No Need For Nuclear Weapons

This is a reflection on attorney Guive Mirfendereski’s rather patriotic narrative [“Things you don’t want to hear“] put in the form of a hypothetical speech at the UN, which defends Iran’s right to nuclear technology, pursuit of nuclear weapons and, last but not least, Iran’s withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in response to the Westen-led pressures to deny Iran access to this technology.

Mr. Mirfendereski, who has authored an important book on the legal history of the Caspian Sea, refers to the “imaginary obligations” of nations to the NPT and then writes of the anarchic world with full of national security threats that Iran finds itself today. As an attorney covering international law, Mr. Findereski should know better the value of international regimes and the importance of abiding by them for the sake of international peace and order.

Those obligations, such as the ones imposed by Iran’s Safegaurds Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as well as the Subsidiary Agreement, are real, enforceable agreements, which Iran has entered into as a responsible member of the international community. To counsel Iran’s withdrawal from the NPT, as attorney Mirfendereski has done in his article, is quite irresponsible and indicative of his obliviousness to the complexities of Iran’s web of relations in the contemporary world warranting continued commitment by Iran to the terms of its agreement with the IAEA.

To do otherwise, to follow Mr. Mirfendereski’s advice, which echoes the sentiment of certain hard-liners in Iran, such as the editor of Kayhan daily, Mr. Shariatmadari, would be to throw Iran in the bossom of international isolation, much like North Korea, and thus to overnight wash away more than a decade of conscientious effort by Iran’s foreign machinery establishment to exit this isolation through, first and foremost, steady improvement of relations with the European Union member states, in light of the repeated European trips of the former president Mohammad Khatami.

Now I understand attorney Mirfendereski’s moral outrage at the double standards applied to Iran and to Israel and the horrific silence and complicity of the West with respect to Saddam Hussain’s invasion of Iran in the 1980s. At a time when Saddam Hussain is about to be tried without the benefit of his anti-Iran atrocities being put on the table, it is amply important to remind the Western governments of this dark chapter in their recent history and the legitimate national security concenrs of Iran harking back to that brutal invasion exacting thounsands of lives and throwing back Iran’s economy by decades.

But, Mr. Mirfendereski’s error lies in his erroneous calculation of Iran’s national security needs, which do not warrant the acquisition of nuclear weapons contrary to his assertions. For one thing, with the threat of Iraq’s WMD gone, and given the action-reaction logic of proliferation, what need does Iran have to nuclear weapons? To protect against whom? Who is the enemy that might be deterred by Iran’s nuclear weapons?

Certainly not any of Iran’s immediate neighbors, either in Persian Gulf region or the Caspian basin. In fact, Iran’s proliferation of nuclear weapons, if it ever occurs, is precisely what would potentially escalate the regional arms race, prompting the Arab world to emulate Iran, and thus causing serious new national security worries for Iran.

Sure, Iran’s neighbor Pakistan has the bombs, but those are completely focused on India and Iran has absolutely nothing to worry about them now or, for that matter, any time in the forseeable future. And one might argue the same thing about Russia, Iran’s maritime neighor. Besides, assuming, en argumendo, that Iran gets its hands on a few nuclear bombs, how can these be said to act as deterrents against the overwhelming nuclear might of Russia or the United States? The answer is that as long as Iran would not have a “second strike” capability, there would be no such deterrence.

And, following Mr. Mirfendereski’s logic of argument, Iran must then work assiduously to stockpile first and second strike capability, siphoning off billions and billions of dollars of national wealth over a long period, in order to remain secure against a potential “imaginary” superpower attack. But, seriously, even in those unimaginable scenarios, does Iran have any chance against the overwhelming nuclear superiority of such adversaries? The answer is a clear no.

Now, I advise Mr. Mirfendereski to rethink his ill-advised positions which, contrary to the good intentions, actually harm Iran’s national security interests if followed. In a word, Iran’s national security does not need nuclear weapons and would be, in fact, jeopardised, by igniting an unpredictable nuclear arms race in the region, if Iran followed that option. Of course, there is something prestigious about being a nuclear weapons state, and the attraction may fool some Iranians, innocent to the complexities of national security issues, into thinking that Iran must “join the nuclear weapons club.”

But, Iran, a strong regional power with friendly relations with practically all its neighbors and with considerable regional influence especially since the events of 9/11,  is much better off remaining true to its NPT obligations and to work with the international community toward the lofty goal of a nuclear free Middle East zone. The latter brings me to the issue of Israel’s arsenals.

Sure we have to be concerned about that and Israel’s “nuclear blackmail” of its Arab adversaries, but the truth of tha matter is that Israel is an out of area state as far as Iran is concerned and any Iranian quest for nuclear weapons would only draw us, or rather sucks into, the vortex of the Arab-Israeli conflict, indeed not a happy scenario from the prism of Iran’s national security interests.

In conclusion, an indepth and comprehensive discussion of Iran’s national security is, unfortunately, largely lacking in the on-going discourses on Iran nowadays, and here we must be weary of good patriotic intentions that draw the wrong conclusions regarding the weapons needs of these interests.

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