Posts Tagged ‘IAEA’

Turning Back From the Point of No Return – Implications of the Threat to Bomb Iran

August 26, 2010
Jeremy R. Hammond, Foreign Policy Journal, August 26, 2010

The drums for war on Iran have been banging louder than ever lately, with a spate of articles by political commentators either directly encouraging the bombing of the Islamic Republic or otherwise offering a narrative in which this is effectively portrayed as the only option to prevent Iran from waging a nuclear holocaust against Israel. A prominent example of the latter is Jeffrey Goldberg’s article last month in the Atlantic magazine, “The Point of No Return”.[1] Goldberg’s lengthy piece essentially boils down to this: Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons poses an existential threat to Israel’s existence comparable to the Nazi Holocaust, and although the U.S. recognizes this threat, the Obama administration is weak, so Israel will have no choice but to act alone in bombing Iran to ensure its own survival.

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POLITICS: U.S. Story on Iran Nuke Facility Doesn’t Add Up

September 30, 2009

Analysis by Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sep 29 (IPS) – The story line that dominated media coverage of the second Iranian uranium enrichment facility last week was the official assertion that U.S. intelligence had caught Iran trying to conceal a “secret” nuclear facility.

But an analysis of the transcript of that briefing by senior administration officials that was the sole basis for the news stories and other evidence reveals damaging admissions, conflicts with the facts and unanswered questions that undermine its credibility.

Iran’s notification to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the second enrichment facility in a letter on Sep. 21 was buried deep in most of the news stories and explained as a response to being detected by U.S. intelligence. In reporting the story in that way, journalists were relying entirely on the testimony of “senior administration officials” who briefed them at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh Friday.

U.S. intelligence had “learned that the Iranians learned that the secrecy of the facility was compromised”, one of the officials said, according to the White House transcript. The Iranians had informed the IAEA, he asserted, because “they came to believe that the value of the facility as a secret facility was no longer valid…”

Later in the briefing, however, the official said “we believe”, rather than “we learned”, in referring to that claim, indicating that it is only an inference rather than being based on hard intelligence.

The official refused to explain how U.S. analysts had arrived at that conclusion, but an analysis by the defence intelligence consulting firm IHS Jane’s of a satellite photo of the site taken Saturday said there is a surface-to-air missile system located at the site.

Since surface-to-air missiles protect many Iranian military sites, however, their presence at the Qom site doesn’t necessarily mean that Iran believed that Washington had just discovered the enrichment plant.

The official said the administration had organised an intelligence briefing on the facility for the IAEA during the summer on the assumption that the Iranians might “choose to disclose the facility themselves”. But he offered no explanation for the fact that there had been no briefing given to the IAEA or anyone else until Sep. 24 – three days after the Iranians disclosed the existence of the facility.

A major question surrounding the official story is why the Barack Obama administration had not done anything – and apparently had no plans to do anything – with its intelligence on the Iranian facility at Qom prior to the Iranian letter to the IAEA. When asked whether the administration had intended to keep the information in its intelligence briefing secret even after the meeting with the Iranians on Oct. 1, the senior official answered obliquely but revealingly, “I think it’s impossible to turn back the clock and say what might have been otherwise.”

In effect, the answer was no, there had been no plan for briefing the IAEA or anyone.

News media played up the statement by the senior administration official that U.S. intelligence had been “aware of this facility for years”.

But what was not reported was that he meant only that the U.S. was aware of a possible nuclear site, not one whose function was known.

The official in question acknowledged the analysts had not been able to identify it as an enrichment facility for a long time. In the “very early stage of construction,” said the official, “a facility like this could have multiple uses.” Intelligence analysts had to “wait until the facility had reached the stage of construction where it was undeniably intended for use as a centrifuge facility,” he explained.

The fact that the administration had made no move to brief the IAEA or other governments on the site before Iran revealed its existence suggests that site had not yet reached that stage where the evidence was unambiguous.

A former U.S. official who has seen the summary of the administration’s intelligence used to brief foreign governments told IPS he doubts the intelligence community had hard evidence that the Qom site was an enrichment plant. “I think they didn’t have the goods on them,” he said.

