Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Time to hold Washington accountable

Phyllis Bennis weighs in on the Iranian nuclear issue:

At the end of the day Iran has been pretty clear about what it wants. It doesn't seem to want an actual nuclear weapon (both the late Ayatollah Khomeini and his successor have issued religious prohibitions, or fatwas, against such weapons) although there's little doubt that President Ahmadinejad appears to believe that posturing aggressively about "going nuclear" will help his flagging domestic ratings. (Sound familiar?) What Iran really wants, and has asked for, is serious negotiations with the U.S., based on equality, not humiliation. And at the end, a security guarantee that neither Europe nor the UN, but only the U.S. itself – the world's "sole super-power" and the only nuclear weapons state threatening to actually use its nuclear arsenal – can provide.

For all sides, talk is crucial. Nuclear weapons - in anyone's hands - are a nightmare that should be abolished once and for all, as the now-fading Non-Proliferation Treaty anticipated so many years ago. Certainly Iran should abjure any search for nuclear weapons - but that's not going to happen alone. What we need - what we ALL need - is a weapons of mass destruction-free zone throughout the Middle East. So not only no nukes for Iran, but let's be sure Israel signs the NPT and places its unacknowledged but highly provocative Dimona arsenal of 200-400 high-density nuclear bombs under international supervision, and then allows the inspectors to destroy them. Let's be sure no country in the Middle East is running a chemical- or biological-weapons program - the poor countries' nuclear weapons substitute of choice and an unfortunate inevitability as long as Israel has a nuclear monopoly in the region.

And it’s way past time for the U.S. to make good on its own NPT obligations to move towards full and complete nuclear disarmament. As long as Washington laughs off that obligation, and officially rejects it, it is hard to imagine why any other countries should take seriously a U.S. demand that take nuclear weapons off their agenda.

Ironically enough the U.S. is already on record supporting just such a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. Article 14 of UN Security Resolution 687, that ended the 1991 Gulf War and imposed crippling sanctions on Iraq, states that disarming Iraq should be viewed as part of "establishing in the Middle East a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them."

The language was written by the U.S. It's time we held Washington accountable to that pledge. Let's talk to Iran.
Sounds quite reasonable to me. I'd also add that Egypt and Iran have been intermittently pushing the idea of a nuclear free Mid East since 1974, much to no avail. In a sane world, one would think that's a fact that deserves to be on the table.

Personally, I don't care much anymore if the Iranians acquire a nuclear weapon (I did until very recently). They have every reason to want one, what with its deterrent potential. Moreoever, their primary adversaries don't seem to take nuclear proliferation seriously, so why should they?

The American leadership shows absolutely no interest in lessening the threat of nuclear confrontation. If they did, BushCo would obviously turn their attention to their own stockpiles and, frankly, wouldn't be brandishing "bunker busters" as a viable military option. Likewise, if Israel was so concerned, it would start addressing the near-infinite number of questions that the international community has about its nuclear program, starting with what's going on at Dimona.

Until either state decides to own up to its own affairs on the nuclear front, I don't think anybody should give them the time of day when it comes to huffing and puffing at the UN. Indeed, in all likelihood, they're just using the issue of nukes to scare the world and their domestic populations into seeing the dire necessity of attacking Iran, soon.

Groupthink is again swirling around this issue, so do yourself (and the rest of the world) a favor by not buying into it.