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

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?