Also misleading was the official briefing’s characterisation of the intelligence assessment on the purpose of the enrichment plant. The briefing concluded that the Qom facility must be for production of weapons-grade enriched uranium, because it will accommodate only 3,000 centrifuges, which would be too few to provide fuel for a nuclear power plant.

According to the former U.S. official who has read the briefing paper on the intelligence assessment, however, the paper says explicitly that the Qom facility is “a possible military facility”. That language indicates that intelligence analysts have suggested that the facility may be for making low-enriched rather than for high-enriched, bomb-grade uranium.

It also implies that the senior administration official briefing the press was deliberately portraying the new enrichment facility in more menacing terms than the actual intelligence assessment.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s offer the day after the denunciation of the site by U.S., British and French leaders to allow IAEA monitoring of the plant will make it far more difficult to argue that it was meant to serve military purposes.

The circumstantial evidence suggests that Iran never intended to keep the Qom facility secret from the IAEA but was waiting to make it public at a moment that served its political-diplomatic objectives.

The Iranian government is well aware of U.S. capabilities for monitoring from satellite photographs any site in Iran that exhibits certain characteristics.

Iran obviously wanted to make the existence of the Qom site public before construction on the site would clearly indicate an enrichment purpose. But it gave the IAEA no details in its initial announcement, evidently hoping to find out whether and how much the United States already knew about it.

The specific timing of the Iranian letter, however, appears to be related to the upcoming talks between Iran and the P5+1 – China, France, Britain, Russia, the United States and Germany – and an emerging Iranian strategy of smaller back-up nuclear facilities that would assure continuity if Natanz were attacked.

The Iranian announcement of that decision on Sep. 14 coincided with a statement by the head of Iran’s atomic energy organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, warning against preemptive strikes against the country’s nuclear facilities.

The day after the United States, Britain and France denounced the Qom facility as part of a deception, Salehi said, “Considering the threats, our organisation decided to do what is necessary to preserve and continue our nuclear activities. So we decided to build new installations which will guarantee the continuation of our nuclear activities which will never stop at any cost.”

As satellite photos of the site show, the enrichment facility at Qom is being built into the side of a mountain, making it less vulnerable to destruction, even with the latest bunker-busting U.S. bombs.

The pro-administration newspaper Kayhan quoted an “informed official” as saying that Iran had told the IAEA in 2004 that it had to do something about the threat of attack on its nuclear facilities “repeatedly posed by the western countries”.

The government newspaper called the existence of the second uranium enrichment plan “a winning card” that would increase Iran’s bargaining power in the talks. That presumably referred to neutralising the ultimate coercive threat against Iran by the United States.

*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam”, was published in 2006.

Another War in the Works

September 30, 2009

America Is Led And Informed By Liars

by Paul Craig Roberts, Foreign Policy Journal, Sep 30, 2009

Does anyone remember all the lies that they were told by President Bush and the “mainstream media” about the grave threat to America from weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?  These lies were repeated endlessly in the print and TV media despite the reports from the weapons inspectors, who had been sent to Iraq, that no such weapons existed.

The weapons inspectors did an honest job in Iraq and told the truth, but the mainstream media did not emphasize their findings.  Instead, the media served as a Ministry of Propaganda, beating the war drums for the US government.

Now the whole process is repeating itself.  This time the target is Iran.

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Clinton: US Won’t Hesitate to Use Military Against Iran

July 16, 2009

Not a Threat, It’s a Promise, Secretary of State Tells CFR

by Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, July 15, 2009

In a high-profile policy address before the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that the US wouldn’t not hesitate to use its military to “defend our friends, our interests, and above all, our people” during the segment discussing Iran.

She elaborated on the declaration with “this is not an option we seek nor is it a threat; it is a promise.” Clinton also warned Iran that the US offer to hold talks, which she had previously said she didn’t expect to work to begin with, would not be open-ended and that “our willingness to talk is not a sign of weakness.”

Today’s comments are the latest in a long line of bellicose rhetoric coming from the Secretary of State. Last month during a television interview she said that Iran was risking the possibility of a US invasion, citing the disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq as a model.

The US has been demanding that the Iranian government abandon its civilian nuclear energy generation program, and several officials have claimed, despite a stark lack of evidence, that Iran is working on nuclear weapons. The IAEA has pointed out no evidence for the accusation exists, and America’s own National Intelligence Estimate says they don’t believe Iran has an active weapons program either.

