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THE EUROPEAN UNION, THE UNITED STATES, AND POLICY TOWARD IRAN

By
David MacMichael
  
 
In the months leading up to the United States and United Kingdom-led "Coalition of the Willing" aggression against Iraq , France and Germany represented the principled opposition in the United Nations to this act. They pointed especially to the weakness of the evidence, the so-called intelligence, adduced by the White House and Downing Street to declare Iraq in violation of its post-Gulf War obligations to rid itself of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, means for their delivery and programs for continuing or resuming production of them. European governments questioned very convincingly the US and UK claims that Iraq, militarily neutered and economically all but destroyed by the Gulf War (and the preceding decade of armed conflict with Iran) and the decade of UN sanctions, could pose any realistic threat to anyone, let alone to the United States. And this was not even to consider the deterioration of Baghdad's political control over large regions of Iraq by the US and UK imposition of "no fly" zones, a euphemism for the continuation through the years after the Gulf War of large scale air attacks against Iraq's remaining military facilities and its industrial infrastructure.
 
The US, UK, et al. invaded anyway, in total violation of the UN Charter and over the ineffectual protests of the other Security Council members, most governments of the European Union, and solid majorities of the populations of Europe.. Within weeks it became clear to all but the most committed followers of President Bush and Prime Minister Blair that the so-called weapons of mass destruction (WMD) which were the casus belli did not exist and, in fact, had not existed in Iraq for a decade. After many months, even the Busheviks and Blairites had to admit this was true, although they continued to insist that their pre-invasion claims had been based on the best intelligence available-a claim that speaks volumes (if accepted as true) for the value of the US and UK intelligence services.
 
One would have thought that in the aftermath of the aggression which has not even had the justification of succeeding in its true objectives of establishing US-UK control over Iraq and its petroleum resources that the credibility of Washington and London had been all but destroyed. How then, can we, on either side of the Atlantic, explain the extraordinary campaign over the last six months in which France and Germany have joined forces with the Anglo-Saxons to declare that Iran, by pursuing development of its civil nuclear power program, is really covertly attempting to build nuclear weapons? Ostensibly, Washington has stayed in the background here, while London, Paris and Berlin have been pressing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to find Teheran in violation of its obligations under the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT). NPT members are obliged not to pursue the development of nuclear weapons and must make themselves open to continuing supervision of their nuclear activities by the IAEA.
 
The point at issue is that Iran, as part of its program, has begun enrichment of uranium fuel for its planned reactors. This, as experts on the NPT such as former US Atomic Energy Commission official, Gordon Prather, acknowledge, is absolutely within Iran's NPT rights. The fear expressed by the US and the Europeans is that Iran cannot be trusted not to divert its uranium enrichment capabilities, once fully developed, to the secret production of nuclear weapons. The alleged basis for this suspicion is that several years ago Iran did not, in fact, report certain nuclear activities related to uranium enrichment to the IAEA. Iran, for its part, has acknowledged the past deficiencies and is currently adhering to the letter of its NPT obligations, with all its activities carried out under observation of IAEA authorities, who now declare that Iran is in full compliance. The IAEA inspectors found false one of the major charges the US and Europeans had made against Iran-that it had been secretly enriching uranium-when its inspectors ascertained that the traces of enriched uranium found on power plant equipment was contamination left on the machinery by its provider, Pakistan.
 
Iran and the EU representatives-Britain, France and Germany-have been negotiating on this issue for two years. The Europeans have been offering economic inducements if the Iranians will end their uranium enrichment efforts, promising that they will provide the necessary enriched uranium to them. The Iranian response is that they cannot and will not give up their NPT right independently to produce their own uranium, asking why they should put their nuclear power program effectively under the control of others. Their position, as enunciated by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his address to the United Nations General Assembly this September, is that Iran's national honor prohibits the country's acceptance of restrictions on its treaty rights, especially when based, as Iran sees it, on mere suspicion that it might be contemplating violation of the NPT. Interestingly, US and European spokespersons have cited Ahmadinejad's insistence on Iran's treaty rights as in itself unacceptable "hardline" defiance and even as evidence of Teheran's guilty intentions.
 
A landmark of sorts was reached on September 24 when the IAEA's governing board voted 22 to 1, with 13 abstentions, to approve a rather curious report by IAEA Director General Mohammad ElBaradei that because Iran, although it had for the past two years been in full compliance with the safeguards agreement, had in the past failed to report on its holdings of nuclear material it was therefore in violation of its NPT obligations. These past breeches had apparently, ElBaradei said, been corrected, but still, in an illogical conclusion, constituted "non compliance."In November the board will meet again to vote on whether to report Iran to the UN Security Council which could impose sanctions, but is most unlikely to do so since permanent Council members Russia and China have both made it clear that they will veto any attempt to do so.
 
The runup to the September meeting was marked by furious diplomatic maneuvering on the part of the US and the Europeans who sought, in the end successfully, to overcome the opposition of most of the third world countries on the IAEA board to approve or at least abstain on ElBaradei's finding that Iran was, somehow, non-compliant. Clearly, there was enormous pressure placed on these countries in the form of threats of punishment and promises of reward, and the result was, if one trusts most press reports, immensely satisfying to Washington, London, Paris and Berlin. ElBaradei himself had been a prime target of the US, especially new US UN Ambassador John Bolton, who had tried vigorously to have him replaced as director general for both his past refusal to declare that Iraq had nuclear weapons and his later insistence that Iran was complying with the NPT. It is not unreasonable to speculate that his bizarre conclusion that while Iran was now complying it was really in non-compliance as an attempt to get Washington off his back.
 
