Middle East

Op-ed

A Military Strike on Iran?

While many countries are investing more in research and development of cheaper and cleaner nuclear energy, the nuclear research program of Iran has drawn ire from the West. Although Iran has repeatedly claimed that its ongoing nuclear research program is for peaceful uses and its purpose is merely to become self-reliant in nuclear energy, Western countries, particularly the United States and Israel, have rejected this claim.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has several times expressed its concern over the Iranian nuclear program. In its latest report, the IAEA said that it has "credible" information that "Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device." The IAEA has called on Iran to address the concerns of the international community regarding its nuclear program.

Iran called the report completely "non-professional, unbalanced and politically motivated," saying it was prepared under pressure from the United States and that the IAEA serves as America's puppet. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once again insisted that Iran's program is for peaceful purposes and will never be shut down.

According to the IAEA report, the research carried out in 2008/2009 is a matter of serious worry. It found devices that have no other use than to detonate a nuclear bomb.

The United States has said that Tehran has repeatedly failed to convince the international community that its nuclear program is for non-military purpose, bringing speculation of possible military action against Iran back into public conversation. Israel has spoken in favor of a military strike against Iran, with the United States pushing for additional sanctions. Russia and China, on the contrary, have vowed to oppose tooth-and-nail any sanction against Iran by the U.N. Security Council, let alone military strike.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned that attacking Iran may have "a serious impact in the region and on U.S. forces in the region." Panetta opined that bombing Iran would merely "delay that [nuclear] program or derail it up to two or three years at most." Other U.S. officials, including President Barack Obama, have given the impression that force is not being seriously considered at this point.

In response to the discussion in Western media, Iran has issued a stern warning. Parvez Sarwari, chief of the Security Commission of Iranian Parliament, said that Iran has the courage to turn Israel into a heap of dirt, in case any such mistake is committed by Israel. He said that he is eager for the moment when Israel provokes Iran to demonstrate its power and technology. This echoes Ahmadinejad's view, aired some years ago, when he said that Israel must be "wiped off the map." Such threats certainly give strength to U.S. and Israeli beliefs that Iran is actively involved in creating nuclear weapons.

We can consider two other factors in the context of this tension between Iran and the West: the disputed presidential elections in Iran in 2009, and the ongoing anti-regime uprisings of the Arab Spring. These two things have helped create a negative atmosphere surrounding Iran. After the presidential elections in 2009, the protesters, led by losing candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi, occupied Azadi Square in Tehran, accused the government of large-scale poll rigging in the elections and demanded a redo of the election. The government suppressed that movement by the use of force. Encouraged by the Arab Spring, once again the protesters took to the streets in large numbers. This time again the movement was brutally crushed.

The Iranian government claims that these protests received tacit support from the United States and Israel, hence the need for their suppression. At the same time, Iranian lawmakers have called for the hanging of those opposition leaders who are involved in "conspiracy" against the government. On the other side, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the Arab Spring could "turn into an Iranian winter."

Considering the losses the United States has suffered from military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran may be confident that the United States does not want to take on another conflict. If American soldiers were to land on Iranian soil, the resistance they met would be much stronger and violent than in Iraq and Afghanistan. Apart from this, the current financial position of the United States won't allow the country to take on a new military adventure. Hence, the shadow of war on Iran may be a mere pressure tactic intended to make Iran fall in line. 

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