Thursday, October 01, 2009

Iran's Nuclear Program

                Iran's nuclear program is a source of fear for far more people than those of us who live in the United States and Israel. 

                Until the Khomeinist revolution of the late 1970's, few Iranians reviled Israel and far more saw it as an arm's length ally of Iran against the Arabs, a traditional foe, if not downright enemy, of Persia and the Persians.  America, while seen as a self-interested meddler, was not as unpopular with the "man on the street" as generally thought.  It was the U.S. government that Iranians did not like, not the American people.  That changed under Khomeini, who sought to Arabize Iran, liberate it from demonic forces (Americans and Jews, plus a few selected Europeans), and destroy Iran as a nation-state, which he saw as an anti-Islamic and uniquely Western governmental form.

                Today, in Iran, Khomeinist as well as pro-Persian (that is to say counter-revolutionary) factions embrace the nuclear weapons program.  The revolutionaries see the bomb as a path to creating its role as the leading voice in worldwide Islam, irrespective of the fact that the vast majority—a number approaching 90%—of Muslims, worldwide, are Sunni, and Iran is almost all Shi'ah.  The revolutionary government in Iran, by most accounts, is committed to the weapons program out of a sense of holy mission.  Shi'ahs are messianic, like Christians, and the rhetoric often applied to the born-again Christian fundamentalists who, via conservative political policies of the Bush Administration, were suspected of trying to hasten "end times" also applies to their Shi'ah brethren.

                Many suspect the Khomeinists are a regime that is willing to use a nuclear weapon as a threat, or worse.  Iranians would be naïve to think that—even if there were no evidence that a nuclear weapon detonated in Israel or the United States originated in Iran, they wouldn't be sitting on the hot seat.  In all likelihood, the retaliation would be awful, and would include Teheran, Qom, Mashhad and other Iranian cities, plus the oil fields in the south.

                The pro-Persian Iranians, who provided abundant opposition to the recent re-election of President Ahmadinejad, also favor the bomb program, but for different reasons.  They see it as a point of national pride, as have the Indians, Pakistanis, and North Koreans (not to paint with too broad a brush).  There is no reason to believe that this portion of the Iranian public has any intention to use a nuclear weapon—they just want to demonstrate the scientific capacity to create one, and they want to be taken seriously as a modern player and deal-broker in the larger Middle East region where they abide.

                The Arabs of the so-called "confrontation states"—those within reach of Israeli retaliation—are also living in fear of a Shi'ite nuclear threat.  In their minds, only a fool would seek to push the Israelis, with a purported 200-300 such weapons, into an existential conflict which would surely not be limited to Iran, but would involve Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Kuwait, Yemen, the Gulf States, and Saudi Arabia, at a minimum.  The question the Saudis must ask is whether, in addition to their major urban areas and their oil fields in the Eastern Province, the Israelis will also target Mecca, Islam's holiest place.  The guess is absolutely "yes".

                The Saudis, by far the richest state in the entire region, were afraid of Iran when the Shah was still in power.  Field artillery emplacements are located on the western side of the main north-south road running past the town of Qatif, and Qatif is to the east of that road.  Those gun emplacements are aimed at Qatif, home to Saudi Arabia's chief Shi'ah community, and the site of many a bulldozing of local Shi'ah mosques.  What was the Shah's air force as compared to "heretics with a nuke?"  If the Israelis preemptively struck Iran's reprocessing plants, the Saudis would praise them privately before excoriating them publicly.

                There is no way that the United States, or the United Nations for that matter, can control what the Iranian government wants to do inside its own borders.  We might as well come to grips with that fact now.  What we can do, however, is seek sanctions to destabilize this fundamentalist and corrupt regime in favor of a regime that could muster honest popular electoral support.  Don't ask me who.


Post a Comment

<< Home