Follows is an article that I wrote as a 750-word response to this New York Times article for a take-home final exam. I am posting the article as is, and may consider translating it into Turkish. Note that some points may need more clarification as I had to stick to the word limit.
The domestic diversion theory appears problematic, as states like Turkey and Iran with far lesser military budgets than those of the mentioned great powers, can also engage in diversionary behavior intended to escalate or interfere in regional or international crises rather than target minorities within. Turkey’s recent operations in Syria and North Iraq and cooperation with the Libyan government, and Erdoğan’s strong emphasis on leaving the domestic issues behind and becoming an influential power, are clear evidence for Turkey’s active engagement in external military affairs. Russia’s Putin may also be evaluated in that context, with his aggressive policies aimed at expanding his sphere of influence through the Russian intervention in Syria, the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s engagement in the military conflict in Libya. While Raisi’s future policies are not totally foreseeable, Iran has also got involved in warfare in Syria and elsewhere, which is one of the main reasons for the recent protests due to economic instability that the military spending has brought about. These states primarily intend to become or remain regional powers rather than compete with the global superpowers, but they still do intervene in external issues, meaning not only the global powers take advantage of international crises. Iran’s nuclear policies should also be examined from this perspective. It would be highly unreasonable that a state resort to nuclear weapons against a domestic minority. Also, all three states have been under the rule of “oppressive” leaders harshly criticized by the opposing parties and widely accused of corruption and instability. They nevertheless seek and often cooperate to strengthen their position by carrying out operations outside their borders rather than avoid attacking them and providing them with an excuse to retaliate (Williams, 2019).
Kant’s overoptimistic and Eurocentric approach to IR may constitute a basis for the arguments for the attempts by the UN and other international actors to “contain” Iran. Both Iran’s vioilations, including the construction of hidden facilities, and Trump’s interest-oriented policies that did not align with Kant’s principle of duty at all, however, clearly prove that it is better to rely on facts rather than utopias. Facilitating cooperation among parties appears promising; but little can be done if even Trump’s commitment cannot be ensured. The US, as a “democratic” country, aids the international organizations the most; but Trump, as an elected president, could threaten the system with the US’ withdrawal from several international treaties, making it less important to debate whether “smart sanctions” on Iran are likely to work. Both sanctions and foreign aid are more of instruments to control target states and acquire allies than measures aimed at improving the conditions (Brownlee, 2010; Vreeland, 2006). The liberal understanding promoting concepts like collective will and social contract, therefore becomes mostly useless. Treating democracy as a measurable variable is already an essential problem. Moreover, the fact that nuclear missiles can be fired from long distances, invalidates Kant’s assumption that distance and the possibility of conflict is negatively correlated.
It should be asked why neither Biden nor Obama but Trump, a pro-Israeli republican, opposed/withdrew from the agreement, despite Israel’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear capabilities, as also stated in the NYT article. The US, being highly influenced by Israel, and most likely pro-Israeli business leaders, backed Israel against Iran and the Hezbollah in multiple occasions. Nuclear weapons possessed by Middle Eastern regimes are such a threat to the US due to Israel’s pressure. The Israeli influence on the media and press, including the NYT, is also notable. However, if we take into account that the public is more willing to sign international treaties and has less influence on foreign policy than business leaders, and that the corporations against the deal donated significantly more than those supporting it, we may conclude that Trump was particularly influenced by those corporations with ties to Israel that pushed him for the withdrawal. The above facts may point out two separate pro-Israeli groups working to shape the US’s policies according to their own agendas, one favoring the deal and the other opposing it.
As for Iran, foreign policy is largely dominated by the IRGC, which favors Raisi, based on safeguarding the Revolution, state interests, anti-Americanism and distrust in international organizations, anti-Zionism, and the Sunni-Shiite and Iran-Saudi Arabia conflict.
In conclusion, the US’ policies heavily depend on the Israel lobby and are unreliable. Biden seems willing to negotiate with Iran, but we may never know what the future president will do. Likewise, Raisi may agree, but Iran’s stance may change according to the US’ attitude.
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