Interview: Is the West bullying Iran?
The United States – and particularly the mainstream, more sensationalistic media – has been obsessed about Iran’s “nuclear program” in the last few months. Iran has a great geopolitical importance – its natural resources (specially its gas and oil industries) make it a vital actor in international politics and a potential major player in the world markets. Dr. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam is a reader in Comparative Politics and International Relations at SOAS and one of the leading authorities in Iranian politics today. He discussed the possibility of a war between Western imperialist forces and yet another powerful Middle Eastern state with Joana Ramiro.
Anticapitalist Initiative: Do you see the alleged development of Iran’s nuclear program as a political project or as an economic investment? Is this part of expanding its sphere of influence in the region, or merely a normal step for an emerging economy, which wishes to grow further and faster in relation to other growing economies?
Dr. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam: The programme has both an economic dimension and a politico-ideological function. One major economic reason is that producing nuclear energy will allow Iran to export more oil and gas currently used in high quantities for domestic consumption. At the same time, for the leadership in Iran the development of a high-tech nuclear infrastructure is a prestige project, a signal to the world in general and developing countries in particular that the revolution in 1979 has brought about scientific progress. Much of this is propaganda of course; the Iranian leadership is not very different to other governments in that regard.
ACI: Do you believe the American media obsession with Iran to be mindless saber-rattling, aimed at disseminating fear-mongering propaganda so as to obscure domestic dissent (e.g.: occupy movement) and internal economic strife?
AAM: Partially, yes. Iran is a convenient bogeyman for many pro-war constituencies. It is also good for business to represent Iran as a threat, given that regional players such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are the major customers of western weaponry. The Obama administration has even emphasised the ‘Iranian threat’ in order to sell the non-sensical ‘missile shield’ to the countries of the former Warsaw Pact states. There is no doubt that Iran is being punished for a foreign policy that is not subservient to US demands and that challenges Israeli hegemony in Palestine and beyond.
ACI: We have already presenced an United States government use similar (unfounded) war rhetoric about a decade ago concerning Iraq. How likely do you think that the future will unfurl in similar manner? Assuming that US foreign policy decision makers act rationally, which would you see as the possible motivation for an armed conflict with Iran?
AAM: The Obama administration has repeatedly signalled that it is not interested in a war with Iran, at least at this moment. The US is by far more worried about the irrationality of the Netanyahu administration. Having said that, the same institutions and public figures who were involved in engineering the Iraq war are at it with regard to Iran. But at this moment, there seems to be an understanding in Washington that a war with Iran would ignite economic Armageddon and political disaster. I am not using such terms lightly. This is exactly what a war against Iran would bring about.
ACI: Looking at Israel’s role in the debate. Firstly, can we discard the argument that Israel’s foreign policy is mostly motivated by a general phobia of foreign invasion? Are there any other advantages to Israel in attacking Iran? Or is this, once more, a convenient farce in order to distract the masses from internal issues?
AAM: The Israeli political elite is gripped by a phobia of the region it chose to establish itself in. It has an unending list of perceived enemies which has put the state and Israeli society in confrontation with the peoples and governments of the region for a long time now. I am in no doubt that Netanyahu is a dangerous politician. Foreign policies always also have a domestic function, i.e. they serve to distract from internal problems, but they are premised on threat perceptions and enemy images and for the current political leadership in Israel every state that trumps the Palestinian issue is represented as an -‘existential threat’.
Dr. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam is the author of several books on the Middle East and international relations, including: Iran in World Politics: The Question of the Islamic Republic and A Metahistory of the Clash of Civilisations