HOW MUCH LONGER WILL THE IRAN “GAME” CONTINUE?
New York Dr. César Chelala
The last failure of talks between Iran and the six world powers
represented by Catherine Ashton, who held negotiations on behalf of the P5+1
powers –the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany- indicate
that unless a new approach is tried, further talks are futile and will only
increase the animosity between both sides.
“The time has come for the world to take a tougher stance and
make it clear to Iran once and for all that these negotiation games are
approaching an end,” said Israel’s Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister
Yuval Steinitz in a communiqué. Steinitz, who is a close ally to Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu, told Israel’s Army Radio that stronger action should be
taken within a few weeks or a month to persuade Iran to halt its uranium
One of the arguments trotted out in the debate over Iran's nuclear
development is that it could initiate an arms race in the Middle East, but a
realistic look at the overall picture in the region is sufficient: except for Israel, whose nuclear arsenal has
been an open secret for decades, no other country in the region is in a
position to launch a serious nuclear arms program.
It has been stated repeatedly that an aggressive Iranian government
would represent a danger for the region and for the U.S. Historical fact,
however, turns that argument upside down. To the contrary, Iranians have been
witness to a number of acts of foreign intervention against their country.
Last September Efraim Halevy, head of the Mossad from 1998 to 2000,
declared in an interview with Haaretz, “What we need to do is to try and
understand the Iranians. The basic feeling of that ancient nation is one of
humiliation. Both religious Iranians and secular Iranians feel that for 200
years the Western powers used them as their playthings…Thus, the deep motive
behind the Iranian nuclear project –which was launched by the Shah- is not the
confrontation with Israel, but the desire to restore to Iran the greatness of
which it was long deprived.”
Both sides, Iran on the one hand and the U.S. and Israel, have
employed an aggressive rhetoric against the other side. The U.S. and Israel
have repeatedly threatened military action against Tehran in flagrant violation
of the UN Charter whose Article 2 states, “All Members shall refrain in their
international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial
integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner
inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”
If past experience with authoritarian regimes is any guide, new
harsher sanctions on Iran will not succeed in curbing that country's nuclear
ambitions. On the contrary, it will
strengthen the hardliners in Teheran.
Much more can be gained by fostering a diplomatic approach and improving
relations between American and Iranian citizens.
Since threats of punitive action against Iran are not weakening its
nuclear ambitions and not tempering its hard line with its own citizens, a
different approach is in order. In fact,
according to Professor Dursun Peksen, an expert on economic sanctions,
"...the effect sanctions have on human rights conditions in authoritarian
regimes shows that more abuses typically occur with sanctions in place and that
the number of abuses is greater when sanctions on those regimes are more
While we fear what we know, we fear even more what we don't know.
Parallel to efforts on the diplomatic front, real dialogue between the United
States and Iran could begin with an exchange of artists, sportsmen, scientists,
writers and religious figures. An active exchange would benefit both countries
and lessen the atmosphere of confrontation and suspicion. Let us change a paradigm geared towards war for
one aimed at peaceful coexistence. This would be a logical next step in
brokering peace in that troubled region.
Dr. César Chelala is the foreign correspondent for The Middle
East Times International (Australia).