MIDDLE EAST

Khamenei and the North Korean precedent

Did you know that South Korea’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is to the tune of $1.5 trillion, whereas the North Korean GDP is not more than $28 billion? It’s true that North Korea is a nuclear country and it can fire ballistic missiles against the US. In spite of this military strength, North Korea decided to engage in peace talks with the US and its neighbor South Korea that will end with the declaration that it would give up its nuclear weapons arsenal to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

The question is, why did the North Korean leader take such a decision? All the objective indicators suggest that the North Korean president apparently realized that his nuclear weapons will neither help feed his people nor solve the country’s several economic problems, but abandoning his nuclear arsenal may help resolve these issues.

Poverty and hunger in Iran

Iran, under Khamenei, suffers from similar economic woes, particularly extreme poverty which continues to increase by the day. But Khamenei does not care about these issues as he only cares about Iran becoming a regional power and about spreading Shiism among the peoples of the region, which is a goal typical to any theocratic country. He thus thinks that he can only achieve these goals by having a strong military that is protected by a nuclear deterrence mechanism to impose whatever he wants, whenever he wants. In fact, he has started splurging Iranian economic revenues on sectarian Shiite militias, moving them from one place to another and investing in any foreign political dispute. He neglected Iran’s domestic affairs and as a result poverty increased and entrapped more than half of the population. According to statistics this percentage is still increasing. This means that there are 40 million hungry people out of a total population of about 80 million.

What if Khamenei and the theocrats abandon their expansionist ambitions and decide to become objective and rational? What if they benefited from the North Korean experience, and decided to cooperate with countries of the world, instead of destabilizing global security?

Mohammed Al Shaikh

The politicized Persian theocrats are not aware that the world standards today differ from those in the past — when invasion, jihad and dominance and exporting ideological revolutions by force controlled the relations of peoples. It has become impossible to invade nowadays. Today’s world would never, I repeat never, let a theocratic state expand and act like terrorist militias, which it’s working to combat and to eradicate their culture.

The option of development

On the other hand, what if Khamenei and the theocrats abandon their expansionist ambitions and decide to become objective and rational? What if they benefitted from the North Korean experience, and decided to cooperate with countries of the world, instead of destabilizing global security?

I am almost certain that Iran would witness massive development if it adopts such a stance because of its rich natural resources. Investors will invest in Iran and develop it economically and help its citizens catch up the 21st century. By the way, first among these countries would be the neighboring Gulf states, headed by Saudi Arabia.

But such a brave decision needs a man like Mohammed bin Salman, someone with his awareness, determination and courage. Khamenei does not have the ability, the qualifications or the mindset, which is still stuck in the past, to execute such a decision. Opportunists around the mullahs are aware that any real economic development and reform and eradication of corruption will turn Iran into a civil state. When civilians rule, the mullahs will return to their mosques and hawzas (seminaries).

This article is also available in Arabic.

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Mohammed Al Shaikh is a Saudi writer with al-Jazirah newspaper. He tweets @alshaikhmhmd.

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Last Update: Sunday, 13 May 2018 KSA 17:00 - GMT 14:00
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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