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The Iranian nuclear issue has recently intensified, as the U.S. and its Western allies accuse Iran of actively trying to develop nuclear weapons following a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency. While the Iranian government denies these claims and argues that they are only trying to develop a civilian nuclear program, the debate raises a valid question: Can Iran really be blamed for trying to expand its nuclear capabilities? Mehdi Hasan describes the situation from an Iranian’s perspective in The Guardian:

On your eastern border, the United States has 100,000 troops serving in Afghanistan. On your western border, the US has been occupying Iraq since 2003 and plans to retain a small force of military contractors and CIA operatives even after its official withdrawal next month. Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation, is to the south-east; Turkey, America’s Nato ally, to the north-west; Turkmenistan, which has acted as a refuelling base for US military transport planes since 2002, to the north-east. To the south, across the Persian Gulf, you see a cluster of US client states: Bahrain, home to the US Fifth Fleet; Qatar, host to a forward headquarters of US Central Command; Saudi Arabia, whose king has exhorted America to “attack Iran” and “cut off the head of the snake”.

Then, of course, less than a thousand miles to the west, there is Israel, your mortal enemy, in possession of over a hundred nuclear warheads and with a history of pre-emptive aggression against its opponents.

The map makes it clear: Iran is, literally, encircled by the United States and its allies.

If that wasn’t worrying enough, your country seems to be under (covert) attack. Several nuclear scientists have been mysteriously assassinated and, late last year, a sophisticated computer virus succeeded in shutting down roughly a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges. Only last weekend, the “pioneer” of the Islamic Republic’s missile programme, Major General Hassan Moghaddam, was killed – with 16 others – in a huge explosion at a Revolutionary Guards base 25 miles outside Tehran. You go online to discover western journalists reporting that the Mossad is believed to have been behind the blast.

And then you pause to remind yourself of the fundamental geopolitical lesson that you and your countrymen learned over the last decade: the US and its allies opted for war with non-nuclear Iraq, but diplomacy with nuclear-armed North Korea.

If you were our mullah in Tehran, wouldn’t you want Iran to have the bomb – or at the very minimum, “nuclear latency” (that is, the capability and technology to quickly build a nuclear weapon if threatened with attack)?

The piece also mentions a 2010 University of Maryland survey in which 55 percent of Iranians support the pursuit of nuclear power and 38 percent support the building of a nuclear bomb. Their opinion, however disconcerting, is understandable. The current precarious situation further emphasizes the need for diplomacy instead of fear-mongering and rhetoric that will only heighten Iranians’ sense of alienation and thereby increase their motivation to develop nuclear weapons.

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