Yassamine Mather looks at the politics, hypocrisy and dangers of Ahmadinejad’s nuclear programme:
There seems to be no end to the confrontation between western governments and Iran’s Islamic regime over the nuclear issue.
In the latest phase of the continuing saga, on February 23, a day after the announcement by the head of Iran’s nuclear programme that the country will build two new uranium enrichment facilities, Iran wrote to the International Atomic Energy Agency claiming that it is ready to hand over the bulk of its stockpile in a simultaneous exchange for fuel rods for its research reactor, adding that the exchange must take place on Iranian soil. This falls short of the demands by the so-called ‘five plus one’ (United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany). They had demanded that Iran’s enriched uranium is first processed and then converted into fuel rods in Russia and France, returning the enriched fuel rods to Iran within a year.
Of course there are clear reasons why both sides need the confrontation to continue. For the US it is a question of asserting its authority in the Middle East and reducing Iran’s own political influence in the region – an influence which, ironically, has been considerably strengthened by the establishment of the Shia occupation government in Iraq and the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Barack Obama will not bomb Iran’s nuclear installations for the same reasons that George W Bush did not do so: partly because such a raid could not hope to stop the Iranian nuclear programme for more than a few months, and partly because Iran threatens retaliation against Israel and US troops, via its allies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Lebanon, not to mention the fact that such an attack might lead to a rise in the price of oil.
For the Iranian government, besieged by protesters in all its major cities, the continued threat of war and the imposition of further sanctions is a godsend. It can use sanctions as an excuse for the disastrous economic situation, for further attacks on workers’ wages and for accusing all its opponents of being agents of foreign powers and increasing repression against the opposition as part of ‘measures to strengthen national defence’ in its war against US and UK.
The latest IAEA report, published on February 19, was the first to be produced under the new IAEA director, general Yukiya Amano, who replaced former chief Mohamed ElBaradei last year. The report’s tone and its conclusion differ considerably from those produced under ElBaradei.
Last week’s document implies the agency suspects Tehran might already be trying to develop a nuclear warhead and has begun enriching uranium to higher levels, theoretically bringing it closer to what is required for an atomic bomb. In addition, a worrying section of the report states: “On February 14 2010, Iran, in the presence of agency inspectors, moved approximately 1,950 kg of low enriched UF6 [uranium hexafluoride is a chemical compound consisting of one atom of uranium combined with six atoms of fluorine] from FEP [fuel enrichment plant] to the PFEP [pilot fuel enrichment plant] feed station. The agency inspectors sealed the cylinder containing the material to the feed station.”
If it is true that Iran has moved 94% of its enriched uranium from underground, one could argue that this is a deliberate provocation added to president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s order for uranium to be enriched to 20%. Such a provocation would aim to encourage Israeli military attacks in a desperate attempt to cling to power. Clearly Israel and more recently Saudi Arabia do not seem to share US reservations about such military action. Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak is in the US this week for ‘ talks on halting Iran’s nuclear drive’, prompting this headline in the Washington Post: “Prepare for war with Iran – in case Israel strikes”. Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has also renewed his call for the ‘international community’ to impose an oil embargo on Iran, if necessary without UN security council approval.
When Israeli leaders further inflame the hysteria over Iran’s nuclear industry they are without doubt being two-faced. Israel refuses to sign up to the nuclear proliferation treaty (NPT) and therefore is not obliged to report on its own arsenal of nuclear weapons or allow the inspection of its nuclear facilities. Most analysts agree that it has up to 400 nuclear warheads. Israel refuses to confirm or deny this. With that in mind, on September 18 2009, IAEA agreed a resolution which “expresses concern about the Israeli nuclear capabilities, and calls upon Israel to accede to the NPT and place all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards …”
That is why attempts by the US and the European Union to stop Iran obtaining nuclear technology are hypocritical. IAEA’s protocols which are supposed to prevent nuclear proliferation are a one way street. Countries which possess sufficient nuclear weaponry to destroy the world several times over (and are continuing to add to their arsenals) are laying down the law to others – or some of them. The US and its EU allies have for decades refused to even admit that Israel has nuclear weapons.
Ironically Iran’s current status as the regional ‘threat’ is itself a direct consequence of the US-UK invasion of Iraq and the coming to power of a Shia, pro-Iran government in Baghdad. The recent pronouncements by the US and Israeli governments regarding Iran’s nuclear programme are more to do with Iran’s influence in the region, its close relations with the Maleki government in Iraq and the consequences of such influence in the forthcoming ‘elections’ in that country. That is why anti-war activists must condemn constant threats of military action against Iran and oppose sanctions.
However, two wrongs don’t make a right and just because the US is opposed to Iran’s nuclear policy, the left inside and outside Iran cannot take an opportunist position of defending nuclear proliferation in Iran while opposing it in the rest of the world. In embarking on an unprecedented programme of privatisation, accompanied by systematic non-payment of workers’ wages, including in the state sector, Iran’s rulers have constantly blamed financial difficulties. Many in Iran are questioning the wisdom of spending astronomic sums purchasing nuclear technology (often on the black market) by a regime that claims to be so short of funds.
Any support by the anti-war movement for the current rulers in Iran will be in direct opposition to the views of ordinary Iranians who are victims of the repressive policies of this regime, and to millions of Iranian workers who are victims of a corrupt Islamic government’s privatisation policies. We must show our solidarity by supporting the majority of Iran’s population, its workers, and dispossessed – against international capital, against the warmongers, but also against the repressive Islamist regime.
From Weekly Worker