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Iran Nuclear Issues : Analyses of the Crises

The Bush administration is recklessly setting the course for military conflict. On the other side, the European powers, Russia and China, caught between Washington’s demands and their own economic interests in Iran and the Middle East, have chosen to appease the US. While economic sanctions are currently under discussion, the White House has repeatedly made clear that “all options”, including a military attack, are “on the table”.

The EU-3 - Britain, France and Germany- have called for an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for punitive sanctions, Russia and China are yet to finally agree.

The entire rationale for UN action against Iran, recycled endlessly in the international media, reeks of cynicism and hypocrisy. All five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US, Britain, France, Russia and China - have nuclear weapons and have failed to meet their obligations as signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to dismantle their huge nuclear arsenals.

There is nothing benign about these stockpiles. Rather their purpose is to bully, threaten and ultimately be deployed against smaller, weaker powers, as the incendiary comments of French President Jacques Chirac make clear. Speaking at a nuclear submarine base in Brittany, in January 2006, Chirac warned that France would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons against any state that sponsored a terrorist attack against vital French interests.

A glaring double standard is applied to Iran, which is being menaced with economic sanctions and military strikes over its nuclear programs, while US allies - Israel and India - already have nuclear weapons. Other countries, such as Brazil, either have built or are currently constructing uranium enrichment plants, which are not outlawed under the NPT.

Just as it used Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, the US is exploiting the Iranian “nuclear threat” to advance its ambitions for untrammelled domination of the resource-rich region. Iran, which has the world’s third largest reserves of oil and the second largest reserves of natural gas, sits in a key strategic position astride the Middle East, Central Asia and the increasingly important Indian subcontinent. Many analysts say that even if the Iranian regime were to abandon all nuclear programs and completely demolish its nuclear facilities, Washington would invent another pretext for its provocative actions, which are aimed at establishing US ascendancy in the region over America’s European and Asian rivals.

In response to the latest threats, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has declared that his government will defy the UN Security Council and proceed with plans to develop uranium enrichment. He condemned what he called the “medieval attitude” of “bullies” and issued vague threats that “a time might come that you would become regretful, and then there would be no benefits in regretting.” In a veiled reference to the danger of sky rocketting oil prices, he declared: “They confront us and deal with us in very harsh and illegal language, but ultimately they need us more than we need them.”

No one should mistake Iran’s bravado for a genuine struggle against hegemonistic designs of the US. The aim of this limited challenge is to pressure the major powers for a more advantageous relationship for the Iranians and to bolster Iran’s position as a regional power. For the past two years, Tehran has been seeking to use the nuclear issue to man oeuvre between the US and the European powers for a formal agreement with the EU for closer economic and political relations, in return for concessions on its nuclear programs.

Iran has blandly declared that “our goal is the peaceful use of nuclear technology” and again asserted Iran’s rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to develop all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle. Iranian power holders insist that Iran has to have not only nuclear power plants, but nuclear weapons as well. The construction of nuclear weapons is viewed as he means to establish Iran as a regional power in the Middle East, just as the Indian government is attempting to do in South Asia.

There are no doubt those in the Iranian regime who calculate, or rather miscalculate, that if Iran had nuclear weapons the US would be compelled to come to terms with Tehran in the same way that it did New Delhi after its 1998 nuclear tests. However, a few crude Iranian nuclear weapons would not seriously deter US aggression. In fact, the construction and testing of an Iranian nuclear weapon would only heighten the danger of a military strike or all-out war by rte US and its allies, with devastating consequences.

The danger of imperialist war will not be ended through the acquisition of nuclear weapons by countries like Iran and North Korea.

The surprise victory of Ahmadinejad in last year’s presidential poll was itself the product of a deepening economic and social crisis in Iran. While Ahmadinejad capitalised on popular disgust towards the “reformers,” he has no solution to the social and economic catastrophe confronting millions of Iranians. Despite its large reserves of oil and gas and the current high price of oil, the Iranian economy is suffering from high inflation, a lack of investment and decrepit infrastructure. According to an estimate by the National Iranian Oil Company, the oil industry desperately needs $70 billion over the next 10 years to modernise the country’s dilapidated infrastructure.

UN economic sanctions on Iran will intensify the country’s deep social crisis. The population is very young - nearly 50 percent is under the age of 20 and 70 percent is under 30. The official unemployment rate is 16 percent, but other estimates put the figure twice as high. Only half of the one million new job-seekers entering the market each year find work. According to a government study in 2004, joblessness among 15- to 29-year-olds was set to skyrocket to 52 percent in less than two years.

As the confrontation with US imperialism and its allies deepens, the regime in Tehran may well decide that it has no alternative but to embark on the course of developing, testing and stockpiling nuclear weapons. There is no doubting the very real dangers posed by the Bush administration, which has enunciated and aggressively acted upon its doctrine of preventive war with reckless indifference to the consequences and contempt for international law. While insisting Tehran restrict its nuclear activities, the US is openly flouting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by developing new generation of bunker- buster” nuclear weapons that are aimed precisely at the type of protected underground facilities that exist in Iran.

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