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Bush Nukes Legal and Ethical Constraints
Published on Sunday, March 5, 2006 by the Toronto Star / Canada
Bush Nukes Legal and Ethical Constraints
How does the U.S. go after Iran after a sweet deal with India?
by Haroon Siddiqui
 

Eye-Ran. That's what the Americans call Iran — pronounced Ee-Ra'an. This is a minor matter, compared to how the U.S. is bullying Iran over its nuclear program, even while rewarding India for committing worse transgressions of international nuclear rules.

All nation-states operate in their own interests, of course. But American disregard for the law, and the moral and political inconsistency of its foreign policy, has hit a new low under George W. Bush.

On Thursday, he signed an historic nuclear deal with India — "a Santa Claus giveaway," said the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace — with little or no regard for its impact on the effort to contain Iran and North Korea.

Friday, he was in Pakistan rejecting a plea from his hosts that, they, too, be given access to civilian nuclear technology, since they are in the same boat as India, having developed the bomb on the sly and refusing to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Bush responds, correctly, that India, a transparent democracy, has not had an A.Q. Khan-like nuclear bazaar.

So you would think that the president — an advocate of democracy in the Muslim world — would be leaning hard on Gen. Pervez Musharraf to hasten civilian rule, rather than gathering more power in his hands.

Yet Bush only offered lame rhetoric: Yes, Musharraf must move towards democracy but ...

The president needs the general in the war on terrorism, especially hunting down Al Qaeda and Taliban remnants along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Bush needs India even more, for a host of reasons, including its booming economy, which U.S. businesses want to tap.

Hence the nuclear concessions. Ignoring both U.S. and international law, Bush has promised India access to high-end technology and a guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel.

In return, India gets to keep its nuclear arms program. It will have to open up only 14 of its 22 reactors for inspection. The rest it can keep secret, including a fast-breeder reactor that produces the plutonium for bombs. It can even build more breeders.

There is, however, an argument that, rather than a gift from Santa Claus, this is a tough bargain. It opens up two-thirds of India's secret program to inspection. Which is why the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear inspection arm of the UN, welcomes it.

But the lesson nuke-seeking nations can draw is clear: As the late Z.A. Bhutto, prime minister of Pakistan, once famously said, eat grass if you must to free up the resources to develop the bomb, and the world will, eventually, embrace you.

"With one simple move, the president has blown a hole in the nuclear rules that the world has been playing by," said Representative Edward Markey, the leading critic of the deal in Congress.

How do you now go after Iran?

Unlike India, Pakistan or Israel, it signed the non-proliferation treaty. It has not violated the treaty, which entitles it to develop nuclear energy.

What Iran is guilty of is cheating — hiding some aspects of its program — and a lot of fiery anti-American and anti-Israeli rhetoric. But its cheating has been minuscule compared to Israel's, India's and Pakistan's.

That's why the Atomic Energy Agency report, which goes before its board of governors tomorrow, is so mild: The agency cannot give Iran a clean bill of health but it can find no proof of a nuclear weapons program.

"India is more guilty than Iran could be," says Dilip Hiro, a London-based expert on Iran. "North Korea is more guilty than Iran could be."

All this is awkward enough, but there's more.

Trying to sell the India deal to a skeptical Congress, Bush says that giving India more nuclear power will "take the pressure off the global demand for energy."

This is precisely what Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford said in the 1970s to rationalize their plan to sell the Shah of Iran nuclear power plants. "But, flush with a bulging exchequer, thanks to rising oil prices from 1973 and 1974, he ignored U.S. corporations and awarded the first contract for a nuclear plant to Siemens of West Germany," wrote Hiro in The Iranian Labyrinth (Nation Books, 2005).

One is left with no other conclusion than that the U.S. basically does what it wants and tries to rationalize it by dictating the media mantra of the day.

None of this should come as a surprise. After all, the U.S. was once a great friend of Saddam Hussein.

Copyright Toronto Star Newspapers Limited

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