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Amir Abadi May 4th, 2009 Advisors: Ron Hassner and Amy Gurowitz U.C.

Berkeley, Department of Political Science, Honors Thesis

Irans Nuclear Program: Rational or Irrational? A Case for Regime Rationality

For the first time since the Iranian Revolution, the United States and Iran are beginning to talk. Despite the lofty goals of rapprochement and peace, there is a struggle within the academic and political community to define what type of country Iran is. Two prominent camps have emerged regarding Iran. One posits that Iran is a fundamentally irrational actor on the world stage, driven by ideology and deserving of the pariah-status it has attained. The other argues that Iran, like other countries, is a shrewd rational actor, a product of over two thousand years of empire and statecraft. This debate is not black and white; most thinkers on the issue lean to either side of the argument. But radical elements on both sides have caused the debate to grow particularly venomous as extremists in both camps accuse the entire spectrum of the other to be working for a foreign power or interest. The task at hand, then, is to determine if Iran is rational or irrational by analyzing the centerpiece of the debate Irans nuclear program. This paper argues that Irans stance on their nuclear program is rational. It is the best course to fulfill Irans goals of maintaining security (both for the nation and for the regime), establishing an Iranian sphere of influence in the Middle East, and achieving independence and equal status in the world community. The nuclear program acts as a means to these ends. Furthermore, the aspects of the program that have been argued to be most irrational Irans economic position and its stance on domestic enrichment are not irrational in the long term. With this in mind, the Obama administration must open talks with Iran knowing they seek to overcome important and rational reasons for an Iranian nuclear program.

I would like to speak clearly to Irans leaders. We have serious differences that have grown over time. My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community. This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect. You, too, have a choice. The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization. And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create. - President Barack Hussein Obama1 It is time to talk to Iran. With a global recession, the threat of international terrorism, and two wars in the Middle East, the current presidential administration has seemingly come to the conclusion that years of isolating Iran over its nuclear program have borne little fruit. In his personal message to Iranians on the occasion of Persian New Year, Barack Hussein Obama made it clear that the United States will approach Iran with the rhetoric of diplomacy rather than aggression. As his vice president, Joseph Biden, put it; this much is clear: We will be willing to talk.2 The road to this decision has been arduous. For the past several years, whispers of war were on everyones lips. President George W. Bush declared that Iran could not be trusted to enrich uranium based on his firm belief that Iran wanted to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people. 3 He went on to accuse Iran of supplying Iraqi insurgents with weapons, and pushed for

2009. Video Taped Remarks by the President in Celebration of Nowruz. Whitehouse.gov, March 20th. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Videotaped-Remarks-by-ThePresident-in-Celebration-of-Nowruz/ 2 Jeff Seldin. 2009. US Vice President Offers Iran a Chance and a Choice. Voice of America News, Feb 7th. 3 William Branigin. 2008. Bush Vows to Prevent Iran from Acquiring Nuclear Arms. Washington Post, Mar 20th. 2

the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to be designated as a terrorist organization.4 Meanwhile on the campaign trail, American presidential candidate John McCain famously hummed a Beach Boys tune to the words bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. Shaul Mofaz, a deputy to Ehud Olmert, was much more blunt, stating that if Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we [Israel] will attack it. 5 The saber rattling, however, proved ineffective. Amid all of the bellicose talk and threats towards Iran, the Iranian nuclear program actually accelerated. 6 This left officials like Sir John Sawers, Britain's UN envoy, to conclude that the threats of regime change or military strikes against Iran on the part of the United States and its allies had not produced any movement whatsoever.7 As these tactics continued to fail to produce results, those inclined towards a more peaceful solution started to gain ground. Condoleezza Rice gave President Bush a dose of Real Politik when she told him, I dont think you can invade another Muslim country even for the best of reasons.8 President Bush seemed to come around to Rices position when he refused the Israelis permission to fly over Iraqi airspace in order to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.9 The message was a simple one: the United States would not go along with a war on Iran. At the same time, new views on Iran began to circulate within academia and government agencies. Trita Parsi, an Iranian scholar, argued that Washington was following a broken policy in the Middle East that contradicted the natural balance by seeking to contain and isolate Iran,

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Juan Cole. 2009. Engaging the Muslim World. Palgrave Macmillian. New York. 196. Ian Black. 2008. Israeli Threat to Attack Iran over Nuclear Weapons. The Guardian, Jun 7th. 6 Bridget Kendall. 2009. Iran in Backroom Offers to West. BBC.com. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7901101.stm 7 Ibid. 8 David Sanger. 2008. The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power. Harmony Press. 9 David E. Sanger. 2009. US Rejected Aid for Israeli Raid on Iranian Nuclear Site. The New York Times, Jan 11th. 3

one of the most powerful countries in the region.10 According to Parsi, it is necessary for Iran to be integrated into the security structure of the region a hard pill to swallow for some in the West. In a commentary that ran in Time Magazine, Peter Beinart concurred with Parsi, writing: Persuading [Iran] to give up its quest for a nuclear bomb will require abandoning our efforts at regime change, muting our human-rights concerns and accepting an Iranian sphere of influence in the Persian Gulf. Obamas opponents will probably depict that kind of deal as defeatist, an admission of the limits of American power in the Middle East. But those limits already exist; the U.S. just hasnt acknowledged them.11 The Obama administration has hinted that they are receptive to this idea. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice vocalized her hope that Iran would become a constructive regional actor.12 In that spirit, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the United States is seeking Irans help in the future of Afghanistan, going so far as inviting them to an international conference on the matter.13 At that conference presidential envoy Richard C. Holbrooke and an Iranian diplomat exchanged pleasantries, while a letter was passed on to the Iranian government.14 More telling is Obamas own message to the Iranian people. In it he announced that the United States welcomed Irans inclusion into the community of nations.15 Such a role for Iran, however, would come with real responsibilities.16 Though Obama did not go into specifics on what those responsibilities were, some experts speculate that they may include an Iranian role as a regional power.

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Trita Parsi. 2007. Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the U.S. Yale University Press. New Haven. 262. 11 Peter Beinart. 2008. The Solvency Doctrine. Time, Feb 2nd, 52-54. 12 Edith M. Lederer. 2009. US Will Seek to end Irans Nuclear Ambition. Reuters, Feb 26th. 13 Sue Pleming. 2009. US to Invite Iran to Afghanistan Meeting: Clinton. Reuters, Mar 5th. 14 Mark Lander. 2009. Obama Administration has First Face-to-Face Contact with Iran. New York Times, Mar 31st. 15 Video Taped Remarks by the President in Celebration of Nowruz. 16 Ibid. 4

For their part, Iranian leaders have seemed somewhat receptive to a diplomatic rapprochement with the United States. Hassan Ghashghavi, Irans Foreign Ministry spokesman, stressed that his country was willing to engage in an interaction to resolve [Americas] concerns as long as the United States recognizes our legal rights. 17 Later, Irans President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad echoed Obamas own words when he declared: Our nation is ready to hold talks based on mutual respect and in a fair atmosphere.18 But the Iranians have complained that they do not know what the true intentions of the Americans are. For every friendly gesture offered towards Iran, there is also an unfriendly one. Recently President Obama extended economic sanctions first imposed by President Clinton for another year because Iran continued to pose an extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States.19 Ahmadinejad fired back, calling Obamas policies a childish idea.20 Obama has also stated that he will continue the carrots and sticks tactic against Iran offering economic incentives while threatening punishment. This phrase, according to Dr. Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, a member of Iran's Parliament from 2000 to 2004, is one that many Iranians worldwide consider insulting to a 3,000-year-old civilization, as if its mule to be manhandled by a foreign power.21 Haghighatjoo notes the chilly Iranian response to the rhetoric of carrots and sticks, as well as their effect on the overall peace process. She uses former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjanis words as an example; he complained that, Such language is not appropriate for

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Nazila Fathi. 2008. Iran Urges Obama to Change Approach. The New York Times, Dec 12th. 18 Nazila Fathi and David E. Sanger. 2009. Iran Offers Dialogue with Respect With US New York Times, Feb 10th. 19 Fredrik Dahl. 2009. Iran Dismisses Sanctions, Launches Gas Project. Reuters, Mar 13th. 20 Ibid. 21 Dr. Fatemeh Haghighatjoo. 2009. Expediting U.S. talks with Iran. Boston Globe, Mar 12th. 5

Obama. Iran wants neither US encouragement nor its punishment. 22 Irans Speaker of Parliament, Ali Larijani also abhorred These comments [that] resemble those of old American cowboys. Larijani continued to challenge American officials when he said, If you have something to say about [Iran's] nuclear issue, just say so. Why wave a stick? 23 Based on these comments Haghighatjoo concludes, all attempts to pursue talks, whether at the highest level, through legislative bodies, or other diplomatic channels, will be influenced by the rhetoric of Obama and his aides.24 With these issues in mind, it is noteworthy that Iran's deputy foreign minister for the Americas, Ali Reza Salari, told reporters that although American officials are not talking with the same tone that existed before the signal that is reaching Iran from the United States is not a very clear and proper one. It's a mixed signal.25 This mixed signal is a product of an international tug-of-war that seeks to define what type of country Iran is. Two prominent camps have emerged regarding Iran camps that will be labeled as irrationalists and rationalists. Irrationalists posit that Iran is a fundamentally irrational actor on the world stage, driven by ideology and deserving of the pariah-status it has attained. The rationalists argue that Iran, like other countries, is a shrewd rational actor, a product of over two thousand years of empire and statecraft. This debate is not black and white; most thinkers on the issue lean to either side of the argument. But radical elements on both sides have caused the debate to grow particularly venomous as extremists in both camps accuse the entire spectrum of the other to be working for a foreign power or interest.

