The time has come again for renewed negotiations to take place with Iran, with relation to the nuclear aspirations of the country. The recent election of Rouhani, a reformist candidate, has blossomed hope in both the people of Iran and policy makers of the western world; but it has not led to an easing of sanctions. The U.S has remained robust with its approach to Iran, having recently even banned Press TV, in the hope that slowly Iran will abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons for improved relations, and an easing of, most importantly, the economic sanctions that are seemingly devastating the economy; having led to over 30% inflation and an estimated 40% of the population living below the poverty line.
However, beyond the statistics that show the Iranian economy doing poorly, is the truth that the regime is still very rich indeed; despite the fact that these riches are not allowed to percolate down the political food chain to the people, and in no way persuaded by these sanctions to budge on its stance with uranium enrichment. In fact, in May 2013, Iran’s export of oil to China rose by 66% to about 555,000 barrels per day – not the sign of a government that is perishing in poverty, is it? Ahmadinejad was even rewarding the Iranian footballers with various gifts rather recently, including numerous cars and more than enough cash… The truth is absolute, and the truth is this: sanctions will not make Iran abandon its nuclear programme completely. Take the case of North Korea; they were overwhelmed with sanction after sanction, yet managed to persevere with their nuclear aspirations. A recent article in The Economist has argued that Iran is getting close to the point at which it can stop enriching any more uranium, just short of testing its nuclear weapon, but it will still have reached such a critical point that on rather short notice – perhaps two weeks – it would be able to able to produce enough fissile material for a bomb.
The question that surely needs to be asked, therefore, is whether nuclear Iran is such a bad thing after all? It is argued, and rightly so, that a nuclear Iran would actually increase stability in the Middle East; mutually assured destruction is a powerful tool. If Israel and Iran were to have missiles pointed at each other, neither would make a move in fear of retaliation, thus, a balance of military power will only increase stability in the area. It is often exaggerated in the media that the rulers of Iran are mad clerics simply awaiting the opportunity to attack America or Israel, but this is not the case. Iran is ruled by pragmatic Ayatollahs. And although Ahmadinejad has, on several occasions, given into inflammatory rhetoric, he is simply a demagogue and shows no desire for self-destruction. He has often been misquoted as having said he would like to ‘wipe Israel off the map’, but that error in translation is evident and any fluent Farsi speaker will be able to tell you that the word ‘map’ did not so much as appear in that October 2005 speech. In fact, according to the translation by Juan Cole, who is a professor of Middle Eastern history, Ahmadinejad said that the regime ‘occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time’, not implying any violence or military action. It is Iran’s right, firstly, to develop nuclear power for its own energy purposes and even if it plans to expand its nuclear programme, it has every right to do so and it can be argued that it seeks to do this for deterrence purposes.
Ultimately, before the 2003 invasion, Iraq and Iran were the two main threats to Israel’s dominance of the Middle East and suddenly, the myth of Iraqi WMD’s arises, followed closely by Iran’s nuclear programme, which has yet to be proven to even exist, as Iran denies it at every turn. Western media has become too carried away with making Iran out to be the Emmanuel Goldstein of the Middle East, when in fact, a nuclear Iran would be beneficial to the region, but then again, why would Israel wish to give up being the only nuclear state in the region?
By Ayla Ibrahimi
Ayla can be found on twitter: @AlyssaJI