I am deeply troubled by the sabre rattling over the issue of Iran developing nuclear energy capabilities.
Tiny efforts like mine on Atomic Insights may not matter much, but it is time to do all I can to shift the conversation away from war mongering to something that is a more productive and positive use of our time and resources. It is time to ask people to place the rhetoric on pause and to go back just a few short years to recall the propaganda push that resulted in attacking Iraq – which ended up costing a few trillion dollars, several thousand American lives and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives.
With few exceptions, the words that certain politicians and pundits are producing today sound like replays of the same tired words that the neocons used to justify aggression against Iraq.
Many Americans date their animosity toward Iran to the actions of 1979, when a group of students, with some apparent official support, invaded the American embassy and took 52 people hostage. Even though the crisis was a 444 day long, embarrassing episode in our history, the hostages were eventually released. America lost eight brave soldiers in a poorly planned and horribly executed rescue attempt.
On the other side of the issue, Iranians date their hostility to America to 1953, when the United States CIA took actions to stimulate the overthrow of the democratically elected leader named Mohammad Mosaddeqh. Our main beef with him was the fact that he had decided that the oil and gas under his country actually belonged to the people, not to the companies that had arranged some sweet deals during a colonial era. When he moved to nationalize the oil reserves, the UK and the US took action to install a dictator who was more compliant with our “interests.”
That part of the controversy is pretty well known and discussed. My contribution is to try to help people understand how much the current turmoil is being driven by selfish quests for oil, gas, markets, money and power while denying millions to billions of people access to the abundant energy that would take a good portion of the money out of the equation.
The rarely discussed aspect of the current Iranian situation is that many participants are more worried about the prospect of competing in the energy fuels market with an Iran that has a capable and growing nuclear energy industry than they are about the more remote possibility that Iran will waste its time and resources building and maintaining virtually unusable weaponry.
Iran has large, underexploited reservoirs of oil and gas. Some observers have pointed to that fact as being prima facie evidence that its nuclear energy program must be aimed at producing weapons. That argument is based on the illogical notion that any country with any sense would avoid using nuclear energy if it has plenty of oil and gas. The argument makes no sense – even if you have a lot of oil and gas, nuclear fission is a better heat source for many applications.
Why would any sane nation waste valuable materials like light, sweet crude and easily extracted methane gas on processes like electricity production or water desalination that can be done more economically and more cleanly by fissioning otherwise useless materials like uranium and thorium? (Oh yeah, some of the anti-Iranian sabre rattlers advocate the same dumb choice for us here in the US. I suspect it is because they profit from sales of oil and gas.)
If Iran is able to successfully develop an independent nuclear energy capability that does not need support from international purchases, it would free up a significant portion of its current oil and gas production and make it available for sale into the world market. That prospect is frightening to the people who like the current elevated price of oil (all over the world) and natural gas (outside the US) because more supply always drives down prices. There might be some occasional time delays in that effect, but as soon as our limited storage capacity fills up, prices fall until the demand and supply match.
Naming names, both Saudi Arabia and Israel have strong financial motives for trying to suppress Iran’s energy production capacity. Saudi Arabia has been battling Iranian oil in the market for several decades – as documented in Daniel Yergin’s classic book titled The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power. Until recently, Israel’s rivalry with Iran seemed to be more based on religion and politics, but Israel has discovered a vast natural gas field in the Mediterranean that it would like to exploit and market at a profitable price.
There are certainly other issues on which some like to focus, but an awful lot of international intrigue can be stimulated when there are hundreds of billions of dollars in long-term fossil fuel based income at stake.
One more thing that worries anti-Iranian activists is the recognition that a nuclear capability enables an independently minded nation to thumb its nose at international pressure. It is difficult to embargo a country that has nuclear reactors, an indigenous nuclear fuel manufacturing capability, AND vast stores of oil and gas. Sure, the cost of the nuclear fuel might be higher than it would be if the country could purchase the fuel on the open market due to manufacturing efficiencies, but even at double or triple the world price, nuclear fuel is a cheap, clean source of reliable heat.
Aside: I discount all statements made about Iran’s lack of indigenous uranium. Not only does the country include a large and diverse land mass, but it also is home to Ramsar, which is known to have the highest level of naturally occurring radioactive material of any occupied area in the world. It is not possible to have insufficient uranium reserves when you have places in your country where the annual dose rate can be as high as 130 mSv. End Aside.
With sufficient sources of controllable heat, a nation that has a coastline will never want for fresh water. With water, land and hardworking people, a nation can feed itself, clothe itself, and keep its population safe and secure.
I suspect that most Iranians would prefer not to be isolated from the world, but history has shown that it is possible for a nation with rich natural resources (think South Africa) to go its own way for many decades. There is no reason to suspect that Iran’s actions to develop its nuclear capability are anything more than the logical actions of a nation that has been continually attacked for a half a century with covert actions, economic embargos and frequent threats of preemptive military attacks.
PS – One persistent piece of misinformation continues to be used as a justification for attacks against Iran. Thousands of repetitions in essentially all forms of media (printed books, newspapers, online, radio, television) have falsely accused Iran’s President of describing Israel as a “fake regime” that “must be wiped off the map.”
That is NOT what he said. News media fact checkers have no excuse for not knowing the truth; a credible story about the real translation was published in the New York Times in June 2006 titled Just How Far Did They Go, Those Words Against Israel?
In fact, Ahmadinejad actually misquoted a far more nuanced phrase first made by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1980 that called for regime change, not a military attack.
Khomeni’s original words translate to the following:
“This occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the arena of time.”
Ahmadinejad’s speech in October of 2005 to an anti-Zionism conference included the following statement – translated from the original Farsi, of course:
“This regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.”
The New York Times, despite having printed the more accurate piece linked to above, was the original source of the misquoted statement that has so often been repeated. That first misinformed story appeared in an article dated October 27, 2005 titled Wipe Israel ‘off the map’ Iranian says. It is long past time for the grey lady of American journalism to atone for the mistake and work to halt the potential for massive quantities of bloodshed that it might encourage if not forcefully and repeatedly corrected.
Go Build 4 Research Reactors – and plan for 20 power reactors. Article dated February 16 from Indiaatvnews.com provides an Indian perspective regarding recent announcement by Ahmadinejad.
New York Times Front Page February 16, 2012 – Aggressive Actions by Iran Signal Pressure on Its Leadership