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Iran: Nuclear Reactions

Sirus Naseri

Iran's Sirus Naseri at the IAEA in Vienna.

"We are the only country to use nuclear weapons against another country -- two times! Now we have the audacity to ask if others should use nuclear technology. We are in a morally untenable position."

One of your reactions to our May 24 broadcast on Iran's secretive nuclear program. Since the show aired last week, Iran's nuclear aspirations have hardly been out of the headlines. European persistence paid off when they convinced Iran to continue postponing its uranium enrichment; while the month-long nuclear treaty review conference at the U.N. drew heat but not much light.

"We are the only country to use nuclear weapons against another country -- two times! Now we have the audacity to ask if others should use nuclear technology."

The gathering, which takes place once every five years, is a chance for nuclear nonproliferation treaty members -- 189 of them if you count North Korea's tenuous status -- to show their resolve in strengthening the treaty and preventing WMDs from slipping into the wrong hands. Not surprisingly, considering the animus around the nuclear debate, this one disintegrated into a maul of national self-interests. As for our Iran nuclear story, we've bubbled up a few of your reactions to the broadcast here. The program's senior producers have also responded to some of the issues you raise. Thanks to all for writing in...and keep the thoughts coming.

Here's a sample....You can read more in our REACT section.

Bill West - Youngstown, Ohio
Good story, but this also seems like another "gotcha" story aimed at the United States. I wonder why there was not more information about the ongoing negotiations with France, Germany and Great Britain?

This episode seems to point a finger (again) that all the world's problems are due to the action/inaction of the United States.

Editor's Response:
You're right that France, Germany, and Great Britain, known as the "EU3" -- have been central to the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Just a few days after we aired, the EU3 successfully negotiated the continuation of Iran's suspension of its uranium enrichment activities. Reporter Paul Kenyon has followed and filmed the EU3 negotiations extensively. They were a large part of the original one-hour version of his story, which aired on the BBC in late April 2005. In our version, there was no intention to minimize the role of the EU3 -- or to reframe the drama as solely the U.S. vs. Iran -- just the limitations of a 25-minute piece.

Ron Richards - Los Angeles, California
How disappointing that a program such as Frontline would join in the politics of the Bush junta in spreading its war propaganda.

Your piece was biased and slanted, and even worse, you never once questioned the presuppositions upon which the Bush junta's arguments rest, nor the hypocrisy of the United States' position.

1. First off, even under the existing treaty, Iran is not prohibited from creating a nuclear energy program.

2. Even if Iran wanted to withdraw from the treaty and create nuclear weapons, so what? As a sovereign country it has every right to do so.
The United States under Bush withdrew from nuclear treaties before, and Iran has that right as well.

3. What is really offensive is how Frontline adopted hook, line and sinker the presupposition that the United States has the right to dictate to Iran what Iran may or may not have in terms of nuclear weaponry. Frontline has adopted this quasi-panicked position that the United States under Bush is trying to promote: "Oh my God, Oh my God, Iran might soon have nuclear weapons! What ever are we to do?" Why should the United States be allowed to have nuclear weapons but not Iran? It is the United States that has launched illegal preemptive wars, not Iran.

Most inexcusably, Frontline never questions the real reason the U.S. is worried about nukes in Iran, and that is that this would compromise the United States' ability to go in and unilaterally dictate to the world what the rest of the world's policy should be. The U.S. is able to do so only because of its military might, and when potential adversaries have nuclear weaponry, this instantly and unquestionably neutralizes that military might. Not even a Christian fundamentalist madman like Bush dares to attack North Korea, and there is a reason for this.

Editor's Response:
You're correct about your first point: Iran has a right to a nuclear energy program under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty it signed. We make this point several times in our story. Not only do we say it explicitly in the narration, but also we have the Iranian negotiators make the point themselves. We also try to do justice to several more arguments that the Iranians make for their energy program when we state that: (1) Iran claims it only turned to the nuclear black market because a U.S.-led trade embargo made it impossible to seek out a nuclear energy program above board; (2) though Iran has great oil wealth, the country might need nuclear power for domestic use because of its soaring population. We also hear from Sirus Naseri, an Iranian negotiator, who claims that Iran has a right not only to the use of nuclear energy, but to produce nuclear fuel (enriched uranium) that they could sell to other countries for energy uses.

You ask why we single out Iran on the nuclear issue. The answer is that we are a news organization, and questions about Iran's nuclear program are now news, just as questions about the nuclear programs in North Korea, Israel, Pakistan and elsewhere have been newsworthy at different times. We have covered all of these stories in Frontline or FRONTLINE/World documentaries.

As for criticism of Bush foreign policy toward Iran, we left that to Naseri, who tells our reporter: "Who are the Americans to say what we want to have, what we have and what we should want? All they have done is made every effort, in every manner that they could, to deny us [nuclear] technology...The Americans do not have a game plan. I think the whole thing is becoming extremely rhetorical within the U.S. administration…. They think they are in the driver's seat, but where do they want to go?"

Jamshid Salehi - Tehran, Iran
Nobody should be prevented from having nuclear power plants and everybody should be prevented from having atomic arsenal! This is much better for the whole world including United States.