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India cannot remain silent

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Nuclear issue brings Iran on the American crosshairs

B. S. Raghavan

Undeniably, there are enough obscure facets of Iran's nuclear programme to cause considerable unease in any reasonable person. The leadership of that country has made the task of its well-wishers extremely difficult by persisting with its uranium-enrichment and reprocessing activities and the R&D efforts connected with them, and by suspending cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) under the various protocols to which it is a signatory.

Its flip-flop over the Russian offer to have the uranium enriched under its auspices and make it available to Iran has not also helped in creating the needed confidence in its claims that it is engaged solely in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. In fact, it is in danger of antagonising Russia and China, which have been reining in the US which was right from the start raring to find Iran guilty and impose punitive sanctions.

The IAEA Director-General, Mr Mohamed ElBaradei, a fair-minded professional who has not attracted the ire of Iran on any account so far, in his latest report of February 27, mentions a number of outstanding issues and concerns, including, as noted by the UN Security Council in its resolution of March 29, topics which `could' have a military dimension. He has frankly admitted that he is unable to state categorically that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran.

Mr ElBaradei is already headed for Teheran, pursuant to the Security Council's directive to him, to review the progress of Iran's compliance with the steps required by the IAEA Board, and submit a report by April 28 to the IAEA Board of Governors as well as to the Security Council. There should have been no question of any of the Security Council members making any war-like moves against Iran until that report is received and a considered recommendation is made to the Security Council by the IAEA.

Incurable old addictions

That being the case, one is shocked to come across a well-documented dispatch datelined April 8 in the

Washington Post

about the US administration plotting a series of deadly military operations against Iran, including possible use of tactical nuclear devices. The columnist, Mr Seymour M. Hersh, has also come out in the

New Yorker

magazine with his own separate account of preparations which are fairly advanced for a pre-emptive strike and regime change those two incurable old addictions of a self-appointed world's super cop drunk with power.

Surveillance aircraft fitted with the latest devices have reportedly been flying over Iran for quite some time on the secret mission of comprehensively mapping the 400 or more "aim points", while US combat troops on the ground might well have already covertly entered Iran to help in the drawing up of ORBATs (orders of battle) enabling the US military to run over Iran within the first few days, if not hours. The seriousness, if not the imminence, of a repetition of the wolf-and-the-lamb story is evidenced by the British Government putting into effect arrangements for the security of its embassy, consular offices, corporate and business establishments, and for meshing the movements of ships and deployment of British troops with those of the US.

Apparently, two kinds of operations are on the cards: A quick and limited strike against nuclear-related facilities accompanied by a threat to resume bombing if Iran responds with terrorist attacks in Iraq or elsewhere; and a more ambitious campaign of bombing and launching cruise missiles, by pressing into service the full might concentrated in the Diego Garcia base, to hit targets extending well beyond Iran's supposedly nuclear facilities. Marked for ground and air attacks are its two chemical production plants, medium-range ballistic missile launchers and 14 airfields with sheltered aircraft, intelligence headquarters, Revolutionary Guard stations and offices and residences of the members of the ruling regime.

Fire-eating, blood-curdling

The build-up being given to the justification for bringing Iran to its knees is every whit reminiscent of the way the US and the UK worked themselves up, going to the extent of fabricating intelligence dossiers, over Iraq's non-existent stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and over the concocted conspiracies of Saddam Hussein with the Al Qaeda's

jehadi

desperadoes to enact a second 9/11 on the US.

First, the fire-eating rhetoric: The identical words, "a grave threat to the security of the world", used by the US President, Mr George W. Bush, both against Iran recently, and against Iraq prior to the illegal invasion of that country, interpreted from Freudian angle, portend a frame of mind that is spoiling for a fight, right or wrong. Correspondingly, the threats against Iran have ominously escalated from "meaningful consequences" (the Vice-President, Mr Dick Cheney) to "tangible and painful consequences" (the US Ambassador to UN, Mr John R. Bolton).

Simultaneously, the US has unleashed a barrage of blood-curdling, and yet to be substantiated, charges to rally the coalition of the gullible and the pliant against Iran. To wit: That it is capable of developing a nuclear bomb "within months" at its two alleged nuclear facilities, Isfahan and Natanz; that these, consisting of more than two dozen buildings are tunnelled deep into mountains with two huge underground halls built with six-foot walls and supposedly protected by two concrete roofs with sand and rocks in between, and camouflaged to boot; and that it has tested several missiles which can carry nuclear warheads. (Intriguingly, all these suppositions fly against the current estimate of US intelligence agencies that it will be 10 years or more before Iran acquires the required capabilities for having a nuclear bomb.)

Rousing world opinion

It is hard to tell at this point whether it is all part of a well-orchestrated psychological warfare with the eager participation of the embedded US media, meant to compel Iran to act as per the dictates of the Security Council, with the US playing a dominant role. Sometimes, the momentum generated by the mobilisation of the military as vast and powerful as that of the US, even if originally intended as a pressure tactic, can get out of hand and engulf the countries concerned in a war not of their seeking. (An analogous situation with the possibility of an India-Pakistan war causing alarm round the globe arose following Gen. K. Sundarji's spectacular Operation Brasstacks in the Rajasthan desert in 1986 and massive troops movements to the borders of India and Pakistan in 2001 soon after the attack on Parliament by

jehadi

terrorists.)

India should make clear to the US that the common ground between the two countries is only to the extent of ensuring the preservation of the delicately balanced equilibrium in the region by not letting Iran emerge as yet another nuclear weapons state, with all the attendant risks and that it is totally against any further arrogation by the US to itself of the right to trample upon human rights and sovereignty and integrity of nations in the self-proclaimed interest of its security and, ergo, that of the world.

It should not hesitate to call upon both industrialised and developing nations to caution the US against attacking Iran. Unless the countries of the world act in concert to send a loud and clear message to the US to this effect, it will continue to feel encouraged in its thinking that it is its sole preserve and prerogative to lay down the law for the entire humankind to obey.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated April 11, 2006)
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