A NUCLEAR CHAIN REACTION
By Micah Halpern
Thursday November 1, 2007
Think of it as a chain reaction, a deadly chain reaction, a nuclear chain reaction.
Iranian nuclear proliferation sends ripples around the world and chills down my spine. Iran just won't stop. And there is no country in the world today that is both willing to intervene and capable of making Iran stop. Those countries willing to intervene, the United States, Great Britain and France, are all ignored. Iran just laughs. Those countries capable of making Iran stop, Russia and China, are instead aiding and abetting. Rather than asking Iran to slow down Russia and China, the only countries with power over Iran, are - either actively or benignly - helping Iran pursue the goal of nuclear proliferation.
I understand why Iran so wants nuclear energy. Iran wants to rule the world and this is one very significant step in the process. I understand why Russia and China are helping Iran. It works for them. For Russia, it is the ability to make money by selling product and technology. For China it is the satisfaction of knowing that the United States and all Western allies are spinning wheels and getting absolutely nowhere.
Even the Arab world is up-in-arms over Iran. The Arab world is divided, us against them, Shiites versus Sunnis, Shiite Iran versus Sunni everyone else. The Arab world is thinking: if Shiite Iran can become nuclear, so can we. Not only can we, but we must. The Sunni world must be at least as nuclear-ly capable as Iran. Or more so. If they can develop nuclear energy so can we. If they can take the next step and develop atomic weapons, so must we. And we must do it first and do it better.
So Sunni countries are developing nuclear facilities, it is the newest Sunni trend in the Middle East. The Egyptian daily al Ahram has revealed that Egypt has begun planning and developing the first of eight nuclear plants. The Egyptians anticipate that the entire endeavor will take eight years. Egypt already has one nuclear reactor, but it is very old and has been cited by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and needs to either be shut down or totally revamped. Egypt is reacting to Iran's nuclear reactor.
The list goes on. Jordan has announced the desire to develop nuclear energy. Saudi Arabia is investigating the development of nuclear energy. And intelligence sources and the IAEA have confirmed that Syria has been developing a small 27 kilowatt reactor. Development began in 2001 and continued until only recently. It is all in reaction to Iran's nuclear development.
Iran has stated very clearly that one of their goals is to use their own nuclear know-how to help other countries develop nuclear power. By other countries, they mean other countries friendly to Iran, they certainly have no intention of helping the West. Iran intends to cheaply export the process of nuclear capability to friends and neighbors. Iran wants every nation to be able to exercise the right to nuclear energy.
That explains why Russia is so in favor of nuclear growth within Iran. Russia views Iran as the perfect client. Russia exports all the nuclear goods that are necessary for Iran and all other interested parties to become nuclear players. Russia exports the product, provides the technology and co-ordinates the training in one package deal.
China just refuses to get involved. When China does express any interest in Iran's pursuit of nuclear capability, it is to side with Iran. China sees the entire situation as the perfect jab at the United States and at Western interests - and that makes China very happy. As the largest consumer of oil in the world, China does not want to disturb the flow of oil that reaches her shores via Iran. For now, China can chuckle about the diplomatic tug-of-war being waged between Iran and the West, but eventually, that will change and eventually, China will be forced to intercede.
Nuclear technology in the hands of pseudo-responsible and totally irresponsible nations increases tensions in the region. And increased tensions lead to instability. And instability leads to an increase in the price of oil. And that is what China does not want. When you add to that the possibility of Middle East dictators and monarchs being overthrow, much as it happened in the Soviet Union, China has cause for eventual worry.
After the fall of the Soviet Union nuclear technology fell into the hands of corrupt money making business people and from there made its way into the open market. The United States spent enormous amounts of both energy and money running after illicit nuclear technology on the black market - doing everything possible to prevent nuclear technology from falling into the hands of terrorists and rogue nations. The precedent has been set. The similarities between the Soviet approach to nuclear proliferation and the Iranian approach are glaring.
China is the only country that can break the chain. Iran understands that. China is an impartial force. China is not in the pocket of the United States and the United States has virtually no influence over China. Russia will do anything for money and Russia's current position is dependent upon the amount of pressure that the United States applies. China does not have that dependency. China does not have that pressure.
China does things when China wants to do things, China moves according to an internal Chinese timetable. Israel's foreign minister Tzipi Livni just returned from a trip to China. Livni reported that she saw no sign of a change in China's attitude toward Iran's nuclear development and no move towards expanding sanctions against Iran. Right now China does not want to stop Iran, but soon it will have to.
We must be vigilant. We must be patient. We must wait for China. As scary as that appears, it is the only way to stop the chain of nuclear proliferation instigated by Iran.
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