Neither War Nor Nuclear-Armed Iran

Reshaping the Middle East via a policy of common security


Neither War Nor Nuclear-Armed Iran
by Mohssen Massarrat & Bahman Nirumand

The article has been translated from German by Judith Schlenker and Ali Fathollah-Nejad. A version of the article appeared in German as “Lasst das Militär in der Kaserne! Wer will, dass der Iran atomwaffenfrei bleibt, muss ihn nicht angreifen. Es reicht schon, wenn die gesamte Region auf ihr Nuklear-Arsenal verzichtet – auch Israel. Eine Replik auf Joschka Fischer” [Keep the military in the barracks! Those wanting to keep Iran free of nuclear weapons, need not to attack it. It suffices that the entire region renounces its nuclear arsenal – also Israel. A reply to Joschka Fischer, in Financial Times Deutschland, 15 December 2011, p. 24.

A reply to former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer’s article “Iran on the Warpath

In his widely published op-ed entitled “Iran on the Warpath”, former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer has correctly emphasized the consequences of a potential war on Iran. Not only the democracy movement in Iran itself but also the “Arab Spring” would come to an end, Fischer writes. Moreover, the entire region would be thrown back into violence and terror, and be put in a situation nobody could control. Fischer also doubts whether the Iranian nuclear program could at all be prevented by war. Against the background of the unpredictable consequences of such a war, he calls for a diplomatic resolution with the “the burden of organising, convening, and conducting such highly sensitive negotiations fall[ing] on Europe.”

Fischer’s concerns and warnings should be taken seriously by every responsible politician and urge him or her to look for ways that could prevent the approaching catastrophe. It is however disappointing that his article does not address those considerations for a diplomatic solution. On the contrary, in his assessment of possible threats Fischer constructs a deadlock, which in the final analysis presents a war on Iran as the only possible alternative to a nuclear Iran. However, his plea to resolve the nuclear dispute diplomatically loses much credibility when he stresses that all previous rounds of negotiations had all led to an impasse. Fischer’s threat assessment can in any case be understood or misunderstood as an anticipatory justification of a Western–Israeli war on Iran. The alternative he constructs between “either war or a nuclear Iran” is a leitmotif in his text, which does not allow for a conclusion other than the inevitability of a war against Iran.

Fischer’s momentous choice between a rock and a hard place, which he floats as a suggestion, derives from the fact that he selectively reduces the overall security conflict in the Middle East to Iran’s nuclear program. Without doubt, the Iranian nuclear program – should it really lead to a nuclear weaponization – would bring about a great threat to regional peace and significantly exacerbate existing conflicts. However, an objective analysis of the conflict would certainly lead to the conclusion that the Iranian nuclear program is not the only reason for, but actually part and parcel of the nuclear conflict in the Middle East. Yet, Fischer arbitrarily excludes Israel’s nuclear arsenal and its means of delivery – including the nuclear-capable German Dolphin submarines, for whose delivery he himself was partly responsible as foreign minister. Just as if the over 200 Israeli nuclear bombs were the most natural thing in the world.

Apparently Fischer takes Israel’s monopoly over nuclear weapons for granted, not even worth mentioning. It seems that Israel’s nuclear weapons are part of a strategic status-quo for the West, which is closely related to the control over energy reserves and transport routes in the Persian Gulf. For his main concern about a nuclear-armed Iran is, as he particularly emphasizes, that it “would drastically alter the Middle East’s strategic balance.” Obviously, Fischer seems to have overlooked that the possibilities for the U.S. and the West to push through their strategic interests in the Middle East have already lost their material base. The new powerful energy consumers – China, India, Brazil and other emerging countries – have massively disrupted the old hegemonic oil price regime. Oil prices have become scarcity prices and will remain so.

It might be that Fischer also believes that the nuclear arsenal is a necessary guarantor for Israel’s existence. But this is a huge mistake which is evidently also committed by Israel’s leaders. The Israeli élite exploits the real security needs of its own population in order to continue occupation and war against the Palestinian people and neighboring countries. However, a strategy based on nuclear arms, occupation, and confrontation, in no way serves the existence of Israel, but jeopardizes it to a highest degree. Only its enemies can wish the people of Israel security based on nuclear weapons and war, but not its friends. The security of Israel can only be permanently guaranteed if Israel stops embedding itself as an alien element or bridgehead of the West, but instead acts as an equal state in the region recognizing the rights of the Palestinians in accordance with UN decisions, and lives in peace with its neighbors.

