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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Our World: The second-worst option

Our World: The second-worst option

Caroline Glick, THE JERUSALEM POST Nov. 13, 2006

A week before the US Congressional elections The New York Times published a
front-page story which all but admitted that Iraq's nuclear program had been
active until March 2003, when the US-led coalition deposed Saddam Hussein.
The Times report relayed concerns of officials from the International Atomic
Energy Agency regarding captured Iraqi documents which the administration
had posted on the Internet.

The documents in question contained Iraqi nuclear bomb designs that could be
useful to rogue states like Iran which are currently working to build a
nuclear arsenal. The Times article also reported that, in the past, the same
Web site had published Iraqi documents relating to nerve agents tabun and
sarin. They were removed after their content elicited similar concerns from
UN arms control officials.

In response to the Times story an international security Web site run by Ray
Robinson published a translation of a story that
ran on the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Seyassah's Web site on September 25. Citing
European intelligence sources, the Al-Seyyassah report claims that in late
2004 Syria began developing a nuclear program near its border with Turkey.
According to the report, Syria's program, which is being run by President
Bashar Assad's brother Maher and defended by a Revolutionary Guards brigade,
"has reached the stage of medium activity."

The Kuwaiti report maintains that the Syrian nuclear program relies "on
equipment and materials that the sons of the deposed Iraqi leader, Uday and
Qusai. transfer[red] to Syria by using dozens of civilian trucks and trains,
before and after the US-British invasion in March 2003." The report also
asserts that the Syrian nuclear program is supported by the Iranians who are
running the program, together with Iraqi nuclear scientists and Muslim
nuclear specialists from Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union.

The program "was originally built on the remains of the Iraqi program after
it was wholly transferred to Syria."

This report echoes warnings expressed by then-prime minister Ariel Sharon in
the months leading up to the US-led invasion of Iraq that suspicious convoys
of trucks were traveling from Iraq to Syria. Sharon's warnings were later
supported by statements from former IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Moshe
Ya'alon, who said last year that Iraq had moved its unconventional arsenals
to Syria in the lead-up to the invasion.

ACCORDING TO the US Senate's Prewar Intelligence Review Phase II, which
studied the prewar intelligence on Iraq's
nuclear weapons program, in 2002, the US had learned from the Iraqi foreign
minister that while Iraq had not yet acquired a nuclear arsenal, "Iraq was
aggressively and covertly developing" nuclear weapons. The Senate report
concluded that Saddam was told by his own weapons specialists that Iraq
would achieve nuclear weapons capabilities "within 18-24 months of acquiring
fissile material."

In the weeks and months after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US,
President George W. Bush repeatedly stated that America's primary security
challenge was to prevent the world's most dangerous regimes from acquiring
nonconventional, and particularly nuclear weapons. When Bush's statements
are assessed against the backdrop of the apparently advanced Iraqi nuclear
bomb designs that were placed on the Web in recent weeks, it becomes clear
that the US-led invasion successfully prevented Saddam Hussein from
acquiring nuclear weapons.

In his State of the Union Address in 2002, Bush placed Iraq in the same
category of threat to US national security as Iran and North Korea. The
three rogues states, Bush argued constituted an "axis of evil" that must be
prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The post-Saddam insurgency in Iraq - an insurgency largely facilitated and
sponsored by Iran - has caused the US and its coalition partners no end of
grief. Some 3,000 coalition servicemen have been killed since the invasion;
the overwhelming majority of casualties have been American. Frustration with
the continued bloodletting in Iraq was undoubtedly the most significant
factor that caused the Republican Party to lose control of both houses of
Congress in last Tuesday's elections.
And yet, for all the difficulties, pain and frustration the post-Saddam
insurgency has caused the US, the toppling of Saddam's regime successfully
prevented Iraq from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Iraq is a war zone today. But it does not have, and likely will not acquire
nuclear weapons - nor chemical or biological weapons, for that matter. To
that degree, Bush was neither wrong nor premature when he made it known in
the months following the invasion that the US had accomplished its mission
in Iraq.

IN THE summer of 2003, assessing future trends on the basis of the US-led
invasion of Iraq, Libya's dictator Mu'ammar Gaddafi decided to forgo his
nuclear weapons program. Libya's decision to give up its nuclear weapons
program was a direct consequence of Gaddafi's analysis of US intentions
after the invasion. Quite simply, he believed that the best way to ensure
the survival of his regime was to relinquish his aspirations to become a
nuclear power.

But as the months and years have progressed it has become clear that far
from being a warning to other would-be nuclear armed dictatorships, the
US-led invasion of Iraq was a one-shot deal. As Saddam was captured in his
hole, Teheran and Pyongyang marched forward, unchallenged in their campaign
to become nuclear powers.

The ascent of the most dangerous regimes in the world to the status of
nuclear powers reached a new climax last month. First was North Korea's
nuclear bomb test on Columbus Day. Two weeks later Iran announced it was
doubling its uranium enrichment by utilizing a second network of
centrifuges.

For their part, most of the nations of the world have looked on with
indifference to these developments. South Korean Foreign Minister and
incoming UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appears far more concerned with
the Japanese debate over whether North Korea's nuclear test should or should
not cause Japan to develop its own nuclear arsenal than with the fact that
Pyongyang now has nuclear bombs.

Ban's apparent moral and strategic dementia is of a piece with the
international community's apathy. Europe has responded to Iran's sprint
toward nuclear arms by offering its usual mix of toothless sanctions,
emotional appeals and diplomatic pageantry, all aimed at marking time until
Iran announces its entre into the nuclear club.

Russia and China have responded to both Pyongyang and Teheran's nuclear
machinations by increasing their collaboration with both regimes.

AS FOR the US, Iran, North Korea and al-Qaida have all been quick to
interpret the Democratic victory in last Tuesday's Congressional elections
as a sign that the US has chosen to turn its back on the threat they pose to
America. By firing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and replacing him with
Robert Gates, who supports appeasing the mullahs in Teheran and finding a
fig-leaf excuse to vacate Iraq, Bush has done everything to prove America's
enemies right. Moreover, Bush administration officials' statements ahead of
the president's trip to Asia this week indicate that Bush will seek to
contend with North Korea by ratcheting up US engagement with Pyongyang in
the six-party talks.

Reasonably, the world is now assessing the US through the prism of its
non-action against Iran and North Korea rather than through the prism of
Iraq. And the consequence of the view that Iraq was a deviation from a norm
of US passivity is nothing less than the complete breakdown of the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation treaty.

Last week the London's Sunday Times reported that Algeria, Egypt, Morocco,
Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the UAE have all announced their intention to
build civilian nuclear reactors. Last Tuesday, in an official visit to
China, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak reportedly signed an agreement with
Chinese leader Hu Jintao for China to build nuclear reactors in Egypt.

It is not hard to see the lesson of these developments. As the Iraq campaign
shows clearly, while the price of taking action to prevent rogue regimes
from acquiring nuclear weapons is high, the price of not acting is far
higher.

Relating this wisdom to Iran earlier this year, Senator John McCain said,
"There is only one thing worse than the United States exercising a military
option [to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons], and that is a
nuclear-armed Iran."

The US and its allies are paying a high price for having successfully
prevented Saddam from getting nuclear bombs. The price that Israel or the
US, or both, will pay to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear bombs is liable
to be even higher. Yet the alternative to paying that price will be
suffering, destruction and death on an unimaginable scale.


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