US Has Hypocritical Nuclear Policy

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US Has Hypocritical Nuclear Policy

Aref Assaf

Daily Record Op-Ed

As the world decides how to punish Iran for its acquisition of nuclear power capability, there is a kind of nuclear hypocrisy which lurks beneath US claims. One  facet is of Iran’s undeclared motives for acquiring nuclear power, beyond peaceful energy-related purposes, is to counterbalance Israel’s nuclear weapons. The other is about our own continued stockpiling of such weapons even though we have signed the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty.

Some pundits have suggested that the US if it indeed desires a nuclear-free Middle East, should require Israel to dismantle its fully developed and massive nuclear capability thus undermining Iran’s claims for needing such weapons. In fact this appears to be the conclusion of a study by the Strategic Studies Institute titled “Getting Ready for a Nuclear-Ready Iran”   If the US does not wish for another Islamic nuclear power, concludes Henry Sokolski, a co-editor of the study,” Israel should freeze and begin to dismantle its nuclear capability.

It has been a declared and a long-standing objective of the United States to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. After all, we are the first and only superpower to have used them. It is, therefore, incumbent upon us to deny their future by any nation. The Arab countries of the Middle East have long lobbied for the nuclear-free Middle East which of course means for Israel to rid itself of its nuclear arsenal. But the US has steadfastly rejected such a proposal. A more reasoned policy with regard to this volatile region solicits our fear not only about the potential use of the weapons themselves but about the political leverage bestowed on those who would possess them. It is a smack of double standards in our nonproliferation policy since the early 1960’s what the US has applied with respect to Israel’s weapons of mass destruction. Israel’s suspected arsenal includes chemical, biological, and about 100 to 200 nuclear warheads, and the capacity to deliver them. If Iran is denied nuclear capability, another Arab or Muslim country will soon rise to demand the same so long Israel does.

It is no secret that the US, contrary to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has been adding to not reducing its nuclear arsenal. As the United States surges forward in its nuclear renaissance, the threat of nuclear terrorism and accidental nuclear strikes remains a grave yet under-funded priority. The administration occasionally raises the specter of nuclear-armed terrorists. In February 2004, for example, President Bush warned, “In the hands of terrorists, weapons of mass destruction would be the first resort.” Despite its rhetoric, however, the administration has done nothing to accelerate efforts to destroy and safeguard loose nuclear weapons and bomb-making materials, allocating about $1 billion a year to these crucial non-proliferation efforts. This is roughly the same amount that the Bush administration has been spending each day in Iraq.

The contradictions between what we are demanding of Tehran and other powers, and the capabilities we have pursued our own arsenal, are provocative and dangerous – truly nothing short of nuclear hypocrisy. Dick Cheney is right when he said recently that a nuclear-armed Iran is not a pleasant prospect, and we have to do something. But the most effective option is the hardest to swallow. Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the United States agreed to an “unequivocal undertaking” to “eliminate” its nuclear weapons arsenal. Honoring that commitment — and encouraging other declared and undeclared nuclear states to do the same — would undercut Tehran’s arguments about why nuclear firepower is necessary and pave the way to the safer world.  Leading by a good example should be our ultimate policy in this dangerous world.