Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Nuclear Issue With Iran

The large Western Powers (the US, Israel and EU specifically) have been debating back and forth methods to gauge and ultimately mitigate Iran's nuclear ambitions. There have been some rumors in the US that the Bush Administration is laying the groundwork for another "pre-emptive" strike and/or invasion, while the EU has been leaning more towards a diplomatic compromise based on political and economic stimuli. There is not only doubt of Iran's nuclear capabilities, but also ultimately of its intentions. Add a healthy amount of US and Iranian jingoism and this becomes a clear recipe for confrontational disaster.

If one is to take the Iranian argument on face value, Iran simply wishes to exercise its right, according Article IV of the the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT), "to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes." After all, freeing up the country's petroleum dependency will dramatically increase energy sector revenues. Iran has stated its claim to have 7,000 MW of nuclear power online by 2020, 10% of its total production. That kind of power cannot be achieved by petroleum alone and the EU knows it. Despite the EU's attempts to offer other nuclear technologies and enforce peaceful nuclear activities alone, Iran still insists on enriching uranium.

The US, of course, is not convinced that Iran is even interested in the peaceful application of nuclear energy. The nuclear watchdog group IAEA is slated to release its report, refuting the origin of bomb-grade unranium traces in Iran and claiming they came from contaminated centrifuges imported from Pakistan. Today, Sean McCormack made the claim that despite this new information, Iran still poses a serious nuclear threat:
[That was] one part of this overall set of questions that not just the United States has, but the rest of the world has about Iran's nuclear program.
McCormack went on to say the US has other "unresolved concerns outside of the issue of the contaminated centrifuges," including Iran's dealings with "clandestine nuclear procurement networks." The Bush Administration's lack of credibility aside, there is no clear indication whether Iran plans to develop nuclear weapons or is simply leaving the option open.

What is fairly obvious is the degree to which Iran is willing to protect its nuclear program. Kaveh Afrasiabi's opinion piece in the Asia Times attempts to explain this unhealthy obsession:
Certainly, the Iranian hardliners are aptly playing the nationalist card with the nuclear issue, with the new man in charge of nuclear negotiations with the EU-3, Ali Larijani, comparing it to Iran's struggle to nationalize its oil industry during the 1950s. This is, indeed, a tid-bit removed from Larijani's earlier discourse on theory of the Islamic revolution of 1979, aiming to make Iran into the "motherland" (umm-al ghara) of the abode of Islam, yet there is ample evidence of a "return to authenticity" zeal and crusade on the part of the new politicians in charge, playing up the themes of recognition and exaltation of the original ethos of the Islamic revolution.

The new "ethics of authenticity" in Iran is indisputably a modern phenomenon, directed to the subjectivity of the Iranian Muslim population, yearning for the acceptance of their nuclear rights by the world community. And if there has been hardening of the Iranian position on this issue recently, it is precisely because more and more, or to put it differently, deeper and deeper, the nuclear matter has been bound up with national identity. This is in light of its prestige-enhancing effect in empowering ordinary citizens with a new sense of pride - and the fact that Iran is only one of 10 countries in the world in possession of nuclear fuel technology.

"The world has to accept that Iran has joined the nuclear club," said Iran's Foreign Minister Kemal Kharrazi in New York last May, and other high officials of the Iranian government have similarly prided Iran for having turned into a "nuclear fuel technology holder". Indeed, a matter of pride not just for Iran but also for the whole Muslim World and the Third World, notwithstanding the growing North-South technology gap. It is where the ideology of progress meets nuclear populism.
A sobering thought, indeed! Another "us vs. them" dichotomy that may reduce the world's nations to a smaller subset of diplomatic tools. Does anyone feel safer in a nationalism-driven world?


Post a Comment

<< Home