Wednesday, June 29, 2016


Persian Letters

Nuclear Program Has 'Hurt Iran More Than Iraq War'

Professor Sadegh Zibakalam (left) speaks as former legislator Ahmad Shirzad looks on at a conference about Iran's nuclear program at Tehran University on December 17.
Professor Sadegh Zibakalam (left) speaks as former legislator Ahmad Shirzad looks on at a conference about Iran's nuclear program at Tehran University on December 17.

Iran's nuclear activities and ambitions faced rare, blunt criticism at a roundtable at Tehran University, where one of the speakers said the damage done by the nuclear program was greater than that by the 1980-88 war with Iraq, which left tens of thousands dead and caused much devastation.

"The imposed war [with Iraq] did not damage us as much as the nuclear program has," professor Sadegh Zibakalam said at the December 17 roundtable, according to reports by Iranian semiofficial news agencies.

Zibakalam also criticized the lack of public debate about the nuclear issue.

Other speakers were also critical of the nuclear program and its costs for Iranians, who have come under unprecedented U.S.-led sanctions that have made life more difficult.

Speaking at the event, former reformist lawmaker Ahmad Shirzad said nothing had come out of the nuclear program, "not even a glass of water."

"If you ask me why we're moving on the nuclear path, I must say I have no idea," Shirzad was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency. "This is exactly like the continuation of the war [with Iraq] after the liberation of Khorramshahr," he added.

Shirzad said that he welcomed Iran's official line, according to which the country is against building and acquiring nuclear weapons.

The former lawmaker also seemed to suggest that Iran would be better off without a civil nuclear program. "Iran doesn't have the primary resources and know-how for a nuclear program," he was quoted as saying by ISNA. He said Iran could assert itself in areas such as petrochemistry and natural gas, where the country has the resources and the knowledge.

Former diplomat and professor Davoud Hermidas Bavand said Iran's nuclear program should not be compared to the nationalization of the oil industry in 1951, a comparison made by former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

"What happened under the government of [Prime Minister Mohammad] Mosaddegh was a struggle for rights under international laws. But in the nuclear issue, the resistance against bullying has been going in a direction that, in the long run, some other inalienable rights of the people are being [taken away]," Bavand said.

He added that it is the duty of President Hassan Rohani, to the people and history, to resolve the nuclear issue in a peaceful and constructive manner.

Open Debate Welcomed

Criticism of the nuclear issue has been a red line in Iran, where media face tough censorship rules in their news coverage.

Shirzad said the nuclear issue has turned into a matter of "honor." "When something becomes a matter of honor, discussing it is not possible anymore. And that has been our problem for the past 11 years," he said.

Zibakalam said that under Iran's previous administration, criticism of the nuclear issue was impossible. "Unfortunately from 2003 to 2013, debate about the different aspects of the nuclear issue was not possible. I believe that whenever people and the press are prevented from expressing their opinions on different issues, the result is not good," he was quoted as saying.

He added that during those years whenever he would send a slightly critical piece to the press, "the editors would dump it in the closest trash can."

Zibakalam credited hard-liners opposing nuclear talks with the West for the opportunity to criticize the nuclear program.

He noted that those who had gathered under the slogan "We're Worried" had harshly criticized the nuclear deal reached in Geneva last year, saying that Iran had made too many concessions. "For the first time, the general policies of the establishment were challenged," he said.

Reports suggest that in recent months, hard-liners have been told to tone down their criticism of Rohani's government over nuclear negotiations with the West.

Last month, Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for an end to domestic criticism of the extension of the nuclear talks between Iran and major world powers. 

The talks are aimed at finding a lasting solution to the crisis over Iran's nuclear program in exchange for the removal of the sanctions.

Velayati said on November 30 that since the supreme leader had endorsed an extension of the talks for several months, people should stop their criticism. Khamenei has the last say in all state matters in the Islamic republic, including the nuclear program.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

Tags: Iranian nuclear program

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by: Sey from: World
December 18, 2014 15:40
I still fail to see how is that economic sanctions/crisis can be compared to a war where almost a million people died. But I agree, after 1982, continuing the war was pointless.

But this is like telling Russia that the collapse of the ruble is a far greater catastrophe than World War II.

by: Reza from: NZ
December 18, 2014 19:07
No Sey, they absolutely right. For the last almost decade we've become completely isolaisolated from the world financial markets.Report after reports are released saying how Iran is losing billions of dollars/month purely on oil/gas revenue, let alone other industries. Our economy is one of the few in the world that's actually shrinking. Unemployment n inflation have skyrocketed. And all for what? How many megawatts of electricity are we producing?! How much could've achieved if we had spent the trillions of dollars that we have spent so far on a lame duck of a nuclear programme modernizing our oil/gas industry?! We've lost just as many people if not more from this than the war except the link is more indirect: how many people have suffered as result losing home, jobs, committed suicide, developed drug addiction, how many hve died from lack of medicine/health care, how many young bright minds have left the cntry over the last decade out of despaire and the long term consequences of that for our countrt?! We hve endured ENORMOUS political/economic/social cost that combined has done more damage to us as a cntry
In Response

by: ali from: France
December 18, 2014 22:27
The price that we the Iranian has payed is not only the fault of hardliners but also is the consequence of the policies adopted by the reformist prior to that. The reformisst illustrate the fact as if they are completely innocent in that matter. This is quite absurd. I wish once they would dare critisize the fundamentally wrong policies adopted by the reformist that resulted in the gain of absolute power by the revolutionary guard and the supereme leader. I bet they're not courageous enough.

by: LorChick from: Abarghoo
December 19, 2014 00:08
I read the Farsi text and then read this. I must say that in comparison to the Farsi, the English translation has some 'interesting' abstractions and linguistic acrobatics. Is that to make the State Department happy?
In Response

by: Ali
December 19, 2014 12:16
Here is the Farsi text of Shirzad's comments, http://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=13930926000952
The translation is very precise. Which text are you referring to?

by: Leila
December 19, 2014 14:17
I agree Iranians have paid a very heavy price for the nuclear program. I hope the debate will lead to a change in the nuclear policies.

by: Bill Webb from: Phoenix Arizona USA
January 04, 2015 00:55
Russia has already agreed to build additional nuclear power facilities for Iran and supply them with the fuel. They don't need additional uranium enrichment facilities. The money should be spent on developing the petroleum and gas industries. If they stick to the IAEA requirements, the sanctions can then be lifted.

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Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

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