Now that Iran has signed a deal with P5+1, it is a good time to take a look at a recent speech given by Iran's Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khamenei. This speech was delivered on July 4, 2015 at a meeting of university professors and can be found on the English language website "The Center for Preserving and Publishing the Works of Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei".
Let's look at a bit of background about Iran's current Supreme Leader. In Iran, the dominant figure in the nation's political sphere is not the president (currently reformist Hassan Rouhani) but the Supreme Leader who has authority over all major state institutions. The 75-year-old cleric wields ultimate power in the Islamic Republic, becoming Iran's religious leader after the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, the man who lead the 1979 revolution that overthrew the pro-Western Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. He was a student of Imam Khomeini and spent much of his youth and young adulthood studying Islamic law. He has been arrested and imprisoned six times. In 1976, the Pahlavi regime apprehended him and sentenced him to exile for three years. Upon his returned, he became one of the founders of the Islamic Republic Party and has held many positions within the government including Secretary of Defense. An assassination attempt in 1982 left him handicapped. He was chosen Supreme Leader by the Council of Experts in 1990. It is interesting to see that he has adopted 21st century technology, even having a Twitter account as shown here:
The speech focused on the importance of educating Iran's youth by the nation's 70,000 university professors, both morally and academically. Here is a quote:
"Naturally, teaching is accompanied by the possibility of moral education. So, this opportunity should be seized. If our university professors are religious and if they enjoy national zeal, revolutionary motives and the spirit to do hard work, this will naturally be transferred to their students."
The Grand Ayatollah goes on to outline the importance of a scientific education, noting that "...according to global statistics, the scientific growth rate of the country is 13 times faster than the global average...", resulting in Iran ranking 16th in the world in the area of science. He goes on to discuss Iran's budget for research, stating that four percent of Iran's overall budget was specified for research, well above the less than one percent current being allocated. Since Iran currently does not have the funds to increase their budget for scientific research, he states that the research budget allocation should range between 1.5 and 2 percent.
Now that we have a bit of background, let's get to the meat of the speech:
"As a number of friends pointed out in their speeches, the goal of the enemies of the Iranian nation is to prevent our country and people from achieving their true civilizational position. They felt that this movement has begun in the country and this is why they have imposed sanctions on us. I too believe that sanctions were not imposed because of the nuclear issue, the issue of human rights and the issue of terrorism....
They [the Americans and westerners] themselves are terrorists. They themselves are opposed to human rights. Are they pressuring a country only for the sake of human rights? The issue is not this. There are more important calculations behind this issue. A people, a movement and an identity have come into being that pivot around principles opposed to those of global arrogance and the oppressor-oppressed system. They do not want this to develop. We are in such a condition. We are in such a position. Therefore, we should move forward and work hard.
Of course, sanctions create some problems, but they cannot prevent our progress. In order to achieve progress, we should use our capacities and you university professors can play your part in this regard. The Ministry of Science and those ministries that are in charge of scientific affairs have fundamental and important roles. You should appreciate the value of these roles and you should follow them. You should ask Allah the Exalted for help as well. The holy ayah that the friends recited - "If you help the cause of Allah, He will help you."
Now, let's look back at another speech given by the Supreme Leader in April 2011. This speech provided the leader's view of the nation’s nuclear prgram and is quite interesting given the current scenario:
"If advanced knowledge were at the disposal of a perfect and moral nation, it would be a source of blessings. If modern weapons were at the disposal of a wise and perfect nation, they would not pose any dangers. The situation will always be like this. They produce atomic bombs – just as what the Americans did at the end of the Second World War and the tragedy that they caused for the people of Japan. Similarly, the nuclear disaster in one of the Soviet Union’s nuclear power plants led to the death of a large number of people. If something bad comes out of nuclear technology, it is all because of the unrestrained power of the superpowers. If the power of the arrogant US government is restricted in the world, nuclear threats will decrease automatically.
The word atom is associated with the progress of human knowledge, but unfortunately it is equally associated with the most hideous event in history and the greatest genocide and misuse of the scientific achievements of humanity. Although many countries have taken action to manufacture and stockpile nuclear weapons - which in itself can be considered a preface to committing crimes and is a serious threat to global peace - there is only one government that has committed a nuclear crime so far. Only the government of the United States of America has waged an atomic war against the oppressed people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in an unfair and inhumane war....
Much to the disappointment of the enemies, the Islamic Republic of Iran achieved nuclear technology on its own. Iran has been a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and it has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. According to the regulations, they were supposed to provide Iran with certain kinds of help. Influential Zionists and Americans told the world not to help Iran. Talented Iranian youth and scientists managed to achieve this technology gradually without the help of others. Nuclear technology is different from building atomic bombs. Achieving nuclear technology constitutes scientific growth in a field that offers many different advantages. Those who are after building an atomic bomb can achieve their goal by following a certain branch of nuclear technology. Iran is not after an atomic bomb, and it is even opposed to possession of chemical weapons. Even when Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran, we did not try to manufacture chemical weapons. Such things are not in line with the principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran...
The Americans should know that the Islamic Republic of Iran is not a warmonger. Acting on the basis of its principles, the Islamic Republic is opposed to warmongering. Iran does not welcome war. Everybody should know this. This is the position that all officials of the Islamic Republic unanimously agree on. All government officials of the Islamic Republic consider avoidance of war as their responsibility. Islamic principles require Iran to present a message of friendship, peace, love, security and tranquility. This is because the Iranian nation has something to say. Those do not have anything to say would naturally create uproar so that nobody can listen. It is bullying people who would want to create uproar, but those who have logical reasons to present would want a peaceful atmosphere in which they can present their logical reasons.
They mix up nuclear technology with development of nuclear weapons. The truth is different from what they say. Nuclear technology and nuclear weapons are two different things which are not closely related to one another. Nuclear weapons are based on uranium that is enriched above 90 percent through the use of complex technologies. Only those who have the motivation will go after nuclear weapons. The Islamic Republic of Iran does not have this motivation, and it has never been after nuclear weapons. Iran does not need a nuclear bomb. Iran has overcome its enemies so far without depending on nuclear weapons. The Iranian nation has continually defeated America for several years. Is this not true? Did Iran defeat America relying on its nuclear weapons or did it defeat America relying on its determination, willpower, faith, awareness and unity? Iran knew what it wanted, and it knew how to get it. Iran moved in this direction and was not intimidated by the threats of other people. This was how Iran overcame its enemy. It did not use nuclear weapons to overcome its enemy. Did the Soviet Union not have atomic bombs? Its atomic bombs were probably more than the atomic bombs of America, yet it was defeated. Defeat and victory in important areas are not determined by such things.”
It is interesting to see that Iran's Supreme Leader, the man ultimately responsible for making the decision to create an Iranian nuclear weapon, has been unequivocal about Iran's future with nuclear weapons in the past, just as he is unequivocal about the role of the United States and its allies in a nuclear world. Only time will tell whether or not Iran was sincere in its pursuit of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes alone.