Is Patient Diplomacy the Best Approach to Iran’s Nuclear Program?

1 January 2017

The idea of Iran developing a nuclear weapon has undoubtedly sparked up an international debate on both sides of the isle. While many in the west debate about which actions to take to prevent the development of the bomb or if Iran is even developing the bomb other countries like Russian and China have been reluctant to criticize. From a western perspective we have to decide whether or not a patient diplomacy is the best approach to Iran’s nuclear problem or not.

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The consequences of attacking Iran could prove to be just as disastrous as not attacking Iran and being threatened by ban attack. In “Taking Side” two scholars on this issue debate this very question. Christopher Hemmer, from “Responding to a Nuclear Iran” and Norman Podhoretz, editor-at-large for the opinion journal “Commentary” argue on both sides of the issue. This is a general overview of the situation, a summary of each authors main points and a conclusion based on my own opinion.

The Non Proliferation act of 1968 was created to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. 5 percent of the world’s countries signed it. Non nuclear countries agreed to not make or accept nukes from anyone. Countries that had them could not build or share them. The International Atomic Energy Agency was created by the UN to inspect countries to ensure nuclear facilities were operating under peaceful terms but the NPT hasn’t been entirely successful. India and Pakistan tested nukes in 1998 and Israel’s nuclear capability is an open secret. None of those countries signed the NPT in 1968.

North Korea did sign the treaty in 1970 but violated it in the 1990s when it started developing nukes and more recently in 2006 when they tested one. Iran also signed the NPT in 1970 but was ruled by a pro western monarch named Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. He was overthrown in 1979 and fled the country. Soon after the Ayatollah Ruholla Khomiena who rejected western values and influence came into power and immediately began to purge the state of all western influences. Iraq and Iran went to war for around 8 years in the 1980s. In that war Iraq used chemical weapons which triggered Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

They believed Iraq had nuclear ambitions and feared western domination from the US. These fears coupled with their long term goals of becoming a global powerhouse and hegemonic force in the region fueled them to start thinking about attaining nuclear weapons. Bush labeled Iran as one of the “axis of evil” who promoting terrorism. The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. The US asked for cooperation from the global community to help prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon. The EU-3: France, Germany and the UK tried to work with Iran in order to dial down their ambitions.

Iran insisted that their nuclear program was a peaceful one and they had a sovereign right to develop nuclear power. The IAEA overwhelming voted to refer the matter to the UN Security Council. The EU-3 has become increasingly critical of Iran and their nuclear ambitions and tension is increasing. Christopher Hemmet believes a militaristic strategy to disarm Iran would damage the US’s position in the region and that the consequences would outweigh the benefits while Norman Podhoretz believes that allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons would set the stage for the outbreak of nuclear war.

Yes, “Responding to a nuclear Iran” Hemmet believes that Iranian nuclear attainment would certainly pose several different problems for the US but military action and doing nothing at all are not the only options on the table. They can be met through sanctions, containment, engagement, an active policy of deterrence, and the reassurance of American allies in the region. America has 3 strategic interests in the Persian Gulf: maintaining the flow of oil into the world markets, preventing any hostile state from dominating the region and minimizing any terrorist threat.

A nuclear Iran must be addressed by a policy that minimizes any damage to the oil production, transportation infrastructure and negates an Iranian bid for regional hegemony. It must be weighed against the potential damage it will do to the US anti terrorism network the US has built in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hemmet states that it should also minimize any threat of nuclear attack on the US. Hemmet suggests the “end state solution” for Iran should be one that makes Iran an integral part of the global economy, at peace with its neighbors, and not supportive of terrorist organizations.

Though, at the moment, America isn’t looking to directly establish a democracy some form of democratic structure would be inevitable for reform. The Islamic republic is becoming increasingly anti-American and anti-Zionist so a regime evolution would have to happen if American long term interests are to be achieved. An attack on Iran would damage American interests in the region. Though, an attack would deliver a great blow to Iranian nuclear ambitions, Hemmet warns that the costs would outweigh the benefits. An attack on Iran would send seismic shock waves through the global economy at a time when oil prices are already too high.

