Although it is a widely unpopular stance to take, I would argue Iran has a right to enrich uranium and the international community should exert the same amount of pressure it does on Tehran to other countries advancing their nuclear arsenals (e.g. India) and countries in clear breach of the Nonproliferation Treaty (e.g. the United States).
Since ejecting the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from its uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, Iran has been vilified in the media and scolded by politicians. In particular, people in Washington have been adamant in seeing Iran is not successful in reaching nuclear capabilities by threatening that “all options are on the table.”
Ironically, during the Cold War, it was Washington’s policy to supply a Shah-dictated Iran with nuclear technology. Moreover, days after threatening economic and military action on Iran, President Bush paid a visit to India where he agreed to provide technology, equipment and nuclear fuel to India’s civilian nuclear industry.
By helping fund India’s civilian nuclear reactors, Washington is enabling India to divert its fuel for military purposes. Essentially, the United States is condoning a system of nuclear apartheid where selected states are allowed to have nuclear technology, while others are not afforded the same privilege.
Furthermore, in aiding India the United States is bypassing a clause set by the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) that prohibits technology exchanges which advance nuclear militarization. The United States’ deal could also provoke China. One need only look at the long history of India’s hostile relationship with China to understand why the Chinese might take the offensive in countering a robust Indian nuclear program.
Considering Washington’s deal with India, it is hypocritical for this country to condemn Iran for advancing its nuclear technology while, at the same time, endorsing acts of nuclear proliferation elsewhere. Moreover, it is conveniently forgotten that, as a signatory of the NPT, Iran is allowed to enrich uranium for energy purposes.
From my discussion with an Iranian native and Front Range Community College professor Mohammad Kalantari, I learned Iran’s economy under the Shah became a lopsided economy, exclusively dependent on petroleum. Consequently, other sectors of the economy were not fully developed. An economy exclusively dependent on non-renewable resources, such as fossil fuels, is doomed to suffer. Therefore, nuclear energy is an attractive alternative for the Iranian economy.
However, as was the case with Israel, India and Pakistan, countries have been known to promise nuclear energy before developing nuclear weapons. Although I do not support nuclear proliferation, I can sympathize with any desire Iran might have for developing nuclear weapons.
Consider Iran’s position: unrestrained by the international community’s disapproval, the world’s sole hegemon illegitimately invaded Iran’s neighbor. Second, this same hegemon has been sincere in its contempt for Iran, often referring to the country as a member of the axis of evil. In addition, North Korea’s nuclear weapons have acted as a deterrent to invasion. Lastly, Israel, a state with nearly 200 nuclear warheads and an advanced delivery system, has been known to launch sporadic military assaults on its neighbors.
While Kalantari is against nuclear proliferation, he contends the likely consequences of sanctions or a military attack on Iran would be devastating.
“Sanctions would hurt ordinary people and create animosity towards the United States,” Kalantari warns.
Reflecting on the sanctions placed on Iraq after the Gulf War, Kalantari claims “2.5 million people died in Iraq and most were children.”
Iran’s rejection of nuclear apartheid is indicative that we need to come up with other solutions. Clearly, if U.S. foreign policy did not give states incentives for developing nuclear weapons and, if a multilateral movement of nonproliferation took flight, Iran would not be a problem today.
Luci Storelli – Castro is a junior double majoring in political science and philosophy. Her columns run every Wednesday in the Collegian.