Thursday, September 20, 2007

Lebanon bombing

The big Middle East story today is all the talk, with France joining in, about bombing Iran. Except that bombing won't happen for the next couple of years, I don't have much to say.

The conflict though is usually misleadingly (deliberately misleadingly) characterized as the US attempting to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. What is at issue here is Iran having the technological capability, in theory, to build a weapon. I've read it described as a "weapons option".

Many NPT non-weapons states have a "weapons option", including some that have been caught with advanced weapons programs. Weapons-option states include Taiwan, South Korea, Romania, Brazil, the Netherlands and Japan. Having a weapons option is in no way inconsistent with the non-proliferation treaty Iran ratified, or with the additional protocols to that treaty that Iran has offered to ratify after having its right to enrich uranium is reaffirmed.

The US position that Iran does not have a right to have the technology that would make it a weapons-option state is so unreasonable that I've never seen it defended by any of its supporters. It violently contradicts the technology with discrimination clause of the NPT.

Anyway, Iran is likely to pass 3000 centrifuges over the next year and the US is not likely to bomb Iran in response. Just because bombing Iran would bring Iran closer to a weapon, would strengthen Iran's leadership's standing with its population and accelerate the forced withdrawal of the US from Iraq at least and maybe Afganistan also.

But Lebanon is at least equally interesting right now.

Lebanon's population lurched in the anti-Western direction after last year's war and I expected Lebanon's government to reflect that by now.

Slightly unfortunately for my record as a predictor, but very unfortunately for the people of Lebanon, the US, with Saudi help, has managed to keep political power in Lebanon in the hands of pro-Western forces that are dramatically unrepresentative of the population of the country.

People, democracy is a good thing. And not just when the side you want is winning. This goes for Lebanon and also for US efforts to isolate Sadr and Iraqi nationalists in Iraq and for Hamas.

Keeping the side that wins or that would win out of power is always a bad idea because the same resources that side could use to win the elections, it can use to win a non-electoral struggle that is much more destructive.

Is this a matter of naivety or is it that in all cases, Israel and the US would rather see destructive conflicts than a peaceful process that puts anti-Israel/US/West forces in power? I'm not sure there's a practical difference, meaning I'm not sure the answer matters in real life, but I tend to take cynicism over stupidity as an explanation for US actions in the Middle East maybe too often.

Stupidity and naivety are random. They would cause the US to randomly allow elections in Palestine, not realizing their side would lose. Or giving in to Sistani on elections in 2003, before the Shiites began systematically consolidating their power, and watching their leverage decrease steadily ever since.

But not only does it make sense that Israel would rather its rivals be divided and debilitated by internal conflict than stable, Israeli strategists have explicitly stated this preference. So in this situation it is very difficult to imagine a string of coincidences that have lead in Israel's preferred direction consistently whenever there has been US involvement in the Middle East.

But another pro-Western politician was killed recently in Lebanon. How much better it would have been for one-person one-vote elections to have sent him or other people in his side to retirement.

At this point I'm curious, is the plan really to kill three or four more politicians and call a vote? The pro-Western Lebanese really wouldn't rather just call a vote now? Or does the West have some leverage over them that their own preferences don't matter?


Anonymous said...

You misrepresent the U.S. position vis-a-vis Iran, Article IV rights and noncompliance with Article III-required comprehensive safeguard agreements with the IAEA:

"Article II of the NPT requires the non-nuclear-weapon States not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices and not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other explosive nuclear devices. As the United States outlined in its Main Committee I statement [to the 2005 NPT review conference], fulfillment of this obligation requires that non-nuclear-weapon States refrain from activities designed to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Furthermore, they should provide transparency into their activities that is sufficient to demonstrate their peaceful intent, and should have in place the necessary laws and regulations to enforce their Article II obligations. There are a number of counter-indicators to peaceful intent that other states should consider to be warning signs of a nuclear weapons purpose - and thus of a possible Article II violation. These warning signs include the presence of undeclared nuclear facilities, procurement patterns inconsistent with a civil nuclear program (e.g., clandestine procurement networks, possibly including the use of front companies and fraudulent documentation); security measures beyond what would be appropriate for peaceful, civil nuclear installations; a pattern of Article III safeguards violations suggestive not of mere mistake but of willful violation; systematic deception and denial efforts aimed at concealing nuclear activities from the IAEA; or a nuclear program that has little coherence for peaceful purposes but great coherence for weapons purposes. Such danger signals are relevant for all States Party, all of whom have an interest in strict compliance with the NPT. These warning signs have additional relevance for supplier countries, which should take steps to verify the intent of each of their potential clients so that they do not place themselves in danger of an Article I violation or of taking actions that are otherwise contrary to the NPT's core nonproliferation and security purposes.

"Some States Party have argued that Paragraph 1 of Article IV provides an unconditional right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes -- and that steps by other states to deny them some technology somehow violates their NPT rights. Nothing could be further from the truth: by agreeing to the NPT, countries have agreed that their nuclear activities must be in 'conformity with articles I and II' (as well as with Article III). Article IV does not provide States Party that have violated the nonproliferation provisions of the Treaty any protection from the consequences of breach, including the imposition of measures by other states, jointly or separately, against their nuclear programs. States Party that claim it does are quite wrong."

Arnold Evans said...

Good to see you participating in this comments section, Anon.

"Article II of the NPT requires the non-nuclear-weapon States not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices and not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other explosive nuclear devices."

The United States, as you show, has a very expansive interpretation of this clause. There is nothing there about demonstrating peaceful intent, nothing there about weapons capability, the US interpretation of that clause is pretty much independent of the wording of the clause.

How much could the non-weapons states expand the requirement of weapons states to enter good faith negotiations to disarm if they were allowed the freedom of interpretation that the US takes for clause II?

Similarly "violations of the nonproliferation provisions" that the US accuses Iran of aren't violations of the actual provisions they are violations of US interpretations of those provisions loosely based, if at all based, on the words of the provisions.

It turns out that there are precedents of nations that have made far more egregious violations of the non-proliferation clause than Iran is accused of for which it is not US policy that the consequence is denial of the technology the US wants to deny Iran. Which makes the US policy toward Iran clearly discrimination for political reasons, which violates the actual words, not an expansive interpretation, of the NPT.

It also turns out that there is no solid evidence that Iran has manufactured or otherwise acquired or sought or received any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear devices.

Of course though, this is besides the point. The US, for Israeli strategic reasons, will not tolerate Iran or any regional rival of Israel having a nuclear capability. This is stated Israeli and US policy. This has nothing to do with supposed violations of expanded or imaginary provisions of the NPT.

The supposed violations of the expanded or imaginary provisions of the NPT are just a pretext for a policy that is, in itself, in violent contradiction of the NPT.

Listen. Are you saying it is not US policy that Iran must not have technology Romania and Taiwan can have? US policy is that Iran, given its current government or regime, must not have this technology regardless of what questions it answers and regardless of any additional protocols or safeguard measures beyond the additional protocols it agrees to. Are you saying that's not US policy?

Unless you are saying that's not US policy, you are not in disagreement with me on any substantive matter.