Optimists are betting on two and a half outcomes from a nuclear deal:
- 1) Iran won’t INCREASE its meddling
- 2) Iran won’t BUILD a nuclear bomb
- 5) Iran won’t USE a nuclear bomb
Pessimists, or realists, depending on the outcome, don’t buy into any of these premises…here’s why.
Iran Will (not) Increase Meddling
At the base of Iran’s tendencies to meddle in its neighbors politics is Ayatollah Khomeini’s insistence to “export our revolution to the whole world. Until the cry ‘There is no god but Allah’ resounds over the whole world, there will be struggle. Establishing the Islamic state world-wide belong to the great goals of the revolution“. Khamenei’s vision an imminent global “Islamic Awakening” reflects his predecessor with his promise that “this century (21st) is the century of Islam“.
But this isn’t just some religious edict, it is a military one. According to General Jaafari, the chief of the IRGC, “the mission of the Qods Force is external, to help Islamic movements, to expand the revolution and to provide “assistance” to suffering people across the world and to people who need help in such countries as Lebanon, Syria and Iraq“. The Qods leader himself, Suleimani, is quite happy to take on this task: “We are witnessing the export of the Islamic Revolution throughout the region. From Bahrain and Iraq to Syria, Yemen and North Africa“.
Iran is meddling in neighboring countries by supporting factions which are closer to the Islamic Revolution – Assad in his civil war in Syria, the Houthis in their civil war in Yemen and Hezbollah in all its fronts.
But meddling requires cash: Estimates of Tehran’s meddling in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen are estimated at $30 billion a year while under heavy sanctions. Once those sanctions are lifted and hard cash fills up the state coffers, one can only surmise that the extra cash will not only be funneled to the Iranian citizens but will be directed to citizens of other countries who might influence their governments to support Tehran. The first countries on Tehran’s short list will probably be Bahrain (73% Shiites), Kuwait (40% Shiites), and then the UAE and Saudi Arabia (15% Shiites). From there, Tehran will most probably look East (Afghanistan and Pakistan) and North (Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan).
Iran Will (not) Build a Bomb
Iran’s nuclear program symbolizes Tehran’s ability to conquer science. Science, once a forte of the Arabs in the past, has been dominated in the past few centuries by the West. But not for long, warns Khamenei: “They (the “arrogant powers” = the West) kept us scientifically backward for many years. They destroyed our independence. Today we have awakened and we will conquer the arenas of science one after the other“. Furthermore, oil and gas exports may put Iran on par economically with Western countries but it is science that will place Iran on par intellectually: “In an economy which is based on underground resources, no need will be felt to identify or attract the elites. Therefore, no real progress will be made in the country”. ” Instead, Khamenei believes that “Iran should be run with its domestic and surface resources which are the intelligence and talents of its young generation and elites as well as by producing science and knowledge in the country. In that case no world power could play a game with our economy.”
Science is progress, independence and power that exemplifies the minds of those who master it and building a nuclear bomb is the pinnacle of progress, independence and power.
The nuclear deal will not be able to prevent Iran from dashing to the bomb at any time and with a sunset clause in effect, Iran may “legitimately” build a bomb within ten years. The extra money from the relief of sanctions, the increased trade with Russia and China and the inability for IAEA inspectors to monitor military or hidden bases will only contribute to achieve Khamenei’s vision. Khamenei himself may not be alive by then but he can rest assured that no “arrogant power” would ever “look down its nose” at Iran ever again.
Iran Will (not) Use a Bomb
Would Iran use a nuclear bomb if it had one? Firing a nuclear weapon on a country with nukes is bound to trigger a reprisal which could lead to the mutual destruction of both sides. This fear had kept the Russians and the Americans from pulling the trigger during the long cold war. Nukes, it seems, are meant more as a form of deterrence than a form of attack.
Once Tehran will have a bomb, Saudi Arabia and other neighboring countries will be forced into obtaining their own nuclear weapons as well. Were Iran to fire a nuclear device at Israel or the Gulf States, the retaliation would be fierce and the destruction in Iran, horrendous.
But then again, the Islamic Revolution idolizes martyrdom. According to Khamenei, martyrdom is “the zenith of courage and bravery…the pinnacle of a people’s honor” and, perhaps more importantly, “this is what frightens the enemy“. In this context, losing a few hundred thousand Iranian lives to martyrdom would be a small price to pay for eradicating the Zionists (Israel) and the terrorists (Saudi Arabia). As we wrote in an earlier post, “Nuke and Wannabe Martyrs Are Scary“.
Of course, nobody knows how Iran will look like in the future. Perhaps by then, Khamenei’s vision will seem like a horse buggy on a highway. But if his vision will live on, the pessimists will have the unfortunate luck to be right about what a nuclear deal with Iran can lead to.