As they did with the Taliban, America faces a monumental challenge today, in dealing with yet another Frankenstein monster they appear to have created, this time in the middle-East. Nuclear research was started in Iran in the decade following the Second World War, in a bid to conduct research for peaceful activities, i.e. to provide a clean, efficient alternative source of energy to oil. However, despite a short sabbatical during Ayatollah Khomeini’s rule, nuclear activity has been ever-present in the country. And with it, is the perennial threat that Iran may weaponise their Uranium stockpiles, and finally satiate the grudge they have had against the USA for the best part of half a century.
Unfortunately, a majority of the western world seems to buy into this American paranoia, and with tinfoil hats placed firmly on their heads, most of these countries wish to take Iran to task over their (as yet) non-existent WMDs. The situation in the middle-east can be described as volatile, at best. While war doesn’t seem imminent, incessant air-strikes carried out by Israel on Iran in the recent and distant past have led to the area transforming into a simmering cauldron of discontent that could boil over at any time. To America’s credit, the country has done its best to avoid a full-blown conflict. President Barack Obama has played his cards sensibly, committing to using force to protect American interests if necessary, while ensuring the meter doesn’t move from “Status Quo” to “All-Out War”. However, despite all of Obama’s pragmatism, Israel retains the potential to be a large fly in the ointment. Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly threatened to attack Iranian nuclear sites, and Obama has done well to hold his own, and has refused to get dragged into this conflict. The effects of America’s disastrous and monumentally expensive campaign in Iraq (also to find non-existent weapons of mass destruction) are still being felt across the world. Another similar conflict could result in even more serious fallout, both economically and in terms of potential casualties.
However, despite all of America’s supposed discretion, the irony of the whole situation is palpable. Much has been made of Iran’s (fairly evident) dislike of the United States. But, the fact remains that, for all their posturing, and for all of the United States’ worries, there is no indication that Iran possesses a bomb. Authorities have always maintained that the nuclear research being done is strictly to develop clean, usable energy, and no more. The hypocrisy increases – talks on nuclear disarmament between Russia and USA have consistently broken down, despite the fact that these two countries have the world’s largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons. Essentially, America is demanding Iran’s co-operation, trading in Russia’s lack of the same in exchange, a frankly ludicrous negotiation. The double standards do not end there. The sanctions that the western world is so desperate to impose on Iran are completely absent on the aforementioned countries. To summarise the ludicrousness of the situation, countries that have nuclear weapons seem to be immune to any sort of sanctions, even when one of those countries is the only to have ever used nuclear weapons for force (Hiroshima, Nagasaki). Meanwhile, these same countries continue relentlessly in their pursuit to persecute a country whose weapons status is a veritable nuclear Schrödinger’s cat, where they may or may not have any nuclear arms at all. Without trying to sound like a conspiracy theorist, it is probably safe to assume that this entire charade ties into the USA’s lust for crude oil. All said and done, America’s interests in the middle-east have always been purely economic. Iran is one of the only countries whose oil America is not a beneficiary of, and this is clearly a source of great grief for the richest country in the world. Hence the constant attempts to demonise and discredit Iran.
While it would be foolish to completely disregard the possibility (however remote) of Iran possessing nuclear weapons, there are several signs that point away from this conspiracy. For one, Iran has uranium that is at only 20% enrichment. While this is sufficient to construct a small weapon, it is hardly something that warrants the intensity of America’s opposition. Iran has always stated that the nuclear research is primarily aimed at developing energy, and believes that it is in good hands. The view shared by the people of Iran is slightly different, however. An Iranian student in Pune, who wished to remain anonymous, said that he had enormous faith in the potential of the nuclear programme, to provide the people of his country with a good alternative to oil. However, he stated that the only stumbling block(s) in this process are the authorities in charge. He believes that someone with a more modern outlook is needed to ensure that the ‘nuclear episode’ is handled smoothly.
His friend, who also wished for anonymity was a little more vocal with his opinion. He criticised Israel’s and America’s role in the whole situation. “It’s very disappointing to see things happen like this,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to justify our efforts to obtain nuclear energy, as the others haven’t been asked to do so either.” While this may seem a bit extreme, he does seem to have a valid point. With all this chasing after Iran, the US seems to be conveniently ignoring North Korea. Kim Jong-Un, along with ‘Dear Leader’ before him, seems to have made every possible effort to feel significant. The country is assumed to have at least six nuclear weapons at the moment, and stockpiles that could make this number rise to 48 within the next two years. The potential of this threat is one that America can hardly afford to ignore or dismiss. When not fraternising with has-been basketball players (Kim Jong-Un met Dennis Rodman earlier today), DPR Korea seems to spend a lot of its time playing the tough guy. And maybe it’s time the west sat up and took notice of a country that could actually pose a threat in the future rather than chasing shadows in the middle-East.
The most interesting aspect of the whole situation will be the effect it has on India. Says Ruchi Sawardekar, an M.A. student in political science, “India has always maintained a neutral position as far as situations like this are concerned. This is almost a throwback to the Nehru era, when we toed the line with our Non-alignment Movement. We also have interests in Iran’s oil export, so it is prudent of us to steer clear of any conflict.” 11% of our oil imports come from Iran, which also accounts for 13% of their oil exports. At the same time, antagonising the USA would be a titanic mistake, for obvious reasons. So our neutrality in the present scenario is of paramount importance. As the P5+1 talks with Iran draw to a close in Kazakhstan, the world can only wait and watch to see how the next episode in this nuclear saga will unfold.