Bernard Feng on why going into a country that is politically divided would be a bad idea
The West seems to have a very unhealthy obsession with Iran. In fact, a theory concerning the etymology of the term ‘Europe’ is that the Greeks co-opted it to differentiate themselves against their Persian enemies. The fear of Iran gaining a nuclear weapon has been growing since 2006, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for an Israel-free Middle East. His remarks, paired with the statement that the Holocaust is a fabricated myth created ‘above God, religion, and the prophets,’ has alarmed many, particularly the Israelis, whose state was created as a result of thousands of years of persecution.
Relations with Iran have always been very rocky. America and Britain overthrew Mohammad Mosaddegh’s democratically elected government in response to his nationalisation of the country’s oil and petrol industry. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s rule, under Anglo-American support, grew more oppressive until the people of Iran seemed to have enough. Although the Shah was ousted and Iran was set to return to a fully democratic government, Ruhollah Khomeini returned after fourteen years of exile and consolidated power, casting aside other rebel factions and established the Islamic Republic with him, having assumed the title of Ayatollah, at the head. It also does not help that the United States backed Iraq, having installed Saddam Hussein, against Iran during a catastrophic war that has killed millions of people.
To this day, whether the country’s president is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Mir-Hossein Mousavi is irrelevant; full power rests in the hands of the Ayatollah or ‘sign of God’ in Farsi. Not even Ahmadinejad, a man in the current Ayatollah’s good graces, cannot exercise authority over the latter, having seen some of his advisors get sacked by the Supreme Leader. Whatever the case may be, however, the government of the Islamic Republic is fiercely anti-Western, commonly hosting rallies with hundreds of people chanting ‘marg-bar Amreeka!’ or ‘death to America!’ Plenty of murals on buildings depict the United States as a blood-thirsty, war-mongering oppressor, and recently, a group of protestors have attacked the British embassy in Teheran, with the diplomats there ejected from the country thereafter. It is very amusing that Republican Presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann promises to close the Iranian embassy in the United States when there is no such thing at all.
Recently, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has recently sent a report that Iran is becoming ever-more capable of gaining nuclear weapons, indirectly causing a fresh session of sabre-rattling from the West and Israel. The Israeli government is proposing a military operation to disable Iran’s nuclear capabilities by Christmas, perhaps in a similar manner that it did with Iraq’s nuclear weapons in Operation Opera in 1981. In the Republican debates, Iran has come to the forefront of discussion, with each politician trying to outdo each other’s hawkish stances on the country, with the recently-former candidate Herman Cain warning that if anyone messes with Israel, they mess with America too, and with Mitt Romney stating that President Obama will not be able to stop Iran from gaining nuclear weapons, while he can.
One may think that the current state of affairs regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons is what it has always been. A report comes out that Iran is closer to a nuclear weapon, and the West begins to contemplate over whether or not to put a stop to the threat. Some people speak of taking on Iran in the same manner that the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, while others speak of enforcing more sanctions. The latter seems to have won out in this case, but one should really question about how to deal with Iran effectively in the long-term.
Invading Iran would be disastrous for the West. The people of Iran are currently divided, and some are openly resisting the anti-Western government, the economy is not doing very well under Ahmadinejad’s administration and contrary to government propaganda, not everyone in Iran hates America and Britain. To send troops to Iran would be to unite that divided populace under the banner of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and any sympathetic sentiment towards the West would be crushed.
There is also the problem of sanctions and the closing of diplomatic relations. With diplomatic relations with Iran at a low, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Islamic Republic is becoming ostracised from the international community, and while it is necessary to hold radical regimes accountable for their actions, isolating Iran would only persuade them to pursue their desire to attain nuclear weapons. A good example of an international pariah is North Korea, a country with whom diplomacy can only be conducted through exclusive six-party talks and a government that is free to do whatever it pleases without international scrutiny.
More sanctions seem to be beneficial for the short-term, but it is not satisfactory long-term response to the Islamic Republic. Military action, an idea that is proposed by some in Israel and the United States, would only worsen the problem. Whatever the case may be, the West is walking a very tight rope with Iran.
Image Credit- Milad Avazbeigi