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Archive for the ‘Iran’ Category

Originally published in The Herald of Randolph

How many readers remember the old saw that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”? And isn’t that the truth! Well, a senior United States Government official has recently reported that Iran is the greatest supporter of terrorism in the world.

 

As difficult as it is for any American to stomach, that can be viewed in a number of different ways. Ask yourself, “How would I label an American Christian missionary caught in a fight for his life in a country wildly hostile to his Christian beliefs. If he took up the sword and smote someone, would he be a terrorist?”

 

Now take a look at Iran, the leading Shiite nation in a world of Sunnis who clearly would like to eliminate all Shias. In fact, the Pew Center, in a comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries, finds that there are 1.57 billion Muslims living in the world today. Of that number, 10-13% or 1.57-2.04 million are Shia and 87-90%, or 1.37 – 1.41 billion are Sunni. There are 9 Sunnis for every Shia on the face of the earth and these are people who are happy to kill each other. Not very good odds if you are a Shia.

 

The Shia are like a gigantic tribe in Islam, but one wildly outnumbered by their main competitor, the Sunnis. Add to that the fact that the Shia are spread out all over Islam, existing in countries that are majority Sunni, and the picture becomes more clear. In the Middle East, the only Shia majority countries are Iran 90-95%, Iraq 65-67%, Azerbaijan 65-75% and Bahrain 65-70%.

 

In Syria, the ruling Shia represent only 17% of the total Syrian Muslim population, in Lebanon they are 30-35%, Yemen 35-40%, India 25-30%, Kuwait 30-35%, Saudi Arabia 10-20%, Turkey 10-15%, Pakistan 10-20%, Afghanistan 10-15%, Qatar 10% Oman, 5-10% and the UAE, 10%.

 

As the country with the largest Shia population, Iran can be viewed as self-appointed protector of the world’s Shia. When the Shia come under Sunni attack as they have in Syria, the Iranians commit whatever is necessary to their defense. There is nothing covert about this support. In fact, Iran has set up an entire governmental structure designed to support any and all Shia groups in the Middle East. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IGRC) plays a preeminent role in the defense of Shia Islam. The IGRC is designed to protect the country’s Shia Islamic system by preventing foreign interference as well as hostile coups. The IGRC is comprised of about 125,00 military personnel which includes ground, naval and air capabilities and in addition, controls roughly 100,000 troops in the Basij paramilitary militia and an additional 2-5000 members of the Quds force, the successor organization to the Shah’s Imperial Guard.

 

Over the past decades, Iranian military and paramilitary assets have been involved, either directly or indirectly in just about every Middle East conflict that involved Shias. The Iraq war, the Lebanese civil war and unrest, the Syrian war, Hizbullah operations against Israel, and support for the Shia Houthi rebels in the Yemen conflict are all concrete examples of Iran assisting fellow Shia Arabs in their conflict with Sunni Arabs.

 

It probably seems convenient for American administrations to refer to these operations as “terrorism” or “terrorist operations”. The term “terrorist” carries with it a connotation that simply would not obtain if American officials were referring to these operations as military or as sectarian, either of which would be far more accurate. But of course, this will not happen because it does not meet the needs of any of our recent administrations, Republican or Democrat. No, on an emotional level and to keep the American populace on the “right track”, we need to label our enemies as “terrorists”.

 

If you are one of those Americans who wants to try to understand what is really happening around the world, you mlght consider the strong possibility that the Shia Iranians see themselves locked into a death struggle with Islam’s Sunnis and that in order to preserve their beliefs, they have to confront the Sunnis any time they or any of their Shia brethren feel threatened. Further, add in the fact that the Iranians, probably rightly, see American involvement in their region as anti-Shia and pro-Sunni and you will probably begin to see the depth of distrust that has existed between Iran and America since we engineered the 1953 Coup.

