Sometimes there isn’t much difference between politicians and clergymen. The art of speech is their profession. They can justify or evade issues with their eloquence in speech. The Iranian regime is currently saying that it does not intend to build a military nuclear power because the supreme guide issued a fatwa (religious edict) prohibiting nuclear weapons! You must be a pious Shiite Iranian person to believe this pledge. But the region’s governments cannot believe such statements.
I will use the phrase my colleague Eyad Abu Shakra used in his article on Wednesday: “mistrust is of the most powerful [forms of] intelligence.” The supreme guide’s fatwa increases our suspicions. The issue doesn’t require a fatwa. It requires that facilities and reactors be open to international inspectors, and it requires that we accept their judgment and guarantees. As neighbors of Iran, we will not demand Benjamin Netanyahu’s conditions, announced during his U.N. General Assembly speech, which stipulated: “halting uranium enrichment, giving up the entire stockpile of already enriched material, dismantling all the infrastructure that speeds up producing nuclear weapons like the facilities of Qom and Natanz and halting work at the heavy water facility in Arak.”
It appears to us that the current gestures on the part of Iran are simply part of a PR project aiming to appeal to the sentiment of the White HouseAbdulrahman al-Rashed
The guide’s fatwa of prohibiting nuclear weapons was motivated by religion and politics. Islam considers that “whoever kills a soul unless for a soul, it is as if he had slain mankind entirely.” One nuclear warhead is enough to annihilate thousands of innocent people. But the guide’s fatwa is not that different from the Pope’s edict prohibiting contraceptives. Iran is about to give birth to its prohibited weapon. Iran spent a lot of money and scarificed a lot over the period of a decade and a half for the sake of its nuclear program. It is therefore not possible to believe that all of this was geared towards lighting Tehran’s streets using nuclear energy. The West has offered rewards, alternatives and incentives to consecutive Iranian governments in order to allow Iran to attain the energy it needs. But, Iran refused them and resumed implementing a project which is impossible to be considered anything but a military one.
The Middle East, which has become accustomed to war, is capable of engaging in other wars. But after eliminating tyrants like Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi and currently fighting against Bashar al-Assad, hope increased that the day the region will rid itself of war is nearing. Hope increased that regimes like the one in Iran’s will give up their expansionist schemes and dreams of establishing regional empires and thus free themselves to build their countries from within. The threat against Iran comes from within it and not from Arabs or Israelis. This is something the Islamic Republic’s lecturers say in order to justify the misery the Iranian people are put through for the sake of attaining the holy bomb.
The irony is that the Americans, who spent a lot of time and effort to build an expanded alliance which succeeded in restraining Iran’s regime politically and economically, are currently destroying this alliance. The former aimed to achieve its goal peacefully by forcing Tehran to give up its military dreams. It used banks and petroleum, travel and technology companies, in addition to its security and military means, for that purpose. Banks were shut down, economic interests were obstructed, airline companies were prohibited, and various products were prohibited from being exported to Iran. This is what pushed the Iranian leadership to choose Hassan Rowhani, the man with the smiling face, to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the man with the frowning face, to act as president and peace activist.
We, the ones who live within a stone’s throw from Iran, will be happier than the Americans or the Israelis if the Iranian regime really wants peace and has really reached the conviction that it should give up its nuclear weapons. Attaining them will cost Iran much more than it would benefit Iran. Unfortunately, we do not sense any of this humbleness. Instead, it appears to us that the current gestures on the part of Iran are simply part of a PR project aiming to appeal to the sentiment of the White House.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Oct. 4, 2013.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.