Because Iran relies heavily on their oil exports and would be unlikely that they would withhold them from the global markets, however, they could disrupt transportation between the Strait of Hormuz and attack US allied oil structures. Hemmet claims a direct attack on Iran would verify Osama Bin Laden’s doctrine about how the US is at war with Islam. It would damage America’s war on terrorism because it would seem like Osama was right because America supports Israel and its nuke, recognizes India as a nuclear state and is negotiating with North Korea on theirs.

Hemmet believes an attack on Iran would undermine America’s nation building attempts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Iranians haven’t been very helpful during this time but an attack on Iran could encourage Iranians and their sympathizers in Lebanon and Hezbollah to make America’s nation building increasingly difficult. An attack on Tehran would damage the US long term goal of reform within the regime. History teaches us that direct military attack only bolsters the position of the current regime. To think that an attack on Iran would encourage Iranians to overthrow the government is, in Hemmet’s opinion, delusional.

A Preventative attack option would only produce a temporary result, according to Hemmet. The attack would and could only be on known nuclear sites. There could be others we don’t know about. An attack might halt current efforts but they might just begin to rebuild what was damaged and the US would have to face the same threat years later. Though a regime change could, in theory, bring about a plethora of positive results it is not currently within US capacity to do so. With US funds already spread out over Iraq and Afghanistan a nation building attempt in Iraq would be the “epitome of overreaching” according to Hemmet.

Iran is much bigger and has a stronger sense of nationalism than Iraq. It would be too costly. Hemmet exclaims that if Iran was going to nuke America it would be because they attempted a regime change. The rule is that once a country obtains the nuclear weapon capabilities regime change is out of the question because of the threat of nuclear retaliation. This is why countries like North Korea and Iran want the nuke. The overriding concern about Iranian nuclear attainment is the threat of an attack on America or its allies.

But the threat of annihilation by nuclear retaliation as served as a powerful deterrent in years past with Russia and America in the past and more recently with India and Pakistan. According to Hemmet, the question is whether or not the regime in Tehran is deferrable. If it is, then deterrence is far more beneficial than a preventative attack. Supporters of preventative measures claim Iran is a nation of religious zealots who would accept apocalyptic demise before being deterred. Many believe, based on Iranian foreign policy history that Iran is smart enough to understand that a nuclear response would be problematic without going into all the details of their ideology.

Though the rhetoric of President Ahmadinejad is cause for concern but, in the context of history, it is very similar to the rhetoric of Russian and Chinese leaders of the past. Hemmet explains that people believed these leaders would be impervious to the affects of retaliatory attacks but eventually nothing happened. President Ahmadinejad has no power over the military, that power is given to the Supreme Leader and Ayatollah Ali Khameni has distanced himself from Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric. To counter those outbursts one would just have to look at Iran’s pragmatic approaches to foreign policy.

Khameni has said that nukes are UN-Islamic. Iran has made many pragmatic decisions to ensure their national interest. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Iran did not attempt to export its revolution to parts of the broken state. They understood it would be more beneficial to them to work with Russia. They even dismissed the war in Chechnya as an internal Russian matter. Similar calculations led Iran to support Christian Armenia over Muslim Azerbaijan. After the 1991 Gulf war, Iran did not push for a Shia revolution in Iraq fearing the outcome would be too dangerous and destabilizing.

Hemmet also highlights that following its isolation during the Iran-Iraq war, Iran worked vigorously to improve its relationship with its gulf neighbors. Hemmet believes Iran’s “antipathy towards the America and Israel is not great enough that they would risk nuclear war. ” Iran has reached out to America with its dealings in Afghanistan and even offered their airfields and ports. While they showed distain for the Iraq war they have recognized the importance of overthrowing Saddaam Hussein’s regime.

Hemmet claims that, “all of this is said not to discount the policy differences between Washington and Tehran but to reveal that Iran is not run by religious zealots rather by pragmatists who have Israel’s national interests in mind. ” Some claim Iran would give nukes to terrorists but Hemmet explains that the fact that Iran deals with terrorist indirectly, directly reflects their understanding of deterrence. They wouldn’t risk losing control over their nukes and being blamed by the global community. Making sure Iran does not use its nuclear power as a tool of coercive diplomacy on US allied interests in the region is very important.

They will be emboldened to spread their influence throughout the region but coercive diplomacy has not proven to be successful when applied to states that already have nuclear power. Containing Iranian influence in the region is the cause for major key. Hemmet suggests, advancing America’s long term goals of Iran becoming a part of the global economy, improving its relationships with its neighbors, and not supporting terrorism, America must develop a policy of direct engagement. America broke diplomatic ties with Iran in the 1980s during the hostage situation.

