IT is ironic that Western nations seeking to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions are the same countries that sold nuclear technology to it in the first place. Iran worked with the US and Western nations since the 1950s to develop its knowledge in nuclear energy.
In 1975, German conglomerates Kraftwerk Union and Siemens started the construction on the now infamous Bushehr Nuclear Plant. After completing more than 50 per cent of work and following the Iranian revolution, the Germans abandoned the project in an apparent dispute over payments with the new government.
In the mid-1990s, employing the same German-pressurized water reactor technology, Iran contracted Russia to complete the work. The nuclear facility eventually became operational almost 30 years later to a fanfare of international condemnation and Israeli protestation.
Western counties, especially nuclear powers, have little to fear from Iran – even if it ever becomes a nuclear power. Even Israel, which has been the most bellicose nation, cannot be strategically threatened by a nuclear Iran.
History has shown that military nuclear power was a deterrent rather than offensive weaponry. The only time a nuclear bomb was used, it was against a non-nuclear power. Accordingly, in the absence of a balance of power, only non-nuclear regional entities could have genuine credible concerns from their nuclear neighbors, be it Iran or Israel.
However, Israel is upset at the prospect of another nation developing a deterrence to its nuclear hegemony. Hence, the six major powers seeking to reign in Iran’s nuclear program – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany – are helping uphold Israel’s absolute monopoly on nuclear technology in the region.
Meanwhile, Israeli officials are accusing Iran of using talks “to gain time”. This is interesting since “buying time”, or negotiation for the sake of negotiation, is the same strategy Israel has exploited for 20 years in marathon talks with the Palestinians, while building more illegal settlements over the land up for negotiation.
It is rather discrediting for the US when, following the latest negotiations, instead of heading back to Washington, the US delegation flew directly to Tel Aviv to report to Israeli leaders on their meetings in Baghdad.
The US negotiating team, headed by Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and accompanied by National Security Council officials working on Iran’s nuclear program, met the Israeli defense minister and other senior officials for three hours to brief them on their talks with Iran.
The defense minister threatened last week to attack Iran, even if Tehran agreed to open up its nuclear facilities to greater UN inspection. Obviously, Israel is not only interested in curtailing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but also its access to knowledge that might allow it to develop a nuclear program in future.
The five plus one should be guided by reason, not by Israel’s irrational paranoia that foresees other nations’ “potential” development and knowledge as a “security” threat. If the West continues to ignore Israel’s proven possession of nuclear weapons, public pressure will eventually force new democracies in the region to develop the same deterrence capabilities.
Therefore, rather than focusing on Iran, the five plus one should direct their efforts towards promoting a Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction, imaginary or real.
*Jamal Kanj writes frequently on Arab world issues and is the author of Children of Catastrophe, Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. This article was published first in the Gulf Daily News. Jamal can be reached at email@example.com.