Thursday, February 09, 2012

Will They, or Won't They?

The musical question this week is 'will, or won't' the Israelis, driven to desperation by the thought of a nuclear-armed Ayetolleh, unleash its 'luftwaffe' and reduce the 'atomic centers' of Natanz, Bushehr, Arak and a number of other sites,  to irradiated rubble. Although opinion is split on whether or not an atomic weapon is in the cards, or only in somebody's dreams, or even less distinct - that doesn't seem to be getting in the way of Israeli government sources whose 'chitchat' indicated the bunkerbusters were already being slung under those Strike Eagles.

President Obama is reported to have said, 'Nay!' to a greenlight for the 'raid'. His personal representative - the US Chief of Staff - showed up (in 'class A rig') to tell the IDF general staff, (in shirtsleeve order), that the President 'meant it'. Then the President went on TV, before the Superbowl, to let every sport fan know that he understood why Israel would want to bomb Iran, that he was "lockstep" with them but that he didn't know, for sure, what they were going to do. Was that a green light?

The 'evil' that is Iran has been described so often that it is taken as fact by an awful lot of  North Americans  - it must be the Disney effect,  for all critical reasoning seems suspended when they hear the word "Iran" and the reaction is at the visceral level. It's even worse in the land of the Hebrews where spittle foam, once reserved for Al Fatah suicide bombers,  is a standard reaction.

Let's take another quick look at the history of Atomic energy in Iran.

The Iranians got interested in developing atomic energy in the fifties at a time when many countries were taking a look at atomic generation of electricity. The nascent atomic power industry, particularly in America, was actively selling the US design around the world. The Shah signed-on with the Americans to develop and produce atomic energy. He also went on to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regarding atomic weaponry. Iran remains, suprisingly, a signatory to that pact - her main accusors the USA and Israel, aren't.

The first stage of this nuclear development saw the US supplying Iran with fissile materials and the necessary equipment to do ground-level studies and development work. This assistance was  further extended by France and Germany in terms of  both fissile materials, expertise and equipment. This continued apace until the Shah was overthrown.

Obviously the first change came in regard to America, which withdrew all its support. Pressure was then applied to France, which reneged on a 1 billion dollar deal with Iran, and kept the money (resulting in a string we are told,  of Hezbolleh money-recovery hostage takings). Germany withdrew as well. The IAEA , then offering technical assistance to Iran, was pressured by the US to desist.

Russia and China stepped into the breach to assist with nuclear power development and the Americans claimed that Pakistanis were assisting the Iranians to produce an A weapon. This was all some 25 years ago. So it's understandible how fairytales of such long-standing become almost divine writ, rather than just common folklore.

The Russians helped build the only nuclear generating plant at Bushehr, which came on-line for the first time - using Russian supplied fuel rods -  in Summer 2011. The Chinese were pressured to 'butt out' during the 90's but may be one their way back in, now. The IAEA has remained a variable influence,  controlled as it appears to be, by US and European interests viz: the most recent report on Iran by the IAEA was NOT released to the public, or the UN, but to a meeting of the Group P5+1 - which promptly labelled their work 'unacceptable' and the USA and EU members increased trade and financial sanctions sanctions on Iran. While the Iranians, at least thus far, have maintained a basic level of cooperation with IAEA under their NNPT obligations, there seems to be the notion that some visiting 'inspectors' may be gathering intelligence for military targetting.

The latest in all this is the claim that the Iranians are 'hardening' some, or all, nuclear operations by moving them underground. The latest Israeli jeremiad on the topic is the 'zone of invulnerability' - ie that point at which Iran's nuclear ambitions will be impervious to attack - at which time, accordimg to Israel, they will abrogate NNPT and develop, at least, the 4 nuclear bombs with which they intend to wipe Israel off the map, threaten their neighbors into giving them control of the world's oil and imperil civilization as we know it. The Israelis claim this to be the absolute limit by which time they will 'need' to attack Iran.

The Americans are afraid this might trigger an arms race in the middle east, like their recent spate of weapons deals isn't. And threaten world peace and endanger the region and wipe Israel off the map and stop the little Iranian girls going to school.


According to Benny Netanyahu the 'officials', me included, now just need to "shut up".

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