Since, no progress could be made in these talks, the parties on Tuesday held a low-profile meeting in İstanbul to discuss whether there is any room for returning to full-fledged meetings. Unlike Israel, which is the only regional country that has a nuclear weapon capacity, Iran is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and has been arguing from the very beginning that its nuclear program is peaceful. But is this the reality? Let met put it straight: I don't believe that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful. I will try to explain the reason why I got this impression with four arguments.
First of all, as is known, Iran's nuclear program was launched during the shah's regime. The foundations of this program were laid in 1957, but major developments were seen in the 1970s. When the revolution occurred in 1979, the revolution's and the regime's leader, Grand Ayatollah Khomeini, quickly issued a fatwa to stop the programs to develop and produce weapons of mass destruction on the grounds that they indiscriminately kill people. Khomeini believed Islam does not justify mass destruction of people; so along with biological and chemical weapon development programs, he halted the nuclear program.
Khomeini's fatwa remained in force as long as he lived. However, Ali Khamenei, the spiritual leader who replaced him after his death in 1989, abolished this fatwa upon pressure from then-President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. With the abolition of the fatwa, the programs for producing weapons of mass destruction resumed. Just as its ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) does not prevent it from pursuing chemical and biological weapon programs, its ratification of the NPT and membership in the IAEA has not discouraged Iran from maintaining a nuclear program for producing nuclear weapons. Khomeini's fatwa is proof enough that Iran's nuclear program was not peaceful. Although Khamenei is known to have issued a similar fatwa in his late years, this fatwa should be assessed within the framework of Iranian diplomacy's basic pillars: “taqiyya” (deception) and “qitman” (concealing).
Second, Iran today argues that its nuclear program is peaceful, and claims that it is currently pursuing a nuclear program as a precautionary measure for a potential increase in energy demands in the future although it has rich oil and natural gas reserves, which may not be exhausted for many decades to come. And it expects the international community to believe this claim. As is known, Iran's nuclear program has been under way for several decades. During this time, Iran continued to neglect the establishment or modernization of oil refineries -- which is a simpler project than its nuclear program -- and it now has to import gasoline from China and Venezuela.
Given its claim that it is making plans for energy needs that may arise 50 years from now and therefore, pursuing a nuclear program to this end, isn't it a big contradiction that this oil and natural gas-rich country is not paying any heed to today's energy needs that may be met using less sophisticated technology? If the main drive behind its nuclear program is the country's future energy needs, Iran would stop focusing on future needs and focus on the production of currently needed gasoline and other fuels its citizens need and establish refineries at a much lower cost. Indeed, in an effort to deny the claims that Iran is importing gasoline from China, Managing Director of the National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company (NIORDC) Jalil Salari, recently said, "No gasoline cargo has been shipped to Iran since the beginning of 2012," and this is clearly proof of our claims. Supposing that he is telling the truth, this statement confirms that Iran imported gasoline from China until early 2012.
Third, this may sound surprising to you, but Iran's intention to pursue a program to develop nuclear weapons is an extremely understandable and rational policy. Indeed, Iran cannot compete with rich Gulf countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, in conventional armament. Even if it invests all of its revenues from oil and natural gas exports -- which are its main source of income -- in developing or procuring conventional weapons, Iran cannot be successful in this competition. Iran's greatest rival in the region, Saudi Arabia spends about $45 billion for weapons procurement every year, and it placed two orders with the US in late 2011 and early 2012, which totaled $90 billion. Meanwhile, the sum of the orders placed by other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (CCASG) amount to $30 billion. So it is impossible for Iran to compete against this level of armament by purchasing conventional weapons. Therefore, applying an asymmetric method against conventional armament by its rivals, Iran opts for nuclear armament. Although the unit costs of nuclear armament is higher than those of conventional armament, nuclear armament creates a higher deterrence factor with a lower cost, therefore an Iranian nuclear weapons program emerges as a rational choice. From this perspective, the regional countries that pursue aggressive armament programs and the US which sells conventional weapons to them can be equally blamed for Iran's nuclear program.
Finally, the programs for developing intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), with a range of 3,000-5,500 kilometers, and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with a range greater than 5,500 kilometers, to which Iran attaches great importance, are further proof that its nuclear program is not peaceful. These missiles are extremely expensive and challenging to develop, and I think it is a colossal naiveté to believe that Iran is developing them just to fix them with conventional warheads. In particular, given the parallelism between the progress made in the development and production of ICBMs and in the nuclear program, we have more reasons to doubt the intention of these programs.
Iran's determination to develop missile systems can be understood from the testing of long range ballistic missiles in the Baluchistan province during the "Great Prophet 7" military exercise that started in July. During this exercise, not only long-range (2,000 kilometers) Shahab 1, 2 and 3 missiles, but also medium- and short-range Fateh, Qeyam, Tondar, Persian Gulf and Zelzal missiles were also tested. Although the world is currently focused on the nuclear program, I think vehicles that can carry nuclear weapons should be closely monitored as well. In this regard, given the estimates that Iran will not reach the capacity to strike Western Europe before 2014 and the US before 2020, it is high time for Turkey and other countries neighboring Iran to be concerned about these developments as they are already in the range of Iran's missiles.
Those who insist on believing that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful despite the foregoing explanations are free to deceive themselves.