AN ANALYSIS ON THE AMERICAN APPROACH TOWARD THE NUCLEAR PROGRAM OF IRAN

upa-admin 29 Ağustos 2012 5.989 Okunma 0
AN ANALYSIS ON THE AMERICAN APPROACH TOWARD THE NUCLEAR PROGRAM OF IRAN

The United States perceives a nuclearized Iran as a clear threat for the regional peace, security and stability.[1] The fundamental reason behind this approach is that the neoconservative American officials evaluate Iran within the “Axis of Evil” and they see this country as an Islamist regime exporter, open supporter of various radical Islamist movements such as Hezbollah and Hamas and a country that aims to destroy Israel. According to the American officials, the only possible way of eliminating this kind of threat is to realize regime changes in the countries included into the axis of evil, namely Iran, Syria, and North Korea. Besides this permanent threat perception, when one talks about the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, the United States have three fundamental interests which are as follows;

  1. Providing energy supply security,
  2. Preventing the domination of the region by another state,
  3. Decreasing the threat of terrorist groups to a minimum level.

In this context, the United States considers that Iran wants to be a hegemonic power in the region. Given this reason, the United States plans to prevent this, stops the nuclear program of Iran and also to realize the regime change in Iran.[2] Since 2002, the United States do claim that by developing a nuclear program, Iran aims at acquiring nuclear weapons which is conflicting with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).[3]  According to Washington, Iran does not need nuclear power plants due to the fact that Iran is very rich in terms of oil and natural gas. Washington alleges that Iran concealed her program until 2002 and the nuclear program built-up by Iran might be used for weaponry production in a short period of time as well. It is also mentioned that Iran owns Shahab-3 ballistic missiles having a range from 1300 km-2000 km. Moreover, it is assumed that Iran is working on Shahab-4 and Shahab-5 missiles which have a range exceeding 2000 km. Above and beyond; Iran has an important arsenal of Scud type missiles with a range that does not exceed 500 km.

Here, it can be useful to transmit the statement given by the current US Secretary of State, Hillary R. Clinton, during an interview made by Michael Hirsh from Newsweek; “We are committed to doing everything we can to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-weapons state. Sanctions are tool, which we are pursuing with our partners in the United Nations. And it is an important effort because it will put the international community on record, [and] it carries benefits in terms of influencing the decision making within Iran. The other important [aim is to change] the Iranian calculation that they will be stronger and safer if they pursue nuclear weapons. We want them to understand they will be neither. And that’s not a policy of containment. It is a policy of deterrence.“.[4]

Interviewed by Bruce Odessey, Brent Scowcroft, the former US National Security adviser, has stated that the most dangerous country in today’s world is Iran given the nature of the region in which it is located.[5] According to him, the US-led coalition has to persuade Iran to continue enriching uranium domestically. He also stresses that whether or not their aim is to get a nuclear weapon capacity, this will decrease, and not increase their security. The reason is that other countries in the region would possibly follow Iran’s example and at the end, there will be a more insecure environment in this part of the world. Scowcroft underlines that, the US-led coalition, perhaps together with Russia, should propose that they are ready to form a system where the International Atomic Energy Agency would ensure a supply of enriched uranium for fuel for power reactors without the right of a national veto as long as Iran does meet the IAEA rules. That enriched uranium could be supplied at prices Iran could not likely to match through domestic enrichment and the IAEA would get back the spent fuel. Scowcroft also mentions that before preventing Iran by force, the outcome of a use of force should be thoroughly studied: “There already exist deep suspicions in the region against the United States’ real intentions, as this country is generally perceived as basically anti-Muslim. An attack, even a limited one, targeting only the nuclear facilities in Iran, would result in immense geopolitical consequences in the region and that would immensely elaborate Washington’s problems there.”.[6]

