The new round of talks in Moscow on the Iranian nuclear issue did not achieve much success. It seems that no one is interested in solving the matter concerning Iran’s core interest - nuclear programme - through dialogue. Especially as the US/West has recently heightened tensions by imposing new trade sanctions on it.
To compete with the former Soviet Union in the Middle East in 1957, Washington and Tehran signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement, as part of the US Atoms for Peace programme. In 1963, Iran signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT); and in 1968, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But ties between the US and Iran soured after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and Iran turned to the USSR for help.
Then one year after the Iranian nuclear programme made headlines, Tehran signed the protocol allowing snap inspections of nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2003. However, the US continued to put pressure on what it called a “rogue state”.
In 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected President, who adopted a hard-line nuclear policy. In 2009, he said that Iran would not retreat “one iota on its right to a nuclear programme.” And that is how the Iranian nuclear problem turned into a “crisis”.
Nevertheless, the crisis today is so deep that a basic question is completely ignored: does Iran have the capacity to produce nuclear weapons? According to experts, the answer is: not as much as the USA claims! For weapons use at least 90 percent pure uranium is required, but Iran cannot even produce 20 percent pure uranium for medical and experimental use. And even if this happens, it will need to conduct nuclear explosions and acquire other technologies to develop a weapon.
Even Iran’s intention to develop nuclear weapons is doubtful. In February, for instance, its supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said: “Nuclear weapons of mass destruction are contrary to Islamic teachings and the state does not intend to own them.”
In its fight against the US, Iran uses some flexible terms such as “nuclear rights” and “nuclear capacity”. The intention is clear: Iran wants to emphasise its independence and sovereignty, while, perhaps, leaving some room for developing nuclear weapons, if necessary, and ensuring domestic order by emphasising external pressure and antagonism.
The US and its Middle East allies must be fully aware that Iran has does not have the capability to produce nuclear weapons. The question, however, is: why do they keep making a fuss over its nuclear programme?
Washington has its own agenda in exaggerating the Iran nuclear crisis: to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state, and maintaining - even strengthening - the military dependency of other Middle Eastern countries on the US so as to export weapons and keep military bases there.
Israel too has reasons: it fears President Ahmadinejad, who has predicted that Israel would cease to exist. Iran has long-term plans for training Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine. Also, Tel Aviv is believed to have a regional monopoly on nuclear weapons that it wants to maintain.
Yet, we don’t need to worry about an Israeli or US attack on Iran - at least not before the Syrian crisis comes to an end. The US and its Arab allies want Syria to become the first domino to fall and are trying to keep Iran from intervening in it. Obviously, this is an easier path because Syria has opposition groups calling for humanitarian assistance. They, indeed, would not risk an all-out Arab-Israeli war before the situation in Syria is resolved.
n The writer specialises in Middle Eastern affairs.