Iran and North Korea standoff: US policy on NPT is in tatters

On December 23, 2006 the UN Security Council voted unanimously to impose sanction against Iran’s nuclear programme. The key aspects of the resolution were a) Ban on import and export of nuclear-related material and b) Assets frozen of 10 companies and 12 individuals. Although the resolution was passed under Chapter 7 Article 41, which renders enforcement obligatory there was no mention of military force in the event of Iran’s non-compliance with demands stipulated by the UNSC.

The resolution was passed after it had been considerably watered down from its initial draft. Both Russia and China objected to key points in the resolution drafted by the EU-3, as Moscow and Beijing manoeuvred to protect their commercial interests in Iran. But there are a couple of factors that has motivated the two erstwhile enemies to band together and stand firm against the US. First, both countries perceive Ahmadinejad to be acting independently from the US and this has spurred them on to engage Iran. This is despite the fact that most of Iran’s institutions and instruments of power are firmly in the hands of American agents through which the US secures its foreign policy goals in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. The US has further weakened Ahmadinejad by bolstering the credentials of Khatami and Rafsanjani in the Assembly of Experts and the Municipal elections. But none of this has lessened Moscow and Beijing’s enthusiasm to embrace Ahmadinejad. Second, Russia and China do not want to appear as frightened spectators, as they were in the run up to the gulf war in 2003. Today, both countries sense that America has been weakened by its occupation in Iraq and want to make the prospect of attacking Iran as difficult as possible.

From the EU’s perspective they had little choice, but to draft the resolutions as it was a condition imposed on the EU-3 in return for US supporting half-hearted economic incentives to placate Tehran in exchange for halting uranium enrichment. As far as the Bush administration is concerned, America’s security is inextricably linked to Israel’s security, and as long as Bush is under the influence of the Israeli lobby and the neoconservatives, Bush is reluctant to soften its stance on Iran’s nuclear programme. Speaking on this matter the Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns said, “We don’t think this resolution is enough in itself. We want to let the Iranians know that there is a big cost to them.”

Nevertheless, the dismissal of Rumsfeld and Bolton, and the selection of Gates as the new secretary of defence, signals that an intense debate between realists and neoconservatives is underway over Tehran’s nuclear programme. On December 07, 2006, during his Senate confirmation, Gates mentioned why Iran might be seeking the means to build an atomic bomb: “They are surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons: Pakistan to their east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west and us in the Persian Gulf.”. The admission by Gates that Israel is in possession of nuclear weapons is an attempt to shift the debate amongst US policy makers that the nuclear issue should be made part of the comprehensive settlement of the Middle East. Unless the US includes Israel as part of a nuclear free Middle East; other countries in the region will want to become nuclear. The GCC countries have already made their intentions known.

As for the six party talks regarding North Korea’s nuclear programme, they were destined to fail from the outset. This is because America is adamant not to lift economic sanction imposed on Pyongyang. The Bush administration believes these that the financial sanctions will eventually cripple Kim’s regime. Furthermore the US is doing its utmost to eschew the signing of security pact with North Korea, and this is further complicating matter between the two countries. Again the US wants to reserve the option of applying military force to change North Korea’s behaviour.

For North Korea the removal of financial sanctions and security pledges are essential before Pyongyang rescinds its nuclear weapons programme. Unless America is prepared to compromise tactically on these issues it is almost inevitable that Pyongyang will conduct another atomic test to coerce the US to make some concessions.

To sum up the US has not only failed to curb the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea, but has also made the world a dangerous place to live in. By signing a nuclear deal with India in violation of the NPT and not lifting a finger to reign in Israel’s atomic weapons, more and more countries will follow Iran and North Korea in a bid to nuclearize. Thanks to the Bush administration, America now stands on the verge of becoming the worlds biggest proliferate of nuclear technology.