By Matthew Ehret
As tensions rose in the Middle East over recent weeks, many people have falsely been led to believe that Iran really intends to build an “Islamic bomb”, and has no other need for nuclear power since oil is so abundant in the region.
Hogwash. As we will see, Iranian leaders were already calling for the need to transition to a new and superior form of energy in order to escape the geopolitical constraints of oil politics over 70 years ago… ironically through the help of the USA!
On December 8, 1953 a speech was delivered at the United Nations by President Dwight D. Eisenhower which has come to be known as his Atoms for Peace speech. As flawed as Eisenhower was as a political leader, this speech did provide a valuable gateway out of the unwinnable Cold War logic of Mutually Assured Destruction that had officially begun with the Soviet Union’s first detonation of their own atomic bomb in 1949.
Though a competent General, Eisenhower was admittedly naïve and only realized the full extent of what had gone on under his watch during his last days as President in 1961 as outlined in his Military Industrial Complex speech.
This part of history is vitally important to revive now, since Eisenhower’s efforts to undo the terrible injustice caused by America’s complicity in the Iranian regime change of Dr. Mossadegh in 1953 as well as broader threat of nuclear annihilation remains the only functional pathway to a durable peace in Iran or globally today.
Atoms for Peace and the Birth of Iranian Atomic Energy
In his 1953 speech, Eisenhower laid out the threats and opportunities which the peaceful use of the atom created:
“The United States knows that if the fearful trend of atomic military build-up can be reversed, this greatest of destructive forces can be developed into a great boon, for the benefit of all mankind. The United States knows that peaceful power from atomic energy is no dream of the future. The capability, already proved, is here today. Who can doubt that, if the entire body of the world’s scientists and engineers had adequate amounts of fissionable material with which to test and develop their ideas, this capability would rapidly be transformed into universal, efficient and economic usage?”
The president listed several domains where the peaceful application of the atom would be of value to humanity saying:
“Experts would be mobilized to apply atomic energy to the needs of agriculture, medicine and other peaceful activities. A special purpose would be to provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world.”
He ended by dropping the conceptual bombshell which shook the foundations of the newly emerging Deep State by calling for a joint U.S.-Russia alliance to cooperate on deploying this new technology around the world under a spirit of goodwill and mutually assured survival when he said this vision would “allow all peoples of all nations to see that, in this enlightened age, the great Powers of the earth, both of the East and of the West, are interested in human aspirations first rather than in building up the armaments of war.”
An earlier attempt to establish U.S.-Russia entente was made by Stalin who welcomed a meeting with the newly elected President in December 1952. Stalin’s death in March 1953 ended this potential.
Many of the world’s nations who have suffered the most under the hands of neo-colonialism in recent decades actually found a close ally in this better America. One might be surprised to discover that Atoms for Peace established the creation of atomic energy programs for Argentina, Brazil, India, Pakistan and Iran (to name but a few), through providing training to thousands of students internationally, as well as providing nuclear technology transfers, and financing (most of which ended in the wake of JFK’s assassination).
In 1955 the first International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy took place in Geneva under the leadership of Dr. Homi Bhaba (father of Indian Atomic Energy), and in 1957 the USA and Iran signed the Cooperation Concerning Civil Uses of Atoms that set the foundation for the 1959 creation of the Tehran Nuclear Research Center. Over the coming year, the first generation of Iranian nuclear scientists were trained in MIT and in 1967, the USA supplied Iran with a 5 megawatt research reactor and enriched uranium fuel. By 1969, the pace of nuclear development both within America and abroad had dropped drastically due to the shifting of the cultural and political paradigm towards a “consumer society”/live in the now worldview.
The Oil Shocks and the Shah’s Nuclear Plans
The 1973-74 oil shocks saw oil prices skyrocket four-fold and nations of the west were severed psychological trauma while oil-rich Arabic nations saw a vast increase in oil revenues.
An unexpected effect of the shocks was that the Shah of Iran announced that his nation would refocus its energy policies on aggressive nuclear power development, funded by its vast oil revenues. In 1974 the Shah created the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) saying “Petroleum is a noble material, much too valuable to burn… we envision producing, as soon as possible 23 000 mW of electricity using nuclear plants.”
In 1976, Iran’s nuclear energy budget was increased from $36 million to a whopping $1 billion and commitments to build 23 reactors were arranged with companies in Germany, France and the USA. Even President Ford agreed to provide Iran with a reprocessing facility to complete the fuel cycle. Things were proceeding well as the two first 1190 mW reactors built by Germany were 80% and 50% completed when the Shah was suddenly overthrown by a regime change operation. Within weeks ALL contracts were cancelled and the two reactors remained unbuilt for decades.
Russia Revives Atoms for Peace
The anti-nuclear tides began to slowly turn in Iran’s favor in 1992 when China began supplying nuclear fuel to Iran and in 1995 Russia began to assist in the completion of the unfinished reactors. In 2011, the first 1000 mW reactor came online and a 2nd reactor was begun anew in 2019 under the guidance of Rosatom with several more planned for the coming decade.
While western powers have chosen to approach Iran with years of threats of attack, and sabre rattling, Russia has proven herself to be the true heir to the spirit of Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace.
Rosatom has taken up the torch of nuclear energy diplomacy with gusto in recent years by providing valuable nuclear power assistance to both Iran and Turkey while aggressively building nuclear power reactors at home. The fact that these three nations are the guarantors of the Astana Peace Process for Syria should also not be missed.
Russia has also demonstrated an enlightened interest in assisting African nations in their nuclear ambitions with agreements signed with South Africa, Egypt, Zambia, Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Congo and Nigeria with scores of imperially-minded racists in London screaming of the “inappropriateness” of this advanced technology to the ‘dark continent’.
Under the guiding win-win framework of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Iran and the world has been given a master key to permanently throw off the threat of nuclear annihilation. Does President Trump have the moral and intellectual stamina to resist the anti-Iranian pressure from within his own government and return America to its better traditions or will he permit himself to be used to usher in a new war?