A Great Achievement Called Nuclear Might

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Interview with Hassan Beheshtipour

The first round of new talks between Iran and P5+1 started on April 14 in Turkey’s port city of Istanbul which is to be followed by a second round in Iraq’s capital city, Baghdad. Interestingly, the date is close to the day which has been designated as the National Day of Nuclear Energy in Iran. This issue has been discussed in the following interview with Hassan Beheshtipour, university teacher and analyst of foreign relations.

Q: Why nuclear energy is so important to the Islamic Republic of Iran?

A: Nuclear energy is among advanced technologies, which is possessed by a few countries in the world. I mean, there are 60 countries using nuclear energy of which only 15 countries have mastered the nuclear fuel cycle; that is, they are able to enrich uranium on their soil. This is a cause of honor for Iran which has been able to master the complete cycle of nuclear fuel. Nuclear energy, on the other side, will influence other fields of science; will speed up progress of various fields of physics, industry, trade and commerce in Iran; and on the whole, will promote Iran's international scientific standing. The country’s scientific progress is also directly related to promotion of its international clout and position. The fact that Iran is the first regional state to have achieved nuclear energy and generate nuclear power is considered a great achievement for Iran which is no less important than nationalization of the oil industry. Just in the same way that Iran was a pioneer in the field of oil nationalization in the region, it is fortunately a pioneer in the field of nuclear energy as well. Meanwhile, nuclear energy has also turned into symbol of Iran's resistance against the world arrogant system. That resistance has had its price, but I think it was worth the price because it has been a great achievement for the country.

Q: The issue of cost-benefit has been subject of constant criticism. What costs Iran has suffered in the nuclear case and in return for what achievements?

A: Due to its insistence on its rights, Iran has been grappling with extensive sanctions which have imposed certain costs on the country. For example, it has to pay a higher price for some commodities which Tehran could have purchased less expensively, let alone that certain products are not sold to Iran at all. This issue has had psychological effects on the domestic market and price of some domestic goods have been constantly on the rise. The national currency has lost some of its value while the US dollar has been gaining, which is another cause for high prices. From a political viewpoint, Iran has been facing international tensions. We have also lost a number of nuclear scientists in the past few years which, I believe, has been the greatest blow dealt to the Islamic establishment in relation to its nuclear activities. We have also been possibly forced to give economic and political concessions in order to go around sanctions. Of course, this is just conjecture and I don’t have accurate figures on this issue, though there is evidence to prove my guess. Anyway, all I mentioned here is not a high cost for Iran's achievement of complete nuclear fuel cycle. The nuclear fuel cycle includes a set of capabilities which include extracting uranium ore, converting it to “yellow cake,”producinguranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas, introducing it into centrifuges to produce enriched uranium, and used the enriched uranium to produce nuclear fuel rods for consumption in nuclear reactors and power plants. It is very important that Iran has been able to reach this stage by relying on indigenous know-how and independently despite tremendous pressures imposed by the West and this is exactly what has concerned the West. At present, it is a national conviction that “we can” while they previously wanted us to believe that Iranians cannot do teamwork.

Q: What role has people’s support played in facilitating Iran's achievement of nuclear technology?

A: The whole process could not have progressed in the absence of people’s support. I mean, under conditions when all countries imposed sanctions on us and even China and Russia voted in favor of anti-Iranian resolutions, in the absence of people’s support and their presence in the scene, the country would not have been able to progress thus far. When we talk about presence in the scene, this is not just a motto, but a reality. I exactly mean that the issue of nuclear energy has turned into a national will and determination and this determination is a good support for those who are involved in developing Iran's nuclear program. In the absence of that support, the nuclear project could not have been implemented.

Q: What has been the impact of these progresses on Iran's nuclear case? I mean, how different the situation is today with what it was some 10 years ago?