 

The Sunni-Shia schism has existed since the 7th Century. It doesn’t have much to do with Terrorism, but far more with regional power politics.   Since it is not going away, it’s important that Americans understand the nuances of this divisive situation.

 

 

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Originally published in The Rutland Herald and in the Barre Times Argus

Since November 4, 1979, when a group of Iranian students took over the American Embassy in Tehran and held its American employees captive for 444 days, America and Iran have been at total odds.

During those 34 years America and Iran have become increasingly mutually hostile.  A succession of American Presidents has instituted crippling sanctions against Iran. The Ayatollahs have responded in every way possible to make our lives increasingly unpleasant by supporting terrorism in the Middle East.  In short, both sides have done just about everything possible to maintain and even increase that level of hostility.

If you toss into the mix the important remaining countries in the Middle East, the situation becomes even more complicated.

Iran has been one of the dominant powers in the region for literally thousands of years.  With that dominance has come a sense of importance.  The Iranians believe they should be real players in their part of the world.

Iran is the largest Shia country in the Middle East.  As such, they are allied with other Shia elements in the almost 14 centuries old blood feud going on with Islam’s Sunnis. There are large Shia minorities in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, Yemen, Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

The result is that there has been almost perpetual friction and occasional war between Shia and Sunni.

If you translate these realities into today’s world of P5+1 (US, Russia, China, UK, France plus Germany) negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, you will see immediately that there are a number of countries in Iran’s neighborhood who not only would not like to see Iran with the bomb, but would really like to see the country and it’s inhabitants obliterated simply because they are Shia.

Important Sunni countries like Saudi Arabia see Iran as a direct competitor for hegemony in the Persian Gulf and the wider Middle East.  Seeing a nuclear Iran as far too powerful a competitor, they would like to have someone (read the USA and/or even Israel) bomb the Iranian nuclear capability into oblivion.

So, the biggest wild cards threatening a successful outcome to these negotiations are the Sunni components in the Middle East and the Israelis who over the past three and a half decades have been constantly threatened by Iran.

In fact, Israel’s Likud Party, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, has pulled out all the negative stops on the ongoing negotiations, telling the world, particularly the US, that the interim deal they have reached is a bad deal, with the clear implication that any negotiated deal at all would be equally bad.  In pursuing this policy they have pushed every pro-Israeli button they could reach, not only here, but also in all the P5+1 countries.

So far, it hasn’t worked as can be seen in the interim agreement just now announced.  Nevertheless, they have not given up.  It is understood that if America or the P5+1 place additional sanctions on Iran, as some American congressmen wish to do, that simple fact will abrogate any agreement.  So, there is still room for Israel to manoeuver to kill this agreement.

Remember, Iran is desperate to end the sanctions.

There is one critical fact must be kept in mind.  If the opponents of this impending peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear problem are successful and Iran proceeds to develop a bomb, then the only alternative policy for the P5+1 is to militarily attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Will the difficult nature of the target require boots on the ground?

First, it has not been proven that Iran even has a nuclear bomb program at this time.  Many western analysts, including many of our own, have agreed on that. In addition, the Ayatollah has issued a fatwa (prohibition) against it.

Second, there is absolutely no guarantee that Iran’s nuclear facilities can be destroyed.  They are largely bunkered far under ground giving them high-level protection.  In addition, their heavy water reactor in Arak, which will produce plutonium useable in atomic weapons, will soon be un-bombable as it’s destruction would widely spread lethal radioactivity.

There is no such thing as a perfect agreement, but this one looks pretty favorable for the US.  The Iranian program will be stopped at a point of our choosing. All of the concessions we have made can be unilaterally reinstated if we feel the Iranians are not keeping their end of the bargain.  Further negotiations will continue with the aim of negotiating away any Iranian ability to create nuclear weapons.

A final thought:  The Iranians are anything but stupid.  The bomb is only valuable if it is not used.  They know that if they were to create and use a bomb, their country would be wiped off the map.

