IRAN HAS THE RIGHT TO ENRICH URANIUM
The Iranian nuclear program was initiated decades ago but for some years it has been attracting controversy and debate on international forums. This research essay will be touching both sides of the controversy and explain how the whole affair has evolved over time. Nations critical of any nuclear development in Iran regard it as a threat to peace and stability in the world. However Iran maintains a different but principled stance on this issue. On the basis of the United Nations Charter of 1945, Iran considers it as its right as a sovereign state to pursue its desire of enriching uranium and certainly does not consider itself liable to seek authorization of its actions from any other state or organization. With these words to support the claim of this essay, the Islamic Republic of Iran is fully sovereign in its decision to enrich uranium and obtain nuclear technology.
History of Iranian efforts for achieving uranium-enrichment and nuclear technology goes back five decades, when the Shah of Iran Raza Shah Pahlavi came into power during the 1950s. The King of Iran thought that as oil reserves were eventually going to run out so the need for an alternative source of fuel was imperative for the future. A civil nuclear cooperation deal was signed with the United States of America (USA) under the name of Atoms for Peace program. This led to the establishment of the Tehran Nuclear Research Center (TNRC) in 1967, run by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. The following few years saw the golden period of international relations of Iran with the western world. Trade agreements were signed and many European countries showed a lot of interest in the development of its nuclear technology. The US response to the whole situation was over-whelming and other developed countries followed suit. The first nuclear reactor was set up at Bushehr and nuclear fuel was provided along with the necessary equipment to help Iran start its nuclear research. Iran signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 and was thus subject to verifications from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Political scene changed abruptly and Iran went through the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The government of Raza Shah was overthrown and Ayatollah
Khomeini became the spiritual leader of newly found Islamic Republic. The favourite of the western world, Raza Shah was no more in power and that left the western world with no interest in Iran. The anti-US sentiment in Iran grew to an immeasurable extent that US-Iran ties were severed at all levels. US backed out of the nuclear cooperation deal with Iran and many countries including France and Germany followed the US. All deals and ties with other European countries also came to a halt. All agreements remained unfulfilled as many countries, including the US, that had received payments in exchange for nuclear fuel and technology cooperation refused to pay back. Iran felt that it was being cheated as it had to virtually hold all its efforts for enriching uranium. The unreliability in international agreements with the western powers got exposed and Iranian government decided to continue the country’s nuclear development program with help from countries other than the West and continued to do so till date despite imposition of sanctions and embargoes by the West.
The first and foremost claim in support of the Iranian pursuit of nuclear development is the right of every sovereign nation to rule itself and undertake any developmental programs it considers best for itself, under its own jurisdiction, as said in the UN Charter. “The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.” [Charter of the United Nations Art. 2(1)] The above clearly underlines the absolute right of every sovereign state under the capacity of international law, to manage its affairs the way it seems appropriate. And further stressing on it, the UN Charter clearly mentions in Article 2 (7) that no other state or international agency will be authorized to intervene in matters of domestic jurisdiction of any other state and goes on to say that no state will be allowed to submit such matters to the UN under the present Charter. Thus it clearly shows that Iran is doing nothing wrong or for the fact, nothing objectionable. What Iran is trying to achieve is nothing less of what the “club” of developed nations has already achieved and today stand proud of their achievements on the world stage.
The main objective of Iran for enriching uranium is to generate electricity and depend less on its oil reserves. Iran started the project of developing nuclear technology to meet its growing demands of energy through reliance on cleaner, more efficient sources of energy. Iran has maintained this position on all international forums. United States of America argue that Iran has vast reserves of oil and gas and does not need nuclear technology for power generation. An interesting thing to note is that Russia and Britain, both exporters of oil and gas, are generating power from nuclear technology. States like Bulgaria can have a nuclear power plant but Iran’s nuclear plant harbours so much controversy. Israel refuses to disclose how many nuclear weapons it has but one thing is confirmed that Israel became a nuclear state with the help of the United States and continues to avoid the signing of NPT. Pakistan, India, North Korea, Israel, United Kingdom, Russia and the United States all possess nuclear weapons and use nuclear technology for power production. If they being sovereign states can develop nuclear technology why does Iran have to be an exception?
As seen in the above paragraphs, Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology is its right and as per law the question of allowing Iran to enrich uranium or not does not stand credible. However politics follow a different pattern. The country to initiate the nuclear program and development of research in Iran took a three-sixty degree turn after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. United States of America, after its singular use of nuclear bombs, has had a great influence over the world community after the Second World War that completely changed the world dynamics. This also influenced the Iran-Iraq war that started in 1980 and lasted 8 years. Iran was attacked by Iraqi military aircraft and missiles, initiating the war, which destroyed Iran’s nuclear reactors in Bushehr. Iranian military was not that well equipped and Iran’s pleas for a diplomatic solution to this war fell on deaf ears of the western world and the United Nations. The West openly supported the Iraqi regime throughout the war and supplied it with the latest weapons. Iran fought for eight long years and learned that the West could not be relied upon. And in recent years there exists a threat from Israel and so does from the US, both of which continue to apply pressure, directly or indirectly, on Iran to forego its pursuit of nuclear technology. The US invasion of Iraq on the pretext of finding and destroying weapons of mass destruction was baseless. This made Iran feel exposed to the world community and it remains committed to go ahead with enriching uranium and acquiring nuclear technology. If it achieves this, a nuclear Iran will be enough to deter any foreign attack.
