Friday, July 15, 2011

Iran and nuclear weapons: fact or fiction:INTERVIEW Part III

Kourosh Ziabari: With their sophisticated intelligence apparatus, the United States and its European allies should have come to the conclusion that Iran does not have the intention of building nuclear bombs nor does it have the capability to build one. Iran has repeatedly stated that it will publicly announce once it decides to build an atomic bomb because it is afraid of nobody. Is the pressure on Iran over its nuclear program part of an agenda to derail Iran's status as a regional superpower and isolate it internationally, or is it really a matter of ignorance and unawareness on the side of the West?

Abolghasem Bayyenat: As I explained in my answer to your first question, gaining nuclear threshold status is not equivalent to having the capacity to manufacture a nuclear bomb but it enables the states possessing such capacity to produce the essential ingredients for ultimate use in a bomb, should they choose to terminate their membership in the NPT. A number of American and also European political and intelligence officials have publicly acknowledged that Iran does not have the political will to manufacture nuclear weapons but they insist that they cannot predict Iran's future intentions.

Possessing nuclear threshold status or even developing nuclear arms is not a sufficient cause for international controversy over a state's nuclear program. As I mentioned earlier, Iran's political identity interacts with its nuclear threshold capacity to turn its nuclear program into a matter of concern for the West. When it comes to the motives of Western countries in their confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program, we should note that the West is not a monolithic and united front. Both the United States and major European powers have an interest in preventing Iran from maintaining nuclear threshold status. But the role of political identity of Iran is more determining in its relations with the United States than with most European powers as the latter maintained largely normal commercial and political relations with Iran before its nuclear program came into the spotlight.

In contrast, Iran's problems with the United States will not come to an end with the resolution of Iran's nuclear issue and the relations of the two countries will continue to be strained due to the long-standing crisis in their relationship. As in the past, other contentious issues will emerge in the relations of the two countries thus serving as a pretext for sustaining the deep-seated hostility between the two countries. Given the largely conflicting political identity of the two governments which in most contexts has defined conflicting foreign policy interests for the two countries , the United States views its relations with Iran as a zero-sum game and will thus struggle to contain Iran's growing power and influence in the region, even if this would mean swimming against the tide and creating unnecessary costs for its foreign policy in the region.


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