Iran - What is at Stake?

Posted in Iran | 12-Nov-05 | Author: Dieter Farwick

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during the conference 'The World without Zionism' in Tehran, October 26, 2005: "Wipe Israel off the map"

“To wipe Israel off the map.” This declaration made by Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad produced shock waves around the globe and heated up the discussion on Iran’s future politics. This call is a new factor in the decision on how to evaluate Iran’s nuclear development program. The core issue is whether or not Iran will use the civilian nuclear energy program to produce the necessary ingredients to build nuclear weapons.

Over the next days, Vienna will be in the spotlight of the world’s attention. The Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will gather for a decisive conference. The question will be whether or not the case of Iran’s nuclear development program should be transferred to the United Nations Security Council(UNSC).

For many reasons, the board has so far refrained from transferring the issue to the UNSC. There is no ”smoking gun” that reveals evidence of a weapons program, but some ambivalent information. There is no agreement among the five permanent members of the USNC on how to pursue this issue. China and Russia seem unwilling to bring the issue to the table. France and the UK – together with Germany they are the negotiation partners of Iran – seem to be reluctant to place sanctions on Iran. Iran has stopped these negotiations unilaterally, claiming the right of Iran to have nuclear energy and even nuclear weapons – if it wishes to do so.

The United States is keen to transfer the bone of contention to the UNSC. But, the record of UN sanctions is not very promising. The sanctions against Iraq and the “Oil For Food” program proved to be a dramatic failure that pushed the UN into a deep crisis. No one is eager to repeat this procedure.

Prior to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech at the forum entitled “A World Without Zionism” and the following anti-Israel demonstrations, there was a tendency in some countries to “muddle through” – even accepting Iranian nuclear weapons at the end of the day.

As a result of President Ahmadinejad's speech, we must recognize a different posture. The already existing threat for Israel has reached a new dimension. Iran already has long-range missiles that can hit Israel.

Experience tells us that Israel will never accept living under the threat of nuclear weapons. In 1981, Israel destroyed the nuclear power plant “OSIRAK” in Iraq. Israel doesn't need to undertake a military invasion of Iran to destroy parts of the weapons program. There are different military options that can be set in motion to stop or delay the program.

The situation in Iraq, where there are strong ethnic and religious bindings with Iran, makes things even more sensitive. The experience with North Korea shows that the possession or possible possession of nuclear weapons pushes any state into another power league. There is a red line in the sand. After the line has been crossed, things get even more difficult.

What is at stake? Peace or war? Therefore, it is very important to follow the conference in Vienna. The newsletter we took over from the IISS in London provides good insight into this multi-faceted and complex issue. There is no easy and quick solution. The question of free inspections of all sites in question might offer a way out – at least for a while.