1 October 2013 by Paul Dempsey
The possession of nukes has long been seen as granting a country 'a seat at the top table', real political and economic influence. This ugly fact has long undermined the reasons why some argue that neither, say, the UK nor France require independent deterrents.
Setting aside moral objections (here more to highlight the realpolitik than anything else), the argument can run that no second-rank 'western' player truly requires these deadly toys. Their interests are so closely aligned with those of the US that in the event of a potential nuclear conflict it should simply allow the superpower to protect it under its arsenal umbrella.
We can hear such thinking again today as the UK works through the latest renewal of Trident. During continued economic difficulties to boot. And already, the skill and relatively large size of Britain's standing forces notwithstanding, the US has largely been ceded the global policeman/protector role in conventional terms.
However, this obviously does not apply to Iran. Rather, it maintains a strong regional enmity with a nuclear state - Israel's arsenal being the world's worst kept secret - in addition to a fractious relationship with the US since the revolution. Beyond that, it is interesting to ask whether Iran would align itself in another bloc under, say, Russian or Chinese protection.
There is then Iran's status within the Middle East. It is amazing to still hear the country referred to as part of 'the Arab world' as though the Iranians' Persian ethnicity is a trivial matter. It isn't. It brings its own history of conquest and empire, and beyond that further present-day economic rivalries with some of the world's richest countries.
Iran has clear ambitions to be the dominant economic power in its region. Its actions in this regard have also been very rational in geopolitical terms despite its frequent characterisation as a 'rogue' state - although certainly it is no great friend or admirer of the West.
One thing will not change as Iran reworks its negotiating stance: that insistence on being treated as a major player. Nukes historically have provided that, whether you like it or not. And you should probably live with it unless you are prepared to live with a greatly diminished British role on the world stage.
Beyond, say, the right to a permanent seat on the UN Security Council (though now more a Cold War right), they mean self-determination in the most explicit terms and that your views must be considered regarding any major economic and political shifts in your region.
Given not only its existing regional ambitions but also the instability in, for example, Egypt and Syria, it is clear why that is a huge part of Iran's agenda. Then add the ongoing competition between the US, China and Russia for the region's resources and its stance comes further into focus. And yes, there is the question of Israel.
In this context, one 'agreement' already being suggested is that Iran does not join 'The Nuclear Club'. Rather it has now advanced its nuclear programme to a similar degree to Japan: it already has the know-how and raw materials to develop weapons, but will hold back as long as it is not threatened and its views are given nigh-on equal weight to those of actual club members.
The realpolitik in that might actually work. And it will head off more dangerous proliferation. The problem is that it will represent a major concession from the West, be none-too-welcome in Cairo, Riyadh and many other capitals, and it still won't necessarily calm down persistent enmities and rivalries.
It may also, though, be as good as it gets.
Posted By: Paul Dempsey @ 01 October 2013 02:59 AM General
I think the cost of renewing trident is too high for the UK now. I would rather keep the Union between Scotland and England going than keep nuclear weapons.
If we get rid of our nuclear weapons we will have a status in the world on a par with Iran. That seems a quite a reasonable status to have, given our history and their history.
Obtaining and keeping nuclear weapons as a deterrent come at a great financial price. The opportunity costs are very large. Iran has shown us that it would be willing to pay a very high opportunity cost indeed to get them, so in that respect we all see there is nothing Western countries can do to stop Iran if they really want to build nuclear weapons, and if they feel the external threats against them are large enough to warrant this.
For all the historical rhetoric bouncing back an forth between America and Iran, the real external threats to Iran (and perceived threats from Iran) are regional in extent. The main power brokers and influencial players in the Middle East; Egypt, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Turkey etc, need to come to some sort of negociated accord, so that the western cultural engagement and trade interests can become gradually more neutral in the region (over the next decade or two).
America will be turning its main political focus inward for the next few years, there are huge political divisions and inequities to solve, to stop the country imploding under the weight of its own dysfunction and debt.
The peoples of America, China, Russia and most of Europe are clearly against further military adventures in the Middle East.
I believe the proxy and civil war now raging in Syria can only end with a negociated ceasefire, with a programme of wider middle eastern diplomacy transacted through the UN as part of the deal.
|Posted By: James Arathoon @ 01 October 2013 03:43 PM : Post a reply|
3 October 2013 by James Arathoon
"Forget Rouhani's overtures. We are still at war with Iran"
The British people are not at war or in any sort of conflict with the Iranian people.
The American people are not at war or in any sort of conflict with the Iranian people.
I don't think there are any of the ordinary peoples of the West that see themselves as at war or in any sort of conflict with the Iranian people.
I agree their are disputes to settle, but settling these disputes has to involve an overall less partisan Western approach to the problems of the Middle East. We can only achieve this through knowledge and understanding of the issue at hand.
We all know that there are lots of complex (often long standing) multi-issue disputes, conflicts and wars currently raging in the Middle Eastern region: Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq are the regional powers that need diplomatic support from neutral nations to find ways out before more lives are needlessly lost.
Some of these disputes originate from the legal and illegal historical colonial activities of Western governments, including British government.
However we always have a chance to make a better future, dispite our all the historical failings of our leaders because the old leaders are retiring and and leaving the stage and the young ('who should be considered free from the sins of their fathers') are relentlessly replacing them.
The western peoples should defend their real interests by pushing for diplomatic solutions and negotiated settlements to these long standing Middle Eastern disputes and proxy wars, in as neutral a fashion and in as quick a fashion as our, vocal and war mongering, minority interest groups will allow.
Many people in the Middle East face both ways, to the west and to the east. We do not lack for people who know the problems of the Middle East and how the West can better interface with it.
What we lack for is an educated debate (which includes engineers) about how to gradually solve these problems for the long term; together.
State instigated acts of terrorism, assassination and extra judicial killings in foreign countries should stop now.
There should be clear routes for the UN to sanction governments that engage in these types of illegal activity [and it should not be possible for any of the permanent 5 members of the security council to veto such sanctions in the face of a UN assembly majority vote].
|Posted By: James Arathoon @ 03 October 2013 05:04 PM : Post a reply|
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