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31 4 IRAN’S DIALECTIC OF ANTI-AMERICANISM Iran has informed the [International Atomic Energy] Agency that it is constructing a second plant for uranium enrichment. —PressTV , September 25, 2009 On the day Iran announced that it was constructing a new plant for uranium enrichment, President Obama said that the United States, Britain, and France had been tracking the construction of the plant, in remote mountains northeast of the holy city of Qom, for some time.1 The Iranians had realized that Western intelligence agencies had been keeping an eye on work on the facility since 2006.2 The threeWestern powers were about to confront Iran with the evidence they had gathered while international attention was focused on Iran’s known facility at Natanz. Their claim was that the secret plant was only months away from acquiring the ability to produce weapons-grade uranium. In his announcement, President Obama asserted that Iran’s action of building a nuclear facility without informing the IAEA amounted to “a direct challenge” to the basic rules of the nonproliferation regime. Iran was refusing to live up to its “international responsibilities, including specifically revealing all nuclear-related activities.” But, in an article in the Guardian, Scott Ritter, a former UN weapons inspector, cautioned against believing Obama’s politically motivated hype.3 According to Ritter, the rules Iran was accused of breaking were clear. Under Article 42 of Iran’s Safeguards Agreement and code 3.1 of the general part of the Subsidiary Arrangements (the “additional protocol”),4 Iran was obliged Imperial Designs_13448.indd 31 3/12/13 2:44 PM 32   IMPERIAL DESIGNS to inform the IAEA of any decision to build a facility with operational centrifuges— devices used to enrich uranium. Ritter pointed out that Iran had signed this agreement in December 2004. However, as the Iranian parliament had not ratified the additional protocol, the obligation was not legally binding. In Iran’s view, when it agreed to allow international inspectors to visit the previously secret facility, its cooperation was voluntary, a “confidence building” gesture rather than an obligation. Furthermore, Ritter concluded,“While this action is understandably vexing for the IAEA and those member-states who are desirous of full transparency on the part of Iran,one cannot speak in absolute terms about Iran violating its obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.” So, according to Ritter, when Obama announced that “Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow, he is technically and legally wrong.” The 2009 U.S.-Iranian confrontation over Tehran’s nuclear program was only the latest in the history of conflicts between Iran and external powers going back hundreds of years. The country had been at the center of an imperial rivalry, the Great Game, between Russia and Britain in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries . Reza Shah had modernized his army and strengthened central rule in Iran by the timeWorldWar II broke out in 1939.He wanted to remain neutral and refused to support the Allies in the 1940s.5 According to Abbas Milani, When the war began, a large number of German technicians and advisors were already living in Iran. Their presence became a source of apparent alarm for the Allies. Soviet and British propaganda began to repeat the claim that “thousands of Germans” lived and worked in Iran, a potentially dangerous “fifth column.” The BBC’s alarming programs on the subject notwithstanding, the actual number of Germans was less than a thousand, and British authorities definitely knew the real number. Two facts that no doubt came closer to the Allies’ real concerns were that Iranian oil was needed for the war effort and that the Iranian railroad was an asset of enormous strategic significance.6 In 1941 theAllies invaded and occupied Iran and forced Reza Shah to abdicate in favor of his twenty-two-year-old son, Crown Prince Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. It was a brutal operation. The British told Reza Shah,“Would His Highness kindly abdicate in favour of his son, the heir to the throne? We have a high opinion of him and will ensure his position. But His Highness should not think there is any other solution.”7 The deposed ruler was sent into exile in South Africa, where he died three years later. The United States sent military units to maintain Imperial Designs_13448.indd 32 3/12/13 2:44 PM IRAN’S DIALECTIC OF ANTI-AMERICANISM   33 and operate sections of the trans-Iranian railway. The entire episode was a national...


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