Instead of insisting on strategies of power policy and anachronistic beliefs while putting the case for a “either war or nuclear Iran” specter, Fischer should rather support solutions aimed at sustainably guaranteeing peace in the region as well as the rights of all its peoples, including Israelis and Palestinians. One proposition opening up such a perspective is already on the table: the establishment of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. It would be an unforgivable mistake to push aside such a proposal as being unrealistic. After all, the 2010 UN Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) decided to launch a conference for a WMD-free zone in the Middle East from 2012 onwards. It is most disturbing to see political parties and the media remaining silent about this UN conference. In fact, this conference would overcome the deadlock over the one-sided and selective diplomacy towards Iran that has failed so far. Moreover, it would provide the Islamic Republic with a platform to openly negotiate an end to the nuclear arms race in the region.

It seems that the fear is justified that a Middle East free of nuclear weapons would shift the “strategic balance” in the region (i.e. the pre-eminence of the West) as much as a nuclear-armed Iran would do. In fact, both alternatives contradict the actual or supposed interests of the transatlantic alliance. In contrast to the alternative of a “nuclear Iran” – leading to a nuclear arms race and potentially to wars with disastrous consequences including posing a serious danger to Israel’s existence –, the solution involving a WMD-free Middle East would allow lasting peace, disarmament, and the perspective of common security and economic cooperation.

The objection that the proposal for a WMD-free zone is illusory because Israel is principally opposed to it is absurd. Israeli leaders have rejected the proposition because they would have to pursue policies in total opposition to their current ones. Even in Iran there are forces trying to legitimize their existence by way of chaos and conflict. The two regimes, both in Israel and Iran, are acting for the purpose of maintaining power and against the interests of their peoples. The world community must not be discouraged by these forces and should make every effort to enforce the UN proposal. In order to facilitate Israel’s consent towards the concept of a zone free of nuclear weapons, NATO could for example offer membership for Israel and thus its protection, which would certainly be more effective than any own arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Israeli leaders and the fundamentalist forces supporting them will finally need to realize that the era of occupation and their monopoly on nuclear weapons in the region is coming to an end, and that the continued occupation of foreign territories constitutes the great danger of Israel’s demise. And the radical and fundamentalist forces in Iran should also take note that with verbal attacks and foe images they will finally isolate or even ruin their country.

The prospect of a Middle East free of nuclear, chemical, and bacteriological weapons would not only render the solution of the nuclear conflict with Iran possible, but also facilitate the resolution of the Israel–Palestine conflict as well as many other ethnic and religious conflicts in the region. This would also deprive the fundamentalists from their support and help the newly flourishing democratization process in Iran and the Arab countries to successfully unfold. The goal of reshaping the Middle East via a policy of common security and economic cooperation is exactly the path that Europe took after two world wars resulting in 30 million war victims and terrible destruction – it is therefore no utopia, but quite real. It is, however, essential to place the steps towards that aim on the world’s political agenda, here and now.


* Dr. Mohssen Massarrat: Professor emeritus for global politics and economics, peace and conflict researcher, University of Osnabrück (Germany). For many years, he served as an ombudsman for the Heinrich Böll Foundation, a public education think-tank affiliated to the German Green Party. Author of more than 20 books, he has most recently spearheaded the civil-society initiative for a Conference for Security and Cooperation in the Middle East (CSCME). Website: //

* Dr. Bahman Nirumand: Writer and author of the widely read “Iran-Report”, a monthly account on Iranian domestic and international affairs, published by the Heinrich Böll Foundation. A book he published in 1967 (later translated into English with the title Iran: The New Imperialism in Action, with an afterword by Hans-Magnus Enzensberger, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1969) contributed majorly to the internationalization of the German student revolts of that time. More recently, he is the author of Iran: Die drohende Katastrophe [Iran: The Looming Catastrophe], Cologne (Germany): Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2006.


Arash Kamangir

Europeans cannot be trusted!

by Arash Kamangir on

Europeans in particular the Germans are very hypocritical. They always used american army to defend them and when the tide turns and they have to physically get out there and defend their free world and interests suddenly war is bad and as joshka said to rumsfeld " we have not got a case"!.


A good article offering an

by Khebedin on

A good article offering an excellent simple and practical solution. But only if the West was interested in peace in M.East.  

