6 November 2007: Experts on the Expected
Two panel discussions on Iran were held yesterday in the Senate building sponsored by Atlas: The Atlas Economic Research Foundation (AERF) and The Canadian Defence Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI), “Understanding the International Implications of Geopolitics and Economics of Iran.”
The ideas arose from a well of think-tank generated ideas and knowledge I could hear but not write down quickly enough, so please bear with me as I attempt to reconstruct the event—well worth commemorating.
In the first panel, John Ferris, professor of history at the University of Calgary, began with a brief history of Iran in his segment “The Geopolitics of Iran and the West, 1793–2007.” One thousand years ago Iran was a major power. In the last four hundred years, this power has been checked by neighbors as the government tried to use Shi’a as a governing principle. World War I splintered the Middle East, but after World War II the imperialist powers, Great Britain and the USSR, lost strength while Iran became stronger.
Today once again the Middle East is splintered. Military forces are weak. Israel and Turkey possess the only major military power, but this can’t be used easily. Israel can’t shape the Middle East. What is to be done with so much conventional military power? Major checks on power remain—the Shi’a are dominated by the Sunnis—there is only so much room for growth.
Most lately the Iranians have maintained a cautious attitude toward the US. It has opponents in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the countries of the Caucasus. Limitations are clear. The development of nuclear power is a defense mechanism against US threats and also serves to further their influence. If North Korea’s nuclear power could manipulate the US, so, reasons Iran rightly, can its own. Says the US in response, if the Iranians threaten nuclear attack they will die; the balance of power will alter [that’s putting it mildly-ed.].
We lived through the Cold War and Iran’s influence is not that powerful; it is good policy to oppose their nuclear aspirations. But what if we stop them? We will create more problems, including political war and subversion.
Evgueni Novikov, Visiting Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, followed with his observations on “Iran and Nuclear Geopolitics in the Middle East.” He noted that Russia and Iran share common interests. Both are oil producers. Both are benefiting from the huge rise in oil prices and the consequent instability. Russia supports Iranian nuclear aspirations, making the rest of the world nervous.
But Russia is in control of such progress in Iran. In the event of nuclear action in Iran, Russia can clean up all the evidence, as it did in Iraq., thus embarrassing the US twice over.
Today capitalism reigns in Russia. They have nationalized oil, gas, and weapons industries. They care not about communist/socialist ideals but about profits. Increasing oil and gas prices is one way toward this goal. Iran unites with this effort, creating a mini-OPEC of sorts.
Putin has signed an agreement to help Iran to excavate new gas and oil reserves and export them.
During the regime of the shah, Russia attempted to undermine it with rebels, who subsequently took over the government. Russia also championed Iran during the war with Iraq, which helped Russia to solve conflicts and stood away from the Chechnya rebellion. During his historic visit to Iran, Putin reminded Ahmadinejad that the US is their common enemy. They signed an agreement to increase mutual trade by over $200 billion, 2.5 times the amount of trade between Russia and China. Russia and Iran will cooperated militarily as well, which will serve to thwart sanctions against Iran.
Hooshang Amirahmadi, Rutgers professor and president of the American Iranian Council, spoke on “Iran and Nuclear Geopolitics in the Middle East.” He focused on the distribution of nuclear weaponry in the world: Israel is so far the only Middle Eastern country in possession of nuclear power. Iran could be next. The group includes Russia, China, India, and Pakistan. Russia and China developed their power before the Nonproliferation treaty. The others challenged it.
Iranian nuclearization is irrelevant to defense, he said. Russia developed it in response to the US and a chain reaction followed; with Israel the chain broke. Iran’s reaction is proactive against Israel. Nuclear power will be used for weaponry before energy
We should denuclearize the Middle East. Of the six countries, five are huge and Israel is tiny. Iran has more conventional weaponry.
But the Middle East has gone through other changes. The fault line is now the Israel-Palestine conflict. Now the Iran focus has shifted from Israel to the US. The Arabs moved into the place of Iran after its revolution.