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Ibid. Ibid. 24 Ibid. 25 Edith M. Lederer. 2009. US Will Seek to end Irans Nuclear Ambition. Reuters, Feb 26th. 6

This raging debate has had considerable impact. Caught between two opposing forces, the Obama administration has not yet reached a consensus on what type of partner for dialogue Iran is. Is Iran a rational actor that can sit down on the negotiating table like any other state, or is it driven by ideology and bent on nuclear acquisition and war? Though Obama has tilted towards talking with Iran, this struggle to define what type of country Iran is threatens to alter the course of peace. Thus these mixed signals are troubling with the nuclear issue hanging over the worlds head, such signals are signs of important obstacles to clear and substantive negotiations with Iran. Questions and Answers Acknowledging the importance of the rational/irrational debate, this paper seeks to determine how rational Iran is by analyzing its nuclear stance. The question to be answered becomes: is Irans current nuclear policy rational? The argument made here is that despite the costs the nuclear policy imposes, the nuclear program is rational. The domestic economic benefits, coupled with the strategic asset that the program presents far outweigh the costs of international pressure. Some theoretical groundwork must be laid to understand the argument. First and foremost, it should be understood that the debate regarding the rationality of Iran is fairly imprecise. It is a mishmash of definitions of what rationality is. It also fails to identify what is being defined as rational or irrational Iran, its leaders, its people, or the state ideology. Precision, however, is essential in understanding Iran. Though seemingly irrational figures like Ahmadinejad make splashes in the headlines, their importance to the central question of how rational Iran is remains fairly moot.

Throughout this paper, Iran has been labeled as the actor whose rationality is in question. But what do we mean by Iran? For the purposes of our paper, we will be using a very narrow definition. Iran is the ruling clerical establishment of Iran namely the Supreme Leader and those in his inner circle who advise him. This narrow definition has been taken because the Supreme Leader is the arbiter of every policy decision of Iran.26 Every move and every calculation on the nuclear issue either originates from him or has been approved by him.27 Furthermore, any substantive negotiation made between the United States and Iran will really be a substantive negotiation made between the United States and the Supreme Leader. It is quite fitting that a country as complex as Iran will elicit from this paper a similarly complex definition of rationality. To be rational, a set of conditions will be required. Narrowly, rationality requires that an actor perform actions that will meet their desired goal.28 This is better known as means to ends rationality.29 More broadly however, rationality also requires that the overall goal is reasonable, attainable, and beneficial for the actor.30 It is in this light that the argument of this paper can be properly understood. The Supreme Leader has very specific overall goals. While these goals do stem in part from Irans revolutionary ideology, they are reasonable, attainable, and beneficial for the Supreme Leader and his ruling elite. They are security (both for the nation and for the regime), an Iranian sphere of influence in the Middle East, and national/independence and equal status in the world community. The nuclear program acts as a means to these ends. Furthermore, the aspects of the

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Akbar Ganji. 2008. The Latter-Day Sultan. Foreign Affairs Magazine. November/December. 45. 27 Ibid. 28 Peter Breiner. 1996. Max Weber and Democratic Politics. Cornell University Press. 38. 29 Ibid. 30 Ron Hassner. 2009. E-mail Correspondence. Apr 18th. 8

program that have been argued to be most irrational Irans economic position and its stance on domestic enrichment are not irrational in the long term. This paper follows a simple framework to convey this argument. First, the necessary context surrounding the history of the nuclear program as well as the fear of Irans nuclear intent will be discussed. This will be followed by an overview of the debate between irrationalists and rationalists. Next the goals of Irans ruling elite will be discussed and defined. After that, the contention that both Irans economic situation, as well as its stance on domestic enrichment, makes the program irrational will be challenged. Following that, possible weaknesses in the argument will be discussed. Finally, my conclusions will point to specific problems and opportunities that may arise in nuclear negotiations with Iran going forward. History of the Nuclear Program Irans nuclear program began under its former monarch, Reza Shah Pahlavi, in the 1960s.31 The country had entered into a partnership with the United States under the Atoms for Peace program, which was designed to promote nuclear energy but prohibit work on nuclear weapons.32 Irans first five-megawatt nuclear reactor was purchased from U.S. companies.33 Iran also became a charter member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1970.34 Iran continues to abide by this treaty, which requires the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to monitor Irans nuclear program.35 The Iranian Revolution, the subsequent pulling out of Western resources, and the IranIraq war all put Irans program on hold for almost a decade. It was not until 1989, with the
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Kenneth M. Pollack. 2004. The Persian Puzzle: the Conflict Between Iran and America. Random House. New York. 363. 32 Ibid, 366. 33 2008. Intel says Iran Plans Secret Nuclear Experiment. The Associated Press, Oct 30th. 34 Pollack, 363. 35 Ibid. 9

election of the new Supreme Leader, that the program began anew.36 Iran both overtly and covertly continued its drive towards a successful nuclear program with the aid of a variety of countries, most notably Pakistan, China, Russia, and North Korea.37 In 2002, the world was shocked to find out that Iran had a heavy-water production facility at Arak designed to extract plutonium, and a gas centrifuge plant at Natanz designed to enrich uranium.38 With the cat out of the bag, so to speak, Iran opened itself up to IAEA inspection, negotiations with the Europeans, and constant threats by American and Israeli officials of military strikes. Additionally, Iran found itself a victim of sweeping economic sanctions.39 That has not stopped top Iranian officials from making civilian nuclear energy a rallying call for independence from Western influence. Former Iranian President Rafsanjani has defiantly stated: definitely we cant stop our nuclear program and wont stop it. You cant take technology away from a country already possessing it.40 Irans leaders have previously suspended enrichment, but will probably not do so again.41 The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, complained that his previous agreement to temporarily suspend enrichment, Turned into something sacrosanct that Iran had no right whatsoever to touch! 42 As long as suspension was aimed at closing down the nuclear business altogether, Khamenei maintained, Iran would no longer partake in it.43

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Ganji, 62. Pollack, 364. 38 Ibid, 361. 39 The severity of which will be discussed later in the paper. 40 Kenneth R. Timmerman. 2005. Countdown to Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran. Crown Forum. New York. 300. 41 Ganji, 62. 42 Ibid. 43 Ibid. 10

Iran currently has over 7000 nuclear centrifuges44 cylindrical machines that enrich uranium.45 Though some Western analysts believe Iran may soon run out of raw uranium, better known as yellow cake, Iranian officials claim they have plenty.46 Iran is also underway in testing its first nuclear power plant at Bushehr, a 1,000-megawatt reactor built by the Russians.47 Despite CIA attempts to both disrupt shipments of centrifuge components and convince Irans nuclear scientists to leave the country, the program continues.48 According to nuclear weapons expert Joseph Cirincione, Iran has made more progress in the last five years than in the previous ten.49 Consequently, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the IAEA, has called the last five years of U.S. and international efforts to rein in Irans nuclear ambitions a failure.50 Irans current policy is to continue the course of enrichment regardless of outside pressure. As one analyst described it, Irans strategy is to keep [their] head down, moving slowly and deliberately and winning at each step until the world accepts the program.51 More alarming for some are news reports that Iran has reached a breakout point in terms of its nuclear development. The IAEA has reported that Iran has amassed about 2,227 pounds of low-enriched, or reactor-grade, nuclear fuel.52 This is enough material to build a nuclear bomb, if Iran decides to breakout of the NPT, kick out inspectors, and further refine its

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Nazila Fathi. 2009. Iran Claims Gains in Nuclear Program. The New York Times, Apr 9th. 45 Greg Miller. 2009. U.S. now Sees Iran as Pursuing Nuclear Bomb. The Los Angeles Times, Feb 12th. 46 2009. Iran Says has own raw Uranium Supply. Reuters UK, Feb 19th. 47 Thomas Erdbrink. 2009. Irans First Nuclear Power Plant Set for Tests Before Launch. Washington Post Foreign Service, Feb 23rd. 48 Miller. 49 Ibid. 50 Borzou Daraghi. 2008. Efforts on Iran a Failure. The Los Angeles Times, Dec 06th. 51 Intel says Iran Plans Secret Nuclear Experiment. 52 Borzou Daraghi. 2009. Iran has Enough Fuel for a Nuclear Bomb, Report Says. The Los Angeles Times, Feb 20th. 11

supply.53 Israeli intelligence officials concur, and have made it clear that they believe Iran has both the materials and the technology necessary to make a nuclear bomb.54 The Jerusalem Post reported that the head of Military Intelligence, Major General Amos Yadlin, reported to the Israeli Cabinet that Iran had crossed the technological threshold, and needed only to incorporate the goal of producing an atomic bomb into its strategy.55 The Americans have been more hesitant to make such claims. Reacting to the words of Yadlin, Dennis Blair, the new director of national intelligence, proclaimed that the Israelis take more of a worst-case approach to these things.56 Towards a Nuclear Weapon? Nevertheless, the fear persists that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon. Much of it has to do with the fact that the technology needed for nuclear energy is dual-use as in it can also be used for nuclear weapons. The problem is that both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons are made from the same basic material uranium.57 Civilian and military nuclear programs both rely on uranium that is converted into a gas and then enriched.58 Enrichment in both process are done in centrifuges that increase the proportion of u-235 uranium atoms that are capable of beginning and sustaining a nuclear chain reaction.59 The difference between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons, however, relies on how enriched the uranium becomes. Power plans need only 3% enrichment.60 Nuclear weapons require 90% enrichment, along with more centrifuges.61

