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March 21, 2006

Nonproliferation: From Noble Lie to Pretext for War


by Randal Mark

Nuclear Weapons

The first thing to remember about nuclear weapons1 is that they are horrible. They represent the logical conclusion of the strategic bombing method of waging war by obliterating and terrorizing enemy civilian populations. Historically, this was most effectively waged by Britain and the United States in World War II. Nuclear weapons allow professional so-called soldiers to push buttons in almost complete personal safety and literally destroy entire cities, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children. Their use, or the threat of their use, necessarily constitutes state terrorism. They are the only real "weapon of mass destruction."2

The second thing to remember is that they are absolutely indispensable to any nation that wishes to maintain even the kind of sovereignty still available in our ever smaller and more interconnected modern world. In the end, if you do not have nuclear weapons, preferably including a secure second-strike delivery system, you are at the mercy of any major nuclear-weapon-owning power that has the capability to reach and beat your conventional forces. The only defense you have against such attack is the express or implicit backing of other nuclear-weapon-owning powers.

The above was demonstrated beyond doubt by the recent invasion and occupation of Iraq by the U.S. and the UK, in flagrant breach of international law and their own binding treaty commitments in the UN Charter to abandon the unilateral use of force as an instrument of national policy3. Because no nuclear-weapon-owning power was prepared to protect Iraq, there was nothing to stop the U.S. from attacking Iraq. Nor is this likely to be an isolated example, in view of the ever present saber-rattling by the U.S.4 against Syria and Iran. So long as these latter countries do not have nuclear weapons or a nuclear-armed patron willing to shelter them beneath a nuclear umbrella, they are ultimately defenseless.

The classic contrasting cases are China and North Korea. China made itself safe from U.S. or Soviet attack by building enough nuclear weapons and delivery systems to render any attack at least prohibitively costly, and perhaps suicidal. As a result, the U.S. chose engagement instead of confrontation. North Korea is thought to have the capability to produce nuclear weapons and perhaps to have one or more ready to use, together with short-range delivery systems that could reach South Korea (and the U.S. forces based there). That, combined with the likely ultimate backing of nuclear-armed China in extremis and the absence of either oil or Israeli interests in the vicinity, has been enough to deter a U.S. attack so far.

Sovereign Entitlement to Effective Defense

Consequently, any nation is in principle entitled to possess nuclear weapons for its own defense. National sovereignty was the foundation of the modern global system, and national sovereignty requires the basic right to own the effective means of national defense.

It is sometimes argued that the world is changing, with globalization, increasing interdependence among nations, and the ongoing technological shrinking of the globe. It is then claimed that we must move to at least a de facto world government, in which nations are entitled to constrain other nations' sovereignty, such that the "international community" may interfere in nations' internal affairs for various purportedly noble reasons. On this argument, the rule of law supersedes nations' need for nuclear weapons, and therefore their entitlement to own them (and thereby inevitably put their neighbors at some increased risk). However, the Iraq example demonstrates that we are not yet in a position where there is a global order that can replace national sovereignty and render the need for effective defenses obsolete. It is a matter for philosophical debate, perhaps, whether such an order can, should, or will ever be established5, but it is indisputable that it was not there to protect the people of non-nuclear Iraq. So long as those responsible for perpetrating that crime are still unpunished (Messrs. Blair, Bush, and the various other responsible members of the U.S. and UK regimes), there is nothing to stop such a crime from being repeated in the future. Substantive punishment of those leaders of the responsible regimes is the sine qua non for any claim that a rule of law now applies in international affairs, and it shows no sign of occurring any time soon.

So we are still in a position in which nations are entitled to look after their own defenses, and nuclear weapons are indispensable for that purpose.

Treaty Considerations

Having said all the above, it is clearly (superficially, at least) preferable for nations not to own nuclear weapons. The more there are around, the more likelihood there is that they will be used, and the consequences of their use are, as pointed out above, monstrous. If they are not used as a final defense by some nation with its back against the wall (a failure of deterrence, in other words), they may be used by accident, or by an unscrupulous regime. Or they may fall into the hands of a terrorist group through corruption, incompetence, or evil intent. The more they are around, the more commonplace they become, the more likely all these scenarios become.

