Friday, July 15, 2011

Intractability of Iran’s nuclear issue: the root cause: INTERVIEW Part I

Iranian political journalist and media correspondent Kourosh Ziabari (his bio is reproduced below this post) recently conducted an interview with me on behalf of Veterans Today’s website. The full text of the interview has been published under the title of “Israel and the futility of attacking Iran” on Veterans Today’s website. For ease of reading, I am posting it here in eight parts and under separate titles.

Kourosh Ziabari: The past decade has been witness to unending and unremitting clash between Iran and the West over Tehran's nuclear program. The West has constantly accused Iran of trying to build nuclear bombs while Tehran has persistently denied the allegation. What do you think about the nature of Iran's nuclear program? Why has it become so controversial and contentious? We already know that there are four nations in the world, who are not signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but nobody in the international community pressures them to halt their nuclear program and nobody investigates their nuclear arsenals. Why Iran is being singled out?

Abolghasem Bayyenat: Iran's nuclear program is driven by two major factors. The most important factor is genuine domestic need for electric power generation. Iran's fossil fuel reserves have been fast depleting over the past few decades in light of the growing domestic consumption caused by population growth, ongoing industrialization and economic development in Iran. The prospect of full depletion of fossil fuel reserves motivated Iranian leaders to seek alternative sources of energy. Nuclear power presented itself as the most reliable alternative source of energy for Iran, given its sustainability and tested performance in developed countries.

The second important factor is that developing nuclear power and harnessing nuclear energy represents an advanced scientific realm and progress in that front serves as a source of national pride for Iran. A limited number of nations in the world have been able to master the full nuclear fuel cycle. Development of an indigenous nuclear fuel cycle capacity along with progress in other advanced scientific realms such as space program and stem cell research can thus positively influence Iran's national self-image and elevate its international prestige.

The reasons why Iran's nuclear program has become controversial are twofold. First, Iran's decision to materialize its rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to develop peaceful applications of nuclear technology and nuclear fuel cycle in particular; what can make this controversial in the eyes of Western powers is the dual use of nuclear technology. Possessing full nuclear fuel cycle technology enables states to produce the material needed for ultimate use in nuclear weapons. Building nuclear bombs of course requires much more than just possessing sufficient stock of highly-enriched uranium or plutonium, but mastering this technology enables such states to make the essential ingredients for a bomb and thus become closer to building nuclear warheads.

One may rightly argue that the safeguards mechanisms of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) makes it every thing but feasible for the member states of the NPT to proceed to producing weapons-grade material for nuclear bombs. The main rejoinder to this argument is that states arguably always have the option to withdraw from the NPT under certain circumstances and terminate IAEA inspections on their nuclear facilities, if they are willing to face the consequences of such an action. In a nutshell, possessing nuclear fuel cycle technology or seeking nuclear threshold status can pose risks for nuclear proliferation in the world, even though the NPT grants this right to its member states.

While a necessary condition, this factor however is not a sufficient cause for Iran's nuclear issue becoming controversial. After all there are a number of other nuclear threshold countries in the world, not to mention nuclear-armed states, whose nuclear programs have not drawn any international controversy. What makes Iran's nuclear program controversial is Iran's political identity as a state or who Iran is or what it stands for. The combination of seeking nuclear threshold status and Iran's political identity has turned Iran's nuclear program into a controversial issue. Speaking in the language of social sciences methodology, there is an interactive effect between these two variables in the sense that each of these two variables is significant only in combination with the other variable or its effect is intensified in interaction with the other. Iran's political ideology as practiced in its foreign policy, especially in regard to the Middle East region and the United States, largely represents Iran's political identity.
The reason why Iran is being singled out while there are other countries in the region and beyond which are not parties to the NPT and have weaponized their nuclear programs with impunity is the same as above. On the surface, it is all a legal issue in that those countries which are not signatories to the NPT are not bound by its rules, including the IAEA safeguards mechanisms, and have thus been able to nuclearize with impunity. However, if this were so, those countries which withdraw from the NPT and are thus no longer bound by its regulations should enjoy the same privileges as those outside the NPT, as notifications of withdrawal from the NPT automatically come into force after three months without any need for approval by other contracting parties. There are conflicting interpretations of paragraph 1 of Article X of the NPT though. Yet the reality is that this is not the case and states may face harsh punitive measures by hegemonic powers even if they are not subject to the NPT regulations, as the experience of the withdrawal of North Korea from the NPT demonstrates.

In sum, the reason why Iran is being singled out while some aggressive nuclear-armed states in the region enjoy impunity is primarily political rather than legal. Iran's political identity, as shaped by its official ideology and the history of its relationship with the United States and European powers, has put its foreign policy at odds with the interests of imperial powers in the region. The international controversy over Iran's nuclear issue can thus be understood in this context.
*Kourosh Ziabari is an Iranian freelance journalist and writer. He has interviewed several prominent international figures including the former Mexican President Vicente Fox, linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky, former U.S. National Security Council advisor Peter D. Feaver, Nobel Prize laureate in Physics Wolfgang Ketterle, Nobel Prize laureate in Chemistry Kurt Wüthrich, Nobel Prize laureate in biology Robin Warren, famous German political prisoner Ernst Zündel, Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff, American author Stephen Kinzer, syndicated journalist Eric Margolis, former assistant of the U.S. Department of the Treasury Paul Craig Roberts, American-Palestinian journalist Ramzy Baroud, former President of the American Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Sid Ganis. His articles and interviews have appeared on a variety of news websites and magazines including Press TV, Tehran Times, Global Research, Foreign Policy Journal, Turkish Weekly Journal and Eurasia Review.


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