Iran’s motive for becoming a nuclear power is not purely political. Its desire to become the next nuclear power stems from a strong sense of nationalism and an equally strong distrust of US intentions.
Since Iran’s revolution, the US has predicted that secular Iranians would eventually reclaim their country from the mullahs.
Well, we are still waiting and the latest election actually brought an even more radical leader to Iran’s presidency.
Even more telling is that secular Iranians are as adamant as radicals about their country having every right to nuclear technology. This same nationalistic pride is also fuelling Iran’s ambition to become a regional power.
Now place yourself in Iran’s shoes. The US is occupying Iraq to your west, rebuilding Afghanistan to your east, and headquarters its Fifth Naval Fleet to your south.
This is the same US government that harshly criticises your foreign and domestic policies at every chance, continues to freeze your assets since the 1979 Revolution, and is currently leveraging its UN Security Council position to put the kibosh on your nuclear ambitions.
“No country should have the atomic bomb, including the US and Israel.”
In effect, the US is undermining any chance of significant foreign investment coming your way. Is it any small wonder you distrust and dislike the US?
If Iran is clever, they will play nice and come into lock step with IAEA demands while insisting on rights to develop nuclear technology under strict international monitoring and safeguards.
Meanwhile, they will continue to gradually acquire the expertise, technology, and material necessary to produce nuclear weapons albeit on a much longer timetable.
Distrust of US
If the US is clever, we will anticipate this strategy and address the dangerous half of Iran’s nuclear equation: Distrust of the US. Only by assuaging Iran’s fear can the US hope to bring stability to that region of the world.
Naysayers will point to Iran’s hardline government and demand the status quo. But the status quo painted the US into the corner in which we now find ourselves. Dealing with a hardline government is nothing new for the US, a prime example of which is China.
Each passing day strengthens the trade relationship between our two countries while the chances of armed conflict simultaneously decrease.
China’s phenomenal growth is traceable to globalisation and its increasing connectivity with the world economy. In 1990, one year removed from the Tiananmen Square incident, any prediction of China becoming an economic powerhouse would have been laughable.
Today, Beijing is exploring ways to slow its economic growth. Foreign investment and open trade is fuelling this remarkable growth.
This foreign investment is noteworthy, especially when one remembers hardliners in China are still running the show and that investors are wary of anything resembling risk.
Can we expect the same bright future for Iran? Not with the current US policy which essentially mirrors Iran’s distrust.
Policy shift needed
US policy over the past 26-plus years, including unilateral sanctions, denouncements and other forms of coercion, is proving to be impotent. This same policy is arresting Iran’s economic development and affirms its mistrust of the US.
The US needs a seismic shift in its Iranian policy and to make it perfectly clear that if Iran stops aggressively pursuing nuclear weapon technologies and threatening its neighbours (including Israel), the US will meet it halfway.
Meeting Iran halfway includes supporting Iran’s ambition to become an advanced technological state and a regional power.
This can be accomplished by eliminating sanctions against non-US entities investing in Iran’s oil and gas sectors, encouraging technological collaborative endeavours, and giving serious thought about releasing still-frozen Iranian financial assets.
Such a move signals to Iran that the US is an honest broker and will steer Iran down the path leading towards connectivity with the rest of the world.
In time, new foreign investment and trade will usher in a re-birth of Iran’s economy, compelling it to adopt international rule-sets and mitigating any risk a nuclear Iran may pose. In short, Iran will avoid actions that may lead towards isolation.
It would be nice if we could prevent Iran from getting the bomb, but we need to think more about how to live with a nuclear Iran. When that day finally arrives, do we want to deal with an angry and fearful Iran with nothing to lose, or with an Iran connected to the world economy?
Joseph J Kurr is an attorney living in the United States.
The opinions expressed here are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position or have the endorsement of Aljazeera.