2004 March 03 Wednesday
On Iran's Nuclear Program And The Larger Conflict

Iran claims it never managed to make working centrifuges from the more sophisticated European uranium enrichment centrifuge design it acquired from Pakistan after Pakistan stole the design from Europe.

According to Iran, after June 2003 "all of the [P-2] centrifuge equipment was moved to the Pars Trash Company in Tehran," says the IAEA's recent Iran report.

Centrifuges in the trash? Right.

The IAEA - not to mention the Bush administration - isn't buying this part of the story. They want the Iranians to talk more about what they really have in terms of P-2 equipment.

But Iran continues to insist that its nuclear program is meant only to produce electricity. Squeezing them too hard at this point might be counterproductive, say some experts. They're like someone hauled in by law enforcement for an interview who can leave at any moment, since they haven't officially been charged with a crime.

"We want them to continue cooperating with the police," says Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Agency.

The Bush Administration is not willing or able to escalate the confrontation with Iran over nuclear proliferation. The mullahs in power in Iran may be betting they can give themselves enough wiggle room to continue to develop nuclear weapons by pretending to reveal all.

As we watch the slow diplomatic dance and the continuing series of revelations about black market nuclear weapons technology it is worth reviewing how the Bush Administration is doing in dealing with the problems of Islamic terrorism, the spread of the more radical strains of Islam, and with the problem of nuclear proliferation. Here are some measures I think are worth keeping in mind when watching the Bush Administration execute its foreign policy:

  • Have the potentially most dangerous countries (notably North Korea and Iran) which are seriously trying to develop nuclear weapons being stopped from doing so? So far it doesn't look like the Bushies have stopped either Iran or North Korea from doing nuclear weapons development. Though it is possible the Bushies have slowed them down to some extent. But if the Bush Administration has a good plan to entirely stop both countries from developing nuclear weapons the outlines of that plan are not clear to me and I do not see how the current direction of US foreign policy is going to accomplish that goal.
  • Is funding for the spread of Wahhabi Islam increasing (that would be really bad if so), staying the same (still pretty bad), or decreasing? There are no obvious signs that the funding is going down. The Bushies do not seem to be even trying on this score. Importantly, they have not made any moves to reduce the long term demand for oil. Therefore the problems caused by oil money feeding the spread of a hostile religious ideology are going to get worse.
  • Is the number of kids being indoctrinated in Madrassahs going up, down, or sideways? In Pakistan at least the religious schools are totally unreformed. The number of kids attending Madrassahs is not going down and the curricula of those schools has not changed, from our perspective, for the better.
  • Are the various pieces of Al Qaeda getting whacked, chopped up, and generally made less effective? My guess is that considerable progress is being made on this front now that the US government is seriously awake to the threat post-9/11. But since Al Qaeda has historically spent years preparing major attacks only time will tell how successful the US and other nations are being in cutting into worldwide terrorist networks.
  • Is the Bush Administration implementing changes on a sufficient scale to make it harder for terrorists to enter the country either legally or illegally? The answer here is no. The Bush Administration is unwilling to make changes in border control or immigration policies on a sufficient scale to make it extremely difficult for terrorists to enter the United States. Karl Rove and George W. Bush are more interested in appealing to Hispanic immigration activists than in the security of the United States.

As you can see from the above list I do not think the United States is doing enough to deal with the Islamic threat or with the related nuclear weapons proliferation threat.

So far the Bush Administration has managed to knock out or stop the weakest nuclear proliferator wanna-bes with the invasion of Iraq and the deal with Muammar Qaddafi/Kadaffy/Khadafy/Ghadafi (can't we just rename him Gandolf or Rudolph or something?) of Libya for him to cry uncle and tell all about his nuclear efforts in exchange for being allowed back into polite society. The Libya deal was probably facilitated by the invasion of Iraq (though there are some who argue otherwise I do not find their arguments persuasive) and that deal helped to bring to light many elements of a black market in nuclear weapons technology. That is a big plus. But is the resulting intelligence bonanza going to enable the United States and its allies to create enough obstacles to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program? It is hard to tell but maybe not. Perhaps the Iranians have already acquired everything they need from the nuclear technology black market and the information from Libya is coming too late to make a difference.

More generally, the Bush Administration's general response just isn't attacking the general threat on enough different levels and layers. There should be a strategy for defunding the Wahhabis because Saudi Arabia isn't going to get better left to its own devices. The borders of the US should be actively defended to prevent hostile outsiders from getting in. While it is not politically correct to admit it not all religious ideologies are compatible with a free society. If we can't clearly identify the nature of the conflict we are not going to fight it effectively. In this respect the Cold War was an easier battle to fight because even though many on the Left argued that communism wasn't a threat most people clearly saw it as a dangerous ideology. Today that clarity of understanding is missing among most leaders in the government and among most of the talking heads.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 March 03 01:24 AM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control


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