The idea that nuclear weapons will usher in an era of peace and security for the Islamic Republic is likely to prove to be nothing short of an illusion—even if Ayatollah Khamenei’s regime succeeds in averting a military strike against its nuclear installations before it reaches its military goals for its nuclear programme.
History has shown that there are many countries against the idea of a powerful Islamic Republic.
In 1979, the newly born Islamic Republic of Iran was armed to the teeth with sophisticated US military technology that had been purchased by the Shah, making it a regional military superpower in its own right. But this was deemed a threat to Western and Arab interests in the region, who believed that something had to be done to weaken Iran and to keep the regime’s ambitions and power in check.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
The solution was found in Saddam Hussein and his long-held Iranian territorial desires. The Arab world financed his invasion. France and the USSR sold him sophisticated weaponry, while the US provided political support.
The war served its purpose for eight years—it cost Iran more than one million dead or maimed, and approximately $300 billion of damage to its economy. Had Iraq not invaded, the Islamic Republic of Iran could have been (after Israel) the most powerful military force in the region. In terms of political influence beyond its borders, it could have been the most powerful.
Since the end of the conflict, Iran has slowly but surely rebuilt its armed forces and regional influence.
And if it gets its hand on a bomb, it will become a regional nuclear and military superpower again. That would mean that as well as influence in Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza, its armed forces would be protected by a nuclear umbrella, thus allowing the regime the opportunity to increase its influence with more confidence.
This is something that the Arab world and the West are unlikely to accept.
But if history is set to repeat itself, a new enemy to keep Iran in check is likely to be searched for. And this time, the West, and especially the Arab world, will not be short of motivation. Nuclear Iran aside, they’re already furious at what they see as Iran interfering in Iraq. Or as Sabah Al Mukhtar, president of the Arab Lawyers Association, put it in a recent debate on Al Jazeera English, ‘Iranian dogs tearing Iraq to bits.’
In 1980, an all out invasion by Iraq was used to weaken Iran. This time, a different method is likely to be applied.
Instead of a conventional war, initially the West and the Arab world are likely to sponsor a war of attrition against Iran, one likely to present itself in several formats.
When it comes to the Arab world, support for al-Qaeda attacks against Iran and Iranian interests are likely to be used. Despite limited cooperation in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda’s leadership and rank and file see Iran and the Shiites as their second biggest enemy, after the United States.