Will Iran spark a game of nuclear dominoes in Middle East?
The prospect of Iran releasing the nuclear genie in the future is greatly upsetting the global geopolitical calculus in significant ways.
For example, the United States, which likes to dangle unproven military carrots before Russia’s snout (ala Ronald Reagan’s ‘Star Wars’ fantasy, which allegedly helped push the Soviet Union into insolvency), is threatening to build components of its missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Moscow rightly views the Pentagon’s steadily circumvallating system as a direct threat to its national security.
So now, thanks to American intervention heroics, Europe has two potential adversaries as opposed to just one. And if Europe failed to appreciate the existential danger that the proposed American shield will place it, Gen. Anatoliy Nogovitsyn of the Russian Armed Forces did not mince his words when he warned Warsaw that, “Poland, by deploying [the system] is exposing itself to a strike – 100 percent.”
Incredibly, however, any sort of debate on the proposed US missile defense system in Eastern Europe is rarely heard in the western European capitals.
Despite the consequences that a US missile defense system poses for the European continent, “there appears to be little willingness in Brussels to engage in discussions on a missile defense shield,” wrote Oliver Meier in an article for Arms Control Today.
“We are not as Europeans concerned to establish a mechanism of that type,” commented Javier Solana, EU High Representative. “It is for every country to decide” whether to cooperate or not with the Americans on missile defense.
Strange that Europe wants little part of a debate that will ultimately determine how many missiles are pointing at it.
To talk or not to talk
Incredibly, as the United States, Europe and Russia – victorious historic allies against the modern world’s gravest threats – aggravate their relations in the name of self defense, the Middle East threatens to give way to an arms race that may or may not be poisoned-tipped with nukes.
But first, the good news (yes, there is some).
Former US President George W. Bush, one of the main antagonists of this dark political theater, has been replaced by Barack Hussein Obama, who has declared his willingness to sit down and chat with his Iranian counterpart, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
However, Obama may never enjoy a photo opportunity alongside the fiery Ahmadinejad since Iran is holding presidential elections in June. Thus, any discussions between the US and Iran will have to wait at least until the summer, it seems.
Since ultimate power in the Islamic Republic of Iran does not rest with the president, but with the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, there are good grounds to believe that Ahmadinejad, who replaced the mild-mannered and liberal-minded Mohammad Khatami in 2004, was nominated to dampen the endless reckless ambition of the Bush administration. What Iran lacked in nuclear technology, Tehran seemed to be saying, it compensated for in fiery rhetoric. And this was never more apparent than when Ahmadinejad told more than one audience that he wanted Israel “wiped off the map” (Iran’s foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki insists the Iranian president was speaking about the Israeli “regime” as opposed to the nation of Israel).
It appears that what Iran really wants is a little respect, and this is obvious by Tehran’s constant demand that the “the Great Satan” acknowledge and apologize for its sins of the past.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, not the picture of fawning meekness by any standard, nevertheless in March, 2000 admitted that a 1953 CIA operation that toppled a democratically elected government in favor of the Shah was “clearly a setback” for Iran’s political development. Albright even expressed regret for supporting Baghdad during the 8-year Iran-Iraq war, which turned out to be the bloodiest Mideast conflict of modern times.
Today, Iran is demanding more American public penance.
“Those who say they want to make change, this is the change they should make: they should apologize to the Iranian nation and try to make up for their dark background and the crimes they have committed…,” Ahmadinejad said in a speech in January.
But even if the hurricane called Ahmadinejad is elected out of office in June, this does not necessarily mean that Iran will halt its nuclear program, which may or may not be for “civilian purposes” as is presently claimed.
Some believe that if Iran is permitted to join the ‘nuclear club,’ this could set a precedent for other countries around the world, Brent Scowcroft, who advised two US presidents on national security, said on Thursday.
“We’re on the cusp of an explosion of proliferation and Iran is now the poster child,” said Scowcroft, who served under former President Gerald Ford and President George H.W. Bush, the father of the former George W. Bush, as reported by Reuters.
“If Iran is allowed to go forward, in self-defense or for a variety of reasons we could have half-a-dozen countries in the region… doing the same thing,” he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
However, Scowcroft and former US national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, counseled against using military action in an effort to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
They said that negotiations with Tehran should be pursued instead.
Brzezinski agreed that nuclear proliferation in the region may be the greatest threat from Iran’s nuclear programs, as opposed to the threat that Tehran would make the “suicidal” move of launching the first bomb it built.
Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons, although it has never confirmed or denied this. Elsewhere in the region, Pakistan is the only other country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons, which it proved to the world just weeks after India’s successful nuclear tests in 1998. Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto promised in 1965 that if India built nuclear weapons Pakistan would too, “even if we have to eat grass.”
The United States and the Soviet Union learned that the possibility of ‘mutually assured destruction’ (MAD, for short) was capable of maintaining the peace but at a tremendous cost to both national reserves, as well as nerves, as the Cuban Missile Crisis (the Caribbean Crisis in Russian) at the very height of the Cold War proved. Clearly, there were some individuals, but fortunately not the majority, who thought it “better to be dead than red.”
What countries might be tempted to go nuclear if Iran enriches uranium? Scowcroft named Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey.
But hopefully such a ‘domino effect’ in the region will be offset by calm, cool-headed negotiations between Barack Obama and the next president of Iran. In the meantime, international leaders should make total nuclear disarmament the main priority of our age, for by hanging on the abyss of annihilation refutes all of our glorious human achievements that a single mistake may obliterate in mere seconds.
In the words of Albert Einstein, whose scientific discoveries made the splitting of an atom a physical possibility, “It is not necessary to imagine the earth being destroyed like a nova by a stellar explosion to understand vividly the growing scope of atomic war and to recognize that unless another war is prevented it is likely to bring destruction on a scale never before held possible and even now hardly conceived, and that little civilization would survive it.”