Is Iran Building a Nuke?
Jude Wanniski
June 15, 2004


Memo To: Mssrs. Bush, Kerry & Nader
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The neo-cons are at it again

You are undoubtedly being briefed by your foreign-policy advisors on the issue of Iran’s “nuclear program.” You had best be careful on the sources because the newspapers you are reading all seem to think Iran has a “nuclear weapons program” when there is actually no evidence that it has any more than a “nuclear program” to produce electric power in nuclear power plants. Remember the neo-cons in the government were successful in getting the major media to conclude that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. They have been doing to same through one of their agents, John Bolton in the State Department, who spreads disinformation about what’s going on in North Korea as well as Iran. The neo-con goal is to thoroughly discredit the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as it tried to do in the months leading up to their war against Iraq last year.

Why? Because the IAEA can prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons through its ability to spot check countries suspected of having a “weapons program.” If the IAEA can accomplish that goal, there is no need for more pre-emptive wars to disarm “rogue states” of nukes, or to blow up their nuclear power plants as Israel did in Iraq in 1980, with neo-con assistance. Your advisors have surely told you there is now discussion in Israel of a similar pre-emptive strike against an Iranian nuclear power plant.

Once again, to get a clear picture on Iran, I turned to Dr. Gordon Prather, who was the army’s chief scientist in the Reagan years, a now-retired nuclear physicist. Dr. Prather has followed the nuclear issue for decades, having been a weapons designer at Sandia and Lawrence Livermore Labs when the U.S. was still designing nukes. Dr. Prather does not believe North Korea has nukes and points out that North Korea has never said that it does. In this note I got from him this morning, he says the same about Iran.

Following his comments, I append a link to the June 13 New York Times Magazine for an article by James Traub, “The Netherworld of Nonproliferation,” which at least makes a good effort at explaining the issues of this most important topic.

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From Dr. Prather:

As best I can tell, Iran denies that it has ever sought to have nukes. Whether you believe that or not is somewhat beside the point. The point is that they are Non-Proliferation Treaty signatories and they are demanding that other NPT signatories abide by the Treaty. When the G-8 vows to not provide for a year any nuclear-related technology or equipment to anyone, the US, UK, Germany, France and Russia are in material violation of the NPT. Iran -- as best the IAEA can tell -- is not in violation of the NPT, but We ARE.

Now you may argue that we ought not be a party to such a treaty. But it's OUR Treaty. We got the Shah to sign it and then we began building him a nuclear power plant -- the one the Russians are now finishing for the Mullahs.

When the Iranians say they want to be a member of the 'nuclear club' they say they don't mean nukes. They mean they want to be a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group [NSG]. They want to enrich their own uranium and sell it, just like they sell their oil and natural gas. At present, Bolton et al are attempting to equate uranium enrichment with having nukes. Iran objects to that, and properly so, in my opinion. Bolton wants to tear up the NPT and go it alone. Bolton et al have an agenda that requires the destruction of the IAEA-NPT-NSG Safeguards and Physical Security regime.

Iran as an NPT signatory has certain "inalienable rights", guaranteed to them by the Treaty. Bolton is attempting to make a mockery of Iran's rights under the NPT and the whole world is watching. China is not a member of the G-8 [nor the NSG] but is an NPT signatory. My guess is that if the G-8 refuses to honor its NPT commitments to Iran, China will honor its. After all, China's use of oil and natural gas is rapidly increasing and Iran is the second or third ranked producer of both.

In answer to your other question, no NPT signatory has yet successfully gamed the IAEA-NPT-NSG regime to develop nukes. Not even Iraq. G.Prather doubts that Iraq could have -- even in the pre-Additional Protocol era -- and certainly could not, now.

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Here is the introductory paragraphs of the Traub article and the link to it if you wish to read it in its entirety, which I recommend you do:

June 13, 2004
The Netherworld of Nonproliferation
By James Traub

President Dwight D. Eisenhower saw nothing even remotely paradoxical about the expression ''Atoms for Peace'' when he delivered a speech of that name to the United Nations General Assembly on Dec. 8, 1953. Eisenhower had come to disclose ''a new conception'': that ''if the fearful trend of atomic military buildup can be reversed, this greatest of destructive forces can be developed into a great boon.'' Atomic energy could be applied to ''agriculture, medicine and other peaceful activities'' and ''provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world.'' This speech led directly to the establishment of the International Atomic Energy Agency, under the aegis of the United Nations, and, 15 years later, to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Both were founded on a grand bargain: countries that agreed to place their nuclear programs under a system of international inspection and forgo the development of nuclear weapons (if they didn't already have them) would gain access to the expected atomic bounty.

Today the premise of that bargain seems almost quaint. Nuclear energy has never achieved anything like the World of Tomorrow promise it enjoyed half a century ago; meanwhile, the world feels menaced by the threat of nuclear weaponry in a way unimaginable in Eisenhower's day. Authoritarian and, even worse, potentially unstable states like Pakistan and North Korea have opted out of the nonproliferation system in order to develop a bomb; terrorist groups seek weapons of mass destruction; and a global black market delivers nuclear fuel, equipment and weapons designs to states that aspire to join the nuclear club. The United States has already fought what may be thought of as the first war of counterproliferation; the fact that Iraq turned out not to possess weapons of mass destruction shows, among other things, how extraordinarily difficult it is to gain certain knowledge of an adversary's nuclear capacities.

Tomorrow the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency will meet, and the principal item on the agenda will be, as it has been for the last year, Iran's nuclear program. The Bush administration is convinced that Iran is secretly trying to build a bomb. The Iranian officials I spoke with in a visit to Tehran last month insist that they are merely trying to improve their ''energy mix'' by adding nuclear power to their abundant oil supplies. But even in the unlikely event that that is so, an Iran capable of producing weapons-grade uranium is plainly unacceptable, not only to the Bush administration but also to its chief allies. What is not at all clear is how to make the Iranians surrender that capacity.

The nuclear bargain has become hopelessly one-sided, and the instruments created to sustain that bargain seem unequal to the task. Bush administration officials describe the current impasse over Iran as a test that the international community, and specifically the I.A.E.A., is failing. Even the I.A.E.A.'s director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, says that the entire nonproliferation system is in danger of collapse, though he would include American bellicosity among the forces that are endangering it. President Bush and ElBaradei, along with a wide range of scientists and policy makers, have proposed a variety of designs for a new and much more comprehensive nonproliferation system. Whether a new network of laws and institutions can plug the holes faster than terrorists, brokers, freelancing scientists and rogue states can fill them is an open question. [continue at....]