Alex Mercouris: Patronising Iran

Alex Mercouris in his presentation of 14 April 2024 1asks the question: Does Iran have the capability to develop hypersonic weapons … and then adds ‘by itself’?

Alex’s has a curious assumption that Iran has to develop the technology on its own with exclusively national resources. This is a strange assumption as it has never  been applied elsewhere. Let us start with the Manhattan Project. This project utilised scientists from all over Europe etc, for example from Hungary, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, also Canada, Australia  et al. It is not clear that anyone has suggested that this was a weakness of the US.

If we go further to the development of UK nuclear weapons  then US assisted as they did with France.

‘The Nixon administration secretly reversed a policy of opposition to, and non-cooperation with, the French nuclear program that began to emerge during the final years of the Eisenhower administration. ….. Nixon’s decisions stayed secret until the summer of 1989 when Princeton University political scientist Richard Ullman published an article in Foreign Policy magazine on “The Covert French Connection.”  Drawing upon interviews with over 100 former officials, Ullman sought to puncture two myths: that the French strategic force [“force de frappe”] was “entirely homegrown,” and that, owing to Washington’s restrictive policy on the diffusion of nuclear technology, only the British had been a recipient of direct assistance.’ 2 

Later, nuclear developments in India and Pakistan also benefitted from extensive US assistance. From India’s point of view following the development of China’s nuclear weapons:

‘Indian leaders, they also wrote, “could see merit in acquiring a limited but credible nuclear strike capability against China.” ’3  India’s nuclear development incentivised Pakistan  while the US ‘turned a blind eye to the nuclear weapons program in the 1980s, because Pakistan was providing the crucial link in the CIA’s effort to smuggle billions of dollars of weapons to Afghan guerrillas attempting to drive out Soviet invaders.,’ 4

Mercouris states that Iran used hypersonic technology and added ‘I am not sure if Iran by itself could do that …’. His question that he puts : Is it within Iran’s capabilities to produce  a ballistic missile with a hypersonic glide vehicle?  He then adds: ‘by itself’ ? 

Mercouris then suggests that the latest technologies require access to supercomputers and he doubts that Iran has access to such tools. Dream on. He is so far behind in his concept of a super computer in a world of  high performance computers created by large scale cluster serial strings of microprocessors. He talks a if we were still in the days of Cray or Big Blue.

IBM updates  readers on contemporary HPC (‘high performance computing’ as super computers are now called):

‘What is HPC?

High-performance computing (HPC) is technology that uses clusters of powerful processors that work in parallel to process massive multi-dimensional data sets, also known as big data, and solve complex problems at extremely high speeds. HPC solves some of today’s most complex computing problems in real time.’5

Or more simply from Princeton:

‘Back in the day, the machines used for high performance computing were known as “supercomputers,” or big standalone machines with specialized hardware–very different from what you would find in home and office computers.

Nowadays, however, the majority of supercomputers are instead computer clusters (or just “clusters” for short) — collections of relatively low-cost standalone computers that are networked together.’ 6

If Princeton can build its own cluster of ‘low-cost microprocessors’ perhaps Iran can do similar.

It is hard to avoid the feeling that something else is going on here. Perhaps Alex is finding it hard to accept that Iran has a technology that the US  does not have let alone Britain, and this challenges his sense of the natural order of things. Iranian students come to the UK to learn and be enlightened. No? British academics are brought up to a certain condescension when faced with an Iranian student as Alex probably knows from a family member.

  If Iran has a technology whether it developed it solely by itself is rather irrelevant as it is also irrelevant to ask if a technology available to Britain was developed solely by Britain.

Generally speaking the history of war is the history of technology transfer either by sharing or theft.  Polish logicians for example, provided considerable assistance to Britain (Turing) in preparing to crack German  Enigma codes.

While stating that he did not wish to undervalue Iranian technology he does exactly that.


1.   (Mercouris, 2024)

2.   (Burr, n.d.)

3.   (Burr, 2022)

4.   (Weiner, 1998)

5.   (What Is High-Performance Computing (HPC)?, 2024)

6.   (What Is a Cluster?, 2024)


Burr, W. (n.d.). U.S. Secret Assistance to the French Nuclear Program, 1969-1975: From ‘Fourth Country’ to Strategic Partner | Wilson Center. Wilson Center. Retrieved 20 April 2024, from

Burr, W. (2022, December 9). The U.S., Canada, and the Indian Nuclear Program, 1968-1974 | National Security Archive. NS Archive.

Mercouris, A. (Director). (2024, April 14). Iran Strikes Israel, Hits Airbases, US Pleads No Israel Response; Ukr Troop Surrenders, Chasov Yar | Rokfin.

Weiner, T. (1998, June 1). U.S. And China Helped Pakistan Build Its Bomb. New York Times.

What is a cluster? (2024). Princeton Research Computing.

What Is High-Performance Computing (HPC)? | IBM. (2024).

20 April 2024