This was the motivation behind the historic nuclear disarmament campaigns of the mid- to late 20th century.6 Nor is it hard to see why nuclear-weapon-owning nations would have an interest in preventing other non-nuclear nations from acquiring them, or that nations with no immediate prospect of obtaining nuclear weapons might like to slow down the acquisition of nuclear weapons by other, wealthier, more advanced states. And, obviously, those nations that feel no immediate or reasonably foreseeable external military threat would prefer not to have to go to the expense of developing nuclear weapons just because they become a global standard.

These pressures resulted in the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), under which signatory nations that were not already nuclear-capable waived their right to become so in return for two things: first, recognition of their absolute right to develop peaceful atomic power (under appropriate agreed safeguards), and to be at no research or technological disadvantage in doing so, relative to the nuclear weapons powers7; second, for the signatories who were already nuclear weapons powers to "reduce and ultimately seek to eliminate" their nuclear arsenals.8

At the time of signing, the powers with established nuclear capability (termed "nuclear-weapon states" in the treaty) were the U.S., the Soviet Union, China, the UK, and France, though China and France only formally joined in 1992. The signatories today include all existing states except Israel, India, Pakistan, Cuba, and North Korea (which left in 2003).

Of course, while non-nuclear signatories to the NPT have temporarily waived their basic sovereign entitlement to seek to acquire nuclear weapons, that does not mean that if they breach that treaty commitment by acquiring nuclear weapons, the use of force is justified against them to compel compliance. The rightful consequences (leaving aside the possible issue of reparations for losses caused) for breach of any agreement between sovereign parties are limited to those set out in the agreement itself, or loss of the benefits of compliance. In this case, there are no consequences specified, although the matter can be referred to the UN Security Council to determine if any action is required. This means that the Security Council could, in theory, conclude that there was a threat to peace and security, and authorize sanctions or even collective military force in response. But since the Security Council can, if the members are willing to vote for it, do so just as easily without the NPT and a breach thereof ever existing, the NPT itself is somewhat irrelevant in this regard. It is merely an excuse for referring the matter to the Security Council. The issue for the Security Council is, strictly speaking, whether there is a threat to peace and security, not whether there is a breach of the NPT or related agreements.

Treaty Compliance and the Utility of the NPT

The NPT was, of course, a "noble lie." None of the then nuclear-capable nations that signed on to it as nuclear-weapon states ever had the slightest intention of abandoning their own nuclear arsenals, as subsequent developments have clearly demonstrated. Indeed, most citizens with any knowledge of history and any grasp of reality would be horrified at the idea that their government would do so. To do so would be to take an idealistic gamble with the entire defense of the nation.

Subsequent to the signing of the NPT, all the nuclear-weapon states have modernized and enhanced the power of their nuclear arsenals. There has been no indication, during the nearly four decades since signing, of any serious proposal to even begin to consider how to fulfill the promise to disarm under Article VI of the NPT. While there have been force reductions for diplomatic purposes and following the end of the Cold War, the trend even today is toward preparing the ground for the tactical or limited use of nuclear weapons. From American proposals to break the protective nuclear taboo with "nuclear bunker busters," and recent American and British declarations of intent to modernize their nuclear arsenals and to abandon even any pretense of nuclear disarmament, to insistence by the American, British, and French governments that they may use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states, the general direction is to normalize the idea of nuclear weapons in the hands of (self-designated) responsible powers. Such statements, of course, merely provide cover in advance for any future use of nuclear weapons by Russia against Chechnya, or India against Pakistan, for instance, and also increase the incentives to mount false-flag terror operations to manipulate nuclear states into attacking other nations.

Several nations have developed nuclear weapons outside the NPT namely Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea. The response has generally depended upon how well-regarded the country in question is by the U.S. regime and political lobbies. Needless to say, Israel's large nuclear arsenal is generally officially ignored by the U.S., while North Korea's tiny capability has been the cause for much American foaming at the mouth. India has recently achieved the remarkable feat of agreeing to a deal with the U.S. that allows them to gain the advantages of being a de facto nuclear-weapon state outside the NPT, while at the same time substantially enjoying the benefits of non-nuclear states under the NPT, in terms of peaceful atomic development. This is purely for reasons of U.S. strategic diplomacy.