Israel Demands IAEA Action on Iran, Syria, Not Itself

June 8, 2009
Despite Refusing to Subject Their Own Program to International Scrutiny, Israel Demands “Firm” Action

by Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, June 07, 2009

Addressing Friday’s reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Israeli Foreign Ministry today demanded that the group take “immediate and determined” action against Iran and Syria, two states over which certain questions remain unanswered.

Israel has accused both nations of pursuing covert nuclear weapons programs that the IAEA has not uncovered. The incredible thing is that Israel is not itself a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has developed its own massive nuclear weapons program, which it has refused to subject to international scrutiny.

In Syria in particular, the IAEA reported finding trace amounts of enriched uranium inside a nuclear reactor that runs on enriched uranium, but said the traces were absent from previous declarations. Israel has demanded that the IAEA publicly condemn Syria for the lapse.

In Iran, the IAEA confirmed that Iran’s uranium enrichment program continued to grow. Though perfectly legal and designed for use in tandem with a soon to be finished nuclear energy reactor at Bushehr, Israel has condemned the program. The IAEA once again affirmed that none of the low-enriched uranium had been diverted to any other use.

Last month, a US official suggested that every nation, even Israel, should join the NPT, and Israel reacted with shock and outrage. Yet with no real proof of wrong-doing, Israel would subject Syria (whom it illegally attacked in 2007, destroying the evidence it claims once existed of their covert program) and Iran to further international censure for falling somewhat short of perfection in answering questions Israel would’ve never allowed to be asked to begin with.

Peres Raises Prospect of Attacking Iran

April 13, 2009

Israeli President Calls to Unify Sunnis, Europe Against Iran

by Jason Ditz | Antiwar.com,  April 12, 2009

In an interview today, Israeli President Shimon Peres once again raised the prospect of attacking Iran, saying that if the talks proposed by President Obama did not get Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to “soften” its stance on its civilian nuclear program “we’ll strike him.”

The threat is the latest in a long line of bellicose statements by Israeli officials about the prospect of attacking the Shi’ite nation, but the first since Israel’s new rightist government took power. Israel’s previous government, of which Peres’ Labor Party was also a part, repeatedly threatened to attack Iran over the program.

Peres seemed optimistic about the recent falling out between Egypt and Iran would enable them to “unify all his opponents – the Sunnis and the Europeans, as well as those afraid of nuclear weapons and terror.”

The Israeli government has repeatedly accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons, though the most recent US National Intelligence Estimate says Iran has not had such a program in many years and the IAEA has repeatedly certified that Iran is not diverting any of its uranium to any use other than its nuclear energy program.

Return of the War Party

February 28, 2009
Patrick J. Buchanan
Human Events.com, Feb 27, 2009

“Real men go to Tehran!” brayed the neoconservatives, after the success of their propaganda campaign to have America march on Baghdad and into an unnecessary war that has forfeited all the fruits of our Cold War victory.

Now they are back, in pursuit of what has always been their great goal: an American war on Iran. It would be a mistake to believe they and their collaborators cannot succeed a second time. Consider:

On being chosen by Israel’s President Shimon Peres to form the new regime, Likud’s “Bibi” Netanyahu declared, “Iran is seeking to obtain a nuclear weapon and constitutes the gravest threat to our existence since the war of independence.”

Echoing Netanyahu, headlines last week screamed of a startling new nuclear breakthrough by the mullahs. “Iran ready to build nuclear weapon, analysts say,” said CNN. “Iran has enough uranium to make a bomb,” said the Los Angeles Times. Armageddon appeared imminent.

Asked about Iran’s nukes in his confirmation testimony, CIA Director Leon Panetta blurted, “From all the information I’ve seen, I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability.”

Tuesday, Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a front spawned by the Israeli lobby AIPAC, was given the Iranian portfolio. AIPAC’s top agenda item? A U.S. collision with Iran.

In the neocon Weekly Standard, Elliot Abrams of the Bush White House parrots Netanyahu, urging Obama to put any land-for-peace deals with the Palestinians on a back burner. Why?

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is now part of a broader struggle in the region over Iranian extremism and power. Israeli withdrawals now risk opening the door not only to Palestinian terrorists but to Iranian proxies.”