Darius Kadivar

Not Before a Good Dinner Mein Herr ;0)

by Darius Kadivar on


Would Mr.Fischer also attack France ???

by radius-of-the-persian-cat on

This question might sound silly to you, but in fact it is not. Herr Fischers rise in german politics was not based in his expertise in foreign relations, but on a very singular domestic subject: the civil use of nuclear power. Thanks to his very limited understanding of science and technology, Herr Fischer always advocated complete stop of any nuclear technology. Some of his former green-party "friends" even claimed to stop him once from issuing a legislative in the german parlament demanding a "complete ban of all atoms from German territory" ;-)

Therefore, Herr Fischer might consider France one of the rough states, since its energy consumption is +70% based on nuclear power (and planed for further rise). And for Herr Fischer, every nuclear power plant anywhere in the world, not only in Iran, is just a hidden production site for weapon-ready plutonium.

Maybe Fischer has now developed the idea that in order to stop a country from using or developing nuclear technology one might have to threaten it with a military action. Maybe he wants to test the feasability of this scenario first on Iran, but sooner or later apply it on other countries as well (such as France). The last german emperor coined the phrase "Am deutschen Wesen soll die Welt genesen" ("The world shall recover on German nature"), and at least the german green-alternatives seem to have adopted this for their own political agenda.


From Pacifist to Bellicist and back

by radius-of-the-persian-cat on

During his time as minister of foreign affairs in the german red-green gouvernment, Mr. Fischer was a strong supporter of NATO bombings of Serbia as a measure to stop surpression of the boznian and albanian minorities. He argued that the violence against these ethnic minorities remembered him on the Auschwitz death-camp. It might be that the killing of civilians (euphemistaclly called "colateral damage") by this NATO attacks made him reconsider his decision, although he seems to be reluctant to openly confess such a change in mind. But one year later he openly declared the harsh military activities of Russian police and military forces against the muslim population in Tschetschnia as a ligitimate counter-terror measure of a super-power. Three years later, in 2003 aside the annual conference on security politics, J.Fisher re-invented himself as a pacifist, when he addressed Donald Rumsfeld, US defense minister under G.W.Bush with the words  "Excuse me, I am not convinced", regarding the planed invasion of Iraq. If Mr. Fisher now declares that an open war is a legitimite option to stop the Iranian nuclear threat shows that this man is able to do one U-turn after the other and is completely refractory to any retrospective analysis of the consequences of his former political decisions.

This habit of jumping from one extreme to the other does not only characterizes his political opinion, but his very physical and mental state as well. He is notorious for an oscillating body weight, changing within a year from almost obesive to anorexic and vice versa. In the same intervalls he is changing his partners in life. I hope that after three short-lasting mariages his current wife Minu Barati, daughter of the Iranian dissident Mehran Barati, will somewhat stabilize his political thoughts.

Whereas emotional inconsistency might be painful only for himself and his spouses, if this extends onto foreign politics the man has to stopped. I hope his 28 year younger wife will do so.


Israel's Nukes in return for Khamenei dropping his nuke plans?

by Roozbeh_Gilani on

A fair deal I would say. A very fair and desireable deal indeed for the entire region. The fact is that Israel has won every war against it;s arab neighbours without resorting to nuke weapons... 

"Personal business must yield to collective interest."

Darius Kadivar

FYI/ Bahman Nirumand behind Ulrike Meinhof letter to Shahbanou

by Darius Kadivar on

German transcript of the diatribe written by Ulrike Meinhoff  aimed at depicting the Shahbanou as a kind of frivolous "Marie Antoinette" and falsly claiming that people were dying from hunger in the villiages of Iran.

Ulrike Marie Meinhof Offner Brief an Fra Dibah

See Related Blog on German Movie The Baader Meinhoff Complex :

The Baader Meinhof Complex (TRAILER)



For the Anecdote :




His book “Persia, a model of a developing nation or the dictatorship of the Free World” (“Persien, Modell eines Entwicklungslandes oder Die Diktatur der Freien Welt”) published in January 1967 had a big influence upon the internationalism of the student uprising. Nirumand became a member of the Confederation of Iranian students. On a lecture tour for his book in Hamburg, he was invited byFreimut Duve and became acquainted with Ulrike Meinhof. They talked about the circumstances in Iran. Upon this, Ulrike Meinhof wrote ın Juni 1967 for the official visit of shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in the Federal Republik of Germany an open letter to his wife Farah Diba.[2] In this letter, Meinhof alleged among others that for the peasants of Mehdiabad, a »Persian meal« consists of straw put ın water.[3] In October 1967, a critic was published ın the Spiegel, where several informations about Iran that had been published in the book of Nirumand were rated as dubiose or wrong.[4]In 1979, he returned to Iran before the Islamic Republic of Iran was founded. After staying there for three years, Nirumand went to exile to Paris, as he got no permission to enter Germany. Later, he went to Berlin.