There have also been some notable "nuclear rollbacks" of minor late arrivals to the nuclear weapons club.9

As far as the nuclear state signatories are concerned, though, even the commitment to allow peaceful development of atomic power has not been complied with in good faith, as the example of Iran makes clear.10

As a means of constraining the basic sovereign rights of nations to acquire nuclear weapons for their own defense, the NPT is essentially, therefore, an agreement with no moral force whatsoever. The nuclear-capable signatories never intended to live up to their own side of it, and never have. Those signatories that have been happy to shelter under other nations' nuclear umbrellas for the time being, or have felt no compelling threat requiring the acquisition of nuclear weapons for defense, have happily taken the benefits in terms of atomic cooperation and (arguably) reduced proliferation. Any nations that have signed on as non-nuclear powers (and thereby nominally waived their basic right to acquire the weapons for the duration of their membership) and then gone on to pursue covert nuclear weapon programs could be criticized for being deceitful. However, they are merely exploiting those who are in turn seeking to exploit them.

There is a strong case, notwithstanding the points made above, for arguing that the NPT has been a huge success. There is little doubt that at least dozens of nations could by now have substantial nuclear arsenals, with many more on the way, if it had not been for the framework and incentives created by the NPT. Advocates claim, with some justice, that no signatory non-nuclear state has ever covertly constructed a nuclear arsenal under the IAEA inspection regime, and also credit such rollbacks as there have been to the NPT, at least in part. Its presence, and that of the related intrusive IAEA inspection regime, provides a reason for nations to assume that neighboring nations are not building nuclear weapons, and an incentive not to do so themselves. As a noble lie, the NPT probably did a lot of good over its first three decades.

Dangerous Abuse of the NPT: The "WMD" Scam

The problem with an agreement like the NPT, which is essentially empty but pragmatically beneficial at little cost, comes when it is abused to justify aggression.

It is standard practice, for democratic regimes especially, seeking to justify wars, to demonize their intended opponents so as to maintain support for the proposed war. Claims of "nun-raping and baby-bayonetting," "ethnic cleansing," "babies thrown out of incubators," and "weapons of mass destruction ready to be used against us at 45 minutes notice" are the kinds of nonsense routinely used to great effect to deceive voters into supporting the regime's actions.

In particular, today the fear of "weapons of mass destruction" (WMD) is one of the most effective tools in the democratic warmonger's box. The particular advantage of this method is that it can be used to obtain reasonable-sounding restrictions upon unpopular target states, which can then be claimed to legitimize a war of aggression when subsequently (allegedly) breached. That the restrictions are wide-ranging, and supposed breaches are highly technical (therefore capable of identification only by "experts"), clearly helps to make people dependent upon their leaders' supposedly good-faith interpretations. The kind of bureaucratic corruption and incompetence leading to the poor paperwork and record-keeping commonplace in third world governments can provide excellent excuses for claiming that targeted states have not complied with restrictions. Even more useful is the fact that breaches are necessarily often only discoverable by intelligence work, which puts the aggressor regime in even stronger control of the evidence. The recent case of Iraq demonstrated beyond doubt that the U.S. and UK regimes are prepared to fabricate and exaggerate intelligence concerning supposed breaches of this kind, and are quite willing to fall back on the claim that "the evidence is there but I obviously can't give it to you for security reasons, so you'll have to trust me," if necessary.

