No one can say with confidence what the Iranian leaders have in mind. Do they have ambitions to enrich weapons grade uranium or are they simply looking for a long-term plan for their energy needs? No one should or could accept the Iranian leaders’ assertions that they have no intention of developing a nuclear arsenal. No one should or could believe the Bush administration’s promises that it will pursue a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the current crisis, much of which is manufactured by the neo-conservative war machine. When President Bush calls the idea of using bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapons “wild speculations,” no body should believe him or any other White House denials that it is in the midst of operationalizing its contingency war plans on Iran.
War is not inevitable, no matter how hard the both sides try to make it so. The following six-point proposal is based on an assumption that the most significant element compelling the Islamic Republic to contemplate militarizing their nuclear technology is their threat assessment. Those in the Bush administration who believe that they could bomb Iran into submission, or deter their resolve to advance a nuclear technology, are simply racing away from a negotiated settlement of the current conflict. Once compared to all other coercive and military measures, the following six-point plan to resolve the crisis offers concrete benefits for both sides. The major costs of this solution (comparing to the possible hundreds of thousands of deaths, immense destruction of Iranian cities, and colossal economic price for both sides) are symbolic, for the most part, and require prevailing over issues of pride and prejudice.
1. Iran has an inalienable right to peaceful nuclear technology. This right comes with the responsibilities and obligations to the international community as stated in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Should Iran decide to expand and sustain a nuclear technology which includes full cycle enrichment program, the Islamic Republic must comply with the IAEA’s terms of inspection and regulation. Iran should guarantee the complete transparency of its program.
2. The United States should sign a non-aggression pact with Iran that recognizes the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic and pledges non-interference with the Iranian domestic affairs. The United States must categorically reject the project of regime change in Iran. If the Bush administration is genuinely committed to the cause of democracy and human rights, it must recognize that its efforts to “buy” or “install” democracy in Iran, or any other country in the world, have the contrary effect of strengthening undemocratic forces. American threats justify the suppression of civil liberties at home and abroad. The United States and it Europeans allies must recognize that even the most intrusive inspection regime cannot stop Iran from contemplating the militarization of its nuclear technology. The peril of such a development cannot be contained or eliminated by threats of war. Rather, these threats provide stronger and more justifiable reasons for speeding up the militarization of peaceful nuclear technology.
3. The Iranian government should accept and guarantee a policy of non-interference in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As the former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami has acknowledged, Iranian policy must be based on the recognition of the Palestinian peoples’ right of self-determination. The Islamic Republic must guarantee that it will respect any agreement between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.
4. Iran should formally acknowledge that the seizure of the American Embassy in Iran was a violation of international laws protecting diplomatic missions. It should recognize that by seizing the embassy they violated the sovereignty of the United States. Prior American involvement in Iran, especially the US role in installing and supporting the regime of Mohammad Reza Shah, could not and should not justify the act of holding American diplomats hostage. Iran should restore the embassy to its original condition and maintain the grounds for its future transfer to its American owners, or pay damages to the American government.
5. The United States should release all frozen Iranian assets, lift its trade embargo, and halt punitive measures against companies which invest in Iranian industry.
6. Both the US and the Islamic Republic should begin negotiations preliminary to re-establishing full diplomatic relations. This could be part of a joint US-Iranian effort to stabilize Afghanistan and Iraq.
I urge opinion makers in the US to press the government to turn away from fomenting war. This proposal could be the means to de-escalating the crisis.
About Behrooz Ghamari is a professor of history and sociology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org He is the author of the forthcoming book Islam and Dissent in Postrevolutionary Iran.