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Ibid. 2009. Israel: Iran has Mastered Bomb Technology. United Press International, Mar 9th. 55 Ibid. 56 David E. Sanger and William J. Broad. 2009. Allies Clocks Tick Differently on Iran. The New York Times, Mar 14th. 57 Bryan Walsh. 2007. Telling Atomic Plowshares from Nuclear Swords. Time, Dec 17th. 58 Ibid. 59 Ibid. 60 Ibid. 12

Compounding the headache that this process poses to those concerned with nuclear proliferation are specific provisions in the NPT itself. Signatories to the NPT are allowed to complete every incremental step necessary both to nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.62 The only thing that the NPT prevents a signatory from doing is loading fissile material into a bomb.63 This creates a situation where very little can stop a country from putting fissile material in a bomb. In some cases, it is difficult even to know if a country has done so if they choose not to reveal that they have.64 Pakistan, a non-signatory to the NPT, denied that it had manufactured fissile material or loaded it into a bomb until the day it tested its first nuclear weapons.65 Former CIA agent, Robert Baer, has also pointed to shady business deals Iran has made in the past as evidence of its intention to build nuclear weapons. According to Baer, Iran has been buying technology integral to bomb technology. From China, Iran has purchased electromagnetic isotope separators and a three-axis turntable, tech that could be converted for grinding explosive lenses for a nuclear triggering device.66 Baer also asserts that Iran bought bomb technology from A.Q. Khan, the notorious Pakistani nuclear scientist.67 Baer suggests, These were all signs that Iran planned to secretly build a bomb.68 Most telling, however, is the American National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report released in 2007. In that report the consensus of the intelligence agencies in the United States was that Iran had a nuclear weapons program but gave it up in 2003. The unclassified portion of

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Ibid. Pollack, 366. 63 Ibid. 64 Ibid. 65 Ibid. 66 Robert Baer. 2008. The Devil we Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower. Crown Publishing. 110. 67 Ibid. 68 Ibid. 13

the report presented no evidence for that claim, but the IAEA followed up and found some disturbing results. They concluded that Iran had researched key elements in the weaponization of nuclear material including the development and testing of high voltage detonator firing equipment and the simultaneous firing of multiple explosive bridgewire detonators.69 The IAEA also found documents relating to the testing of at least one full scale hemispherical, converging, explosively driven shock system applicable to an implosion-type nuclear device.70 They also believe that Iran had redesigning its Shahab-3 missile to possibly house a nuclear warhead.71 With such issues in mind, the NIE concluded, with moderate confidence that Tehran has not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid 2007.72 Iran, however, states that its nuclear program has always been solely for peaceful purposes.73 Due to religious rulings by Irans top clerics, Iran has categorically rejected development, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons.74 In June of 2006, Khamenei bluntly proclaimed to his supporters that, We consider using nuclear weapons against Islamic rules. We have announced this openly.75 The Iranians have characterized all efforts to stop Iranian enrichment as illegal and unwarranted.76 They point to the fact that Iran should have a right to peaceful nuclear energy

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David Albright, Jacqueline Shire, Paul Brannan, and Andrea Scheel. 2009. Nuclear Iran: Not Inevitable. Institute for Science and International Security. Jan 21st. 70 Ibid. 71 Ibid. 72 Ibid. 73 Miller. 74 2006. Some Facts and Materials on the Peaceful Nuclear Program of the Islamic Republic of Iran. 9. 75 Cole, 208. 76 Some Facts and Materials on the Peaceful Nuclear Program of the Islamic Republic of Iran. 8. 14

under the NPT.77 They also accuse the Western world of being hypocritical. In an official declaration to the United Nations, the Iranians bitterly complain that Israel, a country that is not a signatory of the NPT, and in Irans view has expansionist, repressive and state-terror policies and behavior that are repeatedly recognized as the single most serious threat to regional and international peace, is allowed to posses nuclear weapons.78 The Iranians openly challenge the convoluted logic that it is OK for some to have nuclear weapons, while others are prevented from developing nuclear energy.79 Defining Iran as Irrational With the facts surrounding the nuclear program made clear, the debate surrounding the rationality of Iran can be seen in context. Alarmed by the possibility of a nuclear armed Iran, a large contingent in the international community has emerged that labels Iran as an irrational state. For our purposes, we will call them the irrationalists. At its most extreme, the irrationalist side of the debate argues, Iran is an insane, fanatical, undeterrable state the equivalent of al-Qaida.80 Though there exists more reasoned voices in this camp who claim that Iran is driven by ideology, all irrationalists have been accused of being neo-conservatives or stooges of the Israeli lobby. They have been called war mongers and fanatics intent on bombing Iran on behalf of Israel. Extreme irrationalists, like Kenneth Timmerman, joke that the Mullahs [are] laughing all the way to Armageddon.81 Many government officials join in on the chorus. In a joint session of Congress, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned that an irrational Iran
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Ibid, 6. Ibid, 8. 79 Ibid, 8. 80 Gary Kamiya. 2007. Iraq Taught us Nothing. Salon.com. http://www.salon.com/opinion/kamiya/2007/11/06/iran_war/. 81 Timmerman, 302. 15

presented a threat comparable to the savagery of slavery, to the horrors of World War II, [and] the gulags of the communist bloc.82 In this school of thought there is a particular emphasis on comparing Iran to Nazi Germany. For instance, AIPAC Executive Director Howard Khor told his supporters, the parallels of the geo-political climate of March 5, 1933, and that of March 5, 2006, are stunning in their likeness; eerie in their implication.83 Because of its nuclear program Iran is often presented as more of a threat than Nazism itself. On the eve of the 2008 American election, David Horovitz, a columnist for the Jerusalem Post, warned: If Irans genocidal regime is capable of implementing its inhumane ambitions, there will be no slow gathering of pace, no Nazi-style gradual refinement of the mass-killing process. The threat, rather, is of simple pressure applied to a nuclear trigger and vast, immediate consequences. There would be no room for the belated realization of the imperative to act that enabled the costly defeat of the Nazis. The damage would already have been done.84 Much of the Nazi rhetoric is a result of the actions of President Ahmadinejad. Rationalists like Juan Cole, John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt all dispute that Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be wiped off the map. Nevertheless they recognize how troubling and upsetting his conference on the Holocaust must have been to Israelis and irrationalists.85Ahmadinejad has also targeted the United States, predicting that the time for the fall of the satanic power of the United States has come and the countdown to the annihilation of the emperor of power and wealth has started.86 Other irrationalists are concerned by the belligerent actions of the Revolutionary Guards, Irans most fearsome army unit. They contend that the Revolutionary Guards have showed off Shahab-3 missiles during military parades with
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John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt. 2008. The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. New York. 299. 83 Parsi. Treacherous Alliance, 268. 84 David Horovitz. 2008. Editors Note: As America Votes. The Jerusalem Post, Oct. 30th. 85 Mearsheimer and Walt, 280-281. 86 Tom Curry. 2007. Is Iran Irrational or Merely Hostile? Msnbc.com. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25442607. 16

banners that have called for the destruction of Israel.87 Finding a focus on Ahmadinejad as a key figure, the irrationalists have called him a madman and have attempted to link him and Iran with a so-called Islamofascist ideology.88 Norman Podhoretz, author of World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, describes Islamofascism as yet another mutation of the totalitarian disease we defeated first in the shape of Nazism and fascism and then in the shape of communism.89 According to Podhoretz, Islamofascism is a totally irrational line of thinking, bent on the destruction of the West and the global dominance of Islam. In Podhertzs worldview, Iran is the main center of the Islamofascist ideology against which we have been fighting since 9/11 and its effort to build a nuclear arsenal makes it the potentially most dangerous one of all.90 Bernard Lewis, whose work within the field of Middle Eastern studies provides an intellectual foundation for such theories, presents us with a passage that synthesizes the fear of an irrational and Islamofascist Iran, headed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, armed with nuclear weapons. He writes: MAD, mutual assured destruction, [was effective] right through the cold war. Both sides had nuclear weapons. Neither side used them, because both sides knew the other would retaliate in kind. This will not work with a religious fanatic [like Ahmadinejad]. For him, mutual assured destruction is not a deterrent, it is an inducement. We know already that [Irans leaders] do not give a damn about killing their own people in great numbers. We have seen it again and again. In the final scenario, and this applies all the more strongly if they kill large numbers of their own people, they are doing them a favor. They are giving them a quick free pass to heaven and all its delights.91 All authors who lean towards Iran being an irrational state have been lumped together

