Iran Press Service - Three resolutions in less than two months against the Islamic Republic of Iran for its nuclear activities, don’ you think that the continuation of the present stubborn policy adopted by Tehran could lead to a dangerous situation?
Dr. Mohammad Reza Jalili – One can fear so. These resolutions show the great isolation of the Iranian regime in the international community. Just consider that the last resolution was passed with unanimity of the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council, among them nations that always support Tehran, like Russia and China. There are also Islamic nations like Indonesia and Qatar or South Africa, the most influential member of the Non Aligned Movement. Such isolation is dangerous for the future of any nation, but most particularly Iran.
Iran was condemned at the UN's Security concil with the unanimity of all members. Such isolation is dangerous for the future of any nation, but most particularly Iran.
IPS – Iran claims that its nuclear programme is for peaceful and civilian purposes, like generating electricity. If this is the case, why it does not want accept western proposals for helping built nuclear power stations and guarantee the necessary fuel for the plants?
MRJ – No body says Iran has no right to nuclear energy for civilian uses, like generating electricity or medical and agricultural researches. The main problem is that Iran has hidden is nuclear activities for more than 20 years and even today it does not allow inspectors from the United Nations nuclear watchdog to visit all its nuclear sites, hence the preoccupation and worries of the international community about the possibilities of Iran developing nuclear weapons, as seen reflected in the United Nations Security Council’s resolutions.
The other important question is that if Iranian leaders are really after producing enough electricity for their needs, why not use oil and gas? After all, Iran has the world’s second largest natural gas and oil reserves and yet these resources are not properly developed and used. Iran imports 40 per cent of its needs in fuel. It is not better and more logical to start by developing these resources, build gas-powered electricity and other industrial and agricultural plants than starting with the expensive, complicated nuclear technology?
IPS – You mentioned Iran’s hidden nuclear activities. But now Tehran says all is clear and under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The question is why Iranians can not convince the international community about their sincerity. Don’t you think that here the IAEA is partly responsible, play a double game?
MRJ – It is difficult to say an international organization plays such games, because it has many members, some of them control its activities. The IAEA try to walk in the framework and limits of legality acceptable by the majority of its members, hence the caution it shows in its decisions. The IAEA does the same thing concerning North Korea. No, I don’t think the IAEA is playing double game with Iran, or any other country.
IPS – My question is why the IAEA always in its resolutions or statements in the one hand says it has no proof that Iran is diverting its nuclear activities to military use and at the same time it states that it can not say that Iran is not doing so. There is ambivalence. Why the agency can not say clearly what it thinks about Iranian nuclear programmes?
MRJ – Exactly. This is because the Agency wants to reflect the realities as they are: Uncertainty. The problem is if Iran’s nuclear activities continue uncontrolled, one the country has acquired the full know how, then the diversion of the technology to military ends is easy. There are right now several nations like Germany and Japan that are very developed in nuclear technology and can produce nuclear weapons in a matter of weeks or months….
IPS – OK, but the problem is that Iran does not trust nations that promise guaranteed flow of nuclear fuel, as seen by the recent decision of Moscow to stop delivering fuel for the nuclear power plant they are building in Boushehr. This is exactly what Iran said.
MRJ – This is also exactly what I thought Tehran would say: that the Russian decision proves that we must have our nuclear independence. But it is easier to say than to do. Iran does not possess the technology, the know-how; the necessary industrial tools for being nuclear fuel self sufficient. It can’t do anything without help from nuclear nations. Where Iranians are lying is when they pretend that if we develop proper nuclear industry, it would guarantee our independence. This is not true. In this field, Iranian technology is even more backward than its oil industries and we know that Iranian oil installations are 30 years behind modern technologies and techniques. In one word, there is no way Iran can build or even put a nuclear plant into proper activity, they are waiting to see what Moscow would decide concerning Boushehr. In this issue, one has to say that the Russians are acting logically, since they, like all other United Nations members, have to abide by the Security Council resolutions and wait until Iran stops suspending enriching uranium and other nuclear activities.
IPS – Considering your remark about the situation of Iranian nuclear technology and industries, that they can not build a nuclear plant by themselves, that their know-how is very little and limited, the insistence of Iranian leaders in acquiring atomic technology at any cost is not an indication of what they really are after?
MRJ – There are several reasons for Iran to be after such technology: Domestic, regional and international. On the local level, the leaders want to tell the Iranian people see how powerful, how mighty, how advanced we are. We have been able to achieve what the Shah could not, despite all the help he got from western powers. Now, think about yourself and behave; don’t try to challenge my power.
