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Iranian Defiance Justified

President  AhmadinejadBy continuing to punish Iran with sanctions for violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), claiming that Iran’s civilian energy program is being used to covertly develop nuclear weapons even though the merits of such accusations are now found to be untrue, the United States risks losing all credibility.President AhmadinejadThe National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) recently informed the world that Iran is not building nuclear weapons. The report confirms what International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohammed El Baradei and other close observers of the Iranian nuclear program have been saying since 2004: Iran is not interested in nuclear weapons but in the deterrent value inherent in the knowledge of mastering the nuclear fuel cycle.

However, the Bush administration is not likely to let a silly thing such as an NIE report change its policy towards Iran. Instead of utilizing such an opportunity to mend US-Iranian relations, President Bush has again opted for the same “eyes wide shut” approach he used before launching the debacle we now call the Iraq war. The fifty-year-old time bomb of a relationship between the US and Iran could have been diffused with a little finesse and acknowledgment of Iran’s peaceful goals and maybe a lifting of the sanctions. However, Bush continues to live up to the hypocrisy and double standards that Iranians have come to expect from a haughty superpower. 

By continuing to punish Iran with sanctions for violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), claiming that Iran’s civilian energy program is being used to covertly develop nuclear weapons (even though the merits of such accusations are now found to be untrue), the United States risks losing all credibility. Making matters worse, the United States faces accusations of its own for violating provisions of the NPT. At the heart of these accusations are the secret nuclear weapons sharing agreements negotiated by the United States in which it agrees to provide nuclear weapons to be deployed by and stored in other NATO states. As a result of these agreements, the United States provides 180 tactical B61 nuclear bombs for use by Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Turkey, thus violating Article I and II of the NPT. Such violations have received an outcry from Iran and others, accusing the US of engaging in hypocrisy, charging one country of not abiding by the treaty while being in violation themselves.

The argument laid out by the State Department is that the volatile dynamics of the region necessitate a high degree of prudence in regards to allowing any sort of nuclear capabilities in the region. However, such prudence should not be looked at within a vacuum. In 1967, President Gerald Ford accepted Iran’s need for nuclear power to provide for the growing needs of its economy and to free the remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals. In fact, President Ford signed a directive offering Iran the chance to buy and operate a US-built reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel. Iran’s needs for its economy have since increased exponentially; therefore, its desire to develop nuclear technology to provide for its growing need is expected and reasonable.

Unfortunately, a change in Iranian governance plays a major role in the light that the intentions of Iran are perceived in regards to its nuclear desires. And while the US-Iran relations were strong between the Shah and Ford, thus justifying the difference in the stance of today’s administration, subsequent US actions have not been so kind. Thus, given the history of the relationship between the two countries, it is not so inconceivable to see why Iran has been hesitant to open itself to US demands, even though it has had nothing to hide.

Iran has not forgotten the 1957 US-sponsored coup d’état that removed its popularly elected Iranian leader Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, who wanted to nationalize the Iranian oil fields and ban oil drilling contracts to foreign governments. Threatened by the prospect of losing interests in Iranian oil, the United States overthrew Mossadegh and helped institute a dictatorship under the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Bitter, the Iranians saw the overthrow of Mossadegh as undermining the very democracy that the United States harps about to the Middle East. It wasn’t until almost twenty years later that Iran was able to shake off the dictatorship of the Shah and regain control of their country through a Revolution. However, victory was short-lived, and in 1980, Saddam Hussein attacked Iran, leading to a war that lasted eight years and cost a million lives. The US implemented a policy of support for Saddam Hussein, providing technological aid, intelligence, the sale of dual-use and military equipment, and committed the US Navy to safeguarding the flow of oil out of (and the flow of money and arms into) Iraq. To make matters worse, the United States engaged in selling secret arms to Iran on the side. The Iranians saw the engagement by the United States in both sides of the conflict as a lesson for future dealings: alliances with the United States were never to be trusted.

Not surprisingly, Iran has, as a result, dealt with the United States at an arm’s length and with extreme caution. Double standards, hypocrisy, and mistrust have been a part of US-Iran equation and continue to hinder any progress that may be attainable in regards to settling the Iranian nuclear issue.

The United States, instead of branding Iran as an “axis of evil”, needs to acknowledge Iranian interests in providing for the economical needs of the country and come up with a viable solution that balances such interests with those of the international community. The United States must come to the negotiation table in a humble manner, acknowledge its previous shortcomings, and deal with Iran as a state with legitimate needs and provide a means of resolving them instead of forcing the demands of the West down their throat. Only then can Iranians and Muslims expect a peaceful ending to this dilemma.

About Azra Zaidi

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  • Zahara

    Well-written, sister Azra!

  • Ali Jaffery

    Is the pursuit of a nuclear program, civilian or not, more valuable than even subsistence refinement of natural gas for civilian use? This government values its international patronage more than providing for its people — this winter, more than 200 Iranians have died and thousands others have fallen ill because major gas shortages disable them from providing heating to their families, all of this despite Iran’s copious supply of natural gas! All of Iran’s resources had been diverted to the country’s oil production and to the increased development of the nuclear program whose fruits are not to be seen for at least another decade if not more … Is that justified?

