IB Tauris, £25 Order at a discount from the Independent Online Shop

Nuclear Iran: The Birth of an Atomic State, By David Patrikarakos

This is a welcome analysis of Iran's self-perception, its nuclear plans and Western responses

For the past ten years there has been tension over Iran's nuclear plans, with deep suspicions by Israelis and conservative Americans that the Islamic Republic is engaged in developing nuclear weapons under cover of a civil nuclear-power programme. The tensions have ebbed and flowed, with a particularly dangerous period back in 2006 when George W Bush had US military forces on a high alert across the Middle East.

In spite of the opening of a new round of talks earlier this year, there is persistent talk of the Israelis going it alone and attacking Iran's nuclear plants and missile forces. Six years ago the Israelis did not command sufficient long-range strike aircraft, but that has changed with the deployment of well over a hundred F-15I and F-16Is. They also have numerous ballistic and cruise missiles, and a large force of armed drones, but they are facing an Iran that has now moved some key facilities deep underground at Fordo near Qom.

For the Israelis, time is running out before Iran becomes so difficult to attack that only the US could do it, so it is still possible that a crisis could develop before the US election on 6 November. Israeli politicians fear that a second-term Obama administration would have far too much freedom of action on Palestine and on Iran – a thoroughly unpalatable prospect.

At the root of all this is the actual Iranian programme and what it might lead to. Many analysts have written about the recent past and there is a wealth of information in the public domain, yet there have been few thorough studies of the overall history. This is where David Patrikarakos's Nuclear Iran is such a welcome contribution. Where it really scores is in its long-term perspective, throwing much light on origins and motivations.

As to origins, the era of the Shah is key, especially after the huge hike in oil prices in 1973-4, when for a few years Iran was flush with money. Even before that, the Shah's regime was already intent to see Iran leapfrog its neighbours into regional great-power status, and right back in 1957 started the nuclear element of this with the opening of a nuclear training centre organised by CENTO (NATO's ally for the Middle East).

The US provided the Tehran Research Centre's 5MW research reactor, which went critical in 1967. One of the ironies of history is that the original fuel for the reactor, supplied by the US, was 93 per cent enriched Uranium 235, a weapons-grade quality. Fast-forward nearly ten years and plans were being laid for 20 nuclear power reactors, starting with the German-built plant at Bushehr on the Persian Gulf. Questions of nuclear weapons ambitions were left unanswered but, in any case, the Revolution intervened and Bushehr lay half-built for three decades.

The Islamic Republic eventually started to redevelop the industry, but behind this was the question of motivation. In the Shah's era, the belief was that nuclear power was a true symbol of modernity. This may seem odd now, after Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, but back in the 1970s nuclear power was expanding across the world. What is essential for any understanding of current Iranian attitudes is the way that nuclear power remains that symbol of modernity, surviving the Revolution and nuclear setbacks elsewhere. It lies right at the core of Iran's perception of itself as it seeks a return to a status it has not held for millennia.

As Patrikarakos comments: "Spurred by ideology and Khomeini, the programme became a means of appropriating Western technology to help create an identity for Iran in the modern world, but on its own uniquely Iranian and Islamic terms".

It is possible that Iran may permanently eschew nuclear-weapons ambitions and a negotiated settlement may be reached. What it most definitely will not accept is any limitation on its development of nuclear power. Unless the West and Israel come to accept this, the crisis cannot be resolved. Nuclear Iran could do much to hasten that acceptance.

Paul Rogers is professor of peace studies at Bradford University

News

literature

News
Dermot O'Leary attends the X Factor Wembley Arena auditions at Wembley on August 1, 2014 in London, England.

television

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss