Why the West wants to stop Iran becoming a Nuclear Power
By Shanto Kairy
Iran is a regional powerhouse in the Middle East only rivalled by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey. The rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran is centuries old in terms of sectarian differences of Shi’ite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. The schism of thousands of years in Islam presents itself in the Middle East. Moreover, the Islamic Revolution made Iran a fundamentalist impulsive State hostile to the West and Sunni neighbours. Iran is trying to be a nuclear power since 2007 following the great powers and other nuclear States.
Iran has always interpreted its nuclear ambition as only to acquire energy and always express against use it as weapon. But this is not true at all as it is going to acquire it to show power against the rival Saudi Arab, the West and USA. There are convictions that the Western Powers allowed India, Pakistan and Israel to develop their nuclear powers, but they are now against Iran. However, this is not the case, as several reasons are at the root to stop Iran being a nuclear power.
Power shift would destabilise the region
Firstly, if Iran becomes a nuclear power, it will simply emerge as the sole regional superpower in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, the ally of the West will not be a match for Iran. The Middle Eastern ‘balance of power’ will not be maintained. This will lead to very severe repercussions and the chance of maintaining future ‘balance of power’ in the region will be in disarray.
As a result, Saudi Arabia will want to acquire nuclear weapon to counter Iran in the region. As Saudi Arabia has money, either it can acquire nuclear weapon by researching or to buy weapons or technology from Pakistan. From 1990s, Pakistan is selling nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.
As the economy of Pakistan is in great disarray, it might sell its nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia for billions of dollars. Turkey might try to acquire nuclear weaponry to counter Saudi Arabia and the Egypt will want to acquire nuclear weapons to counter Turkey. It will start a sick competition in the Middle East to acquire the nuclear weapons which later may spread throughout the world.
The efforts of Nuclear Proliferation could be null and void in a decade. Another problem will arise if Iran becomes a nuclear power in terms of the failure of calculating nuclear deterrence. It is not unknown that USA acquired nuclear power first, then USSR acquired to counter or balance the power of USA, then it was the beginning of arms race.
India acquired nuclear weapons to balance China in the region after the loss of 1962 war. Pakistan countered Indian nuclear power as it is unable to fight and win a war against a mighty power like India. Western powers primarily imposed sanctions on them but later withdrew. But if Iran acquired it, the nuclear deterrence or the calculation of nuclear war threats will be complicated.
Who will counter who, who will attack who the probability or the calculation of the probability will be huge. There will be miscalculations and chances of a total devastating war will be huge. Nuclear power Israel might attack Iran as pre-emptive action. In this indicating situation, Waltz’s nuclear deterrence does not work.
Secondly, Iranian world view and ideology does not support the idea of Westphalia world order. The leaders of Iran and its revolution including Ayatollah Khomeini declared in 2013, they want to unite the believers (Muslim Ummah); they want to vanquish the dominance of the Western powers, USA and its allies. Iran is now influenced by Radical Islamist Syed Qutb according to Henry Kissinger, and working both with Shi’ite and Sunni Radical organizations. According to Kissinger, Iran has connection to Al-Qaeda and Taliban as they armed them.
Iranian leadership thinks that they are on a Holy War (Jihad) against the unbelievers and these ideas are making the nuclear programme even more threatening. If Iran has nuclear weapons, it can go to the hands of terrorist organisations or the radical and impulsive leadership might be a threat to the nearby States, US allies, Russia, China or Israel. Any impulsive leadership can use it to wipe out the unbelievers in fighting a Jihad. Even they can use the nuclear arms as bargaining chip with the West or neighbouring countries as North Korea did.
Iran a pivotal country in ME
Thirdly, Iran already has its own nuclear delivery system and missile technologies. This made Iran a more ready nuclear power than previous nuclear powers like India and Pakistan, have been. So the only way to inhibit the nuclear capability of Iran is to reduce its capability to enrich Uranium. Iran has thousands of Uranium centrifuges and they wanted to reduce capacity of the half of the centrifuge to only 5 per cent Uranium. According to Iran they will not enrich Uranium to 20 per cent. This 20 per cent Uranium is not important as 5 per cent Uranium as this 5 per cent Uranium is the threshold from where in a few months Iran can produce weapon category Uranium which make Iran as more unreliable.
In 2015 Iran signed Joined Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a nuclear treaty with the five members of United Nations Security Council (P5) plus Germany which is called P5+1. As a result sanctions were withdrawn from Iran by the West. Ex-President Donald Trump declared withdrawal from the deal in 2018 and imposed the sections on Iran. Iran in 2019, Iran breached the limit set on the deal and IAEA confirmed it. After the Baghdad Airstrike killed Qasem Solaimani, Iran wanted to increase its nuclear capability.
The good news is, in December 2020, America desired to re-join the deal, and the new Biden administration is working on it. Iran is a pivotal country in the Middle East. Anything Iran does may echo in the region. Middle East is already a complicated region with a lot of conflict and potential problematic issues. To sustain peace in the region including the balance of power, world powers are working on it. Time will tell how fruitful the initiatives are. The West must ensure that Iran respect and be a part of the Westphalia order which is a good start.