50 Years on, 'Nationalist Antagonism' Continues
George Perkovich - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
On June 4, 2003, the House of Representatives held hearings on "U.S. Nonproliferation Policy After Iraq". George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace presented a statement before the House International Relations Committee on that day; his introduction is a suitable bio:
"Mr. Chairman and Members of the committee, it is an honor to testify before you today. By way of introduction, I am vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. I have worked on nuclear nonproliferation issues for the past twenty years in various capacities with various foci, beginning first with the Soviet Union in the 1980s and early 1990s, then shifting to India, Pakistan and Iran beginning around 1992. In the process, I wrote a history of India's nuclear weapon program and U.S. efforts to stop it, called India's Nuclear Bomb (University of California Press, updated paperback 2001). The book and much of my work on nuclear issues in India, Pakistan, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, draws heavily from interviews and interactions with nuclear weapon designers and other relevant officials. In addition to research, writing, and organizing Track II diplomacy over the years, I have advised and consulted to the Departments of Energy and State, and the intelligence community".
Discussing the legitimate security concerns of Iran as a country and the U.S. military options toward it, Perkovich delivered a rather blunt sound bite (in bold below) referring to the 1953 American atrocity. Fellow presenter and future UN Ambassador John Bolton, among others, was also in attendance.
Even if all of those assumptions could be made reasonably, we would still be faced with the long-term issue of dealing with the seventy million people of Iran. Would a U.S. military attack on Iran's nuclear capabilities increase or decrease the likelihood that the Iranian people and current or prospective government would integrate peaceably into the international community of norms and institutions the U.S. seeks to foster?
Anyone with experience in Iran will attest that even the most democratic, internationally minded Iranians speak frequently and bitterly about the U.S. role overthrowing the nationalist
Mossadegh government in 1953. Nationalist antagonism against the U.S. government - not the American people - remains after fifty years. Discussions with today's reformers in Iran, including leaders of civil society, suggest that widespread affection for the American people and the principles for which the U.S. stands would be lost if the U.S. acted coercively against Iran. For, many Iranians think it is unfair that Israel and Pakistan are allowed to have nuclear weapons and even receive U.S. aid, while Iran is denied even the "peaceful" nuclear technology to which it is entitled. Among other things, this nationalist frustration over U.S. nuclear double standards could mean that even if the current leaders of Iran's security and intelligence and judicial apparatus were displaced, the successor government would be intensely nationalistic and opposed to the U.S. government. Such a nationalist government should not be expected to abandon interest in acquiring nuclear weapons.