Exclusive to The Daily Banter
By: Daniel Ritchie
The menacing depiction of an Iranian nuclear program is most certainly very vivid in the short term memory banks of the American public. The daily malignant mantra permeating all the main stream ‘news’ sources, reverberating in the tone of a war drum, creates ignorant fear. The public is led to believe that the Iranians are intent on obtaining nuclear weapons capabilities through the development of their nuclear power program. Feelings that Iran must be stopped from obtaining ‘the bomb’ have arisen, and distort the reality of the debate, while simultaneously negligent reporting fails to uncover the duplicity of American nuclear foreign policy and discuss the many other nations which have declared intent to develop the same technologies.
In the last 2 years much [white] noise has been made about the resurrection of the Iranian nuclear program, which the US initiated in the 1950s through the Atoms for Peace Project after the US orchestrated coup d'état which overthrew Mohammed Mosaddeq for nationalizing the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (today BP) and placed the Shaw to power, but little attention has been paid to the roughly dozen other nations which have declared the intent to develop similar programs in the same two years.
Egypt declared in 2006 it wanted to pursue nuclear power, Morocco and Algeria are both discussing with the IAEA about the feasibility of nuclear power programs, Tunisia has expressed a desire to do the same, and Libya, a former ‘evil’ state turned ‘friend’ by falling in line with US demands despite no structural change in government (crazy Omer Kadafi is still in power), is reportedly buying a nuclear reactor from France for a water desalinization plant.
Outside of North Africa and into the turbulent and unstable region know as the Middle East, the members of the Gulf Cooperation council (GCC) announced they desired to jointly build a nuclear power plant in coordination with the IAEA, of which the first evaluation of feasibility was finished in 2007. In the same year Jordan announced it would pursue a nuclear power program. Yemen has also expressed interest in such a project and The United Arab Emirates, a member of the GCC, is moving forward with its own plans for nuclear power independent of the GCC.
What is often overlooked in the Iranian discourse debacle, is that all parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) have the legal right to develop nuclear technology for energy programs. The snag in the right, is that once the ‘know how’ is obtained there is difficulty in preventing a state from transmuting it into a weapons program. However the proliferation of nuclear ‘know how’ is likely to increase along with the subsequent desire to use it.
No great hubbub was created with the American transfer of nuclear ‘know how’ to India in 2005, though this was significant in many ways. This transfer sent a message to China from the US by strengthening China’s closest possible regional rival in population, land mass, and potential economic weight dimensions. Additionally, and possibly more significantly it antagonized Pakistan, a tense, unstable and hostile country with an infamous past in dealing with nuclear ‘know how’ (remember Dr. A.Q. Khan?).
Furthermore, the transfer of nuclear technology to strategic allies and the hindrance there of for strategic rivals is nothing new, it is in fact how Iran first got theirs (to counter the U.S.S.R.), but it exemplifies the duplicity of American foreign policy in regards to nuclear technology, and should cause us to slow down a bit an analyze the issue from a global perceptive, and not a US strategic one.
There has been an increasing interest in the nuclear option for energy around the world as the technology becomes more accessible and attractive in light of rising fossil fuel costs. Furthermore, the gulf states now exploring the nuclear energy route argue that nuclear power is part of a wider strategy to reduce dependency on oil and gas for energy. With rising populations, all the states, especially the GCC states, face increasing energy demands, of which the indoor ski resorts and island construction doesn’t help. In addition and of great logical importance for the GCC, several states intend to use at least some nuclear power for desalination of sea water. It is also arguable that exporting hydrocarbon fuels is more economically efficient than consuming them at home. Thus, developing nuclear energy can appear economically sound even to hydrocarbons-rich countries, whom on the surface seem like they may not need it.