The U.S. and UK regimes tried for years to establish that Iraq was "in material breach" of restrictions put upon it with regard to WMD, so as to allow them to obtain a Security Council resolution justifying an attack. In the end, this policy was sufficiently successful among those who obtained their information only from the British and American governments and media to allow them to get away with an attack politically, but the basic truth that Iraq was no threat to anybody was just too apparent to those in positions of power in other countries for there ever to have been any prospect of persuading the Security Council to vote to legalize the intended attack. This was not an issue for the U.S. regime, because its voting population has no interest in international law except when a breach of it by other people can be used as an excuse to attack them, but the UK government was forced to fall back upon two patently absurd legal positions: first, that the refusal of the Security Council to grant a resolution giving them what they wanted was "unreasonable," and therefore such a resolution was no longer needed (the UK government really did make this comical argument!); second, that they never needed one anyway, because supposed Iraqi breaches of the original cease-fire agreement adopted by the Security Council meant that the U.S. and UK were entitled to unilaterally go to war to preserve the authority of the Security Council, even when the Security Council itself explicitly declined to authorize such action! Something similar will doubtless be done to Iran, following the completion of the process of using the NPT to involve the Security Council. The other members of the Security Council will be tricked into using some form of words that can later be superficially spun as declaring Iran to be a threat to peace and security if it does not jump through a particular set of hoops, and the U.S. will then repeat its now established argument that it is entitled to judge unilaterally when a resolution has been breached.

In the case of Iran, we see the same determination on the part of the U.S. regime and various lobbying groups (1) to establish a general belief among voters that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons and (2) to create UN resolutions that can later be used to justify attacks. Even if (as seems likely), China and (perhaps) Russia are a little more careful this time in ensuring that the wording of any resolutions is quite clear, the U.S. regime will not hesitate to use a veto as an excuse to say (as Blair did on Iraq) that the Security Council is unable to sort out the problem and should therefore be ignored. The debate in the West is structured around the question of "Can we be sure Iran is not really seeking to build nuclear weapons?," rather than the more fundamental questions of "Is Iran reasonably entitled to seek nuclear weapons anyway?," or "Is this process an honest one, or merely one designed to find a pretext for an attack?"

Iran's Nuclear Ambitions

Iran is a non-nuclear-capable signatory to the NPT. It seeks to build a civilian nuclear power capability, and it is entitled to do so. It is not known whether or not Iran is also seeking to build a nuclear weapon capability. The fact is that the processes of enriching fuel currently at issue are completely identical for both purposes. Nevertheless, the U.S., Israel, and others assert that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, just as many of the same voices stridently and confidently insisted that Saddam Hussein's regime had WMD. The Iranians say firmly that they aren't. The experts say they don't know.11

There are good reasons why Iran might want such a capability. Iran is a nation surrounded by enemies, some of whom have proved themselves to be willing to use unilateral military force as a tool of policy. It experienced, within living memory, a hugely costly war consequent upon an unprovoked invasion launched by Saddam Hussein and prosecuted with U.S. backing. The U.S., whose president recently declared Iran to be part of an "axis of evil" along with its neighbor Iraq, has a specific budget allocation of millions of dollars dedicated to subverting the Iranian regime, invaded and still occupies Iraq, and also has troops in Afghanistan on the other side of Iran, together with potentially huge nuclear-armed forces offshore. Pakistan, on Iran's eastern border, is a military dictatorship with nuclear weapons. Israel also has nuclear weapons. If the Iranian regime doesn't feel the need for nuclear weapons, then it is remarkably calm and confident. Then again, leader after Iranian leader has reportedly declared nuclear weapons "un-Islamic," although it appears there is an ongoing debate upon this point within the regime.12 Of course, those who declare the Iranian leadership to be religious fanatics when it comes to painting them as an undeterrable global threat presumably conveniently regard them as pragmatically irreligious when it comes to this point.

Are there strong reasons why Iran should not be allowed to possess nuclear weapons? Iran has the basic entitlement of any sovereign nation to seek to possess effective defenses. Although it has signed up to the NPT and thereby nominally (temporarily) waived that right, as we have seen above, that treaty is morally of little force. Anyway a treaty breach in itself would not justify the use of force to compel compliance.

The rationalization usually used as a special reason for Iran to be forbidden nuclear weapons is that Iran is unusually dangerous. It is a rogue state and will use nuclear weapons against Israel once it has them, or give them to terrorists to use against the U.S. It is a member of the axis of evil, a religious regime ruled by lunatics who care nothing for their own lives and those of their own people.

