Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

The War Drums Beat for Iran

Written by johnleemk on 5:07:10 am Feb 26, 2007.

In recent months, we have seen growing displays of aggression from both the American and Iranian governments. The Iranians have stubbornly refused to back down on the issue of nuclear weapons, and their President has openly declared that another sovereign nation, Israel, should be wiped off the map.

Meanwhile, the Americans have consistently refused to negotiate with the Iranians, or even their less-than-comfortable bedfellows, the Syrians. The sabre-rattling has merely escalated, and recent indications are that there's a chance the US could half-seriously be considering going to war with the Iranians.

I hope I need not enumerate the reasons that this war will be terrible for Americans, Iranians, and the world at large. America cannot bear the heavy military load it has signed itself up for. It cannot police the world by itself — and that's assuming that its policing is welcome, and won't create more problems for it.

The Iranians, of course, will suffer if war breaks out. The Americans may be overstretched militarily, but their air force and navy are powerful enough to pound Iran into pieces several times over, without a single American boot hitting the ground.

Meanwhile, the world would be greatly upset by the new turmoil in the Middle East. The resulting disruption in oil supplies, and the potential for proliferation of new terrorists cum freedom fighters out of this conflagaration would be far too staggering for the world to bear. Peace, not war, has to be the solution.

But how can we have peace? There are two views, both of which have some merit. One is that the Americans are primarily at fault, and should permit a fellow sovereign nation to join the nuclear club (after all, India and Pakistan invited themselves to the club; why can't Iran, which also has a democratically elected President, do the same?).

Another view is that the Iranians appear to be acting recklessly and dangerously, without regard for the turmoil their sabre-rattling could cause. With their careless handling of the situation, the wrong moves by a few key people could easily lead to an unwanted war breaking out. Worse still, the war could be wanted by Iran — what if the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wants to make good on his promise of wiping Israel off the map, and has the nukes to do it?

Furthermore, Iran isn't exactly the cleanest democratic regime in the world either. Dissidents are persecuted, the elections are far from fair, and the country appears to be actively destabilising other sovereign/pseudo-sovereign nations in the region, like Iraq.

So, who is right? I believe that both sides are correct, to a certain extent. The Americans have to realise that if war is what they expect, war is what they will get. They cannot reach for the pre-emptive strike button just yet, nor do they have the moral high ground to force the Iranian regime to give up its nuclear ambitions.

The Americans have to be willing to eat humble pie, and attempt to negotiate with Iran. The negotiations with North Korea on its nuclear weapons were surprisingly successful, to some point, and there's no reason to believe that a similar deal can't be brokered with Iran. (This would not necessarily solve the problem of Iran destabilising its neighbours, however — but the US should take what it can get.)

At the same time, the global community must recognise that Iran has no right to support destabilising rabble-rousers in neighbouring countries like Iraq and Lebanon. We make a great hue and cry about the Americans' former destabilisation of countries like Chile and Nicaragua, yet right in front of us is Iran destabilising Iraq and Lebanon, yet all we do is blame the Americans.

Furthermore, there must be a move to ensure a peaceful transition to the nuclear club for Iran, if the global community really wants this country to have a nuclear arsenal at all. The last thing we need is a sudden announcement of a test, like the North Korean surprise pulled last year. The jittery Israelis might respond by attempting to disable the Iranian nukes, and then all bets would be off as to what happens next.

The global community and the Americans should also do more than sit around and play the blame game. We have to support these developing countries, even if they are run by insane autocratic regimes, in their quest for economic development. I am a firm believer that for non-democratic countries, trade tears down a regime rather than builds it up.

Embargoes only work on democracies or pseudo-democracies like South Africa. For autocrats, a free flow of goods and services, and yes, nuclear power technology, opens the eyes of their people to the possibilities of democracy and liberty. The autocratic regimes will then naturally collapse. By embargoing the autocrats, we prop them up artificially by allowing them to unite against the outsiders and behind their leaders — much as what happened in Cuba.

The solution to the sabre-rattling in the Middle East is not simple, but for the sake of world peace and the lives of all people, be they Iranian, American, or whoever, we need to take action. We cannot allow the stakes to continually be raised, until someone finally calls the hand and all bets are off.

If we want to solve the problem of America and Iran, we need to understand that negotiations at the diplomatic table are the only way to go. War is a last resort — not a first resort — and peaceful trade is superior to conflicts and sanctions.

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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

Infernal Ramblings is run by John Lee. For more, see the About section. If you have any questions or comments, do drop him a line.

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