 

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Iran after the Arab Spring

  
Originally published in Rural Ruminations
By Haviland Smith
 

Iran appears outwardly to be a relatively stable Middle East country.  The Ayatollahs, backed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, look to be firmly in charge.  The only thing that would appear to challenge that notion of stability are the protests that took place after the 2009-2010 election.

What does the future hold for Iran.  Is it a candidate for democratization or moderation?  For a number of reasons, Iran is worthy of examination in the wake of the Arab Spring

First, despite external appearances, Iran has an extraordinarily pro-western population.  Remember, they are Indo-Europeans, not Arabs.  They have long admired western culture and commerce.  The average Persians on the street have comparatively paltry beefs with America, primarily because, unlike other Middle East countries, they have not seen American troops or weapons on Iranian soil this decade.  They are legitimately angry that in 1953 we engineered the covert overthrow of the only elected government they have ever had and because today’s international sanctions, seen appropriately as American sponsored, severely hurt the man on the street, not the leadership.

On the positive side and whether we like it or not, our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq plus our increased military involvement across the region (Libya and Syria) have greatly benefitted Iran.

Iran sees the Taliban as an enemy, so all our Afghan counterinsurgency operations are of potential benefit to them. However, most important, our ouster of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq has removed Iran’s most powerful and hostile regional enemy and replaced his regime with a pro-Iranian Shia government.

At 636,000 square miles, Iran is the 18th largest country in the world.  It has a population of 75,000,000 of whom two thirds are Persian and two thirds are under thirty-five.  Iran’s rate of literacy is over seventy-five percent and sixty-seven percent of university students are women.  Iran produces one quarter of the world’s oil and is repository for two thirds of the world’s crude oil reserves.  They have all the tickets to be a major player in their region.

In terms of the ongoing impediments to political moderation, Iran is in pretty good shape.  Over ninety percent of Iranians are Shia, while less than ten percent are Sunni.  In terms of nationalities, two thirds are Persian with the largest minority found in Azerbaijanis at sixteen percent.  As Aryans (non-Arabs), tribes play a far lesser role than they do in most of the rest of the Middle East.  Thus, the pressures and divisive problems created by Nationalism, Sectarianism and Tribalism are greatly reduced.

In any examination of discussion of Iran it is extremely important to know some Iranian/Persian history.  Settlements in Iran date to 7,000 BC.  The first Persian kingdom existed in the third century BC and around 500 BC, the Persian Empire stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indus River.  It was the greatest empire of its time and made major contributions to Art and Science.

This kind of history affects peoples’ attitudes.  Iranians have a real sense of who they are.  They are educated, thoughtful, smart, clever and nationalistic and have a very good understanding of how the world works.

Why would the Iranians want to develop nuclear weapons, if, in fact, that is what they are doing?  Largely because ownership of the bomb would be a virtual guarantee that they would not be attacked by any conceivable enemy.  Iranians want the bomb simply because having it, as opposed to using it, is power incarnate.

Additionally, they almost certainly believe that the bomb will bring them the respect they feel is due them as a power in the region. In that context they have everything else they need to gain that respect and influence.

Iran was a player in the Cold War and understands how the West dealt with the Soviet threat. The Iranians understand MAD. They know that if they were to acquire the bomb, any use they might make of it — say, against Israel or some other American friend in the region — would result in the obliteration of their country.

In short, like all today’s members of the nuclear club, they know that the bomb is useful only as a threat. It is essentially useless as a weapon because its use leads inevitably to self-annihilation.

All of that aside, the best reason America has to forget an attack on Iran and undertake a dialog with them is that only an attack by America, with or without Israel, can unite the population behind the regime.  Absent that, they will always represent festering potential trouble for the Ayatollahs.

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Originally published in Rural Ruminations
 

Iran appears outwardly to be a relatively stable Middle East country.  The Ayatollahs, backed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, look to be firmly in charge.  The only thing that would appear to challenge that notion of stability are the protests that took place after the 2009-2010 election.

