Monday, October 05, 2009

Sovereignty & the Nuclear Threat

“Iran might be creating nuclear weapons; what are we going to do about it?” If this question has been debated once in the past month it’s been done thousands of times. In a venture into the hypothetical that most readers will find frivolous and some will find irrelevant, it remains important to discuss and keep in focus why this is a question at all. It has become clear that the goal of current global leadership is to halt or undermine any attempt by the Iranian government to use nuclear power to create weapons, and with good reason. Ahmadinejad’s administration has proved oppressive domestically and reckless abroad. What is viewed as Western meddling in the affairs of her neighbors has made Iran wary of allowing the domineering, overreaching powers to have a hand in any of its affairs. Acts such as the September 27 missile launch are likely designed to act as proof that, if you’ll excuse the expression, Iran’s colors don’t run; she won’t be dissuaded by harsh words from Uncle Sam. It follows then, that such demonstrations of Irani determination will likely continue if the West doesn’t back off (which we all know is not going to happen any time soon).

At this point, I think it’s important to play a little devil’s advocate and look at the situation with stark objectivity. What most policy makers, journalists, and observers have chosen to overlook is the issue of Iran’s national sovereignty. To many, such a concept seems archaic; the notion that a state can be openly hostile to most of the rest of the planet but remain untouched by other players because of its sovereignty seems like an argument from two centuries past. It is relevant today, however, because that sovereignty is exactly what Iran is struggling to maintain in a world of states with their noses in everybody else’s business. Iran has watched outside powers come into her neighborhood, do all kinds of damage, and radically alter the status quo. Realizing that those same powers are now increasingly wary of her own potential threat, Iran’s leaders are desperate to prove that they will not lay down and accept the same treatment that has been allowed to occur in the past.

Thus, we arrive at the discussion of Irani nuclear weaponry. At present, the United States and friends are devising the best way to “deal” with the Irani threat; in essence, how can they force Ahmadinejad to stop creating nuclear weapons (assuming he is) and prevent him from doing it in the future? This premise, however, ignores Iran’s basic necessity for sovereignty. According to the accepted notion of what constitutes a state and her areas of sovereignty, Iran’s government should have the freedom to use their nuclear capabilities in any way they see fit to benefit the nation. In such a case, what right do other states have to prevent her from defending her borders and her people? No nation desires to be bullied, and certainly not one like Iran with such a strong sense of historical pride.

In short, while the rest of the world certainly has justified cause for concern regarding a nuclear Iran, when dealing with her, leaders must be cautious. Treating Iran like a deeply mischievous child and slapping punishments on with barely concealed contempt and condescension will hardly solve the problem; in fact, it is more likely to make the situation worse. Iran must be treated like the sovereign nation she is, and discussions must appear to be balanced if progress is to be made. Only when she receives respect will she respect in return and be more likely to openly discuss efforts put forth by international parties.

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