Ahmadinejad in Copenhagen
by MEIR JAVEDANFAR in Tel Aviv
17 Dec 2009 17:51
Today, at the Climate Summit in Copenhagen, the world's cameras will be watching and listening to the words of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Many will want to know what Iran's controversial president has to say about the need to control climate, especially as his own country is the tenth biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions.
There will also be those who will fear that Ahmadinejad's controversial comments about the Holocaust and his attacks against the West may hijack the main theme of the conference, which is the need to address and solve climate-related issues. This is why Libya did not invite Ahmadinejad to the African Union summit earlier this year. The main heads of African states wanted the participants and the press to focus on Africa's problems. They did not want the discussions to suddenly change, because of President Ahmadinejad's contentious opinions and ideas about Israel and the United States.
It is very possible that these fears will be realized. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad loves the camera. He also loves controversy. His strategy is to steal the limelight away from others, and to divert the entire attention away towards himself, and what he sees as the "Iranian position."
One topic which he will most probably talk about is Iran's right to nuclear energy and its genuine need for it. Despite the lack of confidence in Iran's intentions for its nuclear program, this is one topic where Ahmadinejad would have a point. There is no doubt that nuclear energy is the most viable way for Iran to meet its energy needs, both economically as well as technically.
Iran's total electricity production capacity stands at 33,000 megawatts (MW) -- 75 percent is from natural gas, 18 percent from oil, and 7 percent from hydroelectric power. Meanwhile, due to the fast rate of industrialization and population growth, demand for electricity is growing by 8 percent a year.
Iran has undergone severe droughts in recent years. According to some forecasts, Iran's water problems are only going to get worse in the future. This has meant that instead of producing 6,500 megawatts, Iran's hydroelectric infrastructure has only produced 1500, thus creating a significant shortage.
There have also been severe problems with other sources of energy such as oil and gas, due to decaying infrastructure resulting from embargoes and incompetent management.
This has meant that Tehran, a city of 14 million inhabitants, has on many occasions been plunged into darkness for at least two hours a day. This is why last year Iranian newspapers carried daily schedules outlining the hours when each district would have its electicity cut. Similar problems have been reported in other parts of the country.
The last time there were power cuts in Iran was during the war against Iraq, and for a limited time afterward. Lack of electricity makes the hot summer days for many Iranians unbearable, and causes considerable damage to the economy.
Renewable energies such as solar and wind would not meet Iran's growing energy needs. Nor do gas and oil, as Iran needs to export them in order to earn revenues for its daily needs. This leaves nuclear energy as the only other viable option.
More than any other year, Ahmadinejad will face a tougher challenge to convince the international community that Iran's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. And the international community would be right. It's not just Israel and the U.S. who are suspicious about Iran's nuclear program. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) too remains doubtful that the Iranian government wants nuclear technology solely for peaceful purposes.
To Iranians, the concept of "hagh" meaning "right" in Persian, is of paramount importance. Many Iranians believe that nuclear energy is their indisputable "hagh." This is true. But what the government of Iran should realize is that the rest of the world has its own "hagh." And that is to be sure that Iran is not going to weaponize. This too, is an indisputable right, because no one wants a regime that talks about the annihilation of another country to have access to such technology.
In the early 80s, the people of Iran did not want Saddam Hussein to have this right, as he was their sworn enemy. And today, the international community does not want the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to have this technology, because it will gravely destabilize the Middle East. President Ahmadinejad should realize that the concept of rights is a knife that cuts both ways. And until such time that he and Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, are unwilling to recognize the international community's rights, they will be hampering the inalienable right of the people of Iran to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
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