Jeffrey LewisIranian Giveaway at the GC

Readers know that I yield to no one in my love of atomic schwag.  A colleague, who sadly must remain anonymous, snapped this picture of a giveaway from the IAEA General Conference held last month.

Yes, the Islamic Republic of Iran distributed laser pointers in the shape of a  centrifuge — sort of stubby for a P1 don’t you think? — with the phrase “Nuclear Energy for All, Nuclear Weapon for None” [sic] and, I am guessing, “I.R. of Iran, Uranium [Centrifuge]” around the bottom.

“Nuclear Energy for All, Nuclear Weapon for None” was the slogan of an April 2005 conference on disarmament that Iran hosted.  Iran hosted the second “International Nuclear Disarmament Conference” this summer.  There is even a Facebook page if, you know, you are banned from commenting here.

Maybe the US delegation should have passed out thumbdrives.  Too abstract.  How about little motorbike keychains?  Actually, maybe we should have just made Delonte West a member of the delegation.  Nah, too confusing.  I can just see the Iranian delegation wondering what this has to do with Ahmadinejad’s mother. (If you don’t like professional basketball, this is probably very confusing.)

Wow.  Okay, I totally want one.


  1. Ein (History)

    These do look too stubby for centrifuges, however the Iranians may instead be hinting at an even more advanced weapons capability. Elegant weapons, perhaps, for a more civilized age…

    Now I really want one.

  2. mark (History)

    The biggest sensation at GC/55 was in fact not the laser pointers (ask someone in one of the Almelo Treaty countries if they will give you one of those, by the way–there are a lot of them in a cardboard box somewhere in Vienna…). The biggest sensation at GC/55 was a bonafide P-1 casing on display. “Iranische Anreicherungstechnik zum anfassen,” as my friends in the Austrian government–a unique export control problem! (Are rotor tube casings on the trigger list?) The machining of the casings including the coolant tubing was impeccable. I doubt it is any better in Germany or Holland…

  3. blowback (History)

    Centifuges – lasers – are the Iranians hinting at something? Does this mean that the Iranians have now progressed to laser enrichment? Now that would be scary, if the Iranians had duplicated the SILEX process.

  4. Nick (History)

    I have never seen a laser pointer with two buttons. Maybe one for each bellow! 🙂

    • Nik (History)

      The second button is for flashlight and it also switches to uv.

      And Iranians also gave out thumbdrivers with very educational content

  5. Arrigo (History)

    Goodness me, Ahmadinejad’s children watch Cars: that’s the Piston Cup! Time for Disney Diplomacy which is at least a lot less boring than table-tennis diplomacy which only improves your lateral head movements.

  6. Adam Neira (History)

    What a snazzy little toy !

    And a catchy logo to boot. All communication is both a message and a command. The current tension in the nuclear enrichment deliberations is also a message. i.e. There are some foundations of trust that exist right now which must be exploited for all they are worth. Trust and empathy are two of the most undervalued commodities on the Planet. The groups who are seeking to maintain an arc of tension via nuclear weapons over certain regions must come to the realisation that another paradigm for the world is on the horizon.

    The saying on the Iranian giveaway is clever. The nuclear question is a two faced genie. Nuclear power is a boon for humankind. Nuclear weapons need to be phased out over the next few decades. They are a by-product of certain past geo-political moves. Like nine poker players all with various stacks returning dangerous chips to the house one by one, the risk needs to be reduced over time and in a way that builds trust. A core group of people could oversee and facilitate this process. Call it the “Committee to Oversee the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons by 2030.” I’m sure some clever person can come up with an appropriate acronym.

    There are various calenders; i.e. Christian/Gregorian October 2011; Jewish 21 Tishrei 5772; Muslim Dhul-Qa’dah 21, 1432; Iran Nuclear Fuel Enrichment hits critical red line ???; etc. The divine timetable will trump them all.

  7. Mark Lincoln (History)

    Quite ‘neat’ in the teen-age slang of 50 years ago.

    How many out there do not believe that the instant iran has a single bomb it will not rush to nuke Israel?


    • John Schilling (History)

      At risk of being trolled, count me among the people out here who do not believe Iran will attack Israel immediately upon acquiring a nuclear weapon.

      As for why: because the Iranians have an actual country of their own. The students who stormed the US embassy in 1979, might have gone on to nuke Israel the next day had they been able. Or Washington. But these are not the same Iranians. Particularly for government officials, having a country of your very own to rule and play with, is a transformative experience akin to the birth of a child, and one which completely shifts one’s priorities.

      Want to buy a sports car in great condition at a bargain price? Find one up for sale by a man whose first daughter was born a few years ago. It will have been carefully garaged and maintained by someone who still appreciates the joy of travelling mountain roads at 100+ mph but finds that he never actually does so any more. The same rule, I believe, applies to nuclear missiles and nations. Gee, another automotive analogy 🙂

      The Iranian government will nuke Israel when Iran has nuclear missiles that can reach Israel, and either A: believes it can nuke Israel without the retaliation destroying (their ability to rule) Iran, or B: believes that Iran has already been or will inevitably soon be destroyed and are out for vengeance. As for the prospect of Iran giving nuclear weapons to e.g. Hamas, Iran will guard its nuclear arsenal with the same singleminded intensity a father devotes to guarding his daughter’s chastity.

      There are reasons to be very concerned about Iran’s nuclear arsenal, but this sort of gross exaggeration does not help.

  8. masoud (History)

    Well Ehud Barak, former Israeli Prime Minister and current Defence Minister doesn’t believe that.

    Barak: Nuclear Iran No Existential Threat to Israel

    But to be fair, Amos Gilad, the Israeil Army’s Chief of Politico-Military Affairs, has a slightly different view. He’s unconvinced that Iran is after a nuclear weapon.

    GILAD was not sure Tehran had decided it wants a nuclear weapon

    More generally though, who doesn’t believe Iran is just dying to nuke Israel? A full characterization is beyond my ability to provide but here are couple of fairly wide reaching categories of people who don’t believe the above:

    1. Any sane ordinary citizen who is even remotely aware of the facts of the reality of the Middle East.

    2. Any politician or member of the US strategic decision making community that hasn’t been compromised by AIPAC.

  9. ViennaSwagger (History)

    Re Nick:
    Button 1: laser pointer
    Button 2 pressed once: flashlight
    Button 2 pressed twice: UV light (to make uranium glass glow?!)

    The centrifuges were part of a press event at the GC at which widows and children of assassinated Iranian scientists were present to talk to reporters. Afterwards, pistacios and centrifuges were handed out and Iranian refreshments were offered.

    • Nik (History)

      Actually, they said that the UV light can be used to detect marks on banknotes. Gotta be careful and know where the money come from. no kidding

  10. Amy (History)

    Did the US and Israel hand out little assassin dolls and malware? Were their thumbdrives infected?

  11. Andy (History)

    I just looked for these on ebay with no luck. I did, however, set up an alert in case any show up (hint, hint).

  12. Nick (History)

    Since there is a high probability that AEOI staff in Tehran and members of the IRI team at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna read this website. I hope they will put any left over pointers on ebay for sale. That would be really nice.

    • Andy (History)

      With all the complicated sanctions and stuff, one wonders if they even can, or if would be legal to buy them.

    • ataune (History)

      Everybody knows that even the closest allies are not sticking by the sanctions, so you shouldn’t worry about that.

  13. Thomas (History)

    I think it looks like a lightsaber, in that case Iran has done some significant scientific leaps!

  14. Jan Schejbal (History)

    Did anyone X-ray that thing? I don’t think I would want one of these in the room while talking about anything the Iran should not know.