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Nukes in the US Protectorate of Iraq?

Iran Looks to Its West and Says: I Don’t Think So

by RON JACOBS

In one more instance of duplicity and hypocrisy as regards the US plans for Iraq, Undersecretary of State John Bolton stated June 8, 2004 that Iraq could one day build nuclear power plants. Although that day is, in Bolton’s words "a ways down the road," it could happen once things settled down there. When that will be is anyone’s guess, of course, but that won’t stop the nuclear industry from salivating over more taxpayer dollars going into their pockets.

Bolton’s statement was provided to the press during an interview at the recent G8 summit in Georgia, USA-a summit that spent an inordinate amount of time discussing the current situation in Iraq and condemning the government of northern Korea for its refusal to bend to the will of these self-appointed world leaders in their continuing endeavor aimed at shutting down that country’s nuclear program. Adding further irony to Bolton’s statement are the ongoing attempts by Washington to force the nuclear watchdog agency-the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)-to condemn Iran’s nuclear program. According to Washington, Iran has no need for nuclear power because of its oil wealth. The hypocrisy of this statement, especially as regards Bolton’s projection regarding Iraq’s future nuclear energy possibilities, is the fact of Iraq’s oil fields. Why, one must ask, would Iraq need nuclear energy with its oil wealth if Iran’s oil wealth is the very reason why that country does not need such a program?

Perhaps the answer to this question starts at the bank. Who stands to make money from any potential nuclear energy program in John Bolton’s "new" (read subdued and compliant to Washington) Iraq? Although no contracts for such a program have been offered, one can reasonably anticipate that the US involvement in any such program would be great. One can further anticipate that the corporations standing to make the most money off any such contracts would be the same group that has exported nuclear power plants to several other nations around the world. That list of corporations includes Westinghouse and General Electric-two of America’s largest war profiteers. Other supplementary contracts could go to Halliburton and Bechtel. As any newsreader knows, one or both of these latter two companies are up to their necks in virtually every bit of war and skullduggery that has taken place in the Middle East at least since Reagan’s presidency.

In 1981, Israel destroyed an Iraqi nuclear power plant in a bombing raid. In recent months, Tel Aviv has threatened to do the same to Iran. Iran has, of course, warned Israel not to do such a thing, but today’s Middle East is somewhat different that the Middle East of 1981. Indeed, in 1981, the US joined the rest of the UN Security Council in a resolution condemning the Israeli raid and calling for Israel to open its nuclear plants to inspection. Today, the US is occupying Iraq after invading that country without UN approval and Israel has yet to open its nuclear program to international inspectors. In addition, it is general knowledge that Israel is the only nation in the Middle East with nuclear weapons. This knowledge has done nothing to diminish US support of Tel Aviv. In fact, the two capitals are closer to each other than ever.

As I write this, the IAEA is meeting. The number one item on their agenda is Iran’s nuclear energy program. This is despite Iran’s insistence that it has not violated any elements of the Non Proliferation Treaty and has even agreed to extra inspections and protocols to prove its cooperation with the treaty and the IAEA. It is fair to assume that the priority given to the Iranian program is due to US pressure (and indirectly, Israeli pressure). Unfortunately for the world, the continued pressure on Iran has stiffened its resolve in recent weeks. If there were similar pressure on Israel to divulge its nuclear weapons activities, perhaps Iran (and northern Korea) would be more compliant to the IAEA’s requests. As it stands however, Tehran believes that there is nothing that it can do to satisfy Washington short of dismantling the entire program. Consequently, we are likely to see Iran step up its nuclear program. Indeed, statements from Tehran have hinted that Iranian scientists plan to restart their enrichment program (which they had voluntarily suspended) unless Washington stops its harassment and threats.

Of course, Tehran refuses to consider such a move. Indeed, given recent historical events vis-à-vis Iran’s neighbor Iraq, Tehran probably figures that if they were to agree to Washington’s demands, it would only encourage DC to demand more from them, eventually weakening the regime to such a point that Washington would send in its army to finish them off. After all, isn’t that what happened to Iraq? Invasion, sanctions, and another invasion? The lesson Iran learned from the US war on Iraq is that Washington is not interested in compromise, only conquering. Then, after the conquest comes what Washington terms reconstruction. The events of the past year in Iraq have illustrated Washington’s interpretation of that word all too clearly. Consequently, we are likely to see Iran step up its nuclear program. Indeed, statements from Tehran have hinted that Iranian scientists plan to restart their enrichment program (which they had voluntarily suspended) unless Washington stops its harassment and threats. Given the current climate in DC, that scenario seems quite unlikely. At this point, the question is not about supporting or opposing the theocrats in Tehran, but about opposing the US’ determination to get its way no matter what the consequences.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is being republished by Verso.

He can be reached at: rjacobs@zoo.uvm.edu