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Standing in Iran’s shoes

Brian Kaneb | Thursday, September 27, 2012

We are encouraging Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. Of course, we will never hear this from President Obama or Prime Minister Netanyahu, but remember they are politicians whose allegiance is not necessarily to the truth, but to those who elected them. The reality of the situation can best be found by putting ourselves in the shoes of those who actually make the decision. You are now Grand Ayatollah Khamenei, the most powerful person in Iran.

Perhaps in part motivated by the 1953 coup d’état in which the United States overthrew Prime Minister Mosaddegh, you readily admit Iran is an enemy of the West. The United States appears to be a mere “puppet” of the Zionists, but you reserve some of your harshest words for Israel. Not only is it a “cancerous tumor” that would not exist in an ideal world, but your country also supports jihadis in Palestine that oppose Israel. This understandably results in countless claims from the outside that such stances are extreme overreactions.

Yet, all that matters to you is what those on the inside think. You are like President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu in this sense, but, becuase Iran is less representative, it means you answer more to the regime and less to the citizens. So what does the regime want? It wants other countries to listen when it speaks and watch when it acts. It wants influence.

Because this is more of a long-term plan than a short-term plan, you have no reason to implement an aggressive foreign policy. That would entail too much risk. You may not miss an opportunity to point out Iran is on the rise, but you at least recognize it would be much easier for your Western enemies to sustain a war against Iran than it would be for Iran to sustain a war against her Western enemies. Your relative lack of resources and technology can most obviously be seen in your defense budget, which is about 75 times smaller than that of the United States.

Yet, even if the worst-case scenario does not materialize, the other scenarios that come with an aggressive foreign policy are less than ideal considering your lack of regional hegemony. Iran may very well have an advantage in its relatively high population, but this becomes an ineffective measurement when you consider its full potential can only be reached through a draft. As the supreme leader of Iran, you are forced to accept the reality of the status quo: Iran lacks the military culture that other regional powers have.

Whereas approximately 10 percent of Israelis are serving their country, just 1.5 percent of Iranians are in their military. This may be yet another ineffective measurement because of the disparity in population between the two countries, but even similarly populated countries in the region have stronger military cultures. Both Egyptians and Pakistanis, for example, have become accustomed to their respective militaries being a part of their daily lives.

Let us also not ignore the Iranian economy. The CIA points out it “is marked by … reliance on oil” and that as a result, this fossil fuel “provides the majority of government revenues.” The inherent volatility of an aggressive foreign policy magnifies the fragility of the Iranian economy.

So, if all of this is true, how are we pushing Iran to further develop its nuclear program? We are simply forcing its hand. It would rather not adopt an aggressive foreign policy, but would rather have the most dangerous weapon in the world when facing the increasingly stubborn rhetoric and action of the international community. It is no wonder Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said if he were Iran, he would “probably” want nuclear weapons “just because of Israel.”

Brian Kaneb is a junior studying political science. He can be reached at bkaneb1@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.