On the other hand, Tehran wants to be recognized as a regional power and think that it can achieve this role of regional leader quickly by possessing nuclear weapons. But in my view, having an atomic bomb does not make Iran a powerful regime. Take Pakistan, a country that has atomic bomb, but not only it is one of the world’s poorest and backward nations but also not considered as a regional power.
IPS – You mentioned Pakistan. But its nuclear arsenal is primarily aimed at India, a country that has its atomic weapons and fought Pakistan three times since their independence. But what about Iran? Many people and countries and world leaders and experts are of the view that this arm is destined to annihilate the Jewish State, and base their fears and analysis on the basis of statements by some high-ranking Iranian leaders, like Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who, some years ago, called on Muslim nations to get an atomic bomb and drop it over Israel, and more recently Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad, who has openly called for Israel to be wiped off world’s map.
Iran does not possess the technology, the know-how; the necessary industrial tools for being nuclear fuel self sufficient.
MRJ – In general, atomic arsenal is a dissuasive arm. In general, those that have it don’t use it. It provides more national security. This is the logical and rational aim of nuclear weapon. But what about a regime where decision-making is not based on logics and rationality, as it is the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In case Iran get the bomb and use it against Israel, it will be the first looser, as it would be immediately attacked, maybe wiped off the map of the world. Besides, even if it can drop one or two bombs over Israel, they would also destroy Palestine and massacre Palestinians they claim they are defending. And have they thought about one of their most sacred mosques?
IPS – Why they don’ care?
MRJ - In anyway, it is very dangerous game Iranian leaders are playing.
The logic and rationality dictates that the human and financial resources and energies the Iranian clerical-led leaders are putting in this futile gadget must go to the development of the nation, the prosperity of the Iranian people, the progress of health, education, science. In one word, they must think about Iranian people and nation.
However, the antagonistic policy of the IRI has led to the international isolation of the regime. The present Iranian leaders act as if they are the enemies of Iranians and Iran. The economy is paralysed. Because every day they create new enemies for themselves, there are no foreign investments, or very little, especially in the vital oil and gas sectors.
IPS – Now, this Iranian nuclear train that Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad has proudly announced he had thrown out the rear gear and the brake and has no other way but to go forward and fast, don’t you think that such a train would ultimately end up crushed somewhere, on the road or at destination, if there is any? Do you see these leaders coming to rationality and realizing the dangers they are bringing to the Iranians and possible the people of the region?
MRJ – The prime aim of this regime is keeping power. Rationality and responsibility are secondary preoccupations for them, for, if they really care about the nation and the people, they need a profound revision of their policies. The question is that a regime that considers itself divine, eternal and revolutionary can do such a revision? Do you think that a regime that its president says our nuclear train has no rear gear and brake is rational? As you said, such a train definitely would crush and kill all on board.
IPS – You said this regime only think about itself. But the train they are sitting it is heading to collective suicide?
MRJ – This is what we observe. But not they. For the time being, they are happy watching the landscape. Don’t look at the nuclear question from only a military point of view. It has enormous regional dimensions as well. Constructing a nuclear plant in a place like Boushehr is full of dangers and raises many questions: Considering a country where safety is at its lowest, where the number of people killed in road accidents is the highest in the world, where there is shortage of everything, hospitals, sanitary installations, proper roads and facilities are missing, think of the devastations for the whole area of the Persian Gulf in case the plant explodes, especially that it is built on ageing Russian technologies. Because of the taboo surrounding this issue, I have not seen the media, experts, analysts, debating about it.
IPS – You touched at the possible dangers of this particular plant for the entire area. But there is another danger as well, that of other nations, like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, also entering the nuclear race, trying to develop their own nuclear arms immediately after Iran achieved its first nuclear weapon?
MRJ – The point you mentioned is perhaps the most dangerous one. The question is not would an Iran with an atomic bomb to use it against Israel or not. The important question is the dangerous atomic race that would take place in one of the world’s most sensitive, volatile and strategic regions. Besides the countries you mentioned, Syria, Jordan and maybe Iraq would also follow, making impossible an international control. This is the worst scenario for peace in the world. For all these reasons and many others, Iran must be stopped acquiring nuclear technology, unless totally controlled and monitored by IAEA. ENDS JALILI
Editor's note: Professor M. R. Jalili teaches international politics at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. He is a regular contributor to many international newspapers and author of several books about Iran.