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Old Monday, January 30, 2006
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Default Iran's nuclear Defiance

Iran's nuclear defiance

Ghani Jafar

Pakistan clearly has its plate full both within the country and in relation to any number of areas involving bilateral and international relations. From the devastating earthquake, the situation in Balochistan and controversy over water reservoirs to the US air assault on Bajaur and talk of peace with India, the daily fare is providing us with an unusually high dose of concern and anxiety.

Nevertheless, one issue fast hotting up right next door, the aggravating impasse over Iran's nuclear programme, has come to be neglected in public discourse due to our current preoccupations. It seems that little known to us, the Iranian revolution, far from expending itself over the last quarter-century, is all set to exercise its most fundamental and far-reaching impact on the post-Second World War global order.

The crux of the matter here lies in Tehran's unrelenting challenge to the scheme of things as worked out between themselves by the victors of the War. At the core of this international order is the primacy accorded to themselves by the so-called 'Big Five' (the US, Russia, China, France and the UK), most crucially in the form of permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council which comes with the unbridled power of vetoing any resolution.

The same arrangement of their lording over the world subsequently came to be formalised in the realm of nuclear weapon capability as well through the adoption of the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) in 1970. While according legitimacy to the arsenals of the 'Big Five', the treaty barred the remaining members of the international community from acquiring such weapons. That, however, was not the ultimate objective of the NPT.

The purpose of the agreement was the total elimination of nuclear weapons all over the world. Conversely, all member states were to be equally entitled to peaceful use of nuclear technology. A global watchdog in the form of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had already existed (since 1957) "to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies".

The 'Big Five' were, however, to consistently make a mockery of both declarations. The first dimension of the undertaking involved that they not only get rid of their own weapons but also indiscriminately prevent all other countries from acquiring nuclear capability. They have flouted each of those conditions without compunction. While they have continued to bolster their respective nuclear arsenals, one of more of them have also actively helped their lackey states develop the weapon over the 36 years since the NPT came into force.

With reference to the right bestowed by the NPT on the entire international community to make full use of nuclear technology for non-war purposes, again power politics rather than adherence to the treaty's obligations has characterised the conduct of the 'Big Five'. The Iranian case, in a nutshell, is an outcome of this latter aspect. And that is precisely the premise Tehran seems determined to lock horns with through the exercise of its sovereign and equal right to develop and employ indigenous means to muster nuclear technology for the peaceful purpose of power generation.

What then is all the fuss about? Shorn of the technical details, the issue in its essence is that the United States -- fully backed by the two West European permanent members of the UN Security Council, Britain and France, with Germany tagging along for good measure -- is simply not prepared to let Iran acquire those means to make peaceful use of nuclear technology. The grounds for the western opposition are entirely frivolous: that such a capability would enable Tehran to further develop the technology and make the bomb. Utter nonsense.

Iran is not only a signatory to the NPT but has, ever since the western powers' espousal of their fears of its secret nuclear programme based on dubious intelligence reports some three years ago, has fully cooperated with the IAEA which has conducted frequent inspections of relevant sites and facilities. The nuclear watchdog has have found no evidence of Iran being involved in anything other than its oft-repeated peaceful intent. Undeterred by the absence of any tangible case against Iran, the western powers continue to up the heat on Tehran. Israel and its sympathisers in the United States are at the forefront of this campaign, advocating once again the folly of an armed attack on Iran despite the misadventure in Iraq, where similarly cooked-up pretexts of involvement in international terrorism and pursuit of nuclear weapons were advanced a short three years ago.

It is in this context pertinent to also take a passing look at some of the specifics in the case of Iran. As already pointed out, there is no justification whatsoever for any punitive action against Iran either through the UN Security Council or outside of it by any country or group of countries. The new position taken by some western powers of throwing the onus of innocence on the nuclear question over to Iran is as preposterous as the IAEA's bogey of the country's 'parallel' nuclear programme.

Secondly, the random application of the tag of 'evil' or 'terrorist' on any country by the United States proves nothing. On the contrary, not a single Iranian government functionary, or even a citizen for that matter, has ever been found involved in any activity that could conceivably fall under any of the many definitions of 'terrorism' as applied by the West. If anything, Iran, quite on its own and most expeditiously, has undertaken to dispatch back to their respective countries an undisclosed number of Arabs that could possibly subscribe to the al-Qaeda creed.

Last but not least, Iran is the only country in the entire Middle Eastern region with a robust democracy. Regardless of whatever internal political differences that may currently exist in the country, the nation is one on claiming its due right to develop an indigenous nuclear programme for peaceful purposes.

As is true of the genesis of any number of other contemporary global issues agitating the western world -- Iraq, Afghanistan, al-Qaeda and the Taliban -- the irony here as well is that none other than the United States can take credit for the initiation of Iran's nuclear programme in 'the good old' days of the Shah.

All said and done, what makes Iran and its nuclear programme so undesirable to western powers? The answer lies in the fact that the country's leadership has, since the triumph of the revolution, had the gumption of taking on a fundamental pillar of the legacy left by former European colonial powers, right in the Muslim heartland, in the form of Israel.

In the context of Iran's nuclear programme, whatever implications Tehran's open challenge to Tel Aviv may or may not come to exercise, it has for the first time brought into sharp focus the real threat to regional peace and security posed by Israel's nuclear arsenal. This has not only highlighted the West's complicity in the matter but has also graphically exposed the policy of duplicity in the field of nuclear non-proliferation.

Thanks to the stand taken by Iran, Israel's Arab neighbours as well as Turkey have felt encouraged to come out openly in pointing out the double standards of the West on this score. At the same time, the Iranian crisis has also brought to the fore certain other dimensions of the western pick-and-choose approach toward nuclear matters. Prime among them is the agreement arrived at last year by the United States with India to help the latter develop the peaceful dimension of its nuclear programme, even though it is not a signatory to the NPT.

The regional perspective of the Iranian nuclear debate requires separate treatment that is best left to a subsequent occasion. Suffice it to say for now that the creation of Israel and the bestowing of a formidable nuclear prowess upon it are as basic to the post-War order in this part of the world as is the permanent composition of the UN Security Council with regard to the world at large. Need one repeat how the current Iranian defiance hits at the very roots of this arbitrary scheme of things?
[COLOR=Blue][B]The best way to predict the future is to invent it[/B][/COLOR]
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