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The Lobby Versus Science

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Tragic as war is, it has often led to scientific and medical discoveries. Today in Washington AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), the pro-Israeli Lobby group, is using science as a pretext for war. They claim that Iran's significant scientific achievements are a global threat to peace and Iran's need for enriched uranium for medical research is unfounded. Dissemination of such misinformation is akin to the very cancer that the Iranian scientists have been attempting to cure and stem out for decades.

In 1972, a joint research project (French-Iranian scholars) on esophageal cancer in the Caspian Littoral of Iran was released. The findings bought to light that the region had among the highest recorded incidences of esophageal cancer [1] in the world. The research indicated that owing to its location, the high rate of esophageal cancer was not unique to Iran but represented the Middle East, China, Afghanistan, and former Soviet central Asia, parts of Siberia, Mongolia, and northern and western China [i].

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Perhaps it is with this in mind that almost four decades later, in 2007-2009, US National Institute of Cancer sponsored the study of esophageal cancer in Iran [ii]. Later, with "health diplomacy" in mind, Iran and the United States, with foresight and fortitude by the National Institute of Health's mission of Science for Health , concentrated on three areas of cooperation: 1) Esophageal Cancer; 2) Mustard Gas Exposure and Lung Carcinogenesis; 3) HIV and drug use.[iii] It is not without irony that Iran's research and expertise in mustard gas injuries should be the direct result of America's policies during the 8-year Iran-Iraq war when the U.S. decided to arm Saddam Hussein with CBTW (chemical, biological, toxin warfare)[iv] material.

Today, in order to wage another war against Iranians and to ensure that Iran shares Iraq's fate, the argument presented by the Lobby and trumpeted by the neoconservative-dominated media is that Iran, a country rich in oil does not need to enrich uranium. Before one responds that it is Iran's right under the NPT, it would be more simple to demand that the neoconservatives explain why other countries place such high demand on radioisotopes - a derivative of enriched uranium?

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In 1959, Science reported that radioisotopes have always been a source for "scientific research, and their application to such activities as agriculture, industry, and medicine is now steadily increasing"[v] Today, there is a dire shortage of radioisotopes. On July 26, 2009, The Houston Chronicle reported that a drug crucial to medical tests was in short supply. This was due to the loss of the 51-year-old reactor in Ontario, Canada that produces much of this drug.

In "Blood Weekly", (July 2, 2009, p603) wrote that Cotara R, a radioisotope is being developed as a potential new treatment for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a deadly form of brain cancer. Just as the West makes use of radioisotopes to make strides in modern medicine, so does Iran.

In October, Iran announced it had produced two new radio medicines called "Samarion 153" and "Renium 186" which were able to reduce pains of cancer patients. Furthermore, these medicines could be used for defining of cancer and reducing bone disease. Iran also informed that the results of a new anti-cancer medicine would be publicly announced in 2010[vi]. However, the Iranian-derived radio medicine differs vastly from the Canadian product.

The U.S. supplies weapon-grade uranium (HEU, 90-percent 235U) to the Canadian radioisotope producers. HEU is capable of being used to make a nuclear bomb, which is why the 1992 Schumer Amendment to the U.S. Atomic Energy Act requires that a foreign producer cooperate with the United States in converting to LEU (containing less than 20 percent 235U). In 2005, a lobbying campaign sponsored by MDS-Nordion of Canada and Mallinckrodt resulted in the Burr Amendment in the National Energy Policy Act of 2005. This amendment exempts medical radioisotope producers in Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands from the Schumer Amendment's requirements[vii].

In sharp contrast, Iran uses LEU (not suitable for bomb-making). Not only is this the standard permissible under the NNPT, but it is the standard that the United States is pushing its allies to strive for. There are currently some challenges in converting from HEU to LEU for isotopes. While there are two major plants currently being repaired which supply much of the required isotopes, the main technical issue that has been raised by current producers is increased waste generation when LEU is used.

While the Department of Energy's findings indicate a coming shortage in medical isotopes, it also promises new treatments such as ' isotopes for cancer therapy and pain control'[viii] . Given this view, Iran's extraordinary achievements are to be commended, not blasted - literally. Even in isolation Iran's remarkable strides in medicine can serve as a bridge, not as a crevice.

Furthermore, The Scientist confirms that there will be an oil crisis by 2030. What reserves can be found are not easily accessible. "Three-quarters of the global shale resource lies in Colorado , Utah and Wyoming , and Barack Obama's administration has recently restarted the process of leasing federal land for shale oil R&D. Shade oil was used in the 19th century. To produce oil from it, you essentially need to speed up a geological process that takes millions of years. This is done by heating the rock to 500 C until the kerogen decomposes into a synthetic crude oil and a solid residue. Traditionally that has meant digging up the shale and baking it in a huge oven. An expensive, energy-intensive process. It also leaves a greater volume of waste than the original shale." [ix] Surely it is plausible for Iran to need nuclear power plants for fuel given the future of oil.

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It is tragic that a nuclear program intended for civilian use, and research programs with the potential to cure and alleviate human suffering should be the Lobby's weapon for destruction - at home and abroad. Washington has full knowledge that Iran's pursuit of a nuclear program is for civilian purposes, and the two countries have cooperated in medical research, yet bowing to AIPAC, it is pushing along with more sanctions - a prelude to war. Sanctions, not only harm the target country, but the American economy at a time when Americans need jobs, not another military confrontation. Perhaps the real tragedy is the realization that Americans are sovereign no more.

[1] Cancer that occurs in the esophagus a long hollow tube that runs from the throat to the stomach. The esophagus carries food to the stomach to be digested

[i] Science, New Series, Vol. 175, No. 4024 (Feb. 25, 1972), pp. 846-853

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Soraya has lived and studied in-Iran, UK, France, and has obtained her Master's degree in Public Diplomacy from USC Annenberg and USC School for International Studies, Los Angeles.- She is an independent researcher, public speaker, radio (more...)

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