George W. Bush has labeled Iran part of the three nations which most threaten United States security as a nation, along with Iraq and North Korea. He based this statement on the premise that these three nations were developing "weapons of mass destruction," specifically, nuclear arms. Iraq, it has already been established, does not have weapons of mass destruction. North Korea might, and is currently in negotiations with neighboring countries to establish a proliferation protocol for their disarmament. This leaves Iran as an unresolved piece of the international security puzzle.
In recent years, the international buzz regarding nuclear weapons has revolved around North Korea and Iran, two nations who are suspected of creating nuclear power plants and who the U.S. is strongly against acquiring nuclear weapons. The U.S., despite controlling the second-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world (10,700 to Russia's 20,000 and China's (the next largest producer's) 410), desperately wants to limit the ability of other nations to manufacture and sell their own nuclear weapons. (Cirincione 2002, p. 43) But these nations, especially Iran, have valid reasons for desiring nuclear projects.
The U.S. specifically wants to limit Iran's nuclear capabilities, among other reasons, because Iran's government has ties to organizations that the U.S. government has deemed terrorist, like Hamas and Hezbollah. However, many nations that the U.S. does not object to the nuclear arsenals of, like former Soviet republics, have similar tenuous (or stronger) ties to organizations that the U.S. classifies as "terrorist." It is, of course, in the U.S.'s interest to be able to account for all nuclear weapons which exist in the world -- but this aim can be achieved without limiting the sovereignty of other nations, as the U.S. is currently trying to do by limiting nuclear proliferation among other states.
What makes the U.S. position especially counterfeit is that the U.S. itself has taken a "pick and choose" approach to the articles of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which it abides by. Article VI of the NPT reads:
Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control. (NPT, at www.un.org)
This requirement of "negotiations in good faith" was directly disobeyed by the U.S. In very recent history, with the information that North Korea was pursuing a nuclear program. In the interest of reaching a compromise, North Korea offered to negotiate with the U.S. In bilateral discussion, which the U.S. has rejected. (Chinadaily.com 2005 online cite)
Although other nations may well be in violation of other articles in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, by refusing North Korea's offer to negotiate, the U.S. joins their ranks as being noncompliant with part of the NPT. In choosing not to "pursue negotiations in good faith," the U.S. essentially gave up any moral high ground it had in demanding that other nations abide by the treaty. This violation is easily spotted by Iran and proponents of a nuclear Iran; when disputing the rationale that the United States gives for disarming Iran, these proponents are quick to note that the U.S. itself is in violation of the NPT, and as such, is in a poor position to be hurling accusations of noncompliance.
Iran has several reasons for desiring nuclear capabilities. Aside from the hypocrisy of the U.S. position, there is a very real threat to developing nations by the U.S. which was demonstrated with the Iraq war. In 2002, the Bush administration issued the "National Security Strategy of the United States of America," which stated that "preemptive" force could be used against a government which was trying to acquire nuclear weapons. (Nolan 2003, p. 3) Far from being simply another policy document, this strategy was what the U.S. administration cited as its rationale for unilaterally invading Iraq on the assumption that the nation possessed weapons of mass destruction. In light of this invasion and its prior association by the administration with Iraq, Iran is justified in being wary of the motives and actions of the U.S.
It is not only this proven propensity of the United States to invade nations believed to be hiding weapons of mass destruction, but the obvious favoritism displayed by the U.S. In which countries it chooses to insist abide by the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel is not a signatory of the treaty (one of only three countries -- India and Pakistan are the others) and is widely believed to have developed nuclear weapons. (Karawan, 1998, p. 185) By developing these weapons, Israel has indirectly encouraged neighboring nations to develop their own nuclear defense systems as a defense against Israel's capabilities. "There is little doubt about Israel's possession of a nuclear arsenal and the means of delivering nuclear devices to their targets in the extended region...policy makers in surrounding countries, and their societies, must take this factor into consideration." (Ibid)
In light of the instability in the Middle Eastern region and the widely accepted fact that at least one nation (Israel) already possesses nuclear capabilities, it is a reasonable foreign policy for Iran to wish to develop a second-strike capability to deter any potential nuclear threat from Israel. Israel has not openly admitted the existence of their nuclear program, although "this is now regarded as an open secret after Israeli nuclear scientist Mordechai Vanunu revealed the program to the British Sunday Times in 1986 (for which Vanunu was abducted and imprisoned in Israel for 18 years)." (Wikipedia online cite)
In wanting to develop and maintain a nuclear capability, Iran is not asking for anything other than that which the United States already possesses with the approval of the international community -- protection against a preemptive strike from an enemy as well as a deterrent to attack from other countries.
It is seen in Middle Eastern nations as the height of hypocrisy for the United States to condone one nation's nuclear program while condemning all other nations, especially with the one tacit approval issued by the U.S. In the area being for the Jewish nation of Israel, while other Arab and Islamic nations are prohibited from nuclear development. The region has long seen the U.S. As giving undue favor to Israel in its international relations, and this distinction in foreign policy is further evidence that the United States favors Israel when it comes to the Middle East. A general apathy about the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the entire region would be one issue -- however, that is not the applicable attitude of the U.S. Instead, the U.S. tacitly condones Israel's nuclear program by not condemning it, and at the same time, publicly decries Iran's nuclear program and invades Iraq based on allegations that that nation possessed weapons of mass destruction.
The rationale behind this policy of the U.S. could be anything from an allegiance to Israel to something more tangible -- budgetary needs of the military. Some scholars have asked "whether the Pentagon engages in a deliberate and systematic overestimation of the Iranian threat for budget purposes...that would explain why American defense officials would magnify the Iranian threat." (Tanter 1999, p. 59) The Soviet nuclear threat is over-for most intents and purposes, Russia and the United States are allies. No other nation possesses even a hint of the nuclear power held by Russia (the next most prolific nuclear country, after the Russians' 20,000 bombs and the Americans' 10,000 is China, with 410). (Cirincione, 2002, p. 43)
Budgetary demands on the military after the Cold War ended may possibly be a major factor in hyping the Iranian threat. With no "enemy" during the 1990s, the U.S. military was hard-pressed to justify its expenses. Instead of slashing budgets and eliminating jobs for U.S. military members, the Pentagon brass instead have invented threats which make the perpetuation of their organizations vital to the national security, without having any actual threat to the United States exist.
In addition to this financial rationale behind creating an Iranian threat, the interventionist tendencies of the United States administration come into play. Descriptions of the U.S. leaders as "idealistic," that is, wanting the entire world to conform to their ideas of freedom and democracy, lend credence to the theory that the United States wants Iran to abandon its nuclear program as an exercise in "democracy" and "peacekeeping," believing that a non-nuclear Middle East is the best way to promote peace and stability in the region. Scholars attribute this behavior by U.S. leaders to "idealism and retribution: American presidents think they have the moral obligation to punish wrongdoing. In addition to using coercive sanctions against Iran, the United States has sought retribution -- punitive action without regard to changing Tehran's behavior." (Tanter 1999, p. 61) Tanter also notes that this policy is not new to the presidents of the U.S.; "from Carter to Clinton [presidents] have believed they were entrusted with the charge of…