An Iranian Stand-Off


The Bu Shahr nuclear complex, in Iran’s southern Bu Shahr province, is a long way from Tehran. But it has captured the imagination of both Iran and the world’s media in recent months because it is likely to be the next stop for the American democracy train.

The Iranian people hear Western reports of a ‘nuclear stand-off,’ of ‘crisis’ and ‘stalemate’ between the US and Iran. But they know that the game of finger biting between Tehran and the West in which the first to scream is the one to lose has been going on since the late 1970s (when the Shah was deposed), and that it has only varied in intensity since then, depending on world events. So it came as no surprise that a one-sentence assertion made by the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on 14 April 2005, about Iran’s limited ability to enrich uranium, provoked such concern in the West and revived the cries for war from a number of American officials.

Some Iranian sources believe that the Americans’ fiery statements against Tehran are part of an ideological battle, fought in the name of God with the nuclear program as a fittingly apocalyptic background to the saga, but not its centrepiece. This scenario is not as fanciful as it seems, given the Iranian President’s hardline entourage and President George W Bush’s neo-conservative aids, as well as the fundamentalist overtones on both sides (Messianic Judeo-Christian messages vying with Shi’a Islam’s own theory about the return of the long-awaited Mahdi or 12th Imam).

Back to reality or the earthly interpretation of the US-Iranian crisis.

There are many people here who point out that, during the regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi (1941-1979), it was the Americans themselves who advised Iran their close ally at the time to turn to nuclear technology in order to overcome future energy problems. And that the first sketches for Iran’s nuclear program were drawn by American hands, aided by other Western allies such as West Germany.

In an interview with Tehran-based Al-Alam TV news channel, Richard Murphy, former US Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East, conceded that nuclear advice had been given to Iran, but said that circumstances changed after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when Iran declared Israel an enemy.

Thanks to Tom Toles

Nuclear experts, among them the Russians who are helping build the Bu Shahr reactor in Iran, maintain that Tehran is still at least 10 years from developing a nuclear weapon. But they also assert that America’s feverish war cries are pushing Tehran to developing a nuclear deterrent in the name of security. Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, Iranian Vice President and President of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (link: , announced a few days ago that promising deposits of uranium had been discovered in the north of the country, with high expectations that there will be sufficient amounts of ore to develop a nuclear program without outside assistance.

Russia and China, as well as Iran, have all warned that a military attack by the West would destabilise the entire region and certainly push international oil prices through the roof so that Washington and its European allies would have their hands burnt by the very fire they started. Iranian officials go further, saying that if the US attacked, they would retaliate by targeting not only American forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf, but also their interests worldwide.

Anyone who understands the Iranian mentality takes the threat seriously.

With Iraq still in a mess thanks to Anglo-American invasion, it is difficult, if not impossible, to believe that southern Iraq’s majority Shi’ite Muslims would sit on their hands if the US attacked Shi’ite Iran. Anti-US feeling would not only be fuelled by this religious relationship, but by the strong belief among ordinary Shi’ites that the US does not trust them to rule Iraq.

Iraqi Shi’ites with strong attachment to spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (who is himself Iranian) are ready to turn the heat back on Coalition forces in southern Iraq. And those Iraqi Shi’ites affiliated with Moqtada al-Sadr (who enjoys a reasonable standing among most Iraqis, even Sunnis) would relish the opportunity to attack the Anglo-American forces.

The Iraqi-Iranian borders are porous and too complex to be sealed the terrain is difficult and the local population would make sure that supplies crossed smoothly.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. It doesn’t take into account the ideology of martyrdom through suicide bombing, which ensures that Iran has thousands of would-be martyrs ready to carry out commando-style operations.

Nobody denies that the US is the top military power in the world, yet its type of power is not the only way to achieve victory, as Vietnam demonstrated.

It would be foolish for the US to rely on any domestic opposition within Iranian. Firstly, the current regime exercises a strong security grip over the country. Secondly, many Iranians still associate the US with the undemocratic former Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. And finally, Iranians still remember America’s role in overthrowing the Iranian Government in 1953 when Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh nationalised the oil industry. In brief, a large part of Iran believes that America has nothing to do with ‘democracy’ and thaty flirting with America would be a destructive option, making their country a second Iraq.

Moreover, a reasonable number of people believe that nuclear energy would solve a lot of problems in their daily life. And a few consider having nuclear weapons would not be such a bad thing they defend their national right to have a strategic deterrent in the same way as other countries, including the US and Israel.

As the US-Iranian crisis heads toward deadly conflict, the Iranian leadership continues to work against the Americans via the UN. They are convinced that the inevitable confrontation may delayed, at least, until after then next Congressional elections, and beyond that until Washington escapes from the Iraqi labyrinth.

But there is always a lunatic who may pull the trigger.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.