|On 15 December 2010, the US adopted a decisive step in its Middle East policy by pushing through the UN Security Council three resolutions designed to further US strategic, economic, and political interests. Vice President Joe Biden presided over the 15-nation U.N. Security Council meeting that ended a 19-year ban on Iraq to develop a nuclear program. Naturally, on the surface this seems like US hypocrisy given US policy toward Iran, but hypocrisy is a way of life in politics and we must judge policy on its practical merits and results positive and negative for all parties concerned. |
In two other resolutions, the UN ended the very corrupt food-for-oil program in which western banks and corporations had been fraudulently draining Iraqi resources and keeping the militarily occupied nation impoverished - one reason that France abstained given that BNB Paribas had claims. The third resolution gives Iraq control over its oil, naturally a mere formal step given there are lucrative contracts with Western companies that will be honored for the duration.
In 1981 Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor, on the pretext that it constituted a military threat. For the near future, Iraq wants nuclear power for medical and energy development, given that it under-produces electric power and needs to triple the capacity within the next few years in order to stimulate both the agricultural and industrial sector. Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani and Education Minister Abd Thiab al-Ajili are trying to ease the concerns of neighboring countries that Iraq has no intention of developing nuclear weapons, but this is exactly what Iran has been claiming and the result is a series of US-sponsored sanctions.
What does Iraq's nuclear program mean for IRAN, THE MIDDLE EAST, US, CHINA & RUSSIA?
1) The US could not push through the UN this resolution without Russia and China that support and assist directly and indirectly Iran's nuke program. Given China's recent move to ameliorate relations with India by doubling trade in the next five years, and its already excellent 'business' and strategic relationship with Russia, the deal on Iraq with the US keeps China on track of maintaining stability in Asia. This coincidentally taking place on the same day that governor Bill Richardson has been negotiating with Beijing over tensions in the Korean peninsula and is headed for Pyongyang on 16
2) The US no longer has as strong a case against Iran's nuke program (UN resolutions regarding Iran notwithstanding) because it will be helping Iraq develop its own, thereby counter-balancing Iran and depriving it of the balance of power advantage that it would enjoy otherwise.
3) The US no longer has a strong case against China and Russia that were backing Iran in its pursuit of a nuke program, something that actually helps Washington after the recent Lisbon NATO meeting where it was clear that US & Russia are headed for much closer cooperation.
4) The US will find itself in a very difficult position if it allows Israel to hit Iran's nuke facilities, after China and Russia approved the US proposal to allow Iraq develop its own nuke program. At the same time, Israel's strategic role is checked by yet another Islamic country planning to develop nuclear program, although intended as energy, it can easily be converted down the road.
5) The US will carry a lower burden of having Iraq as a satellite once it develops nuclear energy, which it can sell throughout the region and meet its domestic and foreign obligations - 5% of all energy receipts going to Kuwait to which Iraq still owes $22 billion. In November 2009, US accused a Kuwait firm called AGILITY for over-billing Iraq $8.5 billion in delivering food contracts during the course of 4 years when it provided supplies for troops, civilians and contractors.
6) Iraq is expected to commit to NON-PROLIFERATION, thus putting pressure on Iran, while Israel of course remains outside such obligation with US backing, at least for now, although I suspect the US may use the issue as leverage against Tel Aviv in negotiations regarding the Palestinian question. So far, the US is publicly easing back on Tel Aviv, but who knows what is taking place behind closed doors.
7) The nuke program projects the image to the people of Iraq and to the world that the war-ravaged country can return to normalcy and take pride in a monumental program as the US is proposing. It can be a sort of a 'positive'.
8) The nuke program delivers the kind of strategic balance that Saudi Arabia and other anti-Iran countries (other than Israel that has a nuclear deterrent) in the region were demanding.
9)The nuke program is designed to help provide a boost for US contractors that will be
involved in the projects, one of the reasons that France was very tentative about the UN resolution and called for more details and 'wait-and-see' attitude.
10) US can use the newly approved UN resolution to pressure Iran to comply with Resolution 1929 of June 2010, dealing mostly with 'enrichment of uranium and heavy water' and 'investing abroad in nuclear and ballistic activities' (presumably N. Korea via China & Russia).
In many respects, this is the most practical solution for the US with regard to Iraq and Iran, and US position in the Middle East. The deal has been in the works for some time, and the Russians and the Chinese were influential in the negotiations, given Moscow's and Beijing's commitment to Iran's nuke program. France seems disgruntled because its firms are not getting a slice of the lucrative Iraqi nuclear pie, but Washington will probably have to make some concessions to Paris by this summer.
Earlier this year, the issue of Iraq developing a nuke program came up before the UN and IAEA, but there were hurdles over the NON-PROLIFERATION issue. These can now be used by different sides both for and against Iran and Israel, and to secure contracts in Iraq from the proposed program, and of course for diplomatic leverage. Although it is still very early and there is hardly much info on this topic, I am very optimistic about this development, in terms of perhaps engendering greater caution on the part of all countries in the region now that Iraq has the green light to build its own nuke (energy) program. Paradoxically and indeed frighteningly, peace and perhaps horizontal (multibased instead of mono-cultural) economic development may come to the Middle East through nuclear proliferation. Finally, it remains for historians of the future to explain how and why the US, which launched a war on Iraq allegedly to destroy its Weapons of Mass Destruction, ten year later sponsored a nuclear program for Iraq.