In recent times, the Iran nuclear deal that was completed last month has been the most device international issue. Hours after the deal was reached, the US President called it a “good deal”. On the other hand, the Israeli Prime Minister called it a “historic mistake” and has routinely referred to it as a bad deal. The extremist views taken by these two leaders and their supporters has created a schism which has politicized the whole issue and caused relevant stakeholders to lose sight of the realities of Iran’s nuclear project. The Italian Foreign Minister announced that Europe, the United Nations and other countries are preparing to implement the Deal. So the question remains, why is it so essential for Barack Obama and Binyanmin Netanyahu to argue over what the US Congress will say about this? Will any outcome from the vote by the US Congress change anything? If frozen funds in the United States remain frozen, will that prevent Iran from carrying out its intentions, no matter how malicious or noble they may be? These are all relevant matters that need to be reviewed and critiqued from the context of Realism in International Relations.
A Reckless Deal
Contrary to the claims of Barack Obama, the Iran deal cannot be called a “good deal”. A good deal will be one that will ensure that Iran gives up its nuclear program, stops supporting terrorist groups and become more cooperative in supporting diplomacy in the Middle East. However, the variables suggest that Iran under the Mullahs has sought to gain economic strength and assert themselves in the region through various military approaches and methods.
This deal limits Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons militarily for a period of ten years. There are many possibilities of achieving their goals of developing nuclear weapons. Additionally, Iran can just gather and store what they need over the next ten years and revert to an aggressive nuclear program that the international community can do very little about. Hence, there are many loopholes that make the deal less than ideal.
On the other hand, this deal cannot be called “negligent”. The international community has taken reasonable steps to avert a predictable and foreseeable problem – Iran’s development of nuclear bombs. Everyone has fond memories of Binyamin Netanyahu’s UN General Assembly address about Iran which was delivered with a diagram of a bomb and a timeline on his hand. This provided sufficient warnings to the international community. They could not sit back and do nothing. The international community acted by presenting this deal which they endorsed on the UN Security Council with a vote of 15-0. In effect, this deal is what the international community can offer. It has major loopholes and fails to address important issues about Iran’s nuclear ambitions adequately.
A Remote Threat
Over the past 3 years, Netanyahu has taken up the obligation of protecting humanity. And he must be credited for raising awareness of the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program. However, there is a question of what solution must be prescribed to the problem? From all indications, this deal is not adequate. However, with limited inputs and contributions by the Israeli Prime Minister in the entire negotiations, it was natural that Iran could get a much more favourable deal. And although Netanyahu can be congratulated for telling the world about the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program, it appears that his effective boycott of all negotiations show that he did not support the use of diplomatic means to deal with Iran.
The most ideal solution for dealing with Iran would have been an all-out approach to get them to dismantle their nuclear program and change their international policy. This could be achieved diplomatically or militarily.
Diplomatically, Iran could have been made to abandon all forms of malicious nuclear projects by the entire international community. Such an action would require an agreement by all the five Permanent members on the UN Security Council – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. However, with the strong ties between Iran and its neighbours on the Security Council – Russia and China, this is not possible. Russia and China have a history of jointly protecting regimes that are much more aggressive than Iran. These two superpowers with Communist traditions have defended the likes of the Kim dynasty of North Korea, Pol Pot, Omar Al-Bashir, Bashar Al-Assad and many others. With China Communist government’s history of being denied a place on the UN Security Council, they have sympathies towards emerging powers around the world. Hence, there have been conducts of China that seem to suggest they do not have a problem with nuclear armament amongst emerging countries. Iran in particular strikes a chord to China due to their longstanding trade and diplomatic relations. Thus, getting Iran to disarm is something China will not support.
With the diplomatic option in doubt, the only viable approach is a military solution. A military solution is still problematic as long as Russia and China refuses to cut ties with Iran. China is heavily dependent on Iran for its petroleum and energy needs. Thus, they are not likely to stand back if Iran is attacked. Vladimir Putin applies realpolitik in his international policies. Although he has shown some level of scepticism with the Iranian nuclear program, he has also offered to arm Iran to defend itself from a foreign attack. This shows that Russia’s position on an external aggression on Iran would be unpredictable, but it is probably going to be in favour of the Iranians.
Thus, with Russia and China’s sympathies towards Iran, an American military operation to overthrow Iran would most likely lead to a quagmire. The last time America faced a country with a military presence supported by Russia and China, America could not achieve a decisive victory – that was the case of Vietnam. The Vietnam experience ensured that all subsequent US governments found other ways of dealing with Iran because Iran was the most likely to use its connection to Russia and China to repeat the same outcome of the Vietnam war, in case of a military invasion.
