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Hell hath no fury like the Iranian clerics at helm  


A.H. Jaffor Ullah  

2005/05/18

The two nations that have drawn attention lately by threatening to pull plutonium fuel rods from nuclear reactor are North Korea and Iran.  The news of this ominous development is creating consternation among other civilized nations.  While North Korea is doing this to receive economic aid package from Washington, Iran is not looking forward to receive even one penny from the developed nations in the West.  Iran has lots and lots of petroleum reserve and as such not in need of foreign aid to carry out its developmental projects.  If Iran wants to develop its nuclear bomb, it will be purely for prestige.   

Iran has stunned the world in the second week of May by announcing that it would re-start its uranium enrichment program.  On May 12, 2005, Iran warned that it would no longer respect the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if it was denied the right to pursue what it considers its right to develop a full civilian nuclear energy program.  

One of the clerics, Hassan Rohani, chief nuclear negotiator, said, ďIf Iran cannot use its legitimate rights in the framework of the NPT, it will no longer have respect for the treaty,Ē the semi-official ISNA students news agency quoted the cleric as telling visiting Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Kislyak.  It is worth mentioning here that Iran, a signatory of the NPT, was designed to limit the spread of nuclear weapons, is now engaged in a high-stakes standoff with the West over its nuclear program.  

Tehran reiterates that its atomic ambitions are entirely peaceful.  The nation that is being controlled by a bunch of clerics has threatened to resume processing nuclear fuel, which perhaps could be used to make nuclear weapons.  Washington and the European Union say such a move by Teheran would lead to referral of Iranís case to the U.N. Security Council for punitive measures.  

The chief negotiator for Iran, Hassan Rohani, is least perturbed by the reaction from EU Union.  He retorted back, ďUsing the fuel cycle in the framework of the NPT and international regulations is Iranís final and national decision.Ē  In a veiled threat, Mr. Rohani said,  ďThe Iranian nation will not yield to pressures to be deprived of its legal rights and is ready to pay any cost.Ē  

This is not the first time that Iran gave warning to the West delineating its desire to purify plutonium.  Iranís recent announcement did not come as a shock to EU nations.  However, the timing of the announcement coincides with political upheaval in neighboring Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan.  Only days after Iranís announcement violent clash broke out in another Central Asian nation, Uzbekistan, in which reportedly 500-600 civilians died in the hands of Uzbek government soldiers.  Before the world could second-guess it, the entire Central Asia became mired in political trouble.  Under this dire backdrop, Iranís ominous proclamation to get on with its plutonium enrichment program is going to destabilize the entire Central Asia.   

A flurry of activity ensued in Europe immediately after the word reached the EU Headquarters.  For example, France, Britain, and Germany have warned Iran they will break off talks and join Washington in seeking U.N. Security Council action if Tehran makes good on its threats to resume atomic work.  The foreign ministers of the EUís three biggest powers sent a strongly worded letter to Hassan Rohani, Iranís chief nuclear negotiator, warning that resuming potentially arms-related nuclear work ďwould bring the negotiating process to an end.  The consequences could only be negative for Iran.Ē  

Even British Prime Minister Tony Blair joined the protestation against Iranís decision to resume its plutonium enrichment program.  Mr. Blair spelled out the potential consequences; he told reporters: We certainly will support referral to the United Nations Security Council if Iran breaches its obligations and undertakings.Ē   

Iran may have sympathetic ear in Europe but Washington believes Iranís nuclear energy program is a front to develop nukes and has been pressing Iranís case to be sent to the 15-member U.N. council for possible economic sanctions and other actions.  The EU does not wholeheartedly supports the American position vis-ŗ-vis Iranís desire to blast a few nukes further down the road, but has offered incentives to try to get Tehran to give up its atomic fuel program, which Iran insists is only for nuclear power plants and not for arms.   

There is a political dimension to Iranís chutzpah vis-ŗ-vis its nuclear ambition.  The presidential election in Iran is almost knocking at the door.  Political analysts say leading presidential candidate Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whose allies are leading the nuclear negotiations with the EU, stands to benefit from an escalation in international tensions.  The voters in Iran may think that Rafsanjani is standing tall against the West.  They may therefore cast their votes in his favor.  Ali Banuazizi, an expert on Iranian politics, says that of the various candidates for the next presidential election in Iran on June 17, only former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has a chance of ending the standoff with Washington over Iranís nuclear program.  Rafsanjani is considered a pragmatic politician, who will face a number of opponents for the office, including old-guard conservatives, reformists critical of the Iranian government, and a new category of younger conservatives from military backgrounds.   

On May 16, 2005, news broke out in USA Today concerning the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annanís forewarning that if Bush Administration wants to push the matter in the Security Council to punish Iran over its nuclear program, then the Security Council might be deadlocked.  China and Russia, which have strong economic ties to Iran, might veto any push to sanction Iran.   

In summary, as Iran prepares for the presidential election, its rights to enrich plutonium has become a prestige issue.  Is it an empty threat by the confederacy of Mullahs who run the nation?  Both U.K. and America want to take Iran to Security Council for its breaches but the Secretary General, Kofi Annan, volleyed a warning shot by saying that the Council maybe deadlocked.  Under this dire backdrop, the clergies in Iran are testing the limits of patience shown by the West.  Are the clerics teasing the West?  It seems appropriate to say that hell hath no fury like the Iranian clerics who are at the helm.   

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A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans, USA

 

 

 

 

 

 

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