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The Iranian Nuclear Program, Israel & the US

Updated on February 21, 2011

Of Iran, the Nuclear Threat, Israel & the United States

One major thrust of US foreign policy in the Middle East over the last twenty years, irrespective of which party has the reigns of power (Democrats or Republicans), remains the containment of the expansionist propensities of Iran and the elimination of its nuclear threat.

US State Department officials and a host of other free-lancing ‘experts’ in the employ of connected, well-funded foreign policy think-tanks/institutes in Washington have repeatedly espoused or propagated the belief that Iran has grand desires of empire. Also, that given the current status of Iraq and Iran’s declared wish to obliterate the state of Israel, without the countervailing presence of another pro-west Arab power to checkmate these desires, allowing Tehran to pursue its nuclear program poses a clear, present and gathering danger to the security of the entire world.

So, as the mantra goes and as far as the US is concerned, just like North Korea (the other axis of evil), Iran must be stopped.

Before wading into the debate it would probably be helpful to put things in some historical context.

Apart from the five major post-WW II powers with acknowledged nuclear capabilities and deployed nuclear weaponry (the US, Russia, France, China & Great Britain), it is believed that India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel all have a sizable arsenal of nuclear devices. In addition, a few other countries (like Egypt, Brazil, Iraq, Argentina and South Africa), have over the years, either nursed and actively pursued a nuclear ambition or acquired the capability but voluntarily dismantled or abandoned it. Three other countries---Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine---inherited thousands of nuclear weapons following the collapse of the former Soviet Union but freely returned them to Russia in the mid-1990s.

With regards to Iran, what often escapes mention these days, and conveniently so, is the fact that the Iranian nuclear program was actually launched in the 1950s as part of the Atoms for Peace program with vital assistance from the US. The program was then propped up and openly supported and encouraged for nearly 30 years by both the US and Western Europe.

With the deposition of the Shah during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the program was disbanded but later revived with very minimal assistance from the West.

Today, the Iranian nuclear program has grown to include a network of uranium mining sites, nuclear reactors, uranium enrichment and nuclear power plants. Much as the US feels all these will ultimately culminate in the development of nuclear weapons, Tehran continues to insist that its program is strictly for peaceful, non-military purposes.

However, the problem is that the US approach to controlling the spread of nuclear technology is inherently arbitrary and duplicitous. As has been historically the case, Washington is willing, even eager, to turn a blind eye to, tacitly encourage or openly defend the excesses of countries that it considers friendly, in its orbit of influence or receptive to its national interests at the same time that it would often go to odd lengths to isolate, punish or demonize other players that it views as obstinate or recalcitrant.

Although it has never been formally acknowledged or denied by the state of Israel itself, it is commonly known that Israel has an elaborate nuclear program. It is equally recognized that it has a small stockpile of nuclear arsenal accompanied by sophisticated medium-range/long-range missile delivery systems that it developed or enhanced in partnership with the US.

Why it is okay for Israel to openly and most flagrantly advance its nuclear technology interests in a region that is admittedly one of the most volatile in the world at the same time that we are ceaselessly reminded that it is repulsive or abominable for Iran or say Syria to do the same is vastly unfathomable.

Either it is being suggested that Israel has demonstrated need for the capability more than anyone else in the region or that only Israel has the ability to show the kind of moderation, restraint or ‘discipline’ required to manage a nuclear program. Regardless of which may be the case, it is all relative and therefore, subject to conjecture and nothing particularly qualifies the US as arbiter.

At a somewhat different level, hard as it is to imagine, one must consider the possibility that the US hypocrisy when it comes to Iran and Israel may have some racial undertones.

I would contend that we need a new strategy; albeit one that is two-pronged but sensible. A demilitarized, denuclearized world is in and of itself a justly noble and redemptive goal. But in addition to discouraging new entrants to the nuclear club in a principled, neutral and nondiscriminatory way, it fundamentally entails finding inventive and constructive ways to liquidate existing nuclear stockpiles. At current levels, between the major nuclear powers alone, there are enough explosive arsenals to obliterate the planet several times over.

Real leadership dictates that the US and Russia re-initiate serious talks not just on nuclear arms reduction but a time-limited blueprint for the elimination of this class of weaponry from the armory of all nations.

With more than 10,000 nuclear weapons in its strategic stockpile, it is simple buffoonery and totally lacking in merit for the US to chastise Iran, or any other nation for that matter, for daring to procure that which it covets so much itself; something that we all know is the base or shining symbol of its power, global reach and prestige.


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