According to Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former US National Security Adviser, it is not in the US interests to wage the American-Iranian antagonism. Any possible reconciliation should be relied upon the acceptance of a mutual strategic interest in stabilizing what currently is a very unstable regional environment for Iran.[7] Any such reconciliation must be followed by both sides and is not a favor given by one to another. A powerful, even religiously motivated but not fanatically anti-Western Iran is in the interest of the United States and ultimately even the Iranian political elite may accept that reality. In the meantime, American long-term interests in Eurasia would be better served if the existing US objections to closer Turkish-Iranian economic cooperation are lifted, especially in the building of new pipelines, and also to the formation of other links between Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkey. He discusses that there are two possible ways for the resolution of the problem: “As Americans, if we demand from Iran the suspension of her nuclear program, we should offer incentives to them in return for this, because at least according to Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iranians have the right to enrich. If Iranians will continue using this right, Washington should be ready to propose them at least abandoning some of the heavy sanctions implemented to them by the United States. Only after that, there will be a quid pro quo.“.[8]

Another way of resolving this issue, according to Brzezinski, is to tell Iranian authorities that the US will negotiate with them without bringing any preconditions. This means that Iran will pursue the enrichment but the US should negotiate until it will be sure that there will be no more progress. However, Washington’s insistence on putting forward preconditions has resulted in the actual unproductive stalemate. Provided that there be either no preconditions for anyone mutual settlement in which suspension of enrichment is in accordance with suspension of sanctions. He also portrays that since Iranhas been reiterating that it doesn’t want nuclear weapons, therefore what the Iranian authorities should do is to help the international community to believe this.[9] Furthermore, he discourses that the Iranian position on the nuclear issue is fundamentally different in that they are expressing that they are not searching for nuclear weapons. They state that they do not desire nuclear weapons due to the fact that their religion bans them from acquiring nuclear weapons as well. He also discusses that Washington can say: “let’s work out an arrangement that does respect your right to an inclusive nuclear program, that also does respect your right to enrich, but does it in a way that does reassure that you will not divert the enrichment of weapons, and in that we recall that there was something few years before which really does smack to us of a secret weapons program- so we have some excuse to be suspicious”[10]. Besides, he does discuss that the use of force does not help our negotiating position. The use of force would create catastrophic results that would vastly increase Washington’s problems in the region.[11] This situation also facilitates for the current regime to mobilize Iranian nationalism and constitute a united front against the United States enabling them to dig in their heels. An attack inIran would incur a situation whereby the United States get involved in a war that spreads to Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and increasingly Pakistan, and would certainly span into the Persian Gulf. The repercussions of that for United States’ position in the world, for the capacity of US to use power, for the world economy, for popular emotions, for the world of Islam, and probably much of the world’s stance toward the United States in general would be so catastrophic that one could only intend such an attack under the most extreme circumstances.

Mearsheimer and Walt argue that the best way to stop Tehran from launching nuclear weapons is to engage it diplomatically and endeavor to normalize its relationship with Washington.[12] This strategy necessitates taking the threat of preventive war off the table in that threateningIran with regime change simply motivates its leaders to want a nuclear deterrent of their own. The Iranians, like the Americans and the Israelis, aware that nuclear weapons are the best safeguard available for a state that is another state’s hit list. They underscore that preventive war seems a very unattractive alternative. Even if Washington could destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, Tehran would almost certainly reconstruct them and this time Iranians would go to even greater lengths to disperse, hide and harden them against an attack.[13] Also, if Washington did launch an attack against Iran, Tehran would be bound to respond wherever and whenever it could, including going after oil shipments in the Persian Gulf and using its significant influence to make matters worse for the United States in Iraq. Additionally, Tehran would also be likely to set up closer ties with China and Russia, which is not in America’s interest. In contrast to this, if the United States were to abandon the threat of war and engage Iran, then Tehran would be more willingly to assist Washington deal with Al Qaeda, tamp down the war insideIraq, and stabilize Afghanistan. It would also be less possibly to align with China and Russia.

