Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Israel, Iran, and Nukes

The latest public flap over the alleged nuclear weapons program engaged in by Iran, coupled with the deafening silence over the fact that Israel already has an estimated 200 nuclear weapons with no inspection by the IAEA, bespeaks more than just hypocrisy. What it also portends is an attack on Iran by Israel, with the possibility of nuclear retaliation by the United States if Iran tries to fight back. This is the opinion of Gareth Porter in a piece published on April 24 (“U.S. Nuclear Option on Iran Linked to Israeli Attack Threat”). In it, Porter noted that the Obama administration’s announced Nuclear Posture Review for the first time states publicly that “it is reserving the right to use nuclear weapons against Iran.” This is because “A war involving Iran that begins with an Israeli attack is the only plausible scenario that would fit the category of contingencies in the document.” Aside from the amazing nature of this proclamation by our so-called peacemaking nation, the question is why? Why would the Obama administration—one which most hopeful people had expected to REDUCE rather than increase the threat of nuclear war—need to publicly announce its right to use nukes, and against a nation which everyone knows has no nukes at all?

According to Porter’s analysis, which seems to make eminent sense, the announced threat is meant to persuade Iran that if Israel attacks its alleged nuclear sites (which Israel has continually threatened to do), the Iranians should not try to respond militarily against Israel. Why? Because in the event of such a ‘treacherous’ Iranian response, the United States could use its nuclear weapons against Iran. Indeed, it specifically reserves the right to do so, threatens to do so. For Iran this means that it now not only has to fear an attack by the most powerful nation in its region, Israel, but an attack by the most powerful nation in the world, the USA, and with its nuclear weapons bristling.

Now here is where it gets really disgusting. Monday, at the conference being held at the United Nations to review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), President Ahmadinejad of Iran made a speech in which he fulminated against nuclear weapons themselves (“The nuclear bomb is a fire against humanity rather than a weapon for defense..”) and also criticized the United States for its above-noted threat to his nation. As the AP reported, “Ahmadinejad referred to the new U.S. Nuclear Posture Review’s provision retaining an option to use U.S. atomic arms against countries not in compliance with the nonproliferation pact, a charge Washington lays against Iran.” He also said, “Regrettably, the government of the United States has not only used nuclear weapons, but also continues to threaten to use such weapons against other countries, including Iran.” In response, of course, the United States and several of its European lap-dogs walked out on the Iranian President’s speech. When it came time for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to speak, she directed much of her talk at Ahmadinejad, saying that Iran was “flouting the rules” of the NPT, and trying to “do whatever it can to divert attention away from its own record and to attempt to evade accountability.” She also accused Iran of defying “the Security Council and the IAEA and plac(ing) the future of the nonproliferation regime in jeopardy.” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of South Korea added that “the onus is on Iran” to clear up doubts about its uranium enrichment program (it should be noted that so far, all that exists are accusations; Iran is perfectly within its rights as an NPT signer to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes; what it cannot do is use that enriched uranium for nuclear weapons—which our most recent CIA review said it was NOT doing.)

No one, however, mentioned either Israel’s existing nuclear weapons and refusal to join the NPT (no doubts about that), or the similar possession and refusal of Pakistan and India. It’s the unmentionable 2-ton gorilla in the room. For, as Thalif Deen points out in a May 3 Interpress Service article (reprinted on Common Dreams),

“at last month’s nuclear security summit in Washington DC, U.S. President Barack Obama was asked about Israel’s nuclear weapons program. But he diplomatically sidestepped the question when he pointedly told reporters: ‘As far as Israel goes, I’m not going to comment on their (nuclear weapons) program. What I’m going to point to is the fact that consistently we have urged all countries to become members of the NPT. So there’s no contradiction there. [Oh really?] And so whether we’re talking about Israel or any other country, we think that becoming part of the NPT is important.’”

Isn’t that cute? Though the President of the United States thinks it’s “important” to become part of the NPT, he just can’t comment on Israel’s nukes (Why? Would he be struck by lightning? Sent to jail? Caught in his own hypocrisy?). He will say, though, that he has “urged” all countries to join. So again—why won’t our closest ally join? What does Israel have to hide? What options—like using its weapons in a first strike, or obliterating one of its many enemies in the Middle East—does it refuse to give up? Indeed, how is it that the United States, the great peacemaker and promoter of the NPT, not only refuses to abandon its own nuclear arsenal (the Soviet Union no longer exists after all), but specifically claims the right to use nukes against those countries not in compliance with the NPT? (which, we are sure, does NOT refer to Pakistan or India, who never joined; or to North Korea which, though it’s not in compliance, has nukes of its own and that could be messy; could it be Iran?)

In fact, it is not just Iran, but much of the rest of the world that wants such questions answered. At the UN’s NPT Review conference, that is, 118 out of 192 nations demanded that Israel reveal its nuclear weapons program and join the NPT (NB: nations in the NPT which have nukes are supposed to make every effort to get rid of them). The 118 Non-Aligned Movement nations, through their spokesman, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natelagawa, asserted that Israel’s refusal to sign the NPT has exposed the entire region to nuclear threats from “the only country possessing these weapons of mass destruction.” With its “unsafeguarded nuclear facilities and activities of unknown safety standards,” (because by not joining the NPT, Israel does not have to submit to IAEA inspections) Israel’s nuclear program not only exposes its neighbors to great risks, but also threatens a nuclear arms race of “catastrophic regional and international potential.” Such a situation, Natelagawa said, jeopardizes the NPT itself, as well as the proposed creation of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, something Ahmadinejad also referred to (see Thalif Deen, “Israel, Iran Targeted at Nuke Non-Proliferation Meet,”, May 3, 2010).

What, then, can one say about the prospects for a revitalized NPT—especially in light of the fact that, with a United States assurance of nuclear backing, Israel may even now be planning a military strike against Iran? One would have to say the prospects are dim. Though President Obama seems sincere in his desire to rid the world of these weapons, or at least to bring them under greater control, he also seems hamstrung by the “special relationship” with the nuclear-armed pit bull known as Israel. He seems equally committed to creating a convenient scapegoat of Iran—whose loose cannon of a president, and fundamentalist mullahs in charge, make perfect whipping boys. With such elements in place, and with the United States’ reputation in tatters from a decade of unprovoked attacks against three Islamic nations, one would have to be far more of an optimist than I am to think things nuclear might resolve any time soon. On the other hand, if a sufficient body of world opinion decides to reject blatant nuclear hypocrisy and starts demanding something like full disclosure about nuclear weapons (including those of the thus-far unmentionable nations), it might happen. For our future’s sake, we should all hope and pray that it does.

Lawrence DiStasi

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