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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The Self Shelf: How to diffuse a time bomb

Published: October 2, 2009
Section: Opinions

<i>ILLUSTRATION BY Bret Matthew/The Hoot</i>

ILLUSTRATION BY Bret Matthew/The Hoot

In the sands of ancient Persia, a storm is brewing and threatening to envelop the world. Iran constantly gets closer and closer to having nuclear arms capabilities as the world squabbles over who should do something about it.

Of course, if it were this cut and dry, one would have to wonder why a reaction is so slow in coming.

However, a more comprehensive picture of the Iranian situation is the fact that a belligerent, oil producing dictatorship trying to enrich uranium for dubious purposes with Israel threatening to strike without warning…while much of the rest of world either wrings its hands or doesn’t care. With all of these problems, it’s a wonder that our foreign policy department sleeps at night.

That being said, there are two solutions currently being debated that the United States might employ to solve this problem, and the first one is catastrophically flawed. This solution would utilize military might against the Iranian threat. This would ostensibly involve some kind of preemptive strike on the Iranian nuclear facilities (in spite of the fact that they have started moving them closer to military bases). This would almost certainly bring about war with Iran.

While Israel threatens to carry out this action, it would be a disaster for both itself and the U.S.. The entire region would be embroiled in war which would kill tens of thousands of people, and Israel would be in danger–not to mention the fact that if Iran has developed a nuclear weapon, it could spell Armageddon.

This violence would envelop U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan who would find themselves in the middle of yet another war; these troops would suddenly find themselves on the frontlines facing an angry and perhaps nuclear armed Iran. Not only would this be bad for our soldiers but it would reflect poorly on the U.S. as whole.

Also, there’s the question of why we’d punish an entire country (thus turning all of Iran against us) when only the somewhat autocratic leaders are to blame. The leaders have been trying to convince their citizens that the U.S. and Israel are out to get them. Why should we help them with their propaganda?

The best case scenario for this plan would be for Iran’s leadership to falter before the war got out of control and to give up its nuclear capabilities without stopping its supply of oil. Also, this would somehow involve the youth movement not completely turning on the west. This is about as likely as President Ahmadinejad attending a Shabbat service. The risks in this solution far outweigh any possible benefits. Next, we turn to another flawed solution that is being debated even as we speak.

This solution involves going through the U.N. I agree in principle with this solution but, given the track record of the U.N. in solving these problems, additional approaches must be taken. Ironically, the first part of this solution involves the usage of the discarded military solution-the United States must use the threat of force to get the U.N. moving.

No one wants WWIII, and the threat of war provides a valuable bargaining chip in terms of getting the U.N. to act. This tactic is already being carried out (perhaps not so tactfully) by war hawks in the U.S. and Israel.

The next part of the solution would be to offer Iran a face-saving alternative to complete surrender on the issue. The U.S. could offer to help set up the nuclear power plants, or have an ally with better Iranians relations assist. Thus, Iran could be both assisted and supervised as it strives for nuclear power.

This offer also undermines those who say that Iran is unfairly being persecuted for seeking nuclear power; if the leadership wants nuclear power, this proposal would be a worthy compromise as it would allow both sides to accomplish their respective goals.

This has already been attempted by Russia but it seems to have failed, which brings us back to the U.N.

Assuming that pressure and diplomatic maneuvering can force the U.N. to actually enact sanctions on Iran, it is only a matter of waiting. First, the supply of uranium to Iran should be cut off. In the event that this fails to deter, economic sanctions should be put in place as well.

A regime that has just gone through a…well, we’ll call it “troubled” election cycle and is insecure about its power cannot rationally afford economic sanctions which would cause further insurrection.

Ideally, these sanctions would eventually force Iran to accede to the previous offer of assistance in addition to supervision.

However, if all of these solutions fail, then simply isolating Iran as has been done with North Korea would be a far better solution than war, as it would prevent the chaos and death associated with it. Not to mention that if Iran is on the verge of getting a nuclear weapon, a military conflict could result in the first use of a nuclear weapon since the ashes of Nagasaki descended upon a ruined crater where a city once stood.

All in all, the main goal of the resolution should be to prevent any kind of military actions, as even the most punitive sanctions are less hurtful and inflammatory than war. Sanctions put more pressure on leadership, whereas war rallies the people around it.

The only challenge to this solution is that it could conceivable allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. However, I haven’t heard a single plausible argument on why Iran would be fire a nuclear missile at Israel or the U.S., or any western nations for that matter, and thus guarantee its absolute destruction.

Also, I would argue that an isolated and sanctioned Iran with a nuclear weapon is much less dangerous than an Iran engaged in war on the verge of developing a nuclear weapon.

While the solution I have highlighted is certainly not infallible, it is low risk and practical–words that cannot be attached to most of the other plans.

Actually, this solution is the one towards which our foreign policy department appears to be leaning. I have faith that the U.S. can help solve this world problem peacefully, and that this resolution will eventually lead to both a calmer western world and a more stable Middle East.

Until then, we can only watch the storm clouds on the desert horizon with growing trepidation.