That these arguments are demonstrably absurd does not prevent them from having force among the relatively ignorant populations of the Western democracies (the main target audience). In fact, the modern Iranian regime has never invaded any other country. Such support as it has given to Hezbollah and other resistance groups fighting Israel should be compared with U.S. support for the Contras in Nicaragua, and will similarly be praised or condemned dependent upon one's position on the conflict in question. It is a very unpleasantly authoritarian, but moderately democratic and reasonably stable, regime (despite active ongoing attempts to destabilize it by the world's wealthiest and most powerful nation, the U.S.).

There is actually no reason to suppose that the proven method of dealing with nuclear-armed states deterrence would not prevent the use of nuclear weapons by Iran. Figures within the regime, particularly President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are certainly prone to the kind of inflammatory rhetoric aimed at their more extreme supporters, the sort of rhetoric often used by men such as Ronald Reagan and George Bush in the U.S. On the other hand, just as with Reagan and Bush, it is generally either quoted out of context and exaggerated, or it is just empty rhetoric, or, to the extent it might reflect the leader's personal ideal scenario, it is shackled in practice by the bonds of politics and the iron logic of deterrence. While it is a commonplace propaganda tactic to claim that such men are "mad" (certainly it was popularly accepted in Europe in the 1980s that Reagan was a madman wrongly, of course), in fact madmen do not get to be in charge of substantial nations, and if they actually become mad in office, they will likely quickly be relieved of any real power. (Obviously, I use the term "mad" in the sense of losing any grip on ordinary reality or any sense of self-preservation it is my opinion that anybody who seeks political power is mad in a more fundamental sense.)

Another (decidedly self-serving) argument made in some quarters in the U.S. and UK is the "moral equivalence" canard. This is made by ideological fanatics who believe Western-style democracy is the be-all and the end-all of governmental legitimacy. They claim that Western democratic political structures are necessary for a nation to acquire any sovereign rights, that such democracies don't wage aggressive wars (proved wrong most recently in the case of Iraq, of course), and that saying Iran has sovereign rights similar to those of the U.S. or UK is erroneous moral equivalence. This kind of ideological tripe is best treated with the contempt it deserves, along with the similar beliefs held by advocates of other universalist political ideologies in history, such as Communism and National Socialism.13

There remains the pragmatic question of what would be the effect on the general proliferation of nuclear weapons, and on the balance of power in the Middle East, if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons. Certainly, it is likely that Saudi Arabia and Syria might feel more impetus to acquire nuclear weapons. However, neither country has the resources of Iran, and both are likely to be more easily pressured out of seeking nuclear weapons. Turkey might feel pressure to match Iran and acquire its own nuclear weapons (in addition to those available to it in wartime under the NATO nuclear-weapons-sharing arrangements), but EU pressure would almost certainly prevent any movement in that direction. U.S. pressure would probably do the same for Egypt. Certainly any hypothetical concern on this score cannot justify the use of force against Iran.

As for the balance of power in the Middle East, this can only improve with the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran. At the present time, the two major problems in the Middle East are caused by the dramatic imbalances of power resulting from the non-possession of nuclear weapons by the opponents of Israel and the U.S. The possession of nuclear weapons by Iran would severely restrict the U.S.' freedom of action in the Middle East and thereby render much less likely abuses such as the invasion of Iraq. Bearing in mind that the cost of the Iraq war has been tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent lives so far, a forecast one to two trillion dollars ($1-$2,000,000,000,000!) of U.S. wealth, immeasurable material destruction in Iraq, the creation of a huge terrorist free-fire training zone in an area formerly closed to terrorists, and the likely destruction of Iraq as a stable state for the foreseeable future14, the prevention of further such adventures must have a very high priority.

A nuclear Iran may also force Israel to the negotiating table for real, for the first time in decades. Israel has total military supremacy within the Middle East, a large nuclear deterrent force with a second-strike capability, and the full backing of the U.S., the world's only military superpower, which spends just about as much on war power as the rest of the world put together. Israel is totally secure (in existential military terms), even against a nuclear-armed Iran.

