With all the news reporting about Iran and its heretofore-primitive nuclear program, you would think the entire world population is on the verge of donning hunting gear, fleeing their homes, and heading out to live in the woods in some sort of Red Dawn reenactment.
The fact of the matter is that Iran is obviously attempting to build a nuclear device. It is also a fact that the leadership of the once secular nation does not intend to ever use such a device. In an interview some years ago, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asked an obvious question in response to a rather condescending inquiry as to why Iran should be “permitted” to develop nuclear capabilities: “Why should we be prevented from doing so?” He reasoned that there is no sound basis to prevent Iran from obtaining not only nuclear energy, but a nuclear weapon. It is a sovereign nation and has every right to defend itself. It is truly difficult to argue against this premise without reverting to hyperbolic dictum concerning religious crazies and unstable leadership. Honestly, who does the western world think it is, Iran’s mommy?
That being said, Mr. Ahmadinejad has most assuredly made some outlandish statements regarding the United States and Israel, as well as directed threats at those dependent upon the shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz. The Imams that wield almost absolute power in Iran are hardly perceived as stable by much of the civilized world. I would however hazard a guess that much of the inflammatory language coming from the religious and elected leaders in Iran is meant strictly for the Iranian public to consume. It is bluster, it is overconfidence. In other words, it is politics. Fomenting the perception of a unified enemy, national identity, and nationalist fervor is necessary to maintain stability amid the recent social and economic restrictions placed upon Iran’s people. Insane language concerning racism, sexism and anti-Semitism is nothing more than red meat for “Tea-Party Iran.” Certainly, the world does have some sound basis for skepticism of Iran, but it is not a threat to Israel or the world in any real way.
Just as the United States and the Soviet Union did not launch nuclear weapons at one another during the cold war, even as tensions escalated in the 1960s and later when the covert programs of both nations became exposed, the Iranians are not going to destroy their entire nation and everyone and everything in it. While the Soviet Union could have easily destroyed the United States with a nuclear attack, it never seriously considered doing so. In Iran’s case, even if it were to acquire a nuclear device and launch it some great distance, it would be leveled beyond recognition by not only the United States and Israel, but much of Europe and many of its own regional neighbors.
Iran has a stake in maintaining its sovereignty and its leaders have a stake in maintaining power. Destroying the country does not serve either interest. Iran need only look to Libya as an example of a direction in nuclear development to avoid at all costs. Since voluntarily abandoning its nuclear program in 1993 it was consistently pushed around by western powers, and its leaders ultimately murdered during the revolution this past year. Iran does not want to follow this path, and it is difficult to argue with that choice. If Iran looks to Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea, it sees a more attractive road on which to travel. Pakistan, since developing nuclear capabilities has been able to extract hundreds of billions of dollars from the United States through its feigned alliance. It has done so while never having to follow through on any of its promises to assist the United States and its allies in its efforts in the Middle East. North Korea has been able to thumb its nose at the west for as long as anyone can remember without repercussions, while doing business with questionable characters and rogue nations in the sale of nuclear development parts, accessories, and even fuel. Israel has been able to more or less drive United States Middle East policy for nearly forty years. No politician dare speak ill of this nuclear power if he or she has set his or her sights set on winning an election.
These nations provide Iran a blueprint for action. However repugnant the idea of Iranian clerics and leaders holding the ability to kill millions of people quickly and horribly may be, its enemies today have the ability to murder each and every Iranian with the turn of a key. Osama bin Laden was not hiding in plain sight in Iran after all, he was watching pornography in a well guarded building in Pakistan, likely for months. If Israel makes the determination that it must attack Iran in order to stunt its nuclear program, then it must do so alone. The United States should not be dragged into an unnecessary and destabilizing conflict over nothing more than poorly chosen words. The bottom line is that Iran has every right to develop a nuclear weapons and energy program even if the very thought of it strikes fear into not only myself, but billions of fair-minded people.