Sometimes there isn’t much difference between politicians and clergymen. The art of speech is their profession. They can justify or evade issues with their eloquence. The Iranian regime is currently saying that it does not intend to build military nuclear capabilities because the supreme guide issued a fatwa prohibiting nuclear weapons. You must be a pious Shi’ite Iranian to believe this pledge. The region’s governments cannot possibly believe such statements.
I will use the phrase my colleague Eyad Abu Shakra used in his article on Wednesday: “Cynicism may be a sign of wisdom.” The supreme guide’s fatwa increases our suspicions. The issue doesn’t require a fatwa. It requires that facilities and reactors be open to international inspectors, and it requires that we accept their judgment and guarantees. As neighbors of Iran, we will not demand Benjamin Netanyahu’s conditions, announced during his UN General Assembly speech: “First, cease all uranium enrichment. . . . Second, remove from Iran’s territory the stockpiles of enriched uranium. Third, dismantle the infrastructure for nuclear breakout capability, including the underground facility at Qom and the advanced centrifuges in Natanz. And, four, stop all work at the heavy water reactor in Arak aimed at the production of plutonium.”
The supreme leader’s fatwa prohibiting nuclear weapons was motivated by religion and politics. Islam teachs that “whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he has slain all men.” One nuclear warhead is enough to annihilate thousands of innocent people. But the supreme leader’s fatwa is not that different from the pope’s edict prohibiting contraceptives. Iran is about to give birth to its prohibited weapon. Iran spent a lot of money and sacrificed a lot over the last decade and a half for the sake of its nuclear program. It is therefore not possible to believe that all of this was geared towards lighting Tehran’s streets using nuclear energy. The West has offered rewards, alternatives and incentives to consecutive Iranian governments in order to allow Iran to attain the energy it needs. But Iran refused them and resumed implementing a project which cannot be considered anything but a military one.
The Middle East, which has become accustomed to war, is capable of engaging in other wars. But after eliminating tyrants like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi and fighting even against Bashar Al-Assad, hope increased that the day the region rids itself of war is nearing. Hope increased that regimes like the one in Iran will give up their expansionist schemes and dreams of establishing regional empires, and thus free themselves to build their countries from within. The threat against Iran comes from within, and not from Arabs or Israelis—that is what the Islamic Republic’s lecturers say in order to justify the misery the Iranian people are put through for the sake of attaining the holy bomb.
The irony is that the Americans, who spent a lot of time and effort to build an expanded alliance which succeeded in restraining Iran’s regime politically and economically, are currently destroying this alliance. The US aimed to achieve its goal peacefully by forcing Tehran to give up its military dreams. It used banks and petroleum, travel and technology companies, in addition to its security and military means, for that purpose. Banks were shut down, economic interests were obstructed, airline companies were banned, and various products were prohibited from being exported to Iran. This is what pushed the Iranian leadership to choose Hassan Rouhani, the man with the smiling face, to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the man with the frowning face, to act as president and peace activist.
We—the ones who live within a stone’s throw of Iran—will be happier than the Americans or the Israelis if the Iranian regime really wants peace and has really reached the conviction that it should give up its nuclear weapons. Attaining them will cost Iran much more than it would benefit Iran. Unfortunately, we do not sense any of this humbleness. Instead, it appears to us that the current gestures on the part of Iran are simply part of a PR project aiming to appeal to the sentiment of the White House.