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Options to Prevent a Nuclear Armed Iran Louis Kriesberg 8-30-2012
Determining U.S. policy toward Iran and its nuclear programs should begin with considering the way the Iranian leadership and people regard their effort to develop nuclear power and nuclear weapons. The current leadership wants to remain in power, but they differ about how that is best accomplished. Ahmadinejad does not determine policy. To what extent it is ultimately shaped by Ayatollah Khamenei or by the high military leaders is widely debated. There is also widespread Iranian disaffection with the ruling regime. The U.S. should be wary of unifying the divergent groups within the country.
It is safe to believe that the major purpose of the Iranian leaders is to maintain themselves in power and to play an important regional role. Having nuclear weapons can reasonably be considered as necessary to avoid efforts to overthrow them. They may see what happened in Libya compared to the survival of the regime in North Korea.
Coercive sanctions alone will not suffice for the U.S. government to halt Iran’s progress toward producing nuclear weapons and the means to employ them. Even a military strike would only delay such programs and unleash terrible reactions. Current sanctions need to be accompanied by reassurances to Iranian leaders that NOT having nuclear weapons would NOT open them up to attacks and to efforts to overthrow them. They are already close to having the capacity to build nuclear weapons, but not close to being able to employ them. In any case, they will forever be extremely unlikely to use them to initiate a war, attack Israel or even risk passing on any capability to external organizations they cannot control. Such actions, they know would be utterly self-destructive.
There are realistic reasons the region and the world would be much better off if Iran did not possess nuclear weapons. Its possession of such weapons may result in other countries in the region developing nuclear weapons, further increasing the risks of nuclear accidents, military attacks, and even wars. The economic burdens of financing nuclear arms races would further damage the well-being of the peoples in the Middle East.
The U.S. can take steps that will induce the Iranian leaders to stop short of actually constructing nuclear arms, yet having demonstrated that they ultimately have the capability to do so. Inducements include reassurances that can be made with little risk to the U.S., Israel, or other countries in the region. They incorporate working to establish a nuclear free zone in the Middle East. Israel would not be taking any risk by acknowledging its nuclear weapons capacity and collectively working to diminish the need for them. The U.S. should move toward restoring diplomatic relations with Iran, with the promises that entails. Opening Iran to more contact and exchanges with Americans can strengthen the position and influence of Iranians who seek domestic reforms.
This path holds out the promise of widespread benefits for the peoples in all countries in the Middle East, including Iran. There would be enhanced security for everyone. There would be greater economic benefits for everyone. In the context of the Arab Spring, improving stability and reducing mutual fears is highly desirable. With American leadership many other countries would choose this path making it the right way for all.
When problems are complex, solutions are imperfect. Actions taken in the face of complexity inevitably come to be associated with a hard to separate mixture of gains, losses, and ambiguities. These gains, losses, and ambiguities, furthermore, are understood and experienced from a variety of perspectives, none of which can justifiably claim to command a total view. Thus, not only are solutions to complex problems imperfect, there are no definitive criteria by which to interpret or evaluate the imperfection. Continue Reading »
Political Subjectivities and Local Nationalisms in Postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Azra Hromadzic
One of the most commonly heard “complaints” about postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), made by policy-makers and academics alike, is that “ordinary Bosnians” vote for nationalists and, in that way, allow them to stay in power. While it is true that the nationalist parties have been dominating the political scene in postwar BiH, these facts and statistical data are used to make two very important and problematic claims: The first argument is that since Bosnians and Herzegovinians massively support the nationalist parties that started the war, this must mean that the majority of Bosnians and Herzegovinians are themselves nationalists (for an insightful critique of this position see Kurtović 2011). The second assertion is that any broader, cross-ethnic political and social articulations of common Bosnianhood are apolitical, nostalgic, invented and over-romanticized visions of Bosnianhood and/or are reflections of “impaired insights” on the side of “subjective” academics (see Hayden 2007). These two claims problematically accept statistical data as “true” reflections of political and social beliefs. Furthermore, these positions rest on a primordial, essentilizing and totalizing view of Bosnian and Herzegovinian “ethnic groups rooted in ethnic territories” (for a powerful critique of this rigid vision of multiculturalism, see Campbell 1999; Chandler 1999, and Gagnon n.d.). Continue Reading »
Addressing Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs): A Challenge for Collaborative Global Governance
By Hans Peter Schmitz
Non-communicable diseases are creating rapidly rising health issues across many nations. The main NCDs include cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory illnesses and share common behavioral risk factors, including smoking, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and the harmful use of alcohol. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 60 per cent of global mortality, or 35 out of 59 million deaths in 2005 were caused by NCDs. Six of the top ten risk factors leading to death are NCDs. This burden is particularly high in low and middle-income nations, where 80 per cent of all deaths caused by NCDs occur. While many still believe that the biggest health challenges in developing nations continue to be infectious diseases, this view is long outdated. NCDs today are a greater threat to global economic development than fiscal crises, natural disasters, corruption, or malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDs. Addressing NCDs more broadly represents a crucial link between single issues such as alcohol and tobacco and the broader development agenda, including the discussion on what should follow after the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015. Continue Reading »
Often, a prisoner exchange is an early step in de-escalating a severe, protracted conflict. It is a mutual recognition of the adversaries’ concerns and a way of easing them, a way to build trust and confidence among them, and sometimes a pathway to more comprehensive peacebuilding agreements. The question is whether this will prove to be the case with the agreement between Hamas and the Israeli government to release a little more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners, held in Israel, in exchange for the release of the Israeli Staff-Sgt. Gilad Shalit, seized and held in captivity by Hamas. Continue Reading »
This essay is based on my remarks at a Shabbat Luncheon hosted by Shaarei Torah Orthodox Congregation of Syracuse, NY on September 17, 2011. I argue that despite popular views to the contrary, the Palestinians have much to lose from a United Nations declaration of statehood; it is Israel which has much to gain. Furthermore, while President Mahmoud Abbas may be sincere in thinking that Palestine’s admission to the United Nations as a sovereign member state will reinvigorate the peace process, I argue that successful conflict resolution will remain elusive—regardless of what the UN does or does not do—unless Palestinians and Israelis return to their earlier negotiating positions reflected in the 2003 Geneva Initiative. Continue Reading »
(This post first appeared on May 19, 2011 on the blog INSCT on Security, Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, Syracuse University)
With President Barack Obama set to deliver his second major speech on the Middle East today, and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scheduled to deliver his own speech to a joint session of Congress next week, the Palestinian National Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas’ recent call to the international community to recognize the State of Palestine (“The Long Overdue Palestinian State”, The New York Times, May 17) was timed well. By preempting Obama and Netanyahu, Abbas has compelled both statesmen to address the urgency of Palestinian national aspirations. With Abbas’ formal call for UN recognition, the Palestinians have stated in no uncertain terms that they will no longer wait for this status to be bestowed at some future time at the conclusion of final status negotiations with Israel—recognition of statehood will come this September, whether Israel or the US likes it or not. Continue Reading »