Sunday, January 22, 2006

Iran's nuclear program: A matter of national pride or tragedy?

Kash Kheirkhah

Last week, at a news conference in Tehran, the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran does not need nuclear weapons; claiming again what he called “Iran's inalienable right” to nuclear technology and that in accordance with its religious principles, pursuit of nuclear weapons is prohibited. He also criticized the "double standards" of Western countries which already had nuclear weapons, calling them "arrogant rulers".

The question everyone seems to be asking now is whether Iran has a right to seek peaceful nuclear technology? As an Iranian, I would say sure. It is our absolute right to have "peaceful nuclear technology". On that much, I would agree with those who defend my country's nuclear program.

But Is Iran’s nuclear program under the current regime a matter of national pride? Well, before I answer that question, I'd like to pause for a moment and ask the Iranian president a few questions of my own. I trust Mr Ahmadinejad's response to these questions will also help ease everyone's mind as to why Iran is so intent on acquiring nuclear technology.

Mr Ahmadinejad, if your claim that Iran is pursuing peaceful nuclear technology is true, then:

Why according to the International Atomic Energy Agency's report on Iran's nuclear activities published in November, 2003, have you secretly developed technologies for producing weapon-usable highly enriched uranium and plutonium? Why by this policy of concealment, did you violate IAEA's Nonproliferation Treaty obligations and falsified declarations to the agency regarding safeguards required under the treaty?

Why did Iran acquire nuclear weapons information from a covert supply network headed by Pakistani Abdul Qadeer Khan, the scientist credited with making Pakistan a nuclear weapons state?

Mr Ahmadinejad, while natural gas is more cost effective than nuclear energy and Iran sits on the second largest natural gas reserves in the world, why do you insist on enriching Uranium for energy production?

Even if enriching Uranium is Iran's “inalienable” right, why did you reject light water reactors offered by the European Troika when you can easily use low grade uranium and light water reactors to produce energy? Doesn't that mean that there's particular need--far beyond civilian purposes-- for highly enriched uranium in reactors?

Mr Ahmadinejad, any country seeking a peaceful nuclear power program would have eagerly accepted the generous incentive package, offered by three European powers and backed by the US, providing Iran with nuclear fuel and technology to build its civilian nuclear reactors, trade agreements and security guarantees. What was wrong with this offer? Why did you reject that?

You and other defenders of Iran's nuclear ambition accuse the west of double standards, asking how is that other countries can possess nuclear technology and Iran can not? Well, which one of these nations has long-range ballistic missiles with "wipe-off-the-map" slogans inscribed on them? How would you feel if Iran were within the striking distance of a nation whose leaders openly boasted of wiping Iran off the map? Would you take them at their words when they said their nuclear program was peaceful?

Mr Ahmadinejad, I'm a patriotic Iranian, but you tell me which one will bolster my sense of patriotism: A costly nuclear power program that is likely to impose a wide range of back-breaking sanctions on an already suffering nation or trade agreements that would lift the sanctions and provide Iran—among other things-- with spare parts for its ailing civilian airline that is taking more lives each passing year?

What do we gain by our nuclear program even if it is peaceful? Is it going to create jobs in a country whose unemployment rate is becoming a national threat? Is it going to bring bread to the homes of our underprivileged people? Is it going to make us a safer nation or put us more at risk?

I'm sorry Mr Ahmadinejad, but as long as I don't have convincing answers to the above-mentioned questions, I won't allow you to use your suspicious nuclear program to appeal to my sense of national pride.

Yes, we Iranians have a right to 'peaceful nuclear technology', but not under you and Islamic Republic of Iran.

Also read:

Fareed Zakaria: Let us not believe one more time that people in a foreign country will welcome American bombs with sweets and flowers.

Washington Post - We Should Strike Iran, but Not With Bombs.

NY Times - Why Not a Strike on Iran?