Nuclear hypocrisy over Iran


Iran is entitled to develop nuclear energy and breaks no agreements or commitments in so doing, writes Vincent Browne.

If Iran wants to acquire nuclear weapons capacity, it has been encouraged to acquire it by those very countries that now threaten it. In challenging the legitimacy of the state of Israel, Iran is not just voicing the opinion of millions in the Middle East and beyond but is advancing a reasoned opinion supported by historical fact.

Before I go further on the issue of Israel, I am conscious that any suggestion that the state of Israel may be illegitimate is seen as anti-Semitic. But how is it that although one regards the Holocaust as the greatest crime against humanity in history, the serial pogroms against the Jews throughout Europe and beyond also as crimes against humanity and our own treatment of Jews in Ireland as an abomination, one is regarded as anti-Semitic because one thinks the illegal and violent removal of Palestinians from their homes in Palestine in 1948 - the acts which founded the state of Israel - was another historic outrage? But back to the nuclear issue.

Iran signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, promising, among other things, not to acquire nuclear weapons capacity. Countries that now threaten Iran - the US, France and Britain - never made any promise not to acquire nuclear weapons capacity because they already had them. They now have tens of thousands of nuclear weapons between them.

A section of that Non-Proliferation Treaty specifically provided for Iran, and the other signatories, to develop nuclear power and that is precisely what Iran is now proposing to do. Nobody objected to Iran having this freedom under the treaty. It has since emerged that while America and Britain were assisting Israel to acquire nuclear power capacity, as provided for under the treaty, these same powers, along with France, were acting in breach of that same treaty in assisting Israel to acquire nuclear weapons. Israel now has between 75 and 125 warheads.

In assisting Israel to acquire nuclear arms, America, Britain and France were encouraging neighbouring states to acquire nuclear weapons capacity, lest their security be threatened by their hostile neighbour having that capacity. Therefore, even if it was the case that Iran was then or is now trying to acquire nuclear weapons capacity, the blame for that would lie with those states that conspired to create those circumstances in which Iran feels it necessary to acquire such capacity.

It recently emerged that the Clinton administration in the late 1990s collaborated with the Israelis in deploying US-supplied Harpoon cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads in Israel's fleet of Dolphin-class submarines.

The submarines were supplied by the Germans, another of the states currently threatening Iran. Israel's seaborne nuclear doctrine is designed to place one submarine in the Persian Gulf, the other in the Mediterranean, with a third on standby. Secret test launches of the cruise missile systems were understood to have been undertaken in May 2000 when Israel carried out tests in the Indian Ocean. All this was published in the Observer on October 12th, 2003.

So what do we expect? If Israel, a declared enemy of Iran has nuclear weapons, the only effective deterrent against Israel using such weapons against Iran and its allies is to acquire nuclear weapons itself.

On June 7th, 1981, Israel bombed a nuclear power plant in Baghdad. Twelve days later the UN Security Council issued a resolution condemning the Israeli action.

That resolution acknowledged Iraq's right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to develop nuclear power and noted that Iraq had complied with all the safeguards stipulated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It noted that Israel had not adhered to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and "(Called) upon Israel urgently to place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards". As it did under a 1967 resolution calling on it to withdraw to its pre-1967 boundaries, Israel simply ignored the UN resolution.

Now, when Iran proposes to develop nuclear energy, as it is quite entitled to do under the treaty, the countries that gave Israel its nuclear weapons capacity - America, Britain, France and Germany - threaten to invoke economic sanctions against Iran.

How is it that double standards in the conduct of foreign affairs is the accepted norm? How is it that the questioning of the legitimacy of a state that was born by the despoliation of a vulnerable Palestinian community is regarded as tantamount to incitement to genocide?

It clearly is not now possible to undo the Israeli state but a solution to the current impasse in the Middle East has to begin at least with an awareness of the historic injustice that lies behind that state and at least an insistence that Israel is forced to withdraw to the pre-1967 borders, that the Palestinian capital be based in east Jerusalem and that the refugees driven from the land in 1948 have a right to return.

Meanwhile, hands off Iran.