Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Iran, nuclear weapons, and a common syntax and logic in nuclear discourse

by M. Ulric Killion

“Air strikes again are the only plausible option with any prospect of preventing Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.” This is the studied opinion expressed in a New York Times Op-Ed piece written by Alan J. Kuperman, director of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Program at the University of Texas at Austin. He argues that incentives and sanctions will not work, but air strikes could degrade and deter Iran’s bomb program at relatively little cost or risk, and therefore are worth a try.  He agrees that Iran could retaliate by aiding America’s opponents in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it does that anyway. Bomb Iran?, Renovo Media, December 8, 2010.

In an earlier article, which follows Iran’s February 3, 2009 launch of its Omid (Hope) research and telecom satellite, I discussed issues concerning, and borrowing from the title of the article, Iran, nuclear weapons, and the effectiveness of economic sanctions (M. Ulric Killion, February 2010). From the perspective of Western powers, the launch of Omid was of critical importance. This is because Iran’s launching of Omid, at least from a Western perspective, served as an indicator of Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, while also exhibiting a major advancement in its space technology.

The threat (e.g., capability to send a nuclear warhead halfway around the globe; launching a heavy warhead intercontinental distances) posed by the launch of Omid may be more of an exaggeration, rather than reality, of Iran’s nuclear potentiality, however (Killion, 2010).

It should also now be common knowledge that any discussion of these issues necessarily entails equal consideration of the issues and/or consequences of Israel’s nuclear weapons program and nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. As earlier stated, “Borrowing from the jurist’s tool, if the issue sub judice is the proliferation of nuclear weapons by Iran in the Middle East, then a critical sub issue might also be the proliferation of nuclear weapons by Israel in the Middle East, thus, presenting the issues of Iran and nuclear weapons, and Israel and nuclear weapons” (Killion, 2010).

In the context of Israel, the issue, more particularly, is the relation of Israel’s policy of opacity and nuclear proliferation. According to Israel’s nuclear weapons program and attendant policy, as Avner Cohen and Marvin Miller (Bringing Israel’s Bomb out of the Basement, Foreign Affairs, September/October 2010) explained, “This posture is known as nuclear opacity, or, in Hebrew, amimut.”

As a direct consequence of this policy of opacity, Western powers, though perhaps unknowingly, may have presented credibility and legitimacy crises for the United Nations; the International Atom Energy Agency (IAEA); the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT); and individual Western powers such as the United States and the EU “troka” or France, Germany and Britain (Ulric Killion, Modern Chinese Rules of Order, 2007; discussing, in the context of Iran and nuclear proliferation, the collusion between China and Russia, and different perceptions between a first and second world).

For instance, the influence on the credibility and legitimacy, including enforceability, of the NPT is obvious. It is simply stated: “This is because Israel implicitly through the secrecy (i.e., policy of opacity) of its nuclear weapons programs has comfortably nestled itself in the category of a non-signatory state, pursuant to the NPT, alongside India. Nuclear weapons are already a geopolitical reality in the Middle East. This also presents a problem for nuclear deterrence theory” (Killion, 2010).

Israel’s policy of opacity (i.e., animut) is simply problematic for many reasons. Notwithstanding the NPT allows for peaceful use of nuclear technology, both the IAEA and NPT designedly intend to address the problems of nuclear deterrence and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. A critical problem arises from the historical and primary function of nuclear weapons as a nuclear deterrent.

For example, during the Cold War (1945-1991), as Jeffery Record (Nuclear Deterrence, Preventive War, and Counterproliferation, 2004), earlier explained, “[T]he principal function of nuclear weapons was to deter nuclear attack. Nuclear deterrence was not considered a tool of nonproliferation. The primary mechanisms for halting the proliferation of nuclear weapons were the nonproliferation regime established by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968 and the U.S. extension of nuclear deterrence to states that might otherwise have sought security through the acquisition of nuclear weapons.” In other words, the IAEA and the NPT intend to address the issue or problem of nuclear deterrence theory and its attendant problematic proliferation of nuclear weapons (Killion, 2010).

In the syntax of nuclear deterrence discourse, this has presented a problem via a fallible logic in discourse, however. This is because the failures from policies adopted, pursuant to attempts to lend credibility, legitimacy, and enforceability to the IAEA and NPT, eventually manifested the lack of a singular common syntax and a standardized (or fixed) logic universal to all cases involving nuclear deterrence theory and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In other words, what evolved manifested the lack of universality rather than a more standardized syntax and common sense logic.