What does the future hold for Iran.  Is it a candidate for democratization or moderation?  For a number of reasons, Iran is worthy of examination in the wake of the Arab Spring

First, despite external appearances, Iran has an extraordinarily pro-western population.  Remember, they are Indo-Europeans, not Arabs.  They have long admired western culture and commerce.  The average Persians on the street have comparatively paltry beefs with America, primarily because, unlike other Middle East countries, they have not seen American troops or weapons on Iranian soil this decade.  They are legitimately angry that in 1953 we engineered the covert overthrow of the only elected government they have ever had and because today’s international sanctions, seen appropriately as American sponsored, severely hurt the man on the street, not the leadership.

On the positive side and whether we like it or not, our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq plus our increased military involvement across the region (Libya and Syria) have greatly benefitted Iran.

Iran sees the Taliban as an enemy, so all our Afghan counterinsurgency operations are of potential benefit to them. However, most important, our ouster of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq has removed Iran’s most powerful and hostile regional enemy and replaced his regime with a pro-Iranian Shia government.

At 636,000 square miles, Iran is the 18th largest country in the world.  It has a population of 75,000,000 of whom two thirds are Persian and two thirds are under thirty-five.  Iran’s rate of literacy is over seventy-five percent and sixty-seven percent of university students are women.  Iran produces one quarter of the world’s oil and is repository for two thirds of the world’s crude oil reserves.  They have all the tickets to be a major player in their region.

In terms of the ongoing impediments to political moderation, Iran is in pretty good shape.  Over ninety percent of Iranians are Shia, while less than ten percent are Sunni.  In terms of nationalities, two thirds are Persian with the largest minority found in Azerbaijanis at sixteen percent.  As Aryans (non-Arabs), tribes play a far lesser role than they do in most of the rest of the Middle East.  Thus, the pressures and divisive problems created by Nationalism, Sectarianism and Tribalism are greatly reduced.

In any examination of discussion of Iran it is extremely important to know some Iranian/Persian history.  Settlements in Iran date to 7,000 BC.  The first Persian kingdom existed in the third century BC and around 500 BC, the Persian Empire stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indus River.  It was the greatest empire of its time and made major contributions to Art and Science.

This kind of history affects peoples’ attitudes.  Iranians have a real sense of who they are.  They are educated, thoughtful, smart, clever and nationalistic and have a very good understanding of how the world works.

Why would the Iranians want to develop nuclear weapons, if, in fact, that is what they are doing?  Largely because ownership of the bomb would be a virtual guarantee that they would not be attacked by any conceivable enemy.  Iranians want the bomb simply because having it, as opposed to using it, is power incarnate.

Additionally, they almost certainly believe that the bomb will bring them the respect they feel is due them as a power in the region. In that context they have everything else they need to gain that respect and influence.

Iran was a player in the Cold War and understands how the West dealt with the Soviet threat. The Iranians understand MAD. They know that if they were to acquire the bomb, any use they might make of it — say, against Israel or some other American friend in the region — would result in the obliteration of their country.

In short, like all today’s members of the nuclear club, they know that the bomb is useful only as a threat. It is essentially useless as a weapon because its use leads inevitably to self-annihilation.

All of that aside, the best reason America has to forget an attack on Iran and undertake a dialog with them is that only an attack by America, with or without Israel, can unite the population behind the regime.  Absent that, they will always represent festering potential trouble for the Ayatollahs.

 

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Originally published in the Rutland Herald and the Barre Times-Argus

When the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq in 2003, a course of action was started that has left the United States virtually without influence today in that important “country”.

The probable intention of the Bush administration, heavily influenced as it was by the neoconservatives who populated it, was to create an Arab democracy which could be emulated by other Arab nations. That would create and encourage a democracy-dominated environment that would make the region safer for Israel.