The campaign to conflate Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria as a new axis of evil, a terrorist cartel led by Iranian mullahs hell-bent on building a nuclear bomb and using it on Israel and America, has begun. The full-page ads and syndicated columns calling on Obama to eradicate this mortal peril before it destroys us all cannot be far off.

But before we let ourselves be stampeded into another unnecessary war, let us review a few facts that seem to contradict the war propaganda.

First, last week’s acknowledgement that Iran has enough enriched uranium for one atom bomb does not mean Iran is building an atom bomb.

To construct a nuclear device, the ton of low-enriched uranium at Natanz would have to be run through a second cascade of high-speed centrifuges to produce 55 pounds of highly enriched uranium (HUE).

There is no evidence Iran has either created the cascade of high-speed centrifuges necessary to produce HUE or that Iran has diverted any of the low-enriched uranium from Natanz. And the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors retain full access to Natanz.

And rather than accelerating production of low-enriched uranium, only 4,000 of the Natanz centrifuges are operating. Some 1,000 are idle. Why?

Dr. Mohamed El-Baradei, head of the IAEA, believes this is a signal that Tehran wishes to negotiate with the United States, but without yielding any of its rights to enrich uranium and operate nuclear power plants.

For, unlike Israel, Pakistan and India, none of which signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and all of which ran clandestine programs and built atom bombs, Iran signed the NPT and has abided by its Safeguards Agreement. What it refuses to accept are the broader demands of the U.N. Security Council because these go beyond the NPT and sanction Iran for doing what it has a legal right to do.

Moreover, Adm. Dennis Blair, who heads U.S. intelligence, has just restated the consensus of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that Iran does not now possess and is not now pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

Bottom line: Neither the United States nor the IAEA has conclusive evidence that Iran either has the fissile material for a bomb or an active program to build a bomb. It has never tested a nuclear device and has never demonstrated a capacity to weaponize a nuclear device, if it had one.

Why, then, the hype, the hysteria, the clamor for “Action This Day!”? It is to divert America from her true national interests and stampede her into embracing as her own the alien agenda of a renascent War Party.

None of this is to suggest the Iranians are saintly souls seeking only peace and progress. Like South Korea, Japan and other nations with nuclear power plants, they may well want the ability to break out of the NPT, should it be necessary to deter, defend against or defeat enemies.

But that is no threat to us to justify war. For decades, we lived under the threat that hundreds of Russian warheads could rain down upon us in hours, ending our national existence. If deterrence worked with Stalin and Mao, it can work with an Iran that has not launched an offensive war against any nation within the memory of any living American.

Can we Americans say the same?

Mr. Buchanan is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War”: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, “The Death of the West,”, “The Great Betrayal,” “A Republic, Not an Empire” and “Where the Right Went Wrong.”

Iran, Syria and Uncle Sam

October 8, 2008

Dr Abdul Ruff Colachal

Only USA has the right to categorize people and nations according to its imperialist formula. Thousands and thousands of Muslims have been killed so far by the US terror forces in the company of other “democratic” nations of the “secular” West. Declared by the USA, Uncle Sam, as the rogue states or axis of evils, Iran and Syrian have been under the Washington’s close watch. Condemned by Israel, Iran is on its final stage of developing nuclear facility and has declared it would share the technology with all Islamic nations interested in the nuclear technology. USA-led UNSC has slapped three rounds of sanctions and a “final warning” to drop its nuclear ambitions.

The US administration suspects Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon and there are a number of competing views in Washington about what President Bush should do. Some Republican hawks are in favor of taking military action against the Islamic state. Iran denies that it has ambitions to build a nuclear bomb and says its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only. There has been much speculation that the US or Israel may try to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. But why is unnecessarily Washington concerned about Iran?

In this nuclear era, Tehran considers its right to have nuclear facility and other advanced technology and warned the USA against any attempts to deny Iran the benefits of advanced scientific and technological progress. USA and it western allied have been coercing Iran to fall in line and stay away from nuclear weapons. Iran says it will continue enriching uranium, which it says is for civilian purposes only, despite the latest UN resolution calling on it to stop.

As a usual stunt to bully the weak nations that disobey the dictates of the USA, the Bush administration also accuses Syria of sponsoring terrorism, by supporting the Palestinian elected Hamas and Islamic Jihad and letting “Islamic militants” enter Iraq from its territory. It also accuses Syria of backing the Lebanese Shia’s militant group Hezbollah, which fought Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon and is still involved in border conflicts with Israel.

