How About a Pre-Emptive Strike on Iran?
Jude Wanniski
September 13, 2003


Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: An October 31 Deadline

If you knew the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) yesterday voted to give Iran until October 31 to "prove" that it did not have a nuclear weapons program, OR ELSE!!, you would have had to look carefully in today's New York Times to find the itty-bitty account on the bottom or page two, from Reuters: "U.N. Sets Deadline for Iran on Nuclear Arms." The story makes it clear that the IAEA only did this under "intense pressure from the United States," which of course is acting from the same position that led to the pre-emptive war in Iraq. What's going on here? From what I've been able to reckon, Iran does not have a nuclear-weapons program, but is being constantly harassed by the Pentagon neo-cons who are doing everything they can to block Iran's development of light-water nuclear power reactors and have bigger goals in mind.

The IAEA chief Mohamed elBaradei has not seemed that concerned about a nuclear weapons program in Iran, which is a signator to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). He would be if he found Iran using its gas centrifuges to produce highly-enriched uranium, when it is only supposed to be producing lightly-enriched uranium as fuel for its power plants. Whenever the neo-cons insist something is going on over there, Iran has permitted Baradei to come in to look around, even though it is not required to under the NPT terms. Baradei would like Iran to sign an additional protocol, which would require Tehran to permit spot inspections anytime the IAEA says it wants a look at this facility or that. The Iranians suggest they might sign the protocol, but will not as long as it doesn't seem to make any difference to the Pentagon -- which promoted the bombing of Iraq even though the country was crawling with inspectors. What do Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld want? Regime change, one supposes.

Following is a superb assessment of what is at stake, from Gordon Prather, who wrote his weekly column for WorldNetDaily on Thursday, before the IAEA action on Friday. Now that the deadline is set, with Baradei heading to Iran in two weeks to clear things up, this is an issue we will be following closely. Remember the Israeli government has hinted it might take matters into its own hands unless it is satisfied that Iran is not developing nukes.

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By Gordon Prather

For more than 30 years, we depended upon the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to prevent NPT signatories not already having nukes from developing or acquiring them.

We relied upon the International Atomic Energy Agency to verify NPT compliance and the U.N. Security Council to ensure compliance.

The IAEA is an agency of the United Nations. Its original mission was to facilitate the international transfer of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Since 1972, the IAEA has also been responsible to the U.N. Security Council for verifying that those peaceful applications once transferred are not misused.

For example, certain types of research reactors can be modified and operated to produce weapons-grade plutonium for nukes. Similarly, uranium enrichment facilities intended to make only enriched uranium for nuclear power plants can be modified and operated to also produce highly-enriched uranium for nukes.

The IAEA requires every NPT signatory to "declare" such facilities and subject them to the IAEA-NPT Safeguards regime. The IAEA then installs and operates monitoring systems at those sites and conducts the periodic and unannounced inspections deemed necessary to verify NPT compliance.

Now, you may wonder why a nation-state, not possessing nukes, would agree to never seek them, and be subjected to -- and have to pay for -- the intrusive IAEA-NPT regime. Aren't nukes a guarantee against attack? And cheap in the bargain?

Yes. So, the Security Council has essentially guaranteed non-nuke NPT signatories that they would never need nukes to deter attacks. The Security Council would come to the defense of any non-nuke state attacked by a nuke state.

But, wasn't Iraq a non-nuke NPT signatory in 1981 when attacked by Israel, a nuke state?

Hadn't the Osiraq reactor and its enriched-uranium fuel been "declared" and subjected to the IAEA-NPT regime? Wouldn't it have been impossible for the Iraqis to have modified Osiraq and operated it to make weapons-grade plutonium so long as it was subject to the IAEA-NPT regime? Wouldn't Iraq have never been a nuke threat to anyone so long as it was subject to the IAEA-NPT regime?

Yes -- and Israel knew that. They bombed Osiraq, anyway, showing their contempt for the IAEA-NPT regime, and for the Security Council guarantees to non-nuke states.

Israel was roundly condemned by the Security Council, but not otherwise punished, perhaps because Iraq was at war with Iran at the time.

That Israeli bombing in 1981, coupled with our bombing in 1998 and our invasion in 2003, of an Iraq in full compliance with the IAEA-NPT regime -- all done without dire consequence to ourselves -- gave the lie to Security Council guarantees to non-nuke states.

Consequently, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and associated IAEA-NPT regime is in crisis.

Does anyone in the Bush-Cheney administration care? Perhaps. Here are excerpts from Secretary Powell's statement to the PrepCom session held this spring for the 2005 NPT Review Conference.

We meet at a time of considerable challenge to the NPT and to international peace and security.

NPT Parties weapon states and non-weapon states alike must take strong action to deal with cases of noncompliance and to strengthen the Treaty's nonproliferation undertakings. We cannot allow the few who fail to meet their obligations to undermine the important work of the NPT.

The NPT can only be as strong as our will to enforce it, in spirit and in deed. We share a collective responsibility to be ever vigilant, and to take concerted action when the Treaty -- our treaty -- is threatened.

Of course, these remarks were made after North Korea and other NPT signatories had watched in horror our "concerted action" in Iraq.

The IAEA is meeting in Vienna to consider what to do about North Korea -- which has withdrawn from the NPT -- and Iran, which is threatening to withdraw.

Not to worry. We don't need no stinking IAEA-NPT regime.

Our intelligence community can monitor -- via satellite -- the thousands of sites now subject to the IAEA-NPT regime. If we detect suspicious activity at one of those sites in Iran -- or anywhere else -- CIA weenie David Kay can go nip it in the bud.

What if they "nip" David Kay?

Not to worry. Maybe this is where the Israelis come in.

"Any Iranian regime knows, of course, that Israel has the capability, the wherewithal, to deal with a military threat," said Zalman Shoval, an aide to Mr. Sharon. "Hopefully, a military threat can be avoided, nipped in the bud, before it begins, and this is where the United States comes in."

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Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.