02 March 2006

Nonsensical Proliferation Panic?

A recent Op-Ed piece from the Jordan Times suggests that non-proliferators are waging a war of panic-laden rhetoric against would-be proliferators. The Jordan Times reports:
Lost somewhere in the mists of history is the knowledge that it was the pro-American shah of Iran who initiated Iran's quest to build a nuclear bomb. And it was the anti-American revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini that initially suspended work on the bomb, from 1972 to 1985.
A slight correction is in order here. The work was not initially halted by the good will of the Khomeni regime, but rather by bombs dropped by Iraqi war planes during the Iran - Iraq war. Work on reactors continued on a minor scale following the 1979 revolution.
Fanning the panic of proliferation has been a mainstay of the Bush administration, supported in the wings by the British government and, more recently, by France's President Jacques Chirac.
So, when Tehran makes statements such as "...the process of enrichment is a sovereign right of any state" and breaks off negotiations, we should assume that this is the panic of proliferation brought on by the west?
It is a high-stakes game that can slide too easily into the call for regime change, as it did with Iraq. Yet current would-be proliferators are arguably not as dead set on proliferating, nor even as advanced in their capabilities, as their antagonists suggest. But unyielding critical rhetoric combined with a lack of incentives to back down seems to only have the effect of making the likes of North Korea and Iran more determined than they ever were. Moreover, today's game overlooks the success of previous policy in persuading countries to give up and unwind their nuclear armaments' plans or stocks of bombs — South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Ukraine and Kazakhstan and, most recently, Libya. This was because the right incentives were put before them.
Uranium enrichment on Russian soil isn't enough of an incentive?
In fact, the Libyan nuclear programme had gone on for many more years than has either the Iranian or North Korean. Despite a great deal of assistance from Pakistan's rogue nuclear weapons entrepreneur, A.Q. Kahn, Libya appeared seriously slowed, if not stalled, by apparently insurmountable difficulties. Iran may well be trying to build nuclear weapons, but it doesn't give the impression of being in a tearing hurry. Its heavy water moderated research reactor will not be online until 2014. Those who have suggested an earlier timetable ignore the slow progress made on completing the Bushehr reactor, a light-water nuclear power reactor initially ordered from Germany in 1975.
Joe Public is being led by the nose on nuclear weapons' policy. It has become nothing more than a political game.
Political game? I don't think so.

Daily Open Post Thanks to Right Wing Nation, The Mudville Gazette, Don Surber, Outside the Beltway, Bloggin' Outloud, Is It Just Me? and Jo's Cafe.

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