Hemmet explains that diplomatic engagement should not be viewed as a compromise or as a victory for Iran, its part of conducting normal business in American foreign policy. Any victorious reaction from Iran would not and should not deter the US from advancing its long-term security goals. Hemmest suggests to those who would argue against diplomacy with hostile nations that diplomatic relations with hostile states is just as important as relations with allies. This was proven during the cold war. It would be harder to contain and deter Iran without diplomatic relations.

Given the number of growing youth and the negative stewardship of Iranian government, the time is ticking on the leadership of that country. Though a democratic revolution isn’t brewing the fact remains there are internal issues. Opening Iran to the global markets could minimize that threat. Including them in the World Trade Organization is one of the many incentives provided to Iran in response to their nuclear ambitions. Hemmet believes such incentives could advance America’s long term foreign policy goals in the region regardless if Iran gets the nuke or not.

Iranian is a struggling state and they are acutely susceptible to sanctions. Sanctions in broad strokes would damage the Iranian economy and affect the entire country. This could increase nationalism and hurt America’s position in the Middle East. Such sanctions, if taken, would have to be calculated. At a minimum, China, Russia, the EU and the US would have to be involved. Hemmet states that it would have to target the regime only without damaging the rest of the economy and specifically attribute such sanctions to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Such sanctions would be difficult for many different reasons. China depends on Iran for energy and Russia depends on Iran for its market supplies. Sanctions would be a tough sell to Beijing and Moscow. “Smart sanctions” are difficult to apply to Iran because their domestic politics are not very transparent. Also, Iran has a history of external threats to its state and would view such sanctions as just another attempt to harm their nation. Hemmet is quoted as saying, “Engagement has proven to be a surer path to regime change than economic isolation. Reassuring Iran’s neighbors that the US has their security in mind could help advance American goals beyond simple containment. It could strengthen the oil marketing infrastructure and encourage intelligence cooperation on the war on terror. Stronger security ties could prevent the proliferation of nuclear ambitions in the region.

Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt are among those states that might be willing to increase their nuclear abilities if Iran developed the nuke. Egypt has tolerated Israel’s nuclear program for 30 years and Libya’s weapons programs as well, so Cairo will be “less likely to change their calculations. Turkey wants to be accepted into the EU and is a part of NATO so Ankara will be less likely to pursue the nuke. Saudi Arabia and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council will most likely strengthen ties to the US in an attempt to bolster their position over Iran. Hemmet believes the US should increase security around Iran’s neighbors by telling them that as long as Iran is contained, a preventative military attack will not incur. Hemmet claims that, “although Iran’s neighbors would rather not see a nuclear Iran they would much rather see that than a US-Iranian conflict.

Security should be architectures in the design of containment and deterrence. “ No, “Stopping Iran: Why the Case for Military Action Still Stands” Podhoretz begins by explaining how no one believes the Iranian uranium program is peaceful. Iran has more oil and natural gas than it needs so it doesn’t need to develop anymore to sustain its state. Iran has been named the “leading sponsor of terrorism” even by the state department. Since Iran wants to become a regional hegemon their attainment of nukes could turn into a “grave and destructive nuclear-arms race” according to Podhoretz.

Nuclear weapons would, according to Podhoretz, give the Mullahs the ability to achieve their evil goal of “wiping Israel off the map”. Podhoretz explains that Iran isn’t just a regional threat. They want to turn Europe into a Muslim state and he believes they would use intimidation to do so. Podhoretz states that Iran would also show greater ambition in their quest for a “world without the united states” not because they have the ability to wipe America off the map but because America would back down from Iran in an effort to prevent nuclear war.

The universal decision of applying “carrots and sticks” diplomacy by the EU and the US was applied to and rejected by Iran. After this, Bush announced that air strikes on Iran were still an option as a last resort. Podhoretz explains that the world was split on this issue. French President Sarkozy was with Bush but German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown professed that more diplomacy and sanctions would eventually work.

