by Patrick J Buchanan – December 24, 2003
“Trust but verify,” was Reagan’s motto in negotiating arms deals with Mikhail Gorbachev. And sound advice, too, on hearing that Col. Gadhafi has agreed to forswear nuclear and chemical weapons, and invited in British and U.S. scientists to give them the run of his laboratories and production facilities.
Gadhafi’s admission that he was pursuing nuclear weapons and his agreement to dismantle them is a triumph for President Bush and the Bush Doctrine. Why did the colonel accede to U.S. demands?
Libya has for years sought to get out of the sanctions box imposed after the bombing of a Berlin discotheque frequented by U.S. soldiers in 1986. Since the bombing of Pan Am 103 in 1989, Libya has been a pariah state.
Apparently, secret talks to end Libya’s isolation were speeded up by Gadhafi himself about the time the 3rd Infantry Division and Marines crossed the Iraqi border. Clearly, the colonel does not wish to end his career being dragged out of a spider hole.
But if Bush’s invasion of Iraq helped to convince Libya to junk its outlawed weapons, it seems to have had the opposite effect on North Korea. Since being warned by President Bush that he will not allow the “world’s worst dictators” to acquire the world’s worst weapons, Kim Jong Il has walked out of the non-proliferation treaty and begun a crash program to build atom bombs.
Before Pyongyang even begins to think of giving up nuclear weapons, Kim is saying, Bush must give him a guarantee we will not attack. Bush has balked, talks are stalled, and Kim’s nuclear program proceeds. The Bush Doctrine is being defied with impunity in Northeast Asia.
But in Iran, the president can claim another victory. Teheran has agreed to permit surprise inspections of its nuclear facilities after pressure from Europe – pressure that began only after Bush’s warnings to Iran and his invasion of Iraq.
Iran appears to have had a secret nuclear program since 1985. On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that 160 operating gas centrifuges for producing highly enriched uranium – the core of atomic bombs – had been discovered, probably provided by Pakistanis.
Said the Post in an ominous paragraph: “Iran’s pilot facility, which is now functional, and a much larger uranium-enrichment plant under construction next door are designed to produce enough fissile material to make at least two dozen nuclear bombs a year.”
However, there are no signs at present that Bush intends to enforce his doctrine in Iran or North Korea by military means. But there are signs Israel is contemplating the option.
According to Haaretz, Meir Dagan, head of Mossad, in a report to the Knesset, “described the [Iranian nuclear] threat as the greatest one Israel had ever faced.” In Washington, in November, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz called Iranian nuclear weapons “insufferable.”
Speaking in Persian to Iran last week, Mofaz added that if the need arose to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, “the necessary steps will be taken so that Iranian citizens will not be harmed.”
Israel has been making far more pointed threats against Iran than has the United States. And she has credibility. In 1981, Israel bombed and destroyed the Osirak reactor outside Baghdad in a Sunday morning raid that killed a lone French technician at the site.
Iran’s program is not so far advanced as North Korea’s. She may be years away from an operational nuclear warhead. Yet, Teheran has upgraded its Shahab 3 rocket so it can strike Israel from central Iran. And one does not test and build costly long-range missiles to drop conventional bombs.
There is thus a possibility that if President Bush does not effect the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear weapons plants in 2004, Israel will. Unless Israel is bluffing, there is a high probability of an Israeli attack before Iran acquires – in Israel’s eyes – the ability both to produce nuclear weapons and deliver them.
Why would Iran even want nukes? Surely for the same reason the Soviet Union, Britain, China, France, Israel, India and Pakistan built them – as a deterrent and defense against blackmail or attack. No nuclear power has ever seen its homeland invaded or seriously attacked.
Nuclear weapons are effective deterrents. President Eisenhower threatened China in 1953 and 1958, Kennedy threatened massive retaliation if Soviet missiles were launched from Cuba in 1962. Israel is said to have readied its nukes to prevent the Egyptian army from crossing the Sinai into Israel in the first and darkest days of the Yom Kippur war of 1973.
So it would seem that, in 2004, either Iran will take the path of repentance trod by Col. Gadhafi, forswear nuclear weapons and divest itself of all nuclear weapons programs – or Iran will be in a confrontation with America or clash with Israel. Happy New Year!