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Monday, February 20, 2006


Iran's nuclear power

When I've written in the recent past about Iran, I haven't had the slightest hesitation to say that Iran has the right to develop nuclear power or nuclear weapons. But I admit I didn't fully understand why they were so keen on nuclear power. This article is extremely enlightening on that point. Here's a sentence which describes what I probably thought of as their main motive: "Iranians view the development of nuclear energy as a hallmark of modernization and national pride." But the truth is, there are more concrete reasons as well:
Iranians point out that nuclear energy makes profound economic sense for their nation. The nuclear energy program aims to use the nation's own uranium resources.

More important, nuclear energy development would allow Iran to husband its natural gas resources that are currently being exhausted for electricity generation, but that could much more profitably be exported to growing industrial markets such as China and India.
And, don't you know it, the self-interest of the United States plays a role too. Not now, of course, but historically:
Indeed, the United States supported Iran's switching over to nuclear energy under our ally Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in good part so that Iran's oil and natural gas would be preserved.

Iranians, annoyed that that history is being ignored, correctly note that "nuclear technology transfer" was encouraged by both American government and American industry in the 1970s. President Gerald Ford offered Iran a full nuclear fuel cycle in 1976, and American nuclear plant manufacturers touted their wares at exhibitions and trade fares in Tehran.
Although it isn't as much of a mystery to anyone who understands the concepts of "national sovereignty," the article also sheds light on why Iran would not be amenable to allowing nuclear enrichment programs to be based in another country (Russia):
One of the reasons for this failure was the flawed partnership between the shah's government and the West. European and American industry was happy to cooperate with Iran in industrialization schemes, but these programs never provided Iran with the capacity for basic manufacturing [Ed. note: this is of course, no accident, but the essence of imperialism]. Industrial operations were largely turnkey assembly facilities designed to supply goods for internal Iranian consumption, with no possibility for export.

For this reason, Tehran's leaders began working with the Soviet Union and Japan in the 1970s to develop the basic industries they felt Iran needed to be a successful state. They developed a steel mill with the Soviet Union in Isfahan at enormous public cost and a petroleum refinery with Mitsui.

That history helps explain why Tehran is resisting a plan, suggested by Britain, Germany and France, that would allow Iran to have nuclear plants if Russia conducts the process to provide the enriched uranium to run the reactors and then repossesses the spent fuel rods.

That would alleviate outside fears that Iran would misuse its energy program to create nuclear weapons, but it smacks of the neo-colonial "assembly industry" so despised by the revolutionary forces in 1978-79.
On a lighter note, I did love this closing remark, intended by the author to express his disapproval of attacking Iran:
Iranians have a keen sense of honor, gheirat, and when national honor and pride are attacked, particularly when they believe the attack is unjustified, an explosive, angry reaction is culturally required.
Yes, and I'm sure if another country bombed American nuclear facilities, or, say, flew planes into large buildings, our lack of "gheirat" would cause us to have a non-explosive, calm reaction. Uh-huh.

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