On Feb. 23, Iran announced that it had discovered new uranium deposits and went public with plans to build 16 new nuclear power stations. Prior to this announcement, the Western world was under the impression that Iran was near exhausting its existing uranium supply. Iran also has plans to install next generation centrifuges capable of enriching uranium at a faster rate.
While some in Washington are calling this a provocative move on the part of the Islamic republic, I am not convinced that their assessment of the situation is accurate. I feel this could be an important steppingstone for improving East-West relations if handled correctly and maturely.
For one thing, this would not be the first time that United States officials have jumped to conclusions about a Middle Eastern nation. The most famous example of this tendency, of course, is our claim that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. Ultimately, such claims turned out to be false, but were nonetheless part of the foundation of what became the Iraq War.
Iranian authorities have formerly stated that bolstering their number of nuclear power stations is intended to increase electricity production. Currently, the country only has one nuclear power station. This, of course, should be an admirable goal in a world where natural gas reserves are dwindling and alternative energy is viewed as the future. Yet the West continues to view it with skepticism.
It is important to note that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons explicitly gives abiding nations, of which Iran is one, the “right to peacefully use nuclear technology.” Up to this point, the evidence seems to indicate that Iran’s goal is to do exactly that.
Chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili has stated, “We are meeting all of our obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and we should be able to benefit from our rights. We don’t accept more responsibilities and less rights.” This is a plausible argument.
Six world powers known as the “P5+1” (the U.S., United Kingdom, China, Russia, France and Germany) are planning to offer Iran protection from international sanctions if the Islamic nation will agree to lessen its production of enriched uranium – but why?
The explanation for this is that the world at large is running on the assumption that Iran will in fact use this enriched uranium to create nuclear weapons, thus expanding its nuclear arsenal. This is no doubt why U.S. officials in Washington have deemed this a “provocative move.”
Iran has demonstrated no ill will regarding the nation’s increased uranium production and I do not believe that the intent is to provoke anyone. Instead of continuing to view the Middle East with the suspicious eye that we have so often in the past, this should be seen as an opportunity for East-West bilateral diplomacy, an opportunity to begin to repair the damage done to our relationship with the Middle East.
Jalili summarized this sentiment, saying, “If the P5+1 group wants to start constructive talks with Tehran it needs to present a valid proposal … It needs to put its past errors to one side … to win the trust of the Iranian nation.”
In the end, this is what it comes down to. Instead of increasing hostility between the Middle East and the West, this could be a huge opportunity for repairing the trust between these two areas of the world.