Why does Iran want nuclear weapons?
With all the recent talk about Iran resuming its nuclear programme it is a shame the West continues to undermine its own position with selective morality and obvious hypocrisy.
I find it amazing the Press can have so many articles about this issue yet fail to address the obvious question - 'for what reasons could Iran want nuclear weapons?'
As Simon Jenkins points out, the answer is as simple as looking at a map.
"I would sleep happier if there were no Iranian bomb but a swamp of hypocrisy separates me from overly protesting it. Iran is a proud country that sits between nuclear Pakistan and India to its east, a nuclear Russia to its north and a nuclear Israel to its west. Adjacent Afghanistan and Iraq are occupied at will by a nuclear America, which backed Saddam Hussein in his 1980 invasion of Iran. How can we say such a country has "no right" to nuclear defence?"
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told the BBC that the West is partly to blame for the Iran nuclear crisis for allowing Israel to develop a nuclear arsenal. He said nuclear weapons benefited no-one, and called for a nuclear-free zone in the Gulf. It would be good to see al-Faisal get some strong support for this idea, as a WMD free Middle East ought to be the goal of any sane policy. Better still, no Security Council Resolution would be required to put such a ban in place, as it is already provided for under existing resolutions.
In 2003 George Bush and Tony Blair attempted to use Security Council resolution 687 as a justification for the invasion of Iraq. While 687 provided no such authorisation, it did call for the elimination of Iraqi WMD and delivery systems as a step towards "the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all other missiles for their delivery and the objective of a global ban on chemical weapons." (Article 14). So if 687 is really to be upheld, then pressure must be put on Israel to disarm.
A good start would be for the US and the UK to publicly recognise Israel's possession of nuclear weapons (as far as I know they have never officially recognised this) and ask Israel to agree to arms reduction talks. This would have the advantage of greatly increasing the diplomatic pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear programme, as it would be much more difficult for Tehran to claim they need nukes for defensive purposes. Many Arab states feel threatened by Israel's nuclear status, especially as Israeli nuclear armed submarines have been known to patrol the coasts of Iran and Pakistan.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claims Iran 'does not need nuclear arms' and that his country is only asserting its right to peaceful nuclear technology, as allowed under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Unfortunately, countries such as Israel made similar denials in the mid-1960s when they were developing nuclear weapons, so any such denials ought to be taken with a grain of salt, unless said country is happy for the IAEA to make unhinded inspection visits.
In Iran's case, Ahmadinejad needs to be asked why it is so essential for Iran to gain nuclear power stations when the country is sitting on one of the most plentiful gas supplies in the world.
If Iran is successful in developing nuclear arms - this will be yet another dismal failure for the foreign policy of George W Bush. North Korea is named in the 'axis of evil' speech, continues its nuclear weapons programme and withdraws from the NPT. Iran is named in the 'axis of evil' speech, and is now 'breaking the seals' on its three nuclear facilities. It worried U.N chief inspector Hans Blix that in invading Iraq, Bush may have sent precisely the wrong message - the US only attacks countries that cannot defend themselves.
And like most policy questions - it all comes down to who we want to help. Simon Jenkins again.
"All the following statements about Iran are true. There are powerful Iranians who want to build a nuclear bomb. There are powerful ones who do not. There are people in Iran who would like Israel to disappear. There are people who would not. There are people who would like Islamist rule. There are people who would not. There are people who long for some idiot western politician to declare war on them. There are people appalled at the prospect. The only question for western strategists is which of these people they want to help."
Edit 14/9/09: Despite this post being over three years old it continues to generate quite a few hits. It is pleasing to know so many people are asking the same basic question that motivated my post. I turned this post into a longer article for Peace Researcher, where I also looked at some of the arguments related to nuclear power. This was published in December 2007.