Moreover, these failings are apparent and present themselves in many forms. For example, and demonstrating a lack of universality rather than a more common sense logic, there is the example that Cohen and Miller (2010), though perhaps inadvertently, offered as another manifestation of these problems. They opine that a combination of resolve and restraint, including fear (e.g., shadow of Holocaust), led Israel down the path to a particular code of nuclear conduct, which is distinguishable from that of all other nuclear weapons states. They are, more importantly, referring to Israel’s policy of opacity or amimut.

This lack of universality rather than a more standardized syntax and common sense logic arguably became clearer when, for example, as Cohen and Miller (2010) observed:
The policy and practice of nuclear opacity was codified in 1969 in an extraordinary secret accord between Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and U.S. President Richard Nixon. Although this agreement has never been openly acknowledged or documented, its existence was revealed in 1991 by the Israeli journalist Aluf Benn, and more information came out in some recently declassified memos regarding Nixon's 1969 meeting with Meir written by Nixon’s national security adviser, Henry Kissinger. According to the Nixon-Meir pact, as long as Israel did not advertise its possession of nuclear weapons by publicly declaring or testing them, the United States would tolerate and shield Israel's nuclear program.
Ever since, all U.S. presidents and Israeli prime ministers have reaffirmed this policy -- most recently, U.S. President Barack Obama, in a White House meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on July 6, during which Obama stated, “We strongly believe that, given its size, its history, the region that it’s in . . . Israel has unique security requirements. It’s got to be able to respond to threats. . . . And the United States will never ask Israel to take any steps that would undermine [its] security interests.”
Then there are examples that actually demonstrate this much-needed common sense logic. For example, “[I]f Israel has already developed and now possesses nuclear weapons, then Israel is the first country to actually, introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East. For this reason, assuming arguendo, Iran is developing a level of enrich uranium that is approaching a weapons-grade level, then Iran may have launched its nuclear weapons program in direct response to Israel’s existing nuclear weapons arsenal, or simply, as a nuclear deterrent or pursuant to nuclear deterrence theory (Record, 2004; explaining that nuclear deterrence is not a tool of nonproliferation). In such a scenario, Iran and its nuclear weapons program, in conjunction with Israel’s nuclear weapons arsenal, may, ultimately, be equally blameworthy for the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East” (Killion, 2010).

As previously mentioned, “Borrowing from the jurist’s tool, if the issue sub judice is the proliferation of nuclear weapons by Iran in the Middle East, then a critical sub issue might also be the proliferation of nuclear weapons by Israel in the Middle East, thus, presenting the issues of Iran and nuclear weapons, and Israel and nuclear weapons” (Killion, 2010). Additionally, the earlier mentioned thesis of Cohen and Miller (2010) is that it is now time for Israel to reconsider its policy of nuclear ambiguity (i.e., amimut), and that it can do so without jeopardizing the nation’s security. In other words, Cohen and Miller arguably advocate adoption of policy that is not so distinguishable from that of all other nuclear weapons states. Alternatively stated, and more importantly, Israel’s policy of opacity is hardly conductive to promoting or implementing a common syntax and logic in all spheres of nuclear deterrence discourse, including the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Copyright © Protected - All Rights Reserved M. Ulric Killion, 2010.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs considers tougher sanctions on Iran

by M. Ulric Killion

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tours the Natanz nuclear facility; AFP Photo/Ben Knight, Defiant Iran building 10 more nuclear plants, ABC News, November 30, 2009.

What follows are reports of the proceedings related to the December 1, 2010 hearing before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, which specifically addresses issues of Iran and economic sanctions. Thereafter, a summary of blog-postings related to Iran and economic sanctions follow.

Hearing before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs (1 December 2010) --
Howard L. Berman (berman120110.pdf):
-- Wednesday, December 1, 2010 - Chairman Howard L. Berman’s opening statement at hearing, “Imposing Tougher Sanctions on Iran: A Progress Report”

William J. Burns (bur120110.pdf):
-- Testimony of Ambassador William J. Burns Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs House Committee on Foreign Affairs United States House of Representatives – December 1, 2010
Stuart A. Levey (lev120110.pdf):
-- Embargoed Until Delivery - Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey Written Testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs “Implementing Tougher Sanctions on Iran: A Progress Report” - December 1, 2010

Patients wait for body scans using technetium-99, a nuclear medicine used for diagnosis, in Tehran's Shariati Hospital; Photos by Newsha Tavakolian/polaris/Thomas Erdbrink and William Branigin, In Iran, nuclear issue is also a medical one, Washington Post, December 20, 2009.
See also;