Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Monday, October 03, 2005

"India and Iran's nuclear program," October 3, 2005.

This morning we revive the practice of preceding the world report with a related informational question: Who do you think offered Iran the full nuclear fuel cycle in 1975? Stay tuned for the answer to that and lots more.

This week the governing board of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency voted to charge Iran with violating its nuclear nonproliferation obligations and to set the stage for sending the matter to the UN Security Council.

The final version of the resolution does not refer Iran to the Security Council. But it cites Iran's history of "concealment" and asks Iran to stop all activity related to uranium enrichment.

It goes on to say that Iran's "noncompliance" with NPT safeguards and the IAEA's statute "gives rise to questions that are within the competence of the Security Council," given its responsibility for maintaining "international peace and security." (Bidwai IPS Sep 28 05)

For the first time, the board failed to reach consensus when approving a resolution on nuclear safeguards. Nevertheless, it is legitimate. Twenty-two members voted to pass the measure. Venezuela alone opposed it, while Russia, China and 10 others abstained.

The United States has been pushing for the board to report the situation to the Security Council since ElBaradei first reported in late 2003 that Iran had not provided a complete account of its nuclear activities. France, Germany and the United Kingdom did not join the push until their talks with Iran collapsed last month. (Webb GSN Sep 26 05)

Possibly the most momentous vote for the motion came from India. In what Praful Bidwai, a New Delhi-based columnist, called "the greatest shift in New Delhi's foreign policy since independence from colonial rule in 1947," India joined the mostly Western nations voting for the motion.

For decades, India acted in solidarity with the non-aligned movement. "Now," says Bidwai, the non-aligned movement "stands split, with countries like Peru, Ghana, and Ecuador joining hands with the US-EU while Malaysia, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, which have been proactive in NAM, abstained....Even Pakistan abstained."

The Singh government's decision has been attacked by both left and right. To the Left, an ally of the ruling United Progressive Alliance, led by the Congress party, the resolution "virtually" converts India into a US ally and camp-follower.

The right-wing, pro-Hindu BJP too has opposed India's decision to vote for the resolution in Vienna and accused the government of "surreptitiously" making a major foreign policy shift.

Bidwai worries that India's vote will jeopardize the an Iran-India gas pipeline and passing through Pakistan that is currently under negotiation. This enjoys wide domestic support and has been seen as the key to promoting peace and prosperity in the South Asia-West Asia region, as well as opening a conduit to energy-rich Central Asia.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters at a weekly news conference, "We will reconsider our economic cooperation with those countries that voted against us.... India's vote came as a great surprise to us," he said.

But Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said Iran was willing to continue its "friendly" relationship with India.

quote "We should not lose a friend because of one incident," Larijani told reporters. "We will have talks with India over Iran's nuclear ambitions in the future," he said.

According to the Associated Press, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki responded immediately to the resolution Iranian state television, quote “The resolution is illegal, illogical and politically motivated.”

India's Subhash Kapila a Strategic Affairs Consultant with the South Asia Analysis Group agrees that the opposition of Western governments to Iran's nuclear program is based more on politics than law. Kapila gives the following chronology:

In 1967, the USA laid the foundation of Iran’s nuclear programme by providing a 5 megawat nuclear research reactor for the Tehran Nuclear Research Center

1968, Iran signed NPT. USA drew up an accord with the Shah of Iran to construct 23 nuclear power stations by 2000.

In 1975. US National Security Decision Memorandum 292 signed by Henry Kissinger entitled “US-Iran Nuclear Cooperation” detailed the sale of $ 6 billion worth of nuclear equipment to Iran.

Then in 1976, President General Ford took two important decisions on Iran’s nuclear programme:

A US Presidential Directive offered Iran a deal for the building and operating of a reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel for a complete “nuclear fuel cycle”.

This directive stated that: “introduction of nuclear power will both provide for the growing needs of Iran’s economy and free remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals.”

This United States sponsored Iranian nuclear programme came to an abrupt end in 1979 with the Iranian Revolution.

Foreign Minister Mottaki also pointed out that quote “Iran has no legal commitment to continue implementation of the Additional Protocol.” endquote The Additional Protocol, which Iran has signed and adhered to so far, even though it has not been ratified, permits international nuclear inspectors to conduct snap inspections and more intrusive monitoring than is allowed by standard rules.

Kaveh Afrasiabi, an Iranian expatriate living in the US and writing for Asia Times Online has been arguing for months that there is still time to talk as long as the US is willing to acknowledge Iran's legitimate security concerns.

"Twenty years ago, Iran and North Korea (along with China, Syria, and Iraq) were minor nuclear nuisances compared to the Soviet Union, whose huge nuclear arsenal posed a threat of apocalyptic proportions to the United States and U.S. allies. The main U.S. nuclear strike plan, known as the Single Integrated Operational Plan, or SIOP, envisioned rapid strikes by U.S. strategic forces against a Soviet target set consisting of some 16,000 targets. Since the U.S. strategic arsenal was brimming over at the time with upwards of 13,000 nuclear weapons, a full-scale assault on the Soviet Union would have left it a smoking, radiating ruin with over one-hundred million dead and at least as many wounded and sick. The comparably over-sized Soviet strategic arsenal would have inflicted even greater destruction on the United States, Western Europe and Japan. The collective overkill in the two arsenals would have left their respective countries and much of the rest of the northern hemisphere in total ruins and agony" (Blair CDI Obsession Sep 19 05).

"America’s and the world’s concern over Iran’s future nukes and North Korea’s virtual small arsenal of nukes is warranted, but the solution to this proliferation will not be found in the U.S. nuclear planners’ kitbag. The war gamers lost their credibility and perspective on the utility of U.S. nukes in dealing with nuclear rogue states over two decades ago. They are still living in that strange dreamland" (Blair CDI Obsession Sep 19 05).

Iran and N Korea were not credible threats then and they are not credible threats now.

Jephraim Gundzik, who is president of a company that provides emerging markets investment risk analysis to individuals and institutions, finds the same "shallow diplomacy" and "diplomatic ineptitude" in nuclear negotiations with both Iran and North Korea. quote "The US and the European Union presuppose the evil intentions of North Korea and Iran.

"This presupposition implies that the US and EU must subjugate North Korea and Iran in order to control nuclearization in these countries. The diplomatic ineptitude fostering subjugation has accelerated Pyongyang's and Tehran's nuclear programs. Unless Washington and Brussels recognize the sovereign rights of North Korea and Iran, nuclearization in these countries will continue to accelerate, greatly amplifying security risks in Asia and the Middle East."

"Rather than trying to subjugate them, the US and EU must recognize the sovereign right of North Korea and Iran to civilian nuclear programs. In the case of North Korea, Washington must give Pyongyang light-water reactors in order to encourage nuclear disarmament. In the case of Iran, the EU and the US must allow Tehran to master the nuclear fuel cycle in order to produce fuel for its nuclear reactors.

"Better inspection mechanisms by the IAEA could easily prevent military application of civilian nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran. But rather than reform the IAEA to improve its ability to control nuclearization, the US and EU want to directly control nuclearization through subjugation - an approach that is proving unworkable and is accelerating nuclearization.

"The continued acceleration of nuclearization in North Korea and Iran is inevitable unless the US and EU recognize the sovereignty of North Korea and Iran. A nuclear test by North Korea and Iran's withdrawal from the NPT are increasingly probable. These events will greatly amplify the security risk in Asia and the Middle East. Higher security risk will fan higher global inflation and slower global economic growth in the months and years ahead." (Grundzik ATol)Endquote

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