By NBC News Producer
NBC News
updated 2/7/2006 2:32:51 PM ET 2006-02-07T19:32:51

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has told the International Atomic Energy Agency that its inspectors will no longer be allowed to conduct short notice, wide-reaching inspection trips of nuclear facilities and that uranium enrichment work will resume, despite international condemnation.

NBC News’ Ali Arouzi reports from Tehran on how Iranians feel about their country’s position, which may lead to U.N. sanctions.

If Iran’s stated goal is to develop a peaceful nuclear industry to generate electricity, why won’t Tehran allow international inspectors?
Well, most importantly, the main issue goes back to the point of uranium enrichment. The Iranians believe that its their sovereign right to be able to enrich uranium here. The terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty say that they can. They feel that they are being treated like a child by the international community and even bullied.

So, they said, we aren’t going to play ball with anyone anymore. We’ll just do our own thing and we’re not going to listen to anyone else.  

What is the end game for the Iranians? Is it just what you just mentioned, to be able to exert their own independence and authority? Or do they actually want to produce  nuclear weapons?
Well, the Iranians still stand by what they are saying, that their program is a purely civilian program and that they have no interest in developing a bomb. They say that producing a bomb is against what their leader President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has stated. It is not in their constitution and not in their law.   

But, this is treated with great skepticism by the Europeans and the Americans. The Europeans and the Americans believe that Iran has a clandestine nuclear program. Only time will tell now.

What has been the reaction to this announcement in Iran itself? How has the nuclear issue sort of become a nationalistic issue there?
There has been a somewhat mixed reaction. Most people in Iran are quite proud people. They say, “We are being bullied again by the West and it’s our right to develop this nuclear energy.”  

When people are pushed on the issue and asked, “But, Iran has such massive oil and gas reserves, what do you need nuclear energy for?” People respond that the oil and gas should be exported so that Iran can become a richer and more powerful economic country in the region, adding that they can depend on nuclear energy for their own needs.

So, people in the streets believe that it’s Iran right to have nuclear energy.

But, if you dig a little deeper, people are extremely worried about sanctions. They don’t want the economy here to crumble. People don’t want to lose their jobs. They always say, ‘You know, we’ll adapt to any situation.’ But it’s been a hard 27 years [since the 1979 Iranian Revolution].

Do regular people fear international retaliation for their country’s confrontational stance?
I don’t think that people are that worried about any hostile retaliation because of their country’s stance. It doesn’t seem to be on the forefront of people’s minds.

People here have seen what’s happened in Iraq, and are pretty sure that’s not going to happen here. They see that America is stuck in somewhat of a quagmire in Iraq, and they are pretty confident that nobody is going to attack them.

But, they are certainly frightened of becoming isolated here. They definitely don’t want to go down the road of North Korea.

Consumer goods and electronic goods, although they are still considered luxury products, are still readily available here. And people like them, just like anyplace else in the world. People like to go buy a plasma TV, or even a regular TV. And if they get cut off from all of these things, it will hurt them.

But, more important than that would be having restrictions on buying food as regularly as you like, or having everyday consumer goods not as readily available.

But again, if you ask the regular Iranian on the street whether or not they fear this, and they say, “Yes, but we’ll adapt. We always have.”

What about the whole Islamic cartoon issue? There were violent protests in Tehran on Monday as protesters hurled stones and gasoline bombs at the Danish and Austrian embassies.   A newspaper has now said they will sponsor a competition for Holocaust cartoons. Again, is this just Iran posturing itself and pursuing a course of confrontation for the sake of confrontation? Or are people really angry about those actual cartoons?
To be honest with you, there aren’t mass protests in the streets or anything. The violence and the protests were isolated to the Danish and Austrian embassies (Austria currently holds the European Union presidency.) And now on Tuesday, attacks on the Norwegian embassy.

But, people were genuinely upset about these cartoons, there is no doubt about that. It is a different culture here, and the press moves in different ways and there is a different view on freedom of press here. But, people were genuinely upset about the cartoons. They thought they were highly offensive.

If you ask most Iranians, they would say that in Iran, you would never hear anyone making any derogatory comments about Jesus Christ. They would say that all of the prophets, including Jesus, although he is not revered like Mohammed, he should be treated with the same regard and respect.

So, people were genuinely upset about the cartoons, but there wasn’t mass violence and protests across Tehran, they were isolated incidents at the embassies.

Ali Arouzi is an NBC News Producer in Tehran, Iran.


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