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Nukes, Peace, and the People

August 3, 2009

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: “Iran is a threat to the ‘international community’ and the forces of good in the world must unite to stop an Iranian attempt to acquire nuclear weapons and its subsequent end to the free world,” … or something close to that sentiment. American military and political officials have been highlighting the possibility of Iranian attempts to militarize its nuclear capabilities and have been stating that the specter of a nuclear arms race will be initiated the moment Iran passes that red line. One has to chuckle at the sheer miscorrelation between the feelings and opinions of the American policymakers position compared to that of the people on the ground in the Middle East.

In fact, the nuclear arms race already began a number of decades ago, when the French helped Israel develop and establish their nuclear program in the 1950s, and the militarization occurred in the late 1960s in which the Central Intelligence Agency highlighted that from 1970 to 1980 that the Zionist State had “sufficient fissile material to build 100-200 nuclear warheads.” The subject of Israeli nuclear capabilities is understood in international relations as a “public secret,” where the Zionist government takes an ambiguous stance of denial complemented by its “special relationship” with the United States, and has so far allowed it to be covered away from any scrutiny or calls for it to disarm.

In addition, when one takes into consideration that Israel has a stronger history of violence comparable to Iran, from its inception as it ethnically cleansed most Palestinians from historical Palestine (an event documented by Arab, Israeli, European, and American historians) to its multiple wars against all of its neighbors justified under the cover of its own security, the amount of fear currently placed on Iran from the outside does not match with the feelings and sentiments of the people in the region.

Nevertheless, it must be noted that Iran is not a utopia; recent media attention for its elections have clearly shown that, not to mention that there is a history of tension between the Islamic Republic and the various Gulf States since the revolution in 1979 and the subsequent Iran-Iraq war throughout the 1980s that left lingering fears of Iranian intentions as it exceedingly grows and fits into its role of a regional power since the destruction and decline of Iraq as a state resulting from the American invasion in 2003. What Iran does have on its side, however, is that it is a signatory member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which legalizes its right to develop a peaceful nuclear program and has allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect some of its plants (albeit with a few stumbles and conflicts) . Israel, on the other hand, is the only nation not part of the NPT in the region and has continually rebuffed any calls to join or allow inspectors into its country.

Yet, and there is always that archetypical “yet,” if Iran does pursue militarization of its nuclear energy, the people in an already volatile region caught between the Zionist State and the Islamic Republic are in a more dangerous position (not that they are not currently in danger). What is required is more aggression, not physically, but intellectually and politically, especially when it comes to dealing with the issues in the West Asian region (another term for the Middle East that sheds oriental connotations and is more truthful in geographic terms), especially the Palestinian Question and the “peace process.”

There is an uncomfortable silence within the language of the “peace process” that does not address the fears arising from the possession of nuclear weapons by Israel, while calling for Palestinians to disarm completely, as the current right-wing Prime Minister in Israel has demanded as a condition for final piece. States, within and outside the region, who are looking to establish a just and comprehensive solution must strongly incorporate demands for Israeli nuclear disarmament, part of a larger nuclear-free zone in the region, as a major condition if any substantial solution is to occur.

Such calls have been made sporadically by a variety of countries, such as Syria, Iran, Kuwait, Egypt, China, Russia, among others, that have called for such action to become reality. What is needed is more weight behind these calls, whether through ratifying such calls throughout resolutions within the domestic legislation, within regional organizations like the Arab League, and, most importantly, ratified and agreed upon within the hallways of the United Nations General Assembly and United Nations Security Council. This action alone is highly beneficial for all parties, and can ease the tension that overshadows much of the politics in the region. It fits into the current American President’s vision of a global nuclear weapons-free policy, and can allow room for development of solely peaceful utilizations of nuclear energy (although environmentalists may disagree on the matter of using nuclear energy) or any other source. Such calls can only add to the efforts of cooperation in the region, and the time is especially fitting with the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference taking place next year. Policymakers should prepare a unified stance within the coming conference to really break ground in making the region completely free of nuclear weapons.

If policymakers, wherever they reside, are serious in their rhetoric of establishing peace, stability, and security for the people of the region, they need to tackle both Iranian and Israeli nuclear capabilities, while allowing for peaceful development of energy, a right that is non-negotiable. It will also tackle that disgruntled sense of the double-standards that marks any American or European intervention in the region, and can open the door for better and brighter things that the people in the region have been demanding. Anything short of this mark will only lead to further conflict, and continue the cycle of violence and destruction that has tainted the growth of this region.

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