Steve Nimmons
Documentary Photographer and Visual Artist

Nuclear Iran and the Sunni Shia Axis

Iran’s support perpetuates the toxic rule of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Syria forms part of Iran’s strategic depth and its Sunni majority is governed by an autocratic and increasingly desperate Shia minority.

There are fault-lines across the Sunni / Shia axis. The seismic events of the Arab Spring have exacerbated centuries old division. Syria is descending into civil war. Sectarian blood-letting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are manifest threats. A cursory look at Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and others highlight the tensions in Sunni / Shia relations.

Throughout the 1980’s, Iran and Iraq fought the longest conventional war of the 20th century. Half-a-million soldiers and civilians were killed. Iraq was vying for regional supremacy, at the same time fearing an uprising of its Shia majority encouraged by Tehran. Iraq used chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers and civilians, and against Iraqi Kurds. Would either side have used nuclear weapons?

There are those who ask why Iran does not have the right to nuclear arms. This is a dangerous thought, not least due to the volatility and lunacy of the Iranian government. The question overlooks the importance of responsibly. Iranian agitation across the region (principally through its Hamas and Hezbollah proxies) destroys any argument of a responsible and peaceful regime.

Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, Israel’s right to exist and although there is hair-splitting as to the translation, at the 2005 World without Zionism conference, he called for ‘Israel to be wiped off the map.”

A recognised exporter of state sponsored terrorism, a nuclear Iran is an unnerving prospect. The resulting arms race would be decidedly perilous. Arguments in favour of Iranian right to nuclear arms are extremely mischievous, and unmistakeably illogical.

The proliferation of unconventional weapons would be calamitous. The right to chemical and biological agents could hardly be regarded separately. Saddam Hussein had little compunction about using mustard gas and nerve agents against civilians. Bashar al-Assad has threatened chemical attack against combatants in Syria, a proxy-war with protagonists from Saudi Arabia to Iran.

Nuclear Iran presents an existential threat to Israel. In 2010, leaked US embassy cables highlighted similar concerns of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. The Bahrainis, Jordanians and Saudis were privately lobbying for military action by the US. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia notably called on the Americans to ‘cut off the head of the snake’.

Israel has a responsibility in the prevention of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. The world shares this responsibility. Actions must be proportionate, and the full context appreciated. Iran uses anti-American and anti-Israeli rhetoric to mask its aspirations – outright religious, political and military domination of the region.  With nuclear weapons at its disposal, Iran would present a severe threat to regional peace and security. Iranian agitation would be emboldened and an increase in sectarian conflict the result. Non-nuclear states might be predisposed to respond with biological or chemical weapons.

Against this backdrop, argument for Iran’s right to nuclear arms is inconceivable. Outside of the psychosis of the Iranian government, from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain to Jordan to the US and Europe there is consensus. Hatred, sectarianism, insanity and enriched uranium must not be mixed!

About the Author
Steve Nimmons is a writer, documentary photographer and visual artist based in Northern Ireland.