Anyone keeping an eye on the news this week is sure to have noticed the tremendous increase in coverage of Iran's nuclear developments. Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is supposedly seeking approval from his cabinet to launch a military strike on Iran. In the meantime, the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency released a report saying some of Iran's nuclear developments are for atomic weapons. The U.S. continues to rattle sabers at Iran as it's done for years now. What the rapidly escalating disaster illustrates is the total hypocrisy of U.S. foreign policy—and the results may just be our next, and perhaps biggest, mistake yet in the Middle East.
The international policy of non-proliferation is a very good idea; we have enough nuclear weapons in the world. There are eight nations with acknowledged nuclear weapons, five of which have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: the U.S., Russia, France, the United Kingdom and China. Together, they have an estimated 22,000 nuclear weapons—probably enough to destroy the earth as we know it several times over.
But then there are other nations that have nukes or are suspected of having nukes, and they haven't signed the non-proliferation treaty.
India tested a thermonuclear device in 1998 and is believed to have between 80 and 100 nuclear weapons. Its neighbor, Pakistan, with which they have gone to war four times in the last half-century, also has nukes that its leaders say were developed because India has nukes. Estimates of just how many warheads Pakistan might have are difficult to project because Pakistan keeps moving its nukes around the country to keep their location secret not just from India, but also from the U.S., because they fear the U.S. will try to destroy them. Pakistan is also home to a very high-level nuclear warhead engineer who has admitted to selling information and materials to produce fissile weapons on the black market.
North Korea claims to have nuclear weapons and was once a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty, but withdrew in 2003 in response to George W. Bush's extremism. It's conducted two tests of nuclear weapons since 2006. How many nukes North Korea may have remains unknown.
And then there's Israel. While it will neither confirm nor deny that it has nuclear weapons, the Federation of American Scientists estimates that Israel has between 75 and 200 weapons, as well as mobile launchers, launch sites and bunkers identified by satellite photos. Israel is neither a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty nor does it allow the IAEA to inspect its facilities.
A quick look at the map of the world gives an instant understanding of what's at stake. The U.S. has already gone to war in both Afghanistan and Iraq—the two nations that surround Iran on their eastern and western borders, respectively. Pakistan lies south of Afghanistan; Saudi Arabia sits just to the southwest of Iran and, along with the tiny United Arab Emirates, shares the Persian Gulf between them, including the narrow bottleneck at the Straits of Hormuz, through which all of Saudi Arabia's oil passes on its way to the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, and then out to the world's oceans.
Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is an open and harsh critic of Israel and is credited with saying "Israel should be wiped off the map." On the other hand, it is Israel that has already used pre-emptive military strikes to destroy nuclear facilities in Iraq. On Tuesday, Israel's defense minister, Ehud Barak, once again said Israel and its allies should not take "any option" off the table in dealing with Iran. This is largely believed to be a direct reference to military action.
The U.S., which for all practical purposes has been hooked to Israel at the waist for 60 years, is being urged by Israel to once again stand ready to assist, if not initiate, whatever military action may be deemed necessary by Israel to destroy Iran's nuclear capabilities.
But here's where it gets real sticky: Russia waded into the fray and issued a harsh warning against any such military intervention in Iran by either the U.S. or Israel. As reported by numerous news sources, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said any such attack "would be a very serious mistake fraught with unpredictable consequences." In diplomatic vernacular, that means the whole thing could spin wildly out of control. Moreover, Lavrov pointed out that Iran's response to military intervention could involve impeding the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, which could plunge the world into economic collapse.
Kuwait, from which the U.S. staged its attacks on Iraq and which has an estimated 15,000 American troops stationed there, denounced any attack on Iran and said it will not allow U.S. military forces to base any attacks from Kuwaiti soil.
Another U.S. ally, Germany, has likewise denounced any military intervention in Iran, saying continued diplomatic and trade sanctions offer the best resolution to the issue.
The blatant hypocrisy of the U.S. position is obvious. We are threatening a military strike on Iran because the IAEA says they may be developing technologies designed for nuclear weapons. Yet we won't insist that Israel be open to IAEA inspections and abandon its nuclear weapons programs and existing arsenal.
The issue is coming to a head at breakneck speed, with some sources saying a military strike is possible within the next week. Instead of immediately siding with Israel, doesn't it make more sense for the U.S. to, for once, advocate for peace instead of beating the drums for more war?
Helena's George Ochenski rattles the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Independent. Contact Ochenski at firstname.lastname@example.org.