Our Advertisers Represent Some Of The Most Unique Products & Services On Earth!


America's Costly Iran
Sterilization Strategy

Terrell E. Arnold

"And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet." Matthew (24:6) was penned at a time when wars were mostly hand-to-hand combat, and the immediate way to avoid harm in battle was to stay off the battlefield. Although even then war was terrible, neither Matthew nor his readers for most of the next two thousand years would know of the terror filled spaces that lie below America's bombers as they deliver "shock and awe" attacks on faceless victims below. Witnessing such attacks, Matthew might well have been moved to say, "Man has usurped powers that belong only to God, and man shall surely pay for it." The end indeed is still to come.
With a biblical tendency to utterances, last week President George W. Bush remarked, "If you're interested in avoiding World War III, you ought to be interested in preventing (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." That remark, however germane it might be, was several decades too late. The knowledge of how to make a weapon is out there and has been for a long time. The actual problem is getting the processing machinery, the raw materials, the technical skills, and the freedom from interference to put it all together. Even if Iran has no intent to make a nuclear weapon, which it resoundingly avers is the truth, it has become the picture book case of the battle between nuclear haves and nuclear have nots. The US strategy for dealing with Iran sounds more and more like sterilization, virtually destroying any capacity the Iranians may have to work with nuclear materials.
Whatever Iran's intentions, it now occupies tier three of a three- tiered nuclear non-proliferation policy: Tier One holds the five powers that developed nuclear weapons after World War II, but before there was any treaty regime to interfere, i.e., the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China, all of whom are mainstays of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Tier Two contains the three nuclear powers, India, Pakistan, and Israel, who mastered the technology more recently and refused to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) that would require them to give up their weapons. Tier Three includes countries such as Iran and North Korea who may have achieved necessary knowledge through the Eisenhower Atoms for Peace program. However, the original nuclear club members are now trying to prevent countries from pursuing the Eisenhower program on the grounds-which have some merit-that the ability to produce low enriched electric power grade nuclear fuel is a linear step toward producing highly enriched fuel for a weapon.
The nuclear genii, goes this argument, is in only one bottle; when it gets out, it is altogether out. Many anti-nuclear advocates subscribe to this view. Their bottom line therefore is that all nuclear programs should be terminated to avoid the risk that anyone would be tempted to make weapons.
Because of the recalcitrance of the original nuclear five, there now seems little prospect that nuclear weapons will be eliminated. Rather, the United States, now leading the retreat from nuclear disarmament, has embarked on a program to produce a "Reliable Replacement Warhead". That means new or materially updated (possibly more powerful) nuclear weapons will enter the US arsenal over the next five to ten years. Ultimately, this implies that the United States will turn its presently active 2,000 warheads into a permanent capacity to destroy the world without any help. If the neo-con supporters of this program have their way, under their Project for a New American Century, the US will manage those weapons with space platforms for delivery or guidance that will make the entire world hostage to American hegemony. That dream would explain why the United States refused to have any review of nuclear weapons reduction on the agenda for the 2005 review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).
While US plans for its own weapons are at the top of Tier One, US- India plans for nuclear collaboration are at the top of Tier Two. Under this arrangement, if it enters into force, the United States and India would work on "peaceful" nuclear projects in one room, while India (not a member of the NPT) uses the knowledge it acquires to add to or upgrade its nuclear arsenal in the next room. Outspoken critics are right in asserting that this agreement would be the end of nuclear nonproliferation.
Since Iranian leaders uniformly assert that Iran has no interest in producing nuclear weapons, one can ask what this discussion has to do with that country. Iran is Tier Three in a nuclear proliferation environment because the ability to refine nuclear fuel for electric power production is the first step toward being able to make a bomb. That is driven by technology, not merely by user intentions. The logical conclusion is that Eisenhower made a well- intentioned but critical mistake by starting Atoms for Peace. He did that to meet what he judged were important political needs of the time. However, over time it has become inescapably clear that control over the nuclear fuel cycle is a potentially dangerous tool in any hands. Simply put, those who master it usually go on to make weapons.
