Iran crisis needs new approach
Updated: 2013-02-22 07:15
By Wang Jinglie (China Daily)
In 2012, multiple talks between Iran and the P5+1 - Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany - over Teheran's nuclear program were held, but they failed to bear fruit and the US and other Western countries enhanced the intensity and scope of sanctions against Iran.
However, the US also acknowledged that, so far, "Iran is not yet committed to building a nuclear arsenal, only to creating the industrial and scientific capacity to allow one if its leaders to decide to take that final step."
Defense secretary Leon Panetta said on CBS's Face the Nation last year that Iran is laying the groundwork for making nuclear weapons someday, but is not yet building a bomb and called for continued diplomatic and economic pressure to persuade Teheran not to take that step. Therefore, all the sanctions have been imposed out of fear that Iran will take that final step and build a nuclear arsenal.
However, the crux of the issue is the ideological conflict and the hostility between Iran and the US-led Western countries.
The new round of nuclear talks will start on Feb 26 in Kazakhstan. The US and Western countries want to continue to exert pressure and strengthen sanctions to try and force Iran to compromise and yield to their will or else induce internal change in Iran to subvert the Teheran government. But Iran insists on its rights to peaceful development and the use of nuclear energy.
"The Iranian nation will stand firm to safeguard their nuclear rights and regards negotiations within the framework of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the International Atomic Energy Agency regulations as acceptable," Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani said in a speech during an open session of the Majlis.
So it can be predicted that it will be difficult for the upcoming talks on the Iranian nuclear issue to make any breakthrough or substantial progress because of the huge difference that exists between the stances of the two sides.
Iran is a country with an ancient civilization and it is the nation's long-cherished wish to restore its former glory. But in the face of the containment and pressure imposed by the US and other Western countries, Iran is seeking to accelerate the development of its military strength, which it believes is necessary for self-preservation. In recent years, Iran has not only developed unmanned aircraft and missiles it has also launched satellites (and a live monkey) into space. The development of its nuclear capacity is also regarded as important for its revitalization.
Iran's strategy is to emulate the "Japanese model". There are some nuclear-capable countries that are at a "critical point", and Japan is one of them.
Japan undertook a secret study into building nuclear weapons in the 1960s and with its highly advanced technology certainly has the capability to build them. Japan also has more than 10 nuclear power plants, which can provide sufficient fuel for the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Recently, Japanese officials said Japan would be able to construct a viable nuclear weapon within six months or less. However, the US and Western countries have not imposed sanctions against Japan.
Iran now has certain nuclear capability, but it has no intention to cross the "nuclear threshold". Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has repeatedly stressed that the Islamic republic does not intend to build nuclear weapons.
In the face of the West's hostility, Iran's strategic intent is to enhance its own strength so as to gain more say in the current international environment.
Although Israel launched air strikes on targets inside Syria, fearing that the country's chemical weapons might pose a threat to Israel if the situation continues to deteriorate. Israel is more worried about the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear issue. In Israel's view, a nuclear-armed Iran is a threat to Israel's national survival. Senior Israeli officials have threatened to "send Iran back to the Stone Age".
Of course, Israel will not easily be able to launch attacks against Iran's nuclear facilities because they are dispersed around the country and Iran has the ability to counter such attacks. The US is less likely to take military action against Iran. On the contrary, Washington may engage in direct negotiations with Teheran.
The Iranian nuclear issue is still in the hands of the US and the crisis not only does no harm to US' Middle East strategy, it also helps the US maintain its military presence in the Middle East. Since 2012, the US began to expand "strategic partnership" with the Gulf Cooperation Council member states, and it has deployed a ballistic missile defense system in the Middle East as part of its global strategic layout.
Also, the US is using the Iranian issue to divide the Islamic world and increase the insecurity of Middle East countries, especially the GCC countries, by inciting the threat from Iran. These countries are more dependent on the US for security and have to follow the US' leadership.
Moreover, the Iranian nuclear program has prompted its neighbors to buy weapons and US arms manufacturers have been cashing in.
Recently, the US political commentator Pat Buchanan blamed the US for the aggression of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. He said, "if the United States had no presence on the Demilitarized Zone, Pyongyang wouldn't be building intercontinental missiles and nuclear warheads to attack us."
Buchanan's comment could also be applied to the Iranian nuclear issue. Unfortunately Buchanan will not change the minds of American decision-makers.
The US and some Western powers should be blamed for the simmering Iranian nuclear issue. And as the previous rounds of talks have not been fruitful, a new approach is needed to resolve the issue.
Iran feels it has to make efforts to build up its military strength because it lacks a sense of security. If the international community can ensure Iran's security, and that its legitimate rights and interests are not being violated, the two sides will be able to establish mutual trust, there will be no need for Iran to spend huge amounts of money and human resources to challenge the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the existing international order.
The author is a researcher in Middle East Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.