Iran: Nuclear row with US worsens

Washington hawks aim to remove Iranian regime

Under intense pressure from the US, backed by Britain and France, the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) has now referred Iran to the UN Security Council. The Bush regime is demanding that, unless Iran rules out any processing of nuclear fuel on Iranian soil, the UN should impose sanctions against Iran.

It’s ironic that the US, which manoeuvred to marginalise and discredit the UN before its premeditated invasion of Iraq in March 2003, should now be pushing for collective UN action against Iran.

This is just another example of how the big powers try to manipulate the UN for their own ends. It is by no means certain, however, that veto-wielding Security Council members like Russia and China will fall in with US demands.

US hawks, like the US’s UN envoy John Bolton, are openly threatening military attacks on Iran’s nuclear installations if the UN fails to enforce sanctions.

All this is in spite of the fact that Iran has not breached the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which allows countries to develop nuclear fuel processing. The Ahmadinejad government has rejected an extra IAEA protocol, demanded by the Western powers, which imposed a more intense inspection regime on Iran than required by the NPT.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of IAEA, admits that his inspectors have “not seen indications of diversion of nuclear material to nuclear weapons or other explosive devices”. The complaint is about “uncertainties” about “the scope and nature of Iran’s nuclear programme” – in other words, suspicions that Iran could be preparing a nuclear weapons programme.

Yet, Bush claims Iran’s embryonic nuclear programme poses “a grave threat to the security of the world”.

Nuclear experts estimate that Iran is at least two and up to ten years away from production of a useable nuclear weapon. At the same time, Iran lacks the kind of up-to-date, long-range missiles or jet aircraft needed to hit even regional targets.

Iran, however, is surrounded by nuclear powers: Russia, Pakistan and India. US forces based in Iraq almost certainly have nuclear weapons. Israel, moreover, is estimated to have around 200 nuclear weapons, and also has a large fleet of sophisticated missiles and aircraft capable of hitting Iran.

For this reason, Ahmadinejad has been able to whip up popular support for the country’s embryonic nuclear capacity in the face of threats from US imperialism. Nevertheless, many Iranians oppose the squandering of resources on nuclear weapons and fear the potentially disastrous results of a regional nuclear arms race.

While demanding strict NPT compliance from Iran, Bush has in fact opened the gates to accelerated nuclear weapons proliferation. On his recent visit to India, Bush announced a deal under which India – which has not signed the NPT – will get the latest nuclear technology from the US. Only 14 of India’s 22 reactors will be subject to international inspection. India will be free to use the other eight to produce fissile material to produce nuclear warheads.

As a result, Pakistan will redouble its efforts to build its nuclear arsenal. Meanwhile, the Turkish government has announced that it will be developing a nuclear programme, and others will no doubt follow suit.

In proposing the US-India nuclear deal (which requires ratification by the US Congress), Bush has shattered any remaining illusions in the effectiveness of the NPT. US threats against Iran are not about non-proliferation. They are part of a campaign to isolate, undermine and ultimately destroy a regime that has long been seen by the Washington hawks as the US’s main enemy in the region. But US imperialism is in a much weaker position than in March 2003.

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March 2006