Columns / Discourse / May 26, 2010

World Politics Corner: You are either with US, or we’ll sanction you: the nuclear double standard

“Let he who hath not sinned…”

1945, World War II ends in Japan with the nuclear massacres at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since then the world has declared the A-bomb an inhumane weapon that should never be in the “wrong hands”. Today it means Iran. But who was it that dropped the Fat Man and Little Boy all those decades ago?

It seems particularly interesting that the only country to ever have used a nuclear bomb is the same country to denounce it so thoroughly. Whether or not the two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justified as a means to an end is not at question. The question is whether this anti-A-bomb attitude is in fact enforced on all countries.

History Check

Iran’s ambitions for nuclear power (and alleged weaponry) are not unprecedented. North Korea is nowhere near the beginning of nuclear ambitions in Asia, let alone the world. By why is there all this trouble of specifically Iran and North Korea having them if other nations have them?

Britain was the third country in the world (after the US and Soviet Union) to develop and test nuclear weapons in 1952. The technology was basically given to them by the US, and there were no repercussions for the Brits.

France developed its own arsenal and tested a bomb in 1960. Of course were given no sanctions. In 2006 then French President Jaques Chirac vowed that any terrorist attack would be avenged with a nuclear counterattack. But no one raised an eyebrow to that. Well except maybe the innocent Afghani Civilians…

So far it seems like an Allied forces nuclear share. In reality the US has always had a problem with nuclear weapons being in the Middle East/Asian areas.

China attained nuclear power in 1964. China was also the only nuclear state to adopt a “no first use” policy, meaning they would only use nuclear weapons if attacked with nuclear weapons first. So far they have stuck to that policy. The purpose for the weapons was to act as a deterrent to both the US and the USSR.

India had just come off a war with China and left helpless by its ally the Soviet Union, when they decided the A-bomb technology would be a great deterrent. The US was completely against India’s desires for Atomic weapons. What happened? Sanctions, of course.

Pakistan sought nuclear weapons, with the help of China, after they received information that India was doing so. The US placed sanctions.

By now it should be clear the US nuclear sanctions are usually obsolete in this regard.

South Africa sought nuclear weapons, and actually tested one, but disbanded the program. The Vela incident in 1979 was rumored to be a joint test between Israel and South Africa. But we’ll get to that later.

Now we have one undeclared but very well known nuclear power. Israel has been rumored to have nuclear weapons since 1979 which would make them the 6th country in the world to attain Nuclear weaponry. In 1986 Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli former nuclear technician, disclosed the inner workings of the Dimona Nuclear Plant to Britain’s the Sunday Times and was jailed in Israel for 18 years. US intelligence agencies and photographs taken from planes have confirmed weapons building plants and reactors, although Israel still refuses to answer whether or not they have nuclear weapons. It is called the policy of “Ambiguity.” Of course Israel received no punishments or diplomatic upheaval.

The Iranian Threat

Aside from the allied forces having their nuclear weapons, any other nation has been seen as a threat if possessing nuclear weapons. These “threatening countries” have never used a bomb to date; unlike the one country leading the way for a nuclear free world everywhere but her country.

What is it about Iran that makes it a nuclear threat more so than say, France?

Iran is ruled in a parliamentary system of democracy and has had a history of fair and transparent elections for most of its life as a democracy (the only exception was this last election).

Iran has a religious leader (Ayatollah Khameini) at the head above the democratically elected president. But the president Mahmoud Ahmedinijad has said nuclear weapons are against Islam, so there is no religious fundamental extremism need for nuclear weapons.

Iran is against an Israeli state. Could nuclear weapons be used on Israel? Highly unlikely. No Arab nation has directly interfered or fought with Israel since 1967 in the Six Days war. In 2006 when Israel fought in Lebanon, it was fighting Hezbollah, not the Lebanese government.