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Timmerman, 306. Norman Podhoretz. 2007. The Case for Bombing Iran. Wall Street Journal, May 30th. 89 Ibid. 90 Ibid. 91 Ibid. 17

and labeled as Israeli stooges and warmongers. Scott Ritter, a rationalist, believes that the argument against a rational Iran is a part of a calculated strategy on the part of neo-conservatives and Israelis in Washington. Instead of being an academic exercise, Ritter and other rationalists argue that these groups have resorted to fear mongering to convince readers to militarily challenge and isolate Iran. According to Scott Ritter, the ultimate policy objective of the irrationalists is war.92 Worse yet, he believes that their work has been born in Israel.93 The authors Mearsheimer and Walt agree. They argue that Israel and the Israeli lobby are the chief forces behind the irrationalists and have been pushing the United States to take a strategically unwise policy towards Iran.94 Kaveh L Afrasiabi, an aid to former Iranian President Khatami, has described irrationalists as partaking in a smear campaign with the specific goal of confrontation with Iran.95 He and other authors argue that this smearing is meant to drive the Israeli and American media into hysterics. They claim that the same strategy of media manipulation that was used against Iraq is being used against Iran. Mark Weber, the director of the Institute for Historical Review, points to comments made by Israeli General Oded Tira as evidence. He quotes Tira as stating: President Bush lacks the political power to attack Iran. As an American strike in Iran is essential for our [Israels] existence, we must help him pave the way by lobbying the Democratic Party and US newspaper editors. We need to do this in order to turn the Iranian issue to a bipartisan one and unrelated to the Iraq failure. We must turn to Hillary Clinton and other potential candidates in the Democratic Party so that they publicly support immediate action by Bush against Iran.96
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Scott Ritter. 2006. Target Iran: The Truth About the White Houses Plans for Regime Change. Nation Books. New York. 201. 93 Ibid, 208. 94 Mearsheimer and Walt, 282. 95 Kaveh L. Afrasiabi. 2008. Elusive Consensus on Iran. Asia Times Online, Oct 23rd. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JJ23Ak02.html 96 Ibid. 18

Defining Iran as Rational As noted in the last section, there exists a wide range of voices that are in opposition to those who believe Iran is an irrational actor. For the purpose of this paper, we will call them the rationalists. Much like their irrationalist counterparts, they too have been smeared. They have been accused of being in league with the clerics and acting as an Iran Lobby in the United States. Rationalists, like Robert Baer, believe that nearly everything the average American has been told about Iran is wrong.97 They chastise the media for portraying Iran as intent on fighting a crusade or converting Americans to Islam.98 They take pains to make clear that Iran truly believes that for the last thirty years, it has been fighting a straightforward war against occupation.99 Rationalists also stress that Iran has historically acted pragmatically. Baer goes so far as to contend that Iran has acted more rationally than the United States in its attempts at gaining inroads into Palestine, Lebanon, and the Gulf States.100 He also points to the fact that Iran has avoided confrontation with the United States in Iraq and in the Persian Gulf.101 Many others concur. Efraim Halevi, former head of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, was quoted as saying, I dont think they are irrational, I think they are very rational. To label them as irrational is escaping from reality and it gives you kind of an escape clause.102 Trita Parsi adds that Irans past actions reveals systematic, pragmatic and cautious maneuvering toward a set goal: decontainment and the re-emergence of Iran as a pre-eminent power in the

97 98

Baer, 77. Ibid. 99 Ibid. 100 Ibid, 179. 101 Ibid. 102 Parsi, Treacherous Alliance, 270. 19

Middle East.103 The rationalists also contend that for Iran, pragmatism trumps ideology. Iranian scholar Nasser Saghafi-Ameri points out that at the beginning of the Revolution, Iran, like all early revolutionary government, had a strong inclination towards an ideological approach to foreign policy.104 But as revolutionary governments like Iran mature, Ameri contends, pragmatic considerations take precedence over ideology.105 He argues that this is why Iran cooperated with the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq, and why Iran remained neutral in the conflict between Christian Armenia and Shia Azerbaijan.106 Juan Cole adds that this transformation occurred fairly early in the lifetime of the Islamic Republic. During the Iran-Iraq war, Ayatollah Khomeini himself authorized the sale of petroleum to Israel in exchange for American spare parts that could be used for repairs and maintenance in Irans air force.107 According to the rationalists this pragmatism is not limited to foreign policy. Kenneth M. Pollack argues that the leaders of Iran are extremely pragmatic domestically. He points to the fact that the Iranian leadership has recently backed off on unpopular social restrictions in order to stay in power. He describes their actions as a brutally and radically pragmatic move.108 Giving up their hold on Iranian social behavior in exchange for maintaining their grasp on power proves that the leadership is willing to betray one of the most important principles of their ideology.109 It is Trita Parsi, however, who highlights the most persuasive evidence for the pragmatism

103

Trita Parsi. 2007. The Iranian Challenge. The Nation, Nov 1st. http://www.thenation.com/doc/20071119/parsi. 104 Nasser Saghafi-Ameri. 2009. Iranian Foreign Policy: Concurrence of Ideology and Pragmatism. The Iranian Revolution at 30. The Middle East Institute. Washington D.C. 105 Ibid. 106 Ibid. 107 Cole, 218. 108 Pollack, 371. 109 Ibid. 20

of Irans rulers the words of the rulers themselves. In Irans former President, and now backroom power broker, Hashemi Rafsanjani, Parsi finds a man who is wiling to change his ideology in order to follow a pragmatic course. Rafsanjani announced in one of his Friday prayer sermons that, Our ideology is flexible. We can choose expediency on the basis of Islam.110 Later Rafsanjani said that in terms of foreign policy, To put the country in jeopardy on the ground that we are acting on [an] Islamic basis is not at all Islamic.111 Somewhat confusingly, for Rafsanjani and many like him in Iran, ideology dictates pragmatism, which in turn dictates ideology. Irans former Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Maleki, may not buy that particular logic. To him, Irans foreign policy is no longer ideological. He believes that any Islamic ideology would force Iran to have pro-Muslim policies in all of the world. 112 Maleki points out, however, that Iran failed to support Chechen Muslims. He contends that, If ideology was the first motivator for Iranian foreign policy, Iran must do that. But Iran didnt.113 The rationalists also set about arguing against the different points made by the irrationalists. They argue that the irrationalists place far too much emphasis on Ahmadinejads role in the Iranian government. Though Ahmadinejad can go on tours around the world and make speeches, he has very limited power in terms of foreign policy. 114 As Juan Cole humorously commented: The idea that Irans cocky, diminutive president is about to change

110 111

Parsi. Treacherous Alliance, 263. Ibid. 112 Ibid. 113 Ibid. 114 Parsi, The Iranian Challenge. 21

into khakis and lead a military attack on Israel is bizarre.115 Even if Ahmadinejad is irrational, Cole contends, he has no outlet but his words to act on it. Real power lies in the hands of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, according to the rationalists. In Iran the executive, the legislative, and judicial branches of government all operate under the absolute sovereignty of the supreme leader.116 Ayatollah Khamenei acts as the head of state, the commander in chief, and the top ideologue of Iran.117 As one former senior Iranian official put it: If the [Supreme] Leader were to withdraw his support, Ahmadinejads political future would be finished He is scared of [Khamenei], like a dog.118 It is true however, that Ahmadinejads words can have consequences. The rationalists see in his statements regarding Israel and the Holocaust not an irrational genocidal threat, but a calculated foreign and domestic policy move. Bidgan Nashat, yet another Iran expert, sees in this rhetoric an attempt to paralyze Ahmadinejads domestic opponents as well as overcome Irans strategic isolation in the Middle East by extending Irans security perimeter to Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.119 Mearsheimer and Walt, authors of The Israeli Lobby, expand on this theory further, arguing that Ahmadinejads harsh rhetoric towards Israel along with the endorsement of the Palestinian cause wins sympathy with the Arab world and discourages Arab alliances against Persian Iran.120 The rationalists do concede that many of Irans actions have seemed irrational. As one author put it:

115 116

Cole, 204. Ganji, 45. 117 Ibid. 118 2008. Iran: Who runs it? The Economist, Jul 26th. 119 Bidgjan Nashat. 2009. Irans Tactical Foreign Policy Rhetoric. The Iranian Revolution at 30. The Middle East Institute. Washington D.C. 120 Mearsheimer and Walt, 283. 22

The countrys foreign policies look erratic, too. Iran has condemned jihadist terrorism, but sheltered al-Qaeda fugitives. It has backed the government of Iraqs prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, yet has abetted militias opposed to him. It champions Muslim unity but creates division by vilifying pro-Western Muslim rulers, backing Shia factions and expecting Shias everywhere to bow to Mr. Khameneis authority. Zigzagging appears to be the hallmark of the Islamic Republics foreign policy.121 In this zigzagging however, the rationalists see an echo of President Nixon. They believe that Iran is following the mad-man Nixon strategy, whereby Iran pretends to be irrational so that its enemies will be more reluctant to attack Iran if Tehran's response can't be predicted and won't follow a straight cost-benefit analysis.122 The best evidence for this theory are the words of Amir Mohebian, and influential conservative strategist in Iran. He has proclaimed that: We [Iran] should not be calculable and predictable to them [Irans enemies]. The U.S. could not mess with Imam [Khomeini] because he wasnt calculable Saddams fall was because he was calculable.123 The most vocal irrationalists see in the arguments made by the rationalists the backing of Iran. They accuse all those who lean towards the view that Iran is rational as tools of the Iran Lobby. Hassan Daioleslam, an Iranian himself, was the first to posit this term. He argues that the rationalists have been waging a disinformation campaign that has cost American lives and billions in taxpayer dollars. In essence, the rationalists pose a threat to national security.124 Daioleslam has a particular dislike for Trita Parsi, a rationalist academic who has already been referenced several times in this paper. He argues that Trita Parsi is at the head of

