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At nuclear arms talks at U.N., U.S. threatens first strike on Iran

May 15, 2010

A month-long meeting, involving 189 countries, is underway at the United Nations. It’s the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review.

This review of a nuclear disarmament treaty that went into effect 40 years ago occurs every 5 years. Its stated purpose was disarmament by the countries holding nuclear weapons, stopping the spread or proliferation of nuclear weapons to other countries, and the right of all countries to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Almost the only U.S. media attention of this international gathering has been the ridicule, threats and demonization heaped on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the only head of state to take the disarmament conference seriously enough to attend it and offer concrete suggestions on how to meet the goals of nuclear disarmament.

Rather than hear a call for NPT to oversee disarmament of all nuclear-armed states within a specific timeframe and a Middle East Nuclear Free Zone, the nuclear powers of U.S., Britain and France orchestrated a public walk-out during the Iranian president’s U.N. talk. They used their enormous political and economic strength to pressure 30 other countries to participate in the walk-out.

More ominous than the symbolism of a U.S.-led walk-out on disarmament proposals were the actions in Washington in the month leading up to the NPT.

President Barack Obama, while announcing the results of the Nuclear Posture Review of the Pentagon’s weapons on April 5, explicitly asserted the right to make a nuclear first-strike against Iran and North Korea if the U.S. deemed them to be in violation of nonproliferation rules.

The corporate-owned media actually described this as a disarmament proposal!

Just after this announcement, President Obama flew to Prague and with great flourish signed, with Russian President Medvedev, a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty to reduce the number of active nuclear weapons to 1,550.

But the New York Times gave the real reason for the disarmament proposals in the Nuclear Posture Review and the START Treaty with Russia. “At the heart of President Obama’s new nuclear strategy lies a central gamble: that an aging, oversize, increasingly outmoded nuclear arsenal can be turned to the new purpose of adding leverage” against Iran and North Korea. “We think we now have credibility Bush never did to tighten the noose,” said one of Obama’s aides. (April 6)

What could be a more cynical maneuver than signing a treaty on disarmament to give more weight to a first-strike nuclear threat against Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea?

Hopes were dashed for those who took President Obama at his word a year ago in Prague in the midst of his first European trip as president when he outlined a goal of “a world without nuclear weapons.” There was hope for at least a blanket statement that the U.S. would never be the first to use nuclear weapons.

It is essential to understand that nuclear weapons taken from active status do not have to be destroyed. The number of operationally inactive stockpiled nuclear warheads will remain in the high thousands as “responsive reserve warheads,” part of the “Stockpile Management Program.”

There is another impediment to any form of real U.S. disarmament. Regardless of the risk to humanity or the cost to U.S. workers, the sheer multibillion-dollar size of and super profits to major corporate military contractors and thousands of subcontractors in the U.S. capitalist economy all mean that there is a sector of the ruling class demanding that these weapons systems continue to be built. This was once justified using Cold War anti-communist rhetoric and now using “anti-terrorist” rhetoric.

U.S. deflects attention from its arsenal

The problem Washington faced, at a world conference to discuss disarmament, was how to deflect attention from the U.S.’s own role and any demands for clear disarmament.

The solution was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s demand to discuss the totally unsubstantiated charges that Iran is a global nuclear threat because the country could develop the capacity at some point years in the future to build a nuclear weapon.

The U.S. holds the majority of nuclear weapons — an enormous arsenal of 5,113 warheads by Washington’s own admission. Iran is still at the technical level of attempting to develop lowly enriched nuclear energy for fuel, lighting and medicine. Iran has enriched uranium to less than 5 percent, consistent with fuel for a small civilian nuclear power plant. Nuclear weapons use uranium that is highly enriched to more than 90 percent. Such enrichment requires technology that Iran does not possess.

Although the International Atomic Energy Agency, the watch-dog agency set up by the U.N., has consistently reported no evidence of links to a nuclear weapons program in Iran, the U.S. threats, sanctions and efforts at a still-more-stringent fourth round of sanctions have continued.

While Washington demands endless inspections of Iranian sites, it refuses to give any information on the deployment of its 12 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines that are on “hair-trigger” nuclear-launch readiness. These giant death machines are each armed with 24 Trident-II missiles with a range of more than 4,000 nautical miles. Each of the 24 missiles on board a sub has 4 MIRV nuclear warheads. This is total of 1,152 nuclear warheads hidden underwater in the oceans of the world, including in the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf and off the coast of Korea.

The U.S. has never demanded or even proposed inspection of the 400 nuclear weapons held by Israel with U.S. technical support and decades of diplomatic and political cover.

Washington continues to raise the fear that Iran or North Korea will spread nuclear weapons to other countries. The NPT prohibits nuclear weapons states from transferring nuclear weapons — including the direct or indirect control of such weapons — to nonnuclear weapons states. But this is exactly what the U.S. itself does.

Hundreds of B61 thermonuclear bombs and Tomahawk cruise missiles, among other U.S. nuclear weapons, are presently “hosted” in the nonnuclear NATO countries of Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. U.S. nuclear weapons were held for decades in South Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Guam.

Far from submitting to intrusive inspections as it demands of Iran and North Korea, the U.S. will neither confirm nor deny the presence or absence of nuclear weaponry on board its nuclear-powered aircraft supercarriers.

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UPDATED May 22, 2010 4:38 PM
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