21 may 2006
Iran’s nuclear programme in the eyes of some Arabs
After several discussions with some well-known Arab thinkers on the sidelines of the sixth Forum on Democracy, Development, and Free Trade, held in Doha last month, I became more convinced than at any other time that some Arab intellectuals could not approach or analyze current issues without emotional views and outdated theories.
I would not talk here about their enthusiastic support of Iran’s nuclear issue, which reminded me of their great satisfaction with Pakistan’s nuclear tests in 1998. At the time, many Arab officials, intellectuals, and commentators had not only viewed the event as a triumph for Arab/Islamic nations but also said that the so-called Pakistan’s Islamic bomb would be used to liberate Palestine, something Islamabad quickly denied fearing an Israeli airstrike.
I would also bypass their numerous attempts to focus on Israel’s nuclear programme as a justification for that of Iran’s, and their complete ignorance of a potential catastrophic impact of Iran’s nuclear activities on the people and environment of the Arab Gulf region, something that many experts have already written about.
What surprised me indeed was a scenario repeated by several intellectuals saying that the Iranians’ current tough stance was aimed at forcing the West to seek a deal with them. According to them, when the time comes for conducting such a deal, Iran will propose to dismantle its nuclear facilities “in exchange for the elimination of Israel’s nuclear capability”. Had not they been a bit shy, they would have said “in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories”.
This reminds one of a scenario sought by Iraq’s deposed president Saddam Hussain to end the 1990 Gulf crisis. Shortly after his invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990, and in order to save face and build popularity among Arab and Muslim masses, Saddam suggested withdrawing from Kuwait in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories, a proposal that was refused by the international community on the grounds that invaders must not be rewarded in any form. However, many Arab intellectuals were fooled by such an initiative to the extent that they described it as the only solution to the crisis, ignoring the fate of Kuwait and its people.
Apart from this emotional analysis of the issue, several other Arab intellectuals participating in the forum accused Washington of embracing a double-standard policy, referring to its different approach to Iran and North Korea’s nuclear issues. To them, Washington’s hostile position towards Tehran’s nuclear programme is part of its anti-Islam and pro-Israel policy and aimed at preventing Muslim countries from developing power that may threaten the Jewish state, while its less tough stance towards Pyongyang is because the latter’s nuclear capability does not pose a threat to Israel. To support their allegation, they pointed to US reluctance on multiparty-negotiations to end the crisis, like the six-nation talks on ending Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme. The six-nation talks, including the US, Russia, China, Japan, and the two Koreas, were launched in 2004 and have not yet resulted in achieving a breakthrough.
The answer to why the Americans are not enthusiastic about forming a similar bargaining channel to deal with Iran’s nuclear issue is:
First, Iran is a rich country and consequently economic and other assistance cannot be used as temptation for giving up nuclear ambition. This is unlike the status of impoverished and isolated North Korea.
Second, while North Korea’s chronic short of energy can partially justify its nuclear programme, Iran’s gigantic wealth of oil and gas leaves no room for believing any claim by Tehran that developing nuclear capability is exclusively aimed at meeting the country’s increasing need for energy. The Iranians, therefore, must have been motivated by goals other than the declared ones.
Third, in Northeast Asia where North, Korea is a secondary player with excellent ideological and other ties with China, the region’s major power, Washington can pin hopes on Beijing to influence Pyongyang at the bargaining table. This is unlike the situation in the Gulf, where Iran represents the region’s biggest and most powerful country, and all other players lack the sort of influence needed to convince Tehran of giving up its nuclear plans.
And fourth, unlike North Korea, whose nuclear weapons programme is only a tool to blackmail the West and ensure its Stalinist regime’s survival, Iran develops nuclear capability with the aim of playing a hegemonic role in the region and having the upper hand over the Arab Gulf states. Moreover, Iran’s nuclear ambition is also motivated by religious myths. Since coming to power in August 2005, Iranian conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly talked about making Iran powerful in preparation for the reappearance of Shiite Muslims’ hidden 12th Imam, Al-Mahdi.
Academic researcher and lecturer on Asian affairs
Sun, 21 May 2006 07:17:07 -0400 (Eastern Daylight Time)
From: "Naim S. Mahlab" <email@example.com>
What I find really disturbing about the race to acquire nuclear weapons, is the fact that the nations of the world are behaving like children with a new toy, you have one, so I must have one.
They seem to be totally oblivious to the fact that this is a deadly toy. All they have to do is look at Chernobyl in the Ukraine, and the Three Mile Island radiation leak in the USA.
All we need is one insane operator to use a small nuclear device to destroy the Globe.
We have problems disposing of the spent fuel rods which are stored is some isolated space with a prayer and the hope that nothing will go wrong. Radiation in these spent rods can last for centuries.
Hey guys, we inhabit a small space ship. One mistake and we all go the way of the dinosaurs
Should we not concentrate our efforts on securing the planet
rather than destroying it ?. Do not forget that it is 'we' who will pay the price of our madness.
Our differences are not that big that they cannot be resolved with dialogue and a pinch of common sense and good faith.
Please think about it before it is too late.
Naim S. Mahlab