The state of Iran’s nuclear program is an issue in hot debate currently around the world. Iran claims that it only has peaceful intentions, but Israel has drawn a figurative “Red Line” stating that Iran should not develop their nuclear capabilities because they will use it against them. However, there are legitimate reasons for Iran to continue to develop their nuclear programs.
One reason is that nuclear capability gives them legitimacy in the eyes of the world. In a recent interview, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran needs to be treated as a major contributor to the world now. They are a developed country with nuclear power and not a small nation or territory to be exploited any more. Ahmadinejad said in the interview,
“They want Iran to go back to what it was in the past, but they won’t succeed. They assume we’ll give in to pressure; such thoughts are misguided. We’re already an industrial and nuclear country, a country that has conquered space. For years we have been thinking about sending a human being into space, and we will do that, with Allah’s help. We must ensure development and growth and bring them to pass, and the world must acknowledge our progress.”
This sentiment is similar to what was going on in the 19th and early 20th centuries when Britain and Russia were fighting over Iran’s resources. Iran has come a long way since then and is now an independent and developed country. They are by no means a major world power, but the current world powers need to stop seeing them as a barbaric, warmongering state.
This does not mean that Iran doesn’t have its own faults that need to be reconciled before they can be considered a legitimate power in the world. Their current policies with Israel do nothing to help with being seen as a warmongering state. However Israel isn’t helping with that situation either.
It is important to note that there is a difference between nuclear power and nuclear weapons when Iran says it is a nuclear state. Nuclear power would mean they are a developed country in the world with peaceful intentions, which is what Ahmadinejad is trying to convey here. Nuclear weapons also show that Iran is a developed nation, but it also shows that Iran many not have peaceful intentions.
Another reason is that nuclear capability gives Iran the ability to defend themselves or at least prevent attacks from other nations. Israel has kept up strategic ambiguity as to whether they have nuclear weapons or not, but it is generally agreed that they do. Iran wants to have a more level playing field and not let Israel have the much higher position. Israel wants Iran to halt their nuclear development and Iran sees this as trying to keep them down. If Iran denied the ability to defend themselves from what they see as an imminent threat, then they feel they are denied being a sovereign state as well, which brings us back to the first point, that nuclear capability gives Iran legitimacy.
New nuclear talks will start later this month in Kazakhstan and hopefully a peaceful settlement can be reached. Iran is not completely opposed to stopping all nuclear weapon development. They recently called for the destruction of all nuclear weapons after the North Korea nuclear test. “We need to come to the point where no country has any nuclear weapons and at the same time all weapons of mass destruction and nuclear arms need to be destroyed,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast.
I think nothing good will come out of this situation without transparency. Iran has not been very trustworthy in the past, such as hiding their nuclear developments and constant spats with Israel. Israel has not been very open at all either, keeping a strategic ambiguity on having nuclear weapons. Destruction of all nuclear weapons will not happen without complete transparency on all sides, including the major world powers.
Even if destruction of nuclear weapons is not a realistic or achievable goal, transparency is what is needed to help settle these problems. For Iran, transparency opens up the door for more trust with other nations, and more trust opens up the door to being considered a legitimate world player. Iran will be more likely to be transparent if the UN and specifically Israel follow suit.
The new nuclear talks later this month could be a turning point for the conflicts in the Middle East if Iran and other nuclear nations become a bit more open.