A: A clear example is production of the nuclear fuel rod and 20-percent enriched uranium. If you remember, it was in May 2010 that Iran announced via an international tender bid that it needs 20-percent enriched uranium to supply needed fuel to Tehran Research Reactor. The bid was won by Russia and France. It was decided that Russia would provide 20-percent enriched uranium while France was supposed to supply Iran with fuel rod. Later on, however, they announced that they would supply Iran with 20-percent enriched uranium only if Iran would give them, say, 1,200 kilograms of 5.3-percent enriched uranium in return for 120 kilograms of 20-percent enriched uranium. Iran did not protest as it was not a bad deal. Then they said the swap should be done outside Iran. An agreement was finally signed through mediation of Turkey and Brazil, in June 2010, which was known as Tehran Declaration. Iran officially accepted that the exchange should be done in Turkey. The West, however, came up with new excuses saying that 1,200 kilogram was for the old deal and Iran should now give 2,200 kilograms of 5.3-percent enriched uranium. In fact, despite they claimed to have no problem with the use of nuclear energy by Iran for peaceful purposes, in practice, they proved that they were against it even for producing radio medicines at Tehran Research Reactor to be used by cancer patients. Therefore, Iran decided to produce 20-percent enriched uranium on its own. The West then announced that it was not possible for Iran to manufacture nuclear fuel rod because it needed very high technology. Thanks God, our self-reliant youth manufactured nuclear fuel rod last December and officially installed it at Tehran Research Reactor. This has been confirmed by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the West cannot claim that Iran is bluffing. That success proved to the West that Iran will not give in to their extortionist demands and the more they go on with sanctions and refrain from cooperation with Iran, the country will become more self-reliant to produce what it needs. Therefore, they reached the conclusion that getting back to negotiating table would be the best option for them.

Q: What are the two sides trying to find through negotiations?

A: These negotiations will be only successful when they are carried out according to a clear agenda. The West must accept that suspending uranium enrichment is among Iran’s red lines and should avoid of asking for it. At present, the Western media are talking about another plan according to which if Iran gave up 20-percent enrichment and sufficed to enriching uranium to 4-5 percent, the country would be able to keep its ground while allowing the West to consider stopping 20-percent enrichment as Iran’s sign of cooperation.In return, the West should take measures to reduce sanctions. In the next stage, Iran will agree on a model for supervision over its nuclear activities by IAEA. These issues have been already brought up by the Western media as the main theme of talks, but what Iran is going to receive in return? We believe that international sanctions are illegal and reducing them will be a concession to Iran. Of course, negotiations should go on anyway and should not be stopped, but the goal should be quite clear and both sides should enter negotiations with cooperation on their minds. Neither Iran can expect P5+1 to given concessions without cooperation, nor can they expect the same from Iran. All issues are open to talks provided that the West realizes Iran’s red line which is continuation of uranium enrichment. The West’s red line is building nuclear weapons by Iran and Iran has frequently announced that it has no plan to make nuclear bomb.

Q: Why the West insists on the suspension? Iran has now mastered nuclear technology and suspension will have no benefit for the West.

A: Although they emphasize on suspension, they actually seek to totally shut down Iran’s nuclear activities. During two years that Iran had suspended its nuclear activities, the West only sought to make Tehran completely give up its nuclear energy program without taking any measure in return. Of course, all of them have reached the conclusion that Iran should be recognized as a country with uranium enrichment technology, but they insist that enrichment should remain at the level of 4-5 percent and does not develop further.

*Hassan Beheshtipour is a researcher, documentary producer, and a frequent contributor to Press TV. Born on June 22, 1961 in the Iranian capital, Beheshtipour received his BA in Trade Economics from the prestigious Tehran University. His research topics span from US and Russian foreign policy to the Ukrainian Orange Revolution. The Iranian analyst is currently busy with research on the 1979 US embassy takeover in Tehran.

Key Words: Nuclear Program, Iran, Nuclear Technology, Enrichment, Beheshtipour

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