Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What Arab Nations Think About Iran's Nuclear Plans

Iran is pursuing nuclear energy for purely peaceful reasons.

This is the result of the 2008 Annual Arab Public Opinion Poll taken by Zogby International for the University of Maryland's Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development. The poll covers a number of topics; by all means, take a look at the whole thing.

46% of those polled believe Iran is conducting research for peaceful purposes while 39% think weaponry is the end goal. More strikingly, 67% feel Iran should be left to its own devices (so to speak); only 22% think pressure should be applied to stop them.

The countries do not think as one. Jordan and Morocco are more dubious about Iran's motives and what it might mean for the Arab world than are Saudi Arabia and Egypt - other participants are the UAE and Lebanon, which split more evenly. The pdf linked provides more details, of course, but not enough to really understand the cultural and perhaps geographical biases inherent in each polled country. It's hard to believe that a people's attitude toward Israel is not highly relevant, but impossible to know. (To be fair, the poll also includes questions about Israel and the responses are nowhere near as dire as a westerner might fear.)

What does it all mean? Well, Iran has started a stampede among the other nations of the region to pursue nuclear energy - most of them, however, have pacted with the United States or France's AREVA to achieve it. These efforts are to the good - there is a recognition, even among large oil-producing nations, that nuclear energy provides benefits going forward that oil cannot match. 

As for Iran, the safest course is to harbor doubts at least until the IAEA weighs in - Iran had been ducking it, a really terrible sign. Unfortunately, although there have been meetings this week,  Russia has been a party to them. This needn't be a net negative, but Russia is looking for advantage in the region - with the U.S. showing off a lot of heavy armament right next door - and is likely to give Iran a fairly wide berth:

A three-man delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), headed by chief inspector Olli Heinonen, arrived in Tehran Monday morning and was to hold talks with officials from the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization. 
...
Foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini Sunday rejected press reports that Iran would discuss intelligence alleging Iran pursued nuclear weapons studies with Heinonen, saying that talks would only be within the framework of the IAEA and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Heinonen was in Tehran last week, but Tehran insisted that the visit was just routine and rejected Western press reports that the talks were solely focused on the new allegations.

Can't say this does a lot for one's confidence level, but we'll see.

---

With U.S. political figures about as bellicose as can be about Iran - Hilary Clinton recently threatened to obliterate the country if it lobbed nuclear-armed missiles at Israel - it's interesting to note that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is welcomed warmly by his Arab and Asian counterparts, as seen here:

Sri Lanka said Tuesday that it supports the peaceful use of nuclear energy by Iran within the framework of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In a joint statement issued at the conclusion of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's two-day state visit to Sri Lanka, "the two sides confirmed the full and non-discriminatory implementation of Article IV of the NPT on peaceful nuclear co-operation."

See? Iran is pursuing nuclear energy for purely peaceful reasons.

Confidence level, unraised.

7 comments:

Rod Adams said...

Perhaps if we were not quite so bellicose, Iran would be interested in working with US companies to build nuclear power plants.

I am old enough to remember a time when the US government, which even included some members of the current administration, realized that a young and vibrantly growing Iran would need nuclear power plants to supply its electrical power needs. We even trained a large number of engineers and technicians to that end during the 1970s.

It is time to realize that weapons and threats have their limitations.

Anonymous said...

Rod, as soon as Iran gets weapons grade uranium or plutonium, Israel is in big trouble. You'd be right about Iran if the mad mullahs weren't in charge. Remember: these are the same people who took Americans hostage some three decades ago. These are the same people to whom Jimmy Carter surrendered the country when support of the Shah was withdrawn. Iran is an Islamic fascist state and its government has to be defeated, preferrable from within by the US's cultural weapons of mass destruction propagated by the internet. The puritanical Islamists can withstand any armed conflict, but they can't stand how good and self-satisfying western immorality is. And no Islamist can ever be trusted with weapons grade nuclear fuel. Rod: we are Americans. We are the good guys. You used to serve in the US Navy. Stand up and be patriotic.

Mark Flanagan said...

Rod -
My dad worked in Iran as just such an engineer. I would have visited there if he , and most other foreigners, didn't have to beat it out of Dodge - er, Tehran - rather quickly. A big loss for me, certainly a bigger loss ultimately for Iran.

Anon -
Careful, my friend. Making sweeping statements about any group of people is a sure way to fall foul of what we like to call decent society online and off. Our Muslim friends are as welcome here as you are, and we'll get medieval on your comments - how appropo - if you won't stay clear of the stinkin' thinkin'. Your thoughts are always welcome, but please don't make anyone else feel unwelcome in the process. It just isn't nice.

Anonymous said...

Well Iran is pursuing a civilian plant in Busehr with the sensitive parts (fuel fabrication) outsourced to Russia under IAAE eyes and that seems OK. However they also run a separate weapon program in facilities which leaked in 2002-2003. After Iran refused generous GNEP-like offer from Russia (or rather several of them, and from others), there is little doubt about their intentions.

This exemplifies two points with respect to proliferation: 1) even in Iran the weapon-related activities are well separated: their effort to build a bomb is independent on running the Busehr plant;

2) their nuclear program is a problem for international politics. We may hold different opinions about how such situation (Iranians intentions to acquire weapons) should be resolved, but this has no relation to civilian nuclear power, even in Iran.

-t-

Lisa Stiles said...

Rod is one of the good guys and is as patriotic as they come. One of the most patriotic things about him is that he will respectfully listen to and consider the opinions of people that don't agree with him.

Anon, please don't go down the road of insinuating that someone is a traitor because he points out the facts of US policy shifts and his opinion that the current policy has some flaws.

Lisa

Rod Adams said...

Lisa and Mark:

Thank you. For "anonymous" I am still serving and still obligated under both the UCMJ and my sworn oath of office. For those who have never had the opportunity to read it or repeat it, here it is.

"I, _____ (SSAN), having been appointed an officer in the Navy of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.

I repeat some of those words to myself several times a day. It is also interesting to compare that oath to the one taken by enlisted soldiers and sailors and note the subtle, but important differences.

Part of being an American "good guy" is the responsibility to know, understand and defend our founding documents like the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence and the ideas that they express intimately. Not all of us qualify.

Anonymous said...

Rod & Lisa, just to make it clear, I am *not* the first anonymous :) but thanks for sharing your attitudes.

I'd also disagree that Israel is necessarily in trouble if Iran gets nukes. Israelis do have enough nukes themselves to vaporize any middle eastern country and after the decades they are well equipped to defend themselves. We just saw the news how they dusted the W-Pu factory in Syria.

The best thing for Israel would be end of this war of attrition, which is a problem of international politics since many decades.

That said, let me repeat that this issue of countries acquiring nuclear weapons is a political issue completely separate from nuclear powerplants, EVEN in the countries such as Iran or Syria; and certainly in the western countries.

-t-