by Ramin Mostaghim
(IPS) TEHRAN --
the clock ticks toward the Oct. 31 nuclear deadline set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), anxiety and hostility are growing here.
Many express concern that Iran is being targeted for some kind of military action by countries like the U.S., whose 'axis of evil' list includes Iran along with North Korea and Iraq.
Iranians' fears were heightened further by U.S. and German news reports in recent days that the Israeli spy agency Mossad has drawn up plans to attack nuclear sites in Iran with U.S.-made missiles.
The IAEA has given Iran until Oct. 31 to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, make all nuclear facilities open to its inspectors, and present proof that its nuclear activities are for energy purposes and not for the development of nuclear weapons.
"One thing is certain, regardless of what the IAEA decides on deadline day over Iran's nuke policy, apart from the Iran-Iraq war's time, our foreign policy is facing the biggest challenge since the establishment of the Islamic republic," writes Dr. Sadeq Ziba Kalam, a professor of political sciences in Tehran university, whose columns appear in the reformist 'Sharq' daily.
Last week, Iran began releasing details of components it had imported unofficially for its nuclear program as requested by IAEA.
At the same time, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi was quoted last week as telling religious leaders: "We will not allow anyone to deprive us of our legitimate right to use nuclear technology, particularly enrichment for providing fuel for nuclear power stations."
Concern by foreign governments and the United Nations arose when traces of highly enriched uranium were found during an earlier IAEA inspection this year. Iran maintains that they were from contaminated parts that came from abroad.
Russia is building a nuclear power station for Iran at the southern port of Bushehr and is supplying uranium over a 10-year period from 2005.
Iran is also under pressure to sign by the end of this month an additional protocol or agreement that would allow IAEA more intrusive inspections, including samplings of air and soil at Iranian sites.
All of this, plus warnings from the United States, Russia and the European Union in recent months, have put Iranians and their officials on guard.
The Iranian ruling establishment sees the IAEA action, in the wake of its Sept. 12 resolution asking Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment, as signs of a new and growing animosity toward the Iranian nation.
Almost every day, high-ranking officials or politicians comment about the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or its additional protocol.
"IAEA is trying to undermine the national sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran" is how Iranian President Mohammad Khatami's legal and security advisor, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, describes the situation.
In the streets too, it is easy for many to think that Iran is, or is about to be, under some kind of siege. Ali Kamel, who runs a foreign currency shop opposite the British embassy, says: "If Iran does not sign the additional protocol, for sure London and Tehran will be poised for further diplomatic and economic battles."
Moreover, Iranians have not forgotten that the CIA engineered the overthrow of a democratically elected government here in 1953.
Thus far, Khatami has said that Iran will continue cooperation "to assure the world that we are not pursuing nuclear weapons." At the same time, however, he has been quoted as saying that "we will never sign any document that undermines our national sovereignty."
Earlier this month, Dr. Hasan Rouhani was quoted as saying that Tehran continues to weigh its options on the international inspection process. "Domestic and foreign media speculate a lot, but we have not decided yet to sign or not the protocol. Various options are open to us and in time we will make a proper decision."
Iranian officials say the country is enriching uranium to ensure continuity of fuel supply, but some countries doubt this.
Among the Iranians' fears -- especially if Tehran does not reach agreement with the IAEA -- is that the United States or Israel might attack its nuclear plants, as Israel did in Iraq in 1981.
If this happens, the chairman of the state's expediency council, Hashemi Rafsanjani, warned: "Iran will retaliate against any Israeli attack to the Bushehr nuclear plant with an unforgettable blow."
Khamenei, on various occasions, has said: "With God Almighty's grace, the Iranian nation would continue to be prepared for resistance and perseverance against its enemies."
One hardliner says that if such an attack happens, Iranians will rally the Islamic world. "Taking the high human casualty of Americans and British in Iraq into consideration, you will realize that Iran has multiple leverages to make life miserable for any intruder in the Middle East."
Mohsen Kadivar, an advocate of reform, believes that the Islamic state will in the end bend and sign the additional protocol, because the government does not have fullscale popular backing and must not antagonize the United States unduly.
But the real challenge, others say, is how Iran can convince other countries it has only peaceful intentions.
"The problem is how a regime with a black legacy of extremism in hostage-taking in the former United States embassy and which openly supports Hamas and Hizbollah in south Lebanon can persuade the U.S.-influenced IAEA that it has only peaceful goals for its nuclear technology," says Amir Hormoz Bozorgmehr, a sociology teacher who was purged in the post-revolutionary period.
October 14, 2003 (http://www.albionmonitor.com) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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