The constant drumbeat of US propaganda about how Iran has to "come clean" with the world and "stop conducting a secret nuclear weapons program" is relentless, though dissonant in tone.
The latest US demands would impose conditions--specifically, a permanent ban on reprocessing uranium--that goes far beyond anything that the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) actually stipulates. The US is demanding that Iran voluntarily agree to unilaterally American-imposed restrictions and submit to intrusive, unrestricted American inspections of its nuclear facilities, anywhere, anytime, anyplace, without any guarantees that these inspections won't be used to determine targets for a later (and, of course, illegal) US attack.
In attempting to stitch together the unraveling strictures of the NPT mandate, Mohamed El Baradei, the head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has recently proposed a five-year moratorium on both the enrichment of uranium and the production of plutonium, anticipating that if more and more countries get hold of the technology to make bomb-grade uranium and plutonium, there will be many "virtual" nuclear weapon states that could quickly put together a bomb at any time.
Many countries that felt the moratorium would limit their future nuclear fuel options immediately balked at the idea, and notably both the United States and Iran strongly opposed El Baradei's proposed moratorium on enrichment.
Another idea El Baradei proposed was making all uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing facilities multinational consortia that are not controlled by a single country. Many countries have expressed support for this idea. He said the urgency of the matter was made clear after the discovery of a global black market linked to Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, who supplied Iran, Libya and possibly North Korea with technology used to make fuel for nuclear power plants or atomic weapons.
But the Khan revelations also showed something else. A moral and judicial double standard is exemplified in the utter absence of any effective recrimination in treating this particular fissure in the NPT on such a different scale than the dogged pursuit and illegal occupation of Iraq for its nuclear non-capability after the 1991 war. This does indeed drain the once stolid NPT of any remaining stature of respectability.
El Baradei commented: "we cannot just sit still, stand still, because we are facing a threat." Like the story of the Dutch boy trying to plug a leaking hole in a bursting dam with his finger, El Baradei expressed disappointment at the failure of a recent meeting of the 180 signatories of the nuclear NPT to agree on an agenda for discussing ways of repairing loopholes in the 35-year-old pact.
In all fairness, El Baradei did plug another argument. US President George W. Bush is proposing to simply ban the sale of enrichment and reprocessing technology to nations (other than the dozen or so who already have it) and ensuring that any who want fuel can buy it "at reasonable cost". Asked about this idea, El Baradei diplomatically responded that it "has merit" but also has two problems; one is that many countries can already develop the sensitive technology on their own; the other, as he finally got around to suggesting, is that it raises questions of "different standards", that is, double standards, for those allowed to have fuel technology and those denied it.
But the double standards already exist, and, notably, Israel's actions and constant dismissal of the NPT remain as one of the prime factors for the NPT's ineffectiveness and gradual demise.
When more than 180 nations met two weeks ago hoping to strengthen global protections against the spread of nuclear arms, they barely managed to surmount the paralysis centered on Israel's arsenal of atomic weapons and Egypt's demand that the issue of nuclear weapons in the Middle East be on the agenda.
A tenuous compromise was worked out by conference president, Sergio Duarte of Brazil, who added an asterisk to the proposed agenda. It referred to a separate piece of paper ensuring that the practice of previous NPT conferences, in which the Middle East had been discussed, would be "taken into account". Duarte hailed the reference as a "miracle of diplomacy".
The UN Security Council has long called for the Middle East to be transformed into a nuclear-free zone, and Egyptian UN Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz said the United States and European powers had assured the Arab world that they would work to bring Israel into the NPT. "But this is not happening," Abdelaziz meekly complained.
When Israel belligerently attacked and destroyed Iraq's research reactors in 1981, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution equating such actions with a "nuclear attack" on a member state. That attack not only led to Iraq's political determination to pursue a covert nuclear weapons program, but the same UN resolution failed to deter America's attack on Iraq's (hot) nuclear sites in the 1991 war, as it followed Israel's example of ignoring any UN resolutions that do not suit its interests.
And Iran's nuclear program and facilities are next on the agenda of both.
Israel and the US, and in that order, are in effect telling the world a reformulation of an Iraqi proverb: "Dip the NPT in a glass of water, soak it, and then drink the water", for all the good it will do you.- Published 19/5/2005 (c) bitterlemons-international.org