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UMass Amherst to Train Iranian Nuclear Scientists

Bomb-makers of tomorrow gain access to U.S.-funded graduate education

Liel Leibovitz
February 23, 2015
(University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

(University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

Pity the young Iranian nuclear enthusiasts! Groaning under the weight of all those pesky sanctions, career-oriented nerds from Teheran or Isfahan eager to learn how to enrich uranium, say, or supervise reactor systems operations—all highly prized vocations in their bomb-happy theocracy—had very slim pickings when it came to increasing their nuclear-related knowledge stateside. No more: The University of Massachusetts Amherst announced last week that it was revising its approach to admissions and will no longer bar Iranian students from admission to nuclear science and engineering programs.

“This approach reflects the university’s longstanding commitment to wide access to educational opportunities,” offered Michael Malone, vice chancellor for research and engagement, making a brave stand on behalf of the equal rights of students from terror-sponsoring countries with genocidal intentions bent on building nuclear weapons to pursue knowledge at federally-funded American research universities. “We have always believed that excluding students from admission conflicts with our institutional values and principles.”

UMass’s decision wasn’t strictly the result of its commitment to diversity in nuclear engineering, however. “The decision to revise the university’s approach,” read a press release, “follows consultation with the State Department and outside counsel.” In case you were wondering why an academic institution felt compelled to consult with Foggy Bottom over something as trivial as an admissions policy, you may want to take a quick look at the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, which was passed into law and which mandates—in Title V, Sec. 501, if you’re into that sort of thing—the “exclusion of citizens of Iran seeking education relating to the nuclear and energy sectors of Iran.” Which, put bluntly, means that in its counsel, the State Department is violating the clear intent of a law passed by Congress and disarming a major category of sanctions to deliver relief to the Iranian regime before any deal has been reached. It’s up to you to decide whether or not it’s a mere coincidence that the first university to float this test balloon is a publicly funded institution in a state represented, between 1985 and 2013, by the administration’s current top diplomat, former U.S. Senator from Massachusetts John F. Kerry.

Young Iranians debating whether or not to apply to UMass-Amherst should only look to their elders for inspiration: Mohammad Javad Zarif, for example, the Islamic republic’s hard-liner foreign minister, is one of numerous high-ranking Iranian officials who received graduate degrees from American universities, where the values of universalist humanism he had imbibed were apparently not potent enough to convince him that the Holocaust actually happened.

Congratulations are in order, then, to the diligent people of Iran. Smart and highly motivated, they’ve lacked a key component en route to achieving their nuclear dreams—an American-style education that focuses not only on replicating yesterday’s antiquated weapons but on building the doomsday machines of tomorrow. In consultation with the State Department, their future is now as bright as a mushroom cloud.

Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.

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