Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam analyses the Iran nuclear imbroglio and comes to the conclusion that Iran is not the nuclear pariah, but someone else 

Over the last few months we have seen too much of ill-will over Iran’s perfectly legitimate bid to develop an indigenous nuclear fuel cycle technology for peaceful purposes.

 This, as I have asserted already, is a perfectly legitimate activity that is in consonance with the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of which Iran is a signatory. This fact was also presented before the UN General Assembly last month by the Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinijad at the Millennium Development Goals summit. 

The NPT does not require that a signatory country should not enrich uranium, because it is not done for making weapons alone. It is used for electricity production, medical application and propulsion of submarines and agriculture. It is also a cleaner source of large-scale electricity generation than coal, although the storage of spent nuclear fuel remains a major problem for even the five declared nuclear weapons powers. 

In what is clearly a replay of Iraq’s non-existent WMDs, which became an excuse for an illegal invasion and occupation of that hapless country even without the fig leaf of UN support. By now the spin masters have changed the WMD pretext to war against terror, despite the fact that Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime was antithetical to groups like at-Qaeda, nor was it involved in terrorist activity.

 The only case against Iran is that the US does not want it to have its own nuclear technology. Several countries which have nuclear power plants do not enrich their uranium but buy enriched uranium from a small group of suppliers: the United States, UK, France, Russia, Holland and Japan. This turns out to be costly and also develops a dangerous dependence on others who can suddenly stop supplies to blackmail or put pressure on the buyer as happened in the case of India following the first Pokhran tests.

 As I have noted in my recent press statements following India’s vote in favour of US high-handed policy on Iran, the US stance is illogical and immoral, and supporting it blindly is morally untenable. For India a pro-US vote is even more disturbing because India has always been taken as one of the leaders of NAM who would never be expected to support such a clearly unjust demand of the super power of our time. 

Although the External Affairs Ministry tried to unconvincingly claim that India’s vote actually “helped” Iran by postponing reference of the case to the UN Security Council, nobody really seemed to buy it, including the Indian political class. The Communist parties openly criticised this apparent pandering to unfair US demands which made India look like a banana republic. This also did not go well with India’s claim to create a supposed “multi-polar world”, with China and Russia as the other poles. The other two did maintain their independent status by staying away from the vote. Now we are being told that in November vote India will take a more independent (and pro-Iran) stance.

 It is illuminating to consider here a few facts. First, the case of Brazil, which has two nuclear power plants and used to send out its nuclear fuel for enrichment to the small group of suppliers mentioned earlier in this article. That created too much dependence on others for a vital need like power generation. Besides, it was turning out to be costly.

 Brazil decided to enrich its uranium, thus overcoming dependence on others. Last year, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) gave Brazil the signal to go ahead with uranium enrichment although it had objected to IAEA inspections on the ground that it did not want its enrichment technology to be leaked to others for imitation. This is exactly what Iran has been trying to do. 

Secondly, we have to keep in mind that the IAEA has clearly stated that it has found no evidence of Iran producing nuclear weapons. Despite evidence to the contrary, America has vaguely threatened to take military action, saying no option has been foreclosed. It has gone to the extent of declaring it would use nuclear weapons in a “preventive war”. That possibly is meant to browbeat the Iranians in a psychological war. In the same category fall periodic leaks of planned Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear installations (like Israeli attack on Iraqi reactors two decades ago). An impression is created that Israel has got a green signal from America to go ahead when the time comes. 

On the other hand, the fact remains that it is not Iran, which is the real offender, but the United States itself. The NPT went into effect in 1970 and has been signed by 188 countries. The objection against Iran enriching its uranium does not come from NPT obligations but from the business interests of enriched-uranium selling countries, which don’t want their control on the profitable business to be loosened. 

The actual threat comes from America which has already used nuclear bombs in the World War II and nuclear bullets in the two Iraq wars. The threat also comes from its decision to use such weapons in the next theatre of war. 

At the 2000 NPT conference, the US, along with other signatory nations, agreed on 13 specific commitments to disarmament, including nuclear weapons testing. Soon the US pulled out of it, saying it would not abide by them. Earlier, the US had withdrawn form Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. It has not done anything to honour the NPT obligation of gradual elimination of nuclear weapons to achieve the ultimate goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world. On the contrary, it has kept developing and testing new nuclear weapons. 

America has also not done anything to follow-up on an Arab initiative to make the Middle East nuclear-weapon free. America has been supporting Israeli nuclear weapons while preventing Arabs from making them. The current face-off with Iran is of a similar nature. It is not Iran which is the villain, but America itself.g