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Showdown Looming With Iran -- Can we break the cycle of history?

By       (Page 1 of 3 pages)   1 comment
Message Mark H Gaffney
If there is a silver lining to the continuing US military occupation of Iraq it is that the unfolding disaster has weakened President Bush, who today is in no position to launch another Middle East crusade. In a recent poll Bush's approval rating had dipped to 29%, a historic low. On this basis it would seem logical to think that the likelihood of a US attack on Iran's nuclear sites has receded. Unfortunately, while Bush ought to feel constrained, the Democrats have proven so inept, so incapable of mounting a principled opposition, that Bush remains, as Seymour Hersh has observed, "strangely undiminished." The present reality defies logic and shows how deceptive the US political landscape has become. Some have even likened current America to the fools paradise of the Weimar republic. We are certainly living a page out of Orwell. It's a surreal moment in which almost anything can happen.

George W. Bush's frequent assertions that Iran poses a security threat to the United States are so absurd they would be laughable under other circumstances. I agree with those who argue that, so far, Iran has done nothing more than demand its right under Article IV of the nonproliferation treaty (NPT) to develop nuclear power, a treaty provision, bear in mind, that was originally drafted in Washington, not by some foreign government. But then, our president has shown a perverse delight in shredding America's treaties. Bush's unilateral abrogation of the antiballistic missile (ABM) treaty in 2002 has had the consequence, which many predicted, of making the world a more dangerous place, though, ironically, as I will discuss later, not in the way expected.

Witness also Bush's nuclear deal with India signed last March, which gave the appearance of rewarding Delhi for developing nukes outside the NPT. The deal not only erodes the nonproliferation treaty, it will have the effect of weakening Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf, another US ally. Pakistan also developed nukes outside the NPT, following the lead of rival India, and, recall, only a few years ago the two nations came within a whisker of war over disputed Kashmir. Fortunately, a nuclear disaster was narrowly averted during that crisis; but Kashmir remains a chronic problem, one that could flare up at any time. By strengthening India Bush's new deal could destabilize the still tense and fragile standoff on the Indian subcontinent. Musharraf already faces enormous problems at home, largely because his alliance with the US is unpopular in predominantly Muslim Pakistan. If he falls the world could wake up one morning and discover nuclear-armed Islamic radicals in control of Islamabad. What was George W. thinking, last March? Obviously, he wasn't.

Bush also gets credit for scuttling the most recent NPT review conference, held in May 2005 at the UN. Bush accomplished this by sending a budgetary request to Congress that same week for nuclear bunker busters. Bush's timing signaled his contempt for the treaty and surely was no coincidence. The funding request was in breach of Article VI and so flagrant that days later the review conference collapsed in disarray. Its failure was also assured by US attempts to manhandle the event by limiting the agenda to dealing with "rogue" states, i.e., Iran and North Korea. Previous NPT review conferences -- they are held every five years -- had always managed to find at least some common ground. Compromise remained possible so long as the non-nuclear states retained at least a modicum of faith that the nuclear powers, especially the US, were serious about nuclear disarmament. But those days are gone. The last hopes began to fade in 1999 when the Republican-controlled US Senate refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTB). That was a poke in the eye and under Bush whatever remained of US credibility has evaporated.

A Flawed Treaty

I agree that the NPT was fatally flawed from the start, but this does not justify Bush's selective interpretation, which amounts to a unilateral revision. The NPT's promise to make nuclear power available to signatories was actually a promise to deliver electricity for economic development. Since we now understand that for many reasons nuclear is the wrong way to achieve this -- wrong for every nation, not simply Iran -- the US should set an example by turning away from nuclear and moving rapidly to develop abundant clean energy alternatives. These are within reach. Economies of scale could be achieved, and costs reduced, by making these technologies available to the world, including Iran. What has been lacking is the leadership and political will to make it happen. But this is another discussion. At the moment our top priority must be to avert the next Mideast war.

Today, with the US engaged in the most sweeping modernization of the nation's nuclear force structure since the Cold War -- by the way, another gross violation of the NPT -- Bush is in no position to preach nonproliferation. Indeed, why would any world leader of substance follow, trust, or even listen to this man, who brandishes nuclear first-use as if it were a divine right? If Bush succeeds in imposing on Iran his selective interpretation of the NPT ("Do what we say -- or else"), an interpretation with no substantive basis in the treaty language, it could mark the end of the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Some think it has come to this, already.(Source: )

For all of these reasons the central issue today is not Iran but US hypocrisy. Most people on the planet already understand this. It's only here in America that the problem remains largely invisible, thanks to a slavish US press that mindlessly parrots whatever self-serving rhetoric issues from the White House. As a result, the American people remain mostly uninformed, hence, oblivious to their own peril, which was never greater during the depths of the Cold War. When will our countrymen awaken to the fact that we cannot lead the free world through hypocrisy ("Do as we say, not as we do"), but only by setting an example worthy of the high principles we supposedly stand for? Nor are those who would follow us through fear or to curry favor worthy allies in any event.

The Case of the 500 Pound Gorilla

Iran's nuclear ambitions are a serious long-term concern for the Middle East. No one wants to see the Mullahs armed with nukes. At present, however, there is only one state in the region with nuclear weapons, namely, Israel, and therefore the status of Israel ought to be a part of the ongoing discussion. In fact, one would have to be blind not to see the connection, since a genuine solution will require the participation of both Iran and Israel in the creation of a nuclear weapons free zone (NWFZ) for the Middle East. Yet, Bush continues to single out Iran as the sole problem, meanwhile, affording our ally Israel the same exemptions from oversight and accountability the US normally reserves for itself. Israel's bomb continues to be the 500 pound gorilla in the oval office that no one can talk about.

