The issue of Iran and nuclear power was in our headlines yet again this week, as the EU “offered incentives” for Iran to drop its uranium enrichment plans and the Iranian government (the reins of which were this week handed over to Ahmadinejad’s administration) rejected them. On the surface the EU deal looked like an attractive package and Iran’s rejection of it a nail in the coffin of any possible settlement, but it’s more complex than that.
According to this Guardian report, the EU3 (Britain, France, Germany) offered Iran the option of having “Western companies to build nuclear power stations in Iran and supply them with fuel” in return for Iran ceasing any nuclear activities of its own. In an age when “energy independence” is on many lips, that detail casts the package in a different light.
But running still deeper than the national security concern for “energy independence” is the recent history of Iran. For the majority of the 20th century Iran’s copious oil reserves were in the hands of western-dominated alliances. Iran suffered a coup because one of its former leaders didn’t cooperate fully with the western oil barons, and the desire to control their own natural resources was one of the fomenting factors behind the revolution.
For an Iranian leadership that won an election on the basis of a promised return to revolutionary ideals, handing control of their energy supply over to western companies simply isn’t an option. In this light, I’m surprised the EU even tried it.