What are the Alternatives for Iran?

Nuclear development in Iran has for three decades been an issue of international concern in the interests of regional and global security. About a decade of diplomatic initiatives by the EU3 and P5+1 to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue have led to the in-progress signing a comprehensive agreement, known as Joint Plan Of Action (JPOA) with two extensions, requiring Iran to suspend many aspects of its nuclear program in exchange for relief from some international sanctions, yet no prospective legally binding instrument that would ensure Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful has been attainable.

On February 19, 2015 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its report on the implementation of the NPT safeguards agreement in Iran and the status of Iran’s compliance with United Nation Security Council resolutions. According to this report no progress has been achieved on resolving the IAEA’s concerns about the possible existence of undisclosed nuclear associated activities. The IAEA Agency asserts that it will not be in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran unless and until Iran provides the necessary cooperation with the Agency, including implementation of its signed Additional Protocol to the NPT safeguards agreement. Contrary to the relevant resolutions of the IAEA Board of Governors and the seven resolutions of the Security Council, Iran has not suspended all of its enrichment related activities in the declared facilities.

Despite having spent years in the country, the IAEA is still unable to verify the correctness and completeness of the information Tehran has provided. Iran, under JPOA, has been given ground on uranium enrichment, plutonium development and missile technology. Above all, its bankrupt economy has been helped up off its knees. A question P5+1 should ask themselves is that if the Iranian regime is genuine in its peaceful intentions, then why has it adopted a hardline stance toward taking measures to build confidence? And subsequently resort to rebuffing the underlying concepts of normal international laws and established diplomacy? The answer is multifaceted, and is entrenched in the regime's ideological vision of its policy that has forged its strategic interests.

The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) has exclusively adopted Sharia as its foundation for political institutions and laws. Article 2 of the Iranian constitution describes that the Islamic Republic is a system based on belief in divine revelation and its fundamental role in setting the laws. In other words, the legislations or laws on all matters have to be examined and compared to the word of God before their approval. Article 4 of the constitution asserts that all civil, penal, financial, economic, administrative, cultural, military, political, and other laws and regulations must be based on Islamic criteria. The Iranian regime is a theocracy that mixes religion and state, to the extent that Shiite Islam and politics are inseparable.

In 1984 the permanent representative of Iran at UN in response to criticism on the Iranian regime’s human rights violations gives the following statement, (Islamic fundamentalism -- Human rights controversy): “Iran recognized no authority (...) apart from Islamic law. (...) Conventions, declarations and resolutions or decisions of international organizations which were contradictory to Islam, had no validity in the Islamic Republic of Iran. (…)”.

The theocratic IRI’s view of international law is a notion that is used to reject and undermine the general applicability of international law because it cannot comply to civil development of law, but with an interpretation of will of God as set out in its Islamic scripture. Divine rules are rigid and independent of the will of man and cannot be used to measure the flexible civil laws, a main facet of the uncompromising regime’s policy.  

In January 2014 the president of the Iranian regime, Hassan Rouhani, made his debut at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, by persuading investors and reassuring political leaders of his determination to complete a comprehensive nuclear deal with the major powers. Rouhani's charm offensive is just a hypocritical gesture of the regime to mask its anti-democratic ideology and to present a new image of moderation towards the international community. He has no authority to negotiate a deal, he can sign any legislation, treaties, protocols, and agreements concluded by the Iranian government with other governments or international organizations only after obtaining the approval of first the Islamic Consultative Assembly and then the Council of Guardians for thorough examination and approval according to the Islamic values and the constitution. Rouhani’s more moderate guise is nothing but a tactic to fend off new sanctions in order to attract foreign investors to Iran, and buy some time for the regime to continue develop its nuclear program.

Another facet of the regime’s hardline policy is hidden under the word “democracy”. In the regime’s mind the success of the nuclear agreement can lead to the unlocking of its three-decades closed door to modern Western civilization, in particular the United States. The regime knows that in due course, other issues, such as human rights and sponsorship of terrorism, will be addressed in the context of the ongoing nuclear talks. That is why theocratic Iran’s foreign policy cannot allow the acceptance of the norms governing today’s international systems. However, once the regime becomes a nuclear power, as with North Korea, it can use it as leverage to confront any, to its view, possible threat of democratic change. The Iranian constitution’s preamble states that Iran must spread its Islamic revolution.  

Per the analysis made by the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council, regardless of the outcome of the nuclear talks, at present, assuming no external interferences, Iran could break out (become capable of producing weapons-grade uranium, WGU) in two to three months and possess a nuclear warhead in an additional one month to one year. In other words, Iran is already a latent nuclear power (i.e., capable of producing nuclear weapons on short order should it decide to do so).

Since 1984, Iran has remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism. Iran’s financial and logistic support for terrorist and militant groups throughout the Middle East and Central Asia had a direct impact on international efforts to promote peace and democracy. A decision to permit enrichment, even if the latent-nuclear power Iran refrains from building nuclear weapons, could lead to Iranian transfers of uranium-enrichment technology or material to state or non-state actors, which would pose potential threats to international peace and security, the outcome would be nothing less than a disastrous nuclear proliferation. This is where I call it the blind spot of the comprehensive agreement; the requirement for an agreement to be considered legally binding is that parties must knowingly understand what they are agreeing to. How can signing a rogue state with ideological vision such as Iran, which has forged its strategic interests, into a contract on the basis of existing customary international law be justified? Subsequently, can such a signature provide the necessary assurance to make the regime abide by its terms?

The other concern about such a decision to permit enrichment in Iran would be raising alarms about setting a new standard for future regional peaceful nuclear energy programs, which will further obscure the prospect of the nuclear management in the region.

The regime of Iran does whatever it takes to become a nuclear-armed State, from act of terrorism abroad, to disdain human life at home, and meddling in the neighboring countries, to forge and fabricate the facts, but above all make use of Shiite doctrine of deceit called “Taqiyya”, which is the Shiite religious rationale for concealment or dissimulation in political affairs, another facet to the hardline position of the regime. “Befriend people on the surface, and keep your grudges and intentions hidden,” Shiite teaching advises. There are two different value systems at work here, the policies of the West and of the IAEA that are driven by the concept of transparency based on international norms and standards as a key doctrine of modernity and modern states, and the one from the mullahs’ perspective, “nuclear” taqiyya, which can easily undermine and discredit the results of the investigation by the West. The outcome wouldn’t be anything less than nuclear-armed mullahs.

The phase of assembling the enriched materials into a bomb and building the actual warhead can be done in a very small space, inside a single room at some clandestine location, and is almost impossible to detect. The preeminent question concerning Iranian compliance is, how much confidence can we have that the mullahs will not press ahead with their clandestine nuclear facilities, as they have done in the past with their undeclared enrichment sites? And if they do press ahead, how much confidence can we have that our intelligence agencies will catch them in due course?

For more than 20 years, the Iranian regime has violated IAEA safeguard agreements, developed covert nuclear facilities, and sought to mislead the West about the scope and pace of its activities. As the American people weigh the value of an agreement with a regime that has a consistent record of cheating on international accords -- not to mention lying, inciting hatred, terrorizing, and murdering -- they would do well to understand that if the agreement is violated, we may not find out until it is far too late to rectify our oversight, for at that point, Iran will already have achieved its terrible goal.