Many political leaders in the 1990s accepted the continued Syrian presence as a necessary counter-weight to the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. Syrian involvement in its neighbor was formalized by two treaties signed in 1991. Once the Israelis withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, pressure grew for the Syrians to pull out. Opinion in Lebanon is divided between those who support Syria ‘s presence in their country and those who do not. However, threat of Israel to Lebanon has been a major issue.

Iran’s pro-Islamic move

Not only Iran had a revolution to revitalize Islamic way of life, it has also made strenuous efforts to reach out to Islamic world, particularly the Arab nations in the “terrorism” era and under threats from the US-led anti-Islamic nations. After the fall of Saddam’s government in Iraq, it is Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad who has been keeping the Islamic torch up against the anti-Islamic looters, challenging in the process the world most important power, though currently under serious economic crisis.

Iran has been making efforts to make up with its Islamic neighbors and chart out an Islamic program for all Muslim nations so that the anti-Islamic block of nations cannot try to invade any of the Muslim nations in future. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board comprises of 35 members elected annually by the body’s highest policy-making body, the General Conference of all member states. Syria and Iran had both been competing for the seat reserved for a Middle Eastern and South Asian country. Iran and Syria have both been accused by some countries of engaging in clandestine nuclear activity.

Recently, Damascus allowed IAEA inspectors to visit the site at al-Kibar in June but has refused any follow-up trips. Iran, also accused by some countries of clandestine nuclear activity, dropped its bid for a seat on the IAEA board, saying it wanted to make way for regional ally Syria to join instead. On Oct 03 Friday, Syria dropped its bid for a place on the IAEA board, leaving the post open to Western-backed Afghanistan. Both had been vying for the same seat on the board, representing the Middle East and South Asia (Mesa) group. The body had been facing a divisive and unprecedented vote on the issue.

Iran was keen to make Syria a member of IEAE, but opposed by Uncle Sam. “The Islamic Republic has officially refrained from pursuing its right to be nominated to the board to pave the way for the membership of Syria,” Tehran has dropped its bid for a seat on the board of the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA. Iran wanted to make way for its regional ally Syria to become a board member instead. Syria has the backing of the Arab League, which makes up a significant proportion of the regional group.

World moves according to US whims and fancies only. Only Russia opposes this nasty global pro-US and pro-imperialist trend. USA got Afghanistan into the IAEA, finally. Earlier, USA made Ban Ki-moon the UN Secretary General. Opposition to Syria’s election – and Iran’s before its withdrawal – is led by the US, which wants the seat to go to its close ally Afghanistan.

Iran and Syria have announced that they have formed a mutual self-defense pact to confront “threats” now facing them. Tension increased after former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who had called for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country, was killed in a bomb attack in Beirut on 14 February. Iran is under pressure from the US over its nuclear program, while Syria has come back into sharp focus after the apparent assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. USA and many in the West accuse Syria of involvement in the attack, a charge Damascus denies.

What is Syria’s involvement in Lebanon? The Syrian troop presence in Lebanon dates back to 1976, when it intervened in Lebanon’s civil war to protect the Christian minority against what looked like the imminent victory of radical Palestinians and pan-Arabists. Syria saw that as a threat to its stability.

Syria

US-Israel combine has indeed taken the Iranian whistle quite uncomfortably and of late does not even give out any ultimatum to Iran scrapping its nuclear mission. The US has already imposed a number of sanctions against Syria as well. Last year, it banned US exports to Syria, apart from food and medicine. It also stopped Syrian aircraft from flying to and from the US and froze the assets of Syrians suspected of violating a law designed to “halt Syrian support for terrorism” passed in 2003.

USA has forced the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to probe Syria’s nuclear sites.  Syria has denied the allegations as “ridiculous and the government was “co-operating with the agency in full transparency. IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei said Syria’s co-operation had been “good”, but it needed to show “maximum co-operation” for the agency to draw any conclusions. A Syrian officer reported to have been in charge of facilitating the IAEA probe was killed in unexplained circumstances last summer, further delaying the proceedings.

