The Iran Nuclear Deal: The End of the Beginning

Despite signing and ratifying the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Iran was considered a security threat by the international sphere due to suspicion about its development of nuclear weapons. The NPT signatory countries are not willing to allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons due to, primarily, two main reasons. Iran’s close ties with non-state actors Hamas and Hezbollah undermine its international legitimacy. Furthermore, its heated rivalry with regional neighbours Israel and Saudi Arabia and neighbouring threats such as those posed by Afghanistan’s drug trade, the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), or Iraq’s instability could drive Iran to use nuclear weapons against them if it had them, or so the international community believes.

However, there is no clear explanation as to what would happen if Iran acquired nuclear weapons. Nuclear alarmists, experts who believe nuclear proliferation is a security threat, believe that if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, a nuclear chain reaction would succeed, so Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or Turkey would follow Iran’s steps. In a similar way, they argue that Iran’s access to nuclear weapons would be yet another factor to a global “tipping point” in which nuclear proliferation would spread so quickly that almost any country would acquire them. Moreover, nuclear alarmists deem the second nuclear age (considered to have begun in 1991) to be less predictable, more complex, and therefore more dangerous than the Cold War due to the existing horizontal nuclear proliferation.

On the other hand, others agree that a nuclear Iran would not pose as terrible a threat as some consider. In this sense, Gavin contends that the threat Iran poses as a rogue state was already experienced in the Cold War with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. Indeed, he believes that an Iran with nuclear weapons would gain international legitimacy and security, thus making it less aggressive than it has been by forcing it to act with great restraint. It is unlikely that Iran would transfer its nuclear stockpile to Hamas or Hezbollah for it would be too scarce and, therefore, too precious to give away so easily.

The nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany), which was accepted on 16th of January 2016, seems to be a solution to the question. The agreement seeks to limit and control Iran’s nuclear activities, as well as ensuring that no nuclear weapon is developed for any of the aforementioned possible ends. In consequence the United Nations (UN) sanctions on Iran to stop its uranium enrichment and conversion activities are to be lifted. Hence, the deal is supposed to be a stabilising factor to Middle East turmoil for at least its timespan (15 years).

This brings us to the question: is the nuclear deal definite, that is, will the nuclear deal permanently stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons? Views differ on the effectiveness of the deal. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) composed of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, while supporting the deal, reflects concern over the lifting of the UN sanctions in the belief that these will allow Iran to expand Shiite influence in the region at the expense of Sunnis. Israel is also concerned over an Iran with no sanctions to limit its foreign policy. As Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stated, Israel would increase its defence and warned against violation of the agreement.

Previous US secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George P. Schultz are open to the possibility of a future nuclear Iran given that the deal only temporarily restricts Iran’s facilities and material but does not give them up. They further argue that violating the agreement will be easy and difficult for the international sphere to detect. US allies in the region might conclude that the US has switched nuclear cooperation for the acceptance of Iranian hegemony. Moreover, they believe that the Middle East will not stabilise itself since Sunni states will resist Shiite dominance in the region.

Hence, it is clear that the Iranian nuclear deal should not be regarded as final or ultimate. It is a mere phase during which long-lasting solutions to the question should be found. It is now up to the P5+1 to lead talks with Iran and other key regional actors to find the best solution to stabilise the Middle East in nuclear terms and settle any possible security threats among the states.

A possible future nuclear Iran does not represent a threat to the international society, but it would to regional neighbours such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. Iran’s primary aims in acquiring nuclear weapons are international legitimacy by which it would be able to increase trade relations with the West and Asian countries and security from bordering states and non-state actors that could bring instability to its territory. It would be very unlikely that Iran would supply such weapons to Hamas or Hezbollah for their destructive power, their value, and the possible destruction of the Iranian state are too much of a risk. However, assuming Iran’s rational use of nuclear weapons is a grave mistake, for one cannot completely assume any state to be absolutely rational. Thus, though a nuclear Iran may not pose a serious threat, the international community should be always be wary and prepared to take action in case its activities endanger Middle East security.

In regards to the threat a nuclear Iran represents to key regional actors, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) responsible for the peaceful use of nuclear technology should implement a strong binding agreement for the transparency of nuclear activities in the Middle East by which all regional actors should adhere to without exception. Such transparency would allow any regional state to know whether one is developing or is very close to developing nuclear weapons. Information would promote peace among such nations, though for such information to be reliable and valuable, strict measures should be applied to avoid corruption or covert activities leading to misinformation. These measures should not gravely restrict a country’s sovereignty, but should indeed carry out their purpose effectively.