An interesting example is that of India. India became a nuclear state in 1974 and since then has declined to become a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT prohibits its signatory states from making a deal on nuclear technology with any other state that refuses to comply with the terms of the NPT. However the world saw a controversial resolution passed by the US Congress when it approved US-India Civilian Nuclear deal. The deal was signed by both the governments and any objections voiced by the world community were unheeded. Iran fulfilling all international obligations in compliance with the IAEA and the NPT has yet to face all kinds of hurdles in the form of sanctions and trade embargoes as it continues to proceed with its nuclear program and uranium enrichment.
The example of North Korea shows the two-faced attitude of the developed countries of the world. North Korea claims to have nuclear weapons and maintains a hostile attitude towards South Korea. It is a signatory of the NPT and thus under inspections of the IAEA, however it has developed nuclear technology to the extent that it can produce nuclear weapons as well. US and other world powers have dealt with the whole situation diplomatically and even come up with a deal for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. Contradictory to this, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously against Iran that it should immediately suspend all its nuclear programs. If it does that then the world powers agree to hold talks with the Iranian government. This raises the question that on what grounds exactly the western world wants Iran to leave its nuclear program of enriching uranium.
Iran might have many reasons to go ahead with its nuclear program however there is another side to the Iranian Nuclear Program. Critics of Iran’s nuclear program defend the stance of the United Nations Security Council that Iran should curb its nuclear program and immediately stop the enrichment of uranium. They vehemently oppose the prospect of a nuclear Iran in the future and consider such a development as a serious threat to world peace and instability in the gulf region. They base their arguments on three main issues that include risks of nuclear proliferation, the start of an arms race in the region and lastly the increase in hostilities in the Gulf region eventually leading to global tensions.
It is true that if Iran goes ahead with its nuclear program and is able to enrich uranium for its nuclear purposes there will be a risk of nuclear proliferation. However such risks are inherent in case of all nuclear states and that is one of the reasons that the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty was accorded and signed to curb such leaks. Iran is already a signatory of the NPT and has been under the inspection of IAEA for several years. The inspections undertaken by the IAEA clearly show that Iran has been complying with the terms of the NPT and IAEA. It has enriched uranium up to the permissible levels and has not yet been found of proliferation of any nuclear technology to any other state. The Iranian government has stressed time and again on its peaceful intentions regarding uranium enrichment and nuclear prospects. As per international laws the measures adopted by Iran suffice and it should be allowed to enrich uranium and keep going with its nuclear program.
Those critical of Iran’s nuclear program feel there is a threat of an impending arms race in the region if Iran gets nuclear technology. What they claim is probably right and this might be one of the initial responses if Iran continues its nuclear program. As more and more resources will be spent on military budgets and on the development of nuclear weapons, this will have a negative effect on the growth of those nations. This will also cause a decrease in expenditures for the public welfare, insufficient spending on development of infrastructure and even an increase in environmental degradation. However it should also be noted that Iran is not the first country to have or close to having nuclear technology in the region. Israel already has nuclear technology and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology is not a recent phenomenon. It has been there for years now and so has been the arms race in the region. Iran wants to develop this technology for peaceful uses as its leadership has said on numerous occasions. The Iranian government cannot afford to allow letting billions of dollars of investment into this program over five decades go waste just because other nations think that Iran should discontinue its program. On another dimension Iran’s aim of enriching uranium seems the best step forward as it will shift some military power from the hands of just one player in the region that is Israel.
Another argument, in addition to proliferation, going against Iran’s nuclear program is the escalation of hostilities in the region. The antagonistic relationship of Iran and Israel will get even worse if Iran continues with its nuclear program and this will put the whole region at risk as both countries will be nuclear powers. The official stance taken by both these nations with respect to the other speaks for itself. Iranian government refuses to acknowledge Israel as a legitimate state and has intent in eliminating Israel from the world map. Israel on the other hand talks of using force against Iran if it does not discontinue its nuclear program. Such tensions will require only an excuse to start war and if that is a nuclear war the consequences will be destructive. However it should also be noted that with advanced nuclear technology Iran would be at the same level as others and the looming threats of attack from the US and Israel will diffuse. Both will be well aware of the consequences of any such attack and will try to avoid it all costs. The world has seen the effects of two nuclear bombs and no nation will dare to take such a step in haste. The example of Pakistan and India can be considered in this regard. The two countries have fought three wars and many incidents have taken place when war had become imminent. However, after they became nuclear powers, both states have been responsible in this regard and the respective nuclear weapons have acted as a deterrent. Similar is the case with Iran; the possession of nuclear technology will bring it at an equal footing with Israel and that will compel both to treat each other responsibly, something not observed nowadays in world politics.
Considering all the arguments given in this essay one thing is certain that Iran has the right to go ahead with its nuclear program and that choice remains with the Iranian government or the people of Iran only. The risks involved in developing nuclear technology can be minimized but not eliminated. Iran being a responsible state has complied and continues to abide by the terms and conditions of the NPT and the rules of the IAEA. A country like Iran that has faced so many sanctions and embargoes through the years and, however, still continues to go ahead with the plan of enriching uranium should be taken seriously. No amount of pressure is going to affect it. This is something that other countries might not be willing to accept but the fact remains that Iran is pushing itself through this. Considering the regional and the global situation Iran should be allowed to enrich uranium for the purpose of fulfilling the nation’s needs, be it energy requirements or national security compulsions.
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