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Iran's Shame

Another significant earthquake struck Iran today. This one was not as strong as the quake that killed hundreds and left over 100,000 homeless in February of 2004. And that one was small compared to the one in December of 2003 that killed an estimated 15,000 and the one in 1990 that killed an estimated 35,000. As of this afternoon, there were no known casualties, but then again, an Iraqi official noted that the region over the epicenter has “no communication equipment." Probably no running water either and certainly no sewers, hospitals or police. In fact, the vast majority of Iran’s nearly 70 million people live in third world conditions not much different from when Alexander the Great arrived .There are not many techniques available to Iranian builders to account for frequent tremors when the primary architectural material is still the mud brick. Iranian life expectancy is lowest among OPEC nations and over a quarter of their citizens are illiterate (according to statistics provided by the United Nations Development Program). All of this despite having the fourth largest oil reserves in the world at a time of record oil prices.

And human rights? Never mind.

This is the appropriate context in which to reckon with Iran’s recent hectoring rants regarding a nascent nuclear program. The geologic fault lines that run beneath Iran are not a recent development. How much national wealth and human capital has been expended by the current regime in its quest to have a nuclear program, while the masses of Iranians suffer needlessly from preventable disasters? What are they going to do with all that cheap electricity without an infrastructure to deliver it? Where will the weapons experts take refuge when the next big one hits? Even if Iran is able to acquire nuclear material and technologies from some rogue state, will they construct their reactors in caves and arm their missiles in mud huts? What happens to the enriched plutonium the next time Iran shakes violently? Given Iran’s longstanding disregard for the material well-being of its citizens, it should perhaps be no surprise that it continues into the nuclear age. But the coming disaster will far more horrific than any earthquake.

One wonders if Iran’s inferiority complex, which drives its monomaniacal quest to split the atom, would exist if its leaders did not walk every day in the shadow of their undeniable failure to secure basic standards of living. Bellowing recriminations about international equality and security perhaps helps to drown out the cries of the masses buried alive by the latest earthquake.

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