In these terms, the Iran case poses a quandary. The NPT incorporated the idea of Atoms for Peace by permitting member states to master the fuel cycle to provide their own nuclear fuel for purposes of electric power production. The US and its allies, particularly Israel, have sought to deny this privilege to Iran in order to avoid the risk that the next step would be an Iranian bomb. In this respect, Iranian intentions are not as critical as the technological reality that, having mastered the fuel cycle, they could make a bomb if they chose to and devoted necessary resources to it.
We are staring at the tail of the genii as it becomes long gone. But in this case, we face the growing collision between Iranian preferences in this matter and Israel's political ambitions. The United States has bought into Israel's insistence that it retain a nuclear monopoly in the region. That is because, unless forcibly restrained, Israel intends to take the rest of Palestine from its people, and the cost of that ambition is the perpetual resistance of the Palestinians, along with the objections of the Arab countries. Israel's enemies are the direct product of its treatment of the Palestinian people. It needs a nuclear monopoly only because it proposes to continue the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, and it needs a bigger club than anybody else to permit it to continue on this course unchallenged.
Viewed in this frame, planned US nuclear sterilization of Iran is hypocritical in the extreme. The neo-con core of present US leadership, the group around and including Dick Cheney, speaks of Iran as if its first nuclear weapon would signal the end of the world. What it actually would signal is the end of a monopoly that could blow a hole in Israeli ambitions. The chance that Iran would threaten the United States with even a dozen weapons is remote, even given US day-to-day provocations. That it would use one on Israel is equally unlikely because of the obvious consequences. That judgment leads many observers of the situation to conclude that the US/Israeli-touted threat of a nuclear-armed Iran is grossly overblown. Some of the same sober observers suggest, however, that continued US/Israeli threats to Iran-that now include bombing the country virtually back to the Stone Age-could incite the Iranians to react in their own defense.
There is a cumulative illogic about this situation. Today Iran has cause to consider itself under a US military state of siege. The US has an army next door in Iraq that periodically crosses the frontier in pursuit of alleged Iranian enemies; it also can mount air attacks on Iran from bases in Iraq. With US support, the British have now moved forces into the border region with similar objectives. A large portion of the US Navy is now on station in and around the Persian Gulf. If the Iranians did not perceive this to be a potential hair-trigger assault situation, they would not be rational. That they have behaved so coolly in the circumstances is a forceful demonstration of their desire to avoid conflict.
The illogic of the situation expands when we learn that Iranian leadership has made a number of serious approaches to the United States seeking unconditional talks. In the perverse US atmosphere of never talking to declared enemies, there is ample evidence that US leadership has ignored those overtures in favor of its present skewed confrontational posture. Summed up in terms of all the vital US interests in the region, the US posture simply makes no sense, because obvious US interests are not served by it.
Some commentators have asserted that "It is the oil, stupid." However, that makes no sense. To be sure, the United States needs access to world oil supplies. Now importing 60+ percent of its requirements, the US faces prospects of growing dependence on outside sources. That is a mid to long term need depending on how rapidly and thoroughly US users can switch to something other than liquid fuels for transportation. Such oil supplies as are known, however, will be available in world markets because the exporters need the money to sustain their economies. Price, as now, will drive the train, and that depends on what is out there on offer, not on who owns it.
It is worth noting, however, that the oil producer countries of the Caspian Sea region-including Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have recently decided to work together not only on energy matters but also on regional defense. The preemptive style of the United States has helped to drive them in that direction. US treatment of Iran is undoubtedly a big factor in their collective analysis. The US is making similar waves in Latin America with its treatment of Venezuelan leadership.
