Written on 22/09/2012.
Above: Mushroom Cloud Following The Explosion Of “Fat Boy”, The Nuclear Weapon Dropped On Nagasaki
Last night I entered a discussion on LinkedIn the title of which was No to War with Iran. The article that introduces the discussion refers to a position put forward by the distinguished political scientist Kenneth Waltz that that if Iran had nuclear weapons it would become a more responsible international actor on the world stage. I must admit that back in my days as a socialist I myself toyed with such an idea – it would after all be a thumb in the nose to the Great Satan! With the coming of political maturity, my delusions on this matter have disappeared (socialist hostility toward America is perhaps a subject suitable for a future blog post).
While I have great respect of Waltz who was the founder of structural realism, a very rational strand of international relations theory, I disagree with him on this issue. In a world of rational actors his theories are correct, but today’s world is not rational, we have appeasement minded political leaders in the West combined with religious zealotry in the Middle East. This means that state actors are unlikely to behave as traditionally expected.
Waltz apparently cites Pakistan, a country that harboured Osama bin Laden, as a responsible nuclear power – a position that would even stretch the credulity of the hopelessly naive. Pakistan is an extremely unstable country on the brink of an Islamist takeover and if that finally occurs, nuclear proliferation will assume a scale and a horror hitherto unimaginable. The Cuban Missile Crisis would be a happy memory!
A key factor that Waltz obviously does not factor into his analysis is the bitter Sunni-Shiite schism that still plays a central role in the internal politics of Islam. When one recognises that religious attitudes in the region are similar to those of the Europe of the 16th century the danger is apparent. It must also be remembered that Shiite Muslims are often persecuted in the Sunni world – tensions between the two strands of Islam are very high indeed. Sunni Islam regards Shiites as dangerous heretics and we all know from Europe’s past where that can lead.
To that already dangerous position is added a worrying recent development – the Western backing of the Muslim Brotherhood via the ‘Arab Spring’. Ultimately this has created a situation where have an extremist Shiite Iran facing countries now run by the equally extremist Muslim Brotherhood. It is not unlikely that major conflict between these two grouping will take place. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons then it is inevitable that Saudi Arabia and the new Islamist states in North Africa will quickly acquire a nuclear weapons capability perhaps via Pakistan.
Add to this the rivalry between NATO and Russia and we have a very dangerous situation indeed. Proxy wars between NATO and the Warsaw Pact were common during the Cold War, but those did not involve nuclear armed proxies. Of course, it is quite possible that nuclear armed Third World countries would deter the practice of mounting proxy wars but this would not prevent escalation among the mutually antagonist Third World states themselves. Western interventionism in North Africa for the purpose of putting Russia at a strategic disadvantage has been a foolhardy move that may serve the interests of Western ‘elites’ but is severely detrimental to the Western public.
Added to the ‘Great Game’ of great power geopolitics we have the vulnerability of the state of Israel and the rhetoric of Iranian regime in relation to it. Iran has repeatedly threatened the very existence of Israel. As recently as August 2012 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said:
“The very existence of the Zionist regime is an insult to humanity” (ynetnews.com)
As a rational actor Israel is obliged to take the Iranian President at his word – after all this is a matter of national survival. With its very existence so openly threatened it is highly likely that Israel will act before Ahmadinejad acquires the means to follow through with his ambitions to see Israel’s end. An Iran on the brink of acquiring a nuclear arsenal will mean war whatever appeasement minded Western governments may wish. The apparent abandonment of Israel by the Obama Administration will mean that American pressure will mean nothing to a state on the verge of non-existence.
The main problem with even a successful war against Iran would be that it would dramatically increase the power of the equally dangerous Islamist regime of Saudi Arabia. Of course that is probably the aim of Western elites given their fawning attitude towards that country. However, such a scenario is likely to cause Russia to intervene in such a conflict. It appears that war on a grand scale is highly likely unless Iran gives up its nuclear ambitions. The three things that create this inevitability are Israel’s natural desire to defend itself from extinction, the desire of Western elites to consolidate their vision for globalisation and impose it on the world, and Russia’s natural inclination to prevent the expansion of Western power and influence. In the end someone will have to blink or the inevitable will occur!
The good folks over at Tundra Tabloids republished the above article and it inspired a response in the form of another article from one of the people over there. The article entitled ‘The Rivalries Between The Shi’tes And The Sunni Muslim Brotherhood: A Major Conflict Waiting For The Right Time To Erupt……..’ Talks about the increased tensions between Shiites and Sunnis in the Middle East. As I mentioned before I believe that the level of tension at least has been caused by Western support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Western leaders are rather adept at deflecting blame on anyone other than themselves. It is not the aftermath of a poorly made film that is causing mayhem in the region but the policies of feckless Western politicians.