The Iranian Crisis Resolved

Secretary of State Condi Rice issued an ultimatum to Iran, last week, to give up "the pursuit of nuclear weapons." Meanwhile, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the China-Arab Cooperation Forum all called for a "nuke-free" Middle East.

All three organizations also expressed strong support for the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and all its provisions, particularly the one that affirms the inalienable right of all signatories to enjoy all the benefits of nuclear energy in return for forgoing the pursuit of nuclear weapons.

And, all expressed their view that when it comes to achieving a nuke-free Middle East, Iran is not the problem.

Israel is the problem.

As Condi was threatening to exert "greater pressure on the Iranians through sanctions and other measures through the Security Council and, if necessary, with like-minded states outside of the Security Council," the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was meeting in plenary session in Brazil.

Established in 1975, as a direct result of the test of a nuclear weapon by India, the Nuclear Suppliers Group is comprised of 44 nuclear-supplier states that have voluntarily agreed to coordinate their export controls governing transfers of nuclear materials, material production, and processing equipment and related technology to non-nuclear-weapon states.

NSG members are expected – but not required – to forgo nuclear exports to countries that do not subject their imports to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safeguards regime. The IAEA has accepted the responsibility for verifying that NSG exports are not used by the importer for any military purpose.

Since 1992, to be eligible for importing nuclear reactors, reactor fuel and certain proscribed equipment from an NSG member, the importer – NPT signatory or not – must have in place a comprehensive IAEA Safeguards Agreement covering all nuclear activities and facilities.

Hence, the NSG effectively controls nuke-proliferation-potential exports, and the IAEA effectively subsequently monitors nuke-proliferation-potential imports.

Now, India is not a NPT signatory, but has some materials, equipment, and facilities subject to IAEA Safeguards.

In the past, we put great pressure on all NSG members to rigorously apply the NSG guidelines to India. In particular, we attempted to prevent the construction by Russia of the first two nuclear power plants at Koodankulam. We even attempted to prevent refueling of the U.S.-built Tarapur atomic power station. Russia was only able to supply low-enriched uranium to Tarapur in 2001 on the basis of “safety” considerations.

But then, last year, Bush-Cheney-Rice decided to make India "our new strategic partner."

Since India refuses to subject all its nuclear activities to IAEA Safeguards, our deal with India will require permanent “waivers” of NSG guidelines.

As of this writing, it is not clear whether China will agree, since the objective of the new U.S.-Indian "strategic partnership" is to "contain" China.

Either way, Bush-Cheney may have destroyed the IAEA-NPT-NSG nuke proliferation prevention regime, which has always been a top priority.

The regime has been in the way of the establishment – via preemptive attacks against nuke proliferators – of an American hegemony.

When Bush-Cheney came to power, they confronted IAEA certification that no "source or special nuclear materials" – much less hundreds of pounds of almost pure uranium-235 or plutonium-239 – were being used by Iraq, Iran, and North Korea in furtherance of a military purpose.

Bush-Cheney ignored the IAEA – and defied the Security Council – by launching a preemptive attack against Iraq, allegedly to put an end to Iraq’s nuke "ambitions."

Bush-Cheney appear to be on the verge of defying the IAEA and the Security Council once again, launching a preemptive attack against Iran, allegedly to put an end to Iran’s nuke "ambitions."

Bush-Cheney and the Israelis claim – but surely don’t really believe – that if the Iranians are allowed to get their uranium-enrichment centrifuges (basically secondhand Pakistani junk) operating in IAEA Safeguarded cascades, they will be only months away from having a nuke arsenal.

If Iran circumventing the IAEA Safeguards regime was their real concern, the solution to the Iranian uranium-enrichment crisis is at hand.

We have prevented the Iranians from realizing the multi-billion dollar investment they made in the 1970s in EuroDif, the French-based uranium-enrichment consortium.

But now the Brits want to sell their 1/3 interest in Urenco – the Dutch, UK, and German world-leader in centrifuge technology and uranium-enrichment.

Why don’t the Chinese buy out the Brits, then guarantee Iran nuclear fuel for Chinese-built nuclear power plants as part of a Chinese-Iranian agreement for co-production of Iranian oil and natural gas?

There, Condi. See how simple that was.

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.