Going Nuclear –Iran’s Tug of War with America

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President Bush recently visited Europe in a five-day fence-mending journey. Everywhere he went, if there was a persistent theme it was that ‘Iran should not have a nuclear weapon.’ In that he reached agreement with leaders of the EU countries.[1] On the final leg of his tour, he even tried to persuade his post-9/11 on-again and off-again ‘buddy’ Vladimir Putin in the Slovak capital of Bratislava into not selling nuclear fuel to Iran. Putin reminded Bush that he had no proof that Iran wanted to acquire the nuclear technology for anything but peaceful means.

Bush also tried to sell his version of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ to the Russian leader. There again he miserably failed to induce Putin, who in his turn did not fail to mention that Russia would follow its own version of the both, and did not need any lecturing on the subject of democracy from someone who would not have graced presidency if were it not for those appointed judges in the Supreme Court that decided the case (four years ago), in spite of trailing Gore in popular vote counting.[2]

Since Bush first came to power, he and his neocon advisers (most of whom are Zionists) set up an agenda that has been doggedly anti-Iran, alleging the latter to belong to an ‘axis of evil.’ Iraq is now under the U.S. occupation, in spite of not possessing the WMDs, and North Korea has declared that it has nuclear bombs. This declaration does not seem to alarm the Bushies as much as the perceived threat from a ‘nuclear’ Iran. But why, one ponders, when North Korea (and not Iran) is closer to the USA?

It is ludicrous to think that America, with the largest stockpile of nuclear arsenals and a yearly military budget of more than $500 billion (almost equal to the military budget of the rest of the world), is afraid of Iran (whose military expenditure is less than a percent of America’s military budget), even if the latter were to develop nuclear weapons.[3]

The reason for America’s agitation is obvious: Israel. Everything the neocons and the ‘Amen Corner’ in the Capitol Hill can think or dream about vis-à-vis the Middle East involves Israel.[4] They are not serious about a nuclear-free Middle East but about a nuclear-free and emasculated Arab and Muslim world that could never challenge the Zionist state. Obviously, no one in Washington ever dares to question why the rogue state has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory; or about an inspection of Israel’s main installations at Dimona that house a large arsenal of around 200 nuclear missiles, as most independent analysts believe.[5] That is the level of evil, two-facedness with which Washington has sealed its image!

Thus, when Iran says that it wants to acquire the nuclear technology to provide the much-needed cheap power (and clean-air) to its people, the friends of Israel in Washington are troubled. They know that Iran’s becoming a nuclear power would alter the imbalance of power in the Middle East, curbing the tactical advantage of Israel.[6] It would be a stabilizing force in a much-troubled area. Therefore, they complain: would not Iran’s becoming a nuclear power threaten our ally (and rampart) in the Middle East? They hypocritically argue: “Why should Iran go for nuclear power, when it sits on a sea of oil?”[7] Interestingly, when asked about the rationale behind America’s (which also sits on a large sea of oil) own relentless obsession with nuclear technology, they don’t have any satisfactory answer.[8] If it was the threat from nations on the other side of the Pacific and the Atlantic, should not Iran have at least the same right to protect itself, now that it is surrounded on all sides by hostile, pro-American satellite states (let alone Israel, with a history of aggression against Muslim states)?

After all, whether we like it or not, nuclear power has acted as a deterrent in many places. For example, since possessing the bomb, India and China have not fought a single war. Nor has there been a major conflict with Pakistan after the latter also acquired the bomb. For France, the nuclear deterrent symbolized the country’s independence from Washington and, at one stage, from the European Community. Truly, there has not been a single world war since America dropped bombs in Japan.

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Ayatullah Ali Khamenie, Iranian supreme leader, declared on November 5, 2004 during a Friday Khutbah that ‘developing, producing or stockpiling nuclear weapons” is haram under Islam. While such a profound statement should have been sufficient to stop the controversy, the fact that Washington has not relented from its accusations show the level of enmity she holds against Iran, since the hostage crisis.