The IAEA investigation follows US allegations that Damascus was close to completing a nuclear reactor at a secret location, which was bombed by Israel last year. The head of Syria’s nuclear program has said that the country’s military sites will remain off-limits to international nuclear inspectors. Damascus said it would co-operate with IAEA inquiry only if it did not threaten its national security. The watchdog is investigating claims of a secret Syrian nuclear program.

Israel destroyed a nuclear reactor site in an air strike in 2007. Syria denies any nuclear proliferation or hiding any activities from the watchdog. The International Atomic Energy Agency has been investigating Syria over US intelligence allegations that it was building a secret, plutonium-producing reactor. Preliminary inspections by an IAEA team have shown no evidence of the US allegations.

Syria is the power the USA sees behind the scenes in neighboring Lebanon and has some 15,000 troops stationed in the country. The US, supported by the UN Security Council, has for years demanded that those troops be withdrawn. Last year, the Security Council passed resolution 1559, which called for their withdrawal, and concern has been building in Washington over what it sees as Damascus’s foot-dragging in response to the resolution.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has said recently it would be a catastrophe if a peaceful solution could not be found to the Iranian nuclear row. Assad was speaking after a meeting in Damascus with French President Nicolas Sarkozy aimed at improving bilateral ties. The leaders also held discussions on Syria’s relations with Israel.

In the 1980s, there was much animosity between the two rival Baathist leaders, President Hafez al-Assad and Saddam Hussein of Iraq. The US, while not blaming Syria directly for the assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has recalled its ambassador for consultations. This is a common way of displaying diplomatic displeasure. Syria was the only Arab country to support Tehran during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Syria and Iran also both provide support for Hezbollah.

France and Syria

At the beginning of February, President Bush showed support for the negotiations in his State of the Union speech. He also indicated that he would be working for regime change in Iran but not by force. On the other hand, Britain, France and Germany have been leading the international effort to negotiate with Iran.

Of late France has taken interest in resolving the crises in the region, on Palestine, Syria and Lebanon. French President Sarkozy’s two-day visit to Syria – which was formerly ruled by France under a mandate of the League of Nations – is the first by a Western head of state in five years. He hosted Assad in July and he appears determined to bring Syria, a long-time foe of the US and Israel, back into the international fold. Relations between Paris and Damascus had plummeted after the murder of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri in 2005. Syria’s critics accuse Damascus of being behind the assassination.

During the Paris summit, Syria and Lebanon, an important ally of France, agreed to open embassies in each other’s capitals for the first time since the 1940s. In a joint news conference with Sarkozy, Syrian President Assad said that any attack on Iran over its nuclear program would be a catastrophe. He said it was clear there was no trust between Iran and other countries but that Syria would continue to work towards a solution through conversations with both Iran and France. In a newspaper interview earlier, Sarkozy said that Syria could “provide an irreplaceable contribution to solving Middle East issues and it is important that Syria plays a positive role in the region, adding that peace in the Middle East “passes through” Syria and France.

Sarkozy has offered French support for direct peace talks between Israel and Lebanon, when the time was right. Assad said his country was “in the process of building foundations for the peace talks” and would need help from the US and others for direct negotiations to take place. Both parties have talked about a new era in relations but that Sarkozy will be under pressure from his Western allies to show that engagement with Syria can work. And Syria must decide how flexible they can be on the key contentious issues.

The two presidents will be joined by top officials from Turkey and Qatar for talks on Lebanon and Syria’s indirect peace talks with Israel. Ankara has been mediating for several months in the Israeli-Syrian talks, while Qatar brokered a deal in May to resolve Lebanon’s prolonged political crisis.

Meanwhile, Israeli officials have warned that Europe should be “very careful in its relationship with Syria “. Tel Aviv is unhappy over any better understanding among the West and Islamic world. “Except for a slight change in tone, Syrian policies have not changed,” said foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, criticizing Syria’s connections with the Palestinian movement Hamas and the Lebanese Shia’s “militant” group Hezbollah. On the strength of US support and armament, Israel wants to dictate its own term to Palestinians, Lebanese and other Arabs.

US game of Sunni vs. Shia

USA has been capitalizing the divide between Sunni and Shia. Western experts say the leaders of several Sunni countries in the region are worried about the rising influence of Shiite Iran. The two nations kept their wary relations until the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 made them both nervous. Syria, feeling particularly vulnerable, pushed for a mutual defense pact with Iran that included parts of Lebanon, then under Syrian control.

