Last week, The Supreme National Security Council of Iran complained that the latest UN sanctions are the product of a double standard. Double standard? Which one?
Specifically, the Iranian Security body was complaining about the double standard that the US and the UN punish Iran over nuclear weapons that she does not have while not punishing Israel over the nuclear weapons that she does. But the double standard is broader than that. Though Iran singled out Israel, India and Pakistan are also on the list of countries that have developed nuclear weapons outside of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The US has, at best, turned a blind eye to, and, at worst, and more realistically, aided each of these countries in their successful pursuits of nuclear weapons. So even if Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons—and there is still no evidence that she is—the sanctions would reveal a double standard.
But that is far from the only double standard. The US is trying not only to ban Iran from producing nuclear weapons, but to ban Iran even from enriching uranium for energy or medical use. But this type of enrichment is completely legal under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Several countries, including Canada, where I live, enrich uranium for power and for medical isotopes consistent with Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s promise that “Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty”. To bar Iran from enriching uranium for energy and medical use is against the promises of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that she is signatory to, and, therefore, illegal, as well as being a second way that the UN sanctions reveal a double standard. We have never felt the deprivation and suffering of sanctions in Canada.
But the third and most egregious double standard is that the countries that are leading the cry for sanctioning Iran to prevent her from acquiring nuclear weapons themselves possess nuclear weapons. But it’s worse than that. It’s not just that the countries who say you can’t have nuclear weapons have nuclear weapons, it’s that those countries, and not Iran, are the criminal countries who are in violation of international law. You see, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty doesn’t just say that, in exchange for promising not to develop nuclear weapons, non-nuclear countries will get the nonmilitary benefits of nuclear energy, it also says, under Article VI, that each of the nuclear weapon possessing countries who signed the treaty—The US, Russia, Britain, France and China—“. . . undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control”. The US is bound by international law, by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to work in good faith towards the total elimination of her nuclear arsenal. So the US, and not Iran, is the international criminal who is operating every day in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The UN sanctions of Iran are not just hypocritical, they are also blind to the ironies of history. Iran is now enriching uranium beyond the 3.5% needed for energy to the 19.5% needed for medical use because the US and her allies drove them to, and if they ever do enrich to the 90% needed for weapons use, that too will be because the US and her allies drove them to.
Iran, like other countries, needs uranium enriched to 19.5% to produce medical isotopes for treating and imaging cancer in its hospitals. In 1988 Iran acquired 23 kilograms of 20% enriched uranium from Argentina, another of the many countries that makes legal use of its right to enrich uranium for nonmilitary purposes. But, over two decades later, that supply of uranium is running out. Iran had not tried to enrich more uranium to 19.5% while she had enough to run its hospitals. Nor did she try to enrich it to 19.5% when she began to run out. Instead Iran went to the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) for help purchasing more enriched uranium under the watchful eye of the IAEA. This twenty-two year history hardly sounds like the history of a country hurtling full speed into uranium enrichment and nuclear weapons. But when Iran legally requested the help of the IAEA to exercise its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty right to “the inalienable right . . . to the . . . use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,” the US and her European partners prevented her from making the purchase, leaving Iran with little—and soon no—uranium left to treat her citizens with cancer.
But, even now, Iran did not turn to enrichment: though to do so would have been perfectly legal. Last year, Iran agreed in principal to a US deal that would have Iran send its 3.5% enriched uranium out of the country to be enriched into fuel rods for medical reactors and then sent back to Iran. But, although Iran agreed in principle, when she realized she was being duped, she withheld her assent in fact. The American plan demanded that Iran send away all its 3.5% uranium immediately . . . even though it would take a year, or even several years, to receive the 19.5% enriched uranium needed for its medical reactor. That would not only achieve the American goal of emptying Iran of all enriched uranium, it would also defy the point of the whole plan and leave Iran without medical isotopes, forcing its medical facility to shut down. So Iran made a counterproposal. They would send out their 3.5% uranium in batches, and when the enriched uranium for medical isotopes was returned, they would send out the next batch: fair enough. But America ignored Iran’s counterproposal.
It was only after Iran had tried every other way of legally acquiring 19.5% uranium that she turned to legally enriching her own. If the US goal was really to prevent Iran from enriching uranium, then it is strange that she turned down every other available option, forcing Iran, ironically, to do the very thing the States claims she is trying to prevent Iran from doing.
Most recently, when Brazil and Turkey brokered a very similar uranium swap deal, minus the tricks, Iran agreed to it. The US and her allies, for the second time, ignored it, reprimanded meddlesome Brazil and Turkey, and pushed ahead, instead, with more sanctions on Iran.
So if the sanctions are to prevent Iran from enriching uranium, then the US is punishing Iran for the very thing it is forcing her to do, suggesting that preventing enrichment is not the real US goal. The US intelligence community does not even really believe that there is evidence that Iran is enriching uranium because they are pursuing nuclear weapons, as proven by their two most recent assessments.
That’s the recent history. One small piece of interesting ancient history. It used to be just fine with the US if Iran had enriched uranium. The States has claimed that Iran’s drive for enriched uranium for nuclear energy has to be cloaking a sinister drive for nuclear weapons because such an oil rich country has no need of alternative energy. Kissinger himself called an oil rich country like Iran’s pursuit of nuclear energy “a wasteful use of resources”. An interesting claim for the guy who, as US secretary of state during the reign of the shah in Iran, praised Iran’s pursuit of nuclear energy at that time as providing “for the growing needs of Iran’s economy and free[ing] remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals,” while the US made her universities available for the training of Iranian nuclear engineers. Apparently it is not so clear that Iran doesn’t have a legitimate need to enrich uranium.
So What Does Iran Have to Do?
So, there’s no evidence according to the US or the UN that Iran is enriching uranium for a nuclear weapon. She has tried to buy 20% uranium and has tried to exchange 3.5% uranium for enriched medical uranium: most recently, Iran has agreed to the Brazil/Turkey negotiated exchange. The response from the US? Further sanctions. Why impose further sanctions unless you don’t really want Iran to stop enriching? Unless the goal of sanctions is really something else? Unless Iran is being set up, like Iraq was, for regime change? Unless Iran is being set up to look like she is noncompliant with the international community and to look like she is developing a bomb?
But a bomb for what? Is Iran a serious threat? Hilary Clinton has admitted that Iran "doesn’t directly threaten the United States, but it directly threatens a lot of our friends, allies, and partners". So Iran is not a threat to the US at all. Then to whom? Israel? But, as Noam Chomsky has argued, Iran couldn’t even think about arming a nuclear missile without being wiped off the face of the map. Iran couldn’t use a nuclear weapon even if it had one. It could serve only as a deterrent, meaning that if Iran ever does enrich to 90% it is because the US and her allies drove them to it. Iran has two arch enemies in the world today: the US and Israel. The US military has Iran sandwiched with occupied Iraq and Afghanistan on either side. And Israel, though this has barely even been noticed by the media, has just deployed three submarines to the Persian Gulf, at least one of them permanently, equipped with nuclear cruise missiles capable of reaching any target in Iran Israel desires.
So while the US and her partners try to appear to the world that they are desperately trying to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon that would threaten the world, they are actually preventing Iran from not enriching uranium. They are leaving Iran with no option but to enrich uranium to 19.5%. And even that enriched uranium is nowhere near the 90% needed for nuclear weapons, rendering ridiculous the claims that Iran’s stepped up enrichment is evidence of a nuclear program. But if Iran ever did step up enrichment to weapon’s grade level, it could only be to act as a deterrent, a deterrent that the US and her partners provoked her to.