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Outside View Fresh Ideas On Irans Nukes

With India, Pakistan, and Israel already having nuclear weapons, at least one Muslim Mideast state highly likely to obtain one, South Korea housing some, North Korea presumably possessing a lot, and conventional nonproliferation policies clearly unfit for the job they are assigned, the current events seem to serve as a kind of response to great powers' half-century failure to put an end to regional conflicts and, more importantly, to openly aggressive U.S. axis-of-evil rhetoric.
by Vladislav Inozemtsev
UPI Outside View Commentator
Moscow, Russia (UPI) Feb 16, 2006
The conservative treatment of Iran's nuclear problem seems to be deeply flawed on two counts: Iran is mistakenly treated as a pariah and its perceived goals are erroneously diverted. A nuclear-aspiring Iran is treated differently from India and Pakistan, who succeeded in their own nuclear efforts, partly because of its "axis of evil" and "sponsor of terrorism" labels.

Also Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's extremist rhetoric is of little help in making the rest of the world less nervous.

Meanwhile, Iran's nuclear case, great powers say, has more to do with energy than weapons. All parties in the discussion seem to take it for granted that what Iran wants is nuclear power, the bomb being more of a looming consequence than a clear goal.

On the first count, the prosecution has to tread carefully, keeping in mind that the "axis of evil" is in fact little beyond a propaganda move exploited by the Bush administration to justify its foreign policy strategies. In real terms, someone who lashes out at you in broad daylight is much less dangerous than someone who walks softly and has a big stick behind his back.

The issue of nuclear power is no less tricky. Centering the current debate around control over nuclear fuel production for power generation means diverting it from the main point. Hardly had the West put up with the prospect of having Iranian nuclear materials enriched in Russia, when Tehran demanded more concessions.

The Iranian negotiators were so tough that Mohammed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), suggested that the United States supply Iran with nuclear reactors in exchange for an eight-year moratorium on nuclear research. In turn, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke for the establishment of "a global infrastructure" that would ensure "equal and non-discriminate access of all interested countries to nuclear power, while reliably maintaining non-proliferation requirements."

However, Iran is clearly and determinedly heading for a nuclear weapons capability, which comes as no surprise, considering today's international environment in which no sane statesman can be sure of his country's future if earmarked as an "enemy to civilized world." In addition, the West's non-proliferation policies have been too hypocritical to be considered seriously.

In short, a solution to the current debate would emerge as all major world powers dramatically rethink their non-proliferation principles.

An important proposition would be that it makes little sense now to intensify pressure on Iran. Even without Russia's help, Iran is incapable of building a nuclear bomb, let alone a nuclear power plant, all by itself.

There are many places Iranians can go -- if Russia turns them down, there is China; if China refuses, there is Pakistan, until recently world's largest online shop for nuclear technology. And, in any case, there is a possibility to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a move as quickly played-down as it was loudly condemned when North Korea defied it.

The two remaining options are military action or a profound rethinking of the entire non-proliferation policy.

The military option sounds as simple technically as it is risky politically, as it may lead to unpredictable consequences. Rethinking is impossible without a consensus of the "old" members of the nuclear club -- the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China -- concerning nuclear aspirations of developing countries. Such consensus is harder but apparently more important and valuable.

This new strategy could come from the European Union as Europe's image in the Middle East is much more positive than that of the United States. In addition, the EU includes two of the five nuclear powers, and accounts for the bulk of economic aid to developing world.

The proposal to ensure "equal and non-discriminate access" of all interested countries to nuclear power is also reasonable, where the main problem would be to prevent misuse. This will be possible if there is a single security policy based on guarantees from "nuclear" to "anything but nuclear" countries and including promises of military assistance in case of external aggression.

With India, Pakistan, and Israel already having nuclear weapons, at least one Muslim Mideast state highly likely to obtain one, South Korea housing some, North Korea presumably possessing a lot, and conventional nonproliferation policies clearly unfit for the job they are assigned, the current events seem to serve as a kind of response to great powers' half-century failure to put an end to regional conflicts and, more importantly, to openly aggressive U.S. axis-of-evil rhetoric.

This leaves the West facing a dilemma, whether to go for the costly security guarantees, nuclear power aid, and buyouts of existing nuclear ordnance from the "newly nuclear" (there are nuclear demilitarization precedents with South Africa, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine), or just watch impassively and hope the possession of nuclear weapons will not lead to interstate conflicts.

A Soviet-American nuclear war is now a half-forgotten Hollywood nightmare, and the relationship between India and Pakistan since 1997 has been strained but in no way apocalyptic.

What great powers should beware of is selective treatment. Uneven approach to real or potential nuclear weapons states -- biased on either side, as the White House or the Kremlin or whoever pleases, and fueled by self-imposed rush and hysteric propaganda -- is clearly a policy that has no place in today's world.

Vladislav Inozemtsev has a Ph.D. in economics. This article is reprinted by permission of the RIA Novosti news agency. United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.

Source: United Press International

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