    I’m disgusted to see how non-Iranian Muslims fashion their faith to this government so uncritically and feel the pressing need to defend the inhumane, subversive policies of this government as legitimate and sometimes even as “Islamic”. You don’t expressly submit that here, I acknowledge, however the uninterrupted series of articles that highlight Iran’s defense and show support to its policies/leadership, suggest such a defense is a priority for this publication.

    It would be much more appropriate for Islamic Insights to present issues immediately relevant to your regular readership. I imagine that North American Muslims face a multitude of problems and challenges which are unique to their context and would warrant discussion in these same pages, much more so than Iran’s nuclear program.

  • Ya Hussain

    Dear Brother Ali

    Assalam Alaikum

    Regarding your comments about Iran, I have a few things to say.

    First of all, you fail to realize that the energy shortage this winter was caused by Turkmenistan abruptly cutting supplies, not because of the government’s poor planning.

    That said, you yourself mentioned the importance of the nuclear program, i.e. “nuclear program whose fruits are not to be seen for at least another decade”. The Islamic Republic is the only nation in the Middle East which realizes the importance of future planning. While the Gulf states are too busy building seven-star hotels and indoor ski resorts, Iran has realized that after the oil runs out, they need some sort of energy source to sustain the economy. Hence, it is essential to continue work on the nuclear energy program and stand up to anyone who tries to deter Iran from doing so. In addition, there are numerous reports of expansion and diversification into other sources of energy as well.

    Regarding the government’s inhumane, subversive policies, did you hear about these on Fox News or from a Mujahideen Khalq mouthpiece? While the government of Iran — like any form of government implemented by fallible human beings — is not perfect, please check your sources regarding alleged human rights abuses. 90 percent of those stories are outright fabrications; the other 10 percent are gross exaggerations. And if by human rights abuses you mean the civil and penal code, go tell that to the Prophet and the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them), upon whose teachings the legal system is based.

    You also mentioned how non-Iranian Muslims identify religiously with the Islamic Republic. The fact of the matter, my brother, is that the system of “Guardianship by the Jurist” is one rooted in Shia religious teachings, not one of political design. See “The Issue of Wilayat-e Faqih and Marja’iyya” under: http://www.al-islam.org/organizations/AalimNetwork/msg00464.html

    Lastly, I believe that Islamic Insights is a publication dedicated to all aspects of North American Muslims’ lives. Many of us care deeply about international affairs, including the crisis with Iran, and so it makes sense that they have included a piece about that issue.

    Thanks, salam alaikum

  • Ali Jaffery

    Alaikum Salam.

    Why would a nation who possesses one of the richest supplies of natural gas (second or third in the world) import gas from a country whose resource distribution infrastructure is unfit to provide even for itself? Are economic ties with Turkmenistan of such strategic importance that we should tolerate their inefficient supply of oil though it results in the death of Iranians? Or has this dependence become a necessity because of resource mismanagement as most objective analyses offer? The solution is quite simple: reduce expenditure on the nuclear program and produce a domestic supply of natural gas. If a nation is able to realize the needs of its people, any reasonable person would not object to its pursuit of new economic and energy opportunities that might enfranchise it both domestically and internationally — but in Iran, the government’s priorities are divorced from the needs of its people. Though I speak for myself, fulfillment of the basic necessities of the poorest Iranians is not acquiescence to Western hegemony.

    Nonetheless, I’m greatly saddened by your crass display of determinism and religious supremacy. Simply because I suggest we shouldn’t submit ourselves to a government uncritically and when it wrongs, we should call out its injustices — you propose my disagreement is with none but the pristine teachings of the Prophet (s) and his most noble family. This type of intolerance of criticism and scrutiny and the creation of an egregious association with loyalty to Islam is what inflicts the greatest damage on our community. I accept and respect that people might argue about certain constructs and in the context of their argument, ascribe a scriptural basis and validity to their position, but if we are unable to evaluate the merits and demerits of arguments and must submit like servile imitators, than you crush the spirit of diversity and intellectual freedom that our tradition thrives off of. So, I just wish to say that while you justify Iran’s religious authority and use that as the major criteria for judging its policy regime as is your right — I don’t, as is my right. And that dissent is not tantamount to any agree of disloyalty to Islam, the Prophet (s) and the Ahl alBayt. I respectfully disagree with you but maintain the freedom to articulate my disagreements.

    By the way, if you propose ‘Iran’ to be synonymous with international affairs than I might accept what you have said – but from my poor understanding of the term, international affairs encompasses much more than Iran and its conflict with the West.

  • Abdullah

    Bro, Salams

    Wow, why does Iran import some of its natural gas from another country??? Why does the U.S. (one of the largest producer of oil) import much of its oil from other countries?? Try taking an economics class my friend..!! It’s just the way those things work.

    And man, you didn’t read the post of the person before you properly. No one is talking about not being critical. Even the so called “politically passive” (a false label) Marajas will say that you must listen to the Waliy-e-Faqih in non-Fiqhi matters if he’s not your mujtahid. Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi also explains the same thing in that Q/A thats posted above.

    Honestly bro, how many of those alleged “civil rights violations” are actually true?? Mistakes can happen with any human beings but the way the media exaggerates and expands on those (and doesn’t mention any of the GOOD stuff thats happening in the IR) and makes up so many stories is actually shameful. I will really like to see some real PROOF of these so-called violations that does not come from Western Zionist sources.

    One more thing. If you look under Opinions section of the site, you will see only ONE article related to Iran. How do you then claim that this is a pro-Iran publication or something?!?