121 122

2008. The Economist, May 24-30. Parsi, The Iranian Challenge. 123 Parsi. Treacherous Alliance, 271-272. 124 Hassan Dai. 2008. Irans Lobby in the U.S. Iranianlobby.com. May 8th. http://english.iranianlobby.com/page1.php?id=15&bakhsh=INTERVIEWS 23

the Iran Lobby in the United States. Rather than being an academic, Parsi is just a tool of Irans clerical establishment. As Daioleslam jokes, if you listen to these Iran experts, you should do exactly what Trita Parsi has been trying to say for so long, that the US should accept Iran's power in the Middle East.125 Other rationalists have found themselves targeted. Robert Baer is one such individual. He is the author of The Devil we Know, another book referenced earlier in this paper. When Jonathan Schanzer, former US Treasury intelligence analyst and the deputy executive director for the Jewish Policy Center, reviewed Baers book for the Jerusalem Post, he had only scathing and venomous words. Schanzer calls Baer a washed-up ex-spy who has forgotten which side hes fighting for.126 Baer is a man who appears comfortable with defeat.127 His conclusions seem to be based on some deadly analytical blunders.128 In short, according to Schanzer, The Devil We Know is filled with misleading and apologetic assertions about Iran.129 Government officials are neither sparred from such criticism. Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has gone on the record to say that he disagrees with the description of Iran as an irrational messianic state determined to obtain nuclear weapons to launch a war against its archnemesis, Israel.130 As a result, he was labeled, both by American and Israeli officials, as soft on Iran.131 The Israeli newspaper

125

Jamie Glazov. 2008. Irans Lobby Drooling in Washingtons Bazaar. FrontPageMagazeine.com, Nov 17th. http://frontpagemagazine.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID=73802A95-D9FC-4178-8C58A33D3170E466 126 Jonathan Schanzer. 2009. Review of: The Devil we Know. Jerusalem Post, Feb 6th. 127 Ibid. 128 Ibid. 129 Ibid. 130 Borzou Daraghi. 2008. Efforts on Iran a Failure. The Los Angeles Times, Dec 06th. 131 Yossi Melman. 2009. Israel Launches Campaign Against UN Nuke Watchdog Chief. Haaretz, Feb 26th. 24

Haaretz reported that diplomatic and defense officials in Israel believed that ElBaradei was negligent in handling all matters relating to the Iranian nuclear crisis.132 This led the Israeli government to launch a PR campaign against ElBaradei, wherein the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission immediately criticized every interview ElBaradei gave.133 Things got so bad that the Bush Administration attempted, but failed, to bar him from getting reelected to his post.134 What Does Iran Want? While the politically venomous debate regarding Irans rationality rages on to this day, we now turn to settle the matter for ourselves. In this section we seek to define Irans overall goals, and argue that they are reasonable, attainable, and beneficial to Irans ruling elite. Robert Baer has provided a broad outline of core Iranian interests. Three of them are of particular importance in our discussion of the nuclear program. They are: security for the nation and the regime, an Iranian sphere of influence in the Middle East, and national independence/equal status in the world community.135 We will deal with security first. The ruling regime above all wants to stay in power, even at the expense of their core values.136 In terms of security, Irans goals are no different and no less rational than any other state. The ruling elite values both their grip on power as well as the safety and stability of the Iranian nation. Any observer would be hard pressed to call such goals irrational. Observers would also be correct in pointing out that the ruling elite of Iran have a range of security threats some external and some internal. The United States Army flanks Iran by

132 133

Ibid. Ibid. 134 Ibid. 135 Baer, 245. 136 As Pollack mentioned earlier. 25

occupying two of its neighbors. Iran is also particularly upset about three groups that are in contact with American intelligence officials: the Party for the Free Life of Kurdistan, the Mujahidin-e Khalq, and Jundallah.137 Iran is also furious about money appropriated through the American Congress to overthrow the regime. In 1995, Newt Gingrich, passed a bill that allotted $18 million for covert operations against the Islamic Republic.138 According to Seymore Hersh, the Bush Administration increased the funding to the tune of $400 million.139 The ruling elite became so worried about U.S. plans for Iran that they offered a peace settlement with the United States in 2003, now referred to as the grand bargain.140 In the document, Iran put everything on the table promising to battle al-Qaeda, to coordinate with the U.S. on Iraq and Afghanistan, to end support for Palestinian and Lebanese militias, and even to accept a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.141 In turn, the Iranian regime wanted the United States to recognize its legitimate security interests.142 The United States turned the offer down. But it showed that Iranian leaders took the security of the Iranian nation seriously. Irans second interest is far larger in scope. Iran is interested in extending its power across the region. Much like the Shahs imperial Iran, the Islamic Republic has begun to subscribe to the notion that Irans size, population, education level, and natural resources have made the country destined to obtain regional preeminence and that it should play a leadership

137 138

Baer, 245. Charles Kurzman. 2009. The Iranian Revolution at 30: Still Unpredictable. The Iranian Revolution at 30. The Middle East Institute. Washington D.C. 139 Ibid. 140 Glenn Kessler. 2006. In 2003, US Spurned Irans Offer of Dialogue. Washington Post, Jun th 18 . 141 Ibid. 142 Ibid. 26

role reflective of its geopolitical weight.143 As Baer describes it, Iran has made the strategic transition from a revolutionary troublemaker trying to export a Shia uprising, to a statist, Napoleonic-like conquest with the goal of imposing order, taking ground, and expanding.144 Most notable in this quest are the inroads that Iran has made into Iraq that it wants to protect. Almost overnight, Iraq transformed from a hostile neighbor to a friendly Shia state. Iran now exercises a large influence over its neighbor. Robert Baer argues that Iran has effectively annexed southern Iraq.145 Iran has taken control of the police, the military, some of the intelligence services, universities, and even the political parties of Iraq.146 Iran has also made gains throughout the Middle East. These too are important assets that Iran is interested in protecting. The leaders of Iran wont give up their dominion in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, the Gulf, and Gaza and they will insist on domination in the Gulf after the United States leaves.147 Some have labeled this imperial tendency as irrational. They argue that the imperial enterprise that Iran has entered into is too costly for a country already in financial straits. But Irans aims for power projection in the region make sense. Iran has spent the last 30 years behind a wall of containment that has isolated it economically and politically. Saddam Hussein attacked Iran precisely because it was considered weak in the region.148 Much like the United States, Iran argues that it will be safer if it can control the events around it. Furthermore, Iran has a lot to gain economically by being a regional hedgemon. Take for example Iraq. By investing in the stability of Iraq on Iranian terms, the Iranians have opened up new economic markets for

143 144

Parsi. Treacherous Alliance, 279. Baer, 85. 145 Ibid, 87. 146 Ibid, 87. 147 Ibid, 246. 148 Ibid, 87. 27

themselves.149 Furthermore, if Iran can continue to control southern Iraq, they have the opportunity to control its oil markets.150 Iran is already pilfering Iraqi petroleum by the truckload for its own needs.151 In the long term, Iran is poised to reap the same tremendous economic benefits of controlling the Middle East that Western powers have in the past. The third goal of Iran is recognition and equality in the world system.152 This has been Irans motto since the Revolution. As R.K. Ramazani argues, pride in Iranian culture and a sense of international victimization has created in Iran a need for independence and resistance to domination by foreign powers.153 The New York Times wisely ascertained that the Iranian Revolution, at 30, has independence at its core.154 This is of particular consequence to Irans nuclear program. Iranian leaders see Western objections to their program as a way to continuously keep them down. They also see them as hypocritical and unfair. Iran bitterly complains that the international community ignores UN Resolution 242, which calls for Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, but insists on carrying out UN resolutions against Iran.155 The Iranians have called this a grave injustice.156 Ayatollah Khamenei echoed these feelings in a speech when he proclaimed: We want to properly use this big country and its huge natural and human resources - the resources which have been given to this nation and its officials. We want to relieve this nation of the burden of hundreds of years of humiliation. This nation feels proud and powerful and it has every right to feel so. This nation

149 150

Ibid Ibid. 151 Ibid. 152 Ibid. 153 R.K. Ramazani. 2009. Understanding Iranian Foreign Policy. The Iranian Revolution at 30. The Middle East Institute. Washington D.C. 154 Roger Cohen. 2009. Irans China Option. The New York Times, Feb 8th. 155 Baer, 246. 156 Some Facts and Materials on the Peaceful Nuclear Program of the Islamic Republic of Iran. 28

is proud and powerful, but it has been kept behind. Both corrupt dictator systems and their foreign ill-willed supporters have kept Iran behind.157 Underlying all of these sentiments is a deep sense of Iranian nationalism. This nationalism acts as a bottom up pressure that motivates the ruling establishment to continue their nuclear policy. As Kaveh L. Afrasiabi explains, the degree of public support for the nuclear program, which is very much associated with national pride, is very high.158 Because Iranians see nuclear technology as the most advanced technology in existence, and because they view Irans technological know how as an indication of its place in the world, the ruling elite of Iran are experiencing pressure in exactly the opposite directions from the West and the Iranian public, and the latter is impossible to resist.159 This is evident throughout the entire political spectrum in Iran. The rivals of the ruling elite in Iran the reformists insist on Irans right to nuclear energy. Leading reformist presidential candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has stated that nuclear technology for peaceful purposes without being a threat to the world is our strategic objective and because of popular pressure the reformists are obliged not to back down on this or other similar issues.160 The Israelis have extended this argument further. Ariel Sharons spokesperson Ranaan Gissin states that a a secular and democratic government in Tehran may actually be more inclined to acquire a nuclear bombor, at a minimum it will be under popular pressure to continue the program at the same pace.161