Given the history of antagonistic relations between Washington and Tehran, there is no guarantee that engagement would result in a “great bargain” that would suspend Iran’s nuclear program. After all, there is little likelihood that Israel will abandon its own nuclear weapons and Iranian leaders might esteem that if Israel has a nuclear deterrent, then so must Iran. But this approach is more credible to work than threatening preventive war, and if it is unsuccessful, the United States can always retreat on deterrence. Kinzer suggests that Iranis intact and has self-confidence. However, the underlying dilemma is: “is it better to sanction and punish a troublemaker, or entice it toward normality?”. He also asks that “Does the United States shape its foreign policy according to emotion or by cool calculation of self-interest”.[14] Furthermore, he mentions that there are a multicity of abstract reasons to negotiate with Iran and just as many others not to do so. What is important here that none of the primary American goals in the Middle East- pacifying Iraq, stabilizing Lebanon, ending the Israel-Palestinian stalemate, weakening Islamic fundamentalism, crushing al-Qaeda, moderating nuclear competition, reducing the threat of future wars can be put into practice without Iran’s cooperation. As a new president pursues to reshape American policy, and as new concerns about Iran come into forefront, especially about its nuclear program, the United States is reexamining its approach. Kinzer also states that an Iran that no longer feels threatened by the United Statesmay be keener to compromise on nuclear issues. Furthermore, he adds that Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear program has been a troublesome case for outsiders.[15] It is not illogical for Iran to desire the capacity to generate nuclear energy. Most Iranians do believe that it is their obvious right. What creates a problem in the outside world is that Iran’s drive for nuclear power is concealed in secrecy and subterfuge, which leads to the eminently reasonable suspicion that its true aim is not nuclear power but nuclear weaponry.

Attacking or bombing Iran may not end up with suspending this program. It might even have the opposite effect, persuading Iranians that only a nuclear deterrent will hamper future attacks. [16] The US secretary of defense, Robert Gates, was right when he stated in 2009 that “there is no military option that does anything more than buying time”. Kinzer proposes that the goal of peacemakers in the Middle East should be the design of regional security arrangements that will ensure both Iran and Israel that their survival is not in danger. Until that time, Iran will persist to believe that it stands for nuclear weapons meaning that it will persist to carry out its highly destabilizing nuclear program. He states that in the years since the United States rejected to respond to Iran’s offer to negotiate in 2003, the number of Iranian centrifuges at those plants has augmented tenfold; and this cannot be evaluated as a policy success. The increasing danger that Iran’s nuclear program constitutes a threat to regional and global security is not a reason to persist isolating Iran, but a reason to do the opposite: engaging urgently with its government in the hope of avoiding its emergence as a full-fledged nuclear power. Threats and sanctions will not accomplish this, nor will military attack. Negotiations might also fail but the stakes are so high that rejecting to endeavor is folly.

Köni mentions that in order to make concessions to some lobbies, President Obama, who has once stated that from now the nuclear weapons will not be a part of the American military strategies, has expressed that the US may very well use nuclear weapons against North Korea and Iran.[17] He has also declared that the American defense will be protected through the missile systems that will be located in the European soil. On April 8, 2010, theUnited States did sign a treaty with the Russia on the reduction of strategic nuclear missiles to 1500 in both of these two countries. America’s another move for drawing near of Russia on Iran issue has been the bringing of Russian firms, which have been blamed to support Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, out of the black list. The description of this situation by several commentators as a double standard means that they do not really understand the aim of the United States. Washington has made these maneuvers in order to leave the Iran alone and also to get the support of Russia in the UN Security Council.

As a matter of fact, the United States and the Western powers have alleged that new threats would come from Asia. Now, when their economic situation is considered, they cannot even express the name of China. Given this fact, by taking into consideration the warnings of United States and Israel, it is possible to comprehend that these tricks are for Iran. On the one hand the United States, which is preparing to withdraw from Iraq, is also not successful in the Helmand province of Afghanistan though its huge landing operation. On the other hand, it is spreading the war to Pakistan with unmanned aircraft. The United States, which is following a military policy in the name of pacification in these three countries, does not want to enter war with Iran upon the pressures of Jewish lobby and Israel.

