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Nuclear Iran—Why the Islamic Republic Is Not the Actor We Think It Is

(Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

“As the only Western journalist allowed to enter Iran prior to its presidential elections back in 2017, I followed then-candidate Ebrahim Raisi on the campaign trail. Whatever illusions I had about Iran and its ambitions melted under the sheer brutality of his war rhetoric.”

Speaking from Jerusalem last week, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken made clear that while the United States remains committed to Israel’s security, it also wishes to revive Iran’s nuclear deal so that the Islamic Republic could be locked into an agreement which, in theory, would contain its nuclear ambitions. In his view, a renegotiated deal constitutes “the best way to put Iran’s program back in the box that it was in but has escaped from since the United States withdrew from the agreement.”

That rationale may hold from a Western perspective, in that the most aligned nations have come to a consensus on how the game ought to be played for all parties to advance in relation to one another. However, Iran does not abide by such rules. I would argue that Iran’s very ideology, the expression of its political will (i.e., imperial nihilism), forever places its center of power outside of the global narrative.

To imagine that Tehran’s mullahs would forfeit their long-standing dream of a nuclear weapon, the very weapon which would grant them power over those they seek to bring under their theocratic influence (so that Persia could be once more) runs contrary to logic. The Islamic Republic’s very slogan ought to give us pause: “Death to Israel, Death to America.”

To offer credence to the promises made by Tehran can be characterized, at best, as foolish and, at worst, suicidal. 

If we consider that the Islamic Republic has—since 2015 reneged on most of the terms laid out in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—a good dose of skepticism as to where that “train” may stop is a matter of necessity. “We have more than 210 kilograms [approximately 463 pounds] of uranium enriched to 20%, and we’ve produced 25 kilos [approximately 55 pounds] at 60%, a level that no country apart from those with nuclear arms [is] able to produce,” said Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi in November of 2021.

Iran’s identity today runs on three pillars, each more perverse than the next. I would know; for years, I moved close to its clerical class and was made to look upon the inner workings of its state propaganda machine. As the only Western journalist allowed to enter Iran prior to its presidential elections back in 2017, I followed then-candidate Ebrahim Raisi on the campaign trail. Whatever illusions I had about Iran and its ambitions melted under the sheer brutality of his war rhetoric. 

Iran’s unholy trinity is what holds its political apparatus together and consists of anti-Semitism, imperialism, and chauvinism.

Under the Governance of the Jurist, Iran’s Ayatollahs have positioned themselves in absolute negation of those values we hold dear. Why would we want to give air to their dictatorial fire, or maybe more to the point, offer them political validation by allowing them to occupy a seat at our table?

To engage in diplomacy one must assume some degree of commonality. We only need to look at the ferocity with which Iran has met its enemies, both within and without, to appreciate the folly of an alignment with Tehran—let alone one revolving around nuclear power.

Iran’s nuclear ambitions cannot be curtailed by an agreement, regardless of its modalities. “Why,” one may ask? It is quite simply because Iran exists in fascist antagonism to all those whose mere existence represents a threat to its hegemony, whether territorial, political, or religious. Iran’s nuclear pursuit runs in line with its ideology, so why would we dream that not be so? 

Beyond that lies the understanding that should Iran become a nuclear power, the world would have to accommodate the regime and then also normalize its institutional existence. To insulate ourselves from the truth and instead wish to imagine a world in which only reason motivates men of power is to condemn ourselves to the fires of sectarianism and wanton murder. 

Tehran’s nature is best expressed in the virulence of its hatred for Israel, its hunger for oppression best manifested in its war against women, and its desire to expand its reach exemplified by its clerics’ calls for more vassals to its religious feudalism. Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq…how many more countries will we lose to Iran’s megalomania before we heed the words of Christopher Hitchens when he wrote in 2010: “When the day comes that Tehran can announce its nuclear capability, every shred of international law will have been discarded. The mullahs have publicly sworn—to the United Nations and the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency—that they are not cheating. As they unmask their batteries, they will be jeering at the very idea of an ‘international community'”?

We once vowed that “never again” would we allow fascism to hold our world ransom to its horrors, yet we have idly watched as Iran’s mullahs have called from their pulpits for the fall of a people. All we need to know and should ever know about Iran lies in its call for the demise of Israel—not the state as many have claimed, but, as I came to understand it, for the disappearance of its people, all of its people. This is because in the eyes of the mullahs there is no greater sin than that of being born a Jew. For that reason alone, a deal with Iran cannot and should never be an option.

A former consultant to the United Nations Security Council on Yemen, Catherine Perez-Shakdam has been one of the few Western analysts of Jewish heritage ever to manage to move within Iran’s corridors of power. 

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