By Hamid Javadi
The quest of the Iranian government to acquire nuclear science and technology is heading toward an international crisis, albeit a manufactured one. The subject has many dimensions. Iran has been a party to the Treaty on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation since 1970 and had a safeguards agreement with the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), since 1974.
The roots of Iran’s drive to become a nuclear player go back to events following the 1978-1979 Iranian Revolution when a young Republic trying to stand on her own feet had to go through a 8 year-long bloody conflict with Iraq. The state and the Iranian people found themselves alone in the fight against Iraq’s invasion, which was backed by numerous world powers, including the US .
Even the most adamant critic of the Iranian government gives it credit for fending off aggression that could have split and destroyed the country. This difficult task was accomplished in part by intricate use of the nationalistic and religious drive and fervor of the Iranian people. Iranians are very proud people (mainly because of a glorious past and vibrant culture, even in the face of recent centuries of neglect and stagnation). Irrespective of their cultural, religious, or ethnic backgrounds, Iranians hold their country very dear to their heart.
Among the worst experiences of the war was Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iranian troops and civilians, and later, against Kurdish Iraqi civilians . By the end of the war, it had become the norm for Iraqis to start an offensive against Iran by first gassing the front line in order to demoralize the defending forces. The bitter challenge of the Iranian government was to convince the world that Iraq was guilty of starting the invasion, engaging in terror attacks on civilian population centers, and its flagrant violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol and international customary law.
What Iran learned in the halls of the United Nations was her most valuable lesson of survival. It is based on this psyche that Iran is maneuvering the negotiations around the new nuclear dispute . Alas Iran’s poor and lower class paid the price of the war and will pay for any future political blunder of their government under foreign imposed rules and constraints.
In this article, I inadvertently crossed the line into politics in which I am neither a student nor a player. The reader is encouraged to consult multiple sources to obtain an accurate understanding of the situation. My most genuine reaction as a physicist is to share with you (as it seems to me) the forthcoming and courageous expressions of sound scientific minds by the Physics Society of Iran under the prospect of most uncertain consequences.
On October 2003, the Physics Society of Iran issued a declaration regarding the internal political drive toward the nuclear science and technology, which was issued about a year prior to when it acquired international dimensions.
The declaration called for “modern rationality” in the procedures governing scientific decision making, as well as “serious scrutiny” of claims concerning Iran’s achievement of nuclear technology and its potential consequences–specifically the possibility of international sanctions. “Our concern is the possible future blockage of all international roads to our scientific development,” the declaration stated. “National security relies on scientific development and on maintenance of international interactions.” (Editor’s Note: The complete Declaration of the Physics Society of Iran follows this article.)
It is the desire of all concerned physicists that technologies (in general) be used for the well-being of humans all around the world. It is heartbreaking to see that new technologies (for example superconductivity, silicon micromachining, nanotechnology, nanobiology, genetic engineering, hydrogen fuel, plasma reactor) can’t transfer the poor countries of the North-South divide out of their cycle of poverty.
The extreme plight of the human race will remain unmanageable unless more international institutions of the caliber of the Abdus Salam International Center for Theoretical Physics in Italy (founded in 1964 by Abdus Salam; the ICTP operates under a tripartite agreement among the Italian Government, UNESCO, and IAEA), and Jordan’s SESAME (Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East; SESAME is an international center for research and advanced technology) will operate under direct supervision of the scientists who live and work in the poor and third-world countries.
To be frank, what is in the best interest of the Islamic Republic of Iran is to wake up from the stupor of religious self-righteousness to join the rest of the world in the technological race for the well-being of its citizens.
Hamid Javadi is in the Submillimeter Wave Advanced Technology Group of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
1. “Iran’s Nuclear Posture and the Scars of War,” Joost R. Hiltermann, Middle East Report Online Jan. 18th 2005. http://www.merip.org/mero/mero011805.html
2. “Preventing the further proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The importance of on-site inspection in Iraq,” Lecture by Dr. Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC at the Third Training Course of UNMOVIC. Vienna, 19 February 2001. http://www.un.org/Depts/unmovic/ExecChair/BlixVienna.htm.
3. “Iran’s Nuclear File: The Uncertain Endgame,” Farideh Farhi, Middle East Report Online Oct. 24th 2005. http://www.merip.org/mero/mero102405.html
Declaration of the Physics Society of Iran on on Iran’s Access to Nuclear Science and Technology, Tehran, Iran (Oct. 2003)
In the last few months various social strata inside and outside of Iran have engaged in discussions on Iran’s access to nuclear technology. Now that discussions of this issue have subsided Physics Society of Iran, according to its social obligation to inform on scientific matters, declares that:
Growth and development in nuclear sciences and technologies are essential for Iran’s sustainable development. This growth and the development of related sciences and technologies, which is the inalienable right of our nation, is not attainable unless modern rationality is introduced into decision making and into procedures leading to scientific decisions. Regrettably, there is evidence however, that sometimes the procedures governing scientific decision making are not based on rationality.
Our country, perhaps because of its hundreds of years of historical stagnation in the area of science and its strong feeling of under-development needs occasional achievements. But, these occasional achievements bring about false pride only, and slow down sustainable development.
Development of scientific and technological infrastructure are obvious requirements of scientific developments which in the absence of strong science management, and with mediocre and weak managers, is impossible. Even if for any political reason a need for sporadic achievement in technology is recognized, in the absence of a strong and overreaching infrastructure and without scientific back up, modern rationality necessitates establishment of the required infrastructure and prohibits weakening of the existing infrastructures. Unfortunately, in the area of nuclear science and technology, in the larger sense, we are witnessing such a phenomenon.
Claims concerning Iran’s achievement of nuclear technology deserve serious scrutiny. Nuclear sciences and technologies are very diverse and interdisciplinary and achieving technology in one area does not extend to other areas. Having neglected the multitude of areas of nuclear technology and its peaceful applications, lack of support for the existing fragile infrastructure, and even their destruction, neglecting education of manpower specialized in the area of nuclear science and technology, lack of support for research in these areas, and absence of the necessary vision for future, all point to the claim being unfounded, and make us weary of the consequences of the claim for an achievement which we do not possess.
Emphasizing the need for the financial and administrative investment in peaceful nuclear sciences and technologies, we declare that because of lack of modern rationality in previous scientific decisions, we are facing the danger of isolation in international relations; and we declare that the necessary infrastructures for peaceful nuclear sciences may not be developed in isolation. Our concern is the possible future blockage of all international roads to our scientific development.
National security relies on scientific development and on maintenance of international interactions. It is unreasonable to assist in imposition of economic and scientific sanctions. Sustainable development and security are only possible through international interactions. Involving high level scientific managers in scientific decisions will reduce the danger of irrational management.
Iran is well capable of becoming a leading country in science and technology in the region. It may find its adequate place in the region and the international community only if rationality is introduced in its scientific decisions.