Nuclear geopolitics

Published September 23, 2022

TWO key international issues — Iran’s stand-off with the West over the former’s nuclear programme, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s apparent threat to use nukes against his Western adversaries — have highlighted the use of the nuclear card in geopolitics. Regarding Iran, the country’s President Ebrahim Raisi told the UN General Assembly that Tehran was not seeking nuclear weapons, in an obvious reference to the stalled, and some would say doomed, negotiations to revive the nuclear deal with the P5+1. Mr Raisi reiterated the call for American guarantees that any new deal would not be scuttled, as the JCPOA was during the Trump presidency. The second development — which raises the spectre of a 21st century nuclear war — should be cause for considerable concern throughout the global community. While addressing his nation, Mr Putin ominously warned that those who were trying to “blackmail” Russia with “nuclear weapons should know that the wind can also turn in their direction”. There was little nuance in the Russian leader’s pronouncement, as American President Joe Biden termed the threat “irresponsible”, while Nato called it “reckless”.

As for the new Iran deal, a wide gulf of mistrust prevents Tehran and the Western states from reaching a compromise that would protect the interests of all involved. The fervent Israeli lobbying in Western capitals to sabotage a new deal has certainly not helped matters. If Tehran has repeatedly said it does not want nukes, the Western states should take it at its word and help forge a new nuclear deal that protects the interests of all signatories, while Iran should also be willing to make compromises. Coming to Mr Putin’s threat, it is hoped he was indulging in mere rhetoric, even though he insisted “this is not a bluff”. A nuclear exchange between Russia and Nato would be an unmitigated catastrophe and any such plans need to be immediately abandoned. Instead of fanning the flames, both sides need to back down and work towards a solution that guarantees Ukrainian independence, while allowing Russia to save face.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2022

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