In an increasingly uncertain world, the debate over Iran and its nuclear program could be one of the key issues determining global peace and stability. Right now media and social attention is focused on a range of issues from health care reform to gays in the NFL. As usual, some of these topics are much more impactful than others, but the issue of Iran cannot be ignored for several reasons.
On the one hand, there is some discussion about whether Iran could even threaten the United States in the event that it did obtain nuclear weapons. Some believe that Iran simply doesn’t have the technology to get a nuclear warhead to U.S. soil even if the country obtained nuclear weapons in the first place. However, Iran has recently sent a small number of ships into the Atlantic, with the goal of approaching the United States. Iranian Rear Admiral Habibolla Sayyari claimed that Iran does not intend to actually enter U.S. territory, but one could imagine the implications if Iran is able to get near the U.S. maritime border. If Iran were to show that it can reach the United States, it may well provoke greater public concern over nuclear weapons.
The Islamic Republic of Iran might not be a small enough problem to simply ignore, but the ripple effect caused by any military action or even sanctions could be enormous. The people who most feel the sting of economic sanctions are the average citizens, who may or may not even approve of what their government does. For example, the sanctions on Iraq after the first Gulf War led to higher prices, food shortages, and deterioration of medical care. Every situation is different, but sanctions on Iran could also have major consequences for Iran’s general population. One must wonder about the value of fomenting more animosity towards the United States than already exists. Promoting goodwill is a major key for stable relations, not only with Iran, but across the globe. Recently, the United States and European Union agreed to stop sanctions on Iran in exchange for Iran changing it’s 20 percent uranium enrichment program. Although this agreement might have unintended consequences of its own, it could be a step in the right direction since it reduces the potential backlash from sanctions. It’s all about cause and effect. Even well-intentioned foreign policy decisions can have
Quite apart from the obvious threat of a nuclear Iran, this ripple effect is the key threat to United States interests in the Middle East, as well as overall global stability. Russia and Iran are on fairly friendly terms so overt military action has at least the potential to heavily sour US relations with Russia. The threat of armed conflict spilling out of the Middle East is obviously an extreme scenario, but such a situation could get out of hand very quickly. It seems best to stay well away from this scenario before it even has a chance to happen.
Peaceful relations with Iran is one of the major keys for global stability and a long-term future with less conflict. Diplomacy is a mine field influenced by varied and opposing interests, but a whole lot depends on this mine field being successfully navigated.