Historical Solutions for a Contemporary Challenge

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Farangis Bayat
International Issues Analyst

For Western experts, the Iranian nuclear case has gradually turned into the art of solving one of the most complicated contentions, which the international community has been grappling with so far. The solutions that have been proposed for this issue up to this point have been mostly following suit with three general models, which were in turn inspired by major historical events of the 20th century, especially in the final years of the bipolar world system. The Western analysts believe that these models can be taken into consideration when dealing with the nuclear issue of Iran.

Cuban solution

The “Cuban solution” is one of the three major models, which has been proposed for the Iranian nuclear case, and is strongly recommended by American think tanks and pacifist academics. When trying to find a solution to Iran's nuclear case, a variety of American think tanks, journalists and even members of the United States Congress refer to the Cuban missile crisis as a role model for the settlement of the Iranian nuclear case. In the heat of the Cuban missile crisis, tremendous pressure was put on the US President John F. Kennedy to either lay siege to Cuba or take action for the destruction of the missile sites in the Central American country. However, as classified documents, which were declassified 25 years later, have shown, Kennedy had reached a clandestine and undeclared agreement with his Russian counterpart to dismantle US Jupiter missiles, which had been deployed to Turkey, in return for the Soviet Union taking its missiles off Cuba. During almost 13 days which followed the historical day of October 14 (1962), most tribunes, which practically set the direction of the United States foreign policy in Washington, were encouraging Kennedy to take a decisive action. However, Kennedy’s political discretion and his historical speech in which he issued warnings about the concept that the American people had of the “enemy” can be now used as major lessons of the “Cuban missile crisis.” Those lessons teach us to achieve agreement based on the existing realities, not on the basis of exaggerated pictures that are reflected by the mass media, or are created under pressure from irresponsible political lobbies that do not care about the country’s national interests.

What makes Iran's nuclear case similar to “Cuba missile crisis?”

There are various pieces of evidence to make analysts believe that the current “situation” in which a decision should be made on the nuclear program of Iran looks similar to the missile crisis in Cuba. In both crises, two powers show determining presence. In 1962, the United States and former Soviet Union played the main roles with a third actor – then Cuban President Fidel Castro – acting behind the scenes. The counterparts for these actors in the case of Iran's nuclear energy program include Iran and the United States, as the main actors, with Israel, playing the part of the actor who stands behind the scenes. Moreover, during the “Cuban missile crisis,” the United States’ sensitivity toward deployment of medium-range missiles in Cuba had turned into Washington’s geopolitical Achilles’ heel. In the case of Iran's nuclear program, the type of political arrangements that have evolved in the Middle East (and Eastern Mediterranean), including Iran's support for Syria and Lebanon, have faced the United States with a new form of geopolitical imbalance. However, the point which has been emphasized by the Western experts is that making a final decision on Iran's nuclear case would be much simpler and rational, if that decision is going to be made in accordance with the much more dangerous and riskier case of the “Cuban missile crisis.” Why? Because what makes the Cuban missile crisis a desirable model for the United States is the fact that Iran is by no means on a par with the United States when it comes to the two countries’ nuclear power.

Iran is basically not the actor that will be able to “deal the first blow” in its confrontation with the United States. Therefore, there is no reason for Washington to adamantly believe that giving any concession to Iran, which would enable the country to develop its peaceful nuclear technology, should be taken as equal to “nuclearization” of Iran or “militarization” of its nuclear energy program. Analytical reports offered by pacifist figures in the United States have noted that the perceived risk of a “nuclear Iran” is more of a media image, than being a result of Iran's ability to “deal the first blow.” That media image is made up of lines and shapes that are mixed together in media analyses and reports with pictures of war and nuclear explosions. Therefore, before being meant to reveal any reality, they are actually pictures which are taken advantage of as a means to justify recourse to brute force and have, therefore, turned into a process used to convince that part of the media audience which is not aware of the real nuclear capabilities of Iran.

However, since this issue has been somehow tied to the Islamic Republic’s political “prestige,” none of the two sides sees any reason why it should give up first. John F. Kennedy not only refrained from completing this process by making a secret decision to dismantle his country’s missiles in Turkey and announce this to Moscow, but also made his historical speech in which he addressed the American people in order to present a more real image of the “enemy.” This is the course of action that various intelligence, political and media experts within the United States should recommend [the US President Barack] Obama to take. Tehran should be looking forward to seeing such a move on the part of the United States. If Washington proves brave enough to pass over the mental image it has made of Iran and the exaggerated risk of a nuclear Tehran, and also take the first step in line with the aforesaid strategy, then one may claim that Obama has learned good historical lessons from the missile crisis in Cuba.