The American administration reacted to Turkey’s ‘No’ vote to the latest UN Security Council Resolution adopted on June 9, 2010. The first reaction of Hillary R. Clinton was announcing that Turkeycould still play a role in Iran nuclear question.[18] Clinton was pointing out that Turkey and Brazil could play a facilitating role on finding a solution to the problem. Robert Gibbs, the speaker of White House, told that they were worried due to Turkey’s rejection of implementation of additional sanctions against Iran in the Security Council. He has also added that though having divergent views with Brazil and Turkey, in order to show their seriousness about Iran’s nuclear program, they would continue working with allied countries. William Burns, Undersecretary in US Department of State responsible for the political affairs, has stated that Turkey’s voting of ‘No’ to the decision on the implementation of additional sanctions to Iran in the United Nations Security Council has disappointed them. But Burns has also added that Turkey has shared the international concerns on lack of accomplishment of international obligations by Iran.

Takeyh and Maloney addresses that the outcome of six months of intensive diplomacy and Washington’s painstaking cultivation of Moscow and Beijing, the resolution proposes a modest intensification of three previous Security Council measures to convince Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program enacted under the George W. Bush administration’s watch.[19] This latest round of sanctions does add curbs on conventional arms sales and an array of hortatory language intended to facilitate the adoption of more severe penalties by the European Union and other US allies. They emphasize that whatever tactical advantage the UN vote maintains may be offset by the longer-term problem of drawing Iran into a durable understanding on respecting its non-proliferation obligations.[20] In paying no attention to the Brazilian-Turkish-Iranian deal, theUS and its allies are relying on economic pressure forcing more meaningful Iranian compromises. Yet purely coercive diplomacy cannot result in sustainable agreements or resolving the inconsistency between Iran’s security perceptions and those of the international community. Only an approach including direct dialogue and strategic patience can create lasting success.

According to George Friedman, the founder of Stratfor, the military option has the following potential risks;

  • Its success depends on the quality of intelligence on Iran’s nuclear facilities and on the degree of hardening of those targets.
  • It requires successful air attacks.
  • It requires battle damage assessments that tell the attacker whether the strike succeeded.
  • It requires follow-on raids to destroy facilities that remain functional.
  • Attacks must do more than simply set back Iran’s program a few months or even years.[21]

He has also assessed that but even if the attacks succeed the question of what would happen the day after the attacks remains.Iranhas its own counters.

  • It has a superbly effective terrorist organization, Hezbollah, at its disposal.
  • It has sufficient influence in Iraq to destabilize that country and force the United States to keep forces in Iraq badly needed elsewhere.
  • It has the ability to use mines and missiles to attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf shipping lanes for some period – driving global oil prices through the roof while the global economy is struggling to stabilize itself. [22]

Iran’s position on its nuclear program is rooted in the awareness that while it might not have assured options in the event of a military strike, it does have counters that create complex and unacceptable risks. Iran therefore does not believe that United States will strike or permit Israel to strike, as the consequences would be unacceptable. The United States’ policy of having every option, including the military intervention, on the table against the Islamic Republic of Iran does not help to solve the crisis. This policy is not discouraging Iran from developing its nuclear program. This policy does not seem either to deter Iran. The threat of pushing for a regime change in Iran and imposing economic sanctions haven’t given any concrete outcomes until now. On the contrary, these threats have further strengthened the hard-liners’ position within the political system of the Islamic Republic of Iran. These threats give further motivation to Iranian leaders to develop a nuclear program. This also leads to increase the public support behind the incumbent government’s policy on building up a nuclear program.

