The recent report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) makes clear what observers of Iran’s nuclear program have suspected for many years. Iran is not simply seeking nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but simultaneously readying the components that would be needed to construct a nuclear weapons capacity.
In all the fevered talk of IAEA reports, it is easy to lose sight of why Iran’s actions are so destabilising. Many argue, often with a great sense of certainty, that we have nothing to fear from Iran’s efforts. After all, Israel already acquired such arms. Surely it is hypocritical to hinder Iran’s attempt to do the same? Such challenges are legitimate, but they are not persuasive. The Western world’s deep concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions are well warranted, and cannot be explained away by establishing false equivalence with Israel.
Central to this debate are the Arab states, and the countries of the Persian Gulf. While they may rail against Israel’s nuclear capacity, in part for domestic political reasons, most are quite relaxed about the status quo. States like Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt know perfectly well that Israel’s nuclear capacity was created in order to deter a concerted offensive against it. It has always been a defensive capability, and never once employed as part of Israel’s diplomatic efforts, either overtly or implicitly. Indeed, so comfortable are the countries of the Arab world that they have never once sought to check Israel’s capacity through the creation of their own arms. Instead, there has been near broad consensus on the attractiveness of a nuclear free region, something that the Arab states will call for at a regional conference next year.