IAEA, MAD, the US and Iran


Today’s world grows ever more scary. If we are to believe the men and women in Washington, DC, the reasons for this fear come from abroad. Specifically, they come from various countries and movements based in the Middle East, the Korean Peninsula, South Asia, and Latin America. In other words, wherever someone is contesting the US assumption that it should rule the planet, there is something to fear. Of course, to the rest of the world, the primary reason for humanity’s fearsome state lies with Washington’s assumption that it has the right to make such a claim.

One battleground (in the fundamental sense of the word) for this difference of opinion is in Iraq, where people die every day as a result of this struggle. Other battlegrounds where words are the current preferred weaponry include Iran and northern Korea. In both of these countries, the fight is over their rights to conduct nuclear research and develop nuclear weapons under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Beyond the specifics of the treaty itself is the question of self-defense. In a world where one nation has more military power than all the rest of the nations combined, the ability to threaten the use of nuclear weapons is a pragmatic and effective defense. One does not have to approve of this strategy to acknowledge that it not only makes strategic sense, it is also effective in the short run at keeping an aggressor nation at bay. In case the reader is wondering, the United States would be the aggressor nation in the cases under discussion.

Recently, Iran has undergone a series of inspections from the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) regarding its nuclear program. Although the overwhelming reports back to the IAEA from their inspections teams have indicated that Iran is adhering to the various protocols it agreed to under the NPT the US continues to challenge those assertions. As if to prove its intentions to cooperate with the IAEA, Iran even agreed to an additional protocol requested by the IAEA. According to an IAEA press release of May 21, 2004, this protocol is designed to “provide broader information about Iran’s nuclear and nuclear-related activities and will facilitate the IAEA’s assessment of the correctness and completeness of the information already provided by Iran on its past and present nuclear activities.” Unfortunately, Washington has chosen to ignore this move by Iran and has instead restarted its campaign of disinformation and half-truths aimed at discrediting and isolating Iran prior to the next meeting of the IAEA Governing Council, where Iran’s compliance is on the agenda. (Additional note: On June 1, 2004, the IAEA website (http://www.iaea.or.at/) reported that, “The head of the UN nuclear monitoring agency said today that his inspectors have found no clear proof of a military dimension to Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear energy.”)

In all of this, it is extremely important to remember that we are not talking about Iranian nuclear weapons, but about Iranian nuclear energy. While it might be reasonable to assume that Iran would like to possess nuclear weapons if for no other reason than that some of its enemies possess them, most notably the US and Israel, at this point Iran’s nuclear program is one devoted to the production of energy for its people. This is more than can be said about the nuclear programs in Israel, Pakistan, or India. As anyone who pays attention to the news knows, all three of these governments have active nuclear weapons programs. However, none of them are considered to enemies of the United States or its bulldog in the Middle East–Israel.

If one wants to look for a reason as to why the US insists on the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program they need look no further than the last sentence of the previous paragraph. Israel and the United States will not rest until they have control over the use of nuclear power of any kind in the Middle Eastern/South Asian part of the world. The Pakistani and Indian governments have accepted this for now and, after Pakistan’s President Musharraf fired and punished the scientist who was in charge of his government’s bombmaking program. Unfortunately for Iran, in terms of its nuclear program at least, its government ranks very high on Washington and Tel Aviv’s enemies list. Consequently, it will continue to be challenged by Washington in the IAEA and elsewhere. Let’s hope that these challenges remain verbal and never become military. If the latter did occur, most indicators point to an extremely bloody confrontation.

I do not support the current government in Iran. If one wants to investigate the hijacking of a popular left-leaning revolution, they would do well to study the events in Iran during the years from 1979 to around 1983. What could have been a truly popular and emancipatory government to replace the previous authoritarian state became instead a theocratic tyranny. Instead of being subjected to the made-in-the-USA police state of the Shah after their revolution, the Iranian people found themselves the victims of a fundamentalist regime intent on remaking the country according to its reactionary reading of the Koran. They replaced one tyranny for another. The language of oppression changed, but the daily reality did not.

Despite my distaste for the current regime in Tehran (and for nuclear power), they have the right to pursue their nuclear program, even though it might increase the danger in the region. As a people who have been under the threat of war with Israel and the United States since 1979, the mere threat of them possessing nuclear weapons potentially prevents an outbreak of hostilities with either of their adversaries. The Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union proved to the world that in a nuclear environment, the best defense is the ability to destroy your enemy without ever actually being called on to do so. Strategists called this hideous policy Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD. As has been said before, only madmen would have designed such a policy. We are forced to live with it. The alternative-a world where only one power has this destructive capability-seems much worse.

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.ed


Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He has a new book, titled Nowhere Land: Journeys Through a Broken Nation coming out in Spring 2024.   He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com