Saturday, August 26, 2006

It's Deja Vu with Bush and Iran

Iran has been a thorn in America’s side ever since it became a theocracy back in the late 1970s. Before that, it was an ally under the Shaw. The Shaw of Iran was an evil dictator, but at least he was pragmatic enough to embrace the West.

When the Shaw was deposed and Islamic fundamentalists took over control of the country, student militants quickly took 66 American diplomats and citizens hostage at the U.S. embassy. The crisis lasted 14 months, with a symbolic ending when they were released after Pres. Ronald Reagan was sworn in.

Although there was a period of time when U.S.-Iranian relations seemed to be relaxing, those days are over. With a president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is firmly in the camp of Islamic fundamentalists and who has a plan to bring his country into the nuclear age, Iran and Washington have done nothing but engage in inflammatory rhetoric.

Iran wants to build nuclear power plants. I don’t know why since it is the world’s third largest producer of oil, but that’s what Ahmadinejad says he wants to do. He claims his uranium enrichment program is not meant to create fuel for use in nuclear weapons.

But that is exactly what the U.S. fears Iran’s nuclear program will spawn, weapons of mass destruction that can be aimed at America’s buddy, Israel.

So with Iran staunchly refusing to give up its uranium enrichment program and the U.S. firmly dedicated to stopping it from proceeding, the matter ended up where most such impasses get a hearing, the U.N. Security Council.

The Security Council comprises 15 members, including five permanent members and 10 elected members that serve two-year terms. Any one of the five permanent members, including the U.S., Russia, France, the United Kingdom, and China, can veto any resolution simply by voting no to it.

And, by virtue of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the five permanent members are the only country’s allowed to possess nuclear weapons. Of course, other countries do, but that’s because they either pulled out of the treaty or because they haven’t admitted to possessing nuclear weapons.

So when a country, especially a third-world country like Iran, makes nuclear overtures, the Security Council invariably must get involved.

Iran is a signatory to the treaty. However, the treaty itself is weakened by a clause that allows nations to leave the treaty if it is in their national interest to do so. Iran has not petitioned to leave.

In fact, Ayatolla Ali Khamene’i has issued a fatwa that prohibits his country from producing, stockpiling, or using nuclear weapons. And the treaty does allow signatory nations to develop nuclear technology for peaceful uses.

U.N. inspectors have not turned up any evidence that refutes Iran’s claim that their nuclear enrichment program is for anything other than clean energy. But the Bush administration isn’t buying it, just as it didn’t accept the U.N.’s contention that showed Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.

So Bush is now pushing for sanctions against Iran and for the freezing of its assets, a move that could trigger a retaliatory cutback in oil output by Iran. And that would send gasoline prices even higher.

The Security Council members are not in agreement over sanctions. The U.S. wants them; Britain and France are not quite sold on the idea, and Russia and China are firmly against sanctions at this time.

The fact is, however chilling a nuclear-armed Iran would be, there is no more evidence that Iran is making nuclear weapons than that Iraq was making them prior to the ongoing war we now have with that country.

Now Bush wants to form yet another coalition of the willing to enact sanctions against Iran for doing nothing more than what it has the right to do as a sovereign nation under Security Council rules.

Not only is Bush an obstinate, unyielding leader who believes that he has a better grasp on reality than all the rest of the nations of the U.N. and who would like nothing better than to turn this country into a Christian theocracy, he also seems not to be able to learn even the simplest lessons of history. So here we go again.

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