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Nuclear threat in the Middle East
On 27 September Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed
the United Nations. He produced a cartoon-style drawing of a nuclear
bomb and drew a “clear red line” which he said Iran must not cross in
its uranium enrichment efforts. He said that by next summer Iran
would be on the “final stage” of its enrichment programme.
Then it would be only months, or maybe weeks, before it had enough enriched
uranium for a nuclear bomb. As he spoke, the largest naval ‘war
games’ ever held in the Middle East were ending. The warships involved
in the exercises off the coast of Iran were mainly from the United
States and also from Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Three
U.S. aircraft- carrier groups took part, each holding more strike
aircraft than the whole Iranian air force.
For 30 years Israeli leaders have been warning of an ‘Iranian nuclear threat’.
20 years ago Netanyahu told the Israeli parliament that Iran was 3 to 5 years away
from having a nuclear weapon and the threat had to be “uprooted by an
international front headed by the US.”
Shimon Peres, currently President and formerly Prime Minister, said in 1992
that Iran would have a nuclear bomb by 1999. In 1996 he said “Iran is the centre of
terrorism, fundamentalism and subversion and is more dangerous than
Nazism, because Hitler did not possess a nuclear bomb”.
Ehud Barak, currently Defence Minister and formerly military chief and Prime
Minister, said in 1996 that Iran would have a nuclear weapon by 2004.
Israel is the only country in the Middle East presumed to have nuclear
weapons. It has not confirmed this, but the US government assumed
Israeli nuclear weapons went ‘live’ in 1969. Israel received help with
its nuclear programme from the US, Britain and France.
In 1981 theUnited Nations Security Council unanimously demanded that Israel
put its nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) inspection. For 31 years it has refused to do so.
Iran’s leadership has repeatedly stated that “the Iranian nation has never
pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. The Islamic Republic,
logically, religiously and theoretically considers the possession of
nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such
weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous”.Eliminating them is
an “urgent necessity and a universal demand”; using them would be a
“great and unforgivable sin” and there should be a nuclearweapons-
free Middle East.
Iran signed up to IAEA inspections in 1974. Continuously since then the inspectors have confirmed that
Iran’s declared nuclear facilities have not been used to make nuclear weapons.
The last head of the IAEA said that in 14 years up to 2009
he had not “seen a shred of evidence” that Iran was pursuing a nuclear
bomb and “all I see is the hype about the threat posed by Iran”. But
his successor, backed by the US and its allies, turns the issue
upside- down saying the IAEA cannot demonstrate “the absence of
undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran”. No country can.
It was in this framework that on 22 October US presidential candidates
Obama and Romney held what was called their ‘foreign policy debate’.
Obama said he had “created the strongest military and intelligence
cooperation between [the US and Israel] in history.
This week we’ll be carrying out the largest military exercise
with Israel in history. We organized the strongest
coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy.
Their economy is in a shambles”.
He repeated that “we’re not going to take any options
off the table” in dealing with Iran – not even ruling out attacking it
with nuclear weapons. He said that the difference he had with Romney
was that his opponent had often talked about waging war on Iran
Romney had already called the Iranian leadership “the
greatest immediate threat to the world since the fall of the Soviet
Union, and before that, Nazi Germany.” He replied to Obama that
“crippling sanctions are something I called for 5 years ago. It’s
absolutely the right thing to do, to have crippling sanctions. I would
have put them in place earlier”. He said that because of Obama’s lack
of action Iran was “4 years closer to a bomb”.
In this way the world’s dominant nuclear power, allied with the Middle East’s only
nuclear weapons state threatens war by next summer on a country that
calls nuclear weapons a ‘sin’. We have been warned.