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Nuclear Duplicity

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Exceprt from George Monbiot at the Guardian:

Those who maintain that Iran’s purposes are peaceful clutch at the National Intelligence Estimate published by the US government in November. While it judged that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons programme in 2003, it saw the country’s civilian uranium programme as a means of developing “technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so”. The latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency notes that no fissile material has been diverted from Iran’s stocks, but raises grave questions about some of the documents it has found, which suggest research into bomb-making (Iran says the papers are forgeries). Those of us who oppose an attack on Iran are under no obligation to accept Ahmadinejad’s claims of peaceful intent.

Nor do we have to accept the fictions of our own representatives. The security council’s offer to Iran claimed that resolving this enrichment issue would help to bring about a “Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction”. But like every other such document, it made no mention of the principal owner of weapons in the region: Israel. According to a leaked briefing by the US Defence Intelligence Agency, Israel possesses between 60 and 80 nuclear bombs. But none of the countries demanding that Iran scraps the weapons it doesn’t yet possess are demanding that Israel destroys the weapons it does possess.

This subject is the great political taboo. Neither Brown nor Obama mentioned it last week. The US intelligence agencies provide a biannual report to Congress on the weapons of mass destruction developed by foreign states, which covers Iran, North Korea, India, Pakistan and others, but not Israel. During a parliamentary debate in March the British defence minister Bob Ainsworth was asked whether he thought that Israel’s nuclear weapons are “a destabilising factor” in the Middle East. “My understanding,” he replied, “is that Israel does not acknowledge that it has nuclear weapons.” Does Mr Ainsworth really buy this nonsense? If so, can we have a new minister? If Iran builds a bomb, it will do so for one reason: that there is already a nuclear-armed state in the Middle East, by which it feels threatened.

But we make the rules and we break them. The non-proliferation treaty (NPT) obliges the five official nuclear states, of which the UK is one, to work towards “general and complete disarmament”. On Friday, the Guardian published the notes for a speech made last year by a senior civil servant, which suggested that the decision to replace the UK’s nuclear missiles had already been made, in secret and without parliamentary scrutiny. Since then defence ministers have told the Commons on five occasions that the decision has not yet been made. They appear to have misled the House.

At the Geneva conference on disarmament in February, one delegate pointed out that the “chances of eliminating nuclear weapons will be enhanced immeasurably” if non-nuclear states can see “planning, commitment and action toward multilateral nuclear disarmament by nuclear weapon states” like the UK. If the nuclear states “are failing to fulfil their disarmament obligations”, other nations would use this as an excuse for maintaining their weapons. Who was this firebrand? Des Browne, the secretary of state for defence. A man of the same name is failing to fulfil our disarmament obligations.

Irancove @ July 30, 2008

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