For several months, the policy planners inside the Pentagon have been studying three major tactical options: full-scale of invasion of Iran, surgical strikes of Iranian nuclear and missile installations, and surrogate strike by Israel -” modeled along the lines of Osirak. None of these options are considered viable for they would increase the prospect of counter-strikes on American assets around the world.[9] According to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, Pentagon planners are considering covert actions against Iran.[10] In a talk delivered to a packed house in Olympia’s Capitol Theater in the Washington State, Scott Ritter, the ex-Marine turned UNSCOM weapons inspector (an anti-war activist now), told that George W. Bush has "signed off" on plans to bomb Iran in June 2005, and claimed that the U.S. manipulated the results of the recent Jan. 30 elections in Iraq.[11] Nothing would surprise me with the entourage that surrounds President Bush![12]

On the day of Presidential inauguration, January 20, ’05, vice president Dick Cheney, in an interview aired on MSNBC, said, “You look around the world of potential trouble spots, Iran is right at the top of the list. Given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards.”[13] Is Mr. Cheney giving the cue to Israel for preemptive strikes? Is there a connection with the recent appointment of a former air force general to the chief of staff position in Israel? [14] How is Iran on the top of the potential trouble list compared to so many more deserving contenders for the title, including Israel and the United States, responsible for so much of human suffering since Sharon and Bush came to power?[15] Who, one wonders, can teach new tricks to an old dog or a prejudiced man to forego chauvinism?

On February 27, ’05 to the dismay of the Bush Administration, Russia signed an agreement to sell nuclear fuel for Iran’s only nuclear reactor at Bushehr, in southern Iran. The first consignment of enriched uranium would be dispatched to Iran from Siberia in the middle of the next year. The deal helps Russia in several ways, e.g., the hard cash that it badly needs, the future bargaining power from the G-7 countries (especially from the USA) and resurrecting its image as an alternative world power willing to stand up to the bullying and buying power of Washington. And the agreement could not have come at a better time for Russia given the fact that in much of the Muslim world there is now so much loathing and apprehension about Bush’s motives and moves. The latter’s illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq has made the country the most insecure place on earth.[16] So, the deal helps Russia to gravitate the Muslim world towards her. By all measures, it is a win-win situation for Russia. And, if Putin is smart, he should not bargain this new image for a shortsighted tactic that would only seal his nation’s fate as a double-crossing partner. (It is in Russia’s interest that it should look eastward and try to encourage the formation of an Asian Union, modeled similar to that of the European Union. A multi-polar world is truly more secure than a mono-polar world left to the mercy of a Hulagu Khan wannabe.)

The deal with Iran stipulates that Russia will take the spent fuel back home, a move that guarantees prevention of nuclear proliferation. Yet, many in Washington are upset. John McCain, the maverick senator from Arizona, and a leading Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, accused Putin of carrying out ‘aberrational’ policies and acting ‘like a spoiled child.’ He said that Russia should not be invited to the G8 summit in Gleneagles in July. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham echoed McCain: “It is time for the Russian government to pay a price for empowering the bad guys and slipping back away from democracy.”[17] I am not at all surprised by such reactions from friends of the rogue state. They epitomize hypocrisy and only prove that Muslims cannot trust them for a balanced and fair foreign policy.

For the last few months, western countries have been playing the roles of good cop and bad cop with Iran. While some progress has been made to lessen the potential nuclear crisis diplomatically though the mediating efforts of Britain, France and Germany, the latest report from Reuters implies that Bush is considering joining the Europeans in offering Iran incentives. The incentives may include permission, long denied by the USA, for Iran to join the WTO. If the report is true, offering economic incentives for Iran to halt development of its nuclear program would mark a significant shift in US policy, one not welcome in some Washington circles.[18]

History is replete with examples of Western duplicity against Muslim nations. Today it is the USA, yesterday it was France, Italy and Britain, and the day before yesterday Spain, Holland and Russia. And the tragic cycle of betrayal goes on, sometimes with newer faces. The nations of the West must earn their trust before the Muslim world will rely on them.

Iran has a long and vivacious bazaar culture that predisposes it to be a cautious and good faith negotiator. Hopefully, an honorable and just solution to this crisis can and will be found that won’t cost human lives.

Notes:

[1]. http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&u=/ap/20050223/ap_on_re_eu/bush

[2]. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4292807.stm; http://www.nj.com/newsflash/washington/index.ssf?/base/politics-4/1109255657174350.xml&storylist=washington#continue; see also PBS TV discussion “Washington Week” with Gwen Ifill..

[3]. See the CIA Fact sheet for comparable statistics. Iran’s military expenditure in 2003 was reported by CIA to be $4.3 billion. According to the World Bank database (September, 2004) Iran’s total GDP in 2003 was $137 billion, which is less than America’s military budget; America’s GDP was $10.9 trillion. (See also: http://www.sipri.org/contents/milap/milex/mex_major_spenders.pdf)

[4]. Philip Zelikow, a former member of a top-level White House intelligence group PFIAB, speaking on a panel of foreign policy experts at the University of Virginia on September 10, 2002, said, “Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I’ll tell you what I think the real threat is and actually has been since 1990 -” it’s the threat against Israel.” (See the article: Iraq was invaded ‘to protect Israel’ -” US official, Asia Times, Feb. 15, 2005 for details.)

