By Sal Bommarito
Is the West prepared to effectively give Iran a green light to build a nuclear bomb by eliminating economic sanctions in exchange for Iran’s participation in the battle with ISIS? A Newsweek article indicates that negotiations are already underway to forge together a deal “that would end sanctions in return for assurances [Iran will] not develop a nuclear weapon.”
It appears that the U.S. and Iran are negotiating two different transactions. The U.S. wants Iran to agree to not build a bomb, whereas Iran still maintains that it has a right to a nuclear program, which effectively enables it to build a bomb. It will be a monumental effort for each party to accomplish their objectives.
Before the U.S. agrees to cooperate, it should reconsider whom it is dealing with and whether there are other ways to defeat ISIS that would not include arming Iran.
Iran has not given up its dream to build a nuclear device, no matter what it says publicly. It is the only way that Iran can achieve a level of parity with Israel, which has a nuclear capability. In this regard, Iran will lie, cheat and steal to achieve its goal. The most important question is: Can Iran be trusted to live up to guarantees after economic sanctions are eliminated? Considering Iran’s nefarious activities throughout the Middle East, the U.S. should have concerns about Iran’s trustworthiness.
The Newsweek article indicates several disturbing things. Iran is supporting a militia that has destabilized Yemen. President Bashar al-Assad will be protected by Iran, even as nearly every Arab nation has called for Assad to step down. Iran has maintained contact with Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s former prime minister, which will enable it to disrupt conciliation between the Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis.
The willingness of the U.S. to deal with Iran should be affected by its longstanding feud with it. Diplomatic relations ended in 1979 when Iranian clerics encouraged radicals to take 52 U.S. diplomats hostage for a year.
Iran continues to commit human rights violations. For example, Newsweek reported that Iran executed 1,000 people last year. Iran security forces continue to harass and arrest peaceful protesters as well as journalists. Most disturbing is the support Iran affords Hezbollah, a ruthless terrorist organization. Despite all these concerns, some western countries are anxious to ally with Iran against ISIS.
What does Iran bring to the table militarily? GFP indicates that Iran has 500 thousand active soldiers and 1.8 million reservists. It has 2,400 tanks and various types of fighting vehicles and rocket launchers. Aircraft total 481 including attack planes and helicopters.
The Jerusalem Post points out that Iran’s military resume is not impressive. The country’s efforts to spread its ideology have been less than impressive and with a “lack of follow through.” In a nutshell, Iran has been cautious about employing its military. Rather, it relies heavily upon “indirect diplomacy, menace and intrigue.” Nevertheless, Iran has been emboldened by the U.S.’s meek responses to crises in the region.
Iran did not perform admirably in its war with Iraq in the 1980s. Some people attribute this to “overestimated nationalism” and Iranian “unwillingness to sacrifice.” So, what might we expect from Iran in the ISIS war? The allies should not be too optimistic.
A nuclear weapon would enable Iran to assert itself without directly confronting its enemies. The threat of a nuclear strike is the hammer that Iran will wield if left unchecked.
A trade off would be acceptable if Iran was honorable and lived up to guarantees and promises about its nuclear program. Since Iran leaders have repeatedly said the country has a right to do whatever it wants, nobody should derive any comfort. Sanctions are the only power we hold over Iran, other than the threat of an outright assault. Giving up sanctions would be disastrous.
With this in mind, I think the deal that is percolating is foolish, naïve and shortsighted. The coalition cannot be sure that Iran will engage fully and effectively with ISIS, or even whether it can repel ISIS terrorists.
Meanwhile, Israel and Sunni Gulf Arabs are not going to sit by idly and allow Iran to build a nuclear bomb. It is entirely possible that Israel will take action against what it believes is an existential threat. Similarly, Saudi Arabia is likely to set loose insurgents to destabilize Shiite bastions in response to an Iranian deal.
President Obama had better be sure that mechanisms are in place to prevent the development of a bomb by Iran, as a nuclear event could materially change the Middle East.