Pleading for a long overdue “accounting” in world affairs, one wherein peoples and states will decide, once and for all, what they are “united for” and what they are “united against,” Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom stepped before the UN General Assembly last week to tell it that the “problems of terror, Islamic fundamentalism, and Iranian nuclear ambitions” are all parts of one grand gobal problematic—not just “local problems,” nor even “Israel’s problems,” but threats to the “community of nations as a whole.”
Shalom continued (Sept. 23, 2004):
Today we are also more united than ever in opposition to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The international community now realizes that Iran—with missiles that can reach London, Paris, Berlin, and southern Russia—does not only pose a threat to the security of Israel, but to the security and stability of the whole world.
Indeed, Iran has replaced Saddam Hussein as the world’s number one exporter of terror, hate, and instability.
I will spare you the rest of the Foreign Minister’s global accounting that day before the UN. Let it suffice to say that it also included Syria, the Occupied Palestinian Territories—my phrase, not his—and the Israeli separation and expropriation barrier—”irreversible,” in his words. (“Shalom to UN: Iran is public enemy No. 1,” Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz, Sept. 24, 2004.)
A many-headed hydra indeed—these Iranians. Before turning in tonight, you had better check beneath your bed. A militant Iranian radical Islamic fundamentalist theocrat might be hiding there, lurking in the dark, ready to strike at you.
Still. To have become the world’s number one exporter of terror, hate, and instability so rapidly. And in so timely a fashion. As if on cue. Of the 191 Member States of the United Nations, only one state, Iran (a member of the original Class of 1945), managed to pull it off. Not some state that invaded another state—or that serially invades other states, in some cases. Not some state that is a nuclear powderkeg, ready at any minute to explode. Not even some state with armed military encampments on five or six continents—with outer space, the “international commons,” next on its agenda. But Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran, to be more precise. Now. Let me see. When was the last time a state ascended the world’s rankings in these categories of sheer evil, almost overnight?
The current issue of Newsweek conduits at the behest of an anonymous Bush “administration official” the line that the Americans are “updating plans for possible U.S. military action in Syria and Iran,” and that the “Defense Department unit responsible for military planning for the two troublesome countries is ‘busier than ever’.” (“Plans: Next, War on Syria?” Oct. 4, 2004.)
(Quick aside. Surely these are grounds for pre-emptive strikes if ever there were such grounds. But, pre-emptive strikes against the state using Newsweek to publicize its planning for possible military action. Not the other way around. You know what I mean?)
Sticking with this program of threat-mongering, Greg Sheridan writes in The Weekend Australian that, since “Iran is one of the most comprehensively oil-soaked nations in the world,” it is “inconceivable that it would make a serious investment in nuclear electricity”—leaving only nuclear weapons as its goal. Such self-evidence. A straight line is the shortest distance between two points: The oil-soaked Iranians can only be developing nuclear energy for belligerent purposes. End of story. Case closed. “What the whole process demonstrates is the ongoing collapse of the multilateral system,” Sheridan continues, the Government of Iran having been “effective in lobbying Third World members of the IAEA board to stymie the trigger,” meaning an automatic referral of its case to the Security Council, just as the Americans had demanded of the latest IAEA resolution (GOV/2004/79), but couldn’t quite get. So, the success of Third World member states in preventing the adoption of a resolution that would have cast the Iranians straight before the Security Council represents a failure of the “multilateral” system, in Sheridan’s eyes. An interesting way of looking at multilateralism and the IAEA, I’m sure you’ll all agree. “Even the defiance of the IAEA and the acquisition of nuclear weapons by one of the worst rogue states in the world—a long-time, proven sponsor of terrorism—produces nothing beyond impotent hand-wringing,” Sheridan laments, his reach exceeding his grasp of the facts here in a way that defies logic, if not hysteria. (“If Iran doesn’t behave…,” Sept. 25.) But this is late September, 2004, don’t forget. A little more than a month before the American presidential election. And the hysterics are spinning wildly.
“Western intelligence officials” (Where have we head from this species before?) have informed the London Telegraph that “Syria’s President Bashir al-Asad is in secret negotiations with Iran to secure a safe haven for a group of Iraqi nuclear scientists who were sent to Damascus before last year’s war to overthrow Saddam Hussein.” Well. I can’t speak for the rest of you. But I for one would be too embarrassed to report something as straight out of a Tom Clancy supermarket thriller as this. Undeterred, this report continues (Con Coughlin, “Syria brokers secret deal to send atomic weapons scientists to Iran Saddam’s former bomb experts will help Teheran to build nuclear weapon,” Sept. 26):
American intelligence officials are concerned that Syria is secretly working on a number of WMD programmes.
