Iran - Another Nightmare in the Broader Middle East
The long-awaited elections on June 25 in Iran ended with a big surprise to almost all observers. The winner was not the favorite ,Rafsanjani, with whom many in the West could do business with. The winner was the hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – then Mayor of Tehran.
To an unexpected extent, Ahmadinejad was able to mobilize his electorate. The young people and the losers of the past threw their ballots in his basket as well as the orthodox Shiite Muslims. This outcome might make things even more complicated in and with Iran.
Prior to the elections, the Aspen Institute held a conference in Amman from May 23–24. The theme of the conference was: “Iran and Democracy in the Broader Middle East.” We have already published two conference papers (see links).
The day after the chance to come to grips with Iran has been darkened. The orthodox Muslims now form a monolith in Iran. In the open, there is no counterweight.
The outside world is mainly interested in one topic: Will Iran refrain from becoming a nuclear military power or not? Three European nations – France, Germany and the United Kingdom – have been in negotiations with Iran – flanked by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. The crucial question is whether or not Iran will accept unlimited inspections of all of its sites by outside inspectors. These inspections should guarantee that Iran will not cross the red line between civilian and military use of nuclear power.
The three European nations – with the US in the background – are trying to come to a liable settlement. They offer – with the support of Russia - guarantees for Iranian civilian nuclear energy and economic aid. The Bush-Administration supports the negotiations but remains quite skeptical. Is this two-princes concept leading to a compromise? Does “hard” and “soft” power form a successful strategy? Iran claims to have vital reasons for developing its own civilian nuclear energy. Iran's record of sticking to official agreements is not very promising.
Worst case scenario: There is no settlement and the case will be taken to the UN. If and when the UN should decide on a resolution with sanctions against Iran, then the real crisis will start.
Would the European countries join the US to stop the nuclear weapons development program – including military operations - in light of the ongoing conflict in Iraq? How would Iran react? Would Iran accept a UN resolution? Would it refrain from using Hezbollah in Lebanon to open another front in the volatile Broader Middle East, or would they even try to intensify the insurgency in Iraq? How far are the US and its allies willing and able to go? What would the world be like if there were nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran?
Due to the geostrategic and geopolitical implications, North Korea would be a minor issue in comparison to Iran.
Observers expect that the upcoming inauguration speech of the new president will either send positive or frightening signals to the world. We hope for the best.
With the permission of the Aspen Institute Berlin, we publish the conference paper written by Philip Gordon. In combination with the already published essays it offers a deep insight into Iran’s situation.