Podhoretz was unhappy with the NIE report in 2003 which stated that Iran was working on a “cost effective approach rather than a rush to weapons approach. ” This report was debated by stating that Iran had no international pressure to stop in 2003, Iraq and Afghanistan had just been invaded by the U. S and Iran was probably just acting out of fear because they assumed they would be invaded next. Also, Podhoretz points out that Iran’s history shows that Iran’s theological ideologies far outweigh that of any “cost effective approach”.

Richelson believes that some states can’t be negotiated with and any talks about peace on the nuclear issue is just a “stall tactic” until they obtain what they profess to be reframing from. The point was made that if Iran was to stop its pursuit of nuclear weapons how else could they accomplish the prestige, security and hegemonic influence in the region? Podhoretz explains that the climate of cognition when applied to Iran and the nuke shifted from John McCain’s stance that, “the only thing worse than bombing Iran was Iran getting the bomb” to “the only thing worse than Iran getting the bomb was bombing Iran”.

This is attributed to inaccurate NIE reports and the concession by even some of his most critical opponents that diplomacy has failed in that region. Podhoretz would argue that deterrence wasn’t possible when engaging with a regime run by islamofascist revolutionaries who not only believe in spreading their ideology over how they treat their own citizens but were also willing to die for it. Podhoretz claims that MAD, mutually assured distraction would not work as a deterrent to Iran.

Iranian leaders in the path have suggested that they would bomb Israel even at the cost of suffering damages on their own end. Iran has been known to kill its own people in the future and would think they were doing their citizens a favor by providing them with a short-cut to heaven. Podhoretz believes that the two stances of we could live with an Iranian bomb and there may not be an Iranian bomb to live with has ruled out any possibility of militaristic action and would eventually put an end to any nonmilitary action as well.

Podhoretz warns that something must be done now because Israel would have great cause to launch a Pre-emotive attack and so would Iran which would make nuclear war inevitable. He contends that George Bush had it right initially and was sold short by appeasing reports and diplomacy. Podhoretz believes that the next President should pick up where Bush left off and launch an attack on Iran lest the “outbreak of war be as inescable then as it is avoidable now. ” Conclusion Many things have changed since these positions were taken but the overall theme has remained consistent.

The EU and UN have continually pressured Iran to halt all nuclear activities pertaining to weapon manufacturing but Iran has reiterated their position explaining that they are only developing nuclear technology for peaceful means. Iran cooperation with the IAEA has been inconsistent. Iran will only allow the inspection of certain areas and claim sovereignty when asked about others. This has led to great frustration among the European global community which has, as a result, slapped sanction on Iran.

The Security Council sanctioned a full embargo on the importing of weapons to Iran but these sanctions have proven to be unsuccessful in deterring Iran’s nuclear ambitions. China and Russian are on the Security Council with veto power and have not supported America’s sanctions on Iran. While the IAEA claims that Iran has enough enriched uranium for two nuclear weapons it is unwillingly to claim that Iran is attempting to build a nuclear weapon. Between the gridlock and the concern from the Israelis it is possible the America would back Israeli attacks on nuclear sites and facilities.

Iran has begun to remanufacture its Shabab-3 Missile which would carry nuclear war heads an estimated distance of 1,250 miles which would put Israel within its range. President Barack Obama has tried to engage Iran much more than the Bush administration but even he has said that a nuclear Iran is a direct threat to the US and its allies and he would not take any options of the table. If it is a direct threat to America, its citizens and its allies then a militaristic option would become inevitable.

While I believe that patient diplomacy is the correct way to approach the issue to Iran’s nuclear program, I also believe that a direct threat to American interests must be suppressed at all costs. Since Iran denies that any uranium enrichment is being pursued for peaceful purposes I agree with the strategy of providing Iran with the end result of whatever it is claiming to pursue in the area of energy in exchange for their shutting down of all uranium enrichment and nuclear power facilities. A solution endorsed by many is a complete ban of enrichment and reprocessing in Iran to build confidence, with a collateral benefit of demonstrating that noncompliance carries a price. ” (Squassoni, 20 JUL 2006) If they continue to choose to reject this offer it undoubtedly shows an ambition beyond what they claim to be a peaceful pursuit of energy.

I understand the reluctance to allow western control over a state reliant energy source, so I would suggest that Iran choose the nation they would like to import that energy from and with the approval of the UN and an agreement to full cooperation with the IAEA of all nations involved develop a solution to their energy ambitions. Any deviation from this proposal would carry military action for the purpose of securing US national security.

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