They have also uncovered evidence that Damascus has acquired a number of gas centrifuges – probably from North Korea – that can be used to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb.
Relations between Washington and Damascus have been strained since last year’s war in Iraq, with American commanders accusing the Syrians of allowing foreign fighters to cross the border into Iraq, where they carry out terrorist attacks against coalition forces.
“The Syrians are playing a very dangerous game,” a senior Western intelligence official told The Sunday Telegraph.
“The Americans already have them in their sights because they are doing next to nothing to stop foreign fighters entering Iraq. If Washington finds concrete evidence that Syria is engaged in an illegal WMD programme then it will quickly find itself targeted as part of the war on terror.”
That the Americans have the Government of Iran in their sights goes without saying. The same goes for Syria. (See UNSC 1559: The Resolution Out of Nowhere, ZNet Blogs, Sept. 5.) But Sunday’s New York Times went even further than conduiting the hearsay of “intelligence officials” to conduiting their hearsay about “high-definition images” from the “spy satellites” of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, whose cameras, sensors, and latest ESP devices are “focused on North Korea and Iran,” the two states posing the greatest “challenge to America and the rest of the world.”
(Quick aside. The reporter of this piece, David E. Sanger, does not appear to have been one of the Times‘s reporters whose prewar work on Bush Administration claims about Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” was singled out by the Times‘s editors in late May for having formed part of a “pattern of misinformation” spread by the Times to the public at large. (“The Times and Iraq,” May 26, 2004.) So maybe the Times‘s editors can pick up Sanger’s work on the Iranian threat—in particular, his reliance of anonymous American sources carrying out their agenda through the news media—the next time around?)
“The challenge is so serious,” Sanger explains, “that the C.I.A. is circulating warnings that North Korea may conduct its first nuclear test before the presidential election. And last week the Iranians defied the International Atomic Energy Agency by saying they were resuming the enrichment of uranium, although they insist their project is intended only to produce electric power and is not, as the United States has charged, part of a bomb project.” (“What Can and Can’t Be Done About North Korea and Iran,” Sept. 26.)
Even more alarming, Sunday’s Boston Globe warned that the “diplomatic showdown over Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions could escalate into a confrontation that changes the political dynamic of the Middle East and further destabilizes the region, Western diplomats, officials, and analysts say.”
“Regardless of whether Iran intends to build nuclear weapons,” the Globe explained (Brian Whitmore, “Tension Grows Over Iran’s Nuclear Aims. Diplomats Warn of Harm To Region,” Sept. 26),
there is a growing sense of urgency among the United States and major European allies that if unchecked Tehran’s ability and desire to enrich uranium has put it in a position to go nuclear, should it choose to do so, in the near future. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and for civilian purposes.
The specter of a nuclear-armed Iran, which could threaten Israel, set off a dangerous arms race, and further destabilize the Middle East, is something the United States and its allies are furiously seeking to prevent.
But as the issue appears to race toward a confrontation, there are also growing fears that should the Security Council eventually impose sanctions, an increasingly isolated Iran may pull out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, as North Korea did last year, and pursue a weapons program unfettered. Officials have voiced concerns that Iran might attempt to further subvert the situation in neighboring Iraq by influencing Shi’ite Muslims there, or that Israel may try to take out Tehran’s nuclear facilities in a military strike with unpredictable consequences.
“In the November IAEA meeting, there will be real stakes involved,” another senior Western official in Vienna said, referring to the meeting at which the UN nuclear watchdog will decide whether to report Iran to the Security Council.
“But this has become so much bigger than the IAEA,” the official added, on condition of anonymity. “It goes to the whole geopolitics of the Middle East and to the chronic insecurity of the region.”
Throughout the whole of these clippings and many more just as bad—throughout all of the warnings about Global Enemy No. 1 and its plans to develop a nuclear program for belligerent purposes, about the possible responses the Americans and the Israelis might adopt to prevent this from ever happening (which, of course, is to beg the question of whether it actually is happening—always possible, but not something the IAEA’s inspectors have proven, and something the Iranians deny), and about Global Enemies No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, and so on, and how all of them are linked, somehow or other, into a single, unified Threat To the Community of Nations as a Whole—two monumentally important factors are overlooked.
