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Why is Iran Going Nuclear?

By Claude Salhani | Tue, 05 February 2013 23:09 | 7

Iran is a member of OPEC, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. It ranks among the world's top four countries that hold both proven oil and natural gas reserves. Just a little over two years ago, in 2010, Iran counted as the world’s third-largest exporter of crude oil, after Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Iran also sits atop the world’s second-largest natural gas reserves. However the country’s energy industry, particularly its natural gas production, suffers from severe under-development, partially due to sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic by the international community. These sanctions come as punishment for Iran’s continued drive to acquire nuclear technology which Iran claims is intended for peaceful purposes such as generating electricity.  But why does a country with so much proven oil and natural gas reserves need to delve into the nuclear conundrum and all the implications that accompanies the nuclear dossier?

Natural gas counts for 54 percent of Iran's total domestic energy consumption. Oil makes up the difference, though there are marginable levels of coal and some energy being derived from hydropower.

Considering the vast gas reserves that Iran is sitting on top of, and how much safer and cleaner natural gas is on the environment when compared to nuclear energy, why then are the Iranian mullahs so hell bent on pursing their nuclear goals? 

The United States, Israel, Western European nations and most of Iran’s Arab neighbors, however have no room for doubt that the Iranians intend to develop nuclear technology in order to weaponize it and acquire the capability to deliver nuclear strikes if it should ever decide to do so. There is no doubt too that once Iran becomes a nuclear power they will command greater respect – if not greater trepidation -- from their Arab neighbors.

Related article: Iran to Install Thousands of New Centrifuges for Nuclear Enrichment

Arabs and Iranians have historically been at odds over cultural, political and religious differences. As a reminder, the majority of Iranians are Shia Muslims, and the vast majority of Arabs belong to the mainstream Sunni branch of Islam. The animosity between Sunni and Shia is as real today as it was when the original schism came about in the year 632 as the result of a dispute over who should succeed the Prophet Muhammad. Most of his followers wanted the “ummah” or the Muslim community to choose among the elite who would succeed the prophet as leader of the “believers.”  Others, a much smaller number, believed it should be a member of the prophet’s family who should inherit the mantle of power, and wanted Ali, the prophet’s son-in-law to lead the community. The Shia-Sunni split is at its root one of party politics not of religion. But the hate is as real today as it was in 661, when Ali, who eventually became th4 fourth caliph, was killed.

The animosity between the two groups is highlighted in a British comedy film, “The Infidel,” where the main character, a Muslim Brit finds out he was originally Jewish. Explaining his situation to friends and family he exclaims! “Hey, at least I am not a Shia.”

Today Iran stands accused by the United States of supporting terror groups and having been responsible for attacks carried out by terror groups against US and Israeli interests and for being responsible for the death of US and Israeli citizens and military personnel.

So with all this natural wealth and the potential to use those resources towards a more positive goal, where oil and natural gas revenues could be funneled towards more lucrative ends such as building a better and brighter future for its people, why then is the Islamic Republic devoting so much time, energy and resources towards such confrontational issues as pursuing the nuclear dossier and supporting organizations that employ the use of terror?

Related article: Tepid Voter Turnout Sets Back Bulgarian Nuclear Power Plans

The answer is perhaps as complex as the web that weaves Iran’s ruling theocracy. Iran feels threatened by the US hegemony in the region, and indeed in the world, given that the United States is presently the only remaining superpower. During the Cold War, Iran, although weighed in on the side of the West, the Persians actually found some balance by the fact that the Soviet Union, with which it shared a border, provided some counterbalance to US power. But with the demise of the USSR the rules suddenly changed and American power – and some may add, American arrogance – found itself unchecked.

The fall of communism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union had a huge effect on Iran. The Central Asian countries –Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, with whom it shared borders, were Muslim countries now open to possible Iranian influence. Indeed, since the 1979 Islamic revolution that ousted the shah and brought in the mullahs Iran has been trying to export its Islamic revolution to the Arab world with very little success. After more than 30 years of trying the only success has been the little inroads Iran has made in Lebanon with that country’s Shia community and with Hamas in Gaza, principally because the Palestinian Islamic Movement, although Sunni, grabbed the only hand that was reached out to it.

Becoming a nuclear power, the Iranians believe will put them in a position of superior power in the Gulf region, where they still feel the threat from their age-old adversaries is as real today as it was in 632. Unleashing the nuclear demon from the magic lamp however could prove fatal and irreversible.

By. Claude Salhani

Claude Salhani is a political analyst and journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia, terrorism and political Islam.  His latest book is Islam Without a Veil.” He tweets @claudesalhani

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  • SA Kiteman on February 06 2013 said:
    Natural gas, safer and cleaner than nuclear? Are you joking?

    "Nearly 300 students in Texas are killed by an explosion of natural gas at their school on this day in 1937."

    This one incident killed more people than all the nuclear power plant accidents combined. And the CO2 from NG and the NG itself are strong GHGs.
  • t,jhjhj on February 06 2013 said:
    would it be since they know oil is running out ?
  • observer on February 06 2013 said:
    And of course, Iran government should be your/their slave after the gas and oil run out! What happened for Iran's proposal for changing of 20% enriched uranium with plates for scientific reactor in Tehran to produce medical isotops?
    Can you guarantee that western governments will give uranium for Iran's neuclear power plant when today even exporting medicine to Iran is not possible?!
    Ar you JOKING?!
  • Roger on February 06 2013 said:
    This casual conflation of nuclear power with nuclear weapons turns the answer to an interesting question into mere confusion. Iran knows that for economic reasons it ultimately will need to sell its fossil fuels instead of burning them to produce electricity -- hence the commercial power reactor at Bushehr. Like all other light water cooled- and moderated-reactors in the world, this one will not be used to produce weapons material. That task is much more efficiently and cheaply done with dedicated plutonium production reactors, as was done in the US and other countries.

    Iran also wants to develop weapons for its own purposes. Even if we disagree with this policy, it has nothing to do with commercial nuclear energy.
  • Michael on February 06 2013 said:
    Iran is also developing wind and solar power (do a google search on it). Why would Iran with all that oil and natural gas develop wind and solar? Are those secret weapons programs? Are they trying to attack us with hurricanes and giant sun reflectors? Maybe Iranians have a long term energy policy that includes all the options.
  • John Shaw on February 22 2013 said:
    SA Kiteman on February 06 2013 said:
    Natural gas, safer and cleaner than nuclear? Are you joking?

    "Nearly 300 students in Texas are killed by an explosion of natural gas at their school on this day in 1937."



    Are YOU joking? Remember Chernobyl?
  • YmY on June 24 2013 said:
    "Arabs and Iranians have historically been at odds over cultural, political and religious differences."

    Keep your lies and divide and conquer bullshit to yourselves.

    Who are the "Arabs" standing against Iran? Your "Arabs"; the corrupt despotic Gulf prostitutes and their lackeys of British-US made wahabis.

    Not the 300 million ordinary Arabs who stand behind Iran's right 100%.

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