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Iranian Nuclear Program No Threat

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Claudia Cheffs | New University
Claudia Cheffs | New University

Former Iranian Ambassador insists Iranian Nuclear Program is for peaceful purposes only.

Former Iranian Ambassador to Germany, Seyed Hossien Mousavian, defended Iran’s domestic nuclear program and insisted that Iran was not developing nuclear weapons at a presentation last Thursday night. His presentation at Social Sciences Plaza A 1100 was part of Global Zero’s “A World Without Nuclear Weapons” program, which aims to bring an end to nuclear weapons worldwide through peaceful means.

Mousavian was invited by UC Irvine Global Zero Chapter President Claudia Cheffs and Vice President Henry Kan to give his perspective on the Iranian Nuclear Crisis. He was the spokesman for the Iranian negotiating team for various talks regarding Iran’s nuclear program from 2003 through 2005. He believed the whole issue was blown out of proportion as there was no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapon.

“Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons. This is international consensus, no dispute, even the Israelis they accept that Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons,” Mousavian said.

However, as Mousavian pointed out, this fact was irrelevant to U.S. foreign policy toward Iran. Mousavian blamed the hype of Iran’s nuclear program on U.S. and Israeli fears rather than on the facts. He pointed out that Western fears of Iran’s nuclear program were unfounded as Iran does not posess a bomb while the U.S., Isael, Britian and France each posess nuclear weapons.

He repeatedly assured the audience that Iran has no desire to build nuclear weapons, but rather is exercising its “Nuclear Rights” by developing nuclear plants to produce electricity. He believes the issue was not about nuclear armament, but about political differences that Mousavian believed made all compromises regarding the nuclear issue impossible.

“If you look at the U.S. unilateral sanctions legislation by the Congress, you will see that they have mixed the nuclear issue with human rights, terrorism and many other issues, which means if even today, if we find a reasonable solution under nuclear, the U.S. administration would not be able to leave the sanctions because they are not nuclear related sanctions,” he said.

It is this focus on political issues over the nuclear issues that Mousavian believed kept the fight over Iran’s nuclear program going for so long. Ever since the 1979 Iranian Revolution that overthrew the Shah, the U.S. has tried to limit Iran’s nuclear program by putting sanctions on Iran. He argues that this is the real problem, not Western fears of Iran building a bomb.

“That time when Iran didn’t have enrichment at all and there was no program to have enrichment, the U.S. position was no rights for civilian nuclear power plants. The U.S. position was no access to international fuel market. Therefore, the struggle after the Revolution was about the rights for Iran, because Iran did not want anything else,” Mousavian said.

Before the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the U.S. and European states worked to build up Iran’s domestic nuclear program despite the Shah’s desire to arm Iran with nuclear weapons. This was largely motivated by the Shah’s willingness to pay high prices to speed up Iran’s nuclear program, according to Mousavian.

“You see, the Americans and the Europeans were competing for the lucrative nuclear projects to nuclearize Iran before the Revolution, and they knew the Shah is after the nuclear bomb,” he said.

However, the shah was a vital U.S. ally against the Soviet Union and his desire to have nuclear weapons was overlooked. With the onset of the Iranian Revolution and the rise of the anti-U.S. Khomeini government, the policy toward Iran changed immensely. The U.S. and European states opposed Iran’s nuclear program and pulled their investments out of Iran and applied sanctions to Iran with the hopes of ending its nuclear program.

However, this plan failed and Mousavian pointed out that Iran was able to expand its nuclear capabilities despite the sanctions.

In the mid-2000s, Mousavian worked on several deals but all failed to satisfy both sides. Mousavian said the Iranians gave the Europeans more concessions than any other country would have been willing to give and more than they were required to under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, yet were still unsuccessful at negotiating a solution.

“We gave access beyond additional protocol. No country in the world has given access beyond additional protocol, only Iran has given access beyond additional protocol. And in order to also ensure international community [that] Iran is not after nuclear bomb [we went] beyond transparency measures,” he said.

Despite his best efforts, Mousavian could not get Western countries to accept an Iran nuclear program even if it posed no threat. Mousavian believes that the pressure put on Iran is misplaced because Iran does not have a weapon, nor does it wish to make one. He pointed out that Iran is not unique because all countries with the ability to enrich uranium could potentially become a nuclear-armed power, and yet the U.S. does not worry about other potential nuclear powers such as Japan and Brazil.

“Every country that has nuclear enrichment has nuclear capability practically: Germany has it, Japan has it, Brazil has it, Argentina has it. Therefore, capability is legal, there is nothing illegal many countries have [it].”