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2006-09-14,12:46 PM

Iranian nuclear issue putting the region, global peace at risk

Anak Agung Banyu Perwita, Bandung

Many analysts believe the Iran nuclear issue will become one of the crucial issues in international security in 2006. Many analysts even believe that Iran has had the capability to produce weapons mass destruction. Of course this issue has raised many questions. What role can the Muslim world and particularly Indonesia play in helping seek a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue?

In the Muslim world, Iran's hard-line stance has received mixed support. Many leaders of Arab countries are concerned over Iran's rising power and influence while many Muslims across the globe support Iran's position against the United States.

Historically, Iran's effort to develop nuclear power began in 1957. During that period, relations between the U.S. and Iran under the government of Shah Reza Pahlevi were very amicable, marked by cooperation in the development of nuclear power as part of a program Atom for Peace. Through this agreement, the U.S. would provide technical assistance such as uranium enrichment, and research cooperation in nuclear energy usage for peaceful purposes. In 1968, Iran signed an agreement of NPT and since then Iran has claimed that it has the unalienable right to use and develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

The outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war from 1980 to 1988 and the nuclear tests conducted by Pakistan and India in May 1998 pushed Iran to consider the ownership of nuclear weapons as an authorized capital for its national defense. The growing political problems in the Middle East, especially the existence of Israel nuclear capability has also increasingly pushed Iran to consider possessing nuclear weapons. The U.S. Ambassador for IAEA, Gregory L. Schulte estimates that Iran now has -- to quote the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) -- at least 85 metric tons of uranium which can be converted into nuclear weapons in less than a year.

From the government's perspective, the motivation and ambition to have a nuclear program is pushed by at least two important aspects.

First, the nuclear program serves as a deterrent and as a balancer in international relations. Nuclear technology is not solely seen as providing domestic energy, but it also serves as an important instrument of Iran's foreign policy in its interactions in the international system. Further, this deterrent is the main tool of its defense policy in protecting its national security interests.

The second aspect is related to its international prestige, social mobility and bargaining power at the regional level where Iran is encircled by nations that also have nuclear technology like Israel.

As the biggest Muslim country in the world with close relations with Iran, the Indonesian government has made efforts to seek a peaceful solution to the Iranian crisis. Indonesia needs to campaign for the importance of efforts to avoid open conflict that could harm global peace as part of the constructive approach in dealing with the issue.

The Indonesian government has also expressed a clear position on the Iranian nuclear issue, saying that Iran should have the right to utilize nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and that Iran's nuclear program should remain in the corridor of peace. However, Indonesia should also emphasize the need for Iran to abide by all provisions set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda has stated that Indonesia would only support Iran's nuclear program if it was intended for peaceful purposes. Iran itself has repeatedly said that the nuclear program is for nonmilitary purposes.

Indonesia's stand in connection with the nuclear tension was to encourage all parties to give maximum support to the talks between Iran and three members of the EU, namely Britain, France and Germany. The role of the EU in this issue is very important. If Iran, for example, can get the support of the EU, then Iran will win this diplomatic war, mainly because the U.S. and EU will be able to ask Russia to join them in isolating Iran.

On the other hand, Indonesia should also ask Iran to accept an offer from Russia to enrich uranium in Russia, in a bid to diminish suspicions of western countries that Iran is developing nuclear energy for military purposes. Meanwhile, if the EU does not stay on the same side as the U.S., the effort to isolate Iran will not succeed. Furthermore Iran would have a chance to renew its bargaining position with the U.S. A military option also should be avoided by accelerating diplomatic efforts.

To put it in another way, nuclear power for military purposes will not only put the stability of the region in jeopardy, but will also be a threat to global peace.

The writer is the dean at the School of Social and Political Sciences, Parahyangan Catholic University, Bandung.

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