Across the negotiating table from Iran sits France, the US, Britain, China, Russia and Germany. The subject under discussion is Iran’s nuclear program. The deadline for completion of talks is 24 November with substantive issues still unresolved. Given that Iran is now about two months away from producing enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon the question which emerges with increased urgency is: how much of a threat would Iran pose if it manages to produce such a weapon?
This question can’t be resolved without considering Iran’s past and present interactions with the rest of the world. Has it behaved in such a way as to inspire trust in its intentions? If the answer to this is ‘yes’ it is likely that it will behave in the same way if in possession of the bomb. If the answer is ‘no’ then Iran with the bomb should rightly be considered a danger to the international community. However, evaluating its intentions is no easy task. Much remains hidden or obscure about what Iran really wants to achieve on the world stage. Studying its behaviour does not provide us with a conclusive answer.
There are numerous examples of ambiguous behaviour but Iran’s bid to become the most powerful player in the Middle East is one of the most important. Whether this policy is to be counted as defensive or offensive depends more on the narrative being told and by whom than on the existence of any conclusive evidence. The Islamic Republic has been consistently hostile to the west but has not launched an all out war against it. It supports terrorist groups which function as such but with certain restraints built in.
Does the regime practice extremism checked by moderation or moderation compromised by extremism? It is hard to tell. The evidence on the ultimate aims and intentions of those at the top must therefore be considered inconclusive.
It would be unwise to assume anything based on the evidence available and caution is the best policy. An agnostic approach is in practice the same as a threat assessment which registers high on the scale of danger to western and regional security. It means that we must take seriously the possibility that Iran’s intentions are neither moderate nor defensive in nature and that the possibility exists that its acquisition of a nuclear weapon may constitute the sort of risk we would and should consider un-acceptable.
Bob Glaberson is a member of the Brighton Pavilion Labour Party and currently involved in the campaign to elect Purna Sen as the next member of parliament. He is a husband and father, living in Brighton for thirty years since moving to the UK from New York. He has been involved politically all his life on both sides of the Atlantic. He worked as a NHS counsellor and WEA / Sussex University adult education teacher for many years. He is a political writer with wide interests but his main focus being the Middle East.