-Hassan Rohani following the conclusion of the talks with the USA
If the reactions of the European public were anything to go by, the deal with the Iran must have saved the world. There seemed to be a general consensus that ending the sanctions on the Iran is the goal to be achieved and Irans nuclear ambitions are generally ignored despite being at the center of the debate. German media in particular have attributed the new Iranian president Rohani almost saintlike qualities, painting the picture of a fundamental change in Iran.
However, if voices from the region itself are anything to go by, things look wildly different.
Israels opposition to the deal with Iran is well known and, considering Israels role as "jew amongst the nations", it' not too far-fetched to believe that the coverage of Israels opposition to an end of the sanctions is actually used to reinforce the positive image of the deal with the general public. If Netanyahu opposes it, it must be a good thing. To drive this point home, German journalists even resorted to anti-semitic imagery, portraying Netanyahu as the archetypical poisoner, who intends to kill peace itself.
What is commonly ignored is both Israels reasons for its outspoken opposition to the Iranian nuclear programm and the fact that other nations in the region have shown similiar strong opposition to the deal with Iran.
From all available information, we can probably conclude that Iran wants the atom bomb. Many parts of its nuclear developement would make no sense for a civilian, energy-producing goal. Iran is not only enriching uranium to a point only needed for the developement of weapons, it is doing so in underground vaults intended to inoculate the industry against foreign attacks. It furthermore has in the past rejected solutions that would have allowed it to develope a civilian nuclear industry but taken away the possibility of constructing nuclear weapons, for example the Russian offer to take over the task of uranium enrichment for Iran completely.
Israel fears a nuclear Iran because it is a threat to its own existence. The Iranian state doctrine is fundamentally antisemitic and the destruction of Israel remains an ideological and strategic goal of the government. While President Rohani has avoided openly anti-semitic remarks in the recent months, as those would have endangered the talks with the United States and the European Union, there was no fundamental change in Iranian government policy - its brutality evidenced by the more than 300 death sentences carried out since Rohani became President - and Irans Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini continued threats towards Israel which have a long tradition. Worryingly enough, this tradition includes a very specific argument for nuclear war with Israel:
"If one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists' strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world."
- Chairman of Expediency Council Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani during a Quds-Day speech in 2001
But will the Iran risk its own destruction by the hands of Israeli nuclear bombs in retaliation for such an assault? One can only speculate. Public speeches of course do not reveal the full truth about a governments ambitions and the words may have been meant for the public, not as an actual intention for nuclear war with Israel. Despite the irrational elements of antisemitic ideology, the "all or nothing"-attitude which already had been Nazi Germany's downfall, the Iranian leadership is comparable to other Islamist movements in the sense that it is quick to sacrifice millions of its people for the ideological goals, but also very concerned with preserving its own status and power.
Still, Israels worries are understandable. Even the faintest possibility is still a threat to the millions living in a country so small that, indeed, one or two bombs could lead to the thorough destruction and the death of most its population. One or two bombs, that won't necessarily be fired from Iran itself and could just as easily be handed over to one of the Shiite militias under indirect control of the Iran, such as the Lebanese Hezbollah.
But, as noted before, Israel is not the only country panicking in the face of Irans nuclear ambitions. Saudi-Arabia has publically announced its intention to acquire nuclear bombs of its own from Pakistan, should Iran go nuclear. Pakistan possesses a sizeable nuclear arsenal that had been developen with Saudi-Arabias help. Egypt and Turkey are likely candidates for developing nuclear bombs in response the Iranian ambitions as well. Furthermore, it was Saudi-Arabia that informed Israel of the talks held between the USA and Iran without consultation of the Israeli government. A remarkable event, considering that Israel had been the United States' most important ally in the region during the past decades.
As a consequence of the deal with Iran, the region will become less safe and the possibility of regional war is increasing - no matter how many times the negotiations with Iran are called "peace talks". Iran has strong hegemonial ambitions and ongoing imperialist designs for the arabic world. Next to Turkey it is the only country with the material base to do so: Israel is too small and too much of a Pariah for the Arabs to exert much influence over regional affairs. Saudi-Arabia and Qatar are both trying to influence political movements in other countries, for example by funding political groups or governments, but they lack the population for grander designs. Egypt, while a large state, is tied down in internal and economic unrest.
Irans national ideology and predominantly shiite religion adds a religious dimension to the hegemonial struggle with the Sunni states. It had been unable to bridge this divide by invoking Israel as common enemy. Iran is fighting covert wars in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq by funding militias and terrorist activity. While it has thusfar shunned open engagements with any regional powers, this may change if the country developes nuclear weapons that would shield it from repercussion for expansionist policies. Bluntly said: which country would want to assault a nuclear Iran, even it were to invade Iraq?
The Obama-administration meanwhile is pursuing a policy of disengagement in the middle east that, from a national perspective, has been long overdue. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been costly and yeilded no practical benefits for the US government while costing it large amounts of legitimacy. Its tightly knit alliance with Israel demonizes the USA in the eyes of anti-semites throughout the world and has jeopardized business opportunities with the Iran.
Likewise, Germany leads Europe into appeasement of Iran for very solid reasons. Much of the Iranian nuclear programm - just like other countries before - has been developed with German technology. While formally sticking to the sanctions of Iran, German industry had reportedly felt encouraged by politics to illegally evade the sanctions long before the talks with Iran started.
Iran is a large market, much larger than Israel and Saudi-Arabia. Furthermore, re-approachment with Iran may spoil relations with these countries, but it will not cause them to turn against their powerful, if unreliable, partners in Europe and America. Business wil proceed undisturbed. Indeed, it may actually improve, if the destabilized situation in the middle east prompts regional partners of the NATO to expand their arms-purchases.
Much of the middle-east has been rendered useless for the global economy. The unemployed and unproductive populations of countries like Syria may die in protracted civil wars and the rest of the world will sit idly, as long as the governments in the region and the many militias participating in the wars compensate the loss of civilian consumer demand with demand for military products and as long as the access to ressources like oil remains secure. Considering its their only source of income, warring factions will likely ensure it does in order to pay the bills of their arms dealers.