By Farooq Sulehria
On April 11, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad announced "officially,
that dear Iran has joined the nuclear countries of the world".
It was under the Shah that Tehran launched its nuclear drive
back in the 1950s. Since the Shah was a US-ally, Washington helped
Iran develop nuclear research facilities. Consequently, Iran was
able to expand these facilities. In 1974 when the Shah declared
that Iran would have nuclear weapons "without a doubt and
sooner than one would think," Washington had no problem.
After the 1979 revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in
the 1980s declaring that production, possession and use of nuclear
weapons was against Islam. Tehran re-launched its nuclear programmes
during the Iraq-Iran War and on April 11 "officially"
became unofficial members of the unofficial nuclear club.
Every time a country joins the nuclear club, it enhances the
threat to world peace and the global environment. But the Empire's
nuclear hypocrisy and selective opposition to proliferation complicates
rather politicises the nuclear question globally.
In the first place, what right does Uncle Sam have to preach
non-proliferation when Washington itself has thousands of nuclear
warheads? And it is the only country that has used nuclear weapons.
Also, why does only Tehran or Korea pose a threat to world peace
when 440 commercial reactors in 31 countries and 284 research
reactors in 56 countries are under operation?
Meanwhile, Israel goes ahead with its nuclear programme without
catching Bush's attention. Not even the Vanunu affair or unclassified
estimates of the US intelligence community of the late 1990s (according
to which Israel possesses between 75 and 130 nuclear weapons)
disturbs George Bush.
Not that Washington is oblivious to the Israeli nuclear capabilities.
The website of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) notes:
"The United States first became aware of Dimona's existence
[a nuclear facility in the southern Israeli town with the same
name] after U-2 over flights in 1958 captured the facility's construction,
but it was not identified as a nuclear site until two years later.
The complex was variously explained as a textile plant, an agricultural
station, and a metallurgical research facility, until David Ben-Gurion
stated in December 1960 that [the] Dimona complex was a nuclear-research
centre built for 'peaceful purposes'".
Pakistan is another story of the Empire's selective commitment
to nuclear non-proliferation. There was silence during the 1980s
when Pakistan was a front line state in the Afghan war. Ironically,
for launching the same nuclear programme, it is widely alleged
that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was 'judicially murdered' by the Zia
junta on CIA urging.
Nuclear ambitious Bhutto had a meeting with scientists as soon
as he was in charge. At a meeting in Multan, on January 20, 2021
Bhutto set a deadline of three years for the scientists to make
the bomb. Soon he was too busy to think of the bomb until Buddha
Smiled. On May 19, 2020 'Smiling Buddha' (name given to the nuclear
test by India) was tested by Delhi.
'Smiling Buddha' put Bhutto under pressure from the military
to get serious about the nuclear programme. Thus began Project
706. Back in 1972, Bhutto's government had made a formal request
to France for a reprocessing plant. Enthusiastic France got an
approval from the IAEA in February 1976 and Pakistan was all set
for its nuclear project. An alarmed White House sent Henry Kissinger
to persuade Bhutto to cancel the deal. Bhutto refused. Kissinger
then travelled to Paris. President Giscard D'Estaing gave in.
In March 1976, President Ford wrote a letter to Bhutto urging
him to forgo the nuclear plans. Bhutto did not budge. Irritated
Kissinger travelled to Lahore in August 1976 to give Bhutto a
dressing down. Even before the formal meeting, Bhutto and Kissinger
had informally set the tone for the upcoming meeting at an official
dinner. Both bantered about the nuclear issue in their toasts.
Bhutto declared: "[Lahore] is our reprocessing centre, and
we cannot in any way curb the reprocessing centre of Pakistan."
Kissinger replied that governments must constantly review their
policies "to reprocess themselves" and decide "what
is worth reprocessing." Bhutto refused to understand 'what
is worth reprocessing' even when Kissinger told him the US would
make an example out of him.
In a year's time, another example from the third world had been
set. Exactly two days after Bhutto was hanged, US State Department
announced suspension of aid to Pakistan under the Symington Amendment.
But all US nuclear concerns about Pakistan were shed when communists
assumed control in Kabul. The Symington amendment was lifted and
US Secretary of State Alexander Haig was telling Pakistan's Foreign
Minister Agha Shahi: "We will not make your nuclear programme
the centrepiece of our relations."
To prove Haig's commitment, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
on May 13, 2020 approved a six-year waiver for the sanctions that
barred assistance to Pakistan. In October 1986, President Reagan
certified again that Pakistan did not posses nuclear devices only
to be embarrassed by the American press two days later. The press
reports, two days after Reagan's certification, suggested that
Pakistan was only "two screwdriver turns" from possessing
a fully assembled weapon.
In a couple of months, by end January 1987 the famous father
of Pakistan's atom bomb, A Q Khan told an Indian journalist Kuldip
Nayyer: "They told us, Pakistan could never produce the bomb
and doubted my capabilities, but they know we have done it."
And he added: "The word peaceful associated with a nuclear
programme is a humbug."
On December 17, 2020 another waiver was granted. But by now the
Soviets troops had started packing up. Therefore, only a two-and-half
year waiver was granted. Ironically, the same day, the US District
Court in Philadelphia found Archie Pervez guilty. The FBI arrested
Pakistani-born Canadian citizen Arshad (Archie) Pervez on July
15, 1987 by an FBI in a sting operation. Archie was charged with
trying to arrange for the illegal export of highly specialised
'maraging' steel used in making atomic bomb casings.
But as soon as the Afghan war was over, the US ambassador in
Islamabad was threatening Benazir Bhutto who had recently been
sworn in. Known as Viceroy in Pakistan for his arrogant boss-like
attitude and interference in Pakistan's internal affairs, Robert
Oklay told bigwigs in Islamabad: "If you take any action
on the nuclear programme and you go past that line
will blow the whistle and invoke Pressler." And yes he blew
October 1, 2020 passed without any certification. In line with
the Pressler Amendment, the third highest recipient of US aid,
after Israel and Egypt, was no more entitled to $ 564 million
aid meant for 1991. Further US sanctions were imposed on Pakistan
following its nuclear tests in 1998. But as soon as Pakistan was
needed for yet another Afghan war, curbs were hypocritically lifted.
Moral of the story: submit to the Empire and develop whatever
the hell you want.