First, globally, the single most unifying threat to the community of nations as a whole is posed by the existence of nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the declared nuclear powers (i.e., the U.S., Russia, Britain, France, China, India, and Pakistan), and the one known nuclear power that has never declared its arsenal, though dating back to the 1950s—Israel. (A lot of other states in the past have possessed, or still do possess, nuclear weapons programs.) There is one, and only one, solution to this problem: Not strengthening the non-proliferation regime—the constant refrain of the Nuclear Haves—but the abolition of nuclear weapons per se. Beginning, of course, with those powers that possess them. Which is the only place true disarmament can begin.
Second, given that at least eight states possess nuclear weapons, not only are non-proliferation regimes doomed to failure. But the very reason that the declared states resist surrendering their weapons is no different than the reason for which the would-be proliferation states seek to acquire theirs—because of the enormous advantage that nuclear weapons confer on states in a world so dependent on the rule of force to settle disputes and to gain advantages over other rival states and peoples.
This brings us back to Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency—and the Americans and Israelis.
The IAA just finished up its 48th General Conference in Vienna. On the second day of last week’s conference, Tuesday, September 21, during the Third Plenary, the delegates adopted their official Agenda for the remainder of the week (GC(48)/25).
If you scroll down to Item Number 20 on this Agenda, here’s what you will find:
Don’t bother pursuing these last links. Besides, I’ve dealt with their predecessor in a ZNet Blog before. (See “Israeli nuclear capabilities and threat” I, Sept. 4.)
Instead, I want to call your attention to the fact that, even though the IAEA (all 140 of its members, three new states having just joined the agency) adopted a resolution on Friday, the 24th, affirming the
urgent need for all states in the Middle East to forthwith accept the application of full-scope agency safeguards to all their nuclear activities…as a step in enhancing peace and security in the context of the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone;
and even though the very language of this resolution echoes that of the important disarmament resolution adopted by the UN Security Council after the first American war over Iraq back in 1991, wherein it was noted that (Res. 687, April 3, 1991, par. 14)
the actions to be taken by Iraq in paragraphs 8 to 13 [the disarmament paragraphs] represent steps towards the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery and the objective of a global ban on chemical weapons;
none of these disarmament-oriented terms has ever meant a damned thing for the Government of Israel—even though they and others just like them have been religiously enforced upon the Government of Iraq and now the Government of Iran and who knows which other Middle Eastern state next.
The International Atomic Energy Agency can bleat on all that it likes about the need to strengthen the “safeguards” that exist to prevent dangerous uses of nuclear energy or even nuclear weapons, and about how these “safeguards” remain the “cornerstone of the world’s nuclear non-proliferation regime aimed at stemming the spread of nuclear weapons and moving towards nuclear disarmament” (to cite here some of the boilerplate from the IAEA’s “safeguards” webpage).
But when I checked, earlier today, Agence France Presse was still reporting, just as it was reporting last Friday, that—
Under a compromise deal worked out under US moderation, Israel agreed to support the resolution calling for nuclear-free zone in the Middle East in return for an Arab proposal for the IAEA to discuss “Israeli nuclear capabilities and threat” being shelved until next year
—and everyone still knew, just like they knew all of the previous years that an item titled “Israeli nuclear capabilities and threat” was inscribed on the IAEA’s agenda, that “This draft is submitted yearly by the Arab bloc but has always been removed after pressure from Israel, the U.S. and other countries.” (Yossi Melman, “Israel demands change to IAEA resolution, threatens boycott,” Haaretz, Sept. 23.)
So much for cornerstones. Safeguards. Moving towards disarmament.
And the community of nations as a whole.
(The real kind, I mean.)
“Address to the United Nations 59th General Assembly by Silvan Shalom, deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of the State of Israel,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, September 23, 2004
“Shalom to UN: Iran is public enemy No. 1,” Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz, September 24, 2004
UN Security Council Resolution 687, April 3, 1991
IAEA Safeguards: Stemming the Spread of Nuclear Weapons, IAEA, 2004
“Strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime: The Need For Broad Information and Access Rights,” Pierre Goldschmidt, IAEA, June 22, 2004
“Iran’s Dire Threat (It might be able to defend itself),” Edward S. Herman, Z Magazine, October, 2004
“Israeli nuclear capabilities and threat” I, ZNet Blogs, September 4