USA is also keen to split the support from Islamic world for Iran. As if to appease Tehran, Washington has recently given rare approval for a research body to open an office in Iran, although it stressed United States policy had not changed. The American Iranian Council was given a license to establish a presence in Tehran by the US Treasury Department. The US state department, which guides the policy for issuing non-governmental organization (NGO) licenses to places under US sanctions, like Iran, Sudan and Cuba, said the move did not signal any change in policy. Iran also did not see any positive thinking in Washington, either.

Dr Abdul Ruff Colachal has been a university teacher, and has worked in various Indian institutions like JNU, Mysore University, Central Institute of English FL, etc. He is also a political commentator, researcher, and columnist. He has widely published in India and abroad, and has written about state terrorism.

Dealing With the Indo-US Nuclear Deal

October 6, 2008

by: J. Sri Raman, t r u t h o u t | Perspective, October 3, 2008

photo
Activists shout slogans during a protest in New Delhi against the Indo-US nuclear deal. (Photo: Reuters)

India received a strange and darkly significant gift on a once-sacred day of its annual calendar. In the early morning of October 2, marking the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi of hallowed memory, the nation heard the news about the victory for the US-India nuclear deal in Washington.

We can leave it for historians to answer the deeper and larger question arising from this dramatic irony: how did the India of a nonviolent, anticolonial struggle end up as a nuclear-weapon state proudly entering into a pact of strategic partnership with a neocolonial superpower? We will deal here with a simpler question.

How did the deal come to be done, and with little difficulty? How did this happen despite presumed opposition to it from many quarters and predictions of its defeat at several stages? The answer may help us face and fight the after-effects better than the deal struck originally between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Capitol Hill on July 18, 2005.

When the two leaders uttered the D word, the deal seemed an indefinite distance away. Opponents and independent observers of the move assumed the obstacles were too many to overcome easily. The chief obstacle was deemed to be democracy in both countries. The presumption has proven premature.

Bipartisan backing for the deal was considered extremely unlikely. The hurdle of political opposition in the USA did not even stop the first stage of the process – the Henry J. Hyde US-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of December 2006, passed as enabling legislation for a bilateral agreement. Such an accord, the 123 Agreement as it is called, was signed in July 2007, just about two years after the Bush-Singh brainwave, despite the many differences that media depicted as almost unbridgeable.

Bipartisan support, of a hidden kind, helped Singh at home too. The main opposition, Bharatiya Janata Party, which in its term of power had set India on the path of strategic partnership with the US, had no basic objection to the Bush-Singh advance upon the idea. The objective took precedence over all else for the main political players in both countries. Little wonder, the Singh government won a trust vote in Parliament on July 22, 2008, on the deal without any difficulty that the numbers seemed to denote initially.

The next stage where the deal was expected to be stalled also proved smooth. On August 1, 2008. the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) approved the deal. India’s earlier votes against Iran in the IAEA were not the only reason, with more Iran-friendly states also helping to facilitate the deal. It was expected to meet its nemesis at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). On September 8, 2008, however, the Bush administration succeeded in bullying and cajoling the NSG into a consensus in the deal’s favor.

The peace movement in India and the world campaigned against the deal all through, with indisputable persistence and determination. If the campaign still failed, the main cause should not be far to seek. It fought the deal, above all, as a dire threat to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and sought to undo the deal through an appeal to pro-NPT states. Founded on a false hope, perhaps, the campaign was bound to fail.

The illusions entertained about the NPT never really helped the cause of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament in India or elsewhere. The discriminatory and hypocritical treaty, which allows five nuclear powers to preserve formidable arsenals and prescribes nuclear abstinence for the rest of the world, does not deserve any credit for any decrease in the global stock of these weapons due to other factors. The much-hyped Article VI of the treaty – a polite plea to the P5 to proceed towards nuclear disarmament “in good faith” – does not detract from the global terror posed by the self-appointed guardians of non-proliferation.

Not only in the US of Bush, but also its allies swearing uncompromising commitment to the non-proliferation cause have lent powerful support to the pact for the sake of larger strategic and corporate interests.