157

2006. Ayatollah Khamenei Speaks on Khomeynis Death Anniversary. Islamic Republic of Iran News Network Television (IRINN), Jun 4th. 158 Kaveh L. Afrasiabi. 2006. Irans Nuclear Program: Debating Facts Versus Fiction. BookSurge Publishing. 3. 159 Ibid. 160 2009. Irans Mousavi Vows to Push Nuclear Drive. Associated Foreign Press, Apr 5th. 161 Parsi. Treacherous Allianc, 274. 29

Author Scott Sagan, a prolific writer on the logic of nuclear acquisition, would view Irans attempt to gain nuclear technology based on these sentiments as rational. Irans attempts to achieve nuclear status, in Sagans words, would provide an important normative symbol of a states modernity and identity.162 The behavior of Irans leaders would not be dictated by irrationality but rather by deeper norms and shared beliefs about actions that are legitimate and appropriate in international relations163 Economics of the Program Irans nuclear program has two very controversial subject areas: economics and domestic enrichment. Those who believe Irans program is irrational state that Irans stance on these two issues do not serve Irans larger goals. But when one carefully looks at the situation, it becomes obvious that Irans stance on both of these issues is rational. In the long term they do in fact help achieve Irans larger goals. It must be noted however, that the international sanctions against Iran have hurt the Iranian economy. Though expert analysis has not been able to fully grasp the impact of international sanctions164 the IMF has come to conclude that intensified international pressures on Iran ha[s] negatively affected economic activity.165 Iran has had a difficult time trading with outside powers, and has found itself bereft of any foreign investment. 166 The Iranians are well aware of this fact. In an open letter to President Ahmadinejad, sixty economists from around the country harshly chastised his tension-seeking foreign policy, and

162

Scott D. Sagan. 1996 Why Do States Build Nuclear Weapons?: Three Models in Search of a Bomb." International Security 21:3 (Winter 1996/97). 73. 163 Ibid. 164 Baer, 253. 165 Lesley Wroughton. 2008. Sanctions Hurting Iran Economic Activity, says IMF. Reuters, Aug 14th. 166 Ibid. 30

argued that such approaches deprive the country of trade and foreign investment opportunities.167 They went on to complain hat as a result of the imposition of UN Security Council sanctions on Iran, much of the country's trade is done through middlemen, which costs the country's foreign trade billions of dollars.168 Even Irans own state-run news source extended little sympathy, entitling their report of this event as Economists Rake Ahmadinejad Over Coals.169 What makes the sanctions particularly damaging is the fact that they play out in the background of an Iranian economy already approaching collapse. Initially Iran could weather the impact of sanctions because the price of oil remained high for almost five years.170 Unfortunately for Iran, the price of oil has dropped significantly as a result of the worldwide economic downturn.171 This is of particular concern because oil profits account for 85 percent of the governments revenue.172 As a result, the Iranian government now faces a deficit of $44 billion dollars.173 Inflation has risen to 24 percent, while unemployment has skyrocketed.174 Irans economy is not in good shape. But the sanctions have not been entirely successful. Robert Baer argues that effective sanctioning of Iran is a dream.175 He points out that the Iranians are still able to buy anything they want from China and Russia and that some of Americas closest allies, such as Turkey

167 168

2008. Economists Rake Ahmadinejad Over Coals. Press TV, Nov 8th. Ibid. 169 Ibid. 170 Laura Secor. 2009. Letter from Tehran: The Rationalist. The New Yorker, Feb 2nd. 171 2009. Iran faces $44 Billion Deficit. Associated Foreign Press, Feb 11th. 172 Ibid. 173 Iran faces $44 Billion Deficit. 174 Ibid. 175 Baer, 253. 31

and Japan trade with Iran as if there were no sanctions at all.176 Critics of the sanctions also point out that Iran is experiencing a situation akin to what was happening in Iraq under Saddam Hussein.177 Ordinary Iranians, especially the middle class are suffering from the sanctions because the price of consumer and industrial goods are skyrocketing, along with real estate.178 But because the vast majority of government revenues come from the export of oil and gas, rather than tax revenues generated by trade, the ruling elite arent feeling the pinch.179 More importantly, Iran continues to be protected by Russia and China. Both countries have consistently watered down or vetoed all previous attempts at sanctions.180 Russia has recently signaled that it will not toughen its current policy towards Iran, with its Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov outright stating, Our stance on the Iranian nuclear program has no elements which could be interpreted as toughening of approach.181 This stance is not surprising considering Russias extensive economic ties to Iran, including its nuclear program. It is well known that Russia is responsible for the nuclear reactor at Irans Bushehr plant. Though the details of such a contract are a state secret, it is estimated to run up to $1 billion.182 The Russians claim that they have little sway over Iran, despite their Veto power in the Security Council. According to one Russian expert, Veto power in the security council is the only, and very limited, means Russia has to influence Iran.183 The Russians argue that even if they wanted to, they could only apply limited economic pressure because they share less than $3
176 177

Ibid. Borzou Daragahi. 2009. IRAN: Despite Sanctions, Business as Usual. Los Angeles Times Blog, Mar 15th. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2009/03/iran-despite-sa.html 178 Ibid. 179 Ibid. 180 2009. Russia Says They Will not Toughen Policy Toward Iran. Associated Press, Feb 16. 181 Ibid. 182 2009. Q+A: Russia to Start up Iran Nuclear Plant in 2009. Reuters, Feb 5th. 183 Nabi Abdullaev. 2009. U.S. Overestimating Russias Clout with Iran. The Moscow Time, Mar 6th. 32

billion in bilateral trade with Iran annually.184 This is less than countries like Germany, Italy, China, and Japan.185 In fact Russia is not even one of Irans top 10 trading partners.186 But even if they were the number one trading partner, Russian experts claim that one cannot pressure Iran into doing anything they don't want to, and it is impossible to buy them off.187 The Chinese share a similar stance and have a similar economic stake in Iran. Just recently, Iran and China announced a $3.2 billion natural gas deal.188 Apart from natural gas however, China has a substantial interest in Irans oil. According to Iranian officials, Iran supplies China with 14% of its oil.189 Economic sanctions on Iran are not in the best interest of China, and China has always acted in its best interest on this issue. When it is caught trading with Iran in violation of the sanctions, as it was this past April, China openly states that it resolutely oppose U.S. sanctions on Chinese companies citing its domestic laws.190 Even American financial institutions are in on the deal. In New York, federal and state prosecutors are currently investigating a number of major Western banks who may have illegally handled funds for Iran and deliberately hid Iranian transactions routed through the U.S.191 The South Koreans have acted no differently, having recently completed construction of a $2.1-billion natural-gas processing plant in Iran in despite sanctions.192 In short, different

184

Philip P. Pan and Karen DeYoung. 2009. Russia Signaling Interest in Deal on Iran, Analysts Say Still, Obama Effort Faces Obstacles. Washington Post Foreign Service, Mar 18th. 185 Ibid. 186 Ibid. 187 Ibid. 188 Borzou Daraghi. 2009. Iran Signs $3.2-Billion Natural Gas Deal with China. The Los Angeles Times, Mar 15th. 189 Ibid. 190 2009. China Opposes U.S. Sanctions on Company with Alleged Iran Link. Xinhua, April th 9 . 191 2009. Fresh Clues of Iranian Nuclear Intrigue. The Associated Press, Jan 16th. 192 Daraghi. Iran Signs $3.2-Billion Natural Gas Deal with China. 33

players across the world, even those in the U.S., have conspired to weaken and violate the sanctions. Though the sanctions have an impact in the short term, Irans leaders have more longterm economic considerations to contend with they are running out of oil. There is a persistently false notion that Iran is a nation awash in a sea of oil and natural gas, and as such has no legitimate claim for a nuclear energy program.193 It is true that Iran has a large supply of oil. In 2005 alone, half of Irans primary energy supply came from oil.194 Unfortunately however, according to Robert Baer, Iran faces an oil depletion as severe as Saudi Arabias, with an even larger disparity between its real and claims reserved.195 Baer brings up the fact that in the year 2005, Iran produced 3.94 million barrels of oil a day.196 This amount exceeds Irans sustainable capacity which is the amount Iranians can recover from existing oil fields without damaging them which sits at only 3.8 million barrels of oil a day.197 Compounding this problem is Irans ever growing domestic demand for energy. Irans population today is around 70 million, but by the year 2050, that number is estimated to reach as high as 105 million.198 In the near future, experts project, domestic demand for oil will outstrip the supply.199 With these issues in mind, National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) officials project

193 194

Baer, 202. Statistics. The Iranian Revolution at 30. The Middle East Institute. Washington D.C. 195 Baer, 142-143. 196 Ibid. 197 Ibid. 198 Some Facts and Materials on the Peaceful Nuclear Program of the Islamic Republic of Iran. 199 Roger Stern. 2007. The Iranian Petroleum Crisis and United States National Security. PNAS. Vol 104. No 1. Jan 2nd.

