iran tondar missile launch 248.88 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
After reading "Iran's North Korean Model" in The Jerusalem Post last week, I felt the need to expand on it. The editorial is absolutely correct in predicting the "enormous peril" the world faces by allowing Iran to continue on its path of nuclear proliferation. However, the Iranian leaders' decision to defy the world holds much greater peril to them than it did for North Korea, so it would be difficult to use the latter as a model. Take for example the most significant war of the past decade: Iraq. Yes, America currently has its hands tied with Afghanistan and Iraq, and this fact encourages Iranian defiance, especially if we assume that impotence is now the defining characteristic of American power.
But have we already forgotten that America invaded Iraq on the very pretext that it had the same capabilities as North Korea? Have we forgotten that prior to that, the invasion of Afghanistan was a result of the American decision to combat international terror? No.
Unlike North Korea, Iran has everything to fear from America, considering that it has already involved itself in the region militarily for less. The American-led invasion of Iraq was based on the belief that Saddam Hussein was holding weapons of mass destruction. Beyond that, however, the United States was solidifying a tactical position against Iran, the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism.
NO MATTER which strategy you choose to believe dictated American foreign policy at that time, both point directly at Iran. Indeed, fostering instability in Iraq, supporting global terrorism, and threatening America's closest ally on a daily basis, Iran represents a strategic threat to American regional interests (not to mention that Iran is OPEC's second-largest producer and exporter of oil). But Iran has greater ambitions than politicide, which would follow the launching of a nuclear warhead at Israel.
Religious fanaticism does not necessarily equal stupidity. Even though Barak Obama clings to his hopes of dialogue, he will soon find that the Iranian regime is not interested in befriending a superpower - but rather in becoming one.
This is actually nothing new. We haven't seen a real policy change in Iran vis-Ã -vis America in the past 30 years. Iran defied America outright with the kidnapping of US officials after the revolution in 1979, and articulated the intention of developing a nuclear program long before the Iraq War. Although I don't think the ayatollahs are willing to sacrifice their power for the sake of ideology, achieving regional dominance definitely plays a large part in the Iranian national agenda.
"The nuclear playing card," if it doesn't start a regional arms race, would allow Iran to fill a power vacuum in the region and fuel the fires of Islamist movements presently gaining steam in the Arab world. Ahmadinejad has already begun filling the spot from which Saddam was removed as leader of the country seen as best able to check Israeli regional hegemony.
One might argue that Arabs and Persians are not natural allies - neither are Sunnis and Shi'ites. So why is Iran championing the Palestinian cause while the 8% Sunni minority within its own predominantly Shi'ite borders remains oppressed? Because doing so is sure to garner support and embolden extreme elements.
Paradoxically however, this "common cause" will not help Arab regional dictators if Iran's plan to encourage Islamism comes to fruition. If extreme groups were to instigate or hijack a revolution (like the clerics did in 1979) within Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan or Saudi Arabia, the world order would experience a cataclysmic shift.
IF IRAN has learned anything from North Korea's success over the past 16 years, it is the power inherent in the nuclear card. Iran now has the opportunity to assume a leading role in the region; it only lacks the "respect" that a nuclear weapon would afford it.
If the West were to allow Iran this advantage, it would see the unprecedented rise of a regional hegemon that Russia and China would jump to ally themselves with, in addition to the empowerment of Islamist groups and the fall of what we consider "friendly regimes" or "benign dictators."
These types of changes tend to accompany wars, and this is the reason, even more than the possibility of an ideologically driven nuclear strike, that Iran's nuclear program places everyone in enormous peril.
The writer holds an MA in Israeli politics and society and works for a coexistence organization in Jerusalem.