It is clear to anyone that if a nation were to attack Israel they would have to deal with the United States on top of Israel’s sophisticated military machine. Iran could not win a war with Israel let alone the United States. The Iranian leader is realist diplomatically.

Iran’s Realism

The main source of problems with Iran’s nuclear program is the enrichment of uranium. Technically this enrichment is allowed under the Non-Proliferation Treaty if used for peaceful purposes. So far there is no evidence in Iran that the uranium would be used for weaponry.

The US has claimed off the bat that this is Iran’s attempt to get nuclear powers although Iran denies it. For some reason it is alright for Israel to deny what has already been proven, and Iran can’t deny what hasn’t been proven.

Now to quell fears, Turkey and Brazil offered to exchange fuel for some of Iran’s enriched uranium to prove they are just looking to fuel reactors and not make weapons.

This has been accomplished. Iran handed over half of its enriched uranium (1,200 kilograms- enough to make an A-bomb), in exchange for the fuel it needs. The uranium was low-enriched; to make a nuclear weapon it needed to be highly enriched.

Logically, if Iran needed that uranium to make an A-bomb, wouldn’t it have kept the uranium? It already has China to fall back on should the new sanctions take effect.

Despite this achievement- pushed for by Iran- the US is still looking towards sanctions.

Well how did the US react to the other nuclear development?

South Africa and Israel

It had been rumored in the 1970’s and 80’s that Israel and Apartheid South Africa were making deals for nuclear warheads. Sunday, The United Kingdom’s The Guardian Newspaper obtained documents explaining Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, and his South African counterpart PW Botha were in the negotiations process to give South Africa “three sizes” of weapons; “sizes” meaning conventional, chemical and nuclear weapons.

Sasha Polakow-Suransky, an American academic, found the documents while conducting research for a book, according to The Guardian.

This find has not only reconfirmed that Israel is a nuclear power, but shows that Israel did not object to spreading nuclear weapons and profiting from them. Israel has denied the legitimacy of the documents.

“Israel will obviously come out and deny this evidence and label anyone who takes it seriously as being anti-Semites,” Allister Sparks, a political commentator and former editor of South Africa’s Rand Daily Mail newspaper, said, “but this makes it more difficult for Israel to hold the respect of the world.”

Dieter Gerhardt, a former South African naval commander, jailed in 1983 for spying for the Soviet Union had spoken of the deal between South Africa and Israel but could not provide written proof.

Gerhardt said there was an agreement called “Chalet”, an offer by Israel to arm eight Jericho missiles with “special warheads”. Gerhardt said these were atomic bombs. The new document proves his story.

Of course the US, under Obama’s administration has asked Israel to sign the Non Proliferation Treaty; US officials continue to say that Iran and Israel’s nuclear programs are as different as “apples to oranges.”

Double Standard

Although there is little to suggest the US’s new sanctions on Iran would have any effect on Iran’s nuclear prospects, whether peaceful or not, it is interesting to see the two sides to this “nuclear free world” the US loves to talk about.

The term “nuclear free” obviously does not apply to the US and her allies. South Africa had 8 nuclear warheads they dismantled. If the US were to really work for a nuclear free world, it could start at home. The US has enough weaponry to destroy the world at least three times over.

If the US wanted a nuclear free world, it could start with her allies and members of the NPT. France and Britain are both nuclear powers and signed on to the NPT. Russia and China are also part of the NPT.

If the US wanted a nuclear free world, shouldn’t there be sanctions on Iran, and the non NPT countries of Pakistan, India, North Korea and Israel?

It seems the struggle for a nuclear free world only matters when a non-ally country tries to attain the weapons. So far, the only country to sell nuclear weaponry is Israel. And the Israeli threat and the Iranian threat are apples to oranges, right?

So which is worse, and which is being dealt with?

Rana Tahir
Rana Tahir is a political columnist for The Knox Student, primarily covering international issues. She will graduate in June 2013 with degrees in political science and creative writing, after which she will attend the University of Denver's publishing institute.

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