Iran is an odd case in international relations. We’ve all gotten used to the regular media firestorms surrounding the nation. They begin with the implication that Iran is moving forward in some way with plans to launch a nuclear attack against Israel. This is followed by a lot of fearmongering by the Jewish Lobby in the media, some aggressive talk by Iran, talks with Russia and China, and ends with the international community threatening Iran and finally giving them some small boon in exchange for promises of being nice.
What I find so odd about this ritual is that it benefits all sides to continue to do it as regularly as the public will support. The media gets ratings, the politicians woo supporters, Israel gets more pity money and free weapons from the U.S., Russia and China strengthen their trade agreements, and Iran gets some trade concessions. All parties increases the fanaticism of their followers.
I’m of the belief that Iran has nuclear weapons, got them from the Russians, and has had them for a long time. I think all of the major powers know it, but keep it quiet because they like the current system and know the revelation would lead to panic and war.
Juan Cole recently wrote an article entitled “Top Ten Things You Think You Know About Iran That Are Not True” A few choice excerpts:
Belief: Iran is aggressive and has threatened to attack Israel, its neighbors or the US
Reality: Iran has not launched an aggressive war in modern history (unlike the US or Israel), and its leaders have a doctrine of “no first strike.” This is true of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, as well as of Revolutionary Guards commanders.
Belief: Iran is a militarized society bristling with dangerous weapons and a growing threat to world peace.
Reality: Iran’s military budget is a little over $6 billion annually. Sweden, Singapore and Greece all have larger military budgets. Moreover, Iran is a country of 70 million, so that its per capita spending on defense is tiny compared to these others, since they are much smaller countries with regard to population. Iran spends less per capita on its military than any other country in the Persian Gulf region with the exception of the United Arab Emirates.
Belief: Isn’t the Iranian regime irrational and crazed, so that a doctrine of mutally assured destruction just would not work with them?
Actuality: Iranian politicians are rational actors. If they were madmen, why haven’t they invaded any of their neighbors? Saddam Hussein of Iraq invaded both Iran and Kuwait. Israel invaded its neighbors more than once. In contrast, Iran has not started any wars. Demonizing people by calling them unbalanced is an old propaganda trick. The US elite was once unalterably opposed to China having nuclear science because they believed the Chinese are intrinsically irrational. This kind of talk is a form of racism.
I’m not a fan of Iran. I don’t like the part they play in this cycle any more than those of the rest of the contributors. My point in this is not to support Iran, but to end a cycle of fear and kickbacks, that while it may be beneficial in the short term to the top players, is bad for the future of the world at large.