2005 May 29 Sunday
Nuclear Power Broadly Popular In Iran

Neil MacFarquhar of the New York Times reports from a visit to Iran that the Iranian nuclear development program is very popular with Iranians.

Ehsan Motaghi, a 26-year-old seminary student in Isfahan, cited a parable from Imam Ali, the Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law and the inspiration for the Shiite branch of Islam, which most Iranians follow. "They can offer me everything from the earth and heaven, but in exchange if they want me to so much as take the food from an ant's mouth that is his right to eat, I won't do it," he said. "Achieving the peaceful use of technology is really a matter of pride and we will not stop this for anything."

Such passions were echoed in two weeks of conversations with Iranians across all walks of life. Virtually all supported Iran's defying the West and moving ahead with its uranium enrichment program, which carries the threat of further United Nations sanctions.

Note that the Iranians could use nuclear power for electric generators without developing the ability to handle the full nuclear fuel cycle. The development of uranium enrichment technology strikes me as motivated primarily by the desire to build nuclear weapons. Also, for the Iranians natural gas is probably a cheaper source of power for electric generation. Given the development costs the government would be unlikely to pursue nuclear power solely for civilian purposes.

A nuclear power program could be justified as a bargaining chip to use to get international sanctions lifted. But at this point the popularity of the nuclear program would make a complete abandonment of nuclear power difficult to justify to the Iranian people. On one hand part of the public fears the mullahs would use nuclear bombs on missiles to keep themselves in power. On the other hand many of those same Persians feel pride at the notion of the nation possessing nuclear weapons.

Some Iranians want to use nuclear power for peaceful purposes as a matter of national pride. Others want a nuclear deterrent.

But most Iranians, the experts say, fall into two other groups. One believes Iran should use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Another wants Iran to master the nuclear enrichment cycle both to avoid depending on foreign suppliers for nuclear fuel and to be able to move quickly to weapons development if Iran were threatened, either by Israel, the United States or a regional rival. That group sees nuclear power as an insurance policy against a forced change in the government.

The idea that overthrow of the mullahs will stop Iran's nuclear program continues to strike me as naive. Also see my previous posts "Iranian People Not In Pre-Revolutionary Frame Of Mind" and "Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program Seen As Broadly Popular" and Iranians Too Apathetic To Rebel.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 May 29 12:20 PM  MidEast Iran

Stephen said at May 31, 2005 10:08 PM:

They'd be fools not to be working their arses off trying to develop a nuke while the US is chasing its tail around Iraq.

Stephen said at May 31, 2005 10:10 PM:

On second thoughts, that means Iran has 10 or 20 yrs, so no great rush needed.

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