International community vs. IranAdmin
by Nadim Jahangir
Although the popular uprisings that have swept across the Middle East since early 2011 have dominated the regional agenda and captured the media spotlight, the Iranian nuclear crisis has not disappeared from the scene. In fact, the problems that the ‘international community’ currently faces in its efforts to stop Iran in the nuclear realm are a continuation of an almost decade-long process rife with false starts and setbacks. As such, the minimal movement in recent months in confronting Iran’s nuclear activities is best understood in the context of this ongoing dynamic, rather than as a side effect of the shift of international attention in recent months away from Iran toward the more dramatic regional developments.
In June 2010, UN imposed sanctions on Iran. The countries who adopted the sanction against Iran were US, EU, Canada, Australia, Japan, and South Korea. According to US this decision was a joint decision taken by UN member countries. The US government further stated that behind this sanction the ‘international community’ was involved; therefore, Iran must abide by the decision. Even though only few countries adopted this decision but to the US it was a unanimous decision. To them it was as if the whole world was in favour of this decision.
Terms like ‘the international community’ and ‘international opinion’ need to be looked at with closer inspection. Time and time again we have noticed that the West, in particular the US, comes up with these terms; and through the media tries to tell the world that there is an overwhelming consensus on a particular issue. As a single world we need to stand up and take all the necessary effort to stop this from happening. These issues could be - a government is not practicing democracy, promoting Islamic fundamentalism, violating human rights, or involved in producing weapons of mass destruction like nuclear weapons. If the country’s government is not supporting US interest, to create pressure on the country’s respective government, the US, in the name of ‘the international community’ would create a pressure which would be labelled as ‘international pressure’; and since there is an international pressure, the accused government must succumb to the pressure.
Over the past few weeks and months, we have seen how ‘international opinion’ and pressure has been brought to bear upon Iran in particular, ostensibly on the grounds that its nuclear energy programme may have military uses and that the country's leadership may intend to use it offensively. According to the US, once the Iranian government is able to produce this nuclear energy, the country would certainly use it to produce weapons of mass destruction. If Iran gets hold of nuclear energy, it may use it on its neighbouring states, in particular, on Israel. Therefore, the US, as the police of the world, is trying to create international pressure (i.e. a US labelled terminology for world citizens, from the US perspective, as it only involves a handful of nations). Even though to the US it is an absolute right for Israel to have nuclear weapons in the region, or for that matter, countries like India, Pakistan are also eligible to possess nuclear weapon, but not Iran.
In the name of ‘international community’, the US is sending investigating teams to Iran to monitor the situation. The team members are investigating Iran’s nuclear sites and reporting to the UN. Iran must produce evidence to the teams’ members that the country is not involved in producing nuclear weapons.
For a start, the irritation of the Iranian political elite is understandable when we consider that the country has been exposed to not dozens, but hundreds, of instances of foreign checks on its energy programme. Iran is the second largest oil producing country in the world. We have never seen the experts or investigating teams going to Iran to investigate its oil producing energy sites to monitor what machinery they are using to extract oil for the world.
Commonsense tells us that when any nation — be it Iran, the United States, China, or Russia — is compelled to cooperate with international bodies that enter its territory to check on its development, people will become agitated and angry. Moreover, any country has the right to defend itself as per regional need. Iran is located in the Middle East surrounded by Arab states, most importantly with the presence of Israel in the region. Being the only Shia nation in the region, it could be argued that Iran is situated in a volatile region; more to it, the existence of Israel is a constant threat for Iran in the region. Therefore, Iran has all the right to defend its sovereignty. The US in the UN or international forum, a number of times justified that since Israel is located in a volatile region, therefore, as a good friend of Israel, US has the responsibility to give protection to Israel. A similar argument US has given with regard to Australia and New Zealand while establishing military bases in these respective countries.
It is inconceivable that any of the major established nuclear powers would allow foreign bodies, with or without any international mandate, to check on its energy programme with such frequency. Would China open its doors to such agencies? Or Russia? Or America for that matter? While some politicians we know may defend the right of some countries to protect their borders and ensure their security, surely the same principle also applies to even the smallest and weakest of countries?
Secondly, one cannot help but wonder if this fear of Iran’s nuclear potential has more to do with the changing landscape of the Middle East and North Africa that has witnessed unprecedented changes over the past year. Iran's influence on the Shia Muslim communities that exist in many parts of the Arab world is undeniable - but exerting pressure on Tehran to conform to the wants of the ‘international community’ merely makes it look like a victim of routinised persecution in the eyes to majority of the world citizen.
The way US is creating pressure on Iran, a separate group needs to be built who would lobby support for Iran. I am sure this new ‘lobby group’ would have the credibility in the eyes of the world citizen. This separate ‘international community’ would be supported by all the members of the UN apart from eight to ten members which are known as US allies. The things US and its ‘so called’ allies feel about Iran’s nuclear energy power, China certainly does not feel the same way. China has expressed their misgivings in the most obvious manner? China's, and to some extent Russia's, reluctance to hop on the bandwagon of post-Arab Spring reconstruction suggests that there are other, emerging powers that do not believe that the problems afflicting the Arab-Muslim world can be solved either via intimidation or propping up one set of allies against another.
Perhaps the reasons for these are mundane, too. For example, if newly emerging developing countries have to undergo a vetting process, where their path to development has to be checked and accepted by the already dominant powers in the world, then how can there be any real development that is independent and grounded in the socio-economic realities of those societies? This, of course, does not mean that whatever speculation of a ‘nuclear threat’ posed by Iran is unreal; some politicians in Iran have only made things worse for themselves, thanks to their inflammatory rhetoric and posturing. But nations do have a right to develop, and they also have a right to defend themselves.
Tanks and jet planes are found in almost all countries, and every country will say that it needs them for self-defence. It is also true that tanks and jet planes can be used for offence as well — but does this mean that in the future, no developing country will even be allowed to have weapons at all, ostensibly out of the fear that they might be used against others? In fact what we see in reality is that all the big powers are interested to sell weaponry to the developing nations. When war breaks out between two developing countries, the big powers, in particular US, as the police of the world is more interested in how this war can be prolonged, hence the US would able to sell more warheads to countries involved in war. We rarely see that US is creating pressure or building ‘international opinion’ in favour of stopping the war. To the US, war means business, therefore, countries can get involved in war and legally, it is justified to the US.
Here is where the credibility of ‘international opinion’ begins to wear thin, and the cost is the erosion of our faith in international mediation, too. What a sad and sorry fate to leave to the future generation of human beings in the world. However, it ought to be noted that such terms are only meaningful in certain contexts, and the way in which they are instrumentally put to work to do other things. Above all, their emotive power rests on that variable called credibility, and once credibility is gone then nobody pays much heed to international opinion any longer.
Iran is moving towards a military nuclear capability, and while steps against it have been taken, there is no one strategy on the agenda that seems to have the capacity to reverse this trend. Western world may continue negotiation strategy with Iran, but surely Iran would not change its course from their nuclear plan. US or Israel’s military action on Iran not only would create more problem in the region but it will also spark anger in the Arab world. In the Middle East, more and more dictators are losing power, and these dictators are being removed by the public. All these dictators were the allies of the US, since US has changed its policy in Middle East, and stood beside the general public; therefore, in the current scenario, US would not take risk to lose public support in the region.
Dr Nadim Jahangir is professor and dean, School of Business, Independent University, Bangladesh.