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July 6, 2006

What a Mess


by Gordon Prather

When forced to confront the mess she has made of our foreign policy, do you suppose Condi Rice views the interrelated messes individually or collectively?

Take the U.S.-India-Iran-Pakistan-Russia mess.

Last year, Condi whizzed down to New Delhi to prevent India from finalizing technical and commercial contracts for a pipeline that would provide Iranian natural gas to Pakistan and India. Mostly India.

Why did she do that?

Well, her primary foreign policy goal as secretary of state has been to effect regime change in Iran, through the use of diplomacy, "if possible."

At the 2005 Review Conference of the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons – which Condi didn't bother to address or even attend – her munchkin Stephen Rademaker instructed the conferees as follows:

"For almost two decades, Iran has conducted a clandestine nuclear weapons program, aided by the illicit network of A.Q. Khan.

"Britain, France, and Germany, with our support, are seeking to reach a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear problem, a solution that given the history of clandestine nuclear weapons work in that country, must include permanent cessation of Iran's enrichment and reprocessing efforts, as well as dismantlement of equipment and facilities related to such activity."

What "nuclear weapons" program is Rademaker talking about?

Mohamed ElBaradei – director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency – responsible for verifying for other NPT signatories that no source or special nuclear materials had been used in furtherance of a military purpose, had just reported, after more than two years of unprecedented highly intrusive inspections, "I have seen no nuclear weapons program in Iran."

Nevertheless, Condi made several unsuccessful attempts to get the IAEA Board of Governors to "refer" Iran to the UN Security Council for Iran's insistence on its inalienable right – guaranteed under the NPT and under Iran's IAEA Safeguards Agreement – to produce fuel for Iranian nuclear power plants, under construction and planned, by the Russians.

For more than 20 years, the United States has threatened – and sometimes imposed – sanctions on any country that invested more than $20 million in Iran's infrastructure, particularly in the energy sector.

The Clinton-Gore administration had been successful in getting Russia to cancel a deal to construct a turnkey uranium-enrichment plant, and getting China to cancel a deal to construct a turnkey uranium-conversion plant. Now, here was India about to agree to co-invest with Iran in a multi-billion-dollar natural gas pipeline.

So, what carrot did Condi offer the Indians to prevent their finalizing the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline deal?

Well, 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 U.S. companies doing business with India, (b) supply India with the nuclear power plants that we had prevented Russia from supplying, and (c) get the Nuclear Suppliers Group [.pdf] to completely disregard guidelines on restrictions to be applied to NSG exports to India.

Since 1992, importers of certain NSG exports have been required to subject all their nuclear programs – peaceful or otherwise – to the IAEA Safeguards regime.

But Condi may have trouble getting Congress to lift sanctions without imposing conditions that India will find unacceptable.

In particular, House Resolution 5682, as "reported," includes a provision requiring "India's full and active participation in United States efforts to dissuade, isolate, and, if necessary, sanction and contain Iran for its efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, including a nuclear weapons capability (including the capability to enrich or process nuclear materials), and the means to deliver weapons of mass destruction."

Full and active participation in U.S. efforts to isolate Iran?

Wouldn't that mean cancellation of the Iran-Pakistan-India natural gas pipeline?

The $7 billion pipeline that Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters last week in Shanghai – in the presence of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – that Gazprom (Russia's state-controlled natural gas monopoly) was prepared to help finance and build?

Yep, that's the one.

But not to worry.

H.R. 5682 approval is also contingent upon the NSG deciding "by consensus" to exempt India from the requirement to subject all their nuclear programs – including their nuclear weapons program developed to counter the Chinese "nuke threat" – to the IAEA full-scope Safeguards regime.

By consensus?

What if Russia agrees to exempt India but China doesn't?

Well, then the U.S.-India deal is off.

But thanks to Condi, Russia can not only help Iran and India build their $7 billion natural gas pipeline, but can finish supplying the nuclear power plants already contracted for by India that the United States has blocked up until now.

What a mess!


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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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