Danville, Kentucky, and Kuwait City, Kuwait - Since the 1979 revolution, Iran has become a regional power in the Middle East. Fueled by oil revenues, Iran has made great technological advances recently, including development of a satellite. Iran's apparent determination to become a great power in the Middle East, and a force to be reckoned with on a global scale, has been made evident by its recent war games, where it showcased new military technology, such as long-range missiles and sonar-evading torpedoes.
Now, some world powers suspect Iran's drive to develop nuclear technology may not be the peaceful enterprise the Iranians claim it is. Since Iran refuses to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which inspects nuclear facilities for evidence of a weapons program, there is great concern that Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons. Diplomatic efforts by the United Nations' Security Council have failed thus far to restore IAEA inspections.
While a diplomatic solution to the current crisis should be pursued, it is unlikely the situation will be resolved via diplomacy, given Iran's repeated refusals to permit inspections. Economic sanctions will be difficult to enforce, as even countries nominally-allied with the United States such as Japan and Italy, are large importers of Iranian oil. Also, Georgia and China recently brokered multibillion-dollar natural gas and oil trade agreements with Iran, making economic isolation of Iran difficult. In any case, even with a complete about-face on the part of Iran, and the recommencement of IAEA inspections, a covert nuclear weapons program could still be continued.
Without a diplomatic solution, the current situation has placed Iran on a collision course with the United States and Israel. The only likely remaining scenarios are a United States-led attack on Iran, which would have disastrous consequences, or an uneasy peace, backed by nuclear deterrence.
Behind closed doors, U.S. military strategists apparently have plans to bomb all nuclear facilities, two chemical weapons plants, the entire air defence network, all military instillations and every airfield in Iran. According to Seymor Hersh, a reporter for the New Yorker magazine, tactical nuclear weapons are being considered to destroy targets deep underground.
Any military action to resolve the current crisis would be catastrophic for all parties, including the United States. It should be avoided at all costs. Iran is a more formidable opponent than Iraq, with a strong air defence system. In addition, Iranians are more loyal to their government than many Iraqis prior to the U.S. invasion and are likely to rally behind President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei in defence of Iran.
Military intervention would likely unleash a wave of global terrorism, possibly led by Hizbollah, an Iranian-backed, armed resistance group in Lebanon. Full-scale Shi'ite rebellion could occur in Iraq, forcing the United States to fight a regional war destroying chances for peace in that country. Even without Iranian attacks on shipping in the Persian Gulf, oil prices would skyrocket, inducing a world-wide recession and likely increasing the chances of resource-driven conflicts around the world.
Clearly, war must be avoided. The best solution, given Iran's resistance to diplomacy, is nuclear deterrence. If Iran does develop nuclear weapons, it is extremely unlikely it would use them, despite its stated desire to destroy Israel. Any nuclear attack would result in the country's instant annihilation by Israel and the United States. In the end, the threat of mutual nuclear attack should be enough to deter a military conflict in the Middle East.
The balance of power in the Middle East, while altered, would not be destroyed. U.S. forces in Iraq would counter a stronger Iran, restraining any conventional attempts at increasing its power. Those who argue against deterrence might say that Iran's leadership is irrational and erratic, and that nuclear deterrence depends on both sides remaining rational. Nevertheless, logic would dictate that if given a choice between certain catastrophe and the possibility of one, we should first take steps to avoid the former. It is unlikely that the entire Iranian regime, including the military, would opt for collective suicide. Thus, this is the only foreseeable way to avoid military conflict in the Middle East and a potential global economic depression. Ultimately, to retain peace we must put our faith in nuclear deterrence. It may even be that a new status quo will open up new roads toward dialogue and negotiation not visible in the current crisis.
* Abdulaziz Al-Mejel is a student at the American University of Kuwait and Brian Grieb attends Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. They co-wrote this article as part of the Soliya Arab-American dialogue program (www.soliya.net.) This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at www.commongroundnews.org.
Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), June 6, 2006
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