U.S.-Iran tensions and the nuclear card

The recent tensions between the United States and Iran have raised alarms and led many to forecast a growing probability of full-scale war between the two states.

June 4, 2019 21:26
4 minute read.
U.S.-Iran tensions and the nuclear card

US NATIONAL Security Adviser John Bolton, a leading voice in the US against Iran’s threatening policies.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

When Donald Trump assumed the office of the president of the United States in 2017, it was clear to many analysts and individuals in foreign policy-making circles that relations between Iran and the US would sour, especially when President Trump pulled his country out of the Iran nuclear deal last May.

However, recent tensions between the United States and Iran have raised alarms and led many to forecast a growing probability of full-scale war between the two states.

Many in the West view the growing tension as a reaction to the paranoia of a nuclear Iran and proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. In the past, Ayatollah Khomeini  – the founder of the Islamic republic – and Ayatollah Khamenei – its current supreme leader – have expressed their opposition to nuclear weapons as un-Islamic and against humanity.

However, Iran has been guilty of efforts to conceal its nuclear activities and facilities in the past, according to IAEA in the 2000s. If one does not wish to develop nuclear weapons, why conceal such activity?

It is thus not inconceivable to assume that the regime might have covert nuclear projects or plans to enrich uranium to the level that would make the development of a nuclear weapon possible.

As a matter of fact, The New York Times reports Khamenei’s threatening to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels on May 14, 2019, amidst the growing tension and military maneuvering by the United States in the Gulf region.

This raises the question of who is to blame for the recent escalation of tensions and just what is behind it all? Tehran political analyst Prof. Mohammad Marandi argues that Iran has not violated the JCPOA and is, in fact, abiding by international law.

Assuming this is true, it is important to take into account the Iranian regime’s extremely poor track record when it comes to abiding by international treaties and norms. What guarantees are there that it will not violate any nuclear deal that it signs if it suits its interests or can ensure its survival?

While the US did sign up for the nuclear deal, it must be noted that the deal negotiated by the Obama administration only restricts Iran’s uranium enrichment for a certain time period, which means that this deal is likely to expire and require renegotiation in the near future.

Given that the Iranian regime is willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure its survival, what is to stop it from using the nuclear issue and the development of nuclear weapons to continue its expansionist foreign policy and domestic repression.

The usage of its nuclear program and the threat of possibly developing nuclear weapons has been part of the Islamic regime’s central strategy against the United States and its allies for more than a decade now.

While the US is certainly no saint, the Iranian regime’s behavior from its inception until the aftermath of the Arab Spring demonstrates the hostile and expansionist nature of this pariah power. In my view, the recent tension is thus more a result of Iran’s military activities and posturing regionally than concerns about it developing nuclear weapons or violating the nuclear deal.

The tough rhetoric from the United States in response to reports and intelligence claims that Iran or its proxies are threatening US allies and interests in the Middle East must thus be understood as a defensive maneuver within this context rather than preparation to strike Iran first.

According to Holly Dagres, an Iranian-American analyst, “The bomb is the Iranian government’s wild card, which it uses to indicate to the United States and the world that it is better to be in business with Tehran than to ostracize it.” Thus, while the nuclear question remains an important and pressing issue for the United States and its allies, it is the desire to strip Iran from playing this card that the Trump administration seems to be most concerned about.

The nuclear card works to Iran’s advantage in that it gives it the liberty to crackdown on dissenting voices domestically, but it also exports its revolution and influence regionally through its various proxies in neighboring countries with little to no consequences. In other words, Iran is using the nuclear deal to justify and legitimize its regional expansion by funding and commanding its proxies in several countries in the region.

So long as Iran has this card of developing nuclear weapons to play in its quarrel with the West, it will remain a thorn in the side of the US, and the probability of a full-scale war or efforts at regime change remains inevitable.

The author is an English teacher and freelance writer located in Vancouver and is a contributer for Kurdistan24, Rudaw and other Kurdish news organizations.

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