The recent announcement that President Obama — signalled via Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan to Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini — is willing to tolerate a civilian Iranian nuclear program with guarantees against the development of nuclear weapons, is a sign that diplomacy is alive and well between the U.S. and Iran..Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet will surely protest, but in the interest of regional stability and peace, the hawks on both sides of the pond, and in Teheran, must be restrained.
Obama surprised when he said that the Ayatollah must follow his assertions about the fact that Iran does not want nuclear weapons with actions that gain the trust of Iran’s international partners enough to allay possible fears.
It is not clear whose court the ball is in right now, as is the case with quantum politics, everybody is playing the game at once. The president’s line clearly seeks to prevent war, even if the option formally remains on the table. Israel’s behaviour remains uncertain, and Netanyahu fuelling speculations about a potential strike on Iranian facilities is not productive on any front. Israel is already wilfully isolating itself from the world, and with a potential military option, it would consciously make the choice to continue in that direction – and the rank and file Israeli would much rather live in peace than a self-imposed national prison. Tel Aviv’s right to defend itself has never been questioned – rather, its ability to solve its problems politically, not militarily.
Even without official diplomatic relations, Obama is offering an olive branch to Iran – itself under a potentially reactionary regime that can use war to consolidate its authoritarian ways at the expense of a pluralistic political culture, more so preferred by the population. The biting sanctions on Teheran are noticeably isolating Iran from the global economy, but they have failed to reach the objective of eliminating the country’s nuclear program.
Washington is demonstrating a traditional wisdom of its nuclear foreign policy in that if it cannot prevent the spread of nuclear power, it can engage the new member of the club to guarantee its predictable exploitation as much as possible.
Iran, on its own part can and must do more to assure the world that it will not militarize its program. While the threat is overblown, the lack of trust on all sides is very noticeable. If Teheran’s proxy movements and Mossad’s ”clandestine” assassinations are any indication, agreeing to curtail state-sponsored terrorism on both sides is a good start, before talking about ways of preventing the species’ annihilation. Politically, it means that Tel Aviv and Teheran have to stop arguing who is blacker than the Devil, because that is a waste of time. Nuclear holocaust is an idea the superpowers played with for half a century, before agreeing that it was indeed a bad idea, and regional theocracies with designs for influence must understand that the destabilization potential nuclear weapons hold in an international system that is traditionally deficient of trust, is an even worse idea.
Israel on its own turn should stop taking lessons from Pyongyang and put its own nuclear weapons and program under international scrutiny; its electricity generation capacity does not include nuclear power, which means that the applications of the Dimona facility are entirely, or nearly entirely, military-oriented. Washington has practically said that there will not be war, which is a very good development. A nuclear Iran is not going away, but Teheran must seize the aforementioned olive branch to stop being uncooperative and engage the West in a genuine spirit of pragmatism to move the issue forward later this month.
Overall, the dogs of war won’t stop barking, but the diplomatic caravan simply must keep going.