It has been suggested by some distinguished Iranian figures such as the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Shirin Ebadi and a few media pundits such as Abbas Milani, that the government of Iran should hold a national referendum on the country’s nuclear program. President Bush can learn a lesson or two in democracy. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, next on his ‘hit’ list, an attorney calls for a referendum to determine the energy needs of the people. And to think that the United States of America is spending billions of dollars developing a new generation of Reliable Replacement Warheads, or as Joseph Cirincione calls them, Ridiculously Redundant Warheads (RRW) to take America to another war to dictate democracy!
Whether it is the ‘oldest democracy’, the United States, or the ‘biggest democracy’, India, not a single country comes to mind which calls for a national referendum in matters of national interest and energy policy, especially the diversity and security of energy supplies. As for Iran’s nuclear program, according to experts, 75-80% of the Iranians rallied behind the Islamic Republic of Iran in support of its nuclear program, including the full fuel cycle . Sanctions and the threat of war have not changed the stance of the proud Iranians who see giving up their right as capitulation. In a well-researched article entitled Iran’s Quiet Revolution , Deborah Campell wrote her report after a visit to Iran. She maintains that as the standoff with the Unites States heats up, Iranians are united on the nuclear policy.
It is understandable why Iran would want to continue its civilian nuclear program. It goes beyond the Zoroastrian pride and Shia martyrdom; it is a matter of survival. Not only is Iran’s finite fossil fuel fast dwindling, its excess use causing an unhealthy environment in Iran, Tehran in particular, but the people are being deprived of all the essential secondary benefits of nuclear program.
While it is possible to reduce the use of fossil fuels, one cannot live without water, the most vital resource of all. Nuclear-armed India, while not being signatory to the Non Proliferation Treaty, without consulting its ‘civilian’ population, that is, without referendum, has made remarkable strides in the field of science for the advancement of its people. On February 7, 2007, The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in India, which has successfully developed and demonstrated desalination technologies, announced it is constructing the critical facility to test various technological parameters for the thorium-powered AHWR (Advanced Heavy Water [nuclear] Reactor). The primary use of the thorium-powered AHWR is to work towards the desalination and purification of water.
The AHWR has been selected for a case study at the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) for acceptance as per international standards for next generation reactors. Yet, unlike India, Iran is being asked to submit to a referendum on its nuclear program. Has the government of Iran surpassed India and the U.S. in democratic representation to the point where matters of such importance and gravity are decided upon by referendum, if so, it begs the question why it would be subjected to sanctions when it is pursuing its national interest within the framework of international law?
Iranians and non-Iranians must fully realize that Iran’s nuclear program is but a pretext for the re-colonization of Iran. The government of Iran made several offers to reassure the international community of its peaceful purposes with regards to the civilian nuclear program; yet, the Bush administration, uninterested in peace, has chosen to pursue the path of sanctions. Whatever shortcomings the current regime may have in Iran, one cannot blame the warmongering and the imperial ambitions of the White House on them. If the nuclear program were renounced, undoubtedly another point of contention would be found to subjugate and/or attack Iran until such time that Washington decides who should hold power in Tehran.
Dignified personalities such as Ms. Ebadi would best serve their country by applying their energy, resources and endless courage by defending the brave men and women who fight to institute change within Iran. Challenging the status quo and defending human rights in Iran is as important as keeping Iran safe from foreign influence and foreign incursion. As a nation of 70 million, working together, we can accomplish both.
 Takyeh, Ray. Interview with Steve Inskeep. National Public Radio Morning. Morning Edition. 25 Nov. 2004
 Deborah Cambell. The Walrus. September 2006 pp54-65
Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich has lived and studied in Iran, the UK, France, and the US. She obtained her Bachelors Degree in International Relations from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. She is currently pursuing her education in Middle East studies and Public Diplomacy. Soraya has done extensive research on US foreign policy towards Iran and Iran’s nuclear program. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org