Iran and North Korea standoff: US policy on NPT is in tatters

Abid Mustafa

Posted Dec 26, 2006      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
Bookmark and Share

Iran and North Korea standoff: US policy on NPT is in tatters

By Abid Mustafa

On 23/12/06 the UN Security Council voted unanimously to impose sanction
against Iran’s nuclear programme. The key aspects of the resolution were a)
Ban on import and export of nuclear-related material and b) Assets frozen of
10 companies and 12 individuals. Although the resolution was passed under
Chapter 7 Article 41, which renders enforcement obligatory there was no
mention of military force in the event of Iran’s non-compliance with demands
stipulated by the UNSC.

The resolution was passed after it had been considerably watered down from
its initial draft. Both Russia and China objected to key points in the
resolution drafted by the EU-3, as Moscow and Beijing manoeuvred to protect
their commercial interests in Iran. But there are a couple of factors that
has motivated the two erstwhile enemies to band together and stand firm
against the US. First, both countries perceive Ahmadinejad to be acting
independently from the US and this has spurred them on to engage Iran. This
is despite the fact that most of Iran’s institutions and instruments of
power are firmly in the hands of American agents through which the US
secures its foreign policy goals in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and
Afghanistan. The US has further weakened Ahmadinejad by bolstering the
credentials of Khatami and Rafsanjani in the Assembly of Experts and the
Municipal elections. But none of this has lessened Moscow and Beijing’s
enthusiasm to embrace Ahmadinejad. Second, Russia and China do not want to
appear as frightened spectators, as they were in the run up to the gulf war
in 2003. Today, both countries sense that America has been weakened by its
occupation in Iraq and want to make the prospect of attacking Iran as
difficult as possible.

From the EU’s perspective they had little choice, but to draft the
resolutions as it was a condition imposed on the EU-3 in return for US
supporting half-hearted economic incentives to placate Tehran in exchange
for halting uranium enrichment. As far as the Bush administration is
concerned, America’s security is inextricably linked to Israel’s security,
and as long as Bush is under the influence of the Israeli lobby and the
neoconservatives, Bush is reluctant to soften its stance on Iran’s nuclear
programme.  Speaking on this matter the Under Secretary of State Nicholas
Burns said, “We don’t think this resolution is enough in itself. We want to
let the Iranians know that there is a big cost to them.”

Nevertheless, the dismissal of Rumsfeld and Bolton, and the selection of
Gates as the new secretary of defence, signals that an intense debate
between realists and neoconservatives is underway over Tehran’s nuclear
programme. On 7/12/06 during his Senate confirmation, Gates mentioned why
Iran might be seeking the means to build an atomic bomb: “They are
surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons: Pakistan to their east, the
Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west and us in the Persian
Gulf.”. The admission by Gates that Israel is in possession of nuclear
weapons is an attempt to shift the debate amongst US policy makers that the
nuclear issue should be made part of the comprehensive settlement of the
Middle East. Unless the US includes Israel as part of a nuclear free Middle
East; other countries in the region will want to become nuclear. The GCC
countries have already made their intentions known.

As for the six party talks regarding North Korea’s nuclear programme, they
were destined to fail from the outset. This is because America is adamant
not to lift economic sanction imposed on Pyongyang. The Bush administration
believes these that the financial sanctions will eventually cripple Kim’s
regime. Furthermore the US is doing its utmost to eschew the signing of
security pact with North Korea, and this is further complicating matter
between the two countries. Again the US wants to reserve the option of
applying military force to change North Korea’s behaviour.

For North Korea the removal of financial sanctions and security pledges are
essential before Pyongyang rescinds its nuclear weapons programme. Unless
America is prepared to compromise tactically on these issues it is almost
inevitable that Pyongyang will conduct another atomic test to coerce the US
to make some concessions.

To sum up the US has not only failed to curb the nuclear ambitions of Iran
and North Korea, but has also made the world a dangerous place to live in.
By signing a nuclear deal with India in violation of the NPT and not lifting
a finger to reign in Israel’s atomic weapons, more and more countries will
follow Iran and North Korea in a bid to nuclearize. Thanks to the Bush
administration, America now stands on the verge of becoming the worlds
biggest proliferate of nuclear technology.

Abid Mustafa is a political commentator who specialises in Muslim affairs