Furthermore, according to most American experts, a possible US military intervention in Iran will bring undesired consequences for the United States and for the whole region. When the United States’ position in Iraq and Afghanistan are taken into consideration, the US position might even deteriorate if there is a military intervention against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Because Iran has considerable leverages that it can use against the United States if attacked by this country such as using radical Shia groups in the region against the US interests, galvanizing Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon and closing the Hormuz Strait which is a vital waterway for the international oil transportation. In case of such a military intervention, the allies of the United States in the region might badly be affected.

The best option for the United States is to assure the resolution of this crisis is to follow an engagement policy, which means that the United States should use every possible soft power means including diplomacy. Regarding the resolution of this issue, the United States should support the Nuclear Swap Deal concluded between Turkey, Brazil and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The White House should also try to make every possible effort to stop Tel-Aviv in launching a military intervention against Tehran.

Sina KISACIK


[1] Ömer Kurtbağ, Amerikan Yeni Sağı ve Dış Politikası: Hegemonya Ekseninde Bir Analiz,Ankara: USAK Yayınları, 2010, pp. 365-367.

[2] George W. Bush,  Decision PointsUnited States: Virgin Books, 2010, p. 416.

[3] Cenap Çakmak, “ABD ve Nükleer İran Krizi: Sorun Ne ve Nereye Gidiyor?”, in Satranç Tahtasında İran: “Nükleer Program”, ed. Kenan Dağcı, Atilla Sandıklı , İstanbul: TASAM Yayınları, 2007, pp. 106-110.

[4] Michael Hirsch, “Obama’s Bad Cop”, Newsweek, 3 May 2010, pp. 27-33.

[5] Bruce Odessey, “Playing Percentages: An Interview with Brent Scowcroft”, A World Free of Nuclear Weapons, Journal USA.  15.2 (2010): 9-13.

[6] Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, America and the World: Conservations on the Future of American Foreign Policy, Moderated by David Ignatius, New York: Basic Books, 2008, p. 77.

[7] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, New York: Basic Books, 1997, p. 204.

[8] Brzezinski, Scowcroft, op. cit., pp. 58-59.

[9] Ibid., pp. 73-74.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Zbigniew Brzezinski, Stratejik Vizyon: Amerika ve Küresel Güç Buhranı, Translated by Sezen Yalçın, Abdullah Taha Orhan, İstanbul: Timaş Yayınları,  2012, pp. 119-121.

[12] John J. Mearsheimer, Stephen M. Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,New York: Penguin Books, 2008, p. 284.

[13] Mearsheimer and Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,  p. 285.

[14] Stephen Kinzer, Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future,New York: Times Books, 2010, p. 205.

[15] Kinzer, Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future, p. 209.

[16] Kinzer, Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future, p. 210.

[17] Hasan Köni, Dev Türkiye Cüce Türkiye: Tamamı Çözümlü Jeopolitik Test Kitabı, İstanbul: Hayykitap, 2010, pp. 87–88.

[18] Aylin Ünver Noi, “Iran in EU and US Foreign Policy: The Case of Iran’s Nuclear Program”, in Issues In EU And US Foreign Policy, ed. Münevver Cebeci, United Kingdom: Lexington Books, 2011, p. 214.

[19] Ray Takeyh, Suzanne Maloney,Sanctions will not curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” Financial Times, 10 June 2010, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/9cf5016e-74c6-11df-aed7-00144feabdc0.html. Accessed on 11 October 2010.

[20] Ibid.

[21] George Friedman, “Thinking about the Unthinkable: A U.S.-Iranian Deal,” March 01, 2010, http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20100301_thinking_about_unthinkable_usiranian_deal?utm_source=GWeekly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=100301&utm_content=readmore&elq=87e4095f0e904afe861e982e6a14031b, Accessed 01 August 2011.

[22] George Friedman, The Next Decade: Where We’ve Been… And Where We Are Going, New York: Doubleday, 2011, pp. 110-112.

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