Justifying War with Iran: A False Strategy for Nuclear Nonproliferation
by Patrick McElwee
Six nations have been most frequently mentioned in discussions of nuclear non-proliferation in recent years. Four are known to have nuclear weapons and do not allow U.N. inspections of active nuclear weapon sites. Israel’s nuclear stockpile is an open secret. India and Pakistan both have nuclear weapons; they conducted highly publicized nuclear tests in 1998, creating a very tense moment between the rivals. This month, North Korea tested a nuclear device.
Another frequently mentioned country, Iran, does not now have nuclear weapons. It actually signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), the international legal foundation of nonproliferation. Iran allows U.N. inspections of its nuclear facilities, which it claims will be used solely for civilian power plants – legal under the NPT – and never to create a weapon. No proof has ever been offered that Iran is taking steps to produce a nuclear weapon.
The sixth country, Iraq, was invaded on the pretext of having a serious program to produce nuclear weapons, as well as other weapons of mass destruction, which are now known not to have existed since soon after U.N. inspections began there in 1991.
Yet, leaving out occupied Iraq, the only one of these countries the U.S. is threatening to attack is Iran — despite the lack of proof that Iran is even seeking a nuclear weapon. In fact, of those five countries, Iran is the only one currently playing by the rules.
The use of nuclear nonproliferation as justification for threats to attack Iran looks like a sham, just as it was shown to be a sham in Iraq.
… diplomacy has been shown to work with North Korea. From 1994 to 2002, North Korea actually shut down its nuclear weapons program under an agreement with the United States. However, the United States failed to meet its side of the agreement – shipments of fuel oil to replace nuclear energy until completion of construction of two light-water reactors that could not produce material for a weapon. Yet the North Koreans kept their program shut down until early 2003. They kicked out U.N. inspectors, withdrew from the NPT and began enriching plutonium again. Diplomacy is the only way to defuse the current crisis.
Diplomacy has also been shown to be capable of dissuading Iran from pursuing even peaceful nuclear technology. In July 2004, Iran announced the suspension of uranium enrichment as a sign of good faith in negotiations with the European Union. Those negotiations failed to deliver for Iran, and they resumed uranium enrichment early this year. Even so, Iran has offered ideas for resolving the stand-off, including having a French company conduct the enriching process for Iran. There is every reason to think that there are diplomatic solutions to this situation.
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