America’s Nuclear Games

Obama is certainly stretching his global goodwill to its limits. After critiquing the US invasion of Iraq when out of power, he has upped the military ante with the surge in Afghanistan; re focused on the military centric approach in Pakistan with a massive increase in drone attacks against Pakistani civilians (just so much “collateral damage” for the US of course) on the one hand, and with the successful goading of the Pakistan military through the Zardari nexus into FATA where the quagmire is already unfolding in the terrible deaths of our soldiers and innocent civilians while the terrorism issue shows no signs of abating. Pakistan has come out the worst in Obama’s policies especially in terms of the growing intrusiveness the US is acquiring in our daily lives with US inspectors now promising to hover in all our bureaucracies to see that the “aid” they are giving is spent as they see fit – not to mention the $.9 billion that will immediately go back to the US for the rebuilding of its embassy in a more imperial design.

However, it is not just Pakistan that is suffering from what is effectively a right-wing Obama agenda. Now Obama has teamed up with Russia to fool the world in terms of nuclear disarmament. The US and Russian leaders declared in a grand fashion that they have agreed to reduce their existing nuclear stockpiles but failed to tell the world that most of these reductions would be of redundant weapons which will create space for the new ones. After all, neither side avowed to stop adding to their arsenals!

An even more dangerous development has been the gradual taking over of critical international institutions by the US and its preferred personnel. We first saw the UN effectively become a tool in US hands with the Secretary-Generalship going to South Korea’s Ban Ki Moon – a look at the UN record post the Moon takeover will be self-explanatory. Now we have seen the IAEA once again coming under the US and its allies’ control with the election of Japan’s Ambassador Yukiya Amano by the IAEA BoG followed by his formal appointment by the BoG. Now the General Conference will confirm this appointment later in September. This election of Amano is unfortunate since the strong positions taken by the present DG, El Baradei stand threatened as the Japanese have always gone along with US positions – something Baradei did not do and therefore fell afoul of this super power. Competing with Amano was South Africa’s Abdul Samad Minty – a respected and strong diplomat, which is why the US had nightmares. Till the last ballot, the stalemate persisted but in the end one vote changed it all and the Indian media has been agog with how their last minute reversal to an abstention allowed Amano to win. No one will ever know but having seen Minty in action two years ago, he would have been the more desirable strong man to follow Baradei and maintain IAEA’s independent positioning on issues like Iran.

So now the US has won back control of the UN and IAEA. Apparently, the US is already using the Japanese to wield pressure where it cannot do so itself too overtly. In this connection, recently a Japanese team visited Pakistan demanding access to Dr Khan but were not successful. Now with Amano at the helm at the IAEA, what sort of Japanese pressure will we see vis a vis Pakistan? Perhaps it is time we drew more attention to Japan’s massive civil nuclear programme and its controversial reprocessing agenda.

Nor is this all in terms of US seeking to implement its nuclear agenda globally. It has got things moving again at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on the Fissile Material Cut off Treaty (FMCT). Perhaps after what happened at the IAEA on the Indian safeguards agreement, we should not be surprised to find that our highly competent head diplomat in Geneva also buckled under (or was made to) and accepted the US-pushed programme of work for the CD. This does not specifically include the issue of existing nuclear stockpiles in relation to the FMCT so has Pakistan shifted its position to its permanent disadvantage under US pressure once again? Also, while the programme of work has identified four issues – FMCT, Nuclear Disarmament, PAROS (Prevention of Arms Race in Outer Space) and Negative Security Guarantees – by delinking these issues the attempt is clearly to move on the FMCT without conditionalities relating to the other three issues. This is again a major shift because many states including China wanted linkages between the FMCT and PAROS for instance. Now it would appear that the US will again move on the FMCT as it did on the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in the UN in the sixties. When states like Pakistan had raised issues of negative and positive security guarantees to be linked to the NPT, the US insisted that first the NPT should be approved and then the security guarantee issues could be dealt with. The result was that the Conference on the security guarantees followed the passage of the NPT and the US was not prepared to even provide negative security assurances in any form whatsoever to non-nuclear weapons states. For Pakistan all these issues, and none more so than the issue of reduction of existing stockpiles of fissile material, are very crucial in the context of the FMCT and even if we have to go it alone we should, because otherwise we will be at a permanent disadvantage. But the way things are unfolding it appears we may have made some fatal compromises already in this regard.

It is in this overall context of the US pushing its nuclear agenda globally that we must raise our voices of concern over what seems to have become a covert official US policy – to allow Israel to deal with Iran’s nuclear facilities. Most recently Biden (New York Times) stated that the US would not “stand in Israel’s way” if it sought to take action against Iran’s nuclear facilities. It was amusing to hear Biden talk of Israel being a “sovereign” state taking its own decisions! Now when did the US ever respect any state’s sovereignty – as we in Pakistan have continuously experienced and still do so! Be that as it may, the Biden statement was threatening because it came alongside a 5th July 2009 Sunday Times story that Israel’s Mossad chief had informed his prime minister of Saudi Arabia’s assurance to him that it would turn a blind eye to Israeli jets flying over Saudi air space to conduct attacks against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Early this year it had also been reported that the Mossad Chief, Dagan, had met Saudi officials.

So a new and threatening pattern is emerging even as Obama seeks to woo the world with what is now becoming his glibness rather than a serious intent to alter the course of US policies on security issues. Is it a mere coincidence that we are now seeing unprecedented violence breaking out in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi? We know that the East Turkmenistan Movement still has its offices in New York. So what is the US intent? To send a hostile message to China? What exactly is the Obama administration up to? Is it all a matter of old wine in new bottles rather than any major shift away from a neoimperialist mindset that has been the hallmark of US global policies for some time now?

Too bad. So many had expected so much from Obama – the thinking, intelligent and more world-sensitive US president. But what we are seeing around our part of the world is more of the same – with the new veneer eroding fast. More force; more aggression; more dictation. Just as our leaders crumble once again before the US demands, the US leadership offers little that will compel us to alter our perception of a neoimperial power set on a military-centric course for this part of the world. As before, this course will bring them to ruin but must we go down the same suicidal path? Dr Shireen M Mazari

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