The UN resolution on Syria’s recent chemical weapons attack during their brutal ongoing civil war has many wondering what will become of proposals to reopen the debate of the decade-long nuclear dispute between the U.S. and Iran.
Iran’s nuclear program began in the 1950s and was launched with the help of the U.S., who continued in the participation of the program until the Iranian revolution in 1979. Relations between the U.S. and Iran have been strained since, coming to a head in 2003 when the U.S. alleged that Iran had a program to develop nuclear weapons after an IAEA report. In 2006, George W. Bush insisted that consequences must be faced by Iran for defying the demands that it stop enriching uranium. The UN Security Council then began sanctions against Iran in the hopes of coercing them to show transparency with their nuclear program.
The worry for the international community should Iran possess nuclear weapons begins with the fact that the Iranian regime funds and arms Hezbollah and has ties with other terrorist organizations. Iran has previously stated that Israel should be wiped from the map, and other U.S. allies in the region have expressed alarm with Iran’s aggressive regional policy.
So what does the diplomacy aspect of the Syrian chemical weapons crisis have to do with Iran? Many analysts concluded that Obama had lost his credibility with his response to Syria crossing the ‘red-line’ that he himself declared. However, the argument can be made that Iran’s surprising outreach to the United States is in fact due to the way in which Obama has handled the Syrian ordeal. Obama has been consistent in his actions against the Syrian chemical weapons attack. He threatened drone strikes if existing chemical weapons were not given up, and with the Russian proposal, Obama now has no need for strikes. Iran can see trustworthy attributes in this deal, signalling that making a deal with the U.S. could pay off with economic sanctions being lifted.
Newly elected Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani has highlighted the possibility of a meeting between himself and President Obama at the UN. This would be the first meeting of leaders of the US and Iran since 1979 during the Iranian revolution. Obama would like to test the opportunity for diplomacy in this ongoing dispute
Other state actors to be considered include Israel, who stated strict demands for ensuring the end of Iran’s nuclear programme. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls for a halt in all uranium enrichment, removal of all enriched uranium, closure of an underground nuclear facility in Qom, and seizure of building a plutonium reactor. US-Israeli relations could be strained should the US engage in diplomatic talks with Iran regarding their nuclear program.
Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader is endorsing Rouhani’s international outreach efforts and believes that it is time to address ongoing disputes with major world states. Khamenei highlighted the fact that Iranians do not believe in nuclear weapons due to their beliefs. Rouhani would need the support of the Islamic Republic to reach any deals with the United States regarding Iran’s nuclear activities. Iran has constantly remarked that its nuclear programme is purely for civil energy generation interests. What Obama would expect of Iran should diplomacy transform, would be for Iran to “show the international community that it’s not trying to weaponize nuclear power”.
With the U.N. General Assembly meeting today, this could be the perfect opportunity for Obama to follow through with his efforts to ensure that Iran does not become a nuclear state. The U.S. has the opportunity to show that it can be trusted when engaging with other states by following through on promises of no military action should demands be met. If diplomatic talks however fail to transpire meaningful results, Obama will be left with similar criticisms as he was when Syria crossed the “red-line” that he had set.
Cooperation and resolutions through diplomatic action will continue to set the stage and lead to further discussions throughout the world, as seems to be the case seen after the beginning of the U.N. resolution in regards to Syria. The precedent should be set that actively engaging in diplomatic resolutions opposed to military intervention will serve to improve economic, social, and political interests.
– Beth Mansell