What the Bush Administration either was too ill-informed to know, or refused to acknowledge was that Iraq was the absolute least likely candidate in the Middle East for the installation of democracy.  Sad to say, Iraq contains in superabundance, all those elements that make democracy problematic:  Nationalism, Sectarianism and Tribalism.

Iraq, a “country” of 31 million people, is composed of around 75% Arab, 20% Kurd and 5% Assyrian, Turkoman and others.  It is important to note that Iraq’s better than half million Kurds are a part of an overall Kurdish regional population of 30 million, giving them a non-Arab support base outside Iraq.   They are “not alone”.  Their geographic location next to large Kurdish populations in Turkey, Syria and Iran is important as it gives them regional national allies and a sense of belonging not shared by other national minorities in the region.

Iraq remains a strongly tribal state.  When law and order break down, as it has in Iraq today, and populations increasingly fear for their safety and well-being, people tend to return to their most basic social units, the groups from which they stem and with which they feel safe.

Of the roughly 150 tribes in Iraq, two dozen dominate.  Most of the tribes and their subordinate clans and families are grouped into tribal federations.  Even though tribalism generally has been discouraged since the Baath Party came to power in 1968, it was often encouraged during the war with Iran in the belief that it helped hold the Iraqi people together against a common enemy.

The greatest problem that today’s Iraq has to face is Sectarianism.  Muslims comprise about 97% of Iraq’s population.  Those Muslims are roughly 65% Shia and 35% Sunni.  The remaining 3% of the population contains a smattering of “Christians and others”.  Repressive foreign and native rule over the past 14 centuries has been the only thing that has prevented the Shia and Sunnis from killing each other.  Absent that coercion, as we see today, the killing is almost incessant.

The Baath Party, a Sunni organization, ruled Iraq from its coup in 1968 until the 2003 American invasion.  It is interesting to note that during that entire period, many Sunnis really believed that they represented a majority of the Iraqi people.  Such Iraqi Sunnis have been amazed to hear and often unwilling to believe that the real majority is the Shia population, clinging to the premise that they are the rightful rulers of Iraq.

Iraq is rich in oil.  There are oilfields in Shia southeastern Iraq and in Kurdish northeastern Iraq, leaving the Sunnis with mostly desert.  Oil ownership is one of the major issues involved in today’s negotiations between the Shia, Sunnis and Kurds.  When you think of Iraq, its ongoing sectarian violence and its prospects for the future, remember that the Sunnis who once had all the power and all the resources, now have a large patch of sand.  Unsurprisingly, they are said to be running death squads against the Shia with sharply increasing regularity.

Iraq is now trying to negotiate its way into stability.  Unfortunately, the Shia under Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki are playing real hardball.  It is clear that after decades of political, economic and physical mistreatment by the Sunnis, they have little interest in compromise or fairness.  Add to that the meddling of Shia Iran in Iraqi affairs at the expense of Sunnis and Kurds and prospects become more bleak.

And while the realities of Sectarian conflicts persist, Iraq bubbles along with periodic acts of sectarian and nationalist violence and terrorism while apparently trying to create conditions that will permit Iraq to remain on the scene as a cohesive “country”.

Unfortunately, this goal seems unlikely at best.  The Kurdish-Arab differences are bad enough, but when added to the Sunni-Shia rivalry and their propensity toward violence, the only logical, peaceful end in sight is the division of Iraq into its component parts.

We could very well see Kurdish, Shia and Sunni “countries” evolve out of today’s Iraq.  However, with the possible exception of the Kurds, there is nothing in Iraqi history or culture that could lead a rational observer to hope for democracy there.  Moderate Islam is about the best we can hope for, a new dictatorship, the worst.

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Originally published in the Rutland Herald and the Barre Times-Argus

 

Bahrain is comprised of a group of islands located near the Western shore of the Persian Gulf. Given its physical location and local political reality, Bahrain has been ruled primarily by successive Persian empires since well before the birth of Christ.

