Iran, which is striving to expand its influence, poses a threat to the security of the entire region. Tehran is capitalizing on US orientations and Washington’s recurring express desire to withdraw from the region to reassert its status and expand its influence. This is the ultimate Iranian goal, and Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons will become a major threat to international peace and security.
The scenario of Iran declaring its possession of nuclear weapons does not seem unlikely. Over the past decade, it has become much more warranted to seriously pose this question. It is certainly a key topic of discussion in closed political and military circles. The possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is one of many topics that could be discussed, but its relevance stems from the importance of tackling a question that requires political preparedness on the part of many countries. This especially applies to Arabian Gulf countries neighboring Iran, but also to all Middle Eastern countries without exception, as they are all concerned about such a possibility. Yet, these countries fall into three categories: countries that do not care or worry about what is going on and whether Iran possesses nuclear weapons, countries that seem reluctant to involve themselves in the crisis for political or sectarian reasons, and countries that are concerned about the possibility of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon.
This is as far as Arab states go. As for Arab peoples, many of them do not seem to interact to a great extent with the Iranian nuclear threat, and the real crisis lies in those who take an instinctive and sectarian stance or a politically and ideologically deceitful stance. This segment of Middle Eastern peoples indeed exists, and it would not be surprising if such groups dominate Arab public opinion trends on social media, as many Arab peoples will assess the situation—of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon—on a personal level. We should not be surprised at the sizeable shifting of opinions towards support for Iran and the referral of any solutions to Islamic issues to Tehran, as many Middle Eastern peoples rely above all else on their instincts and emotions in making their assessments.
The postulation that Iran possesses a nuclear weapon cannot be ruled out. At the same time, it is also insufficient to rely on US efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The danger lies in that the US does not share the same level of threat posed by a nuclear Iran as do countries in the region. On the other hand, it is tricky to depend on Israel to solve the Iranian nuclear problem, or to take its threat that it will carry out a military operation to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon at face value. In fact, if Iran allows Israel to cross its borders to carry out a military operation against it, there will only be two options: either Iran will appear to be merely maneuvering and is not close to the production or possession of nuclear weapons, or Iran will sense the danger of the Israeli move, which could jeopardize decades of efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon, thus giving rise to the possibility of a direct war with Israel that would rearrange the region.
In terms of available remedies for the region, the US and European countries can push toward a defined position for Middle East countries concerned with the matter, aligned under a unified and consolidated stance in the political and security equation on Iran’s nuclear weapons. Moreover, the US should abandon the idea that an Iran in possession of nuclear weapons only poses a threat to US or Israeli security. US policy must outgrow this notion. Everyone in the region, without exception, is under threat if Iran obtains nuclear weapons. If Iran is indeed discovered to have an atomic bomb, the Arab region, and the Gulf in particular, will not agree to be pushed towards Washington or Tel Aviv awaiting solutions while Middle Eastern countries are prevented from being part of the equation, just like East Asian countries adopted a specific, unified stance towards North Korea's nuclear program.
It seems like we are headed toward a decisive stage marked by complications in the Iranian nuclear issue. Not all Arab countries have clear assessments about the impact of Iran's possession of nuclear weapons on their security, and some countries are trying to ignore the need to envision security outlooks on the consequences of Iran's possession of a nuclear weapon. Many of these countries prefer to wait and see before dealing with the outcomes as facts, in spite of all their fears. This serves Iran and disserves the security of the region.
Iran, which is striving to expand its influence, poses a threat to the security of the entire region. Tehran is capitalizing on US orientations and Washington’s recurring express desire to withdraw from the region to reassert its status and expand its influence. This is the ultimate Iranian goal, and Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons will become a major threat to international peace and security. The Middle East is very different from East Asian countries that neighbor mighty China. There are many worrisome scenarios, the least of which is a regional nuclear arms race and economic crises that may send oil prices to record highs, not to mention turning the region into a hotbed for the breakout of nuclear war without warning.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Saudi newspaper al-Riyadh.