Why the world is skeptical

First remark- The scientific performance of a country has little to do with its capacity to enrich Uranium. Table 1 [adopted from David A. King, “Scientific Impact of Nations”, Nature 430, 311 (2004)] compares the scientific production of a certain number of countries.

The research shows that between 1997 and 2001, the scientists affiliated to the Iranian scientific institutions produced 0.13 percent of the articles and 0.06 percent of the citations of the world scientific literature. Recall that Iran hosts one percent of the world population. In other words, while one out of hundred inhabitants of Earth are Iranian, only one article out of seven hundred and one citation out of thousand six hundred belong to Iranians. These figures leave little room for self-satisfaction. For Iran to become an average scientific country, the number and the quality of its scientific publications need to improve in such a way that multiplies the number of citations by sixteen. Only then, the country's contribution to the international production of Human knowledge will become proportional to the size of its population.

Let us notice that Israel, with a population ten times lower, has almost twenty times more scientific citations than Iran. In other words, the scientific production per head is two hundred times larger in Israel than in Iran, and this in spite of the fact that their GDP per capita differ by a mere factor of three.

Second remark – Each year the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) publishes a report on the human development throughout the world. A Human Development Index (HDI) is defined for each country according to the life expectancy of its inhabitants, its education performance and its economic wealth. In this classification of nations, (see here) Iran is at the ninety-ninth position. Let us notice also that if the economic wealth were the unique criteria, Iran would be at the seventieth position. In other words, the very low level of the human development of the country is not only due to its relative economic poverty. The Political administration of the resources leads to losing 29 steps in the HDI classification.

It may be useful to stress that Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait all are placed more than fifty rows above Iran. On the other hand, Pakistan (with the dubious glory of having both an atomic bomb and an illiteracy rate of 51 percent), stands well below at position 135. Note also that one Iranian out of four cannot read the “glorious” news of Uranium enrichment taking place in in the papers.

Third remark – Last year, Iran devoted 0.64 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to Research and Development (R&D). This figure, which is well below the world average (1.9 percent), is an objective measure of the importance attributed to the scientific research by the current Iranian government. Industrialized countries often try to devote 3 percent of their GDP to R&D. Moreover, the current obsession with the nuclear research can drain resources from other scientific disciplines.

No policy aiming at using the oil income as an instrument for pulling the country out of its scientific underdevelopment is detectable.

Fourth remark – Among the twenty-something countries, which use the nuclear engineering to produce electricity, only nine have decided to build facilities for Uranium enrichment on their territories. These are China, France, Germany, Japan, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States (see here). There is no obvious rational argument linking the level of scientific or human development in these countries to this choice.

Seventeen other countries (Argentina, South Africa, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Mexico, Lithuania, Slovakia, Spain, Romania, Sweden and Switzerland) produce nuclear electricity without enriching Uranium on their territories. These countries, generally more developed than Iran, use uniquely the nuclear power for civil purposes and buy their enriched uranium abroad. This is precisely the solution proposed by Russia, Europe and the United States and rejected by the Iranian regime.

Is it surprising then that the claim of this regime to use the nuclear energy for peaceful ends meets a universal skepticism?

Kamran Behnia, physicist Senior reseacher at Centre National de Recherche Scientifique(CNRS) Paris, France.

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