The pretext for attacking Iran will be that it is in violation of the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty (NPT), an international treaty that was presented to the world in 1968, and ratified by the US in 1970. Altogether, 188 states have signed this treaty, which has helped to prevent nuclear holocaust for the past 37 years.
The treaty was drawn up as an agreement between the nuclear and non-nuclear nations. At that time, there were 5 nuclear powers- the US, the USSR (now Russia), China, England and France. These countries agreed to work toward nuclear disarmament (Article 6 of the NPT), and in exchange the nonnuclear countries agreed to refrain from developing nuclear weapons. The NPT allows nonnuclear powers to install nuclear power plants for peaceful use, subject to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
There are now three additional nuclear powers- India, Pakistan and Israel- none of which ever signed the treaty. North Korea recently withdrew from the NPT, and announced it was developing nuclear weapons.
Iraq is a signatory, and was certified free of nukes, after exhaustive searches by the IAEA, prior to the 2003 invasion by Bush. Claims that Iraq was seeking to develop nuclear weapons (NIger yellowcake, aluminum tubes) proved untrue.
Iran is also a signatory. Two years ago, the IAEA announced that Iran had no nuclear weapons program. Since then, however, things have changed. Perhaps Iran has noticed that North Korea, with nuclear teeth, has been left alone, while Iraq, which had no WMD's, is now a shambles. In any case, steps that could lead to nuclear weapons development in Iran are now underway, and access by the IAEA to various facilities is being restricted or denied. Still, the IAEA estimates that Iran is at least 4 years away from being a nuclear power.
Iran argues that since the nuclear powers have not kept their side of the agreement, and have not taken steps toward nuclear disarmament, it is hypocritical to demand that nonnuclear powers abide so strictly by the NPT. In fact, the US and USSR put into effect a series of agreements during the 80's that fulfilled Article 6- the ABM (antiballistic missile) treaty, the START and SALT treaties, all of which capped the arms race and moved toward de-escalation.
Since Bush took office, all that has changed. Bush scrapped the ABM treaty and has put untold billions into a missile defense system that doesn't work, but has destabilized the arms race. In January 2002, he promulgated the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which explicitly violates another section of the NPT. The NPT promises that no nuclear nation will use nuclear weapons against a nonnuclear power. The NPR says that the US is free to use nukes against any nation under a variety of circumstances, some of which are vaguely defined.
Bush has steadily pushed for the development of a new generation of "usable" nuclear weapons, thus violating the spirit of Article 6. Characteristically, Bush refuses to recognize limitations or abide by the law. To its credit, Congress has consistently held the line here. Once again, this past month, funding was refused for these new "usable" mininukes and bunker busters. Congress, at least, recognizes the importance of the NPT, and of maintaining the prohibition against the use of nuclear weapons.
Bush and Cheney appear to be pushing for a nuclear confrontation with Iraq. We hear threats of nuking Iran's nuclear facilities, which are ostensibly set up for peaceful purposes, permitted under the NPT. Since Iran now has security pacts with the nuclear nations Russia and China, a nuclear strike against Iran could lead to a retaliatory nuclear strike by one of these powers against Israel, or even against the US, leading to world-wide nuclear holocaust. Both Russia and China still have thousands of nuclear warheads, atop intercontinental ballistic missiles, aimed at US cities, on hair trigger alert. And vice versa, of course.
What is needed is a return to the spirit of the NPT, a spirit of agreement between nuclear and nonnuclear nations. What is needed is talk between the US and Iran, whereby the US agrees to reverse or at least tone down its nuclear "posture" of belligerence, and Iran agrees to open up to full inspections again. What is needed is a move toward peace, or we may all be toast.
In the name of the Prince of Peace, Carol Wolman