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Opinion: Fear Of Iran’s Nuclear Program Is About Islamophobia, Not National Security

America’s goal of stopping Iran’s nuclear program is completely hypocritical and unrealistic. This debate is usually couched in national security terms, but at its core, it is about Islamophobia and a clash of civilizations.

America’s goal of stopping Iran’s nuclear program is completely hypocritical and unrealistic. This debate is usually couched in national security terms, but at its core, it is about Islamophobia and a clash of civilizations.

As talks meant to revive the agreement with Iran to curtail its nuclear program stall, the Western powers are once again ratcheting up the rhetoric by threatening violence if it does not acquiesce to their demands.

Israel argues that Iranian nuclear weapons pose an existential threat while America argues that, as a government full of bad actors, the Iranian regime cannot be trusted with such powerful weapons. None of their arguments make any sense.

Let’s start with the most obvious hole in their reasoning: the Iranian government, despite its many flaws, is a rational actor. It cares about staying in power above all other considerations. Since it understands that deploying nuclear weapons against the US or Israel would lead to a massive retaliatory strike, it would never actually use them because doing so would threaten its power (and existence). It has used violence to achieve policy goals like any other state but has always done so in a calculated and rational way.

For example, after the US murdered its top general, it responded with a missile barrage that was specifically designed to ensure it did not inflict heavy casualties. Its response was calculated to show its capabilities without escalating the violence that America initiated. Not only does this show Iran is a rational actor, but it also highlights a remarkable degree of restraint. It is hard to imagine America or Israel showing similar restraint had the tables been turned. The argument that Iran’s Islamic government is irrational and, as a result, cannot be trusted with these weapons is not supported by the facts.

The only reason it wants these weapons is that it knows they are the only way to guarantee its security. In other words, its goal is to develop a deterrent against further aggression and secure its power. Given America’s and Israel’s violent behavior and the power disparity between these nations, nothing could be more rational.

What is irrational is trying to stop Iran from acquiring these weapons after creating the political and military conditions that made them necessary in the first place.

The US is the only country to ever use atomic weapons and it used them against cities full of women and children. Instead of recoiling at the horrors unleashed by these weapons, American leaders still occasionally threaten their adversaries with nuclear annihilation. It has the means to make good on these threats because it has a stockpile of almost 4,000 nuclear bombs and has built delivery systems capable of dropping them anywhere it chooses.

The US also has a violent history in the Middle East. Most point to the CIA’s involvement in overthrowing Iran’s government in 1953 as evidence of US perfidy but one does not need to go that far back to understand why Iran may believe it needs nuclear weapons to protect itself. It was the Reagan administration that gave Iraq the chemical weapons it used against Iran during their long war.

More recently, America conquered two of Iran’s neighbors leading to the death of hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of Iraqis and Afghans. It sometimes threatens Iran with similar violence. It has followed through on these threats by conducting or supporting clandestine military operations to murder Iranian officials and scientists on numerous occasions. These threats are also supported by America’s substantial military forces in the region, including a large fleet stationed in the PersianGulf.

Israel has a stockpile of nuclear weapons and a sophisticated nuclear triad capable of delivering them to any target in the Middle East too. It also has a history of using violence against its neighbors. It invaded and occupied Lebanon for 18 years, destroying its infrastructure and stoking a civil war that claimed thousands of lives. It often conducts airstrikes and clandestine military operations throughout the region.

Ironically, Israel justifies these attacks by blaming Hezbollah’s attempts to arm itself even though it is only doing so in response to Israel’s aggressive military posture. Hezbollah would not exist if Israel had not first invaded and occupied Lebanon for so long. And, for better or worse, it is the only military organization that has proven it can defend Lebanon from further attacks.

These facts are important because they show exactly why Iran wants and even needs these weapons. As such, the goal of stopping Iran’s nuclear program is completely hypocritical and unrealistic. This debate is usually couched in national security terms, but at its core, it is about Islamophobia and a clash of civilizations. Iran is a Muslim nation and the idea of another Muslim nation acquiring such powerful weapons scares many in the West. Though unfortunate, these fears do not justify the violence and economic warfare perpetrated against it.

