Iran is NOT the cause of
nuclear proliferation

Cyrus Safdari

Iran Affairs, May 20, 2008


The Associated Press reports that that according to British think tank, Iran's nuclear program is the cause of a “cascade of proliferation” of nuclear programs in the Mideast:

Iran's disputed nuclear program has sent a wave of interest in atomic energy across the Middle East, a think tank said Tuesday, warning that it risked setting the scene for a regional nuclear arms race.

This is total bullshit of course. Every once in a while you see these sorts of articles making the old "Iran is the cause of proliferation of nuclear energy" arguments which don't hold any water when read a bit more closely past the hyped headline.

There's a "cascade" of interest in nuclear energy throughout the entire world, and countries in the Mideast
(including Iran) are simply following along. Some are more advanced than others, but this is worldwide phenomenon not restricted to the Mideast. And in fact, several countries in the Mideast in particular have nuclear programs that are just as old as Iran's - such as both Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Both developed and developing countries around the world are building new nuclear reactors, and many nations are also developing their own fuel enrichment programs. South Africa, Brazil and Argentina, etc are all recent entrants into this field too -- is Iran the cause of their nuclear programs too? Is it Iran's fault that world wide demand for nuclear energy has caused uranium prices to rise to record levels too? Give me a break!

Oil near $100 and rapid economic growth are giving growing momentum to Middle East plans to develop nuclear energy to help meet escalating power demand. - Middle East speeds up shift to nuclear power - Reuters, Jan 21, 2008

The price of uranium has recorded its biggest percentage increase since dealings were first reported almost 40 years ago . . . Demand for uranium is soaring thanks to a renaissance in the nuclear power industry. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, 168 new nuclear reactors will be built over the next 15 years. There are currently 440, generating around 16pc of the world's electricity. - The Telegraph - November 14 2007

Aside from the increased worldwide demand for nuclear energy alternatives, there is another reason for the proliferation of nuclear programs which the think tanks don't want you to know about: the efforts by some countries such as the US and Britain to monopolize nuclear enrichment technology and to create a new division between the haves and have-nots. In other words, the same policy of attempting to restrict access to nuclear technology is causing nations to rush to ensure that they're among the haves rather than the have-nots, because they don't trust these few countries to be reliable suppliers of nuclear fuel to the rest of the world:

Some developing nations are skeptical of the intentions of the five original nuclear states and are reluctant to give up the option of enriching uranium. Developing nations say they don’t want to give up their rights to uranium enrichment and don’t trust the United States or other nuclear countries to be consistent suppliers of the nuclear material they would need to run their power plants. - New Global Nuclear Order; Los Angeles Times October 15, 2006

Almost all the new and prospective entrants in the enrichment business appear anxious to establish their credentials as having existing technology in place. Driving this process, in part, is the perception that all countries will soon be divided into uranium enrichment "haves" (suppliers) and "have-nots" (customers) under various proposals to establish multinational nuclear fuel centers and fuel-supply arrangements.
- Lining up to enrich Uranium, International Herald Tribune, Sept 12 2006.

The reason why you see articles from think tanks blaming Iran for a worldwide interest in nuclear power is because that's one of the favorite talking points of those who are opposed to Iran's nuclear program in particular. They claim that Iran's nuclear program will spark a regional interest in similar nuclear programs that could perhaps one day be used to make bombs. Now that there is such a regional interest, they argue, therefore it must be Iran's fault.

Like I've written before, this is simply the old "slippery slope" fallacy and is total nonsense:

When applied to Iran's nuclear programme, the slippery slope fallacy usually predicts that if Iran is allowed to develop nuclear technology, the result will be an uncontrollable wildfire of proliferation and a regional nuclear arms race:

If Iran goes nuclear, Egypt will follow, then Saudi Arabia (more likely buying than making) and possibly Syria. Contemplate the consequences of such a nuclear alms race for Israel's security and the stability of energy supplies.

There are some very basic problems with this theory. For one thing, it is highly ironic that Iran's mere capability to build nuclear weapons can supposedly spark this uncontrollable cascade of nuclear proliferation, and yet Israel's existing nuclear weapons are not believed to have this effect. Indeed, if we are to accept, as the fallacious argument assumes, that one country's nuclear capability will force other countries to acquire their own nuclear deterrent, then the real regional culprit for proliferation must be the original nuclear power in the region: Israel. Note also that similar predictions of regional arms races have not been made when, for example, Brazil recently acquired the same nuclear technology that Iran is seeking to develop.