Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Stuck in a Spider’s Web

Iranian blogger, Maryam Kashanim, Rooz Online:
Stuck in a Spider’s Web

Ahmad Shirzad is a physicist, a former official at Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, a member of Iran Participation Front (Jebhe Mosharekat Iran) and an MP. He spoke with Rooz about why Iran’s nuclear case was ruled contrary to Iran’s expectations. Shirzad has publicly spoken of his differing views on the case and at one time told other Parliamentarians that he doubted the economic soundness of Iran’s nuclear programs and attributed the strong international pressure against it to Iran’s concealments.

When he said that, the hardline and conservative media attacked him harshly and even requested a legal reprimand against him on grounds of treason.

According to a BBC Persian program analyst, “the response to Mr Shirzad’s views has led other MPs of the sixth Parliament to avoid expressing their views on Iran’s nuclear issue or take positions in line with the conservatists.” The issue that the BBC commentator makes reference to seems to be even a more serious issue these days. Even the independent media in Iran are towing the cautious line. Here are the excerpts of a talk with Shirzad on this.


We have not been too cautious, but our views are not published in the press.

Q- What does the independent press not publish?
A- This state of affairs is the result of president Ahmadinejad’s cabinet’s hurried policies during the last two and a half months. His team thought that because of differences in the governing board of the IAEA and the disagreements between the United States and the Europeans, if they presented a strong political position, the West would have been unable to take any serious steps against Iran.

Q-This was an erroneous view?
A-IAEA’s resolution has proved it wrong. In fact Ahmadinejad’s speech at the General Assembly and worse than that what he said in his interview with CNN and other news media, all gave the impression that Iran has made its final decision and would not change it. Because that position did not leave room for any negotiations, it drove those governments to a strong response. I think what Mr Ahmadinejad and then Mr Larijani did, brought Europe and the US several months closer to their political goals. They wanted to quickly bring the issue to its end.

A-It’s like the saying "you only live once." But this is not a diplomatic way of handling the issue.

Q-So what may happen during the next two months until the IAEA meets again?
A-We are stuck in a web clog. Any hurried action can make things worse for us. A situation in which we should have never been put into. Now the government must make the hard decisions. It must either confront the whole international community or it must cave in. In either case, it is will face a hard time. These individuals presented very hard positions. They should honestly speak with people and adopt wise policies where Iranian interests are better preserved.

Q-But only the right wing media can discuss these things.
A-That is true. On the other hand and unfortunately our thinkers and intellectuals have no expertise in these issues and so do not know what position to take. I personally think Iran’s thinking community must quickly take a position on this. Opposition to nuclear weapons is not only beneficial to Iran but it is also the humanistic goal of mankind.

A-But where should these discussions take place?
A-While the rulers are to blame for the atmosphere that has been created, out intellectuals too are not without fault. Many are still not sure whether they should support nuclear armament or peaceful disarmament.

Q-Which will be denied to us now.
A-We have deprived for the past twenty years. Iranian students cannot go abroad to undertake nuclear studies for the past twenty years.

Q-So what is to be done?
A-The continuation of the policy of confidence building with the IAEA may have enabled us to utilize peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Even now, we must have a dialogue with the world to win international confidence. At home, we need a strong government that is based on people’s support.

Q-Is this possible?
A-We are not in a good position. Our universities are seriously concerned, and this concern will flow into society.

Q-The government branches are now united, so why the occasional differences?
A-If you are talking about the IAEA decision, and then this has caught the foreign policy makers by surprise. A day before the resolution, foreign policy makers would not have even imaged that this could be the outcome. But to any other observer, it was clear where we were going. The rulers can silence the voice of others, but then they will be making grave mistakes in their decisions and approaches. Under these circumstances, the news that reaches decision makers is filtered.

When we asked Shirzad whether the purpose of the military cabinet that has been formed was foreign confrontation, he replied with a smile that it was actually for us.