Perhaps effective cooperation and honesty, as well as preparation for the worst scenario, may be a further step in the path to Middle East peace and stability.

 

Mireia Raga Gómez

Female Genital Mutilation: An International Response

FGM. Three letters that have a power to send chills down any spine. It is incomprehensible that someone else could choose to excise a part of a human body, a piece of flesh, and someone’s womanhood.

Also known as female circumcision, FGM involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, ie clitoridectomy and infibulation. Mainly preponderant throughout Africa, but also in the Middle East and Asia, it also occurs on our doorstep due to the constant migrations of vulnerable populations to Europe, in particular asylum seekers and refugees. The girls at risk can be as young as the age of 5. This is not a medical procedure: it has no health benefits. Neither does it stem from any religious beliefs. The justification for this procedure is solely cultural.

So why am I writing about this? Does it affect us? You and I are privileged to be in a position where it is our prerogative to speak out on behalf of those who have no voice. Freedom of speech is not a luxury – we own it. We have a power to raise awareness and protect our equals in this world. These cultures can seem worlds away from ours, which may marginalize the issue. Furthermore FGM is not always a priority and comes second to so many other forms of violence. Although strategies and conventions have focused on this cruelty, the fact remains, that according to the WHO, over 125 million girls and women in the world at this moment have been cut and numbers are perpetually increasing. Having access to this knowledge, how can we remain passive?

Before attacking this custom and banning it, it is important to understand why it prevails, as it is difficult to persuade those who uphold and carry out this practice to uproot a deeply entrenched custom overnight. It is still a sensitive topic in many countries, and one that must be addressed with prudence and diplomacy.

For the parents who submit their child to FGM, it may not be considered harmful, an assault or a violation. It is the belief that this is what must be done as a rite of passage to allow a girl to transition to womanhood (cultural and gender identity) or to prevent her from tendencies such as promiscuity or sexual deviation. It is seen as part of a “cleansing process”, to hinder bodily secretions and odours accompanied with maturity. Moreover, it is a means to ensure the purity of the female when presenting her to potential partners. These may be considered as protective measures, but the essence is that it remains a violation of human and women’s rights (it contravenes the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child), the right to life, physical integrity and health.

The social convention theory illustrates how it has become the norm to carry out this practice on girls without their consent, or their realisation of the potential future impact on their lives. This is thus the challenge: to convince not just a minority of the population, be they male or female, to break free from the social norm, but to educate the majority so that they understand the damage, and change their ideology in order to introduce a reversal of expectations. This is established through dialogue.

The United Kingdom is home to a wealth of cultures, including some for whom this practice is commonplace. The country therefore has an important role to play in eradicating this brutal act.

Educating our teachers, healthcare professionals and students at school to remain vigilant about the early signs of those at risk of an imminent procedure or to the symptoms of those who have just been cut is paramount. Signs such as a lack of integration into society, isolation from participating in physical activities, long trips to countries performing this rite and subsequent social withdrawal should be looked out for. It is imperative to provide support in the face of further complications: lasting physical effects, reluctance to seek medical attention, infection and other organ damage, as well as emotional or psychological repercussions.

Resources should be available for those who require legal guidance, and stricter measures put in place for offenders to be prosecuted. In 2003, the Female Genital Mutilation Act declared it illegal to arrange FGM outside of the UK regardless of whether it was legal in the country it takes place. However despite the criminal penalty being up to 14 years imprisonment in the UK for taking girls abroad, until this day no convictions have ensued.

We must recognise that in cultures where FGM is prevalent, avoiding the procedure can be considered as defiant, and individuals concerned are threatened with punishment. This changes the shape of their society from one of safety, to one of endangerment. However culture cannot be a means of justification for breaking the law or violating ones rights.

Abolishing female circumcision involves a multi-disciplinary approach: prosecutions, medical examinations, reporting of violence…

International governments have the manpower to support local communities to introduce educational campaigns. But we must circumvent the existing issues with these campaigns: they are mostly short term and small scale. It is time to think big: implement programmes, but monitor progress and evaluate their effects. Targeting those in power such as tribal leaders, healers, soldiers, and turning those people into role models will influence the communities who seek guidance in these leaders to follow suit. The other side of this coin however is the economic incentive for these matriarchs of society who are well paid for the procedure. Hence despite the steps taken to educate the local population, there is still a need for solutions. This is the ideal intersection for change and collaboration, partnerships and networks intertwined are key.

The access to media and other communications also enables us to propagate a message like a ripple in a pond across borders and achieve a much-required change and combat gender-based violence. There is a movement, but a more urgent effort is crucial to reach all corners of the world.

Rani Chowdhary