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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06YEREVAN1374 2006-10-04 06:43:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Yerevan
Cable title:  

IRANIAN PROFESSOR DISCUSSES NUKES, UNIVERSITY

Tags:   PREL PGOV SCUL MARR IR AM 
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VZCZCXRO9091
RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK
DE RUEHYE #1374/01 2770643
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 040643Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY YEREVAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4059
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 YEREVAN 001374 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/CARC, NEA/IR

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/03/2016
TAGS: PREL PGOV SCUL MARR IR AM
SUBJECT: IRANIAN PROFESSOR DISCUSSES NUKES, UNIVERSITY
CLIMATE


Classified By: Poloff Masha Herbst for reasons 1.4 (b, d).

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SUMMARY
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1. (C) A Tehran professor who participated in a local
thinktank's seminar this week in Yerevan said sanctions and
incompetent Iranian foreign policy were to blame for Iran's
lack of involvement in the South Caucasus. He also
complained that Iran was being punished for its intentions to
build a nuclear program rather than for its actions. Poloff
met with the professor, M. Farhad Atai, between sessions to
get a feel for the climate in Iranian universities. The
professor said that, although Iranian youth had recently been
favorably disposed towards the West and the United States,
the tide had begun to turn in the last few years. He said
the Iranian government was not as monolithic as the West
would like to believe. The professor also said that, while
in general, Iranian students study abroad in order to obtain
a high-quality education, those who come to Armenia to study
likely do so to avoid military service. END SUMMARY.



2. (C) Atai studied in the U.S. on and off between 1971 and
1990, and holds among his academic credentials a Ph.D. from
Berkeley. He teaches international relations at the
University of Tehran. Atai participated in a regional
seminar on Euro-Atlantic integration put on by the Spectrum
Center for Strategic Analysis, a respected local thinktank.



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IRAN IN THE SOUTH CAUCASUS


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3. (C) During the seminar, Atai was asked why Iran was so
preoccupied with its nuclear program when it could just
cooperate with the West and be a productive force in the
South Caucasus. He answered that the two things -- Iran's
nuclear program and its activities in the region -- were not
related. Citing the United States' part in blocking Iranian
participation in the Azerbaijani oil consortium, Atai said
U.S. policy and the economic blockade had effectively put
Iran out of business in the South Caucasus. He said the
incompetence of post-revolution Iranian foreign policy was
also to blame. Atai went on to argue that a small minority
among the Iranian establishment had turned its nuclear agenda
into a question of national pride, but concluded with the
words, "Iran is being punished for its intentions, not its
actions. This is unprecedented. The West and the U.S. are
saying 'We don't trust you.'"



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BIG BROTHER ISN'T WATCHING


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4. (C) Atai, a moderate, secular Iranian who has taught for
years, claimed he had never experienced any censorship, nor
any backlash for expressing moderate views. He said that,
while fundamentalist factions existed in universities, the
majority of students at the University of Tehran were
secular. Atai said there were government offices at his
university, just as in every university, but that they did
not interfere with his work. "The Iranian government is not
monolithic," Atai said. "That is the most widespread
misperception about the Iranian government." Atai said that,
while President Ahmadinejad's administration is conservative,
there are mullahs in the government who are more secular,
liberal and reform-minded.



5. (C) Atai said there were two competing forces at work in
Iranian society's perception of the United States. On the
one hand, he said, President Ahmadinejad's administration is
very unpopular, and his continued anti-American rhetoric has
had the contradictory effect of endearing the U.S. to
Iranians, particularly to Iranian youth. (NOTE: Atai said he
believed Ahmadinejad was not fairly elected, and said the
president has been unpopular since before his election. END
NOTE.) But on the other hand, Atai said Iranians are tired
of sanctions. He said that the pro-U.S. view had had the
upper hand before the war in Iraq, but that now the balance
had shifted.



--------------------------


IT'S EITHER THE ARMY, OR ARMENIA


--------------------------





6. (C) While most Iranians who come to Armenia to study are
ethnic Armenians, a much smaller number of non-Armenian
Iranians also attend university here, and show up at our visa
windows every few months. Atai, speaking perhaps with a

YEREVAN 00001374 002 OF 002


touch of academic snobbery, noted that non-Armenian Iranians
couldn't possibly choose Armenia for the quality of its
universities, and suggested that they were doing so primarily
to avoid military service. He said Iranian law allows
students who have studied abroad for at least two years --
anywhere, not just in Armenia -- to pay a fee and get out of
military service.



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COMMENT


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7. (C) While we can't confirm whether Atai's statements are
true, he is considered a reputable source by the Spectrum
Center, with which he has cooperated in the past. He has
also lectured in the United States and published a paper
critical of Ahmadinejad's election campaign conduct. While
some of his claims -- such as his assertion that he has not
experienced any censorship -- may be exaggerated, we believe
him to be credible.
GODFREY