The war drums are beating over Iran. In recent months, Western leaders’ rhetoric concerning the Gulf nation has become increasingly hard line, with Israel and the United States hyping Iran as a growing threat to regional peace and security. A new war seems to be brewing in the Middle East, and with our current Conservative government, Canada will likely become involved. Before we allow ourselves to be dragged into another war, we must first look at the facts and determine whether peace is still possible.
During a speech before the United Nations General Assembly in September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Iran would be capable of producing a nuclear weapon in less than a year. Netanyahu made it clear that Israel would proceed with a military strike if Iran continued its nuclear program. President Barack Obama also declared that the U.S. will do what it must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper chose to skip the General Assembly to accept the World Statesmen Award from an American NGO committed to “open dialogue and mutual understanding” among nations. During his acceptance speech, Harper stated that Iran was ruled by “a truly malevolent ideology,” and accused the UN of courting dictators and reasserted Canada’s unwavering support for Israel.
According to these leaders, Iran’s enrichment of uranium in the last decade is for the purpose of making a bomb, putting them in violation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It has been argued that a nuclear Iran could trigger an arms race in the region and possibly a nuclear strike against Israel. In response, the U.S. and the European Union have placed crippling sanctions on the country, but Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has remained resolute. With economic pressure already attempted, a strike against Iran in hopes of ensuring peace in the region seems to be the last thing the world community wants.
But the truth is not so simple. For one, it is pure hypocrisy for Israel and the U.S. to accuse Iran of destabilizing the region. Israel is the only country in the world with an undeclared nuclear arsenal, the first Middle Eastern nation to develop their own bomb and a non-signatory of the NPT. The only other nuclear powers that have not signed the NPT are North Korea, Pakistan and India — the last two being American allies that receive regular military aid. This is in addition to the American nukes stationed in Turkey. Iran is literally surrounded by nations with nuclear capabilities.
Two of Iran’s neighbours, Afghanistan and Iraq, have been invaded by the U.S. Israel might be the only country less popular than the U.S. in the region, as they have been bombing Lebanon on and off for the last 64 years, while maintaining a brutal military occupation in Palestine. Needless to say, none of this has encouraged regional stability.
Military analysts suggest that Iranian nukes would be for deterrent purposes, not for a strike against a neighbour. In a 2010 report to congress, the U.S. Department of Defense stated that Iran has only “a limited capability to project force beyond its borders.” Without the means to compete militarily, Iran may see the bomb as an equalizer against its enemies, to ward off possible invasions.
Efforts by the world community, like the Non-Aligned Movement in 2010, to create a nuclear free weapons zone in the Middle East have failed. The U.S. and Israel have refused to take part as long as their arsenals are called into question.
So what are we to do? In the 2003 documentary Fog of War, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara talks about the importance of empathizing with the enemy. Remembering the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, McNamara explained that by the U.S. agreeing to withdraw its missiles from Italy and Turkey in exchange for Russia doing the same in Cuba, both Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev and U.S. President John F. Kennedy were able to go back to their citizens looking like victors.
We must find a way to reach a compromise similar to this. It has been less than two years since Canada left Afghanistan, and a war with Iran could turn into a similarly long, expensive, bloody mess. We must not forget what a horrid affair war is, and refuse to let our government drag us into another fight before all options for peace have been exhausted.