A conflict between the United States and Iran over the use of nuclear technology again has raised tensions with the Middle East. University of Minnesota students and staff members, including some from Iran, have mixed opinions about the situation.
There is a standoff with Iran because of the country’s desire to create nuclear energy to support its population of 70 million people, said linguistics professor Iraj Bashiri.
“Today the question is whether (Iran) would use that for terrorism or would they use nuclear energy for weapons,” said Bashiri, who came to the United States from Iran in 1966 as a graduate student.
Right now Iran has two needs: energy and security, he said. Several of Iran’s neighbors – such as Israel, Pakistan and India – have nuclear capabilities, Bashiri said.
“So Iran is worried about how it can survive if it were to be invaded by any of the three,” he said.
Another issue is what Iran would do with any money it saves by having nuclear energy, he said.
Michael Barnett, a political science professor, said it’s a delicate situation and the United States doesn’t have many options.
“They continue to do a very difficult and tense dance with each other,” he said, “I think both sides are uncertain about the motivations of the other.”
Iran worries the United States and the international community wants Iran’s defeat and to some extent its humiliation, Barnett said.
The United States and international allies believe Iran is a dangerous foe determined to develop nuclear weapons, he said.
Javod Kazemizadeh Gol is a finance senior whose father is from Iran. Most of his father’s family still is in Iran, and the last time he was there was four years ago, he said.
He said the Western world has many misconceptions about Iranians.
“The media portrays everyone in Iran as religious fanatics,” he said. “If you look at the country and the people under 25, they are totally different.”
Political apathy exists among Iran’s youths just as it does in the United States; many younger Iranians didn’t vote in the last election, Kazemizadeh Gol said.
After college, many Iranians can’t find jobs, causing hatred toward the government, he said.
“A lot of people of the population of Iran, they really like Americans,” he said. “(But) they don’t like American policies.”
Perspectives on the nuclear situation in Iran and many statements made by Iran’s government officials are taken out of context, Kazemizadeh Gol said.
“I think the people in Iran think Iran should have nuclear technology,” he said. “They don’t want it to lead to any conflict.”
President George W. Bush said Monday “the leaders of Iran sponsor terror, deny liberty and human rights to their people and threaten the existence of our ally Israel.”
He also made an offer of $75 million a year to promote a positive relationship between Iran and the United States.
“There are various proposals that are still on the table that might be able to satisfy Iran’s desire to continue down the nuclear path,” Barnett said.
Some of those options include having a third party such as Russia inspect the nuclear sites.
University senior Lydia Haines said she is glad she doesn’t have to make any decisions regarding the situation.
“It’s such an impossible situation, I don’t know what to do,” she said.
Jared Lundquist, a graduate student in English education, said he understands why Iran might want to arm itself with nuclear weapons.
If Bush names a country as one of his Axis of Evil and then attacks the weakest one, Iraq, most countries in that position would be scared, he said.