Back in the 1900s . . .
Before the Islamic Revolution, becoming a nuclear state was a dream for many in the power structure of Iran. At the time, the country was a backwater. The people lived under the onerous and despotic regime of a long-standing potentate, Syed Reza Shah Pahlavi, who was an actual mannequin of the West. His government was supported by the US, Britain, France, Germany and Spain.
The lot of the Iranian people during the Shah of Iran’s regime (started in 1941 and ended effectively with the start of Iran’s fundamentalist Revolution in 1979) was a dire one. The country’s infrastructure was rustic and deteriorated. While the Shah and his family lived well many Iranians could not be guaranteed even one meal a day.
Into this morass was added the terror enacted by the Shah’s Secret Police, SAVAK. [SAVAK operated from 1957 until the Shah’s regime was overthrown in February 1979, though the Shah himself had already fled the country in January. Almost all of the SAVAK police members who remained in Iran were hunted down and executed after the Revolution.] These militant enforcers operated as intelligence gatherers among the populace, torturing, murdering, or maiming dissenters who were not favorable to the Shah’s policies.
In 1964 the Shah had exiled a dissident Muslim scholar, Ruhollah Khomeini. He resided in neighboring Iraq during most of his exile (the early part was spent in Turkey and the last 4 months in France) exile and helped spread fundamentalist dissent within Iran. With the Revolution in 1979, Khomeini, assumed the religious title of “Ayatollah” (an ancient and honored clerical title), and returned to Iran to effectively start a theocracy, one that crippled the country for decades.
The Shah’s Secret Police (SAVAK) were internal terrorists; so, too, did the new government have “insiders” and enforcers who sought out those who did not side religiously or politically with Khomeini’s hard-core fundamentalism (he had ordered the executions of thousands of political prisoners during his time of political influence). This new group operated under the aegis of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and National Security, and initially used the acronym, SAVAM. In essence it was no different than the Shah’s secret police force; SAVAM sought out dissidents unfavorable to the new regime and tortured and executed them, as well.
Thus, it was difficult for anyone in Iran to imagine a modern Iran, where people could live peacefully without fear of brutal law enforcement agencies (like SAVAK and Khomeini’s SAVAM ), where they could afford quality education, have decent and affordable medical care, or even look at uncensored print media.
The theocracy established after Khomeini’s return was based on the Shiite (Islam) school of thought. This, of course, affected (and upset) Sunni Muslims living in Iran—these two factions within Islam had warred for centuries. So, the “new” Iran was based on a forced fundamentalist government cast in the Shiite mold that not all Iranians embraced. Such medieval feuding did nothing to help Iran move forward into the modern world.
Five years after the Revolution, in 1984 another ayatollah, Khamenei, succeeded Khomeini. He became president (elected by an assembly, not by the people as there were no democratic elections in Iran then).
He was the first person in power to truly about building a nuclear program in Iran, ostensibly solely for the purpose of providing electrical power, a very worthwhile pursuit. Also, developing a nuclear program could at least provide a sense of balance in the region—neighboring Iraq was allegedly working toward a nuclear weapons’ program. plants. [Iraq had spent eight years warring against Iran at a cost of thousands of Iranian civilian lives and major destruction of much of the country.]
P5+1 Members at Geneva
Announcing the conclusion of Iranian nuclear deal
Iran’s move toward nuclear power has been closely monitored by the world at large. Inspections were demanded to insure that there was no attempt at building nuclear weaponry by first constructing uranium enrichment facilities. To date, it seems the Iranians have very far to go before reaching that stage of technological expertise.
The stance of Iran’s more moderate and current president (who is also a Muslim scholar and cleric), Hassan Rouhani (elected by the people in June 2013), is that it will not stop work on its nuclear program. The reason given is that the country truly needs the energy nuclear power plants can provide. In symposiums discussing the issue of Iran’s nuclear program President Rouhani assured Iran’s nationalists and Islamists (the decision makers of Iran) there will be no compromising as the only aim is to take the nation from economic crisis and do what is best for Iran’s national interest.
Israel, of course, is worried over the possibility of more nuclear weapons being developed in the Middle East, especially from Iran. The Iranian program is seen as a threat to the region.
US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has asked for the Israelis patience in finding a peaceful solution to Israel’s concerns about nuclear weapons versus Iran’s needs to fuel its country.
Some may believe that Israel is asking for the United States to aggressively use military force to wipe out Iran’s nuclear reactors. While this is a possible solution—and could be done tomorrow if considered politic—it is not a good solution. The best tack, it seems, is to simply monitor and watch to see what direction the Iranian nuclear program takes. If it appears as if it is being shifted toward some objective other than providing power, as cited by its leaders, then other, more drastic actions can be considered.
And US President Barak Obama came away feeling satisfied, at least for now, that Iran’s objectives were not only on track as described, but could be trusted. On the heels of a summit meeting on the subject in Geneva, he remarked, “Diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure—a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.”
And while the world watches and worries perhaps that is completely unnecessary. Interestingly enough, according to the Supreme Leader of Islam in Iran, Khameini, under Islamic law, it is illegal for this Muslim country to stockpile and/or use nuclear weapons.
If the letter of Muslim law is followed, then Iran cannot develop such weapons as such an act would be hypocritical, heretical, and against the religious beliefs upon which the current government is based. Therefore, the world has to believe the intent of the budding Iranian nuclear program is as claimed: to provide electrical power.