Needless to say, Israel and the U.S. are very attached to their current free hands in the Middle East, and will not give them up easily. Hence the U.S. regime's ongoing attempts to manufacture a situation in which it could justify (to the U.S. electorate) an attack on Iran, and Israel's attempt to persuade the world that it would be justified in such an attack as preemptive self-defense.15 It is up to the world to make sure that any such potential attacks by the U.S. or Israel are deterred.

So we can see that Iran's possession of nuclear weapons would have some negative consequences and some positive ones, but at any rate there is no legitimate basis for denying it by force the possession of nuclear weapons (and still less atomic power), if Iran wants them. Any threat to the peace consequent upon Iranian attempts to get nuclear weapons would come from the U.S. and Israel, and if the Security Council were to act it ought to be against those countries (but of course, the U.S. has veto power).

What Now?

If Iran is seeking to obtain nuclear weapons, then it is in breach of its commitment under the NPT, and various relatively minor consequences set out in the NPT and related agreements should legitimately follow. The problem is that no responsible nation should allow such a finding to be made now, because recent experience shows that the U.S. will undoubtedly seek to use it later as an excuse, or as part of an excuse, for an attack upon Iran, with probably catastrophic consequences.

The question of whether Iran is breaching its NPT commitments by covertly building nuclear weapons would ordinarily be an issue of moderate diplomatic concern to Britain. However, any concern about that issue should be hugely outweighed for all of us by the much more important and imminent threat that the U.S. (or Israel) will use it as an excuse for an attack. The actions of the U.S., in particular, have therefore destroyed any possibility of legitimately encouraging Iran to comply with the terms of the NPT, and rendered it morally imperative to oppose any further investigation or obstruction of Iran's activities until the threat of a U.S. or Israeli attack has been convincingly removed.

If there were no NPT, Israeli and American claims that Iran constitutes a "threat to peace and security" requiring Chapter VII action by the UN would be more easily seen as the cynically self-serving, exaggerated, and hypocritical manipulation they undoubtedly are. The argument amounts to the U.S. and Israel claiming that an Iran with even the potential to obtain the same weapons that Israel, India, Pakistan, China, and Russia already have is a threat to peace and security, because they will feel compelled to attack it just in case! Sadly, the NPT provides the perfect mechanism for leveraging the minor issue of Iran's potential nuclear program into a trumped-up confrontation with the rest of the world, thereby creating the route by which the U.S. will manipulate the UN into (ultimately) providing the minimal cover it needs for its military confrontation with Iran.16

We must not let the U.S. do to Iran what it has already done to Iraq. Closer to home, we must not let the Blair regime make us complicit in such a crime. Iran, nuclear or not, is no threat to us whatsoever, and we must not let ourselves be fooled into believing it is by the inevitable Blairite scare-mongering. And the key point is that to push for a confrontation with Iran over the NPT, especially in the Security Council, is precisely to be complicit in the eventual U.S. attack. Blair, who undoubtedly would support the U.S. attack on Iran just as he supported the U.S. attack on Iraq, if he thought he could get away with it politically, may not now be in a position to do so militarily, but he certainly can provide political cover for it, and is in the process of doing so.

Given the power of propaganda in the West, as amply demonstrated in the buildup to the attack on Iraq, it seems unlikely the process can now be stopped. But let's at least approach it with open eyes this time. As an old saying, which George Bush memorably proved incompetent to quote, goes, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."


Footnotes

1. By "nuclear weapons," I refer here, obviously, to the large, city-busting, mass-murdering bombs generally deployed to date.

2. Chemical and biological weapons are entirely unproven, and probably impractical, to create this level of mass destruction. You can be sure that people trying to panic you about them, as most recently seen in the case of the British and American regimes over Saddam Hussein's Iraq, are simply scare-mongering for their own nefarious purposes.

3. That was the wording used in the interwar Kellogg-Briand Pact, but this is the effective meaning also of Article 2(4) of the UN Charter: "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations."

4. A very recent example being comments by the U.S. ambassador to the UN, as reported in the Guardian: "The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, has told British MPs that military action could bring Iran's nuclear program to a halt if all diplomatic efforts fail." It should not really be surprising that, when Iran responded in kind a few days later, the U.S. had the gall to criticize the Iranians for "provocative statements"!