What makes Bahrain different from all of its Persian Gulf neighbors is the fact that it is home to US Naval Forces Central Command and the US Fifth Fleet at Naval Support Activity Bahrain (NSA Bahrain).   Initially begun as a modest support activity to the smallish US Naval presence in the Gulf when the British left Bahrain in 1971, it is currently undergoing over a half billion dollar expansion which will double its current 62 acres and seriously upgrade its security and its ability to support Fifth Fleet Gulf operations.

The Fifth Fleet normally consists of around 20 ships, with about 1,000 people ashore and 15,000 afloat.  It usually contains a Carrier Battle Group, an Amphibious Ready Group, combat aircraft, and other support units and ships.

NSA Bahrain is designed to play a major support role in all naval operational activities in the Gulf, particularly in tactical air support of ground operations in Syria, Iran or elsewhere, should America decide to become militarily further involved in the Middle East.

Bahrain became independent of England in 1971.  Geographically situated as it is, 120 miles due south of Shia Iran, there is small wonder that Sectarian issues exist because the Muslim share which is about 82% of the population, is comprised of 70% Shia and 30% Sunni.

Nationally, they are even more diverse.  In an overall population 1.2 million, Bahrainis are in the minority at 46%, with 54% non-native, primarily Sunnis.  Of those non-natives, “other Arabs” comprise 5.4%, Africans 1.6%, Asians 45.6%, Americans 0.4%, and Europeans 1.0%.  From these facts, it is clear that the labor demands of the nation far exceed the available workers.

The Al Khalifa royal family has ruled Bahrain since the late 18th century.  Virtually all important government jobs are held by members of that royal Sunni family, specifically and importantly including all the security and police organs.  It is widely charged in Bahrain that many if not most of those forces are non-native mercenaries.

Significant civil protests begin in Bahrain on February 14, 2011, with Bahrainis calling for greater political freedom and fairer treatment of the majority Shia population by the minority Sunni government. The government reacted swiftly, repressively and brutally to what were essentially peaceful demonstration.  Security forces killed and wounded indiscriminately during these early protest marches, demonstrations and funerals, and arrested thousands of Bahrainis.

These early protests cooled a bit when an investigative body, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, sanctioned by the government, confirmed the Bahraini government’s use of systematic torture and other forms of physical and psychological abuse on detainees, as well as other human rights violations.

Since that time, Bahrain has been in a state of sustained civil resistance and disobedience, most recently over the death of a protestor, and more protests are expected for the imminent second anniversary of the 2011 uprising. This has left the country in a state of turmoil for over two years despite the beginning of talks between Shia and Sunnis designed to find a way out of the various demands being made against the Bahrain government.

Bahrain has all the ingredients that foster insecurity in the Middle East.  Most important among those is the fact that Bahrain is ruled by a minority Sunni Government under the nose of Shia Iran.  The potential for Iran to make mischief is almost limitless in Bahrain, particularly given the presence there of the US Fifth Fleet.

Further, where tribalism does exist, it is almost overridden by the large numbers of foreigners who live and work for the relatively high wages available in Bahrain.  Those foreigners represent an additional wild card in the event of greater turmoil in Bahrain.

Most important, Bahrain is the home away from home for the US Fifth Fleet which does all its bunkering and support work at NSA Bahrain.  The Fifth Fleet would carry a critical load in any further hostilities in the region. Because any such hostilities are likely to be based on sectarian issues, the fact that half the Bahrain population is Shia, politically discontent and religiously aligned with and friendly to Iran, could create enormous security problems for the Fifth Fleet.

