Tehran, Asharq Al-Awsat – When I asked Mahd, a secondary school student from Tehran about his opinion on the achievements of Iran’s scientists, with pride and joy he stated that April 10 should be celebrated across Iran as a national holiday.
In most cases, students like Mahd who are enrolled in reformist schools are far from unions and conservative student groups such as the Basij volunteer force or the non-official religious militias. His reaction and pride in Iran’s nuclear program reflect the joy and satisfaction found amongst the majority of Iranian society, irrespective of political or religious affiliation.
Iranians take pride in their situation in the region and continue to believe they are the most important regional power. The history of Cyrus the Great and King Rustom is a source of national pride. When Iranians look at the period of Islamic conquests, they view it as a period within their long history rather than as the beginning of their history. It is therefore not surprising to find in Iranian bookshops dozens of books that mention the Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, or the collection of memoirs by the Shah, the Shahbanou Farah Pahlavi or members of his entourage. The government has not raised any objections and the ordinary reader does not shy away from reading such historical collections, even as the revolution continues to described the shah as a taghut (anything that has been worshipped, obeyed, followed or submitted to instead of Allah). This is why it is not unusual that the Shah’s son, currently living in exile in the US, opposes a US military strike against Iran as his argument is based on the necessity to safeguard Iran and not attack its achievements, even if these occurred under the Islamic Republic that deposed his father.
In these circumstances, it was expected that the University of “Ami Kabeer,” the industrial university, would distribute amongst its faculty and student body, 114 kg of yellow cake material to symbolize their country’s success in enriching uranium and joining the nuclear club.
However, are the Iranian people ready to suffer the expected consequences of this move? Are they ready to suffer a military attack because the country has joined the nuclear club? Would Iranian society accept economic sanctions instead or would it refuse either punishment?
I asked an individual about the different scenarios at play and about his personal opinion. He took his time to think before answering that for him, what matters most was that people continue to live in peace. I understood that to mean he would not accept war in exchange for a nuclear program nor would he accept economic sanctions that would paralyze the Iranian economy.
For their part, the revolutionary elements in Iran, such as the Revolutionary Guards, the Pasadaran and the Basij have displayed a willingness for confrontation despite the consequences (including a full-fledged war), in defense of the Wilayet-e-faqih and the national accomplishments.
In truth, the politicians who have overseen Iran’s nuclear file, whether under the presidency of Hashemi Rafsanjani or Mohammed Khatami, and to this day, under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are aware that the development of nuclear technology should not push Iran into crises that prohibit the country from using this technology for peaceful means.
As Iranians celebrated the announcement that their country had joined the nuclear club, conservative writers and journalists defended this incredible achievement but did not call for Iran’s exit from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). Instead, they demanded the articles in NPT to be implemented.
The Editor-in-Chief of Kayhan, Hossein Shariatmadari, known for his extremist views on such topics, demanded the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohammed El Baradei, investigate whether the NPT treaty had been breached, before submitting his report to the UN Security Council or the IAEA.
Yet, the academic Davoud Hermidas Bavand saw that from this point onwards, the Iranians should manage the nuclear file with great care and attention. He added that El Baradei’s talks in the Iranian capital would provide an indication of the IAEA’s intentions that it accepts Iran’s uranium enrichment program given that it has not breached any international treaty or it rejects it. In this case, it would throw the ball in the UN Security Council’s court.
The UN body based its non-binding statement calling on Iran to halt its nuclear activities or face isolation on Article 6 of the UN Charter. Diplomats argued for two weeks over a draft and the final 30-day warning was watered down severely. If the IAEA opts to deal negatively with Iran’s nuclear file, this will prompt the Security Council to intervene and refer to Article 7 of the Charter, which was used in the case of Iraq.
Nevertheless, an important question arises: Is the Iranian situation similar to that of Iraq in 2003?
In fact, the two cases are markedly different. Iran, according to El Baradei’s report, has not violated international laws and agreements; inspectors were unable to prove any breaches took place, so much so that the IAEA chief’s previous reports commended Iran’s cooperation and indicated Tehran was not planning to build nuclear weapons and that no evidence was found that indicated Iran was pursuing a secret military program.
Therefore, UN Security Council members will require more than two weeks to agree on how to deal with the Iranian file. Diplomatic sources believe that matters are not as simple as previously believed because a debate is likely to take place within the Security Council, with Russia and China on the one hand and the United States of America and Britain on the other, about how to respond/react/deal with Iran’s nuclear program. These sources are inclined to think that the latest Iranian move will open the door to negotiations between Tehran and regional and international players. They base their prediction on the fact that despite the inherent danger in Iran’s successful uranium enrichment, contradictions will emerge between Middle Eastern countries and the West about any military plans against Iran. Tehran will benefit from these disagreements and take full advantage of them. The region is in disarray and would be unable to cope with additional military escalation. Important regional players might stand opposed to a strike on Iran only because regional circumstances do not permit this.
These sources base their predictions on the current visit of Hashemi Rafsanjani, head of the Expediency Council, to Syria and Kuwait with a delegation to include the representative of Supreme Guide Ayatollah Khamanei to the National Security Council, Hassan Rouhani. Others suggest that Washington and Tehran would hold talks directly, for a number of reasons, including Iran’s desire to produce nuclear weapons in sight of the international community.
Time will tell how the international community will react to Iran’s latest announcement and the extent to which the Iranian people will support President Ahmadinejad’s regime if a military attack is carried out against their country.