5. Such an order necessarily requires an effective world government a body, albeit perhaps of an initially highly circumscribed and federal kind, with a global monopoly on the legal initiation of force and the means to effectively enforce that monopoly even on the most powerful nations.

6. Or at least behind those who were honest in their motivation and not merely trying to cause difficulties for the Cold War opponents of their favored side. There were certainly many anti-nuclear campaigners who genuinely believed nuclear disarmament was the right thing to do, but undoubtedly the movements were also used by the Soviets to make life difficult for NATO governments.

7. Article III(3) of the NPT:

"The safeguards required by this article shall be implemented in a manner designed to comply with article IV of this Treaty, and to avoid hampering the economic or technological development of the Parties or international cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear activities, including the international exchange of nuclear material and equipment for the processing, use or production of nuclear material for peaceful purposes in accordance with the provisions of this article and the principle of safeguarding set forth in the Preamble of the Treaty."

Article IV(1):

"Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with articles I and II of this Treaty."

Article V:

"Each party to the Treaty undertakes to take appropriate measures to ensure that, in accordance with this Treaty, under appropriate international observation and through appropriate international procedures, potential benefits from any peaceful applications of nuclear explosions will be made available to non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty on a nondiscriminatory basis and that the charge to such Parties for the explosive devices used will be as low as possible and exclude any charge for research and development. Non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty shall be able to obtain such benefits, pursuant to a special international agreement or agreements, through an appropriate international body with adequate representation of non-nuclear-weapon States. Negotiations on this subject shall commence as soon as possible after the Treaty enters into force. Non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty so desiring may also obtain such benefits pursuant to bilateral agreements."

8. Article VI of the NPT:

"Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control."

9. South Africa is believed to have acquired a small nuclear arsenal, which it abandoned to join the NPT. Several Soviet successor states Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus found themselves with nuclear arsenals they lacked the resources to maintain or protect, and they allowed themselves to be bribed and coerced into giving them up which was probably worth their while in the particular circumstances in which they found themselves, but which they may yet regret if things change for the worse in that region over the next decade or two.

10. When a nation is regarded as an enemy by the U.S., the IAEA and UN are manipulated and pressured to view any attempt to develop peaceful atomic power as evidence of an intention to develop nuclear weapons. While it was evidently justified at some periods in regards to Saddam's Iraq, Iran is a much more doubtful case. The simple fact is that processes for enriching uranium for peaceful uses, for instance, are inherently indistinguishable from those required to use the product later for weapons purposes. This is not to say that either the IAEA or the Security Council are always U.S. patsies the Iraq experience showed very clearly that when the stakes are high enough and the issues sufficiently controversial, the officials at the top of these organizations are at least careful not to bend too obviously or completely to the will of the U.S. administration. However, these are human beings, and they know where their budget and promotion authorizations ultimately stand or fall. They are vulnerable to bullying like any other group. The fact that the IAEA persistently insists upon a suspension of activity toward peaceful atomic power in Iran "just in case" or "to build confidence," while yet further interminable inquiries are carried out in the endless pursuit of incontrovertible proof of innocence for years on end is a clear demonstration that Articles III and IV of the NPT are simply not being applied in good faith to Iran.

11. Although that didn't stop the Times running a recent article under a headline declaring that the experts had said they are, when the substance of the article contradicted this: The article appeared under the title: "UN Nuclear Watchdog Accuses Iran of Making Fuel for Bombs," and of course most casual readers would have gone no further than that. In fact, the text of the article said no such thing: "[S]cientists at Iran's plant in Natanz have set up a 'cascade'of 10 centrifuges to produce enriched uranium the fuel for nuclear power plants or bombs."

12. There have reportedly been high-level statements affirming nuclear weapons to be un-Islamic (and therefore simply prohibited for Iran under any circumstances, whether they want them or not), by former President Rafsanjani ("Any efforts for production and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is considered as inhuman and un-Islamic"), and by supreme leaders Ayatollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Khamenei, among others. On the other hand, there are reports that other (more junior) members of the regime may want to reconsider this position: "One senior mullah has now said it is 'only natural' to have nuclear bombs as a 'countermeasure' against other nuclear powers, thought to be a reference to America and Israel." Though it should be borne in mind that neither the Telegraph nor (in general) Iranian "reformists," who are quoted as the source of the claim, can be regarded as in the slightest objective on the subject of Iran both groups undoubtedly seek the overthrow of the current Iranian government.

