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Iran and Nuclear Energy: Adhesion to the Quick Inspections Protocol is not enough


By Bahman Aghai Diba, PhD Int. Law 



The opponents of Iran's nuclear programs keep emphasizing on the point that Iran as a major oil producing and exporting country, does not need such a program for its energy needs, and therefore this program is probably targeted at the military uses of the nuclear power.


Does Iran Need the Nuclear Energy?


Yes.  Iran as an oil producing and exporting country needs nuclear energy because:


  1. The nuclear energy is one of the cheapest forms of energy available to all countries.  Many developed country are providing a major portion of their electricity needs through the nuclear energy.

  2. Oil is a non-renewable source, but atomic energy is not.

  3. The oil produced in Iran can be and should be used in many other ways (like petrochemicals) rather than fuel for energy.

  4. If the oil production and population growth in Iran goes on in the present levels, due to great domestic consumption, in the near future, there will be nothing for exports.  As a country depending solely on oil exports, this will mean a serious catastrophe for Iran.


For the same reasons, Iran decided to have 23 nuclear power stations during the Shah's time.  Many Western companied competed to get the contract and finally "Siemens" of Germany won the bid for the first stage.  Bushehr Nuclear Power Station was started, and by the time of the so-called Islamic revolution, it was almost ready.  The lack of enough attention and later, attacks of the Iraqi air force during the war turned the Bushehr Nuclear Power Station into wreck.  Later Iran asked Japanese to continue the construction of the concerned project.  They made some progress, and later intentionally violated the contract paying the compensation for doing so.  In fact, they preferred to pay the compensation instead of finishing the job because the political aspects of the Iranian nuclear program had started to make problems for the Japanese.  Finally the Russians continued the issue.


Why the Russians insist to help Iran?

The Russian Federation has much to gain from the assistance in nuclear field to Iran.  Some of the advantages for the Russians are:

1.     Expanding their influence in Iran.  The Russians have much to gain from such influence.  One of the simple ones is the next to nothing role of Iran in the Chechen issue.  Although the Islamic Republic of Iran has been spending millions of dollars and giving all kinds of support (physical and mental) to the Palestinians, they are not ready to mention the name of Chechens as Muslims.  Anther one is exerting pressure on Iran for accepting the Russian formula for the delimitation of meantime boundaries in the Caspian Sea.

2.     Selling outdated technology to other countries, using Iran as example and testing ground for the export of nuclear stations.  The Russians are negotiating to build 6 to 8 other nuclear stations in Iran.

3.     Getting much needed hard currency.  The nuclear industry of the Russian Federation was almost bankrupt prior to the transaction with Iran.  Many affiliated industries were dying.  Hamshahri, a Persian daily, reports on its Feb. 25, 2003 issue: "Iran is sure that construction of a power plant that prevented bankruptcy of about 3000 Russian companies and is the most important nuclear project carried out by Moscow will not be mothballed, a power plant that has increased average income of employees of the Russian nuclear companies by fourfold and has once again enabled Russia to compete in the field of nuclear energy."

4.     Getting advantages from the west for arranging the nuclear relations.  For the last couple of years, the degree of Russian cooperation with the Western countries has been reflected in its readiness to comply with their views regarding the nuclear programs of Iran. In other words, this issue has been used as a sign that the Russian Federation is not fully satisfied with the West for answering its gestures of friendship, request of help or application for loan.


What is the Problem for the West?


It is clear that the recent nuclear problem of Iran is not at all connected to economic issues like getting the electricity for the people of Iran.  This is true for the opponents of the Iranian nuclear program, and for the religious extremists governing Iran.  The Mullahs of Iran want to get a security for their regime in Iran, and the Western countries headed by the USA do not want them to have such immunity.  Therefore, all discussions about Iranian needs and so on are only excuses for the following points:


1.                  The distance between peaceful uses of the nuclear and its military uses is very small.  It is very difficult to distinguish between these two applications until it is too late to modify them.  Therefore, the opponents of Iranian nuclear program are not ready to make the risk of letting Iran follow the two-sided procedures.


2.                  The Mullahs of Iran are not interested so much in the electricity side of the issue; otherwise they would have solved the case long ago.  The only important point in the nuclear energy for the ruling regime in Iran is the military side of it.  Contrary to the claims of some Iranian authorities, getting the nuclear power and using it against the "enemies" is completely compatible with tenets of Islam, and especially the proven interpretations of the Iranian government from the Islam (The proven interpretation of the ruling regime is that every measure, even telling lies and deceiving friends and enemies is all right if it is done for the survival of the so called Islamic regime).  In fact, the motto written on the flag of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps is a verse of Koran and a direct command apparently from God addressed to the Muslims to prepare as much weapons as they can for combating the enemies.  Also, according to the practice of Islam, even if the Muslims are in the way of getting to the enemy and elimination of them, the Muslims should be sacrificed (they will go to heaven in the other world and considered as martyrs).


During the Iran-Iraq war, there was no doubt the so-called leaders of both countries would not hesitate even one second for using the nuclear bomb for getting superiority over the other one.  This is the nature of all systems that claim to have the monopoly of truth.  In fact, both Iran and Iraq did everything possible to get the nuclear bomb during the war.  Iran's efforts were curtailed by the sanctions and mismanagement of the Iranian authorities, and Iraq was stopped by Israel (people of Iran must be grateful to Israel for this).


