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Uranium Enrichment: Dividing Iran - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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London, Asharq al-Awsat- Despite the clamor raised by the Iranian media organs on one side and some Western ones on the other over the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization’s achievement of enriching small quantity of uranium by 3.5 percent, the majority of Iranians, including regime supporters, do not share the joy of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his supporters. The worry about Iran coming under US or Israeli military strikes has increased steadily.

Food prices have risen simultaneously with the rise of the US dollar rate against the national currency, the “Riyal”, since Ahmadinejad’s announcement that Iran had joined the nuclear club. Moreover, the Iranian president’s circles are hiding their dismay with Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council, for revealing Iran’s success in enriching uranium hours before Ahmadinejad’s announcement. The president (according to a journalist close to the presidency) was bewildered when he read Hashemi-Rafsanjani’s statements to the Kuwaiti News Agency KUNA. Guide Ali Khamenei had given Ahmadinejad the green light before the latter went to Mashhad to announce the good news in order to bolster his position and increase his popularity. But, according to the journalist close to the presidency, Hashemi-Rafsanjani stole the glamour of victory from the president and this disrupted the program for a post-announcement national carnival that the presidency had prepared.

The government and private printing presses in Tehran and Mashhad had printed thousands of Ahmadinejad ‘s colored photographs on the eve of his travel to Mashhad for simultaneous distribution in the capital Tehran and Mashhad, where the tomb of Imam al-Rida, the second Shiite imam, is located.

What further angered and the president, (who believed that announcing the “good news” would make him appear in eyes of Iranian citizen’s as a Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq, Iran’s nationalist leader who nationalized Iranian oil in the early 1950’s), was the decision of the Tehran Municipality opened an investigation into the disappearance of 50 billion Toumans ($50 million) from the municipality’s coffers during the period Ahmadinejad he was in charge there. “Asharq al-Awsat” learned that General Mohammad Baqir Qalibav, the Iranian capital’s mayor and strong rival of Ahmadinejad during the presidential elections, has asked Bourzandeh, his aide and the municipality’s finance officer, and Mohammad Shari’at-Madari, the assistant intelligence minister and former trade minister, to carry out a comprehensive investigation of the fate of the massive amount of money after it left the municipality’s treasury.

Ahmadinejad considers all this part of the conspiracy against him led by Hashemi-Rafsanjani and the reformists. It is known however that Iran’s experiments to build nuclear installations and centrifuges preceded his arrival. Hashemi-Rafsanjani was the official who placed $1 billion at the disposal of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization in 1990 to build the laboratories and research centers and buy the centrifuge equipment. The organization’s experts achieved sensational progress in producing heavy water and hexafluoride gas during Khatami’s presidency. Therefore it is natural for Hashemi-Rafsanjani and Khatami not to let Ahmadinejad make uranium enrichment one of his achievements, according to a former reformist deputy.

As to the Iranian street’s reactions to the “good news”, they varied from feelings of arrogance and national zeal that can be monitored among the Basij men and Revolutionary Guards’ commanders and growing concern among the majority of Iranians. According to the prominent journalist and writer “Bijin Saff Sirri” who publishes an online newspaper, the cost of enriching uranium is going to be very high, not only financially but also by what the Iranian people would pay if the regime maintained its rejection of the international community’s demand to give up uranium enrichment. He asked: Is it in the interest of an oil and gas rich country to sacrifice its sons’ future and its economy for the sake of a nuclear reactor with obsolete (Russian) technology?

Dr Ahmad Shirzad, a nuclear physics professor, wrote an article in which he disclosed that the uranium mines in Iran do not have large quantities of the mineral and that even if Iran succeeded in enriching it, its reserves in these mines are not enough to secure the fuel for the Bushehr plant for more than seven years. This means we have to sell our oil and gas at low prices so as to buy uranium at exorbitant prices and put ourselves at the mercy of black market middlemen because the Western countries will not allow us to import uranium legally. Shirzad then asked: Why do we not build gas reactors that are more useful and less danger to the environment?

According to Mahboubah Alizadeh, a student at the Free University, College of Sciences, Iran does not need enriched uranium and if only the good news were about providing job opportunities for 14 million unemployed persons, building low-cost houses for millions of Iranians who are paying 80 percent of their salaries to rent a place to live in, or building centers to treat 6 million drug addicts. She added: “Ahmadinejad ‘s announcement scares me too much. I see my country that I love dearly facing a fate similar to that of Iraq. We do not want enriched uranium but want to live in peace and enjoy a dignified life.”

However, Reza Sawadkohi, the Basij student at Esfahan University, considers the enrichment of uranium a big achievement and says: “We have to possess some atomic bombs. Look at North Korea. It is a poor country but the United States does not dare to strike it because it has some bombs.” Reza refers to Guide Khamenei’s remark before three years to a number of Iranian nuclear experts that “one nuclear bomb will secure 25 more years for us because our country is rich in oil and its population is 70 million. We are not like North Korea, a poor and needy country. Therefore having one bomb means that we are remaining for a further quarter of a century.”

On the other hand, the supporters of the martyrdom unit announced after the “good news” that it would strike the interests of the West, especially the Great Satan (the United States), all over the world with its human martyrdom nuclear bombs if the Islamic Republic came under aggression by global arrogance.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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