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Iran’s nuclear future

Dear Editor:

The Iranian nuclear program began under the Shah. When he was deposed in 1979 and the Ayatollah Khomeini became the “Supreme Leader” he stopped the program on the grounds that nuclear weapons were “un-Islamic.” When he died in 1989 and was succeeded by the present Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khameini, the program was re-started. The Iran-Iraq war was on and this was a strong motivation. The then-president of Iran was Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. In 1993, he authorized dealings with the Pakistani nuclear weapons proliferator A.Q.Khan. For some $3 million the Iranians bought centrifuge technology that Khan had stolen and presumably the design of a nuclear weapon.

This is not the place to attempt to describe what the Iranians have done with this technology except to point out that if things continue the way they are now going I believe that the Iranians will have, within a year, enough plutonium and highly enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons. There seems to be a power struggle going on in Iran between clerics loyal to Rafsanjani and those loyal to Khameini. But both of these groups appear committed to continuing the nuclear program. In all of this Ahmadenjad is a side show. His only relevance is to have revealed what sort of regime we are dealing with in Iran. That these people should have nuclear weapons is unthinkable. From what I know of this history I believe that the Iranians regard their nuclear program as non-negotiable. We must squarely face the next step.

Jeremy Bernstein

Aspen


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