 

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First Published in the Valley News
Foreign Affairs Magazine has recently published an article arguing
that Iran should get the bomb. This is, to say the least, a
revolutionary and provocative statement. Nevertheless, it is worth
serious examination.
No one really knows Iran’s nuclear intentions. For the sake of the
discussion, however, let’s assume a worst-case scenario — that it really
is intent on getting the bomb.
Figuring out the best way the U.S. should respond is quite a challenge.
For starters, the country is now sharply divided on virtually every
contentious foreign policy issue, at least at the political fringes of
right and left. On the left, we have a vast array of Democrats who
simply are unprepared to consider that additional military action in the
Middle East makes any sense under any conditions. The right appears to
favor military action in Syria and Iran.
Further, AIPAC, the dominant pro-Israel lobbying organization, has
proudly reported that 32 senators from both parties have said that they
would reject “any United States policy that would rely on efforts to
contain a nuclear weapons-capable Iran.” This underlines the Israeli
position that it will not accept Iranian possession of nuclear weapons.
It also supports the assessment that Israel really wants to attack
Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Yet, aggressive military action by us or Israel, which our experts say
can at best only briefly slow down an Iranian quest for these weapons,
is the only thing that will unite a viscerally pro-Western Iranian
population against us and create massive problems for us in the Middle East.
Are there any good foreign policy options regarding Iran?
During the Cold War, we managed a highly competitive, tense,
nuclear-armed world with a policy called “nuclear deterrence.” Nuclear
deterrence was the doctrine that assumed that an enemy would be deterred
from using nuclear weapons as long as it recognized that it would be
destroyed as a consequence. In other words, the threat of nuclear
annihilation as a response to the use of nuclear weapons was sufficient
to keep all parties from using those weapons. Everyone with nuclear
weapons in the Cold War knew the facts. Those weapons were never used.
There are two critical issues involved in this doctrine of nuclear
deterrence. First, all concerned have to realize that nuclear weapons
are a powerful tool only as long as they are not used. For once they are
used, deterrence is irrelevant and the combatants are literally consumed
by their own stupidity.
And that brings the second critical point. Despite their incredibly
contrasting sets of values and interests, the Soviet Union and its
allies and the U.S. and its allies were not stupid enough to use the
bomb. If they had, most of us would not be here today.
And there’s the hooker. Those who cannot abide the notion of nuclear
deterrence as the foundation of our Iran policy say that the Iranians
would use the bomb, probably against Israel. Of course, what they are
implying is that the Iranians are a bunch of know-nothing rag heads,
prone to self-destruction.
How far from the truth can that be? The ancient Persians — the forbears
of modern-day Iranians — were in the process of working out a viable
alphabet when Europe’s ancestors were scuttling about in their caves
dressed in bearskins. Organized communities first existed in Iran around
8,000 B.C. The first Persian kingdom began around 2800 BC. Those
Persians ruled from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indus River until about
the sixth century B.C. It was the first great kingdom to exist in the
world and was certainly the greatest empire of its time.
The Persian cultural contribution to the world has ranged from art
through architecture, music, technology (underground aqueducts; some
close to 3,000 years old, some 1,000 feet deep and some dozens of miles
long) and science to literature.
Modern-day Persians are educated (77 percent literate), nationalistic
and anything but stupid. Despite the stupidly ugly rhetoric employed by
some of their political leaders since 1979, they are anything but the
wild-eyed fanatics that some in the West portray them to be. They are in
no way suicidal. They have the requisite characteristics to participate
successfully in “nuclear deterrence.”
Purely objectively, Persia is smart enough to avoid self-destruction and
enough aware of its history to believe it has a major role to play in
the Middle East. With Iran possessing a land mass of over 630,000 square
miles, a military establishment over 500,000, an educated population of
over 75 million, two-thirds of the world’s crude oil reserve and
potential control over the Arabian Gulf, it is time we recognized that
Iran has a role to play in its region and that we can help that role to
be either positive or negative.
There is no reason to believe that Iran will not respond positively to
respectful negotiations. They are worthy candidates for “nuclear
deterrence.”
In many ways, Iran’s future is really up to us.
 
 

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