Commentary: Will the Iranian nuclear weapon issue be treated like the South China Sea issue?

U.S. President Joe Biden showed that he is protecting the interests of the free world by selling nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. Are the recent developments regarding the South China Sea indicative of how the U.S. will deal with Iran's nuclear program? A special commentary by Dan Arkin  

Commentary: Will the Iranian nuclear weapon issue be treated like the South China Sea issue?

Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Litzenberger

It's nice that there is an important international development, far from here, in the Pacific Ocean, and we're not involved. But don't worry, it's indirectly connected to us too, and there will be consequences for us.  

Still a challenge: intelligence about intentions

Good intelligence can tell you just about everything. ELINT, COMINT, HUMINT – seeing, observing, listening, recording, and knowing a lot. But there is one field in which intelligence is very hard to learn: intentions. What is the real intention of the opposing leader? What is he planning in his mind? Intentions are a difficult matter in intelligence.  

For example, will the supreme leader of Iran give the green light to carry out a nuclear test? What is going on in his mind, and what are his intentions? Maybe he will decide that Iran will become a threshold state. The same applies to the other side of the world, in East Asia, after the trilateral AUKUS agreement was signed. What is Chinese President Xi thinking? Is he interested in invading Taiwan? Will he fight for a number of small uninhabited islands in the China Sea that China covets?   

Joe Biden has no idea what is going on in Xi's mind, and it is possible that the American president's concerns over China are justified. Therefore he gives China his utmost attention and presses the American generals to describe how frightening the threats by China are, and signs an agreement with Britain and Australia that could enable the use of nuclear-powered submarines as leverage against China.  

Between the South China Sea and Iran

As for the consequences of the AUKUS agreement in our region, it appears that this type of agreement, which is basically a military one, could be interpreted as proof that Biden is not one of the separatist American presidents.  

It's true that Biden withdrew the U.S. military from Afghanistan, but he also signed a military agreement with two countries far from his own and far from each other. The significance of the agreement is the demonstration of an American-British-Australian military presence in a large part of the world, in the Pacific Ocean, facing the coasts of China.  

And don't forget that on the other side of that ocean is the west coast of the U.S., with San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego with their giant U.S. Navy facilities. In other words, if the agreement is implemented, American submarines will be at sea, together with allied submarines, observing with periscopes mainland China and the islands that it covets at shorter ranges than in the past.    

It is possible to deduce from this that the administration in Washington will continue to protect the vital interests of its allies, and that its promises like "Iran will not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon" will be sincere, and the U.S. will truly "not allow" it, with everything that implies. But how exactly will the U.S. "not allow" it?   

Now is the time to try to convince the administration sending submarines to the Pacific Ocean that the threat of a UN member state manufacturing nuclear weapons against another member state is unacceptable in the 21st century. It is not remembered that China, which has nuclear weapons, threatens to destroy the United States of America, Britain or Australia.    

New Cold War?

Let's return to the AUKUS agreement. The assumption by commentators around the world is that its primary goal is deterrence. Washington, London and Canberra intended to warn of China's growing influence in the southern area of the Pacific Ocean and other parts of the world.  

The agreement is a direct answer to China's efforts in recent years to modernize its military and its nuclear capabilities, which are seen as a direct challenge to the capitals of the West. China is developing a stealth fighter as well as overt and covert cyber capabilities, and the West sees China as a serial cyberattacker. The Chinese Navy has grown to a degree that scares American generals.   

The responses of countries in the Pacific Ocean area to the AUKUS agreement were interesting. Japan is located close to China, and its intelligence services announced recently that there are reports that China intends to invade Taiwan. Also, China covets several islands that are Japanese territory. Therefore Tokyo welcomed the partnership "for the realization of a free and open Indo-Pacific". But Japan also maintains a strong army, according to what it is allowed.   

Singapore, which is tiny but rich and strategically important, has close military ties with Australia, and its military trains there. Singapore announced that it hopes that the agreement will "constructively contribute to peace and stability." The large Muslim country of Indonesia said it is "cautiously watching", expressed concern about "a regional arms race" and called for dialogue with Australia.    

How do you say "loss" in French?

So who benefits from the trilateral agreement? The signatories of the "Five Eyes" agreement between Australia, Britain, the U.S., New Zealand and Canada for the exchange of intelligence, an agreement that might assist AUKUS.  But there is a caveat. The government of New Zealand does not allow nuclear weapons or nuclear-powered submarines to enter its waters or its ports. 

One of the big beneficiaries of the agreement is Boris Johnson and Britain. Following Brexit, the prime minister succeeded in being part of an agreement that gives Britain the status of a global power, like it once was.  

The big loser is France. At the Elysee Palace in Paris, President Macron can be enraged in the company of his country's ambassadors to Canberra and Washington who were recalled. Cynics have already said that the establishment of AUKUS was an American tactic to prevent France from manufacturing submarines for Australia for a great amount of money. American, British, and possibly German shipyards will reap the benefits. 

And thus, on the communication networks of the future AUKUS submarines at sea, the admirals will speak among themselves in English with American, British and Australian accents, and not in French.  

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