34

that oil exports could go to zero within 1219 years.200 This is catastrophic for a country where oil accounts for eight-five percent of government revenue.201 Adding to the tremendous financial burden is the fact that Iran is also wasting money on refined gasoline. It is a country that is a net importer of the material.202 Iran imports more than 40% of its refined gasoline due to shortfalls in Iranian refining capacity.203 Worse yet, the country has been subsidizing the price of gasoline to $0.34 per gallon, sparking an annual 1112% demand growth.204 This an economically unsound policy, as Iran imports more than $4 billion dollars in refined gas every year.205 But the Iranians claim that they have no better alternative. As an NIOC official explained: Given the fact that our refineries are outdated and that NIOC does not have the necessary funds to build new refineries and that the private sector does not engage in the business of construction of refineries due to the low profits involved, import of gasoline is more economically feasible than building refineries.206 These subsidizing policies that were designed to make the revolution more palatable to the poor have fostered a dangerous expectation of cheap fuel.207 When that expectation is not met, Irans internal security is threatened. For example, when Iranian officials began to ration refined gas (because it was becoming too expensive), the people responded by rioting.208 Twelve gas stations in Tehran were burned down, with the rioting being so intense that fire engines

200 201

Ibid. Secor. 202 Albright et all 203 Ibid. 204 Stern. 205 Shirzad Bozorgmehr. 2007. Protestors Torch Iran Gas Stations. CNN.com, Jun 28th. http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/06/27/iran.fuel/ 206 Stern. 207 Ibid. 208 Bozorgmehr. 35

could not reach the burning gas stations.209 It took Irans Basij militia until 2 am the night of the riot to regain order.210 This event presents a clear problem to Iranian leaders. If they do not provide the domestic energy that Iranians need, people will take to the streets. Nuclear energy is a part of the answer for Irans energy woes. As the Iranians themselves have argued to the United Nations: to satisfy such growing demands, Iran cant rely exclusively on fossil energy. Since the Iranian national economy is still dependent on oil revenue, it cant allow the ever increasing domestic demand affect the oil revenues from the oil export. 211 The Iranians also contend that the United States had made the same conclusions thirty years ago, when they convinced the Iranians to invest in American nuclear technology.212 The Iranians claim that they are merely trying to reach the same benchmarks outlined for them by U.S. policy makers benchmarks that by 2020, would save Iran 190 million barrels of crude oil or $10 billion per year in todays prices.213 By diversifying their energy sources and building new power plants, Iran extends the life of their petroleum reserves. These reserves are the lifeblood of every activity Iran partakes in, and they will only grow more valuable over time. For Iranian security, hegemonic ambitions, and independence energy is key. Domestic Enrichment The other controversial aspect of Irans nuclear program is the countrys stance on domestic enrichment. Despite many international offers to enrich the uranium oversees and ship it to Iran, the regime has refused to give up its right to domestically enrich uranium. Iran has two convincing reasons for not heeding international pressure in this regard. First, the rational behind

209 210

Ibid. Ibid. 211 Some Facts and Materials on the Peaceful Nuclear Program of the Islamic Republic of Iran. 212 Ibid. 213 Ibid. 36

stopping Iran from enriching uranium is blatantly unfair. Hassan Rohani, a representative of the Supreme Leader, convincingly argues that: The U.S. and some Europeans argue that they cannot trust Irans intentions. They argue that they cannot accept Irans promise to remain committed to its treaty obligations once it gains the capability to enrich uranium for fuel production. They ask Iran to give up its right under the NPT, and instead accept their promise to supply it with nuclear fuel. This is illogical and crudely self serving: I do not trust you, even though what you are doing is legal and can be verified to remain legal, but you must trust me when I promise to that which I have no obligation to do and cannot be enforced.214 To accept such an unfair policy would be to betray Irans goal of independence, equality, and fairness under the international system. Iran also does not want to be at the mercy of their suppliers. The Iranians argue that it would be irrational for them to rely solely on outside powers for nuclear fuel because such dependence would in effect hold Irans multi-billion dollar investment in power plants hostage to the political whims of suppliers in a tightly controlled market.215 It would be disastrous for Iran if their energy were cut off because their stance on Israel or Lebanon had infuriated a supplier nation. This would undercut both Irans security and its reach as an empire. The Supreme Leaders rhetoric on this issue reveals a strong case for domestic enrichment as a means to national independence. He has argued: To say that no country has the right to have access to nuclear technology means that in twenty years time, all of the countries of the world will have to beg certain Western or European countries to meet their energy demand. When oil is gone we will have to beg for energy in order to run our lives. Which country, nation, or honest official is ready to take that?216 Ironically, the situation Khamenei is describing is akin to what is currently happening between countries with oil and those without.
214 215

Hassan Rohani. 2006. Irans Nuclear Program: The Way Out. Time, May 09th. Some Facts and Materials on the Peaceful Nuclear Program of the Islamic Republic of Iran. 216 Ayatollah Khamene'i Speaks on Khomeyni's Death Anniversary. 37

Talk of independence and fairness is all well and good, irrationalists contend, but they do not outweigh the possibility of a military strike on Iran. They argue that Iran is irrational for pursuing their present course because it invites possible attack. Israel is the figurehead in that argument. They have made it clear that they will not accept any kind of nuclear program within Iran because it would represent an existential threat to their country.217 Alarmingly, a new conservative government has been elected in Israel, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu. In an interview entitled Netanyahu to Obama: Stop IranOr I Will, he was quoted as saying that he does not want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs.218 Though the possibility of an atomic attack on Israel is very remote, Israel does have reason to fear an Iran with enrichment capability. Immigration to the country could falter, while others might emigrate out of fear.219 Investors might feel wary of pumping money into Israel.220 Moderates in the Middle East may feel as though they could take a harder stance on Israel most notably Syria.221 And groups like Hezbollah or Hamas may feel, rightly or not, more emboldened to launch attacks against Israel.222 These are issues that may drive the Israelis to preemptively strike Iran. There are also rumors of a decapitation program that seeks to kill Iranian officials and scientists who are involved in the nuclear program.223 The London daily reported that Israel is

217 218

Parsi. Treacherous Alliance, 268. Jeffrey Goldberg. 2009. Netanyahu to Obama: Stop IranOr I Will. The Atlantic, Mar 31st. 219 Natasha Mozgovaya. 2009. Next Ambassador to U.S. Tells AIPAC: We Wont Let Iran get Nuclear Weapons. Haaretz, May 3rd. 220 Ibid. 221 Ibid. 222 Ibid. 223 Herb Brandon. 2009. US, UK, Israel, France, Target Iran Nuclear Scientists. Israel News Agency, Feb 22nd. 38

using hitmen, sabotage, front companies and double agents, to attack Iranian scientists.224 As one Israeli security analyst ominously put it: From mobile phones, pens, cars and cotton shirts to food, computer laptops, juice, books and toilet paper those who are working on a nuclear programme to hit Tel Aviv, London or Paris will not finish their workTheir families will not be touched, but they will find themselves involved in work accidents that no one can save them from. If they seek the honor of finding 72 virgins and becoming a shaheed (martyr) Western agents have been in place to help them.225 Many in the international community, including those who interviewed Netanyahu, believe that all this talk may be a tremendous bluff aimed at motivating President Obama and others to grapple urgently with the problem.226 As mentioned earlier, the Israeli government was refused when they asked President Bush for bunker-busting bombs, permission into Iraqi airspace, and the green light for an attack on the Natanz enrichment site.227 Many Israeli analysts concluded that the move amounted to nothing more than posturing to prod the West in negotiations with the Islamic Republic.228 And as discussed earlier, the carrot and stick approach of incentives and disincentives espoused by President Obama has taken center stage in the United States. With this in mind, the security threat to Iran, for the time being, has subsided. Finally, domestic enrichment gives Iran a very powerful choice they have the option to create a nuclear weapon or not. The first option, creating nuclear weapons, is very risky. It would draw international condemnation, isolation, and perhaps new sanctions. And as Trita Parsi describes it, the decision to weaponize would likely weaken rather than advance Irans strategic

224 225

Ibid. Ibid. 226 Goldberg. 227 Fathi and Sanger. 228 Michael Bluhm. 2008. Israeli Strike on Iran not Likely -- Local Analysts Say. The Daily Star, Jun 28th. 39

position.229 Iran currently has a conventional superiority vis--vis its neighbors because of its size and resources, but a decision to weaponize would spark a nuclear arms race that could empower small countries like Kuwait and Bahrain with nuclear weapons.230 In this scenario, Iran would find itself at strategic parity with states less than one-twentieth its size.231 The Iranians themselves have admitted that they have come to the same conclusion. They have told the UN that any type of nuclear weapon would reduce Irans regional influence and increase its global vulnerabilities without providing any credible deterrence.232 The second option, however, is far more practical. As IAEA Executive Director Mohamed ElBeradi has theorized, Iran wants to have the option to make a weapon if it so chooses.233 The idea being that having the ability to make a bomb is deterrent enough.234 In this scenario Iran gets everything it wants. It gets security because they have the ability to make a bomb in a short period of time. Iran gets its empire, with the ability to keep it in place with the threat of some day having a bomb. Iran also gets the independence and respects it craves on the international scene. Some would argue that this view is nave and that nation states normally do not refrain from producing weapons when the option presents itself. Authors like Rahman G. Bonab disagree. In defending his view that Iran will probably not produce nuclear weapons, he points to countries like Japan, Brazil, the Netherlands, and Argentina, who all have uranium enrichment capability, but have not decided to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

