Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions

By Kollengode S. Venkataraman


The US dropped atomic bombs over Japan in 1944 and ended WW- II with stunning effect, the only time thus far that nuclear weapons were used in warfare. So, nuclear technology for military applications is at least 70 years old. With the awesome power of this weapon seen in such dramatic display, it was natural that many others — UK, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel, besides the US — would later acquire nuclear weapons, claiming them as deterrents.

Consider the other developments that have enveloped the word since 1944, without which our life today will be unthinkable:

  • PCs, the Internet, and digital technology radicalizing the way we store, transmit and access texts, sounds, and images, with the communication technology impinging on every facet of our lives;
  • Organ transplants, MRIs and CT scans, robot-assisted surgeries, metal/plastic replacements for joints, artificial insemination and surrogate pregnancies, stem cell-based cures for diseases;
  • The ubiquitous cell phone, even in remote places; and
  • Star Wars weapons; and missiles fired from drones flying over Asian and African skies by technicians sitting in Arizona or Utah playing with joysticks and keyboards to release the guided missiles, and then going for their coffee nonchalantly. It is surreal and eerie.

These examples are only to stress that nuclear technology is pretty primitive today.

It is another matter that the stunning developments in communication technology did not lead to what was prophesied — improved understanding among peoples and countries. This is not surprising.  After all, the human instinct to predatorily control and subjugate others is so natural that man from the Stone Age to modern times has always used developments in S&T to extend his control over others — through fair means where and when possible; and through foul means where necessary and convenient, and when he can get away with it. There is no altruism here.

Take India and China. They belonged to the wretched “Third Word” four or five decades ago. Now, having become “Emerging Economies”  — China is now fully “emerged” — they no longer speak on how powerful nation-states exploit weaker states. Now they have joined the club.

India, in the Third World basket in the Cold War era, was the leader of the Non-Aligned Movement. Now, it has nuclear weapons and missiles, its economy is strong, its social indicators are on the upswing, it exports weapons to other countries, and wants to be a regional power. Understandably, the Non-Alignment is not India’s priority today, and it rarely talks about it even for public consumption.

In the days of the Wild West in the US, the guy with the fastest hand in drawing the gun — irrespective of whether he was good or bad — was feared by the helpless locals and earned the grudging respect of the local sheriffs, bankers, big merchants, petty shop keepers, and also from fellow gunslingers. Analogously, in the international arena, nation-states of all ideologies with the most lethal weapons – nuclear or biological and the delivery systems to accurately hit their targets thousands of miles away — are feared by weaker countries; they also get the grudging respect of the UN and the other powerful countries, including their ideological opponents. With these weapons and delivery systems, you join the unrecognized, yet prestigious “Clubs.” And you become relevant in all negotiations to discuss non-proliferation.

This background is necessary to look at Iran’s nuclear program.  Iran has a civilizational continuum that goes back a few millennia.  It had one of the oldest empires, the Achaemenid Empire, founded by Cyrus the Great, in the 6th century before the Common Era. Even though it is 98% Muslim, it has its own new year Nowruz, starting with the Spring Equinox in March, with its origins going back to the Achaemenid empire. Its population is ~ 92% Shia, with influence in Central Asia and the Middle East. Iran fears that it is living in a hostile neighborhood with Israel and the Sunni Arab sheikhs living under the American military umbrella trying to destabilize it through covert and overt actions. Besides, Iran — and many other non-nuclear countries, for that matter — see the industrialized nations’ stand on its nuclear program hypocritical.

furthermore, in its neighborhood, India, Pakistan, Israel, and Russia have nuclear weapons. As Iran sees it, after all, the Isais* have it, the Yahudis* have it, the Hindus* have it, the Mulhads* have it… … worse still, even the Sunnis* have it. Only we, the Shias, don’t have it. So, why should we not have it?

Does anyone today seriously believe that Iran — or any other country with serious commitment — can be stopped from developing the primitive 70-plus-year-old technology for making nuclear weapons?  That is how India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea got it. At best, the outside world can only delay it. Using strong-arm tactics on this point will only make Iran to stiffen its spine tio become more committed and determined to pursue the technology. Remember Zulfikar Ali Bhutto declaring, “We (Pakistanis) will eat grass, even go hungry, but we will get … our own [atom bomb)]!”  And they did get not only the nuclear technology, but also the missle system to deliver them.

* Isais: Christians (US, UK, and France);  Yahudis:  Jews (Israel);  Hindus:  (Indians);  Mulhads:  Atheists (Chinese and Russians); Sunnis:  Pakistanis    The End

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