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Why not us?
The question an increasing number of ordinary people in Tehran are asking about the West's opposition to Iran's nuclear program


Meir Javedanfar
September 23, 2005

As far as the Iranian government is concerned, the daggers are out. Iran in its own way tried to reason with the West, as much as it could. Its new President Mahmud Ahmadinejad travelled all the way to the US and declared Iran's peaceful nuclear intentions in front of the whole world. Ahmadinejad even agreed to be interviewed by an unveiled reporter (CNN presenter Christian Amanpour who is also Iranian) so that the other half of the world who do not watch the UN hear Iran's reasoning which to him is simple.

Iran is a sovereign country. Iran is an independent country and just like all other sovereign independent countries it has energy concerns and under Article 4 of Nuclear Proliferation Treaty it is entitled to use nuclear energy for civilian needs. Against popular perception Iran does not have infinite amounts of oil and gas. Therefore it needs to diversify its energy sources. Nuclear energy is the cleanest and the most efficient method of producing up to 20% of Iran's energy by 10 years time.

To the Iranian government Iran is being unfairly chastised because it has a political system with which the West does not agree. Furthermore the refusal to allow Iran to develop its nuclear technology is another classic case of Western discrimination and double standards against Iran.

What should be a concern to those who are trying to stop Iran's nuclear program is that this view is being subscribed to by the Iranian public at an increasing rate. Such discussions and ideas are no longer confined to the TV studios of the Islamic Republic Broadcasting Authority or the hallways of the Majlis (Iran's parliament).

The question which an increasing number of ordinary people in Tehran ask is this: if nuclear technology is bad, why is it the Ukrainians, Taiwanese, American, and the Czech (to name a few) have nuclear power stations, yet Iran is disallowed. At worst, if the world is so scared of Iran using its nuclear technology for military purposes, then why is it that an undemocratic nuclear Islamic Republic such as Pakistan is not chastised.

To add salt to injury, the leader of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (to use its official name) is warmly received in the White House whilst Iranian delegates are treated like unwanted guests in New York.

If it is terrorism the world is scared of, Pakistan and its intelligence organisation the ISI are responsible more than any other country in the world for supporting the Taliban and indirectly the Al Qaeda. Many know that Pakistan's intelligence Agency is the ruler of the Afghan -- Pakistani border where Al Qaeda is hiding.

Yet the despite the fact that Pakistan is undemocratic, nuclear, and responsible for supporting terrorism, the world has decided to catch selective amnesia and is victimising and punishing Iran instead.

The repeated referral of ordinary Iranians to Pakistan is very important and interesting, as to a large sector of the Iranian public, the biggest nuclear threat against their country is from Islamabad.

This was proved to them on May 28th 1998 when Pakistan despite repeated pleas from Tehran decided to snub its neighbour by testing its nuclear weapons in the Baluchistan province which is on the borders Iran. The seismic tremors caused by the tests in the Sistan and Baluchistan province of Iran not only caused physical damage, they also dented the sense of security and national pride which many Iranians have about their country.

“Here we were, the laughing stock of the Middle East, not even the economically poor Pakistanis took Iran seriously. So who can blame the rich Arabs for wanting to take Iran on again in the future, just like Saddam did in 1980. This was the moment in Iran when people started to think of atomic weaponry as a necessity, and not just as a military luxury,” said an Iranian political science bachelor from Tehran who wishes to keep his identity hidden.

It is probably the most widely held belief in Iran that the West even during the reign of the Shah, tried every trick in the book to stop Iran from developing, especially in the fields of science and technology. To the Iranian public the West's motivations are simple. As long as Iran is technologically backwards it will be dependent on Western products.

To an increasing number of Iranians, despite the fact that they do not agree with a large number of policies by the Khamenei government, current Western policy to withhold Iran's nuclear programme is another anti-Iranian plot.

This is an important point which must be observed by Western analysts and reporters. The way the case for stopping a nuclear Iran has been presented by the West so far has succeeded in assisting government efforts in pushing the nuclear issue into the national identity arena. To a large number of Iranians the nuclear question is no longer a question of who supports the government. It is fast becoming a nationalistic thermometer.

Should the Iranian government acquire nuclear technology for military purposes, this would be massive danger to Iran's neighbours.

The solution in this case is solid facts to support the West's accusation. Statements such as “lack of trust” as the West's base accusation against Iran feed the historical belief that the West is out to victimise all of Iran.

Talk of sanctions are also assisting the government's efforts to increase local support for the nuclear program.

UN sanctions as previously in Iraq do not solely target the government who is the main responsible body for planning and organising the nuclear program. Economic sanctions are most likely to target the whole of Iran. No man, woman or child would be spared.

In my communications with mostly young students in Tehran through the internet I found an increasing number of them believe that if UN sanctions against Iraq are anything to go by, many Iranians will see economic sanctions against Iran as a preliminary step to weaken their country with the final goal being one of foreign invasion, as happened in Iraq. Therefore wishing to avoid similar scenes of daily bloodbaths in Iraq from happening in their own country, increasing numbers of Iranians will see the nuclear option as an insurance policy against such an eventuality.

Furthermore as the experience during the Western economic boycott of Iran during Mossadegh era in the 1950s shows, sanctions and boycotts if resisted by nationalistic claims in Iran are unlikely to succeed.

What is needed in this case is precision guided accusations delivered against solid evidence. Double standards in the treatment of other countries one way and Iran in another are anything but productive.

In the fight to stop the Iranian government from developing the nuclear bomb, the West needs the Iranian people on its side. Currently through its statements and threats it is not doing a good job of attracting such support, in fact the opposite.

Meir Javedanfar is a Middle East Analyst and the Director or the Middle East Economic and Political Analysis Company -- which is based in Israel. He has been quoted and interviewed by the BBC, Radio Holland International, Haaretz Newspaper, Boston Globe, TV Catalunya, Radio Espectador, Radio KNX1070 and other newspapers and Radio stations. To contact Meir send an email to

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