By exaggerating the importance of Iran's nuclear
developments, the West is showing up the waning of its power in that
region, despite the presence of some 200,000 allied troops in Iraq
and Afghanistan, while the influence of China and India rises.
The situation now has
three possible outcomes, none favorable to the West.
First, after a lot of
huffing and puffing, a diplomatic dance continues which makes little
headway and reveals that the West has few cards it can play.
Second, the United
States launches an attack whose economic consequences can only be
guessed at, but which does the kind of global diplomatic damage to
the U.S. that the British/French Suez invasion did to those nations.
Third, after effectively
blocking Security Council sanctions, China, India and Russia quietly
lean on Iran to stop being provocative and make just enough
conciliatory noises to allow the "crisis" to subside, but not to
significantly retard its nuclear program.
As the major prospective
customers for Iran's oil and gas, China and India have a huge vested
interest in not seeing this issue escalate, via the Security
Council, into an oil crisis.
They are in a position
to influence Tehran partly because of their status as future
customers, but equally because of the perception that they are not a
threat and share anti-imperialist sympathies.
Both India and China
developed nuclear capabilities in the face of Western attempts to
sustain a West/Soviet duopoly. While no existing nuclear power
wishes to see their number increased, India and China appear to
accept Iran's eventual acquisition of such weapons as inevitable -
and non alarming.
There is no doubt that
Iran has been dissembling about its nuclear program. It scarcely
needs nuclear power and ultimately wants to have the ability to
build nuclear weapons.
But then most countries
lie about their nuclear programs. While Iran may well be in breach
of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it signed, so are other
countries. India and Israel refuse to sign.
In Washington, Iran's
nuclear ambitions are viewed with such alarm that the normally
level-headed Senator John McCain has said that a nuclear Iran would
be worse than a war to prevent it. Most of Asia, by contrast, seems
to follow the view of the Chinese and Indians that possible American
reaction is as far more dangerous than Iran's developments.
There is some parallel
with North Korea, whose nuclear ambitions are viewed with more alarm
in far-away Washington than in nearby Seoul. Many South Koreans who
detest the Pyongyang regime barely conceal a grudging admiration for
intransigent nationalistic stance on the nuclear issue.
Likewise, Iranians who
detest the clerical regime (including hundreds of thousand of exiles
who have prospered in the West) find little fault with its nuclear
program. A democratic Iran would, like India, have just as much
demand for nuclear independence as any other major country.
The election of the
worryingly crude and ignorant Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has raised the
level of Iranian rhetoric. But Ahmedinejad is clearly frowned on by
his more diplomatic predecessors, Presidents Khatami and Rafsanjani,
not to mention by liberal and democratic Iranians. And the nuclear
program appears to have broad support within and without the
Iranian grudges against
the West are deep and well founded - the British oil grabs, the
deposing of Reza Shah I, the British-Russian wartime hegemony, the
CIA-engineered overthrow of secular nationalist Mohammed Mossadeq in
1952, the arming and encouragement of the 1980 Iraq invasion which
cost more than a million Iranian lives.
Just as leadership in
that patriotic war against Saddam Hussein probably saved the
oppressive clerical regime from self-destruction, so Western
pressure now to deprive Iranians of what they see as their national
rights are likely to sustain the clerical grip.
The hypocrisy of the
West is obvious, not just in the special dispensation it gives to an
expansionist, nuclear Israel, but also to Pakistan, a country which
may be aligned with the West but is inherently unstable and, unlike
Iran, a major source of Taliban-trained fanatics and al
Qaeda-following suicide bombers.
India meanwhile was
recently rewarded by the United States with a nuclear cooperation
agreement despite India's refusal, for reasons of national
sovereignty, to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty. So much for a
consistent non-proliferation policy.
For sure, the more
countries that have nuclear weapons, the greater than danger of use.
But Western bullying, regime-change policies, threats of war and
selective condemnation of nuclear ownership are even better reasons
for Tehran to want nuclear technology than the fact that Iran is
surrounded by those who do.
If the West wants to get
its way on this, it must offer Iran some juicy carrots instead of
its traditional stick.