13. This is not to say liberal democracy is not a better form of government than that prevalent in Iran. In my opinion it is, but that does not mean that those nations adopting (to a degree) this form of government are endowed with any particularly special status as regards national sovereignty. Different forms of government are free to different degrees in different areas, and freedom in any event is not the sole criterion relevant to legitimacy and sovereignty. Certainly a tyranny of the majority in a very democratic country is little better, and arguably worse, in principle than a tyranny of the minority under another form of government.

14. One would like to think that a national leader responsible for such a disaster, particularly when the original ostensible motivations have been admitted to have been mistaken (to put it most charitably), would have resigned by now, if he had the slightest trace of personal honor. It is evident that the latter attribute is not one applicable to either President Bush or Prime Minister Blair.

15. As they also tried to do with mixed success (in practical terms they suffered no real consequences beyond general condemnation) in the case of Iraq and the Osirak reactor in 1981. This is, of course, not preemptive war at all, but preventive war the "Bush doctrine." One of the clearest historical examples of a nation utilizing the Bush doctrine was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In my opinion, preventive war is a pernicious doctrine that ought to be roundly condemned, and its practitioners regarded as criminals.

16. The records clearly demonstrate that the U.S., under various regimes but especially the current one, has been spoiling for a chance to attack Iran. The only plausible argument against the suggestion that the U.S. intends to attack Iran as soon as political circumstances permit is that not even the Bush regime would be mad enough to actually do that, because the consequences would be so severe. In fact, severe consequences for other people are not generally a great concern for politicians, provided the blame can be avoided. And there are a number of reasons why the U.S. regime and some of its key supporting lobbies are likely to be quite keen, in this case, for the Iranian and Iraqi people, along with the rest of us, to suffer those consequences as the price of the likely benefits. In particular, Washington has a problem with finding a way to spin the ever more apparent disaster in Iraq so that it does not have calamitous electoral consequences in the U.S., and to remedy the degree to which the U.S. attack on Iraq has brought Iranian influence in Iraq to unprecedented levels. The U.S. regime appears to be in the process of repositioning itself to align with the Sunni groups rather than the Shia groups in Iraq. An attack on Iran might bring on a confrontation with pro-Iranian Iraqi groups that the U.S. regime could spin at home as being due to Iranian "aggression" and "interference." While such a course will surely be costly in the lives of U.S. military personnel, that will certainly not concern the regime if it can swing enough of the U.S. voting population behind it again, as it successfully did over Iraq in the early days. Increased oil prices and military expenditures will not, of course, be a concern for the main business lobbies behind the regime, and the powerful Israel lobby has always made inveigling the U.S. into military confrontations with its main enemies one of its key goals. The other key Bush regime lobby so-called fundamentalist Christians will also generally fall in behind any conflict with Islam in any form.

In other words, an attack on Iran is certainly insane by any objective tally of the costs versus the benefits, but one cannot ignore the fact that the vast bulk of the costs will be sustained by others, whereas the Bush regime and its backers will reap the benefits.

In fact, it is likely U.S. and UK acts of war against Iran have been ongoing for some time. The U.S. has admitted to violating Iranian airspace with unmanned drones, and has apparently been conducting covert ground reconnaissance in eastern Iran. Also, apart from the straightforward "pro-democracy" political subversion routinely carried out by Western states against uncooperative nations (and openly funded by the U.S., in the case of Iran), it is likely there has been and probably is ongoing direct British support for anti-Iranian terrorism in Khuzestan, and U.S. support for anti-Iranian terrorists through the Mujahedin e-Khalq.

Reprinted with permission from LibertyForum.org.

 

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Randal is a British father of four who, against all reason, still suffers from a nagging feeling of responsibility for the actions carried out by his nation's government, in his name, with the assistance of his tax payments.

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