Israel's Fears Drive the Nuclear Iran Debate

In midst of all the tensions surrounding Iran, nobody seems to be asking why the issue is gaining such high prominence and the talk to war between the Israelis and Persians fills the airwaves on a daily basis.

There are several reasons to explain why the debate has heated up.

On the most basic level, the combination of interests and stakeholders around preventing a nuclear Iran has it in their aim to peddle the issue towards polarization as much as possible. For this reason, official positions, media reports, and other publications try to justify striking Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The second level is slightly more sophisticated. Here, we turn towards the historical problem of Western foreign policies in general of preventing self-government in other parts of the world. It is a fight the West had been losing gradually since the end of colonialism, but the trend has sped up in recent decades with the emergence of China and other emerging powers. The question in Western capitals, as such, is how to slow down the trend, if it cannot be stopped – cases like India and Pakistan, the two Koreas, the American embargo against Cuba, and Israel/Palestine are indicative of this kind of policy. Nuclear weapons, unfortunately, give a country the ability to set its domestic and foreign policies without much heed for the international dimension of its actions; it requires a mature leadership to handle nuclear weapons in a way that does not lavish them in front of the world, but uses them in helping improve global security. Sadly such leaders are few and far between, and not to be found in either North Korea, Iran or Israel.

Flash back to China in 1949: Despite Washington's supporting Chiang Kaishek back in the day, the Communists in China took power. In a way, it was a strategic defeat for the United States. When it comes to Iran, ‘self-government’ happened with the overthrow of the Shah. How good that government is in relation to its people is a debatable question on its own, but not relevant to this discussion. Controlling nuclear power would force Washington to treat Iran as an equal in the region – something only a few countries have ever done with the United States, among which are Russia, France, China, and Cuba (if Washington ever swallows its tarnished pride about it). In both cases, when successfully defied, the United States either stops talking to the concerned parties or invades them; not unlike its protégé in the Middle East.

Israel and its lobby groups around the world – AIPAC, not least of all – are also panicked about the prospect of a nuclear Iran. Israeli foreign policy in the Middle East has been contentious to say the least: From the construction of settlements in the West Bank to unilateral strikes in Iraq and Syria and the numerous wars with its Arab neighbours, Israel has both been attacked and attacked in return, sometimes pre-emptively. If Iran develops the capacity to produce nuclear weapons if need be, Israel’s policy choices and behaviour would become much more constrained, since it would finally have a worthy opponent in the Mideast. A nuclear Iran offers a bipolar regional model. Israel perceives it as crucial to maintain primacy in hard power capabilities in the Middle East for the sake of its security. However, it is not likely that this will be the case in the foreseeable future, and diplomacy will have to be added to the security toolkit.

To conclude, an expanded nuclear club will make diplomacy the only recourse. The warmonger crowd won’t necessarily like it, but those with the skills to talk to people will in the end bring about positive change. An end will come to the deafening war propaganda, and when it does, the rational folks will simply normalize a nuclear Iran into the international nuclear management systems through diplomacy.

Photo Credit: Alex92287