As September 27th, new details have broken in regards to the Iranian-Israeli nuclear dispute. On Monday the current Prime Minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett addressed the UN General Assembly accusing Iran of violating nearly all of its Nuclear treaties, and that Israel would take bold measures (with or without the UN’s support) to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The Tehran delegate vehemently denied these accusations arguing that it had no goal to create a “nuclear umbrella” over the Middle East and rather argued that there is widespread Iranian-phobia in the UN assembly room. While this article will examine the history of this conflict and its potential implications, it is important to note that the far-right Israeli PM Bennet failed to make any mention of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, angering Palestinians while the current Iranian PM is under U.S.-led sanctions for alleged human rights violations when he was a judge.
Before we address the implications of Monday’s announcement, it is important to quickly review the history of the Iranian-Israeli nuclear conflict. In 1979, Iran’s Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi was overthrown and a new Shiite theocratic republic emerged. Previously Iran and Israel had a tenuous relationship, with Pahlavi’s regime being one of the first Arab nations to recognize Israel as a sovereign nation. Under the new theocracy, Iran began to position itself as allies to the Palestinian people and in 1982 Iranian leader, Khomeini ordered the creation of the anti-Israeli militant group Hezbollah. In the 1990s, Israel began to worry about the resumption of Iran’s Civilian Nuclear program that was disrupted during the 1979 revolution. While it is largely believed that Israel has nuclear weapons, Israel is not a signatory of the Nonproliferation treaty (meaning Israel is not subject to nuclear inspections) while Iran is. Throughout the early 2000s, increases in Iran’s long-range missile technology, the election of a handful of ultra-conservative leaders, and growing violence from Hezbollah further plummeted Israeli-Iranian relations. In 2009, Iran claimed its right to nuclear energy for civilian purposes while simultaneously decrying the United States and Israel for disrupting its nuclear program by assassinating key physicists and using malicious software to disrupt Iran’s development. In 2012, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a widely criticized UN General Assembly speech, accused Iran of being capable of striking Israel with a nuclear weapon. A year later an IAEA report stated that there was a “possible military dimension” to Iran’s nuclear program. In 2015 a deal under the Obama administration and the new “moderately conservative” Rouhani administration created the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or its more popular name, the Iran Nuclear deal. It is important to note that this deal was criticized by Netanyahu amid a frosty relationship between the Israeli PM and the Obama administration. Sunni Gulf monarchies also disliked the deal. Finally, on May 8th, 2018, the Trump administration announced it was withdrawing from the deal. While the Biden administration is adamant that they wish to focus on diplomacy and discussion between Iran and Israel, there currently is no ongoing treaty towards addressing this perpetual conflict.
The initial implications for Monday’s news are that it is clearly not a good sign for the ongoing peace and stability in the Middle East region. Both Israel and Iran have a history of supporting regimes that actively commit human rights violations. A shortlist of this includes Iran’s 2013 support for the Bashar al-Assad Syrian regime, and their current president, Ebrahim Raisi’s own individual history of human rights abuses. The Israeli government is also plagued with multiple accounts of international treaty violations and human rights abuses directed largely toward the Palestinian people and the targeted assassinations of many Iranian civilian scientists. In this conflict there is no clearly moral side. All people deserve a right to self-determination and existence and it is because of these ideals that we must be both vigilant of modern-day imperialism and nuclear proliferation. With this grounding, I would recommend increased communication and work towards a new nuclear nonproliferation treaty that respects Iran’s rights as a nation similar to the 2015 deal. It should also be noted that none of these steps can occur without proper communication, a prospect that is currently being shut down by hard-line conservatives. Throughout the history of the Israeli-Iranian nuclear dispute, relations have continued to fail under hard-line conservative administrations. This observation suggests that the domestic politics of these two nations (and the United States as they are largely positioned as the neutral arbiters of this conflict) should take a step towards greater progressivism and global unity. While those ideals are certainly nice, it is incredibly difficult to lay out a concrete step-by-step plan that could help achieve those ideals in a timely manner. The best we can do now is push for greater communication and transparency between nations and bring support for more progressive domestic politics.