Middle East does not need other countries—Iran, Egypt, Turkey or Saudi Arabia—acquiring such destructive weapons; if one of these countries goes nuclear, it is likely that the others will follow, increasing the likelihood of a nuclear disaster that could destroy the entire Middle East and much that is beyond. The countries, beyond the original five, that have joined the nuclear club have done so for largely defensive reasons—when a country feels threatened, the surest and cheapest measure of self-defense and deterrent to aggression is a nuclear arsenal. This feeling of insecurity for some countries has been heightened because of less than strict compliance to the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) by three of the signatories—Russia and the United States and to a lesser extent China.

Today the spotlight is on Iran going nuclear. The United States and its allies (France, the UK, Israel and some Arab countries) insist that Iran should not be allowed to have a nuclear warhead. America’s bellicose rhetoric essentially threatens a war with Iran and its ‘annihilation’ on top of its economic war currently in place. America argues that Iran is bad actor; Iran is a sponsor of terror; Iran is hell bent on invading other countries; and Iran interferes in the domestic affairs of other countries and threatens regional and global stability. All these accusations against a country that has not invaded a single country in over a hundred years but was itself partitioned by the allied forces in WWII, was invaded by Iraq in 1980 with Western and Arab support, suffered chemical weapon attacks, had a passenger plane on a scheduled flight from Tehran to Dubai shot down in 1988 (with the United States claiming it had mistaken the Airbus plane for a Tomcat fighter plane, a near impossibility, especially with American-Saudi AWACs in the air every second tracking all planes and ships in the region and U.S. pilots even knowing the voice of every Iranian air force pilot) and has faced economic sanctions for 40 years. It was because of its invasion by Iraq and American hostility that Iran nurtured Hezbollah, a party that only the United States and its allies consider terrorist, supports the regime of al-Assad because Syria was the only country to support Iran after Saddam Hussain’s invasion and only after all this Iran started a nuclear enrichment program.

Iran is a country that has felt threatened for at least the last 40 or so years. It is surrounded by a number of hostile Arab countries and a nuclear-armed Israel. The United States, a country about 6,000 miles away that has imposed sanctions, supports its threatening Arab neighbors and Israel, supplies Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with the most sophisticated radar systems, missiles, airplanes and other weaponry and support, has dozens of military bases and thousands of troops in the region, conducts an untold number of covert operations in Iran’s neighborhood, threatens Iran with annihilation – and tells Iran it has nothing to worry about! Let me say that if Iranian leaders did not worry about Iran’s security and integrity under these hostile conditions, they would be irresponsible and would have no business in office. Should they trust the word of the United States? Absolutely not, after some of America’s stands listed above and after the United States unilaterally withdrew from a UN Security Council ratified treaty (JCPOA), a treaty it had signed along with five other countries even though Iran adhered to its commitments under the treaty. Iran’s mistake is readily apparent. It should have already acquired a few nuclear warheads. If it had, it would be left alone or maybe even loved as is Chairman Kim Jong Un?

So if we agree that nuclear proliferation in the Middle East should be avoided, what are the options for the United States? The worst option is war with Iran. Let me briefly spell it out. The only way that the United States could be assured that Iran was not developing warheads would be to occupy Iran and monitor all activities in the country. Ask any military expert, the U.S. would need upward of 500,000 boots on the ground and for a long time to conquer and control a country the size of Iran. Why for a long time? Because such an unwarranted action would bring out Iranian nationalism as never before. The regime would receive widespread support from Iranians, inside and outside of Iran. In such a war, there would be untold American casualties in Iran as well as all over the Middle East. The war, depending on its duration, could cost the United States upward of $5 trillion and limit America’s ability to respond to any other hotspot for years to come. But worst of all, a war today would guarantee Iran developing a nuclear arsenal no matter what it takes. Just recall the fallout from the Treaty of Versailles!

Yes, war with Iran would be a catastrophe for the United States, as well as for the Middle East and especially for Iran. But there is a costless option, in lives and treasure, which would furthermore guarantee that Iran never acquires nuclear weapons. Declare the Middle East and North Africa a nuclear-free zone with the most obtrusive inspections under the auspices of the United Nations. Before you laugh, Iran proposed this a number of years ago and the idea was apparently endorsed by Arab countries. But there is fly in the ointment—Israel. The Israelis said no and the United States followed Israeli wishes and kept this from happening. This fact should be blazed across the skies. Why are we letting Israel determine the security of the Middle East and of the world? If Israel argues that it needs nuclear warheads for defense, it has the biggest nuclear power, the United States of America, 100 percent in its corner. The U.S. can guarantee that any conventional attack on Israel would be met by a U.S. strike (the U.S. could even maintain a large base in Israel for this purpose) and a nuclear attack would unleash the U.S. arsenal. Or is the actual reason for Israel wanting to keep its more than 200 warheads because it does not trust the word of the United States? Israel does not trust the U.S. but Iran should! And Israel should have nuclear warheads but Iran shouldn’t!

The world should focus on this perfect solution before our eyes and the United States should stop threatening the annihilation of Iran or any other nation. A nuclear-free Middle East. Iran would sign up. All that is left to do is to persuade the two self-declared peace-loving countries of Israel and the United States of America to do the same.

Hossein Askari is an economist and author on reform and institution building in the Middle East and the Muslim World, economic development and social justice.

READ MORE IRAN NEWS: 21st Century Wire Iran Files




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