Al-Arabiya: The fact is that for Iranian leaders, becoming a nuclear power is paramount, allowing Tehran to exercise its hegemonic ambitions in the region. It is also viewed as a powerful tool for deterrence and the means for the ruling clerics to survive.
By Majid Rafizadeh
Recent reports on the secret deals and talks between the Obama administration and the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Daily Beast have shown that the United States has been easing sanctions on Hassan Rowhani’s government for much longer than the initiation of these current nuclear talks. The easing of sanctions was in fact initiated right after President Rowhani assumed office.
On the other hand, recent nuclear talks have revealed that while the Obama administration has been so politically eager to strike a nuclear deal with Iran – no matter how flimsy or one-sided – Iranian leaders have shown their willingness to walk out of talks if they do not get the precise deal they desire.
According to The Daily Beast, Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a group that works closely with Congress and the White House regarding Iranian matters, stated that “For five months, since Rowhani’s election, the United States has offered Iran two major forms of sanctions relief.”
Relieving heavy sanctions on the Islamic republic involves Obama’s administration significantly decreasing the issue of designations of sanctions violations in comparison to any previous administrations. The administration has overlooked the fact that Rowhani’s government was capable of selling oil illegally in the black market, leading to a large profitable amount of illicit revenue. Moreover, the Obama administration has opposed sanctions recommendations coming from both the Republican and Democrat parties in Congress.
The major issue comes down to why the United States has been so politically and diplomatically eager to strike a nuclear deal with Iran, no matter how rushed and incomplete that deal may be.
The worst scenario
Unlike the mainstream perception, and unlike what many scholars and policy analysts have thought, Iran was not the one who was willing and anxious to get a deal for its nuclear program, but rather the United States who went to the nuclear talks armed with deal packages. Iran refused each of these deals; with its leaders capturing the weak focal point of the Obama administration.
The recent breakdown of the nuclear talks reveals two crucial issues. Firstly, Iranian leaders have shown that they are willing to walk out of the nuclear talks without any apprehension if they do not get the deal that they desire. What the Iranian leaders demand is very clear. Iran first wants to be able to continue enriching uranium. The second issue the nation demands from these deals is the easing of economic sanctions. Iranian leaders want to have their cake and eat it too, they would like to continue enriching and processing plutonium while getting rid of sanctions – which are aimed at Tehran’s violations. Iranian leaders also want to use these talks as a tool to buy time, which has so far proved to be successful.
The worst political and diplomatic scenario for Iranian leaders would be for the economic sanctions to remain. Tehran has dealt with these sanctions for decades, showing that they have the required power to suppress or domestic discontent.
The fact is that for Iranian leaders, becoming a nuclear power is paramount, allowing Tehran to exercise its hegemonic ambitions in the region. It is also viewed as a powerful tool for deterrence and the means for the ruling clerics to survive.
Iranian leaders, according to nuclear enrichment experts, need less than a year to achieve their objective. Iran currently possesses 440 pounds of highly enriched uranium at 20 percent. In order to create a nuclear warhead, 550 pounds of the highly enriched uranium are needed. Iran has also initiated a reactor to process plutonium. There is hardly any incentive – such as for fuel use – in processing plutonium other than developing nuclear weapons-grade material.
There are two methods to create nuclear weapons-grade material, either by enriching uranium at high percentage or by processing plutonium. As this reactor continues to operate, it will be hard to even military damage the installation because of the dangerous material that will be released into the environment and the dangers these nuclear materials pose for human beings. According to experts, processing plutonium to a nuclear breakaway capacity requires approximately a year.
On the other hand, the worst scenario for the United States – which the Obama administration has been so politically anxious of – would be for a tougher position on Iran, including a military option before Iran becomes a nuclear power within the year.
The United States has been apprehensive about this option, pushing for any deal with Iran, no matter how fragile that deal might be, and no matter what repercussions the deal will have on the security, geopolitical, and geostrategic landscapes of the countries in the region.
One of the crucial repercussions and negative consequences of the Obama administration’s rush to make a deal with Iranian leaders would be the alienation of many American allies in the region. The geopolitical, geostrategic, and security concerns of American regional allies have not been addressed in case Iran does indeed become a nuclear power soon.
A one-sided deal, or striking any deal with Iran that would give them the time to reach the nuclear breakaway capacity, will have a tremendous impact on the security of other regional countries, as well as on Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions and the overall balance of power in the region.
Finally, by reaching an ineffective deal and by currently allowing Iranian leaders to play games with these talks, Obama’s administration is giving Iran the time to reach the nuclear breakaway capacity and become the region’s nuclear power.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and scholar, is president of the International American Council and he serves on the board of Harvard International Review at Harvard University. Rafizadeh is also a senior fellow at Nonviolence International Organization based in Washington DC and a member of the Gulf project at Columbia University.