Prominent sections of the peace movement have proceeded on the assumption that the NPT represents the strongest weapon in its hands. Experience, however, makes it eminently clear that the treaty, in fact, places the strongest weapon in the hands of nuclear hawks in nations like India. They have only to turn to their people and tell them of patent discrimination in the NPT’s provisions to peddle their nuclear-weapons programs.

Sections of the peace movement in India and elsewhere have also played into the hands of these hawks by stressing the issue of sovereignty while talking of the NPT and the deal. The absurd argument that national sovereignty can be asserted by producing nuclear weapons cannot defeat either devotees of the treaty or advocates of the deal. It is egregiously erroneous to see the deal as damaging to the NPT or “the current world non-proliferation regime” as it is incorrectly described. The deal, on the contrary, must be viewed as one of the results of the faith placed in a fundamentally flawed and false treaty.

There is increasing recognition in the world peace movement of the need to replace the NPT with a UN convention to ban nuclear weapons. The movement, however, must beware of attempts by nuclear hawks in India and similar other states to extend hypocritical support to the effort. The government of India, for example, has already named former National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra, intimately associated with the initiation of the “strategic partnership” as its representative in an international commission for nuclear disarmament set up by Australia and Japan!

The deal could have been stalled only through democracy. Only the people of India and the US could have done so by declining a mandate for nuclear militarism. Only democracy of this kind can combat the consequences of the deal, too.

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A freelance journalist and a peace activist in India, J. Sri Raman is the author of “Flashpoint” (Common Courage Press, USA). He is a regular contributor to Truthout.

Pakistan warns that US-India nuclear deal could lead to new arms race

July 25, 2008

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives at parliament house in New Delhi

(Manish Swarup/AP)

Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh, who successfully pushed the deal with the US through parliament earlier this week

Pakistan warned the international community yesterday that a deal allowing India to import US atomic fuel and technology could accelerate a nuclear arms race between Delhi and Islamabad.The warning was made in a letter addressed to more than 60 nations as the Indian Government, having survived a no-confidence vote on Tuesday, dispatched diplomats to clear the deal with international regulators.

Later, in a concession to Islamabad, the United States said that it planned to shift $230 million (£116 million) in aid to Pakistan away from counter-terrorism to upgrading its F16 fighter jets seen as crucial for maintaining military parity with India. That announcement came four days before Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s new Prime Minister, is due to meet President Bush at the White House for talks on co-operation in combating Islamic extremists.

Pakistan is a key US ally in the War on Terror and has long complained that India’s nuclear deal, agreed in 2005, will upset the strategic balance of South Asia by endorsing it as a nuclear weapons state.

India and Pakistan both tested nuclear weapons in 1999, but cannot buy nuclear supplies from most countries because they refuse to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The nuclear deal bypasses that by lifting a US ban on nuclear sales to India imposed after Delhi tested its first nuclear device in 1974.

India must still win approval from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose board meets on August 1, and the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG). Pakistan warned IAEA and NSG members in its letter that the deal would impair non-proliferation efforts and “threatens to increase the chances of a nuclear arms race in the sub-continent”.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, and though a peace process has stabilised relations since 2004, they remain deeply distrustful of each other.

Mohammad Sadiq, a spokesman for the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, confirmed the contents of the letter, which he said was distributed to IAEA members. He said: “There should be a model agreement that could be signed with any country that meets the criteria. It should not be country-specific.” The US Congress must also approve the deal and American officials have repeatedly said they could struggle to do that before President Bush steps down. Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, said yesterday that the White House would push to get it approved in time.

Congress must also approve the White House’s proposal to shift two thirds of annual US military training and equipment aid to Pakistan towards upgrading the F16s.

Congress demanded last year that military aid to Pakistan — $1 billion annually since 2002 — be spent on law enforcement or fighting terrorism.

Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, said that the F16s were used for counter-terrorism. Military experts said that they were rarely used against militants and designed more for a potential war with India.

India has sent its top diplomats to Germany, which holds the rotating chair of the NSG, and to Ireland, an NSG and IAEA board member and a strong proponent of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The NSG — founded in 1974 — is an informal group of 45 nuclear-exporting countries committed to preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

India has submitted a draft agreement to the IAEA, under which it would separate civilian and military nuclear facilities and allow agency inspections of the former.


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