Also it must be noted that the national security and national interests of Iran, as a country, is not the same as the security concerns and interests of the extremist religious zealots who have the power in Iran.  The so-called reformists of Iran who have wasted the time and energy of Iranians in the past several years, have proved to be less than a puppet in the hands of real powerful figures in Iran and we can forget them for good.  At present, it seems that access to the nuclear weapons will not bring any security for Iran, and on the contrary because of the exiting policies of the ruling regime, Iran is under several kinks of threats and nuclear weapons will ease the way for the actualization of those threats.  Michael Eisenstadt, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for near east policy in his article about the "Iranian Nuclear Weapons" (VOA news, 6/29/2003) write: "...the United States would find it difficult to limit an air operation against Iran to a small set of targets, as done in the Desert Fox counter-proliferation strike against Iraq, As a result, a 1998 preemptive strike against Iran could become a substantial operation."


3-                 The West does not trust the Iranian regime.  The Western countries are worried that Iran may produce the necessary installation for nuclear bomb under the regulations of NPT (Non-Proliferation treaty that Iran is a member of it) and later leave the treaty by a notice.  The USA has declared that under no circumstances it is willing to accept an atomic Iran and it keeps all options for this policy open, including military action.




What are the aims of the protocol?

Ms. Elaine L. Morton [she is an international political consultant who has spent 20 years in the US Department of State) in a policy paper for "The Atlantic Council of the USA", entitled "Thinking Beyond Stalemate in US-Iranian Relations", dated May 2001, which she kindly sent a copy of it for me, has mentioned:

"Regardless of the protocols signed, the NPT allows certain peaceful applications of the nuclear fuel cycle that particularly lend themselves to the eventual production of fissile material that could be used in nuclear weapons.  These permitted but troublesome capabilities are facilities that permit:

        Uranium enrichment;

        Reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel;

        Heavy-water production of nuclear energy; and

        Independent fabrication of nuclear fuel.


Thus, under current circumstances, if Iran (or any other non-nuclear state adherent to the NPT) wants to purchase a reprocessing plant or engage in any of the above activities, it merely needs to notify the IAEA of the location of the nuclear material involved and the IAEA will have no cause to fault either the recipient or the supplier country." 


She also writes:


"Over the longer term, it may become possible to develop with Iran an adequate and effective new safeguards regime.  If this were possible, the United States could then change its current policy of attempting to deny Iran access to light-water nuclear power reactors for generating electricity.  Under such a regime, all potential suppliers of such technology would first negotiate agreements with Iran whereby Iran would agree to do the following:

        Sign and ratify the Model Safeguards Protocol of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA);

        Commit itself to forego NPT -allowed civilian nuclear activities that raise weapons proliferation concerns; and

        Agree to an IAEA inspection regime that would monitor and verify whether the joint commitments between Iran and the potential supplier are being met.

...The protocol contains language that enables the IAEA to conduct inspections in the subject country in order to investigate the accuracy of suspicions that have been brought to the attention of the IAEA by another IAEA member state.  This means that, for example, if U.S. intelligence uncovers troublesome activity in Iran, it can ask the IAEA to investigate to ascertain whether the suspicions are well founded. Under the terms of both the basic IAEA agreement and the new protocol, if the IAEA discovers that an NPT adherent is engaged in nuclear weapons activity, it is obligated to bring this fact to the attention of the UN Security Council.  Although the NPT does not have a sanctions provision, the Security Council has the ability to impose sanctions under such circumstances."



Iran is a member of the NPT and it has been negotiating with IAEA about signing the additional protocol to the NPT, which paves the way for immediate inspections by the IAEA experts.  Iran is insisting that:

                     I.      The quick inspections follow a pattern.

                   II.      The houses of leaders and holy places must be excluded from the inspections (because of the Iraqi experience).

                  III.      The IAEA commits itself to transfer the modern nuclear technology to Iran.

I think not only the IAEA will not accept the conditions of Iran, but also singing the protocol will not solve the Iranian nuclear dilemma.  Until such time that the international community (headed by the West, especially the USA) is feeling threatened by the Iranian regime, the problem will not go away.  Adhesion to the protocol of quick and unscheduled inspections is only the start, not the end of Iranian nuclear dilemma.  The "win-win-win" situation for the Islamic regime, people of Iran and the West is that:

1-     Iran accepts the protocol unequivocally.  Any kind of exception will result in focusing of the inspectors on the same sites instead of setting them aside.

2-     Stop all kinds of suspicious actions in the nuclear programs.

3-     Limit the nuclear programs to the level of present reactors for the moment.

4-     Stop all kind of transactions with international legal and illegal intermediaries of radioactive materials.  These sources are highly dangerous and they work in substandard conditions.

5-     Make it clear for all experts that working in Iran (including 1000 Russians) that the program is exclusively non-military. (There have been several reports by some of these experts in the mass media that they have claimed to be under pressure by Iran for working in the military side of the nuclear energy).

6-     Stop statements by responsible and irresponsible figures about the extent and future of the nuclear program of Iran and baseless rhetoric about the military power of Iran to stop the foreign invaders who may want to destroy Iranian nuclear installations.

7-     The West should accept Iranian overtures for limiting and making its nuclear program transparent in order to avoid a clash with Iran at present juncture that they are not able to limit their actions to a surgical operation.  Also this way, they give an opportunity for the people of Iran to change the situation.


... Payvand News - 9/10/03 ... --

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