229 230

Parsi. Treacherous Alliance, 269. Ibid. 231 Ibid. 232 Some Facts and Materials on the Peaceful Nuclear Program of the Islamic Republic of Iran. 233 Parsi. Treacherous Alliance, 269. 234 Ibid. 40

and make bombs.235 Even Israeli Major General Amos Yadlin leans towards this theory. While he still maintains that Iran wants to eventually have military nuclear capability, he believes that Iran is working on attaining a certain amount of enriched uranium so that it will be just a few months away from the atomic bomb without paying the heavy international cost of actually making one.236 While we can only speculate at this point, evidence suggests that Iran is following this direction. As mentioned earlier, Iran has reached breakout point it has achieved the ability to make a weapon.237 By all accounts, however, it has not. That is telling indeed. More importantly, either route would be rational. While outright nuclear weaponization would definitely be the less pragmatic approach of the two, it would not be completely irrational. Neo-realists believe that nuclear weapons would allow Iran to be confident of its survival in an anarchic and unipolar post-Cold War world and a war-burdened and unstable region.238 Having the choice to weaponize or not weaponize works towards Irans larger interest of security and independence. Possible Weaknesses in the Argument The preceding argument is by no means perfect. There are many issues that may qualify the statements made here. First, while Khamenei and his inner circle do in fact have control over Irans nuclear policy, they are not completely unified. Within their ranks there are those who are more pragmatic, and those who are more fanatical. To date they have not yet been able to come together and decide on a candidate they want to run for president.239

235

Rahman G. Bonab. The Spectrum of Perceptions in Irans Nuclear Issue. The Iranian Revolution at 30. The Middle East Institute. Washington D.C. 236 Haviv Rettig Gur and Jerusalem Post Staff. 2009. MI chief: Economic Crisis Could Restrain Iran. The Jerusalem Post, Apr 21st. 237 Israel: Iran has Mastered Bomb Technology. 238 Bonab. 239 Muhammad Sahimi. 2009. Irans Power Struggles. The New York Times, Apr 28th. 41

There are also questions to consider regarding the overall rationality of Irans larger interests. While considerable weight was put on the idea that Iran is just as rational for seeking an empire as the United States is, there are those who would argue that it is irrational for the United States to have one. Much like the United States, an Iranian sphere of influence would put the whole country in danger of being targeted for reprisals for perceived slights. For example, those who are upset about Iranian influence in Iraq recently killed 80 Iranian pilgrims in a suicide attack.240 Others may argue that some of Irans greater goals are in conflict with one another. For instance, Irans rational undertaking of achieve security is in conflict with a rational objective of having a sound economy. A counter-argument can be made that Iran is merely ordering their objectives and acting on those that are deemed more important. Nonetheless, this way of viewing Iran as a possible irrational actor is important to note. Another interesting point to consider is Irans choice of nuclear energy. Some might accept that Iran indeed has energy needs, but they may ask if the choice of nuclear energy to solve it is rational because of the security risks involved. What if the Iranians are wrong about their calculations towards Israel? Is that a chance they should be willing to take? The Iranians may respond that they have already invested in the program so heavily that it would be too costly to go back, but then the decision to go after nuclear power would have been irrational in the first place. The enrichment process may also conversely challenge Irans desire for independence. Even if Iran has enough uranium for say two decades, it will eventually run out.241 Then Iran will

240 241

Jim Muir. 2009. Big Rise in Iraq Deaths in April. BBC, May 1st. Cole, 232. 42

need to depend on someone else for the material.242 So instead of independence from the Western economic system, Iran may well find itself in a situation mired in dependence.243 Nuclear energy presents other risks to Iran. Like other seismically unstable countries, Iran will have to worry about earthquakes hitting their reactors.244 They could have a Chernobyl-like reactor meltdown.245 The Iranians will also find it very hard to safely store spent nuclear fuel.246 Radioactive waste could seep into groundwater.247 Worst of all, terrorists could steal their nuclear material.248 Finally, the situation that the Iranians say they want to avoid a nuclear arms race in the Middle East may still take place whether or not Iran decides to weaponize. Just the threat of a nuclear Iran may spur countries like Saudi Arabia or Egypt to go nuclear.249 Additionally, the former deputy defense minister of Israel, Ephraim Sneh, has argued that Saudi Arabia has already made a nuclear deal with Pakistan the day Shia Iran gets a bomb, Sunni Pakistan will sell one to the Saudis.250 Any new nuclear state in the Middle East, especially a Sunni block opposed to Iran, will provide a threat to Iranian security. Conclusions and Looking Forward Even with all the possible counterfactuals, on the whole Irans current nuclear policy is rational. Though it certainly has its costs, it does more to achieve Irans larger goals than a reversal of the policy. Economically, the program will in the long term give the country more security and profits with which to manage its empire. In terms of domestic enrichment, Irans
242 243

Ibid. Ibid. 244 Ibid. 245 Ibid. 246 Ibid. 247 Ibid. 248 Ibid. 249 Mozgovaya. 250 Ibid. 43

stance preserves the countrys independence and security. The overall goals themselves, while controversial and sometimes risky, are on the whole rational. Those who make the extreme case that Iran is an irrational messianic state are wrong. But those who lean towards the Idea that Iran is motivated by ideology have their merits. Surely many of the larger goals that have been argued to be rational have been motivated by Iranian ideology. The argument made here then, may mirror the one argued by Rafsanjani in the past. Iran may be a state motivated by ideology, but it is an ideology that is largely pragmatic and rational. A perfect case study of this argument is the Iranian nuclear program. What does this mean as we move forward and talk with Iran? It means that as Obama looks across the negotiating table he should not see a madman. He needs to see a rational actor who has rational reasons for wanting to continue the Iranian nuclear program. Ironically, this may not necessarily make things any easier. Iran, like any other rational state, will cling to its rational interests. Ultimately however, the mixed signals of calling Iran an irrational terrorist state while attempting dialogue needs to end. Obama may want to continue his strategy of carrots and sticks though he should certainly not term them as such. He will have to walk a tightrope opening up other rational avenues for Iran to achieve many of its goals, without looking like he is ordering the Iranians to take that road. The European Union is experienced in dealing with Iran on similar issues, and may have good advice for Obama. When the Europeans made it clear that trade and cooperation agreements depended on an improved Iranian human rights record, the Iranian judiciary temporarily put an end to stoning as a punishment for adultery.251

251

Cole, 233. 44

Similarly Obama can offer the Iranians economic incentives admission into the WTO would be a very good start. And he definitely should look at the grand bargain of 2003, complete with security guarantees, as a starting point for negotiations. More importantly, Obama needs to know who his negotiating partner is Khamenei not Ahmadinejad. Fortunately, it appears as though Obama already understands this point, as his staff has been drafting a letter to be handed personally to the Supreme Leader.252 Obama has made recent inroads. Planning to lift the longstanding ban on regular diplomatic contacts with Iranian officials is a great start.253 As is his decision to join with the Europeans as a single negotiation block and inviting Tehran to talk.254 The proposed plan of allowing Iran a warm shutdown, wherein Iranian centrifuges continue to spin but no new uranium is enriched, is a very good idea.255 The Iranians have responded favorably to these outreaches, promising to bring a negotiating proposal to the world community.256 But significant challenges lie ahead. The Israelis continue to threaten military action, souring the tone of the talks. At the same time, the Iranians themselves have sometimes responded with mixed signals of their own. President Obama needs to be cognizant of the real threat improved relations with the United States may pose to some within Iran, especially the more radical hardliners. Political scientist Sadegh Zibakalam has warned that if a rapprochement between Iran and the United States takes place the hard-liners would receive a psychological

252

Robert Tait and Ewen MacAskill. 2009. Revealed: the Letter Obama Team Hope will Heal Iran Rift. The Guardian, Jan 29th. 253 Kim Ghattas. 2009. US Policy Towards Iran Shaping up. The BBC, Mar 17th. 254 David E. Sanger. 2009. U.S. May Drop Key Condition for Talking With Iran. The New York Times, Apr 13th. 255 Ibid. 256 Nazila Fathi. 2009. Iran Says it Plans New Nuclear Offer. The New York Times, Apr 15th. 45

blow because they can no longer claim that Iran is waging its historical crusade or struggle against an unjust world power.257 More dangerous for the hard-liners is the theory that improved relations with the United States will embolden and strengthen democratic and reformists groups in Iran, because they will no longer be accused of presenting a national security risk.258 The hard-liners do not want some type of velvet-revolution or Soviet-style implosion that may bring down the theocracy.259 They also fear that opening Iran up to foreign trade and investment will threaten the immense economic power they have over the countries official and underground economy.260 The recent arrest and sentencing of Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi by extreme radicals in the intelligence and judiciary offices is one attempt to derail the rapprochement process.261 There may be more in the future. With these potential challenges comes great hope a hope that the course of history can be changed, and that rational actors can come together and end the nuclear deadlock. President Obama was wise to quote the Iranian poet Saadi in his address to the Iranian people. He reminded the world, in Saadis words, that peace is possible The children of Adam are limbs to each other, having been created of one essence.

257

Borzou Daragahi. 2009. If Obama Gambit Works, Tehrans Hard-Liners Would Suffer, Iranian Says. The Los Angeles Times, Apr 7th. 258 Sahimi. 259 Ibid. 260 Ibid. 261 Ibid. 46

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