Saturday, November 12, 2011
I asked this question over at armscontrolwonk.com and got answers that though over-wordy and indirect, essentially confirmed that for Western analysts, Israel has turned the Middle East into a special region where it is important for one country to have a monopoly on both actual nuclear weapons and the technological capabilities to make them. Despite reluctant admissions that it is otherwise legitimate for non-weapons NPT countries to gain those capabilities.
I'll define the term "legal nuclear weapons capability" as I use it as a situation where a country clearly does not have weapons today because there is no fissile material that the IAEA does not have under safeguards, but where that country could make weapons in a few months if it was to make that decision. Japan, Brazil, Canada, Germany and dozens of other countries have what I describe here as legal nuclear weapons capability.
The fact of the matter is that a position where a country clearly does not have weapons today even though it could visibly make them later if provoked is a good deal. It means that, for example, Argentina does not have to worry that a surprise nuclear attack might come from Brazil tomorrow. This has real value to Brazil's and Argentina's region. Western analysts, when trying to whip up a frenzy over Iran's nuclear program often lose track of or belittle the value of being verifiably nuclear free today, even for a country that could, if it feels it needs to, build nuclear weapons six months from now. Hopefully these nations never will feel they need to.
Brazil, Japan, Canada, Germany and many others have not exploited a loophole. They have taken a very serious and solid step towards a world without nuclear fears. The United States, not to mention Israel, is far behind these countries in terms of non-proliferation, is far behind Iran on that subject today since all of Iran's fissile material is accounted for by the IAEA as not in military programs and would remain far behind Iran even if Iran was to attain legal nuclear weapons capability.
The NPT was negotiated and despite not being everything the US might dream of, not demanding permanent subjugation of the rest of the world to a small number of permanent nuclear powers, the NPT as negotiated does a lot to provide security and stability. The world would be a much better place if Israel, the United States and every country that is not an NPT non-weapons state went to legal nuclear weapons capability rather than the positions they hold today.
The reason Iran did not follow the path to legal nuclear weapons capability that Japan did is that the United States very actively and intensely blocked that path from Iran. Every single legal agreement Iran made with European countries, Russia and China during the 80s, 90s and early 00s, was broken by Iran's foreign partners under US pressure.
What if the US had not feverishly worked to prevent Iran from following the path Japan followed? Germany would have finished Bushehr, Iran would have acquired uranium conversion and enrichment technology from Russia and China and would today have what I defined above as substantial legal nuclear weapons capability as well as a substantial domestic nuclear power industry. The United States is the exact sole reason Iran did not arrive at a state of legal nuclear weapons capability fully openly.
Clearly that outcome was not acceptable to the US because the US expended significant political and diplomatic capital to prevent that outcome. Now that that outcome has been averted, it is easy for Western analysts today to say that outcome would have been acceptable to them. But them saying that is not believable, not to me and I don't think to anyone with common sense noting that they were not objecting to that US policy when it was happening, don't say it was wrong today, and do not today call for the US to stop its efforts to prevent Iran from moving to that model.
Despite a lot of fluster and misdirection, it is not Iran's path to legal nuclear weapons capability that concerns Western nuclear policy analysts, it is Iran's acquisition of legal nuclear weapons capability itself.
If Iran's strategy is to accomplish legal nuclear weapons capability in order to undercut the rationale that has supported US efforts to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear power-generating technology that would be a valid and rational strategy. Later the US will be in a weaker position to pressure other countries from providing assistance and Iran will be able to get more nuclear technological assistance, if it needs it. This would be a sound reason for Iran to accomplish a state of legal nuclear weapons capability and to ensure that it never commits future generations to relinquish this capability beyond the intrinsic value of legal legal nuclear weapons capability itself.
But other than pointing out that Iran's path to legal nuclear weapons capability was undertaken more in secret than Japan's we have seen some direct justifications for why Western analysts believe Iran should be held to a different standard.
We've seen a statement that one is sure Iran plans to deploy actual nuclear weapons. We've seen a statement that Iran's "neighbors" think legal nuclear weapons capability is the same thing as actual nuclear weapons and we've seen a statement that the Middle East is different from the West Pacific and South America and so reasonably should be treated differently.
Iran with legal nuclear weapons capability could refrain from leaving the NPT or diverting fissile material away from IAEA supervision unless or until some severe provocation occurred. By severe provocation I mean a bombing attack, a ground invasion or visible preparations for a ground invasion. Such a stance would itself actually deter the types of provocations that would cause Iran to build actual weapons.
This would be the rational course of action, it is the action consistent with every Iranian statement, public or intercepted, at every level for many years.
To say one is sure Iran will deploy actual nuclear weapons sounds suspiciously like saying one is sure the US will bomb Iran, insert ground troops or visibly prepare to insert ground troops into Iran.
I don't know if they are aware, but when Western analysts express certainty that Iran will build an actual weapon, they strengthen the case for Iran building and maintaining a legal nuclear weapons capability.
The United States wants the freedom to make a severe provocation of Iran without the threat that such a provocation would move Iran into a state of nuclear ambiguity or of possession of an actual nuclear weapon.
The US and Israel have that freedom regarding Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, UAE, Kuwait and others but likely would not if these countries, which I describe as US colonies, were more accountable to their own people than to the US embassies in their countries.
The fact that governments that are not accountable to their own people have not responded to Israel's regional nuclear monopoly says more about the directions that have come from US embassies than it does about the strategic interests of the people of those countries.
We also saw a statement that "Iran's neighbors" think legal nuclear weapons capability is the same thing as actual nuclear weapons. Now if by "Iran's neighbors" Western analysts mean Israel, they are close to agreement with me.
Of course Israel can tell the difference between legal nuclear weapons capability and actual nuclear weapons. There is at least one person in that country who can read the NPT. What Western analysts really mean when they say it perceives those different concepts as the same is nothing more than that Israel really does not want Iran to have legal nuclear weapons capability.
Lastly we saw a statement that most people understand that the Middle East is different from the other regions. Other than avoiding the question of exactly what is the difference, this is also similar to what I've written earlier. Why is the Western Pacific more similar to South America than either is to the Middle East, so that Japan and Brazil can have legal nuclear weapons capability but Iran can't?
Well, most of the 400 million people in the greater Middle East disagree with the United States and with most of the US and Western nuclear and policy establishments about the legitimacy of Israel as an enforced Jewish political majority state.
The enforced Jewish political majority state in Israel is seen as an injustice in its region just as the enforced White political majority state in South Africa was seen as an injustice in Africa. If the rest of the region is strong, such a state is not viable. Most of the US and Western nuclear and policy establishments are ultimately motivated by the idea that Israel cannot be allowed to become non-viable.
Because of that, it is important to the West that the US have a particular freedom to launch provocative measures against Iran in a way that does not have an analog in other regions.
That's pretty much what is driving the dispute between the US and Iran over its nuclear issue. You can read some words by Western analysts themselves over at armscontrolwonk.
Posted by Arnold Evans at 11:45 AM