Denial may rule in Washington, but the people of the Mideast view it very differently. They are under no illusions because they live in the long shadow of Israel's arsenal of 200-400 nukes. Israel's supporters, of course, make a practice of downplaying all of this. They rationalize the shocking fact that Israel has targeted a large swathe of humanity with annihilation by arguing that Israel's WMD are not a concern since Israel has neither used its nukes nor threatened to use them; and anyway the arsenal is necessary for Israel's survival in a tough neighborhood. But no matter how often these phony arguments are repeated the facts cannot be made to support them. If Israel possessed a few atomic weapons of last resort the Samson option might be reasonable. But the vast size of Israel's weapons arsenal, the strong likelihood it includes hydrogen bombs, tactical nukes including neutron weapons, and a multiple array of advanced delivery vehicles, including nuclear-armed cruise missiles, not to mention chemical and biological weapons, indicates that Israel's policy cannot be primarily defensive in nature. The large size is probably due, in part, to the technological imperative. Israel's war economy developed a momentum of its own. But this is a flimsy excuse, and no justification. Israel's WMD clearly are meant to project power and to this extent they have already been used. One need not pull the trigger of a revolver to use it, and the same is true of the bomb.

Last September Baruch Kimmerling, a professor at Hebrew University, conceded in a thoughtful article in Ha'aretz what scholars have long known: that the country's nuclear weapons are linked to Israel's illegal military occupation of the Arab West Bank. As Kimmerling phrased it, Israel's nukes "in the basement are a guarantee that no pressure, foreign or domestic...can force Israel into genuine territorial concessions." Clearly, for many years Israel's nuclear monopoly has tempted the nation's leaders to forego negotiations and simply to impose their will upon the neighborhood. This explains the expanding settlements, the security wall, the cantonization of the West Bank, and the recent unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. And why else would Israel dismiss a 2002 Saudi peace initiative that offered not just recognition but full normalized relations, including full trade, economic ties, cultural exchanges, in short, an end to the conflict, if Israel would abide by UN Security Council resolutions on Palestine? The Saudi peace offer may have been a trial balloon, but it had broad support in the Arab world. It had been drafted at an Arab League summit shortly before being announced. (For the text go to ) All of this suggests that Israel's nukes are less about survival than serving the colonial interests of Zionism.

For many years the shared wisdom was that nuclear weapons might be justified in Israel's case, due to the country's unique security problems, having to do with Israel's small size. Nukes might be acceptable, so the thinking went, because Israel would then feel secure enough to negotiate a lasting peace settlement. But it hasn't worked that way. It turned out that a strong Israel had no incentive to negotiate, period. And it's clear -- to this writer, at least -- that there will be no diplomatic solution on Iran, nor on the peace front, so long as Washington views Israel's nukes as a non issue, the underlying assumption, of course, being that Israel needs them to survive. Others pooh-pooh the matter but in my opinion this is the crux of it. We therefore need a rude awakening and let us pray it doesn't come in the form of a war. The truth is that Israel's nukes are weapons of mass destruction, pure and simple, whose very existence is a moral obscenity, just like all such weapons, an affront to God and every living thing on this planet; and we need to start thinking about them in these terms.

Of course, this perspective hasn't yet reached Washington. Bush, Cheney and most of the US Congress still think some nukes (ours) are good or at least acceptable while other nukes (theirs) are bad. Israel's fall into the former category, and evidently are viewed as an extension of US power in the region. But if this is true it is a dangerous policy, given Israel's past record of looking out for number one. Although it seems almost inconceivable that Israel would launch a unilateral attack on Iran, i.e., without the knowledge and/or approval of the White House, not even this can be ruled out. Israel's leaders have repeatedly warned that they will not allow Iran to develop nuclear power, not even for peaceful use, and given Israel's past record the threat must be taken seriously. In fact, the Israelis began to press Washington for a "preventive" war against Iran as soon as the smoke cleared after the first Gulf war, which greatly weakened Saddam Hussein. At that time the Israelis switched and began to view Iran as their primary foe. Their full court press for war has continued, ever since. (source: Israel Shahak, Open Secrets, chapter 4, )

In October 2004 the German magazine Der Spiegel reported that Israel had completed plans for a raid on six Iranian nuclear sites, all of which would be attacked simultaneously. The plan was said to be "complex, yet manageable." The target sites probably include the Bushehr reactor, a large nuclear facility at Esfahan, and the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. Last March the London Sunday Times aired a similar report, which claimed that former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon had approved plans for such an attack.

The Israeli Air Force has 25 F-15 fighter-bombers, supplied by the US, with sufficient range to target Iran. Also, in 2004 Israel acknowledged purchase of 500 conventional BLU-109 bunker-buster bombs, again, courtesy of the US. The bombs can penetrate seven feet of reinforced concrete and probably are intended for use against hardened Iranian nuclear sites. But to reach them the Israelis must fly over Iraqi airspace, now controlled by the US Air Force.
(source: )

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Mark Gaffneys book Dimona The Third Temple? (1989) was the first to explore the case of Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear whistleblower. Marks latest is Gnostic Secrets of the Naassenes, released in 2004 by Inner Tradiitions.
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Showdown Looming With Iran -- Can we break the cycle of history?

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