Thursday, April 5, 2007

Referendum on Nuclear Program

The Iranian Nobel Peace Laureate and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi has proposed a bold initiative to put the government’s uranium enrichment program to a referendum. Let the public decide if with all the political and economic costs associated with the government’s nuclear program it still wants to continue with it. If a campaign to hold a referendum on the enrichment program takes off, the government will be put in an extremely difficult position to refuse it. It professes that a large segment of the population is in favor of the government’s approach to nuclear energy. Let the public decide. If the government is right in its assertions of public support on the issue, why should it fear such referendum?

The government has defined its nuclear program as the cornerstone of Iranian nationalism and the national pride, no matter the costs to the nation. A public debate over this assertion could as easily show that the national pride could not be defined only in terms of uranium enrichment. The love of the country did not start with the enrichment program and will not end with its suspension. The public knows that the world distrusts the Islamic Republic and it would not want it to have a nuclear capability. The question is not Iran’s rights to enrich, but the Islamic Republic’s inability to safeguard Iran’s rights.

What is more important here, however, is the national interest of the country. Is it in our interest to become an isolated nation in an increasingly interdependent globe only to be able to enrich uranium? Is it worth it to push the West (US and Europe), the East (Russia and China), the Third World (South Africa) and the Muslim World (Indonesia and Qatar) into a unified camp to vote against our country in the UN Security Council?

The government has failed. The time has come for the public to discuss the issue and to vote on it. Holding a referendum on the issue is the only logical solution to the standoff. Let the public decide.

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