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Beyond nuclear power
America needs a fresh start with Iran

Hamid Bahadori
December 6, 2004

The latest agreement between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, engineered and blessed by the Britain, France and Germany, has made one thing certain. Soon, Iran will become a nuclear power whether the United Sates likes it or not. 

And as much as the Bush Administration needs, for both ideological and pragmatic reasons, to hate the mullah regime in Tehran, we need a fresh start in our relations with Iran, not for the fear of Iran's future nuclear weapons, but for reasons far more important. The possibility of Iran having nuclear weapons is much less of a strategic threat to America's long term interests in the Middle East compared to the manner in which Iran will get there.

The architects of our foreign policy need not only to start preparing for the unavoidable contingency of accommodating a nuclear Iran, but they need to even more importantly start containing the tectonic geopolitical forces that are helping Iran become nuclear.

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial best captured the essence of the challenge facing the U.S. as it rightfully claimed that the latest agreement that the three European powers doctored "did not help stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, it stopped the U.S. from stopping Iran from getting them."

Roots of the mess that the U.S. is currently facing in Iraq and Afghanistan can clearly be traced back to the failed pollicies of President Carter in the late 70's that significantly facilitated the success of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The Ayatollahs have not only been an ideological inspiration for radical Islamic movements, but have also financed and sponsored terrorist activities across the globe much more than most people know.

Furthermore, the IRI is a regime that has summarily executed tens of thousands of its own citizens, has no tolerance for freedom of thought, speech or religion, and prides itself in treating women as possessions to be owned and covered. Nonetheless, one fact remains clear. Iran is the most significant country in the Middle East and is vital to the stability of the region.

With a population of 60 million, a $500 billion GDP, having the longest border on the Persian Gulf and being the only Persian-speaking country in the Middle East that has historically counterbalanced Pan-Arabism, Iran's geopolitical importance goes far beyond her oil and natural gas reserves. Regrettably, for the last 25 years, all U.S. administrations have failed to realize that others will fill the political and the economic vacuum created by Americans in abandoning relations with Iran. 

Iran recently signed a $100 billion economic agreement with China. European companies are importing over $20 billion of merchandise to Iran's fertile markets. In the past, many of Iran's brightest technical minds attended MIT and Stanford. These days they are attending universities in Europe and Canada, even some in China.

Only a couple of generations ago, the majority of Iranian intellectuals and technocrats were French-educated and some spoke German as well. Few, if any, had any familiarity with the English language. As fashionable and convenient it may be to have Iran as the focus of American hatred, Washington's current course of action towards Iran will only lead to a deterioration of U.S. influence in the Middle East.

In evaluating our relations with Iran, in the context of other countries involvement in the region, we need to remember Winston Churchill's famous words that, "Nations have neither friends nor enemies. They simply have economic interests. At times, they coincide, sometimes, they don't". 

We need a fresh start with Iran. Hopefully, it will be a positive one. But if it's not feasible, an outright confrontation may be better than our current course which is like an absentee landlord delegating the protection of America's long term interests to Europeans, and turning a blind eye to the ever-increasing Chinese influence in Iran.

A point needs to be made clear to our European "allies". As America is losing her bravest sons and daughters in Afghanistan and Iraq, a historic "sneaking in" by the "old Europe" in Iran, in concert with China will not be tolerated by the United States.

When it comes to Iran, America has a lot more to be concerned about than the possibility of a few nuclear weapons.

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