Chinese solution

The second model, which can be used to find a solution to Iran's nuclear case, is inspired by a historical instance which is related to cold relations between Beijing and Washington at the time of the former Chinese leader, Mao Zedong. At the end, after 25 years of testing various initiatives, including the “ping-pong” diplomacy and a visit by then American President Richard Nixon to Beijing, the two countries decided through the political will of their leaders to end the period of tension in bilateral relations. This solution has drawn attention from the Western experts because during the period of tension between Washington and Beijing, it was the American secretary of state who made frequent trips to China and played an active role with regard to various crises in the Middle East and East Asia, thus paving the way for the elimination of tension in US-China ties. The current situation in the tumultuous Middle East region has increased the need for all parties involved in the nuclear case to be present in the region and conduct consultations with Iran. Even in his latest article written for the Boston Globe, the former United States Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns had indirectly advised the incumbent US Secretary of State John Kerry to play this role. Another point which is especially underlined in a Chinese solution is the issue of the capacity to build security and take it beyond the Iranian borders to other parts of the Middle East. There is another point which has been highlighted by American researchers and even some political figures in the United States: If Iran is currently a stable country at the heart of a tumultuous and crisis-stricken Middle East, why it should not be used as a gravitational center for exporting security to other parts of the Middle East? Why the United States is doing its best to push one of the most stable countries in the Middle East toward instability and more adversity?

The political will of the Iranian side is strong and has its roots in a recent [presidential] election which can make it possible for the American side to understand serious signs shown by Iran. There are other viewpoints close to this security-based perspective which assert that Iran should be considered as a political player on which the West should not try to mount further pressure, but instead, give more room to Iran in order to build security in other parts of the Middle East as well. In fact, when Washington decided to give precedence to Beijing over Taiwan, it did this on the basis of a large-scale approach to the outcomes of relations with China in terms of building security across the region. The same consideration can be generalized to relations with Tehran at a time that the domino of serial unrest is sweeping through the Middle East. Of course, it should not be forgotten that reestablishment of relations between Washington and Beijing did not mean that all tensions and differences had been settled between the two sides because the United States continued to maintain relations with “Republic of China on Taiwan” up to 1979. This means that nobody should expect all problems to be solved in the wake of a single conference or even the conclusion of a bilateral treaty. There will always be a certain level of dispute in place between the two sides, which will be sometimes limited to verbal tension and sometimes show itself as conflicting political positions and even trade-related confrontation. Offering a real picture of how to find a solution for tensions will also help all involved parties to start settling their disputes. In doing this, a strong political will is needed more than anything else. The two first solutions proposed for the Iranian nuclear issue (Cuban and Chinese solutions) mostly revolve around the two sides’ political will, the situation of decision-making elites, cost-benefit analysis, the issue of national prestige as well as available political grounds both in Iran and the United States. Therefore, they are characterized by an acceptable margin of optimism about the possibility of their implementation.

Brazilian solution

There is a third solution which has been underlined by Matias Spektor, as an expert in international relations who is also aware of technical issues related to International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities. He says since the indigenous nuclear activities of Iran are now a matter of national pride for the country and part of the national “prestige” of the nation, such inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities should take place by countries of the South. A similar case was experienced by Brazil in 1970s with respect to bilateral cooperation with Argentina under the oversight of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The third proposed solution will, in fact, amount to some sort of technical experience in which the main cooperation for the verification of the true nature of Iran's nuclear energy program will take place among countries of the South, instead of cooperation between the North and the South. In this approach, emphasis has been put on showing respect for national prestige of the country whose facilities are being inspected (in this case, Iran) and phasing out the superpower actor from the process of such inspections. According to the third solution, the scheduled inspections by the IAEA can take place by a third country which is trusted by Tehran. The proponents says there is no reason why the need to supervise Iran's nuclear activities should be mixed with hegemonic goals of big powers which will undermine the sense of value that the Iranian nation attaches to the country’s nuclear activities. A successful instance of such a solution has been already seen in inspections of suspicious nuclear facilities in Brazil, which were carried out by the government of Argentina. In this way, the ground was provided for Brazil to settle its nuclear disputes with international community and also helped the United States to dispel its suspicions about nuclear activities of Rio de Janeiro.

Key Words: Iran, Nuclear Case, Historical Solutions, Cuban Solution, Chinese Solution, Brazilian Solution, Bayat

Source: Shargh Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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