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December 24, 2005

Lump of Coal for Condi


by Gordon Prather

If Santa has been keeping a list, Secretary of State Condi Rice will be lucky to find even a lump of coal in her Christmas stocking.

Where on the list to begin?

On the Korean peninsula, where the South Korean National Security Council rebuffed Washington's contingency plan for taking military action against North Korea in the event Bush deemed it necessary because of "serious internal turmoil"?

Or at the Seventh Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation Of Nuclear Weapons in April, wherein she refused to allow the findings of the Sixth RevCon to even be discussed, much less affirmed? And unsuccessfully attempted to get deleted all that language in the NPT that requires us to disarm and prohibits our nuking Iran?

Or with her unsuccessful attempt to unseat Mohamed ElBaradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency?

Or with her unsuccessful attempts on three occasions to get the IAEA Board of Governors to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for insisting on their "inalienable" right – guaranteed under the NPT and under their IAEA Safeguards Agreement – to produce their own fuel for their own nuclear power plants?

Then there were her unsuccessful attempts to get "free" elections in Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, Venezuela, Bolivia and elsewhere to come out the way Bush-Cheney wanted.

The list of her pyrrhic victories and humiliating [for us] defeats goes on and on.

But it is her Indian foray that may well have the most serious long-term consequences for us.

Condi had whizzed down to New Delhi to prevent India's finalizing technical and commercial contracts for a $4.5 billion Iran-Pakistan-India natural-gas pipeline that will provide Iranian natural gas mostly to India.

In return, Condi held out the possibility that the we would (a) lift sanctions imposed by Congress [as a result of the nuclear weapons tests India conducted in 1998] on India and on US companies doing business with India, (b) supply India with the nuclear power plants that we had prevented Russia from supplying [and the fuel for them that we had prevented the Russians from supplying], and (c) get the Nuclear Suppliers Group to completely disregard guidelines on restrictions to be applied to NSG exports to India.

When details of what Condi had demanded of – and promised to – India leaked out, it very nearly brought down the Indian government. And may yet.

You see, President Bush had previously made a number of proposals which he said would strengthen the existing nuke proliferation-prevention regime.

He proposed expanding his Proliferation Security Initiative to interdict – on ground, sea or in the air – whatever he unilaterally deemed to be "illicit" transfers by "proliferation networks." He had urged the adoption of a Security Council resolution criminalizing whatever he deemed to be illicit international transfers.

Bush specifically urged the NSG to close what he alleged to be a loophole in the NPT by arbitrarily restricting export of uranium-enrichment and spent-fuel reprocessing technology by NSG members to only those states already possessing them.

Established in 1975, the NSG is comprised of 44 nuclear-supplier states [including China, Russia, and the United States] that have voluntarily agreed to coordinate their export controls governing transfers of civilian nuclear material and nuclear-related equipment and technology to non-nuclear-weapon states.

NSG members are expected – but not, of course, required – to forgo nuclear trade with governments that do not agree to subject themselves to the International Atomic Energy Agency Safeguards regime.

To be eligible for importing certain items from an NSG member, states – irrespective of whether they are NPT signatories or not – must have in place a comprehensive IAEA Safeguards Agreement covering all their nuclear activities and facilities.

Because India was not – and is not – an NPT-signatory, President Clinton had put great pressure on Russia to not construct the first two nuclear power plants at Koodankulam unless India subjected all its nuclear programs – peaceful and otherwise – to IAEA Safeguards. Russia [and India] successfully argued that the original contract was signed in 1988, before the new and more stringent NSG guidelines came into force in 1992.

Well, thanks to Condi-baby, Russia and India won’t have to make that argument, again, when it comes to constructing the remaining Russian nuclear power plants in India or providing fuel for them.

And what about the Iran-Pakistan-India multi-billion dollar natural gas pipeline?

According to the Indians, construction will likely begin next year. Last week Russia's Gazprom, the world's largest producer of natural gas, told the Indians that it is ready "to share the construction risks."


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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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