Whether or not Iran ever reaches an acceptable nuclear deal with representatives of the International Community, the Iranian government should not allow Iranian-Western relations to regress. Although hardliners in the Iranian government look at a nuclear deal with the West in unfavorable terms, the fact that the issue brought all sides to the table is important.
What President Hassan Rouhan has been able to do is break through decades of isolation by engaging the West in the face-to-face negotiations. Quite frankly, the relationships that have been created between Iranian and Western leaders is far more valuable to Iran than their nuclear program will ever be.
Where hardliners in Iran see their nuclear ambitions as a means of strengthening their position in the International Community, their pursuit of nuclear technology makes them a greater threat and a far more inviting target to the outside world. In other words, it makes them weaker.
Looking at North Korea, its nuclear program failed to give it any real leverage over the outside world. If anything, the North’s nuclear arsenal has largely created greater support for isolating the Communist regime, lead to greater isolation, made new enemies, derailed any chance at peace, pushed away allies, and wasted huge sums of money the country desperately needs.
As Iran does not have the natural resources to sustain a nuclear industry, which means it will have to struggle with logistic blockades and pay a premium for imports, it is safer to assume the sole goal of pursuing nuclear technology is increased leverage on the world stage, which is counterproductive. Where militarily weak countries view nuclear weapons as a blessing, they are a curse to those who actually have them. Not only do they divert a great deal of funds and other resources away from other defensive measures, they cannot actually be used.
Russia and the United States have struggled to even ease their burden, because they cannot risk giving the other side the upper hand. As several countries have been able to achieve nuclear power status since the end of the Cold War, the risk has become even more unmanageable. With multiple treats, nuclear powers must be able to retaliate against attacks from a growing list of potential aggressors, which means nuclear power creates threats.
Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology alone may mean that Iran already has nuclear weapons pointed at it. As nuclear and ballistic technology takes time to advance, those pointing nuclear weapons at Iran’s leadership are likely not threatened by Iran’s nuclear technology. Consequently, Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology does not serve as a deterrent to those who actually threaten it; it only drives fear of a strong Iran.
Furthermore, Iran is not free of civil discontent while it has done its far share to support terrorist groups that have a tendency of becoming threats. Just as Syrian President Basher Al-Assad has had to fear his own chemical weapons being discovered and used against his own regime, the Iranian government could very easily face a situation where it becomes the target of its own nuclear arsenal.
Moreover, it would be wise for Iran to scale back its pursuit of nuclear technology on its own, even if negotiations ultimately fail. As Iran is attempting to assert its influence in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere in the Middle East, its goals would be far better served by avoiding antagonistic, self-destructive strategies.
If Iran wants to be a regional leader, it needs to pursue that goal by becoming a more constructive force that respects the interests of its neighbors. If it wants to free itself of sanctions, it must do the same thing and makes no longer pursuing nuclear technology.
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