In essence, mindless catering to Israeli ambitions has forced the United States into an untenable position. The only sure-fire way to maintain Israel's regional nuclear monopoly is to pursue a policy of regional sterilization. That policy, unfortunately, poses the highest cost, highest risk, lowest gain combination for US interests. In an alleged, but untruthful, attempt to eliminate Saddam Hussein's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, the United States has now invested the lives of nearly 4,000 American soldiers, over 20,000 wounded US soldiers, an estimated 200-300,000 long term US casualties likely from depleted uranium poisoning, the deaths of a million Iraqis and displacement of at least four million Iraqis. With all this cost, that struggle has not yet been fought even to a decent draw. Meanwhile, however, Iraqi society that, overall, was in good shape before the US invasion reduced it to rubble, will take decades to recover.
The campaign to sterilize Iran will be far more costly and deadly, but the reality is that it will be equally pointless. At enormous costs, that campaign may severely wound Iranian society and its prospects for the indefinite future. It will achieve that, however, at the additional cost of arousing the already growing animosity of Middle Eastern peoples toward the United States. To that must be added the shredding of any remaining American reputation as a world leader.
Recent meetings of the Caspian Sea littoral states pose additional complications for any US attack on Iran. The language that emerged from meetings of those country representatives earlier this month was polite. Its main thrust, however, was resistance to overbearing US efforts to dominate the region and control its resources. Meanwhile, Russia has indicated, also politely, than an attack on Iran will have serious regional consequences. Those perhaps were best left to the imagination.
Several analysts have argued cogently that the Iraq war will prove to be enormously costly to the alleged principal beneficiaries, the United States and Israel. Where Israel's long-term interests are concerned, the war has virtually wiped out gains in regional acceptance of the state of Israel.
Zionists and their backers among the neo-cons may argue that the Arabs did not accept Israel before, but at least as early as 2002, a Beirut meeting of the Arab League handed Israel a recipe for regional peace. Under the leadership of Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the Arab states collectively put forward a two-state solution. Then newly crowned King Abdullah chaired a meeting of Arab states and the Palestinians in Jeddah in March 2007 during which the 2002 offer was renewed. The Israelis have not responded to this offer and, unfortunately, Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian party Fatah acted very coolly toward it.
Arab states argue that much of the region's problem grows out of the unresolved status of the Palestinian people. Some further argue that US undertaking of the war against Iraq was largely, if not totally, in aid of Israel. That has added more regional hostility. If the United States now attacks Iran, the losers will be the United States, Israel and virtually anybody else with an interest in the region.
The kind of shock and awe attack that appears in US planning stages would do enormous damage to Iran. As the Iraq experience makes amply clear, indiscriminate bombing of Iranian society that is likely to go with allegedly targeted attacks on nuclear and military facilities will do enormous human damage. Moreover, such attacks will leave millions of Iranians prepared to do battle with US invaders. In addition, Iranian support for terrorism that has been confined to support for the Palestinians or Hezbollah in Lebanon is unlikely to be so confined after a direct attack. Instead of the few million enemies the attacks in Iraq have generated, the US will create tens of millions of new enemies in Iran. Such attacks will also arouse widespread Islamic support for Iran, a support that normal Shia-Sunni differences materially limits in ordinary times.
The bottom line is that a US sterilization attack against Iran is likely to render the entire region highly toxic. An effort to preserve Israel's nuclear monopoly by preventing Iranian achievement of nuclear power will simply blow up in America's face. With luck, the US attacks will curtail Iranian movement toward nuclear status by several years. However, those attacks are likely to increase Iranian determination to master the nuclear fuel cycle as well as actively to seek nuclear weapons. The sad truth is that more countries will seek to acquire nuclear weapons so long as the present Tier One and Tier Two nuclear power regimes exist. The United States cannot sterilize Iran except at the expense of greatly destabilizing the region while increasing the small state search for nuclear security.
The writer is the author of the recently published work, A World Less Safe, now available on Amazon, and he is a regular columnist on rense.com. He is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer of the US Department of State whose immediate pre-retirement positions were as Chairman of the Department of International Studies of the National War College and as Deputy Director of the State Office of Counter Terrorism and Emergency Planning. He will welcome comment at wecanstopit@charter.net


This Site Served by TheHostPros