Instead of using thinly veiled racist arguments to justify hypocritical policies, America’s leaders should reflect on their reckless behavior which extends beyond invading Muslim nations and murdering their citizens by the thousands. The US has also been very erratic with its non-proliferation efforts. It did not help Israel develop its nuclear weapons (that was France) but has provided billions to subsidize the cost of its military which has obviously helped defray the cost of these weapons and their delivery systems. It did the same for Pakistan, even selling it F-16s capable of delivering nuclear payloads [1]. It is rumored to have helped South Africa’s Apartheid regime develop its nuclear weapons and it signed a treaty with India in 2008 designed to improve its nuclear capabilities. To describe America’s non-proliferation efforts as inconsistent would be a gross understatement.

Iran: Unconscious bias or deliberate misinformation?

Many Americans now understand how systemic racism has fueled inequality and violence in the US. The next step is to understand how Islamophobia has also fueled policies towards the Muslim world. The facts described above show that efforts to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons are not grounded in legitimate national security concerns but in the determination of the US and Israel to maintain their hegemonic control of the Middle East. Both scream about their right to defend themselves while denying Muslims this same right because their policies are rooted in their imperialist (read racist) worldviews.

Sadly, it is unlikely these arguments will have any effect since they challenge the idiotic idea of American exceptionalism and consider the Muslim perspective (a truly radical idea, to be fair). That is unfortunate because their current policies will only lead to more violence and unnecessarily ruin more lives. At least America’s and Israel’s defense companies will be happy.

Since they are unlikely to change course, Iran must devise new strategies to protect itself. It has thus far pursued a strategy of developing asymmetric capabilities and regional sub-state allies to deter further aggression. This strategy is unlikely to lead to military capabilities that can sufficiently dissuade its adversaries from attacking it.

The best way to do that is to develop an alliance with other states that can help it to defend itself. Despite the many obstacles to creating an alliance between them, Turkey and Pakistan are the most logical candidates for the job. The author has already discussed the benefits of such an alliance here (discussing how Muslim states should react to America’s inevitable military withdrawal from the region) and here (discussing why Iran should create a free trade zone with Turkey, Afghanistan, and Pakistan), so there is no need to re-hash them.

Pan-Islamic ideas may sound antiquated in today’s climate, but the truth is that the Muslim world has been subject to brutal levels of violence for centuries. This violence will only stop when Muslim nations take responsibility for their collective security needs. The sanctions imposed on Iraq in the years leading to its 2003 invasion killed 500,000 Iraqi children. Even after it was clear the sanctions were strengthening Saddam Hussein’s government instead of weakening it, the US insisted on maintaining its embargo despite the horrific toll.

It is following the same script against Iran and given the trajectory of America’s relationship with Turkey and Pakistan, it is not inconceivable that one or both nations will find themselves similarly targeted in the future. The Western dominated international system is predicated on survival of the fittest, not the rule of law. As such, the only recourse Muslims have is to work together to develop the means to protect themselves.

The need to do so is particularly urgent given the unstable nature of America’s leadership. Bush’s war crimes gave way to Trump’s amoral buffoonery which has now given way to Marjorie Taylor Greene’s overtly racist stupidity. As this progression shows, America’s leaders are not only getting dumber, but they are also becoming more unhinged and dangerous with each election cycle. This proves Muslims must take immediate steps to ensure their safety and that the world should be far more worried about America’s vast arsenal than Iran’s attempts to protect itself.

None of this should be construed as arguing Iran should develop nuclear weapons but only that it has the right to do so without Western interference. There is no denying that the Iranian regime has a horrible human rights record. It proves exactly why religion and politics do not mix. Politicians are by their very nature corrupt and self-serving. When those charged with nurturing a society’s moral and spiritual development engage in politics, they taint themselves and inevitably give in to the temptations and trappings of power and its pursuit.

Iran’s ayatollahs have proven themselves every bit as corrupt and hypocritical as the Shah they replaced. But that does not justify murdering innocent women and children. Ultimately, the militaristic policies of the West will lead to exactly that. If America and Israel are serious about convincing Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, they should start by eliminating their own nuclear stockpiles and ending their imperialist military policies in the region. The fact that they never will merely proves Iranian policies are not only rational but necessary.

This article was originally published here, and re-shared on TMV with the author’s permission. 

[1] It had no choice but to ignore Pakistan’s program because of the war in Afghanistan but still subjected it to harsh sanctions as punishment once doing so was politically feasible. The sanctions were only lifted once Pakistan became indispensable again after 9/11.