All the talk about the Iran nuclear deal probably raises certain questions for students, such as why do the United States and Iran come to great conflict over the issue of nuclear capability? With so many countries in this world possessing nuclear energy and weaponry, why is Iran’s nuclear program a sticking point for the United States? The issue comes down to the fact that Iran and the United States have conflicting political intentions, and a good deal of mistrust for one another. The excerpts below come from leaders of each country, and provide students with insight into the thinking of each side. After students read the two excerpts, consider using the following discussion questions to help students understand what is at the center of the nuclear conflict between the United States and Iran.
1) How does Iran view the western world (including Israel), and how does the United States view Iran?
2) What international concerns does each country harbor?
3) What do you suppose motivates each country to reach a deal?
4) What do you suppose is the role of the international community in monitoring individual countries’ nuclear capabilities, and do all countries have an inherent right in pursuing this sort of energy?
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei: Whether this [nuclear deal] is approved or disapproved, we won’t stop supporting our friends in the region…The oppressed Palestinian nation, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, the honest resistance fighters in Lebanon and Palestine will enjoy our constant support. Even after this deal our policy toward the arrogant U.S. will not change…U.S. policies in the region are 180 degrees in contrast to Iran's policies.
Iranian Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani: I believe that there is a number of neighbors – Iran neighbors – that have their own internal problems and they are trying to hide those problems behind a kind of “Iranophobia.” Let me ask you a question: in the last 200 years, has Iran invaded another country? Have we invaded or attacked an Arab country?...this is Islamic Republic of Iran’s strategy, to have cooperation, coordination, and collaboration with its neighbors…
We don’t have any problem with Judaism. We believe that it is a heavenly religion…We are in no way anti-Semitic; actually we respect Jews and Judaism, but we have problems with Israel because we always ask ourselves questions: Why should some people make other people displaced, drive them out of their homes, and these people, these Palestinians, these Muslims, need to leave their motherland and go in camps, live in other countries, live in poverty, and then, why should we replace them with Jews from other places in the world? Why so much violence against Muslims in Palestine? This is a bitter truth of our time. They are forcing a nation out of their homes and replacing them with another one. This is wrong, this is an oppression, and this is not something that we can tolerate.
United States’ perspective:
U.S. President Barack Obama: Among U.S. policymakers, there's never been disagreement on the danger posed by an Iranian nuclear bomb. Democrats and Republicans alike have recognized that it would spark an arms race in the world's most unstable region and turn every crisis into a potential nuclear showdown. It would embolden terrorist groups like Hezbollah and pose an unacceptable risk to Israel, which Iranian leaders have repeatedly threatened to destroy. More broadly, it could unravel the global commitment to nonproliferation that the world has done so much to defend…
We have no illusions about the Iranian government…Iran supports terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. It supports proxy groups that threaten our interests and the interests of our allies, including proxy groups who killed our troops in Iraq. They tried to destabilize our Gulf partners. But Iran has been engaged in these activities for decades. They engaged in them before sanctions and while sanctions were in place…
We cannot dictate the foreign, economic and energy policies of every major power in the world…The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy or some form of war. But how can we, in good conscience, justify war before we've tested a diplomatic agreement that achieves our objectives, that has been agreed to by Iran, that is supported by the rest of the world and that preserves our option if the deal falls short?...In the end, that should be a lesson that we've learned from over a decade of war.