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Tale of Two Nuclear Whistleblowers

by David Krieger

Reliable sources have revealed that as a result of a secret trial, Iranian nuclear whistleblower Amid Nasri has been sentenced to 18 years in solitary confinement.  Nasri, a former worker at an Iranian uranium enrichment plant, revealed to the The Sunday Times in London that Iran was developing nuclear materials as part of a program to create nuclear weapons.  Lured to Rome by a strikingly beautiful Iranian secret agent, Nasri was kidnapped by the secret service and returned to Iran for trial. 

The government of Iran issued a brief statement in which they claim that Nasri violated the national security of the Islamic Republic of Iran and was tried and punished accordingly.  They state that he had a contractual obligation not to release any information concerning the work of the uranium enrichment plant where he worked. 

Nasri has been incarcerated in Iran's highest level security prison and has not been allowed to speak to the press or to foreign officials.  He is under such severe restrictions that he is not allowed even to speak with other prison inmates. 

There have been widespread protests from Western governments about Nasri's treatment at the hands of the Iranian government.  A high-level UK official called the secret trial a "sham of the first order," and harshly criticized the Iranian government for its heavy handed treatment of Nasri.   US officials have also protested Nasri's conviction, calling him a hero for making public the information on the Iranian nuclear weapon program. 

Before you become too concerned about the harsh treatment of this Iranian whistleblower acting for the common good, I need to tell you that he is fictional.  He does not exist.  There is also no proof of an Iranian nuclear weapon program, although there are concerns about its nuclear enrichment program.

The story, though, is not entirely false.  There is an Israeli nuclear whistleblower by the name of Mordechai Vanunu.  He worked as a nuclear technician at the Negev Nuclear Research Center in Israel.  He revealed information on the Israeli nuclear weapon program to the The Sunday Times in London in 1986.  He was lured from London to Rome by a beautiful Israeli secret agent, where he was kidnapped by Israel's secret service and returned to Israel.  There he was given a secret trial, convicted and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment.  He served more than 11 years of his sentence in solitary confinement.  The Israelis claimed that Vanunu violated his contractual obligations of secrecy and was a national security risk. 

Vanunu was released from prison in 2004, but under harsh parole terms.  He is not allowed to leave Israel, nor is he allowed to talk to foreigners.  In 2007, Vanunu served another six months in prison for violating the terms of his parole.  In May 2010, Vanunu was returned to prison for three months for violating the terms of his parole.  Amnesty International has called Vanunu a prisoner of conscience.  Although he has received many awards for his courage in blowing the whistle on Israel's nuclear weapons program and has been nominated many times for the Nobel Peace Prize, he has received virtually no support from Western governments.

 What are we to learn from this tale of two whistleblowers, one fictitious, one real?  One important lesson is the danger of nuclear double standards.  We cannot be content to make a hero of a fictional Iranian nuclear whistleblower, while turning a blind eye to the treatment of a real-life Israeli nuclear whistleblower and to the Israeli nuclear arsenal.

Nuclear weapons are not reasonable weapons in the hands of any nation -- not Israel, not Iran, not the US, the UK, or any other nation.  We should not be complacent with the punishment of messengers such as Vanunu.  We should laud them and work to assure that no nation holds in its hands the nuclear power of mass annihilation.  The Final Document of the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference calls for a Middle East Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone, a long time aspiration of the people of this region.  If such a zone is created, it will mean that Iran and other countries in the region will not be able to develop nuclear weapons, but it will also mean that Israel will not be able to continue to possess its nuclear arsenal, which is thought to contain some 200 nuclear weapons. 

If we are going to prevent future replays of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or even worse scenarios, we must rid the world of nuclear weapons.  It will not be easy, but it is necessary if we are to assure the continuation of human life on our planet.  President Obama has told us that America seeks "the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."  In that world, whistleblowers like Mordechai Vanunu will be respected and honored for the courage they displayed in revealing the truth in the face of the overwhelming power and hypocrisy of the state and of a global system that unwisely supported nuclear double standards.

David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org), an organization that has worked for the abolition of nuclear weapons since 1982.

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