Just Wanna Be A Player

So Iran has nuclear ambitions. Meh. So what? The way I see it, they just wanna be players on the world stage. They want to be called a nuclear power. India did it and look at how that worked out for them. Pakistan has ‘em. Unconfirmedly, so does Israel. So what’s the big deal?

I’ll tell you what the big deal is: Iran is a Islamic nation whose leadership has no qualms about telling the U.S. where to stick it. They feel that if they become a nuclear (nucular?) power, they will have the same bargaining power that India was able to yield back when Bush visited them. Let’s imagine for a minute that they’re lying through their Arab teeth. What happens next?

Well, if you’re the Whitehouse and the Pentagon, you get scared. Very scared. The last thing we need, according to them, is a hostile Islamic country with the ability to create nuclear warheads. Couple that fear with Tuesday’s announcement that Iran has successfully enriched uranium and you can see why the Pentagon has drawn up plans that include the use of tactical nukes. According to Seymour Hersh, these are not just your run-of-the-mill contingency plans either. They are very detailed to the point of assigning targets as well as supposedly having “regular military guys” already on the ground in Iran collecting intelligence. If one were to ponder the recent past, you’d almost think they were talking about Iraq with the planning for a pre-emptive strike already well in the works. The Hersh article, which is to be published in the April 17th New Yorker Magazine, indicates that the Joint Chiefs have also been pushing to get President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to pull the nuclear option off the table, but as has been stated numerous times by the administration “all options are on the table.” This, if true, presents an even scarier situation than Iraq ever was. The use of a bunker-busting, tactical nuclear bomb would, as Hersh puts it, “create chaos in the region.”

Now, let’s flip this scenario on its head for a minute. What if Iran’s claims are true? That it is only pursuing this technology for peaceful uses? What then? According to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (wiki), or NPT, of which Iran is a signatory, they have the right to utilize uranium enrichment to be used as fuel for nuclear reactors. Specifically, it is the third pillar of the NPT that authorizes this (my concern highlighted in bold):

Third pillar: the right to peacefully use nuclear technology

Since very few of the nuclear weapons states and states using nuclear reactions for energy generation are willing to completely abandon possession of nuclear fuel, the third pillar of the NPT provides other states with the possibility to do the same, but under conditions intended to make it difficult to develop nuclear weapons.For some states, this third pillar of the NPT, which allows uranium enrichment for fuel reasons, seems to be a major loophole. However, the treaty gives every state the inalienable right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and as the commercially popular light water reactor nuclear power station designs use enriched uranium fuel, it follows that states must be allowed to enrich uranium or purchase it on an international market. Peaceful uranium enrichment can arguably be considered a small step away from developing nuclear warheads, and this can be done by withdrawing from the NPT. No state is known to have successfully constructed a nuclear weapon in secret while subjected to NPT inspection. However, according to many sources, Israel has succeeded in developing over two hundred nuclear warheads without having been questioned or investigated by the UN Security Council.

Countries that have signed the treaty as Non-Nuclear Weapons States and maintained that status have an unbroken record of not building nuclear weapons. In some regions, the fact that all neighbors are verifiably free of nuclear weapons reduces any pressure individual states might feel to build those weapons themselves, even if neighbors are known to have peaceful nuclear energy programs that might otherwise be suspicious. In this, the treaty works as designed.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear regulatory body, has said that if they wanted to, forty countries could develop nuclear bombs.

So that makes me wonder why we are being so damn hard-nosed with Iran about this. Even though we are “pursuing a diplomatic solution”, shouldn’t we be a little less of a jackass toward Iran? Nation-states, similar to people, can only take so many demands by another–in this case, the US demanding Iran suspend its uranium enrichment program, before the gloves come off and they refuse to play nice in the sandbox anymore (no pun intended).

I’m not saying that I know one way or the other which way Iran is heading with their enrichment program, but I will say this: The mere suggestion of using tactical nukes in an already unfavorable, unstable region will spell chaos for the US as well as the rest of the Middle East. In fact, it can be pretty much guaranteed that if we use them, others could very well use them on us. And that is a future we don’t want realized.

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