An egregious example of the sort of diplomatic capital expended can be seen in the results of the July visit to Washington of India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Singh, whose government is increasingly closely linked economically to Iran and who had been expected to support Teheran at the IAEA, received red carpet treatment and, as a reward for his promise of India's vote to find Iran in violation, got US agreement, ironically or even hypocritically, to end its policy of non-cooperation on nuclear technology with New Delhi, a policy in effect since India's successful secret testing and subsequent manufacture and deployment of nuclear weapons a few years ago. (This development, by the way, went completely undetected by US intelligence until the final atomic bomb testing-an enormous embarrassment for the same "intelligence community" that claimed falsely in 2002 to have the details of a non-existent Iraq nuclear weapons program and today insists that Iran has one, too.) There were also promises of more US military assistance to India, ostensibly to offset rising Chinese military strength.
 
Whether the Bush administration-now claiming the IAEA board of governors' vote as a diplomatic triumph-got full value for its money with India is questionable. While Teheran understandably expressed disappointment at India's vote, President Ahmadinejad and his economics minister insisted that Iran would continue its policy of providing India with petroleum and natural gas and both countries made it known that the $22 billion pipeline project, strongly opposed by the US, to send fuel to India would continue. Moreover, India has all but officially announced that when the IAEA meets in November, it will vote against sending Iran before the Security Council to face the possibility of sanctions. While Singh made the proper noises of concern in Washington about the menace of China it is most unlikely that the current friendly relations between the two Asian economic superpowers will be disturbed at all.
 
While the US pushes the nuclear issue as part of its longstanding hostility to post-Shah Iran-a member of the Bush administration's "Axis of Evil"-and is obviously happy, while it is mired in the quicksands of Iraq, to have Europe pick up the diplomatic burden here, it is extremely difficult for any neutral observer to understand why Europe (overlooking the UK always obedient to White House commands) has gotten involved in the affair at all. One looks in vain over the whole of post-World War II history for any sign of Iranian hostility toward Europe. Indeed, the fact that Iran, throughout this current nuclear dispute, has not made an issue of the very open material and military support that European industry gave to Iraq during the 1980s war between the two middle eastern nations, speaks volumes about Teheran's interest in having friendly relations with Europe. Surely, Paris and Berlin cannot believe that Iran has hostile intentions toward them. At the same time, they surely understand that an Iran, largely recovered economically from the destruction of the 1980s war and currently awash in petroleum and natural gas earnings offers not only its raw materials but tremendous investment opportunities, all of which, obviously, Iran would not like to squander on those who pronounce themselves its enemies.
 
So, the question remains. Why has the European Union aligned itself so strongly with the United States in this confrontation with Iran over what can be described as a trumped-up issue? Europe's interest, like most of the rest of the world's, is in a restoration of something like a pre-March 1903 Middle East. The last thing Europe needs is a new international confrontation there. It is almost impossible to imagine what possible advantage the EU sees in continuing to provoke this quarrel.
 
However, perhaps one can speculate that the Europeans are risking adverse political and economic consequences for fear of an almost unimaginable disaster if they can't persuade Iran to give up its NPT rights to enrich uranium for its atomic power program. The disaster? The possibility of a direct attack by Israel, using either conventional or nuclear weapons, on Iran.
 
Does this sound farfetched? Certainly, memories in France go back to 1981 when Israel bombed to smithereens the nuclear power plant a French company was building at Oshirak in Iraq. And for those whose memories don't go back that far, there has been the current pronouncement by an Israeli Defense Department official, that Israeli intelligence finds Iran only six months from having a deliverable nuclear weapon. Only last week, a multi-party delegation of Israeli parliamentarians visited Washington and publically declared that if the United States and its allies were not prepared to use force to stop Iran's nuclear programs-because, as they said, diplomacy will not work to do this-then Israel is prepared to act unilaterally.
 
Certainly, many states is the Middle East are concerned about Israel-a non-NPT member-possessing a secret nuclear arsenal of at least 200 weapons. During the same IAEA meeting which approved the finding against Iraq, Oman offered a motion-which failed to gain approval-to declare Israel a nuclear threat.
 
Another possible explanation of the EU's policy on this issue is that the United States may have privately informed the EU that the US, unilaterally or in partnership with Israel, will take armed action against Iran-bombing nuclear sites. Again, such a suggestion gains credibility as the Pentagon openly pushes its programs for high penetration nuclear bombs to use against buried enemy military installations.
 
Frankly, it is highly possible that the Europeans are acting as they are not because they are afraid of Iran might do, but because they are positively terrified of what Israel and the US will do.
 

4. Okt 2005
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David MacMichael, PhD, is a historian and a former analyst for U.S. government agencies and lives near Washington, D.C. He is currently a steering committee member of "Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity" (VIPS).

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David MacMichael/lifeinfo.de 2005
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