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For Iran, the sanctions may be worth it

For Iran, the sanctions may be worth it

Iran continues to see nuclear programme as a matter of prestige and regime survival. That's why the government will stay defiant, despite economic pain, says Fredrik Dahl.

November 30, 2011 2:30 by



…its enemies ultimately want the overthrow of the country’s system of Islamic clerical rule, established after the 1979 revolution that toppled the US-backed shah.

“Threats of a military option or regime change only reinforce their determination to resist,” Fitzpatrick said.

Standing up against Western demands offers the conservative leadership a chance to rally nationalist support and distract attention from the economic woes many people are experiencing.

“The nuclear programme has morphed into the ultimate expression of Iran’s resistance to Western dominance and an ‘unjust’ international system,” said Ali Vaez of the Federation of American Scientists, a Washington-based think tank.

Tightening sanctions also risk, however, fuelling domestic discontent that erupted after a disputed 2009 election and that the authorities used force to suppress.

Whether they “result in a popular uprising against the government is a matter of speculation which has been prompted by the revolts in North Africa and the Middle East,” said Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

VIRTUAL NUCLEAR POWER?
The United States says the drive it leads to isolate Iran has slowed its nuclear programme and that there is still time to persuade it to abandon atomic weapons ambitions.

But despite sanctions and suspected sabotage, Iran is pressing ahead with work that it says is for a planned network of power plants but experts say could also be used for bombs.

Iran’s current stockpile of low-enriched uranium would be sufficient for at least two nuclear bombs if refined much further and it is preparing to shift its most sensitive enrichment activity to an underground bunker.

Iran’s nuclear activities are geared towards providing it with the option to build atomic weapons so that “it can get some perceived security benefits and prestige from being on the cusp of joining the nuclear club,” said Peter Crail of the Arms Control Association, a US-based research and advocacy group.

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the row have stalled after a fruitless meeting in Istanbul in January between Iranian officials and representatives of the six major powers – the United States, Russia,France, Germany, China and Britain.

Both sides say they are ready to resume talks, but Iran insists it will never suspend uranium enrichment as demanded by repeated United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Its leaders risk looking weak if they retreat but stand to gain “respect and coercive power that comes along with being a virtual nuclear power” if they persist, said Henry Sokolski of the US-basedNonproliferation Policy Education Center.

In the search for a possible way forward, the West may have to accept that Iran continues some enrichment, in return for more intrusive IAEA inspections to make sure there are no military links to its programme, analysts say.

“If there is a negotiated solution to this crisis, the outcome would likely be an Iran which is enriching uranium and has gone some of the way toward having a nuclear weapons capability,” Carnegie’s Hibbs said. (By Fredrik Dahl; Additional reporting by William Maclean in London; Editing by Jon Hemming)



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