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May 17, 2008

World's Deadliest Weapon


by Gordon Prather

On the 60th anniversary of the establishment, within the Mandate for Palestine, of Israel as a sovereign Jewish state, President Bush told Israel's legislature, that

"Permitting the world's leading sponsor of terror to possess the world's deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations."

Obviously, Bush does not intend to leave office having unforgivably betrayed future generations.

And, presumably, Bush was not referring to Israel, arguably the leading sponsor of terror in the Middle East.

So, apparently – if one assumes Bush considers a nuclear weapon to be the "world's deadliest weapon" – betrayal would mean his accepting at face value the reports of Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency that virtually all the West's concerns – set forth in an Iran-IAEA "work plan" signed last August – about Iran's IAEA Safeguarded programs have now been addressed and resolved.

Iran – as required by the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons – entered into a Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA "for the exclusive purpose" of enabling the IAEA to "verify" that no "source or special fissionable materials" had been diverted "from peaceful purposes to nuclear weapons."

The IAEA is routinely – but falsely – described by neo-crazy media sycophants as being the United Nation's "nuclear watchdog," responsible for determining whether an NPT signatory is in compliance or noncompliance with the NPT.

In fact, the IAEA has no such responsibility.

The IAEA was established as a UN agency almost twenty before the NPT came along and took advantage of the IAEA's existing capabilities, and as the IAEA Statute makes clear, the IAEA's principal mission is to "enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world."

The IAEA Statute does require the IAEA – in the course of carrying out its primary mission – to "ensure, so far as it is able" that activities over which it has some purview are "not used in such a way as to further any military purpose."

In the event the IAEA Director-General has reason to believe a country is not in satisfactory compliance with its Safeguards Agreement – perhaps not implementing to the Director-General's satisfaction some health or safety regulation – he is required to report that noncompliance – if not corrected – to the IAEA Board, and to the UN General Assembly.

However, contrary to reports by various neo-crazy media sycophants – such as Reuters – noncompliance with an IAEA Safeguards Agreement is not tantamount to noncompliance with the NPT. In fact, whether a signatory is complying with the NPT or not is none of the IAEA's beeswax.

Since 1958, IAEA's principal mission vis a vis Iran is supposed to have been to assist the Iranians acquire and safely employ atomic energy for peaceful purposes.

Furthermore, since 1968 the NPT has required that "parties in a position to do so" – such as the United States – "shall" contribute "to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes," especially in non-nuclear-weapons NPT signatory states such as Iran.

So, at least since the early 1990s – following the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War and Bush the Elder's ejection of Iraqi invasion forces from Kuwait – the United States and the IAEA Board of Governors should have been doing everything they could to help Iran secure its "inalienable rights" under the NPT and IAEA Statute.

Instead, The-Best-Congress-Money-Can-Buy and our Presidents have done everything they could to prevent Iran's even resuming the peaceful nuclear energy projects begun with US assistance under the Shah.

ElBaradei included in his report last November the Iranian-supplied justification for the secretive manner in which they have pursued the civilian nuclear power fuel-cycle, which both the IAEA Statute and the NPT assure them is their inalienable right.

"According to Iran, in its early years, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) concluded a number of contracts with entities from France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States of America to enable it to acquire nuclear power and a wide range of related nuclear fuel cycle services, but after the 1979 revolution, these contracts with a total value of around $10 billion were not fulfilled.

"Iran noted that one of the contracts, signed in 1976, was for the development of a pilot plant for laser enrichment.

"Senior Iranian officials said that, in the mid-1980s, Iran started working with many countries to revitalize its nuclear program to meet the State's growing energy needs. Taking advantage of investments already made, Iran said it focused its efforts initially on the completion of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, working with entities from, inter alia, Argentina, France, Germany and Spain, but without success.

"At that time, Iran also initiated efforts to acquire research reactors from Argentina, China, India and the former Soviet Union, but also without success.

"Parallel to the activities related to nuclear power plants, Iran started to build supporting infrastructure by establishing nuclear technology centers in Esfahan and Karaj.

"However, apart from uranium conversion technology acquired from an entity in China, Iran was not able to acquire other nuclear fuel cycle facilities or technology from abroad."

So, in the mid-1980s Iran embarked upon the secretive – but not illegal under its existing Safeguards Agreement or under the NPT or international law – peaceful nuclear program it has been revealing, in confidence, to ElBaradei.

In his most recent report ElBaradei was "able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran."

Even for those nuclear "weaponization" studies that Bush and the Brits-French-Germans allege that Iran had conducted, ElBaradei noted that "the Agency has not detected the use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies, nor does it have credible information in this regard."

Of course, it's possible that Bush doesn't consider accepting ElBaradei's assurances that Iran's IAEA Safeguarded nuclear programs are totally peaceful an unforgivable betrayal to future generations after all. In that case, imagine the Israelis trying to figure out what the man – adjudged by John McCain to be "dumb as a stump" – was talking about.


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Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

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