Then there is the case of how to re-radicalize an invaded Iran. Everyone from a secondary school Physics and Chemistry student to a University Professor in the field has some knowledge of building a nuclear bomb. So what will anyone do about Iran when the regime is overthrown? What can anyone do about the radicalized Iranians who are proud of their Persian identity and court the fantasy of making Iran great again (to borrow the words of Donald Trump).
What people are asking of Netanyahu is “show me a better alternative”. In the absence of a better alternative to this deal ten years seem to be better than any other scenarios. As such, this reckless deal is a lesser evil.
In order to invoke any of the scenarios above to stop Iran – be it diplomatic or militaristic, Israel needs a more compelling case that Iran is a credible threat. The claims and speeches of Iran about the legitimacy of the State of Israel is not sufficient to get the international community to create a compelling case against Iran. Moreover, Iran has denied any evidence that it seeks to build nuclear weapons to attack any country – at least after the reign of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ended. Thus, there is a stronger case and the presentation of more convincing evidence that will get Iran to abandon its “peaceful” nuclear program.
A Rational & Intent Iran
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), like any law in the international community has loopholes. Just as individuals can pay legally qualified accountants to avoid taxes, countries can also find ways of getting closer to a nuclear bomb.
Iran is a rational and malicious actor on the international stage. The regime seems to be seeking more than just its survival. Iran’s regime commenced by courting the support of Russia and China to ensure they had a voice and a protection from the UN Security Council since 1979.
Secondly, Iran brazenly announced their nuclear program in 2006. This was after Iraq had been invaded. It was apparent that the Bush Administration had lost its appetite to fight any new wars. From another angle, Iran could be seen to have announced the nuclear program to scare off any potential desires of attacking its territorial space. This is because the United States knew and they knew that the United States knew that their ability to develop nuclear bombs was far higher than most other countries in the world. This is steeped in the third point.
Thirdly, Iran’s regime, after seizing power in 1979 sought to develop the national structures in a way that is distinct from other countries in the region. Iran set out to industrialize the country and prepare its citizens for future US-led sanctions. Thus, the country moved towards a path of self-sufficiency. Unlike other countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran seems to have developed by producing more independent-minded intellectual professionals including nuclear scientists.
Finally and more significantly, Iran has been pursuing an approach and a procedure to get their nuclear scientists to learn and increase their competencies. In the past, they set up secret centres where they trained nuclear scientists. Iran reportedly signed a pact with North Korea to share the results of their nuclear tests with them. Thus, in theory, all the Iranian nuclear scientists have the ability to develop nuclear bombs. Hence, there is the need for Iran to be handled in a much more tactful manner than what we are seeing now.
Lapse of Time, Wasted Years & the Way Forward
The Iranian nuclear situation is far bigger than a US Congress vote on releasing frozen funds to Iran or not. A lot of vital time has been spent on debates and issues that are not important. Personality attacks traded by supporters of Netanyahu and Obama against each other are needless. This is an issue that must be resolved through cooperation, not through adversity.
Time is not unlimited in this matter. Israel’s presence in the negotiation process would have made a significant difference. Just as Israel and Iran have been battling out to spread their influence in Africa and around the developing world, Israel should have countered Iran by actively communicating with nations that mattered.
Meir Dagan identified that a covert operation and a covert approach by Israel led to the sanctions that worked significantly until recently. Thus, from Meir Dagan, the failure of the Israeli administration to continue using covert means to prevent the easing of the sanctions gave room for Rouhani and Zarrif to continuously convince other leaders about the sincerity of the Iranian intentions. However, this was not properly countered by the Netanyahu administration.
At this point, Netanyahu has an option to redefine his position about the Iranian deal. From all indications, if US President Barack Obama drops dead today, the Iranian threat will continue. Thus, the ego war the two of them are fighting over the US Congress vote is a diversionary tactic from the real issue. This will lead to nothing because Iran can still get rich from trade with Europe, Russia and China to gain enough money to sponsor terrorism and further its nuclear ambitions.
Thus, it appears that Israel is playing a bigger role for humanity than just opposing one of the leaders of the 15 countries that voted for this deal. Thus, Netanyahu must see himself as a person demanding a much more positive approach to restrain a dangerous regime from getting nuclear weapons. Netanyahu must revitalize Israel’s covert operations and go around talking to relevant nations individually on an action plan to improve the monitoring of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Netanyahu must not stop talking about Iran. However, the diversion to microcosmic matters must be discouraged. Netanyahu must rebrand himself as a force for good – not for Israel’s existence only. This is because I wager that a nuclear Iran will be wont to attack another Muslim country before considering an attack on Israel. Thus, Netanyahu must do what he should have done in 2013 when the Rouhani administration started asking for the removal of sanctions. He should talk to nations and seek to block this deal from the source. At this point, the main option that is left is the implementation process. Israel should make her voice heard on how to implement this deal, because if Israel stands back, there is likely to be no voice for stronger scrutiny of rational and intent Iran which has a strong nuclear ambition.