By Sal Bommarito
The New York Times reported that President Hassan Rouhan came out swinging and criticized nuclear-armed nations on Wednesday. Naturally, he focused on the U.S. and Israel for being hypocritical about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Considering that Rouhan was chosen to deal with Iran’s detractors and to negotiate a nuclear agreement with the United Nations Security Council, it was surprising that the president spoke so aggressively, especially since a deal is in the balance. In his speech, the Iranian leader indicated that his country does not “covet” nuclear weapons. This is the principal focus of the negotiations that are underway. Iran, he said, would use its nuclear capabilities only for peaceful purposes, a comment most do not believe.
Rouhan pointed out that several countries have nuclear weapons, and these weapons have not enabled any country to find peace. [This is a reference to the U.S. Even with its vast arsenal, it is always involved in conflict.] The U.S. has not actually used a nuclear weapon since World War II, and it has reduced the size of its inventory dramatically over time. The threat of a nuclear attack assisted the U.S. as it fended off the U.S.S.R during the Cold War.
Israel has never confirmed that it has nuclear weapons, but the Arms Control Association, a research group, says Israel has between 100 to 200 nuclear warheads.
It is likely that Rouhan was reacting to the grumbling by hawkish leaders and clerics in Iran. He wanted to assure his countrymen that he will negotiate assertively with the U.S. Additionally, he may be frustrated by difficult negotiations that are underway, and the possibility they will not be successful.
U.S. senators on both sides of the aisle have indicated that they are skeptical that any sensible agreement will evolve from the current negotiations. In fact, the Senate is ready to propose sanctions against Iran if a deal is not signed by March 24. The Security Council “has given themselves until [the same date] to reach the basics of a permanent agreement.”
The countries most interested in the negotiations, outside of the Security Council, are Israel and Saudi Arabia. Israel considers a nuclear Iran an existential threat. It is lobbying the U.S., the president and Congress to not provide flexibility to Iran regarding its nuclear program, and to increase sanctions.
Saudi Arabia has a similar attitude about Iran’s nuclear program, but it has been much less vocal. Iran is always at loggerheads with Saudi Arabia in their fight for dominance of the Arab world. If Iran produces a nuclear weapon, the Saudis will likely buy one. An arms race will ensue.
Some have argued that if other countries have nuclear arms, why shouldn’t Iran? These same people say that Iran will be responsible. On what basis? Given Iran’s attitude and disruptive behavior over the years, there is no reason to assume that it will not misuse a nuclear weapon, or wield it to bully other Arab nations.
Many observers are wondering why this agreement is such a high priority for President Obama, including a vast number of Americans. There are few nations in the region, if any, that are comfortable with the thought of a nuclear Iran.