Thursday, August 31, 2006

Iran: Deadline, Defiance and Denial

Iran: Deadline, Defiance and Denial

Ali Asghar Kazemi*
August 31, 2006


Today is the last day of the deadline set under chapter VII of the U.N. Charter by the Security Council Resolution 1696, demanding Iran to halt all its nuclear enrichment activities. It was quite clear right from the beginning that the Islamic regime would not go along with the demand and this was further prompted by Iran’s cold and complicated response to the 5+1 incentive package on August 22, 2006 as well as other provocative signals such as: the inauguration of the “heavy water” plants in Arak, just few days before the deadline, and the joint armed forces week-long exercise throughout the land and sea territory.

Now the situation seems more confused than ever before. Since, on the one hand, while defying squarely from the Security Council order, Iran has offered to continue serious and frank negotiations with parties involved without preconditions. On the other hand, it persistently claims its undeniable rights to have access to nuclear technology under the provisions of the NPT and rejects the Security Council resolution as illegal and unjust. Thus far, Iran has been able to some extent to throw a sense of perplexity among the major contenders of its nuclear ambitions.

Considering the current international environment and American serious entanglement and preoccupation in the Middle East- especially in Iraq- the situation seems in favor of Iran’s strategy of defiance and denial. Since, with Russia and China refusing to agree with the imposition of immediate sanctions under Article 41 of the Charter, and the European fear of serious economic backlash, there is not more that United States can do against the Islamic regime for the time being.

While the Americans have threatened to form a separate coalition outside the United Nations if they don’t succeed to get a sanction resolution in the Security Council, there are slim chances that a widespread embargo against Iran would have a deterring impact on the hardliners in Tehran. Furthermore, the American and Israeli recent experience with Iran’s long tail in Lebanon and elsewhere in the region, and the explicit admission of the intelligence agencies with respect to the lack of adequate information about Iran’s actual and potential defense capabilities, the contemplation of a military option against Iran’s nuclear sites or strategic targets seem too remote.

Now with this somber picture on the political horizon of the region, what are the prospects of managing the current nuclear crisis along with other impending issues of the Middle East which appear to be very much interwoven?

With recent statements of the hard-line president of the Islamic government in his last press conference on 30 August 2006, it seems that Iran’s positions on almost all aspects, not only the nuclear issue but also on other critical problems of the Middle East, are in total discord of the prevailing norms and accepted rules of the game in international relations. In fact, Mr. Ahmadinejad cleverly ventured to put finger on the unfair legacy of World War II which continues to dominate current world affaires.

It not a secret that states which emerged victors from huge devastations of the Second World War, especially the United States which first tested its nuclear bombs over Japan, dictated what is now considered as the unjust rules of the game in international relations. For almost half a century during the cold war, an East-West confrontation dominated the world ideological and strategic environment.

With the collapse of the communist camp in the last decade of the 20th century, the Islamic fundamentalism emerged as the main contender of the status quo. The United States military interventions after September 11, 2001 and their unanticipated entanglement in a war of attrition in Afghanistan and Iraq, gave Iran the opportunity to become the victor of this whole muddle and take the lead of the challenge against the West.

The Islamic regime has also succeeded to buy the support of two main world powers, Russia and China, through generous economic concessions. Now, especially after the Lebanese crisis and Israel’s mishandling of the case, putting its credibility and capability into serious doubt, the Islamic regime has regained its self-confidence and to some extent feels secure from outside threats. Thus, it allows itself to talk from a strong position not only on the nuclear issue but with respect to all other matters of the Islamic world.

What are the real objectives of the Islamic regime in engaging in this rather confrontational and challenging strategy? How far Iran’s access to the nuclear technology is a credible threat to regional and international peace and order?

Because of its special geo-strategic position in the Middle East, Iran has always been keen to assume a pivotal role in the region. However, as opposed to the old regime, the Islamic government while pursuing the same vision is facing unbearable challenges in its ambitions. Iran’s nuclear undertaking, if ever directed toward unconventional aims and objectives, should be viewed from this perspective.

From all the facts and speculations made here and there, it appears that the Islamic regime’s option of a strategy of hegemonistic power in the region aims at a dual purposes: a) to counter any eventual threat and challenge to its very existence and survival and, b) to show the efficiency and viability of the Islamic governance to respond to the needs of 21st century, as a successful model to be followed in the region.

Iranians are now tossed like a comet in a strange cosmos of fundamentalism and idealism whose final destinations are not known. Twenty seven years after the revolution in Iran, the Islamic regime is still preaching on the revolutionary zeal and a return to fundamentalist social and political values. History bears good witness that all wars of the past have been initiated by fervent idealists who wanted to shape the world according to their own perception of truth. Let’s pray for the safe passage of our nation from this whirling period!
* Ali Asghar Kazemi is Professor of Law and International Relations at the IAU, Science & Research Branch, Tehran-Iran.

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