[5]. See, e.g., http://www.aljazeerah.info/4%20o/Israeli%20Nuclear%20Terrorism%20By%20Steve%20Jones.htm.

[6]. See, e.g., Roger Howard’s articles: “Why Israel Really Fears Iranian Nukes” -” parts 1 and 2, Nov. 27, 2004 and February 26, 2005, http://www.antiwar.com.

[7]. See Senator McCain’s remark reported by Reuters, Feb. 27, 2005 (Sen. McCain: Bar Russia from G8 Over Iran Deal by Randall Mikkelsen).

[8]. USGS estimates the identified reserves of oil in the USA at 51 billion barrels (the comparative figure for Iran is 69.2). The undiscovered oil in the USA is estimated at 44 billion barrels (Iran’s figure is 22 billion barrels, nearly half of the USA) (see: http://energy.er.usgs.gov/products/papers/World_oil/oil/nam_oil_table.htm). The total oil consumption in the USA in 2003 was approx. 20 million barrels/day. See also: http://www.radford.edu/~wkovarik/oil/. One should not also be oblivious of the fact that America caps its own reservoirs from producing oil while clamoring for cheap oil from outside. Truly, if prudent methods for secondary and tertiary oil recoveries are practiced in its oil rigs, America need not be dependent on Middle Eastern oil for at least a couple of decades. During primary oil recovery only about 20% (maximum) oil is recovered, leaving behind almost 80%. (For a detailed study on viscous fingering, miscible and immiscible fluid displacement processes in disordered porous media, see this author’s papers in the Journal of Physics and Chemical Engineering Science, published between 1983-91.)

[9]. Rep. Jim Leach, “Get Real: The Case for Restraint with Iran,” www.antiwar.com, November 30, 2004.

[10]. See Seymour Hersh’s article “The coming wars: What the Pentagon can now do in secret” in the New Yorker magazine, Jan. 24-31, 2005 for a detailed discussion on the subject.

[11]. See Scott Ritter’s comment: http://www.indybay.org/news/2005/02/1722945.php. A recent visit to Algeria by Hassan Rohani, secretary-general of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, was aimed at "sending a clear message to Washington that Iran is ready to defend its right to possess nuclear energy for peaceful purposes” (http://www.wpherald.com/Middle_East/storyview.php?StoryID=20050227-074506-2580r).

[12]. Quoting a government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon, Seymour Hersh writes: “The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible.” He also writes, “-¦ the Defense Department civilians, under the leadership of Douglas Feith, have been working with Israeli planners and consultants to develop and refine potential nuclear, chemical-weapons, and missile targets inside Iran. -¦ Rumsfeld and two of his key deputies, Stephen Cambone, the Under-secretary of Defense for Intelligence, and Army Lieutenant General William G. (Jerry) Boykin, will be part of the chain of command for the new commando operations. Relevant members of the House and Senate intelligence committees have been briefed on the Defense Department’s expanded role in covert affairs, a Pentagon adviser assured me, -¦” (Op. cit.)

[13]. Cheney says: Iran tops U.S. list, warns Israel, Jan. 20, 2005 (Reuters).

[14]. General Dan Halutz was chosen by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz on Feb. 22 to become the new chief of staff. http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?F=676920&C=mideast

[15]. Since September 29, 2000, Israeli Defense Forces have murdered nearly 3600 Palestinians, and injured another 30,000. Bush, in his turn, has killed more than 100,000 civilian Iraqis, mostly women and children. The death toll of Afghans is estimated to be close to ten thousand.

[16]. As I write this article (February 28, 2005), more than 115 Iraqis died in a mysterious car bomb, with few hundreds injured. Per international law, the protection of the people in the ‘occupied territories’ is the responsibility of the occupying force. In this, Bush has terribly failed.

[17]. CNN’s “Late Edition,” February 27, 2005.

[18]. During Bush’s visit to Europe, he said that he wants diplomacy to succeed, while at the same time threatening that ‘all the options are on the table.’ Interestingly (and not surprisingly), the latter theme was articulated by Patrick Clawson, deputy director of WINEP (a supporter of the Administration), in a Dec. 16, 2004 essay -” Carrots for Iran? Lessons from Libya -” where he wrote: “If in fact Europe wants to reach a trans-Atlantic consensus about Iran, then Europe would do well to remind Iran that the military option remains on the table.” (http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC05.php?CID=2205)

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